Friday, 28 December 2012

New Look for Christmas

Picture from
As always, I apologise for the quality of my photographs but I realised that a) I hadn’t blogged for ages (the end of October – where did that bloody well go) and b) I hadn’t posted about any of the things that I’ve made.

There are a couple of reasons for that.  Life has got very busy with bobble hat production.  I am a one woman production line.  Here’s my train line knitting  kit – it, or an approximation of it (varying only in terms of the colour of wool in the bag), has been in my bag for the last several weeks. 

Christmas is a trying time for knitters because of time pressure to produce gifts people want.  Trouble is, these things are rarely the most interesting things to make.  I’m currently on number four of six bobble hats.  I have worn away the skin on the top of my thumb so it really hurts to tighten up the first stitch at the beginning of each of the four DPNs I’m using.  There is a high zinc tape usage at home.  The jumper I had planned to make for me to luxuriate in over Christmas, aglow with the compliments of non-knitters has been languishing by the sofa waiting for me to down the bobble hats and take up the proper knitting again.

So I decided to make a dress instead as a bit of a “fast fashion” fix and it was great fun.  It was the simplest of simple patterns – the Merchant & Mills trapeze dress pattern made in fabric from Cloth Spot.  It took a couple of hours to cut out on Sunday, then another couple to sew together on Tuesday night, and an hour last night to finish the hem and sleeves.  I’ve worn it to work today with a wide belt and purple suede boots and feel super glam as if I’m rocking Dior’s original idea of the New Look.  Even though it’s massively unstructured, I still feel very feminine.  My only observation is that the fabric is itchy as all hell so I’m wearing a white long sleeve vest underneath the top half (which also means I won’t have to wash the dress after wear one) but that makes me look slightly less New Look and slightly more Art Teacher.  The other thing about the itchiness is the occasional leg spasms where a fibre pokes into you.  After the joy of Wovember I now know more about why this is – the length of the staples that make up the fibre – and actually it confirms that it is at least wool which is a Very Good Thing.  But you know what, I don’t mind any of the drawbacks – I made it and that makes it very special.  I’m ordering a nice raspberry coloured woollen boucle to make another – I think raspberry will be marginally less monkish/utilitarian, although I don’t dislike that aesthetic; or at least it certainly has its place.

The other nice thing about making the dress was that I haven’t been in front of my sewing machine for ages and was starting to forget how much I’ve learnt.  It’s a really simple pattern but the instructions do rely on a base level of knowledge.  Two years ago I would not have known that the double notch would mean it was the back of the sleeve.  I might not even have known to cut the notches.  This was the first time I marked out the pattern with chalk and I’m a total convert because it meant I got to do some tweaking with the shape afterwards.  It was like a very chalky, itchy woolly  crime scene.  I’ve ordered more of the brown woolly fabric to make Sewaholic Cordova Jacket which I think will look rather well in this material, and plan to make the dress again albeit with a few variations to the shape and probably in a bold print of some kind for casual rather than work wear.

Waking up at 7am on Saturday 22nd December to my neighbours slamming their front door no fewer than six times in the space of fifteen minutes as they packed their car to head home for Christmas (I’m over it now though, can you tell) I lay restless in bed listening  to Husband happily snoring away before realising that sleep was not going to happen again for me that day.  A couple of days before this, Santa had delivered to me some 100% wool felt and some lovely cotton fleece.  At 7.30 that morning, unable to get back to sleep and grumbling away, I set to work and have rustled up two baby quilts.  The wool felt should be sturdy enough to go on the floor, and the cotton fleece soft enough for babies to lie comfortably on.  I did very simple straight line quilting to create an inner square where I’ve hand quilted/embroidered a Scandinavian style bird.  I did try some free motion quilting on the machine which completed ruined what I had done so far; unfortunately this relegates this one to “prototype” status and therefore means my niece will get it once I’ve done a bit of fixing up.  I really do need to get a handle on the free motion quilting thing – it’s so handy and would save hours.  My thumb is now locked in quite a painful “thumbs up” style posture from the knitting and sewing I’ve been doing.  Some would say “excessive knitting and sewing” but I never would. 

The feathery fleece

The embroidered bird

The contrast fleeces

The woolly back of the quilt

The invisible embroidered bird (sort of)
Looking at the embroidery again it was obviously fairly unbalanced (aside from the quality issues) so I went back to it and added some more of the pale greeny/blue that I used on the neck feathers and tried to balance the shape a bit more across the bird.  As soon as I’d stitched the back, batting and front together I came up with the idea of doing a central piece of embroidery and of course by then, the thought of ripping back sufficient of a seam to do embroidery was just too painful but it’s a good lesson.  Embroidery before you put your pieces together; which of course I know but these are the perils of doing things at Darkness O’clock in the morning while fuming about being woken by noisy (though very nice) neighbours.

I was explaining to Husband that I needed to get on with some of the baby things for our various couple friends who are all having children soon and he replied “don’t put yourself under pressure.”  I tried to explain that it wasn’t making things that put me under pressure, it was not having the time to make the things I wanted that made me feel pressured.  Not making things at all would be a hundred times worse.  He didn’t get it, but then people who don’t make things rarely do and my feelings of pressure definitely seem back-to-front to him.  They’re not though and those of us that stitch know that really.

I’m now pondering New Year’s Resolutions.  Would it be possible do you think to wear only clothes one already owns, recycled and upcycled, or to only make new clothes during the year?  Could I last twelve months without buying myself something new?  I wonder if I’m up to the challenge – I’m tempted and daunted all at the same time.  Any views on whether it’s a challenge worth setting oneself up for?  Would three months be better or is that just wimping out?

This year I am also determined to make a few things to try and sell on Etsy.  That seems like a possible good resolution too.  Scary but possible?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – 2013 will be a great year for stitching, I can already tell ...

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