Saturday, 23 January 2016

Cabled fingerless gloves

This was a delightfully quick little project that I started just before Christmas and completed on Christmas day whilst watching old films. After finishing the cabled cardigan for F, I had nearly a full ball of yarn left over. Ever keen to use up all my leftovers and diminish my stash (sensing a theme here?), I decided to make F. some fingerless gloves as his Christmas gift. (It's me wearing them in these photos though; he is not a nail polish-wearing man).

I was after a glove with actual fingerless fingers, rather than a fingerless mitten. Turns out that there's significantly less choice, when you want the finger stubs! Of course I could have altered a different pattern, but as I've mentioned before - I'm not the prolific knitter I used to be, and have forgotten many of the tricks I used to have up my sleeves. In any case, I found the perfect pattern for free: the prosaically-named Woven Cable Fingerless Gloves by Harry Wells (Ravelry link). It even comes in 4 sizes!

I really like the simplicity of these gloves, with just enough visual interest. My partner was very happy with them and they've gone straight into regular use. I found the directions slightly confusing to follow, and ended up writing them out myself in a clearer way; but I didn't make any changes to the pattern. The only thing I might do differently would be to add a purl column to either side of the cable section, to make the cables stand out more. But I'm happy with the subtlety here too. I'd really recommend this pattern - in worsted weight yarn, it really is fast! If I hadn't messed up the first glove (by misreading the directions), I would have finished them in two evenings!

Cabled fingerless gloves
Pattern: Woven Cable Fingerless Gloves by Harry Wells (Ravelry pattern link)
Notes: Knit the smallest size. Could add a purl column either side of the cables.
Yarn:  1/2 ball of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, shade 123, from stash.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Preparing a handmade winter capsule wardrobe...

When I found out that I was moving to Stockholm for 6 months, my thoughts soon turned to packing!  I've been pretty static these past two years because I've moved so much between 2009 and 2014. The climax, if you can call it that, was spending over a year on the road between late 2012 and early 2014, when I worked backstage on a touring show. Living out of a suitcase isn't fun at all! Your clothes have to work much harder, and meet several functions. You've also got to get used to having very little choice!

Although I'll (hopefully) get to stay in the same digs during my time in Stockholm, I'm anticipating quite a variation in weather conditions. Freezing at the beginning, but going into spring - and maybe even a glimpse of Scandinavian summer! Luckily I spent a week in Gothenburg in June 2015, so I've got an idea of what to expect towards the end of my trip. Well, wildflowers, cold outdoor swimming, and mild rain! Very sadly, I won't be packing any of my lightweight summer dresses, extravagant vintage clothes, dramatic hat collection, or wide selection of coats, shoes, and clothes which might be otherwise be described as costumes. For the first time ever, I'm going to commit to being practical, even if I loathe to embrace 'normcore'!

I took a week off over Christmas and New Year to do a little sewing. I soon had to scale back what I'd planned to make, but the crux of my winter capsule wardrobe rests on these four patterns:

Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns

A good pair of trousers is the foundation stone of any wardrobe. My go-to trousers used to be a pair of high-waisted, leopard print, velvet leggings that my mum bought in a vintage shop in the 1980s. Unfortunately, they are now truly showing their 35+ years of wear. There are only so many crotch holes you can sew up; I had to retire them a few months ago.

This pattern has got to be famous by now! If you haven't heard of it, it's a skinny jeans pattern made for stretch denim. It's had rave reviews for everything: the cut, the instructions, the online sewalong...Denim is really not my thing, but the enthusiasm for this pattern from the sewing community has proved infectious. I'm going to streamline my look by sewing up a pair of Gingers in black stretch corduroy. I can't wait to share my version!

Nettie by Closet Case Patterns

I've grown to really like wearing bodysuits - but hate the fact that 95% of them on the market come without any crotch fastenings, making it nearly impossible to go to the toilet! I am constantly baffled by how we still wear so much restrictive clothing today, hence things like my mission to add pockets into everything I make.

The Nettie bodysuit has lots of neckline options, and I know it'll easily be a fabulous transitioning piece, between underwear and outerwear. Layering's always a good thing, and I think that a couple of Netties in my suitcase will slip straight into regular rotation.

Watson bra & bikini by Cloth Habit.

Last but by no means least is underwear. I've been wearing my toile Watson at least once a week, and now actually find myself unable to wear any bra with underwires for more than a couple of hours. I desperately need to make another Watson bra in a different colour before my sewing machine and I are parted for six months!

Socks are going to be a focus next year as I'm planning on taking my double-pointed needled in my suitcase. I love this simple pattern by Purl Soho. I've learned from experience that lace handknit socks don't really work for me (too thick, but holey!) so I'll be looking at ribbed and cable patterns.

Aside from these items, I've got the various hand-knitted sweaters I've made in the past. I'm lugging along a selection of knitted hats and scarves, and invested in a down-filled waterproof parka. The hardest part now is choosing which shoes to pack!

What are your best pieces for a capsule wardrobe? Any tips for travelling light?

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Bespoken cardigan in burgundy-esque red

This is my 'best knitting project of 2015' - a cosy cabled cardigan for my partner in his favourite colour. 

He has rather a lot of woollies, many of them 1970s knits  he acquired when he worked in a vintage shop several years ago. You can imagine the colour scheme: all those shades of brown, beige, camel and tobacco! F's favourite colour is burgundy: he has burgundy T-shirts, jeans, shorts, cords, shoes, shirts...everything, in fact, apart from a cardigan. I managed to find several balls of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted in the January sales last year in the perfect shade, 123: Crimson. The colour is slightly darker and more wine-link than it appears in these photos, but in any case F is not afraid of wearing the slightly pinker end of this colour spectrum .

We chose the pattern together: Bespoken by Cassandra Dominick (Ravelry link). This pattern has pretty much everything I consider good in a men's cardigan: clean lines, a shawl collar, emphasis on the shoulders, and just enough visual interest. It would have been nice if there was some cabling or something to break up the back. I considered adding it myself, but in the end couldn't be bothered. There's a lot to be said for a simple stocking stitch project, especially when (like me) you only knit in front of films. 

I made several false starts on this project, which resulted in it being stuffed in a bag and pushed under the sofa for half a year! First, the tension was too loose, then too tight. Then, I got carried away knitting the whole back (all that stocking stitch!) before deciding that I should lengthen the body of the cardigan. 

To get a nice knit fabric, my tension was still on the tighter side, so I knit between two sizes of the pattern. However, after wet blocking the cardigan, the fabric has become much drapier and I can see that it's unfortunately stretched out a little too much. I could have blocked my swatch more carefully (as detailed by Ysolda Teague in 'Little Red in the City') but I'm just not the kind of person who does that, no matter how much it's advocated. Ah well - all the better for layering underneath!

There are two areas in which this pattern could have been improved. Firstly, I should note that I could have done it myself, but I was being too lazy. I used to knit prolifically; but this is the first (adult) sweater I've made in 3 years or so. Therefore I wasn't really thinking analytically about the pattern in the same way as I've done in the past: I just wanted to relax and follow the directions.

The first way to improve the pattern would have been to add shaping in the body. The cardigan sleeves are shaped, but not the torso, which is just a long tube of knitting. Contrary to the belief of many knitwear pattern designers, men are not shaped like tubes! They have waists and hips and curves in the back, just like women. I've thought this strange for a long time; the wonderful Kate Davies all the way back in 2008 mentioned this (and other!) plights in hand-knit menswear design (scroll towards the bottom of her post). As I've mentioned already, I was being really lazy and thought that I'd make a cardigan which allowed for some layering, to justify neglecting the fit.

The other amendment, which would have been easier for me to do, was the shawl collar and lapel; you can see on the front that it's a little bit mean. I've just compared this to the model on the pattern, whose lapel looks more generous. I believe that this may be because his shoulders are proportionally less broad than F's; the cardigan just doesn't seem to pull across the chest on him in the same way as on the pattern. In my opinion, the 'weighting' of the short rows at the collar should have been spaced out a bit more so that it doesn't grow in height so much more quickly than in width. Yes, I should really have re-knit this at the end after trying it on F; but by then I'd already missed his birthday by a week, I had Christmas gifts to finish, and I just wanted it to be done! I have a small amount of yarn left so if it really bothers me in the future I've got the option to re-knit; but to be honest, F. doesn't care (in fact he's thrilled with the garment) so I think I'll just let it go.

Bespoken cardigan
Pattern: Bespoken by Cassandra Dominick (Ravelry pattern link)
Notes: Lengthened the body to approx. 18". Knit a mash-up between sizes 38 and 44 as my tension was tight. Should have added shaping in the body.
Yarn: 7 balls of Rowan Pure Wool Worsted, shade 123. Vintage buttons.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Space: inner and outer

Today, musing about various things whilst standing on a tube platform, I realised that much of my writing for this blog (infrequent as it is) involves issues of space. Many of my thoughts come whilst walking out and about, as I react to advertising in public spaces. Conversely, I am drawn to how people make their own personal marks in public spaces through decoration and graffiti. 

As I have mentioned many times, I try to cycle as much as possible whilst in transit in my hometown London; and I don't own a television. I therefore feel quite sensitive to advertising, as I find it particularly noticeable when taking public transport and walking in public spaces. Of course, advertising assaults us in the home as well; but it's much easier to skim past it (on the Internet, whilst using apps on my phone, etc) when you know it's there: you put up an internal blockade, over which far less reaches you. 

Space in London is infamously precarious at the moment. House prices are insane, rental costs even worse than mortgages. City dwellers here are expected to live in small bedrooms in flatshares well into their 30s. Yet we are constantly attacked with images encouraging us to spend and buy - expend any and all disposable income when what we really need is more space of our own; not stuff to fill it with. 

Last summer's tube strikes happened surrounding issues of space too: tube workers not wanting to work all night, and quoting their right to a decent work-life balance. Most Londoners were pretty unsympathetic, but I think that the desire to spend time at home during the night is pretty fair. Not everyone just wants to work all the time...

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Hello 2016...

Hello & welcome to 2016!

2015 was a good year for many things. It was the first time that I truly started enjoying making things for myself again after several years, and I also started blogging again (albeit slowly!). Skills-wise, I pushed myself to learn something new: focusing on using stretch fabrics. I didn't make tonnes of things, but was happy experimenting with leggings, T-shirts, bras and knickers. I finally made my first quilt. I learnt lots!


The focus of the year overall was to live better. I was raised to be thrifty and hate waste, but being time-poor in the past had allowed my moral values surrounding consumption choices flag a little. I decided to change that. My partner and I have been watching a slew of documentaries online, including The True Cost and Capitalism: A Love Story and decided that we needed to start making more active choices about which companies we support financially. Aside from making clothing that I would previously have bought (such as underwear), we have continued to use things thoroughly before discarding; buying second-hand; and now actively boycott unethical supermarket chains.


2016 is going to have a lot of changes. The most significant one is that I'm moving to Stockholm for 6 months, leaving rather soon (and frantically trying to tie up loose ends!). Unfortunately this means no sewing until June, which I am genuinely rather sad about. It's not all bad though - I'll be packing my knitting needles and plan on becoming a prolific sock knitter. Inspired by Niina, whatever I don't wear myself, I can stockpile as wonderful Christmas gifts.

Speaking of which - I'm forcing myself to blog about the last few bits of Christmas making that I did in December very slowly, so that this blog doesn't entirely die away. I wrote 22 posts in 2015 - not really very many, but I was happy that I got back into making and blogging full stop, so I'm fine with that. Some of my favourite projects of 2015 are pictured in this post. I'm not 100% sure how I'll be able to keep up this blog in Stockholm, as it doesn't look like I'll be able to make too many things. I do plan to continue writing my 'thinking' blog, Dress Me Up, Drag Me Out. I also have to blog about the Erasmus exchange experience over on my Masters course blog, which I edit. And of course, I'll be around on Instagram.

2015 - pyjamas, underwear and blankets. 2016 - socks galore!

What does 2016 have in store for you?