FO: Sew Bossy Hummingbird top and skirt

15 May

Do y’all remember Sew Bossy? It was created by Closet Case Files and Oonaballoona waaaay back in March 2013. The idea is you pair up with someone and each of you picks a project for the other and provides all the gubbins you need to make it happen. It’s a great way to try something you might not have done otherwise.

Sew Bossy Initiative

Well, I thought it was a cool idea, but I didn’t go looking for someone cos I am always busy! But then I got an email from the fun and fabulous Kat of Modern Vintage Cupcakes asking me if I wanted to partner with her. And how could I say no to that awesomeness?

Especially when she mentioned that Oonaballona herself had suggested the match – I just about popped. Oona had heard of me? Holyfreakingmoly!

Fangirl squeal!

Fangirl squeal!

We agreed a few constraints (neither of us wanted to have to make trousers; Kat needed baby-feeding suitable top half; we wanted natural fibres if at all possible; and we agreed a budget) and then got to planning.

Shortly afterwards, Kat gave me my kit, all bagged up and ready to roll. It included the the Cake Hummingbird pattern; a merino/nylon blend with a textured stripe in raspberry (for the top); a stable woven purple and black houndstooth in uncertain fibres that I think are largely cotton (for the skirt); skirt lining in navy blue; pink lace for the skirt hem; and a trouser bar and hook for the skirt.

I LOVE peplums (even before they were cool) and skirt flounces (so much!) and raspberry and houndstooth so this was an exciting combo for me!

Pink and purple and flouncy

Pink and purple and flouncy

But, as is always the case, I’m so freaking busy that it sat for ages.

But finally, in November, I decided to knock out the top. It was a simple knit design, and Cake was supposed to be this super easy successful fitting thingy, right? I decided to go in cold, no mock-up, use the fabric Kat gave me, and follow Cake’s instructions throughout to see how fabulous and revolutionary the patterns were. But it wasn’t the cakewalk I expected. (Like what I did there? Hehe).

Firstly, there were 2 or 3 errata in the pattern which caused me a bit of grief until I figured them out, the worst being the neckband needing to be cut on the fold – but there being no foldline marked on the tissue, and the instructions to cut on the fold in the layout info were a bit hidden away. Of course, I figured this out because the first neckband I cut didn’t fit! But once I got past those minor issues, I sewed it up. It went together well and quickly.

But the pattern for the top explained to use your size according to the chart for a standard fit, up a size for a relaxed fit, and down a size for a firm fit. I didn’t want to be stuffed into this thing, so decided to go for a standard fit. And it came out HUGE on me. But, maybe we just have a different interpretation of standard fit for a knit top?

And the peplum was completely in the wrong place, far too low! But maybe I just measured my length wrong for that one though.

And the sleevebands and neckband were hideously applied! But I think that might have been my technique (I reduced my foot pressure for subsequent rounds which improved it, thanks for the tip MrsC!)

And I hated the neckline and wasn’t sure about the length of the sleeves, but that’s definitely just personal aesthetics.

Oh it's awful, why am I putting this on the internet!!!

Oh it’s awful, why am I putting this on the internet!!!

So with all of those things annoying me I shoved it into the naughty corner for a month.

I finally took it out to remake it on my Christmas break. At which point I mostly abandoned the pattern and winged it.

Photobombed by Drake, natch

Photobombed by Drake, natch

Firstly, I decided to unpick the peplum so I didn’t have to cut a new one. But lightning stitch, the one recommended by the pattern, can NOT be unpicked. I must have spent well over 3 hours working on it and managed to unpick less than a quarter, and was tearing holes in it as I went. So I gave up and cut the peplum off entirely. I used a bit of ribbon tied over the top to find my new waistline, and cut to suit. Then Mama Magpie pinned in new side seams (which extend to under the arm, to make the sleeves snugger) and I sewed them in place. Because of the impossibility of unpicking the sideseams, I did the sideseam alteration without unpicking it and reapplying the band in the flat, so after putting the new seams in I chopped off the grotty bands and had to re-apply them in the round, and had to figure out the length myself (as I’d changed the size by taking in the sleeve). I did the first one by eyeballing it as I sewed, and then cut the second one to match, I thought. But I cocked it up so it was a different size and was visibly looser than the first one. After some tears, Mama Magpie chopped off THOSE bands and redid them both for me. Thanks Mama! And as a bonus I much prefer this sleeve length!

I swear my hair was combed when we left the house

I swear my hair was combed when we left the house

We fixed the neckline by the simple method of pinning where we thought it should be and cutting it. Similarly to the sleeves, I had to reapply the neckline band in the round but at least I didn’t have to make two matching ones so eyeballing it worked.

I then recut the peplum but forgot to account for the smaller sideseams and cut the same sized waist hole as I had for the first version. I “fixed” this by stretching the top slightly as I added the peplum, but it leaves the seam a little bit rippled. Luckily, I much prefer the top styled with a belt, which hides that sin.

Basically, if I was ever to remake this pattern, I’d have to make a completely different size to the one I started with, and I’d still alter the neckline. So, at this point I’m undecided about its place in the make-again pile.

Proof the wind was real. This photo isn't staged, I really pull that face!

Proof the wind was real. This photo isn’t staged, I really pull that face!

But enlivened by my semi-success, I decided to plunge on with the skirt. I always start with separating the pieces from each other and making a pile of the ones I’m using in my make. As I did so I discovered pattern piece J was missing! I tore the house apart, thinking I’d thrown it out or lost or moved the piece, but to no avail. I considered asking one of the WSBN girls to borrow their pattern, but luckily discovered on the web (while looking something else up) that the missing piece was a production issue and if you ask nicely, Cake will send you the missing piece. A download is also available but I didn’t want to tape it together so I filled in the request for the paper piece and waited.

Unfortunately, Steph, the woman behind Cake, was ill and it was about a month before she was able to reply and send out the piece. So the project languished once more.

The piece finally arrived, and after a couple of very busy weeks I cracked into the pattern. Again, it sewed up nice and quickly and the pocket bags are made in a cool way.

But… it was beyond too big. It was HUGE. ARGH!

Excuse the lousy selfie, but look at that size difference!

Excuse the lousy selfie, but look at that size difference!

Again, I’d decided to plunge in, no mock-up, following Cake’s instructions. The pattern goes up in 5 inch increments for the hip, and the pattern suggests if you are between sizes, to cut the next size up and then take it in in the “mid-construction fitting step”. The sizes available were a 45 and 50 and I have a 46inch hip, so duly cut the 50. What I didn’t check (and I normally do) was what the FINISHED measurements of the garment were. If I had done so, I would have discovered this skirt is drafted with about 3inches of wearing ease, which is much more than I like, and would have realised that a 48inch finished measurement was about right. As it was, the 53inch skirt literally fell off me.

Fun tail flounce.

Fun tail flounce.

It went back into the naughty corner while I fumed at the frustration of it all. As eluded to briefly last post, I’ve been having a low-jo time of late, and getting this skirt out was a bit of a drought breaker. The disastrous result sent me back into why-am-I-even-bothering mode for a while.

But my amazing sewing friends came to the rescue. I vented to the WSBN group who were uniformly encouraging and understanding, and then my friend the fabulous Sarah agreed to pin the side seams in.

The amount to come off was so dramatic we also decided to take a bit out of the top of darts at the back and the panel seams at the front. There’s a darts-worth of shaping in each front panel seam, so this alteration was just taken out at the top then tapered into the straight seam. By the time we’d finished the alterations it was still a bit looser than I normally wear in a straight skirt, but I was worried about how it would look it I took more off the sideseams without altering the size of the centre front panel so I decided that it was just a bit more wearing ease and I’d cope.

Tail flounce! Umm, ignore it being unhemmed, OK? And also, I swear it doesn't look that puckered and crappily sewn in real life! I'm pretty sure...

Tail flounce! Umm, ignore it being unhemmed, OK? And also, I swear it doesn’t look that puckered and crappily sewn in real life! I’m pretty sure…

Part of my challenge from Kat was to insert a lining, which was easy. Kat has written a great tutorial here, but I did it slightly differently. Rather than sew a dart into the lining, I put a pleat in. And because I’d cut the lining before altering the side seams and “darts” of the skirt, I eyeballed the pleat by inserting the lining into the skirt, sewing it to the invisible zip tape, matching and pinning the sideseams and centre front, and then pleating out the excess in the lining so that it fitted. Easy! Thankfully.

I particularly like the silhouette from the back. But it still looks puckered! Now I'm going to have to go check it...

I particularly like the silhouette from the back. But it still looks puckered! Now I’m going to have to go check it…

I followed the instructions for the waistband and found another issue with the pattern, one of the most significant in my opinion. The pattern calls for the waistband to be sewn in using stitch-in-the-ditch. Cake has put a lot of effort into beginner-friendly-ising their patterns, with clever and cool use of icons and clear explanations. But the instruction to “add waistband using stitch in the ditch” wasn’t explained at all. With the years of exposure to sewing I’ve had, I’d heard of the technique, but it had been a long time so I Googled it to make sure I remembered it correctly. It’s a technique that requires absolute precision in ironing, pining, and sewing, and mistakes are obvious. I am surprised that this would be included in a beginner pattern, and especially without instruction or reference!

Normally I slipstitch my waistbands in place, but I thought I’d try the stitch-in-the-ditch to see how it went. As my first attempt, it’s pretty lacklustre. I struggled to get the stitches perfectly in the ditch, and it only requires the slightest deviation from the stitching line to make it ugly. The underside of the band wasn’t perfectly parallel with the stitching, resulting in an effective but unattractive inside. I’ve since figured out I used a stitch length that was probably too long, and I will try the technique again, but after trying it out I was baffled as to why it was so causally slipped into the pattern and wondered how many truly beginner sewers have had issues with this when they came across it.

Pocketses! With the amount that came off the side seams, this should have hade a slider smaller centre panel and therefore slighter wider pockets, but they actually still work.

Pocketses! With the amount that came off the side seams, this should have hade a slider smaller centre panel and therefore slighter wider pockets, but they actually still work.

But once the waistband was on I was hitting the home stretch. But I was running out of time before our photo date, and at this stage it is still unhemmed and without the flounce inserted in the lining! (Which I might not do, as a friend suggested slipstitching the lining to the flounce seam on the skirt instead).  But on the day it was close enough to finished to catch up with Kat (and Drake!) and take these photos in a little park in Newtown that we walked to from Kat’s place.

But I decided, while wearing the skirt for the day with Kat, that the additional wearing ease is driving me crazy and I hate it and I need to take it in more. I was devastated at the thought of taking the waistband off, but Kat has pointed out that there’s no reason I can’t have side seams in my waistband, so I’ll eventually unpick the waistband just at each side-seam and take out more from the skirt. And finish the lining. And hem it. And add the lace. And THEN I’ll wear it. Promise.

All up, the experience with Cake was… interesting. Some really clever ideas, but little annoying niggles too. But, I would make the skirt again – and make the 45inch hip as my starting size!

This is just for your entertainment!

This is just for your entertainment!

As for what I got for Kat… around the time we agreed to this crazy game, Kat posted about her trip to Wellington Fashion Week. She mentioned that she liked the fitted and flared silhouette, and also that she was really taken by the colour blocked pink and yellow, and pink and orange combinations but didn’t tend to colour block, so that’s what I decided to use as inspiration for her kit. She also mentioned how much she liked zip-front tops so I decided that had to happen too.

Unfortunately by looking only for pink and yellow or pink and orange combinations, my options were limited, so I didn’t get anything as suitable for a flared floaty skirt as I wanted. But I did find this absolutely beautiful pink micro-cord, and some orange cotton sateen and decided to work around that. I used MrsC as my personal spy to pick out buttons that Kat had been eyeing up in Made Marion, and decided that the zip needed to be pink to match the skirt. I hunted forever to find the zip, and despite my preference to shop local eventually had to use eBay.

I loaned Kat patterns from my stash as I couldn’t find anything new that perfectly matched my vision. The skirt in particularly is special: it’s from a Burda magazine pattern, and the one that started my addiction to Burda mags. Mama Magpie gave me the magazine years ago and I fell in love with this skirt. But I’ve never made it.

And I don’t care now that I didn’t get the original vision of a floaty skirt. Because I think this pink skirt looks SMOKING HOT on Kat in a jaw-hitting-the-ground kind of way. Smoking. Foxy. Stunning. Gorgeous. Take your pick. So, hopefully she won’t mind that I bought some of the same pink cord for me… and might make the exact same skirt from it! It’s about time I made that pattern!

Kat looks amazing

Kat looks amazing

I mean, she looks really amazing! (And I'm not just saying that because our shoes match!)

I mean, she looks really amazing! (And I’m not just saying that because our shoes match each other’s skirts!)

Go check her post out here!

Sew Bossy breathed some interest and fun into my sewing. I wouldn’t have picked out either of these fabrics myself, but the colours and patterns are fabulous and I’m enjoying having them in my wardrobe. And I enjoyed seeing someone else produce my vision for them. I suggest you find a buddy and organise a Sew Bossy swap of your own, even if you don’t blog. It’s great fun!

FO (from the archives): leopard print circle skirt

5 Apr

Hello strangers. Well, really, I’m the stranger around here. It’s been a while. Why? Well, lately, my sewjo has been absent. As has my knittingjo, craftingjo, and bloggingjo. In fact, the only jo I’ve had much to do with is Johanna from Making it Well, who I have been lucky enough to have a couple of play dates with. Thank goodness for that Jo!

But it’s time to get back on the horse (completely switching metaphors there). So, here’s an overdue post on an overdue post. The photos were taken in January. The garment was finished 2 years before that! It’s a meta-archival post.

This is my leopard print circle skirt. I love it.

Leopardy goodness

Leopardy goodness

But it is a tale of woe. And a tale of the phoenix rising from the ashes. Settle in for the telling.

I started this skirt waaaaay back in October 2011, on the same holiday I started my blue top of adversity. In case you haven’t committed all my posts to memory (the shock!) and haven’t clicked through the link (the horror!) the short version is I’d booked a sewing holiday at my wonderful mum’s house, got bronchitis the day I arrived, and spent my entire holiday in an illness-induced brain fade, and attempted to sew anyway. This was a bad idea. Do not sew when oxygen deprived – it turns out you need your brain for sewing.

Everything that could go wrong, did. The top bore the brunt of it, but my simple circle skirt did not pass unscathed.

I still love leopard and blue as a combination

I still love leopard and blue as a combination

First the fabric itself. Wow, this project was a real stashbuster! Mama Magpie gave me this cotton for my birthday about 12 years earlier (yes, 12) and I decided I finally knew what to do with it. That, the blue fabric, and half a dozen or so other fabrics all went into my suitcase.

The first thing I did on arriving was throw all my fabric through the washing machine. That was the first of many bad moments over the course of that holiday. One of my pieces was red and all of my fabric came out pink rinsed! Argh! A quick trip to the pharmacy for run remover (and drugs) and two passes through the run remover mostly fixed it all up. The white on some of the prints still has a vaguely off-white cast to it, but not so much that you’d notice if you didn’t know.

In one of the few successful moments of the trip however, I decided I preferred the leopard with the pink rinse. It softened up the white in the print into something more flesh toned, which I thought went better with the caramel and gold tones, so I left it like that!

Twirling action!

Twirling action!

The next issue came with the cutting out. Being a craft cotton, the fabric was quite narrow,so I knew I’d have to check my yardage. I read the pattern envelop BUT – the pattern includes a version with a contrast band at the bottom, and that was the version my fuzzy brain read. I had just the right amount! Or so I thought. It was only when I went to cut out the second half circle on the correct line, and couldn’t fit it onto the fabric, that I realised what I’d done. So I cut both half circles at the shorter length too, but now I needed a contrast strip for the skirt!

Mama Magpie had to do a days work in Auckland, about 2 hours south of us, and my original plan was to go with her to Auckland and spend the day in  our Auckland office. Being too sick to do this, I lay at home for a day while Mama worked, and she very kindly fabric shopped for me in her lunch break! She couldn’t find a coordinating cotton, but did find a beautiful chocolate linen to go with it.

more twirling action!

more twirling action!

To ensure the contrast band remained the same width all the way around and wasn’t affected by the bias dropping, I left the skirt to hang for a few days without the band, and then Mama levelled the skirt for me. As the levelled hem isn’t perfectly even (given my uneven body), I then pinned the skirt out on a cutting board and painstaking drafted a band that was the exact same shape as my skirt. Except I forgot to add seam allowances. Which I only realised after starting to cut. So then I had to check I had enough fabric left to cut it correctly (which I did, just) and cut it out again. Then, Mama’s fella gave me a couple of items to use as fabric weights, but one of them was a box that had an oil container in it that he’d forgotten about, and it leaked oil onto my fabric. Luckily most of it was outside the cutting zone, but I was starting to despair ever getting it finished!

So Mama in her ever so helpful way offered to sew the bands on to the skirt for me – but I told her the front and back the wrong way around, so all of my careful drafting was for nowt, and the side seams didn’t match up!

Whats a girl to do with a twirly skirt but show off a bit off knee?

Whats a girl to do with a twirly skirt but show off a bit off knee?

To top it off, I didn’t have enough leopard print left over for the correct length waistband, so there’s no underlap – instead, the edges abut perfectly and there are 4 hooks and eyes along the edge to do the waistband up.

Sometimes, just finishing something is an achievement!

But despite the agony and the irritations and the tears (and between this and the blue top, oh there were tears), I love the finished skirt. And then for some reason I never got around to taking photos of it. So when Juliet of Crazy Gypsy Chronicles arranged and WSBN meetup at the zoo to coincide with Jungle January, and I was too busy to make something for it, I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to get my lovely leopard skirt the photos it deserved.

The awesome ladies of teh WSBN at the zoo: L-R Jo, Juliet, me, Zara, Sophie, Kat, Sandra, Gemma

The awesome ladies of teh WSBN at the zoo: L-R Jo, Juliet, me, Zara, Sophie, Kat, Sandra, Gemma

I had a fabulous time at the zoo with members of the always-awesome WSBN. Ladies, it is always a pleasure and privilege to hang out with you!

And of course, there were SO MANY CUTE CRITTERS! (Other than us of course, hehe).

OK, not my skirt - but LOOKITHEMEERKATS!

OK, not my skirt – but LOOKITHEMEERKATS!

Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, I have no photos of it with the blue top, which I had intended to wear together – the blue top has already been harvested of its buttons and disposed of. One day I will make another beautiful blue top to go with the leopard (which we all know is a neutral, right?) but until then, I’m enjoying wearing it with blue tops that have given me much less grief!

Looking back, looking forward

10 Mar

I drafted most of this about two months ago, so it was late then. Now it just seems ridiculous. But I’m going to go ahead and post it anyway, because I want to be able to read this next year and remember my thinking. Feel free to come back later when there are exciting sewing, knitting, and other craft projects to look at!

I’ve been enjoying everyone’s wrap up posts over January (edit: and a few in February!) but… I’m not doing one. Not like those anyway. I haven’t made enough to pick a top 5 of anything, and it’s getting on a bit (edit: a lot!)  in the year anyway! But I have been reflecting, as I always do this time of year, about last year, my goals and successes, and what I want to do this year and thought I’d capture it so I could refer back to it later. You’re welcome to have a read too if you’re curious.

Looking back!

Last year I had two major goals to help me make more room for creating in my life, and so I’ve been thinking about how well I achieved these.

Goal 1: Spend 15 minutes a day, at least, on creative endeavours.

This was to try and carve out a bit more time doing the things I truly love, and a bit less time surfing the net or snoozing my alarm or channel surfing. Was I successful?

Yes and no.

I used a calendar for the first few months to track my success. There were more days then I hoped when I simply dithered my way through the day and missed out. But also, when I took into account ALL of my hobbies – rock and roll classes, social dancing, burlesque classes and performing, and writing this blog, as well as sewing, knitting, and embroidery – I did cover a lot of ground. This was reassuring that my life was much more full of delight than I gave it credit for. It’s a reminder that confirmation bias creeps in and turns subjectivity into negativity, where confirmation bias is that I NEVER do ANYTHING FUN and my WHOLE LIFE is just BORING STUFF. My lesson is that I should take more delight in all the fun things I do do, and remember them when I am feeling down.

Yoda on confirmation bias

I also learned that if  I go more than a couple of days without doing something creative I get grouchy, and conversely that if I am grouchy or stressed that picking up a project or going dancing is the best relief. I know, right? Who’d’ve thought that doing what you love would have a causal relationship with mood. Yeah, you can all shut up now. For me, it was a revelation and something to remember when I need a mood altering experience.

Two great lessons! But the true goal –  of getting into the habit of squeezing creativity in here and there, of making it second nature to pick my sewing table over the computer table, to (quoting from last year) “feed the creative beast, just make stuff” made less progress. It was far more like binging. I’d pour hours into a project over a few days then go a few days without. So, this year I’m going to continue to work on this philosophy, to try to keep creativity active, alive, and constant in my life.

Goal 2: 52 moments of satisfaction.

I wanted, over the course of the year, 52 moments where I sat back and thought “hell yeah. That rocked. That was awesome. That was worth it. I DID THAT”.

You know that feeling. Yeah you do. I wanted more of it. But did I get to 52? In a word, no. But I’m not in tears about it. Because some of these moments were HUGE.

I made 36 cushion covers for one moment. Embellished three tees for another. I made (with help) an entire burlesque costume for another. All of my baking moments were days where I made three or four cakes and treats. I fixed six necklaces one day. And I fixed, or altered a bunch of things in my fix it box without even bothering to count them. So, if I count individual objects, I well overshot the 52 mark. And in terms of hours, some of those moments represent dozens of them. And there was some impressive progress made on some WIPs that didn’t quite make it onto the list. So it represents a solid year of work. (And I do have plans to blog several more items, once I get photos! I really need a camera…)

What was the final list?

1. Red knitted Peggy Sue cardigan
2. Banana seat cushion
3. Purple frankenCambie for best friend’s wedding
4. Three vinyl printed tees
5. Three red velvet cushion covers
6. Red necklace for Miss La Belle
7. Peggy-Sue leftover beanie (to be blogged!)
8. Corazones heart skirt (to be blogged!)
9. Yellow dragonfly skirt
10. Aviatrix hat (to be blogged!)
11. All of the cushions (36 to be exact)
12. Dr Who burlesque outfit
13. Dr Who burlesque performance
14. Turquoise pencil skirt (alteration)
15. Flocked denim skirt (alteration)
16. Bananarama baking day
17. Mama’s jewellery overhaul
18. Bead donation (to be blogged!)
19. Pink leopard rock and roll dress (to be blogged!)
20. White petticoat (to be blogged!)
21. Pink leopard capelet (to be blogged!)
22. Pumpkin booties (to be blogged!)
23. Green maxi dress
24. Lemon cordial, lemon krummeltorte, chocolate cake (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
25. Ohm sweet ohm cross stitch (to be blogged!)
26. Christmas banana baking (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
27. Christmas cordial (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
28. Grace’s pin-up cushions (to be blogged!)
29. Rockabilly aprons (to be blogged!)
30. All the repairs. So many repairs. (not going to blog, you can figure it out)
31. Passed gold medal rock and roll dance exam (do you want to know about this?)
32. Pink hummingbird top

Let’s break this down a bit. Cos pie charts are fun and a picture seems like a nice idea.

2013's moments of satisfaction. There's always an "other" category...

2013’s moments of satisfaction. There’s always an “other” category…

I’ll be honest, I really wanted to have a list of 52, just cos I said I would, so it’s not without a tinge of disappointment that I acknowledge that I didn’t make it. There are things that exist in my head that I wanted to exist in real life. And I really hope they exist in real life one day. 

But there is real pleasure from looking at this list and realising all the things that I did manage to do. For this reason, I’m going to continue to keep an annual list of satisfaction, to remind myself of what I manage to fit into a very full and busy life.

Looking forwards!

So, what about 2014? Anything new? You betcha!

While I’m going to take what I’ve learned from 2013 and work it into my daily life, I have a new focus for 2014. I’m not the first to come up with it, and I won’t be the last. But this year, I want to sew with a plan, known by some as SWAPing.

I have a stash full of beautiful fabric, a mountain of patterns, and a computer full of inspiration pictures. But I’m not able to dress myself from my wardrobe every day in an outfit that makes my heart sing. It’s not entirely a lost cause! Occasionally I’ve worn ensembles that made me walk with a swagger as I collected compliments and checked out my reflection in passing shiny surfaces (and got busted doing that once by a colleague. Whoops). But often I just feel, well, meh. I’m not naked or cold so I’m dressed functionally, but otherwise, well, meh. I want to change that. I want to get distracted by my reflection every day (although I’ll have to learn to be more subtle to avoid embarassing converstaions). I want to walk with a spring in my step because I know I look good. I want my clothes to reflect my personality and my lifestyle. It may seem vain or shallow to some but to me it is about bringing joy and fun and self and confidence into what I wear, which I think translates into everything else. My plans for SWAPing are formulating in my head, but I’m going to give them a post all of their own. And then, you know, eventually start posting about sewing and knitting and stuff. Stay tuned, your patience will be rewarded!

And as this is a very text heavy post with no exciting photos, here is Minerva being adorable.

How can you not want to rub this? But it's ok, because you can!!!

How can you not want to rub this? But it’s ok, because you can!!!

Then that Christmas thing happened…

12 Feb

Holy moly it’s been a while since I’ve got all chatty up in here. But you know, December happened. Complete with The Great Hard Drive Failure of 2013, All of The Christmas Parties, The Massive Paperwork That Comes With Our Busiest Business Period, The Holy Crap If Im Going To Fit 4 Relatives In My House I Better Do A Lot Of Tidying Housework Blitz, and The How Did Christmas Get Here So Fast? Shopping Mania.

But it did get here fast and I had a wonderful time. Mechanic Man and I stayed in Wellington for the first time since we moved here 10 years ago, and my parents and brothers came down and stayed with us. The weather was mostly crappy but the food, adventures, crafting, and especially the company were awesome. (I’d bombard you with photos but I’m sure you don’t care and I can’t be assed editing them. Use your imagination.) And now I’m slowly emerging from the chaos and getting my house and head in order for a new year.

And I got an extra special Christmas present I can’t wait to tell you all about!

Meet Minerva. Min, Minnie, or Minnie the Moocher for short.

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, that I used to list her on petsonthenet. She's not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she's adorable

This is the first photo I took of Minerva, which I used to list her on petsonthenet. She’s not as photogenic as some kitties but I think she’s adorable. Look at those extra long whiskers!

Min adopted us at Christmas. And by adopted us I mean turned up and demanded to live with us until we caved and said yes. I’m madly in love with her.

Let me tell you the story. (It’s a long story. I suck at short stories. Short on time? Here’s the short version. SPOILER: We got a cat.)

We often have neighborhood cats wander through our yard. Most of them are skittish or shy and if you get too close they run away. Occasionally friendly ones will come by for a pat and a play. Mechanic Man and I love cats but MM has always been reluctant to own one so we take the pats from local kitties when we can get them. But we’ve always strongly felt that encouraging someone else’s cat to stray is mean, so we never feed neighborhood kitties and we never let them in the house.

We thought Min was a neighborhood kitty. She’s super friendly and loves pats and would come by the yard every now and then for attention, and had been for a couple of months before Christmas. But we never fed her or let her in the house, and she never tried to get in.

A few days before Christmas she came by for a pat and was rewarded with an outpouring of attention from my four newly arrived cat-crazy relatives. She started hanging around constantly and was never far away. After a couple of days we noticed she was sleeping in our little lean-to by the shed. We thought nothing much of it at the time. But then it all started to change when a couple of days before Christmas she started coming inside. Every time she was promptly chased out. We had a family meeting and agreed to lay off the attention so she’d be encouraged to return to her family.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

At this point Min was still being actively chased out of the house. You can see how terrified of us she is.

She responded by turning up the demands. She came into the house constantly and started sleeping on our furniture. She’d mewl at us when we went past and started a new game where she’d run into the house then run straight to a different door so we’d let her out that side. I started to wonder if maybe she didn’t have a family after all.

Then on Christmas Eve she cried outside for ages, on both sides of the house, and we could hear her trying to get in our locked cat flap. On Christmas Day we emerged to find her asleep on the deck under the cat flap. That day she jumped though Punk Flatmates window three times. She cried again that night and slept in the lean to.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

Still being actively chased out of the house at this point, although we were starting to give up hope.

We didn’t want to encourage what was obviously a friendly, experienced domestic cat to stray and wondered why she was so reluctant to go home. We surmised that maybe her family had gone away for the holidays and locked her outside with a bowl of food and she was simply lonely, and although I was worried we decided to continue to keep her outside and not feed her, but that we’d keep an eye on her to make sure she was ok.

She stopped crying after only a couple of days, but then she got listless. Previously she’d always come running if you called her for a pat but now she wouldn’t leave the little bed she’d made in the lean-to and if you went to her she wouldn’t really move. We wondered if maybe her owners hadn’t left out enough food or had a catsitter who was unreliable. Torn between our duty to her owners and our duty to her, we discussed and agreed to feed her, outside only, and decide what to do next after New Years.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she's still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

Spot the cat. This is the somewhat messy under-the-sewing-table stash. At this point she’s still not allowed in the house. Of course, she responded to that by mooching around my ankles and then crawling in here.

She was delighted to be fed and after a day or two perked up, back to normal. We still thought she must have a family somewhere, probably on holiday, and it was a temporary care arrangement so she still wasn’t allowed inside.

Of course, that was quite irrelevant to her and we’d frequently find her in the house acting like she owned it. She was completely unafraid and attempts to chase her out were often met with a raised paw so she could lick her bum.

A couple of days before New Years it bucketed down. Worried about her, we moved her food bowl from the lean-to to our conservatory and made her a wee bed with an old towel, and left the conservatory door open so she could gain access, and she happily moved into the new pad. But she still wasn’t allowed inside.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I've since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

This is the cat who is not allowed inside nonchalantly coming down off my pattern stash. I’ve since rearranged it so she sleeps on my contemporary not my vintage patterns.

Over the next few days we put photos of her online at, put an ad in the supermarket, and took her to the local vet to be scanned, which returned a nil result. I was reluctant to surrender her to the SPCA as they limit attempts to reunite to seven days, and with it being the holidays I was worried that wasn’t long enough to find her home. The thought of a family getting home from holiday to find their cat gone was enough to want to avoid this. So we kept feeding her, and re listing the online ad, and waiting.

On 11 January I decided that I wanted to have her in the house. We’d either find her owners and then we would know where to return her to, or we would keep her. I begged Mechanic Man but he was still reluctant. Feeling that adopting a fur baby requires both parties to be willing I let it be. Then out of the blue, the following day, he let her in and brought her to me as I was doing paper work and she slept at my feet for about three hours. I was ecstatic.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

This is what she did for hours the day she was first allowed inside. Was the best way to do paperwork ever.

That was probably the first day we started thinking of her as ours. But just in case she had a family nearby, after a week of having her in the house we put a collar on her with our number, assuming that they’d either cut it off or call. A couple of weeks later and she was still wearing our collar and no one had rung.

But the day we truly acknowledged that we are now owned by a cat was in late January, when we were planning our annual budget. Mechanic Man piped up with ” we better budget for cat costs”. Well, if she’s in the budget, she must be ours.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man's lap. He's such a softie.

Making herself at home on Mechanic Man’s lap. He’s such a softie.

But no drama is complete without a twist at the end! As a new, responsible, budget-allocating pet owner we decided we’d get her checked out properly and microchipped. We booked her in with a different vet (not having liked the first one) for last Saturday. As a matter of course, the first thing they did was scan Min for a chip. And it beeped. We were shocked, but really pleased that we’d finally found her owners, as surely they were missing her like crazy. The vet rang the owners and told them we’d found her, and arranged to hold her in their care until she could be picked up. I was pleased and yet… I’d grown really attached to her. So I asked if I could say goodbye for a few minutes, and then once the vet left us alone I promptly burst into tears! I spent a few minutes patting her and gathering myself together, and when I saw the next appointment arrive, I popped her back in her cage, got my stuff, and prepared for the knock on the door. Sure enough, the receptionist gently tapped on the door and came in. But instead of ushering us our, she was holding the phone and said “the owner’s have just rung back. They have talked it over and want to know if you are interested in rehoming her.”

I was too emotional to speak so Mechanic Man took the call. Long story short, they’re virtually our next door neighbours! Min had wandered off a couple of times previously as she wasn’t at all fond of the newly-mobile toddlers of the family, and this was the longest she’d not come home. They decided that she was probably much happier with us! And so she came back with us to her new home.

And her original name? Vespa, appropriate, given Mechanic Man’s love of motorbikes!

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

Settling in quite well for a weekend movie watching session with Mechanic Man.

But we’ve kept the name Minerva. Why? Minerva is the Roman goddess of sewing of course. And Minnie the Moocher is a great nickname, given she’s mooched her way right into our lives and love.

And that is my Christmas present from the universe. Minerva sleeps on our bed at night (although it took a couple of weeks for Mechanic Man to allow that), comes when she’s called every time, plays chasing games with us until we cry laughing, and meows around our ankles till we feed her. And she’s the only cat I’ve ever met who loves belly rubs. No tricks, no wait 30 seconds and then shred your hands, just purrs. In fact, if she’s outside in the sunshine she actively encourages belly rubs by stretching out on her back adorably. And she’s super mellow. We can tease her and she just relaxes and ignores us. We’ve spent hilarious minutes while she’s sleeping stretching out her legs and tickling her and patting her paws to see what will make her move. The answer is nothing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she'll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she's bathing.

Min is so mellow and relaxed that she’ll tolerate anything. Like having coat hangers balanced on her head while she’s bathing. She just kept on licking.

She’s wonderful. And she’s ours now. Or more accurately, we’re hers. And she knows it.

Minerva is stretched out along the length of my body here, for an afternoon snuggle

Minerva and I stretched out together for an afternoon snuggle.

FO and MOS 14/52: green maxi matchy dress

5 Dec

green dress

Sometimes when I see fabric it screams to me “I AM A PENCIL SKIRT/WIGGLE DRESS/BLOUSE” and sometimes it is silent, holding its mysteries quietly. Regardless, once it’s made up I often can’t imagine how anyone else in the whole world could have made anything else out of the same fabric – obviously it was that and only that all along! So wouldn’t it be wonderful to see that fabric made up in lots of the possibilities?

Earlier this year members of the WSBN were talking about this and we agreed that it’d be cool to all make things from the same fabric to see the other personalities lurking inside it. Although it was a great idea, trying to find a fabric that we all liked seemed impossible so it was shelved.

Then, Kat of Modern Vintage Cupcakes did a “swap your stash” series and featured Juliet of The Crazy Gypsy Chronicle’s stash, which included a green self-striped silk/cotton lightweight fabric. I piped up in the comments to say that I also had that fabric in my stash! And then someone else commented that they liked it too. And I knew that someone else had it as well. With it already appearing in so many people’s stash (helped by it’s ridiculously good price no doubt) we settled on that for our matching mission. Other willing participants ran out to buy the fabric, and we promptly cleaned Global-that-was out completely of their stock, with 10 of us all lined up to make matching garments. Needing a great name, we settled on “What’s the deal with all the teal? The ultimate matchy matchy mission”, but, to be honest, I don’t think it’s teal.

But rhyming is IMPORTANT, guys.

Anyway, although this all happened in February, we decided to give ourselves some time to plan and acquire patterns, and then due to the weight of the fabric we decided it was a springtime thing and chose September to have our meet-up and grand reveals! Lots of time would mean that everyone would turn up, right? Unfortunately other commitments and illness felled our numbers, so 6 of the 10 of us met up to show off our green makes, but that was still plenty for a great day!

All six of us in our matching makes.

All six of us in our matching makes. L-R: Juliet, Nikki, Holly, Emma, me, Johanna

From the side!

From the side!

And the back!

And the back!

The WSBN can’t meet without food being involved, so we’d originally planned for a picnic to celebrate springtime and our floaty silk/cotton. But given Wellington’s notoriously changeable springtime weather the day dawned grim, so we had the “picnic” at my place and then took advantage of the afternoon’s window of warm dry weather to go to the park and the beach by my house for a photo shoot, photos taken by my dear darling friend Sarah.

We had so much fun on the day, mucking around and taking silly shots like this. I saw it first!

We had so much fun on the day, mucking around and taking silly shots like this. I saw the fabric first!

She fights dirty!

She fights dirty!

Of course, despite having the better part of six months to do the challenge, we pretty much all left it to the last possible minute! So there were some safety pins and hand tacking and other shortcuts on the day. I was frantically sewing right up until people arrived, and then the darling Sarah (did I mention she’s awesome) did the hand sewing needed to get it to wearable, while I made chocolate mousse (this is important. Mousse is always important. Especially my mousse). And I didn’t get it hemmed though so it drapes artfully over my feet in these photos! Luckily I wasn’t the only one unhemmed. But despite all the unfinished bits, everyone looked great and we had a fantastic time. These women are awesome!

We all got our "cruise ship" photo taken on the deck of the wooden boat climbing frame in the park

We all got our “cruise ship” photo taken on the deck of the wooden boat climbing frame in the park

Perfect dress for lounging

Perfect dress for lounging

When I was stroking the fabric in store (what, don’t lie, you do it too) it told me it had to be a maxi summer dress, with lots of the floaty goodness billowing around me. When it came time to make it up I contemplated by Hand London’s Anna pattern (which I’ve fallen in love with and will make lots of, but which didn’t exist when I bought my fabric) but the fabric had told me the dress needed to be quite bare on the bodice, with exposed shoulders, open back, and low neck. And well, the fabric knows best! I went through my pattern stash about five times but much to my surprise I couldn’t find anything that met all my criteria other than a vintage patterns about 93 sizes too small. I was frustrated and tried to talk my fabric into other options, but it was stubborn. So I decided to go through my stash one more time, this time pulling out EVERY dress pattern for extra close scruntiy. I spotted Butterick 6463 and realised it was perfect! I’d dismissed it the first squillion  times as an evening dress, but actually, I realised it had all the features I was looking for and made up in the green lightweight fabric rather than a crepe or satin it would be transformed into the perfect summer dress. The fabric had been right to hold out.

Butterick 6463

Butterick 6463

Making it up was surprisingly easy. I did my current trick of finding the finished measurements on the tissue and grading between sizes as needed, and then making a toile. My toile revealed that I needed some length taken out of the back straps and a tiny bit shaved off the princess seam to get a great fit, which were easy fixes. I self lined it and the lining went in easily. The pattern called for the whole thing to be lined, but I cut the skirt lining to just on the knee to allow the bottom of the skirt to be floatier and a bit more sheer, to really drive home the “sundress!!!” point.

summery dress in spring weather

summery dress in spring weather

There are buttons and rouleau loops on one shoulder, but after making it up I figured out that I don’t really need them to get iton the dress, so I hand stitched the opening closed. I decided to work with the summer theme and chose cute wee strawberries for the buttons. The buttons sit right on top of the shoulder though so they’re not easily visible, so I’m thinking of putting one in the middle of the neckline too. Next time I’d just not bother with the whole shoulder button feature at all and just sew the straps closed on both sides, but I do like knowing the strawberries are there!

My strawberry buttons

My strawberry buttons

I use MrsC’s taping method (which I LOVE) on the sweetheart neckline and across the back to help stop sagging and gaping, and as always, it worked great. But I didn’t do the best top-of-an-invisible zip insertion ever, unfortunately, as the rest of the zip is great. I narrow hemmed the outer layer with my sewing machine, but I used the rolled hem feature on my overlocker on the lining as a bit of an experiment. My old overlocker had a rolled hem setting but I‘d never used it as I’d never made anything for which it would be suitable. So this was my first time doing this and I love the finish.  I can see this cropping up more in the future.

I really like the shape of this at the back

I really like the shape of this at the back

...but up close you can see the top of my zipper isn't the best. Oh well.

…but up close you can see the top of my zipper isn’t the best. Oh well.

I didn’t get solo photos on our meet-up day as I wanted to wait until I’d hemmed it, so I finally got another set, also taken by dear and darling Sarah. I’m lucky to have such great sewing and photographing friends!

We saw some cool grafitti/art at my second shoot across the road. There were stars...

We saw some cool grafitti/art at my second shoot across the road. There were stars…

...and kitties (and cleavage)...

…and kitties (and cleavage)…

... and Pokemon!

… and Pokemon!

If you want to see more of everyone elses makes, go check them out:

Juliet at Crazy Gypsy Chronicles
Nikki at Nikki’s Stitches
Holly at Polycraftual
Emma at The Takahe Bites
Johanna at Making it Well

and our/my awesome photographer Sarah, the artist behind every photo on this page, photo blogs at Capital Adventures

It was two fabulous days, and so much fun to see everyone else’s interpretation of their fabric! It was great to see what the same fabric whispers in the ear of different people. I’m going to half to talk to mine again. I was so dedicated to the idea of a long floaty dress that I bought about 4 metres, and despite making and half length self lining a full dress I still have nearly a metre left! So a  top of some description might show up at some point too. Although, at the moment, my fabric is remaining really quiet about exactly what that top might look like.  At least I have lots of inspiration for it though!

FO (from the archives): red knit dress

10 Nov

As I’m still waiting to take photos of my last few makes, I’d thought I’d dip into the archives and share some pics of a garment I made a couple of years ago. I plan to try to document as much as possible from my old makes, for my own pleasure, so you get to enjoy/endure the ride!

The first is the red funnel neck knit dress.

All photos courtesy Sarah, of course. Taken at the beach at Balaena Bay. I love the Wellington coast!

All photos courtesy Sarah, of course. Taken at the beach at Balaena Bay. I love the Wellington coast!

This dress is from Vogue 2756.  

Vogue 2756, some great pieces in here

Vogue 2756, some great pieces in here

I chose the pattern for the two curved darts on each side and the darts in the neck, as I’m a sucker for unusual darts or seams. I like a good funnel neck too. 

The awesome dart details I loved

The awesome dart details I loved

I made it in an oxblood suede textured knit. It’s lovely and textural, so soft to the touch, and although the colour is outside of my normal jewel tones there’s something about it that I really like.

The curved darts gave me all sorts of trouble initially. I marked the matching points, but I couldn’t eyeball the curve between them and get them all to match, so it ended up sitting in my UFO box for over a year. Then I discovered carbon paper and tracing wheel and that worked fantastically, so I dug this out and finished it off. Other than that it was super easy to sew. I also didn’t cut the waist according to the pattern. I know that my bust/waist/hips ratio is not pattern standard, but didn’t know then what the best way to address this was, so I simply cut the fabric in a straight line from waist to hips and after it was all assembled I got a friend to pin the waist to fit.

Despite the fit and construction issues, I love this silhouette, fitted and below the neck.

Despite the fit and construction issues, I love this silhouette, fitted and below the knee.

Despite this custom fitting, I didn’t love the way this dress fitted. The zip was beautifully set to look at BUT it buckled and warped on me. I realised straight away I should have interfaced the zip seam allowance, and that it had probably set during the setting process, but was despondent at the thought of unpicking my beautiful zip and cutting the interfacing and resetting it. The back of the funnel neck was a bit high as well. So frustrated was I that I decided to take it to a tailor and get them to reset the zip and lower the back of the funnel neck.

I paid my money and they did the zip. They did a great job too. BUT – I still don’t love the dress.

For the record, photo shoots on beaches are fun.

For the record, photo shoots on beaches are fun.

The zip still forms a dowager hump on me. I think that the dress is too tight in the hips or too long in the body, and either way the dress is riding up just enough to make the zip bunch up. I can tug it down and it flattens out, then over the next wee while, it rides back up into the hunch. The use of the belt helps with that but not enough to make it go away. In addition, the arm hole isn’t in quite the right place, and it was my first time sewing knit after a long spell and I didn’t get enough stretch in the armhole seam, so I can feel it cutting in when I move my arms. So overall, it doesn’t have the comfort I’d expect a knit dress to have. And it is super staticky and clingy too!

I did a great job on the split and the hem, I'm pleased! But if you zoom in you can see the humpy zip.

I did a great job on the split and the hem, I’m pleased! But if you zoom in you can see the humpy zip.

So in my recent wardrobe audit it got a solid B: enough for it to stay, for now, in case of sartorial emergencies (I have very few long sleeved things) but definitely not a long term keeper – as soon as the niche it holds is filled by something better, out it goes.

And it did indeed do well for a recent sartorial emergency – I wore it to World of Wearable Arts this year, on a cold and windy night, and dressed up similar to these photos. It was cosy and stylish. Just not super comfortable!

It was windy. It's often windy. You can almost see the dart details in this, and you can definitely see the drag marks from the tight armholes.

It was windy. It’s often windy. You can almost see the dart details in this, and you can definitely see the drag marks from the tight armholes.

So, you win some, you lose some. And although this was a long make, and one I threw money and a tailor at, I learned heaps and I don’t regret it. My sewing skills are a lot further along since then, and one day I will have another crack at it and the lessons I learned here will be reinvested. You know, eventually.

FO and MOS 11 – 13/52: a necklace, cushions, and tees

28 Oct

As I’ve said, not all of my 52 moments of satisfaction have to be big things. Sometimes the small things are important to do.

So here is a round-up of three projects I’ve done so far this year.

Grace’s necklace

When I wore my flame dress to the 2012 Feet with Heat ball, I didn’t really have any suitable jewellery. My dear friend Miss Busty La Belle kindly lent me a necklace, earrings, and flowers for my hair. But when I took the necklace off I noticed it was broken in one place. So I held onto the necklace, dismantled it, and remade it for her as a tiny token of thanks. Easy and satisfying. And of course, now I need to make something similar for me to wear as it worked so well with my outfits!

The chunky red necklace I remade for Miss Busty La Belle. It's red semi-precious stone of some variety and tiger tail.

The chunky red necklace I remade for Miss Busty La Belle. It’s red semi-precious stone of some variety and tiger tail.

Velvet cord cushions

Another dear friend wanted to learn to sew, and I offered to show her the basics. So in 2012, when she had new curtains made, she decided to make matching cushions out of the leftovers. She brought over the cushions and the offcuts and we set about making the cushions. We decided we wanted an offset back zip, and drafted all the pieces while I told her the basics as we went. But starting to sew is a slow business. We cut out all four cushions but made only one of them. She was thrilled to take that home but the rest stayed at my place.

The same day she told me she was pregnant! (I’ve since given her knitted booties). Since then we were both so busy that catch-ups were infrequent, with certainly no sit-down-and-sew time.

Much later I came across the cushion inners and cut out fabric while tidying up and thought to myself. “She’s only weeks away from birth. She’s up to her ears in renovations. Eight of her relatives are coming over from the UK in a couple of weeks and they’re all staying in her house. And then she’ll have her baby. Yeah – she won’t be sewing any time soon.”  So I decided to finish the remaining three cushions for her as a present.

The fabric is a rusty pumpkin velvet-like cord and a pain in the ass to deal with, as most fabrics with a pile are, shifting all over the place regardless of pins. I wasn’t going to hand baste cushions for crying out loud so I ended up using double sided fusible hem tape to “baste” the seams in place, and stitched just inside the tape. Even with the stuffing around with the hem tape the covers came together in only a couple of sewing sessions, and their new owner is delighted to have cushions in their freshly renovated lounge. I’m thrilled to have helped her out, thrilled not to be storing the project any longer, and delighted that my three centred zips came out great!

One velvet cord cushion! I'm never sewing with this stuff again.

One velvet cord cushion with perfect zip! But I’m never sewing with this stuff again.

The velvet cushions scattered on my friend's sofa, matching cushions behind. I really have to work on my photography skills.

The velvet cushions scattered on my friend’s sofa, matching cushions behind. I really have to work on my photography skills.

Heat set vinyl tees

Last year a friend told me he really wanted a “Han Shot First” tee and as I was looking for ideas for a birthday present for him, I mentally pinned that. But after some googling I didn’t really find anything that hit the right balance of coolness and price. So, of course, I decided to make him one. I asked around some friends for recommendations of getting shirts printed and found a friend of a friend with a vinyl cutter who offered to cut some heat set vinyl for me.

Thrilled by this, I extend my plan to include a tee shirt with an in-joke for another friend of mine, and a teeshirt for my Mechanic Man partner branded with his business logo.

I asked another friend, a graphic designer, to put together the digital files needed to talk to the vinyl cutter and emailed them off.

Then one lovely night I went around to vinyl-cutter friend’s house and watched as she set her machine a whirling. Then we companionable sat and talked while she showed me how to prep the vinyl and helped me iron the vinyl onto some RTW teeshirts – which requires a surprising amount of muscle.

And ta-dah! Three custom designed and printed tees. Now I know in some ways I didn’t actually make anything – one friend made the digital files, another operated the vinyl cutter, and the tees were ready made, but I’m claiming this as a project because I’d been thinking about it for ages, it was all my idea and my coordination, and because it’s my blog and my head and my life and what exactly are you going to do about it?

Well, he did.

Well, he did.

It's an in-joke. I guess you had to be there.

It’s an in-joke. I guess you had to be there.

The back of my Mechanic Man's tee, with the friend who cut the vinyl and helped me apply it looking triumphant

The back of my Mechanic Man’s tee, with the friend who cut the vinyl and helped me apply it looking triumphant

Mechanic Man was so delighted with his tee that it took another three months before it was off him long enough for me to iron on our logo to the front.

The front of our tee. The little white squiggle in the corner is the logo of the friend who helped with the vinyl cutting, as an acknowledgement.

The front of our tee. The little white squiggle in the corner is the logo of the friend who helped with the vinyl cutting, as an acknowledgement. Another lousy photo, WTF am I doing?

They may only be little things, but they made me happy to do, and that is what it’s all about, right?

FO and MOS 10/52: Peggy Sue cardigan

13 Oct

I can’t hear the words Peggy Sue without hearing this song in my head. But this isn’t a story about a song. It’s a story about this cardigan. A looong overdue story about a cardigan I knitted all by myself.

So proud of myself for knitting a whole cardigan!

So proud of myself for knitting a whole cardigan!

This was my summer 2012 knitting project. After learning to knit Christmas 2011 and spending 2012 knitting baby clothes and slippers, I wanted to graduate to making grown-up garments. But I knew I’d want Mum around to help so waited until my Christmas 2012 holiday at Mum’s to crack into it.

I started looking at patterns and yarn months earlier, emailing links and scanned patterns to Mum for her perusal. Eventually we settled on Peggy Sue – the pattern was free (here from Ravelry) and Mum decided it was a suitable balance of easy but not boring with a couple of new skills.

I cast on on Christmas day 2012 with my new Knitpro needles (having swatched earlier and Mum giving me the right sized needles that day as a Christmas present!) The pattern was easy to follow and flew off the needles. I cast off on January 6 and sewed on my buttons and wove in the ends the day after, making this my first make of 2013. I was DELIGHTED.

My first day's effort. I knitted for about 8 hours straight after casting on at lunchtime.

My first day’s effort. I knitted for about 8 hours straight, after casting on at lunchtime.

I made some alterations to the pattern, all in the length. I shortened the stocking stitch portion so it finished just under my boobs, and did one or two sets less of cable ribbing so that the finished length sits on my true waist (which is naturally high). And I lengthened the sleeves so they finished just above the elbow as the yarn was so super smoodgy that I was worried it would be too warm for super short sleeves. Otherwise I knit it as written. I was exactly in between sizes so went for the smaller of the two to ensure a close fit.

I was determined to finish the cardi so knitted everywhere, including in the car on the way to Russel

I was determined to finish the cardi so knitted everywhere, including in the car on the way to Russell!

Although the vast majority of this is stocking stitch, it does have a cable rib section. This was my first time doing cable and I really enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to working more of this in the future.

I do want to stabilise the button band with ribbon to stop the ripply edge that the cardigan gets – this is in the pattern photo too so it seems to be the thing, but I don’t like it! So it’s been sitting in my mending pile all winter – better get on to that soon!

I love the cropped length and slightly longer sleeves

I love the cropped length and slightly longer sleeves

The yarn is Urban 8 ply machine washable wool from Skeinz, and it’s lovely. Unfortunately I haven’t worn it much. This year we had the most amazing summer in Wellington ever, stretching well out into what should have been autumn – then turning into winter almost overnight. I went from singlet tees to merino thermals without much lingering in the middle. However, as we head into spring now hopefully it’ll get a lot more use. I do still worry that the sleeves should be full length, in case as the finished garment is too warm for the sleeve length I’ve got, but I think it’ll be a great season transition piece – if we ever have seasonal transitions.

No bagginess at the back, yay!

No bagginess at the back, yay!

Although I’ve never knitted a traditional make and sew knitted top, so proper scientific comparison is impossible, I’m already enamoured of the top down all-in-one method as it’s great for fitting and it’s so exciting to cast off and tadah! Have a finished object sitting in your lap.

I have since cast on another cardigan for myself but progress this year has been SLOW. I’ve taken a leaf from Lladybird and started knitting in my lunchbreaks, although have inadvertently ended up agreeing to teach a colleague to knit as a result. Whoops! However, in the last couple of weeks since knitting at lunch it’s really started moving along so fingers crossed it’s finished soon!

A close up to shot the neat cable rib band at the neck and the moss stitch band

A close up to show the neat cable rib band at the neck and the moss stitch button band

The final set of photos were taken the same time as the photos from my skirt remakes, so once again heaps of thanks to Jo from Making it Well for wielding the fancy camera and Grace from Miss la Belle for the posing tips. It was so much fun hanging out with these guys!

And because of Grace's and Jo's influence, here is my knitting-does-pinup pose.

And because of Grace’s and Jo’s influence, here is my knitting-does-pinup pose.

New toys!

23 Sep

Mechanic Man has always been supportive of my interests, as I’ve been of his. But lately he was getting worried that I don’t get to indulge in new toys as often as he does.

My sewing machine is a 30 year old Pfaff that my grandmother won, then gave to my aunt, who then gave it to my mum, who then gave it to me about 12 years ago. My overlocker is about 13 or 14 years old and my mum gave it to me at the same time as she gave me the Pfaff. I’ve never owned a new machine.

So two weeks ago while the two of us were out he took me to Sewing Machine Services in Petone and this happened.

Mechanic Man carrying my brand new Janome 4120 QDC, and Hugh from Sewing Machine Services, just after buying it.

Mechanic Man carrying my brand new Janome 4120 QDC, and Hugh from Sewing Machine Services, just after buying it.

Yep, I bought a new sewing machine, a Janome 4120QDC and I am pretty stoked!

Then the following weekend I took my overlocker in for a look over to see how much work was needed to get it going well again.

And the the weekend after that I went back again to hear the verdict and this happened.

Mechanic Man carrying my new Elna 664 Pro overlocker, again with Hugh of Sewing Machine Services

Mechanic Man carrying my new Elna 664 Pro overlocker, again with Hugh of Sewing Machine Services

That’s a new Elna 664 Pro overlocker. Yep, in two weeks I bought two new machines.  Thanks to Hugh at Sewing Machine Services in Petone, a great wee place if you’re in the market for a new machine!

None of this was really planned. But I’m very excited about it all! The very first new machines I’ve ever owned! And who knows – I might end up waiting another 12 years until I replace these ones!

My Janome set up in it's space

My Janome set up in its space

My Elna set up and waiting

My Elna set up and waiting

Now I need a name for them… I’m thinking Fred and Ginger but I’m not sold on it yet! Maybe Gene and Rita, or Danny and Sandy. I’ll figure it out…

My fabulous new toys waiting patiently

My fabulous new toys waiting patiently

I’m keeping my Pfaff as it goes great and it’ll be good to have a backup but I traded my old Elna in towards my new Elna. My original Elna actually did pretty much everything my new one does, as it was quite fancy in its day, so although the new one is easier to set up and configure buying it was really just getting caught up in the fun of new shiny things (and I feel a bit guilty about it). But the Janome has bells and whistles my Pfaff couldn’t even conceive of. Highlights are the one step buttonhole and the lock stitch (which automates back stitching at the beginning and end of the seam) but my real favourite feature is the cut button, which neatly cuts both threads with a touch.

Yep, I’m easily entertained.

Speaking of, as an added bonus, these were in the side street that we parked in.

This was painted on the building next to where we parked

This was painted on the building next to where we parked

And this was painted across the street! The "war" tag is someone else's addition though, it wasn't there the first time I saw this.

And this was painted across the street! The “war” tag is someone else’s addition though, it wasn’t there the first time I saw this.

MOS 8-9/52: baking bonanza and Mama’s jewellery

1 Sep

While mum was down, it wasn’t all selling cushions at vintage fairs or slaving over burlesque costumes – just most of it! As well as altering a couple of skirts, we got to do a couple of other things too. On the Saturday, having finished my costume, we decided to bake up a storm. I love baking but never do it as often as I’d like and had really wanted this year of creative energy to involve new recipes and teach myself some presentation tricks. I still hadn’t done much so it was really nice to be in the kitchen with Mum, chatting away as we mixed and made.

I made two batches of my standard Edmonds banana cake, but cooked one batch in patty cases, and Mum and I worked together on making mini lemon meringue pies, which didn’t even last long enough to be photographed (Mechanic Man LOVES lemon merinque pie).

Actually, he’s a baking fiend in general, and most of the time when I bake he loiters in the kitchen, desperate to eat before things are even cool. I never get time to ice let alone decorate anything. I really want to put more effort into decorating my baking, just for the fun of it, so this time I told him off until he left me and the cakes alone.

The lack of decorating practice means I’m not that good at it, but I know from past experience that I’m not terrible wielding a piping bag. Unfortunately I discovered that the buttercream recipe I use is super tasty but not piping friendly, it is far too thick. So my plans for prettily piped cupcakes were abandoned and instead I smeared thick icing on everything and gave it this somewhat lacklustre set of embellishments (sugar pearls and banana chips). They may not be works of art, or even close to what I had envisioned, but after so long producing these goodies was nonetheless a personal triumph and so definitely a moment of satisfaction!

My banana cake and mini-cakes - not as pretty as I'd hoped but tasty! Also, it took me an hour to find this photo as I'd mislabelled it. I hope you appreciate it.

My banana cake and mini-cakes – not as pretty as I’d hoped but tasty! Also, it took me an hour to find this photo as I’d mislabelled it. I hope you appreciate it.

Another creative enterprise I undertook  was to alter some jewellery for Mum. I make jewellery from time to time, but almost all of the jewellery I’ve made I’ve given to Mum. A couple of years ago her car was broken into on her way home from a visit with me and her suitcase was stolen. She lost three garments she’d only just finished knitting – two she’d only worn once or twice and the third she hadn’t even sewn up the seams on; all the fabric and yarn and other treats she’d bought while staying with me; a vintage rag doll pattern that was the same as one she’d had as a child that she’d brought down to show me because she was so excited to find it; and every single piece of her jewellery, most of which I’d made. It was heartbreaking.

Even if we had photos of all of the pieces I’d made her (and we had none), or I could remember what they all looked like (and I can’t really); a lot of it was made from vintage supplies that I couldn’t replace. We both cried over the losses (especially as no doubt most of the stuff she cared about most was thrown out) but next time she came to stay we started the slow process of making all new pieces. But a couple of them, and a couple of store bought pieces, weren’t working out for her, so last year she brought them down to be tweaked, since when they’ve sat in the to-do pile.

The pile of jewellery waiting attention

The pile of jewellery waiting attention

So I added some bits of chain between the beads of the blue necklace to make it less visually dense, rearranged the grey necklace to hide a discoloured bead at the top where it will be mostly behind her neck, fixed the connection on the snake on her black necklace to prevent it falling off all the time (all three of these were made by me originally), and cut chains to the right lengths and added pretty clasps for her three store-bought dichroic glass pendants and her mermaid pendant.

Not overly creative, but a supremely satisfying moment  as I love Mum wearing jewellery, especially ones I’ve made, and I’ve had these sitting in my box awaiting repairs since last September! It got me all fired up to get out more of my jewellery supplies and make some pieces for me, so by the end of the year I want to have made myself a nice selection of new necklaces and earrings. So it was satisfying and inspiring!

All the pretty jewellery all in a row.

All the pretty jewellery all in a row.

I wish I could have done more while I was on holiday, but I had a wonderful time, and Mum and my grandmother are down in a few weeks to visit, so there’ll be more crafting adventures then!