Thursday, 31 December 2015

Saying goodbye to 2015...

'Woman' by Willi Soukop R.A.
London, December 2015.

If there's one thing I've learnt about being in my 20s, it's that life is constantly characterised by being in a state of flux. The past two years were meant to be about staying in one place, trying to put down some roots. But restlessness is striking once more and the biggest news of 2016 is that I'm going to be moving to Stockholm for half a year. 

2015 has been a good year. I partied in Berlin with Francis, experienced rainy Midsomer in Gothenburg, made too many hats, and started a second degree. I played loads of gigs with my band, rediscovered my love of sewing,  got an awesome bike and developed very muscular legs. These are some of the good things; there have been tantrums and tears along the way, and at the moment I'm so broke it's not even funny!

I'm always making plans that I never seem to be able to entirely pull off: I get too distracted by the myriad of things to do, that I never quite seem to manage to finish. I stopped making new year's resolutions a few years ago; it seemed like just another to-do list that I wouldn't be able to finish. Life's a work-in-progress. 

One thing I loved about going back to university was the fact that my life got some structure and sense of purpose back. So some things that I know I will accomplish in 2016 are easy: get my Masters degree, live in another country, and learn another language. 

Instead of resolutions, I just want to implement some changes - things that I've chosen to do for once. 
My 2016 plans are:

+ To get up earlier

+ To stop wearing red and purple together

+ To get my Masters!

Right, back to my essay...

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Crochet blanket: candy, unicorn, rainbows...

Another home-made Christmas gift is this blanket, which I've been working on for several months. It started, like all my crochet projects, as a stash-busting exercise. However, as usual, I could only get so far with my leftovers, after using up every last scrap of DK weight, pastel-ish coloured yarns.  I also used doubled-up sock yarn and even some heavier aran weight yarns too, to try to push the scraps as far as possible. And as you can see, some of the colours aren't quite pastel either!

I decided quite early on that this wouldn't be a perfectly planned, Cath Kidson-esque blanket; but a far more home made feeling one, which much more character. So, although the majority of the yarns used are fuzzy wool blends, there is the odd (green) round of shiny cotton. Also many of the stripes are not perfect pairs (two rounds per colour, like in the centre); and even the rounds are not completed in only one colour, but are interrupted partway through. This is solely down to running out of yarn, and picking the closest I had available to the shade.

The blanket got fairly large before I had to admit defeat and buy some new balls of yarn to finish it. I wanted it to be an actual usable size for an adult, not just a tiny lap or child-sized blanket. Unfortunately due to fluorescent lighting in the shop, the yarns I chose turned out to be quite a bit darker and stronger-coloured in real light/life. You can notice this in the blue section on the outside. As Christmas by this point was fast-approaching, I didn't have any time to exchange them in the shop; and cranked out the rest of the blanket with a week's commuting on the tube.

I finished it off with a wavy shell edging, but as I was so last-minute this year there was no time to block it and get it dry. I do regret not being able to wet block it, as this would have made the blanket look much better. Nonetheless, my sister was very pleased with it, and the family very impressed.


My teenage sister is currently demonstrating conflicts between super-girly-cute-rainbow-unicorn-pastel-glitter-candy love, and emo-goth-indie-everything-black-and-grey-and-lots-of-eyeliner. Obviously this blanket is a nod to the former. It's OK to subscribe to more than one style though, and the teen years are prime for experimentation in looks. Now she can be all cosy, too.


Sunday, 27 December 2015

Christmas makes for toddlers

Hello & Merry Christmas! Hope that everyone has managed to have a relaxing, food-filled festive season.

Normally I am one of those people who gets all the Christmas presents in November and wraps them up in the week before Christmas. I prefer it that way - it means I'm organised, don't have to keep thinking about it, and managed to avoid all the Christmas shopping rush and stress at the end. But for one reason or another, this year didn't turn out like that at all, and everything was super last-minute. My partner and I only bought a Christmas tree on the 23rd, and I was actually finishing off a final present on Christmas day!

I made quite a few things this Christmas (and just about managed to take a few photos along the way...) including a couple of things for two toddlers in the family. These were planned-but-badly-timed last-minute projects, made from my stash. Thank goodness children are small!

These adorable shorts were made from a 1970s sewing pattern that I don't know how appeared in my stash. The fabric is really lovely, almost like deckchair fabric but much lighter. I bought it when I was 17 or so (7 years ago!) to make a 1950s sun suit; however I didn't buy enough fabric so it's been hoarded in my stash ever since.

Isn't the pattern just too darling?! I was actually hoping to make the trousers, but again didn't really have enough fabric. So, the shorts it was! The braces are attached with buttons, and I sewed extra ones on so that they can be lengthened in the future. No wedgies for Baby.

The shorts were quick to make, just zipping down the seams on my overlocker and doing rolled hems for the waistband and leg hems. I used a really lovely, heavy grey twill tape from my stash for the button loops and brace stabiliser. Even though you never see it, it just gives such a nice effect when contrasted with that lovely red stripe. It's finished with a hanging loop of gingham ribbon to mark the back.

I celebrated Christmas with my family on the 24th, and spent the whole dinner jumping up and down, excited for the Baby (not really a baby any more...) to open the present and wear them! Luckily he's not yet at the age of being self-conscious and cool, and was more than happy to prance around all evening in his cotton 'lederhosen', tee hee!  Above, he is eating a chicken drumstick with his mum & dad there.

I was paranoid that the braces would be too short but they were actually a smidge long, and kept falling off his shoulders. This is good though, it means that he'll be able to wear them in the summer. (Although at 14 °C lately, it's hardly winter weather!)

I also made this striped T-shirt for another toddler in the family - who thanks to this handy chart I just worked out is my third cousin! (My grandmother's cousin's grandson). It's made from the leftovers of my penitentiary pyjamas. It's trimmed in vintage red plastic buttons and poppers open at the shoulder.  No pictures of him wearing it unfortunately as I met with my extended family on the 20th, so no presents were opened. You'll just have to have more of the Christmas Boy instead!



Tuesday, 8 December 2015

knickers x 3 - and tips for beginning sewing underwear!

After spending quite a long time amassing the vast range of materials required, I've been making some first forays into lingerie sewing. Continuing to make good on my ambitions to sew items that I need and use in daily life, here are my first three attempts at sewing everyday knickers...

1. The experiment.

Very quickly knocked up out of viscose jersey and some really pretty lingerie elastic that had been hanging around in my stash for ages. The pattern is a free pdf from So, Zo.

These knickers are very bad, as you can see - I didn't really have the hang of how to stretch the elastic as I sewed it in. Additionally, I found that the pattern came up very large. I was pretty ecstatic about sewing my very own pair of knickers though, so I wore them all day - and they didn't fall down! I called it success.

2. Pretty in lace.

I wasn't overly sold on the cut of the So, Zo knicker pattern as it was more of a 'shortie' kind of style, and a bit clunky on me. This pair was made from the bikini pattern included in the Watson bra pdf (not free). I made this pair from stretch lace and much-less-luxurious picot elastic from Barnet & Lawson. The elastic was of poorer quality, but I had a much better hand at stitching/stretching in the elastic this time round.

I liked the cut much better, though these knickers really are brief! More improvements were needed though, as the elastic stretch wasn't distributed symmetrically enough for me.

3. Secretly scarlet.


My third pair was yet another experiment. I had a red cotton T-shirt hanging around from who-knows-where and decided to utilise it for sewing. I had the idea of sewing pretty, scanty knickers but with a red gusset. Ladies, is there not an understanding of keeping a few pairs of 'period pants' in your underwear drawer? Namely, those old, worn out, ugly but (debatably) comfortable knickers for the 'time of the month'. Well, I really hate owning ugly things, especially lingerie. Periods are uncomfortable and an inconvenience - why make things worse by giving yourself depressing underwear? The red gusset is invisible when worn because the knickers are so skimpy that the gusset tucks completely between your legs. It's there 'in case of emergency', so that you don't risk totally ruining a beautiful pair of undies.

I was looking to further improve on my elastic sewing skills here. I'd been following the mostly-lingerie-sewing blog Madalynne, where she staunchly advocates sewing the elastics in flat rather than stretching them. I'd also read some advice online from an experienced costume maker who specialised in stretch costumes. She said to stretch the elastic more over the bum than on the front of the leg. This makes complete sense: your legs move forwards more, so the back leg-hole will need to stretch to cling to the body and accommodate movement. So, I decided to try to combine these two approaches on this knicker.

The result? Not that successful! Perhaps I should be taking larger seam allowances at the side seams, but without stretching the elastic, these knickers are far too loose on me. They're not falling down, but nor are they clinging properly to my body! I think that stretching more over the bum is a good idea, and my handling of the elastic was improved yet again - the stretch was distributed nicely and evenly. But I believe that you do need to stretch the elastic when sewing it in. 

A big difference between the knickers: the ones which I sewed the elastic in flat are 2" larger!
Think about it: you're using stretch fabric, so you can pull the garment up and over your body, no fastenings needed. But it needs to stay on! The elastic both seals the fabric up, preventing it from stretching out; and holds the garment up! Negative ease is necessary.

Conclusion: advice for knicker sewing beginners 
  • Work out how to sandwich and flip the gusset so that you end up with two neat, completely enclosed seams.
  • Try on the knickers quickly before sewing in the elastic, to check if they are too loose or fit fine. This varies greatly with the fabric that you're using.
  • Sewing in the elastic does take practice. Your first pairs of knickers will inevitably have sections where you've pulled too tight or too loose. Don't give up!
  • Try to stretch the elastic more over the back leg holes, and 'just enough' over the front leg holes.
  • Lastly, don't forget to stretch a little around the waist - that's what's holding the knickers up!

The white knickers make a set with my first bra! But that's a subject for another post...