Friday, July 10, 2015

Working the List: #1 - Arielle's mermaid cocoon




The theme of completion continues with the first item on the list of UFO's being crossed off - Arielle's mermaid tail cocoon. It even takes on a satisfyingly fishy shapes when you smooth it out flat on the table.


Knitting in the round wasn't nearly as tricky as I imagined it would be. The instructions were delightfully easy to follow, although I still managed to make a few mistakes here and there (which I've managed to forget to photograph - oops!). The wool is acrylic (easy to wash and dry...important when you're dealing with a small person), and when I went to buy the 5 1/2 mm needles for "in the round" knitting they didn't have any. I rounded up to 6 mm, so it's all probably a bit on the large size, but this it's meant to be.



This "closer" up is meant to show the scales, which are a result of a nifty little stitch slipping technique. Now, as I mentioned earlier I've never knitted anything more complex than a knit-purl kind of pattern, so in the process of doing this I've learnt how to slip stitches to lay a loop and then lift the loop to create the appearance of a fish-scale on the tail.



Oh, and grafting. I learnt about grafting too, although I'm not sure that I actually did a decent job of grafting the two halves of the tail together. It looks okay when you dangle it over the back of the chair, so it can't be too bad. The point is that she has something fun to snuggle in, and hopefully something that will be a fond childhood memory.




And this time we wrap up with a skyward view of some fuchsias that are all dangly and pink and pretty. There's something particularly pleasing about fuchsia pink and that bright blue together.

May your weekend be fabulous and lovely! XX

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Completion

A decade long journey has pretty much come to an end (corrections pending).

Last week I handed in my thesis for my Bachelor of Engineering, marking the end of a journey that started with half a bottle of red in my tatami-matted bedroom in Japan after a particularly challenging day of teaching small people*. I think it was a repeated kancho** from one kid who had so much fun that he forgot I was his teacher rather than his classmate. Anyway, long story short, I decided I'd like to grow up and become an engineer who could help to fix the energy supply needs of the world. That was the Japanese autumn of 2005, so we're a few months early, but nonetheless here we are; ready to start the next leg of the journey. (And if anyone reading this happens to have a gig in the Renewable Energy industry that's based either around Perth or South-East Queensland, feel free to get in touch!)

Anyway, getting back to the theme of completion...

After a few days of catching up on lost sleep, and washing up (I have clean dishes!) and doing laundry (I have clean sheets!) and sweeping the floor (there's no sand on it anymore!), I've started to clear all the surfaces and dust; and compile to-do lists. Among these being the list of UnFinished Objects in my home. This it the sewing/knitting specific list, and I somehow seem to have accrued 10 UFO's. One of them is a quilt that dates back years. I have other lists for renovations and job-hunting, but they don't really belong here. Although there's one that I managed to finish out of sheer pants-less desperation (thesis weight gain makes it difficult to do your pants up).



10 projects to finish! Sheesh. I've lined them all up along the bench. I've even managed to add a shiny gold dress to it (because I'm too fat to fit into any of the ones I've already got hanging in the wardrobe, and Friday night is going to be Whiskey & Jazz at a secret gig...HELLO! Social life :-) It's nice to see you still exist.)

In the mean time I've been gently pursuing the one at the top of the list: a Mermaid Tail baby Cocoon for a friend's new baby. Her name is Arielle, which I've probably spelt incorrectly, she's now 6 weeks old, and her mother has been obsessed by mermaids for as long as I've known her. So I'm knitting a toddler-sized Mermaid Tail Cocoon that she can grow into while I'm lying on my bed and watching old episodes of Dr Who. Because I can do these kinds of things now!



It's going surprisingly smoothly for someone with newly acquired tennis elbow, who hasn't knitted anything more complex than a knit2-purl2 scarf using giant needles. With any luck it will provide a nice cosy little snuggle pouch for a few years, anyway.

And just for sitting through all that chit-chat that has little to do with sewing, here's a puppy dog luxuriating in an amazing sunset we had on the west coast back in May.



I'll torture you with stories of ill-fitting Thurlows at a later date. In the mean time, enjoy every moment of chilling out that you can.


*Small people being my general description for anyone under the age of 12.
** Just google "kancho" if you're not familiar with the term; a cultural experience I could have done without.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's been...0 days since my last fabric purchase

And a couple of weeks since my last post. I'm afraid I've been buried under mountains of paper for uni, and very little sewing has happened except for the odd bit of quilting.



Some time ago, I cut up a bundle of old T-shirts that held sentimental meaning for me and stitched them into the front of a quilt. I backed it with an old sheet and put a bit of batting in between, then carefully folded it up and put it in a bag.

A month or so ago I go sick of moving the bag to sweep and started quilting it with an odd assortment of embroidery silk that's been loitering in my sewing box since Moses was floating about in a basket. It's become a slow process that has acted as a kind of meditative process to relax me when I'm stressed and can't part with more that 15-20 minutes for sewing. It's one of those things where you need to concentrate just enough that errant thoughts can't make it in, or if they do they float through briefly and then bugger off.



There's only another 6 weeks of insanity left until I'm hopefully all done with this study caper and I can do things like find people who live near me to sew with, and play team sports and not work the equivalent of a 70 hour week (if you count study-load and work-for-pay together). And I've only got about 20'000 words total to put into a variety of assessments. Totally do-able, right?

In the meantime, I've been appeasing my desire to sew by loitering over sewing blogs like the dodgy guy in the dirty mag section of the news agency. Lladybird Lauren has, as always, been completing the most amazing array of projects even though she's just moved house. And Miss HandmadebyCarolyn trotted out this beautiful quasi-quilted dress last week...not quilted so much as pieced from pieces of old T-shirts, but mind-blowing! And Miss Katie Who Writes Stuff made some pyjama shorts out of some of the fabric I sent her, and that was also cool. They're really pretty! So, you know, the loitering around other people's pretty projects keeps my inner sewing-addict happy in the short term.

But then sometimes I walk past the op shop and they'll have new fabrics in and even though I swore that I wouldn't buy any more fabric until I'd emptied my current stash a bit...


But...well...I had to! Because ribbing is so expensive, and handy to have about, especially for the Free-Tee-Patterns project that I'm planning to do.


And where else are you going to find such mad retro paisley goodness? Besides, I was only in there for 5 minutes, so it's not like I lost a lot of study time or anything.**



**That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thurlowed denim should be deeply pocketed, no?

I meant to post this a week or so back, but somehow I managed to collect one of those delightful vomitty-bugs that make you wish you didn't exist...and then I had assignments...and now here we are...

Some time ago, after falling in love with Miss Lladybird Lauren's Thurlow's from the Sew-Along I broke my promise to not buy anymore patterns* and invested in Sewaholic's Thurlow's. It's been nearly a year, I think, but life's been busy.

Anyway, so the other week I was in Spotlight and the denim was on sale. And my pants have all been getting tight, so I picked up a role of something I liked the look of and did a guesstimate of required length to bring home for Thurlation. It's been a steady process over the past few weeks: adjusting the pattern here, loosing a pattern piece there, cutting them out, putting them together, adjusting them. But overall, I'm quite in love with the pattern and I've already embarked on the next pair. There shall be many.

Two things struck me heavily upon inspecting the pattern:
1) The finished length of them is normally 34". OMG! This is unheard of in the world of a woman with a 36" inseam who has to buy most of her clothes from specialists like Long Tall Sally. For once, I only needed to add 2", not 6". It was a delightful shock change.
2) Tiny pockets are not to be had! You're talking to a woman who hates handbags and wants to lead an existence sans them so she doesn't end up sans them. The back pockets were deepened by about a Samsung's length and the front ones by it's width.





That done, it was time to start cutting out the pieces.

Except muggins here had decided to do this on the back patio in the sunshine to cut out her Thurlows. A little gust of wind came along and departed with the pattern piece for the belt loops, whisking it away much like the dancing plastic bag from American Beauty, before depositing it into the top of the neighbour's tree .

So I wrote to Sewaholic with my tale of woe. And in the mean time I clipped on regardless, learning that my fabric purchase was a little bit on the short side, but adequate. And I fossicked through my off-cuts bin for some left over cotton lining for the waistband and deepened pockets. Luckily Caroline took pity on my tale of woah and furnished me with the dimensions of the belt loops piece. I ended up having to cut it in two half lengths, but since the piece gets cut into six even lengths this wasn't exactly a terrible emergency.

The pants went together beautifully, although I made a couple of changes to the process. One was to cut out both the front pieces and the waistband out using only the right hand pieces and trimming off the excess later. This was partly because I'm lazy and partly because of the history attached to the whole girls/boys button opening thing.



My objection to the left/right thing falls to the bit about class and who dresses me. Way back in the day, ladies clothing opening to the left and men's to the right. This was supposed to indicate that the lady had a maid to dress her (whether or not she did). Now, with delusions of grandeur summarily binned, I do dress myself, thank you very much. And I do detest having to twist my wrist at a weird angle to do up my pants.

Ergo, these Thurlows are a little bit bisexual in the details. What, with their pockets large enough to hold a phone, keys and a wallet AND their opening suited to a right-handed gal zipping and buttoning instead of a left-handed one. There is no point making things for your own needs if you don't actually sculpt them to your own needs. And next time I like to think that I won't have issues with buttonholing the waistband.



The one thing I really did get a little tricked up with was stitching up the back, but having now managed it, I must say that I quite like it. It allows for future fitting adjustments - adjustments that I intend to need. I misjudged the back seam at first, and the pants were a little too loose, and I so I got to test this whole concept straight away. It was nothing a belt couldn't fix, but it's not the way you want them to be forever. So I unpicked Round 1 and adjusted to what is now a fantastically comfortable pair of pants.



Besides! Look at all that pocket!




Dare I say, I �� them. Even though seeing photos of myself in them indicates that I'm not nearly as fat as I thought I was when I cut them out. They're ridiculously comfy, and when I'm wearing them I feel like my inner Katherine Hepburn is rising to. Besides, I've always been a bit of an arseless wonder. It runs in the family.

I've cut out a pair of yellow chevron Thurlow shorts as Take 2 already, although I might go back and shave a little off the hips so they're not quite so hangy.



* I know, right! It's hilarious that the thought makes it even halfway across my brain. HahahahahHAHAHAhaaha.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Denim Spaghetti



Anyway, this is what it looks like when you take several pairs of jeans and cut them into little strips about half an inch wide with a view to turning them into a mat. A mat like zeeeeees....




This is of course a work in progress. I started this a couple of years ago, and times flies while shit is going wrong. I got as far as the bit with the cutting up of another 3 pairs of jeans. It wasn't until just before Christmas last year that I finally sat down with a No. 10 crochet hook and twisted it all into what you see above.



Turning all that denim spaghetti into a great long string to be crocheted into a mat is quite a straightforward thing. You just cut a little slit in the ends of two pieces, like so.



And then feed one through the other like so...



And the feed the end of the other back through the first one like this...


Et voila!



You have a cute little denim knot, and a much longer piece of denim-spaghetti to crotchet into a mat so comfortable that L'Poochio actually prefers it to her multiple other locations for the purposes of naps and working those big brown puppy-dog eyes.




Of course, this is the mini-version. That's 3-jeans worth there, so by the time I've No.10'd through the rest of the denim-spaghetti it should be substantially larger.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

A map with pockets leads to Carolyn Pyjamas.

Where else would it lead?

Not so very long ago Closet Case Files launched the Carolyn Pyjamas, in honour of one of my favourite bloggers, Carolyn, who made some fabulous pyjamas from her namesake pattern.

Their launch was perfectly timed to coincide with my non-religious version of sewing Lent. I'd sworn that I wouldn't be accumulating any more patterns or fabrics until I'd used a fair chunk of the ones that I already have. I'd even started to divulge myself of some of my fabric stash by exchanging it for a promise of shared images of the end projects.

But this pattern has pockets!

POCKETS!!

And if there's a way to my little sewist's heart, I suspect it could be through pockets, for that pattern launched itself into my Downloads file and out of my printer so fast that you'd think it was cash.

This of course led to the conundrum of "What do I make it from?" now that my fabric collection had shrunken. As luck would have it, I had a piece of op-shopped rayon in what is now "The Remains Of The Stash".

And guess what?

It was covered in a print of little Caribbean maps. Yes, maps! More maps!!

<Here we go again.>

So I give you several pocketfuls of Caribbean Carolyn Pyjamas.




The pattern goes together so quickly and easily, and with some careful consideration you can actually squeeze them out of less fabric than recommended. It turned out that barely 2 metres of 1.10m wide fabric left me a little short for cuffs, so I picked up some contrasting plain rayon from Spotlight and that seems to have done the trick.

The pants pockets are made from some cotton in the rag bin.



Even adding the piping wasn't as much of a hassle as I'd always thought; although I did skip putting it down the front facings, and stopped at the edges of the collar.



The pockets are a style that I've never made before, cut in one piece. Apparently this is quite common for Closet Case Files patterns, and it flows together quite nicely. I did lengthen her (already generous) pockets by about an inch, only because you can never have enough pocket. Well...also partly because my hands are rather large and I want to be able to slouch with my hands fully in my pockets.



A quick rifle through my button collection turned up some perfectly sized and toned pink buttons that I probably wouldn't have looked at twice otherwise. They're from a jar of buttons I picked up from an op-shop years ago for just a few dollars. The ladies who ran the shop used to cut the buttons off non-saleable items and sell them in jars. The faux fly turned out to be the perfect place to keep the spares for future losses.


Another nifty thing that I tried out on these is an elastic band tip that Lladybird Lauren blogged a few months ago. Now, I didn't stitch it in exactly as per the instructions; I stitched the casing rather than the elastic, but it was a much faster approach for getting everything together.

I believe that I can credit this pattern with breaking my sewing-drought. Will I be using it again? Absolutely! I've got a smooth old pair of golden-coloured sheets that are too worn in the middle to use on the bed anymore, but have oodles of fabric for making a full length pair (a la Celia-style recycling). And they're thousand thread count cotton sateen - you just can't turn that into cleaning rags.


At one stage I had intended to give these to a friend as a present. But she doesn't seem to be keen to come and collect them, and its been a month, so until she does...



Friday, March 20, 2015

What's that? You're still alive??

Time flies, it appears, when you're busy being busy. I didn't mean to leave it a year and a half between updates. I just...I was doing an Engineering degree. And I lost my camera. I mean, I still made stuff (stuff that I no longer fit into because, as it happens, I was also busy increasing my girth).

Anyway, at some point across that missing 18-odd months, HandmadebyCarolyn made an amazing skirt from some world map fabric that was passing through Spotlight. She used one of her favourite patterns: Vogue's V1247, and adapted the skirt pattern to cut the map all in one piece. She did a brilliant job, which I shamelessly ripped off (I promise I'm not a stalker).


Then last week I was delighted to discover that despite the fact that I'm now a little more Joan Harris is shape, it still did up! That's right. I could wear it, and I did. I'm afraid my self-portraits end up a lot more like this, than like anyone else's beautifully snapped images, so I may go back to the bit where I leave me out of it and just take pictures of the garments to share.


This was a bit of a throw together job, so the pocket was made using some white cotton something-or-other from the rag bin, and the skirt was hemmed using a bit of orange biased binding that I'd picked up god-knows-where.



All in all, I'd like to make another one, when I'm slightly less rotund and likely to do this to the back seam:


and the back fastening do this:


Next time, I think I might iron on a little interfacing to help stabilise that particular seam. To be fair, I was stitching right on the edge of the fabric, and it isn't the most ...it's inclined to fray, but it could still do with some help. 

All in all, I'm rather happy with this skirt. I'd never have glanced twice at this pattern had Carolyn not done so many incarnations of it. It turns out that it's a great base pattern to play with; and it also turns out that the placement of those pockets is totally worth ripping off for other patterns. 




So, there may well be more pocketed skirts in the future...and hopefully more posts, now that I have a relatively organised home and life from which to make things.