Sunday, 25 January 2015

A blocking bonanza

The first weekend of the New Year saw me undertaking a blocking bonanza for me as I had three shawls in need of some attention.

The first was a gift for the baby of a friend. The pattern is a 1940s baby shawl/blanket called bubbles, and has been knitted for generations of babies by my mother and grandmother. This was the first time I had ever made the shawl by myself, and I was a bit nervous. 

There were some hiccups with this project. I picked a lovely oatmeal Drops Lace to make the shawl, but when I started I found it was too light weight and that the stitch definition and pattern was lost. Humm....Eventually I decided I had to rip back and try with the yarn held double. The fabric it was producing was much better, BUT I wasn't going to have enough yarn. Grrr...

The solution? Well I had some green Drops Lace in my stash, so I decided to go two tone.

I'm really please with how this turned out. As the observant reader will notice I didn't knit as many rows of feather and fan as in the original pattern, due to the amount of yarn I had, but it is still pretty big and I really like how to two colours work together.
The second shawl to be blocked was the first of the two whippoorwill shawl, I ended up making two because the wool I ordered to make it didn't arrive before my holiday

The wool I used in this shawl is drops delight, with some place purple for the eyelet rows and lace edging. Although its not the rainbow shawl I had in mind, I do like the ways the stripes have worked out. However, I decided I didn't need two of these shawls so I gave this one to the friend whose baby is getting the bubbles shawl.

The final shawl to be blocked was my Whippoorwool, made with the beautiful rainbow yarn I order specially so I could make one just like Linda's on the Sewing Bee.

I am so glad that I decided to order this wool, it is just beautiful - the colours are so vivid and it works so well with this pattern.

I made the first of these shawls to the medium size, but on the second one I decided to go for broke and make the bigger size. While I'm glad that I did this, I realised part way thought that I wasn't going to have enough to complete the pattern.

My solution was to keep knitting rows of garter stitch after the first eyelet row, including the eyelets and the increase and decreases. I kept going until I had run out of wool, and ended up with about 20cm left.

Although not the same as the original pattern, I think this worked out really well, and the few rows of garter stitch keep the edge nice and flat. I love this shawl, its big, bright and cozy, and will be cheering up many a winter days.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

What is in the box?

 Well, its my Christmas present from my dad. But what is it?

Can you guess yet?

Yep, it's a sewing machine. To be more accurate it is a Singer Featherweight 221K, a light and portable sewing machine.

Amongst  my dad's many and varied talents, he volunteers as an electrical tester for charity shops. He tests and certifies electrical donations are safe, so the charity shops can sell them. This was a donation which came across his electrical testing table, and he thought it might be something I might like. He was quite right!

I've been doing some digging on the Internet to find out a bit more about this machine. These models were made from the 1930s to the 1960s, and based on the lack of a model number this machine was made before 1953. It seems the earlier models also have this rather attractive 'Egyptian scrollwork' pattern on the face plate.

Having been taught to sew on my mum's old Singer I can certainly say that this machine is substantially lighter than the full sized Singer, and I can see why it was popular with occasional sewers who wanted to be able to pack it away easily.

Part of the marketing for this machine was that although it was smaller and lighter, it had the same functionality and quality as the big machine. To prove that it could do just as much as the main machine, all Featherweight sewing machines were supplied with a comprehensive range of attachments for specialist sewing techniques.

These are just some of the many attachments which came with mine, they do everything from making and attaching bias binding, darning and ruffles. All of these feet, plus the instruction book, needles, oil and a spare bulb pack neatly into a tray which sits into the top of the case above the machine.

The only think missing are the bobbins, you can see the five holders for the bobbin all sad and empty. My fabulous father hunted some up for me on the Internet and I am now all set and ready to go.

The only questions is where will I be going with my portable featherweight Singer? Well I have promised to teach a couple of friends to sew, so I think this little machine is going to get a lot of use!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Cogitating and resolving

I've spent some, probably too much, time since my last post cogitating on my New Year's crafting resolutions - should I make any? What should they be? Will I be able to keep them?

I've been reading Stuart Sutherland's Irrationality, and one of his thesis is that you are more likely to keep resolutions if you publicly make them - I need to make some public resolutions, hence this post.

In the past I've tended to make quite general resolutions like I want to decrease my stash or make better quality garments, and while these are good aspirations I think I need some more quantifiable resolutions -  I need some targets on a list which I can tick off.

I was drawing a blank on what my list of targets should be when I stumbled across The Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, and that got me started thinking. I have bought a lot of vintage sewing patterns recently and not made many of them, which seems a shame. So, my first new year's resolution is also going to be my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge.

  • During 2015 I will sew up at least five of my vintage or reproduction sewing patterns.

Having started with one resolution, a few other ideas came to mind. As well as using some of my vintage patterns I also want to use up some of my stash, so my next resolution is that

  • During 2015 I will make at least five projects using fabric from my stash

There are also two specific garment types that I want to get to grips with this year, so

  • During 2015 I will make at least one coat and some lingerie

Especially as my lovely knitting friend Lindsay gave me this for my Christmas present

Thanks L you are a star!

Those three resolutions should keep me busy enough with my sewing, but what about my knitting? Well I think with knitting one resolution is going to keep me busy, and as I really need to get my knitting stash down my resolution is that
  • During 2015 I will knit at least 10 project using (mainly) yarn from my stash
I've started well on this last resolution, I've already cast on a cardigan using some beautiful Mirasol K'acha yarn with has been in my stash for well over a year.

It's a start, but looking at my list resolutions, there is plenty more to go.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Happy New Year ... Danger Mouse

Happy New Year!

I know it has been a little while since I've blogged but I am back, by popular demand! Well a couple of people, including my mum (hello mum), asked when I was going to post again. I reckon that is popular demand.

I've had a busy time since I last posted, included a couple of disaster projects which I'm not going to share, but I've also had a couple of successes which I am going to show off. 

The first is my Christmas knitting project for my brother, who has been a willing (I think) recipient of knitted gifts in the past (see here and here). This year I decided to take on a bigger challenge and knit him a jumper, but not just any jumper a Danger Mouse jumper! 

Both he and I were huge Danger Mouse fans in our childhood. So much so that we even had a Danger Mouse knitting pattern knocking about the place.

I think I started knitting the Danger Mouse toy when I was little, but didn't finish it. However, I don't think either I, or my mum, ever attempted the jumper. I felt it was time to remedy this, although of course my brother is somewhat larger now.

Having consulted the brother on his requirements (a hoodie and long sleeves, he has very long arms) I found a suitable pattern on Ravelry, picked up some wool from Winnies and was ready to go.

The pattern called for aran yarn so I picked Drops Big Merino. I've used the 4-ply version a lot and find it very nice to knit with, plus it's machine washable so very practical.

It was only when I got to Danger Mouse that I realise my choice of pattern was not the most sensible. The body is knitted in the round, and as a result I had to keep carrying the coloured yarns back across to get it in the right place. However, I don't think I made too bad a job of it, and Danger Mouse is pretty recognisable.

Having struggled with Danger Mouse I did the DM logo on the sleeve by Swiss darning, which was much easier. I'm pretty please with the finished hoodie, it fits well and the sleeves (all 23 inches of them) are just the right length. Dan seems please with it too, which is the main thing.

And to finish this post on a high note, here is DM himself...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Literary Knitter: The Scarlet Pimpernel

As with last month(ish), this month's literary knitter is another revolutionary knitter - The Scarlet Pimpernel, from the book of the same name by Baroness Orczy.

Bibot [one of the Captains guarding the gates out of Paris], during the day, had been on duty on the Place. He recognised most of the old hags, 'tricoteuses', as they were called, who sat there and knitted whilst head after head fell beneath the knife, and they themselves got quite bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos.
'Hè, le mére!' said Bibot to one of these horrible hags, 'what have you got there?'
He had seen her earlier in the day, with her knitting and the whip of her cart closed beside her. Now she had fastened a row of curly locks to the whip handle, all colours, from gold to silver, fair to dark, and she stroked them with her, huge bony fingers as she laughed at Bibot.
'I made friends with Madam Guillotine's lover', she said with a course laugh, 'he cut these off for me from the heads as they rolled down'.

Bibot lets her through the gates out of Paris when she tells him that her grandson is in her cart with suspected smallpox. Shortly afterwards a captain of the guard appeared suddenly.

'A cart ...' he shouted, breathlessly, even before he had reached the gates.
'What cart?' asked Bibot, roughly.
'Driven by an old hag ... A cart ... A covered cart ...'
'There were a dozen ...'
'An old hag who said her son had the plague?'
'You have not let them go?'
'Morbleu!' said Bibot, whose purple cheeks had suddenly become white with fear.
'The cart contained the ci-devant Comtess de Tournay and her two children, all of them traitors and condemned to death.''And their driver?' muttered Bibot, as a superstitious shudder ran down his spine.
'Sacré tonnerre', said the captain, 'but it is feared that it was the accursed Englishman himself - the Scarlet Pimpernel.'

Richard E Grant
The Scarlet Pimpernel, as far as I am concerned

Saturday, 1 November 2014

A summer dress and a long overdue thank you!

This post is very long overdue, but I hope I will be forgiven.

Way back in July my friend Kate (over at Life at les Sarziers) put a comment on one of my posts ending on the exciting note that she was putting something in the post for me. I love getting parcels in the posts, and surprise parcels are always fun. When it arrived it was no disappointment as it contained this amazing dress. 

Just look at it, lovely colours, lovely stripes and amazing pleat work to make the pockets, its just so pretty. Kate sent me the dress as she thought I would like it and enjoy 'messing around' with it. It has been well loved by her, and (probably) her former flat mate who she thinks have given it to her. It seems I also wouldn't be the first person to make some alterations to it.

I spent quite a while considering what I would do, especially as I really like it as it is. In the end I decided to repair the problems first and then see what the fit was like.

The main issues were in the seams of the bodice. As you cans see they have been re-stitched a number of times, and there are some rips in the fabric. I took both seams apart down to the waist and strengthen them with lightweight interfacing, and then zig-zag stitched over the rips in the fabric to give them some extra strength. This was a bit fiddly because of the stripes in the fabric and needing to work in two colours, but I think it was worth the effort.

Once I had strengthened the edges, I re-sewed the side seams and found the dress fitted really well. Which saved the need for any alterations. I also replaced the armhole facings, did some minor repairs around the pockets, and re-hemmed the dress where it was falling down. 

The biggest decision I had to make was about new buttons - red or white? what shape? what kind? I spent a very confusing half an hour looking at buttons, and then bought both red and white. After much soul searching I finally decided to go with white buttons to do up the dress, and a couple of red ones to accentuate the pockets. The red buttons are pretty much the only changes I made to the dress, everything else was just repair work.

Of course, I finished the dress just as the summer ended in Dublin so I didn't have a chance to wear it. But last week I was in Sardinia for a few days giving me the perfect opportunity to wear the dress.

So, here I am wearing my new (old) dress on my uncle's balcony in Sardinia. Luckily, I had this photo taken before one of my uncle's famous gigantic pasta lunches otherwise I might have been bursting out of the dress. 

So all I can say is a (belated) thank you to Kate for sending me this fantastic dress, and I'm hoping to get a lot more wear out of it next summer!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Holiday knitting

Last week I spent a few days in Sardinia with my mum visiting my uncle. A week before I left I started thinking about what I would knit on my holidays. My main knitting project at the moment is big and bulky so wasn't really suitable to bring with me (especially as I only had hand luggage). I've been planning for a while to make a version of the shawl Linda wore on the Sewing Bee earlier in the years.

Linda's shawl was made using Kanui Wool 8/2 Effektgarn, which I was having trouble finding in Ireland, and I couldn't find a substitute I liked as much. I did by some Drops Delight with the idea of making the shawl from it, but I couldn't bring myself to start as I knew I would be dissatisfied with it. I finally decided to bite the bullet and order this wool on line, hoping it would arrive before I set of on holiday. Sadly it didn't.

Instead I set off with the pattern, and the Drops yarn I had originally bought so I would at least have something to knit. I think it has turned out well, although I don't like it as much as Linda's.

Although the yarn hadn't arrived before I went on my holiday, when I came back there was not one but two exciting parcels of yarn waiting on the doormat for me.

The first contained my ball of rainbow yarn, modestly orange and yellow on the outside, but with an exciting glimpse of the rainbow colours on the inside.

I ordered the wool from a Spanish store Naturalmente Lanas, as it was the nearest place that Ravelry identified as stocking it. Not only did they send the wool, but they also included two little stitch markers and a note.

How cute, well I must say thank you Dolors, I do like my new yarn!

The second parcel of yarn waiting for me when I got back from holiday was from S Twist Wool

I've blogged about S Twist before when he turned up at my knitting group in April with some samples. Well S Twist has just had a pattern designed especially for his wool, and I've been asked to be a test knitter for the pattern. Well, I'm delighted to help out and am looking forwards to working with S Twist's yarn again.