Monday, 26 January 2015

Knitting: My first (well, kind of) scarf

One of my resolutions for 2015 was to learn to knit properly once and for all. I've tried on a few previous occasions and gotten as a far as knitting squares, using only the knit stitch. I've found you you can make a surprising amount of things with just squares, but after a while even I decided that it's time to stop being lazy.

I'm dreaming about chunky oversized cardigans and shockingly colourful fluffy socks. Ideally I'd wear these two together over pyjamas and spend the whole winter in bed this way, binge-watching Netflix and drinking my body weight in tea.

Now that I've painted this rather compelling picture I'm sure you get why I am so.very.keen to learn!

Also, I commute a total of 3-4 h a day. Imagine if I spent that time knitting. I'd have all my home-made Xmas presents done by April!

In other words, all the signs are there, I have to learn to knit!

I was very lucky around Xmas time because one of my bestest friends from Sweden came to visit. She started knitting not long ago and has become supergood superfast. I didn't let her leave until she showed me a few tips and tricks and after I waved her off at the train station I went pretty much straight to the yarn shop.

The plan is to start with some simple scarfs, then work up my skills with a slightly more complicated shawl and eventually have a go at a simple-looking cardi. But starting with the scarf. I had found a very simple pattern online, making a beautiful herringbone pattern using only knit and purl stitches.

My mom's birthday is coming up and I thought I'd make it for her. She loves everything purple so I bought three skeins of this gorgeous deep violet baby alpaca wool from the Oxford Yarn Store. It is the softest thing ever!

It took me forever to knit it though. It was my first time following a pattern and I had no idea how long it would take. In hindsight it was a good 40 hours, if not more. Sure made my commute fly by!

So am I hooked? Yes, I think so. It is so incredibly calming doing such a repetitive action and working that soft yarn with light and smooth bamboo needles. You know how they say that stroking an animal is calming? I'm sure the tactile sensation of knitting is somewhere on the same level. After a long day in the office spending some time on the train home listening to music and knitting is pure therapy!

On to the next scarf!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Sewing: Salme patterns buttonless shirt dress in monochrome viscose

Recently I posted my spring sewing plan and today's post is about the ticking off of the first item of that list. This Salme buttonless shirtdress.

I made a blouse version of this pattern just before Christmas and I think this look is just so versatile. Also perfect for layering!

I made the blouse in a light cotton lawn which just about worked, but it became obvious to me that for a dress something with a lot more drape would be required. So I picked up this viscose from Goldhawk Road in the days between Christmas and New Years, while the rest of the population of the UK were hunting the sales in neighbouring Westfield.

I've realised that one of the reasons I don't wear my handmade things as much as I'd wish is that I often make them in colourful fabrics. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm happier wearing neutrals with just the occasional pop of colour. So I'm trying to bear this in mind while fabric shopping this year. This black/white/graphite grey viscose caught my eye and I managed to get a meter for a fiver! With a 150 cm width I didn't require more to cut out my size. Note though that I a) cut the dress shorter than the pattern indicates as that's the length I prefer; b) didn't sew the belt and belt loops included in the pattern, as I prefer actual belts. So if you are thinking of sewing this dress and want to make it longer than mine and with the belt, maybe get a bit more than 1 meter.

No comments on the sewing really. This pattern is marked 'Beginner/Intermediate' and I think that it spot on. The collar is what moves this somewhat into intermediate territory, otherwise it's all very simple and suitable for beginners.

I messed up the collar on my blouse, mostly due to impatience and not reading the pattern properly, but now that I have an Archer behind me (which I still haven't blogged, it's coming, I promise!) this little collar was a breeze!

I also didn't interface the neckline opening, because I forgot. After I sewed it and realised I decided that I couldn't be bothered. It's very floppy, but I don't have an issue with it.

The viscose, being viscose, was trying to cause me some trouble. But I was prepared! Instead of working on the smooth wooden surface I usually work on I mostly worked on the floor where the pile of the carpet kind of kept the fabric in place. I will have to go over the carpet with a lint roller after I finish writing this, but those are the sacrifices made for drapey fabrics.

Overall, I'm very happy with this dress! I'll see how it holds up after a few weeks of wearing and washing before I decide whether the viscose was a good purchase or if it falls apart and I will need to make another one.

On another note: I am really, really going to try hard this year to improve my flash photography so I don't have to rely on daylight for good photos. For this shoot I used one external flash in addition to the flash built into the camera. 

It was good, but I really struggled with focus. When I set the autotimer the camera focuses on what is in view, so when I step into the frame I am suddenly in front of the point it focused on and thus blurry. I tried to fix this by focusing and then moving the tripod which did bring some improvements, but I'm thinking that I might treat myself to a remote soon. 

Also, I'm still underexposing. I had to sort this out in post-processing. I need to be braver with those flashes. Thanks for bearing with me during my rather slow learning curve!

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Fabric: December purchases

At the very end of December, in those lazy days between Christmas and New Years I went down to London with a friend, in search of yarn. Yes, yarn. See, my friend is a knitter and with her help I'm slowly trying to fulfil my new years resolution of becoming one too.

But one doesn't just go to London without doing some fabric shopping! So we got off at Shepherd's Bush and walked down to Goldhawk Road. Mostly because I hadn't been since the summer and because there is always a bargain to be had on this promising street of fabric vendors.

Indeed! I picked up three fabrics. I know, very restrained! These are the lucky three:

From the bottom of the picture up they are a gorgeous heavy cotton, a medium-weight drapey viscose and a silky and cheap as peanuts polyester.

First up, the cotton. The strands seen in the photos are woven and the texture of this is just lush. The blue is deep and refreshing against the black and white fibers. And there is such a sheen to this fabric! I'm massively in love!

I'm thinking that later on in spring I'll try to make a Chanel style jacket from it. I only bought 1 meter and my thoughts are to make the body in this fabric and the sleeves in a heavy black ponte jersey. I have yet to find the perfect pattern. If anybody knows of any good ones, give me a shout.

The next fabric is this viscose. I love this dark grey/black pattern on white. It looks like ink lines with smudged ink all over to me. But the best thing about this is the drape! It makes perfect dress fabric! In fact, I made a dress from it yesterday which I'm hoping to have up on the blog in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Finally, there is this polyester. It was £4/meter but I expect great things from it. Firstly, it is light and silky to the touch. Secondly, it didn't fray too bad during the wash, so it might be ok to work with. Finally, that pattern! Those nude and coral red geometric shapes on the charcoal grey background. Perfect!

The plan it so make it into a Colette Laurel. I'm going to treat it as a wearable (hopefully!) muslin and underline the body in a very light Indian cotton. I think the Laurel dress has potential to become a wardrobe staple for me, so a cheap and cheerful polyester will be perfect to test it in!

On that note, I'm off to attend to the laborious task of taping the pattern together. 

I hope you are all having a lovely Sunday! xx

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Spring sewing projects

Today is the last day of my 2.5 weeks off from work. It has been brilliant, but I'm itching with restlessness and quite looking forward to get back in the swing of things, morning commute and all (no, I didn't bang my head on anything). However, I woke up at 2 this morning coughing and not being able to breathe through my nose. A cold. Great. So today will be about absolute laziness. Pot after pot of tea, lots of rest, wrapping up in blankets and doing very little. All in an effort to recover as quickly as I fell ill.

So I am on my second pot of tea, spending the morning going through every indie pattern designer I can think of and pinning my favourite pieces on my sewing planning Pinterest boards. Although I am under no illusions that winter is ending, I want to get a head start on making my spring items.

In my 2014 summary I mentioned that in 2015 I want to make more practical items. The first thing I sewed this year was the Grainline Studio Archer shirt (yet to be blogged), and completing that filled me with confidence to make more things that I want to wear on a daily basis. Items I can wear both to the office and on the weekend.

Starting with the dresses, these four are my spring must haves:

From left to right: Salme sleeveless dress, Colette Laurel, Colette Moneta and Named Clothing Wenona shirtdress.

For the Salme dress and the Laurel I already have both the patterns and the fabric, so it's really just about getting to work!

And these are the separates. All shirts and pussy bow blouses, at the moment I'm not having much skirt/trousers inspiration.

I can't tell you for how long I've wanted to make the Mathilde blouse, but for some reason I have never gone for it. But this spring it is a must. I have the perfect rayon in mind and I can just imagine how great it will look with skinny jeans, wedge sandals and a pair of sunnies.

The Archer I've made a head start on by making a very wearable muslin. But I want many, many more. I have found my perfect shirt pattern.

The Sew Over It and Sewaholic pussy bow blouses will be the perfect additions to my work wardrobe. I like them both too much to go for just one, so I think I'll have to make both.

Given my love for the Archer I think I simply must try the Alder. I'm tempted to make it blouse length instead of dress length, in a very light lawn or voile. Hmm, will think about this one some more.

Finally, the Liola Designs Natalie blouse looks like the perfect casual chic pattern. I'll take one in every colour!

Right, let's get sewing!