Wednesday, 30 September 2009


Eeeeeek, I am so incredibly excited - my first complete adult garment!! Finished this very day. Hooray, I finally did it. I can't produce much further ado so here are the details:

The Vital Statistics

Wallington by Martin Storey from Rowan Classic Book 28 - Vintage, purchased at Churchmouse Yarns and Teas on Bainbridge Island.
Yarn: 100 per cent wool recycled from a J Crew men's sweater that I purchased at Goodwill in the U District.
Needles: 3.25mm, 3.75mm and 4mm straights.
Start to finish:
4 April 2009 to 29 September 2009.
Comments: I was very motivated with knitting this garment as I thought that I was the only person who was working on it (only person on ravelry - that's all that counts, isn't it?) and that mine would be the very first Wallington to be completed. Little did I know that someone else was working on it in secret and didn't log it until they had finished. That took the wind out of my sails a bit, and after very successfully finishing most of the knitting within five weeks it then took me a further four months to sew the blasted thing up - oh well.

This was also my first attempt at knitting an adult garment using recycled yarn which produced the inevitable 'will-there-be-enough?' anxiety. As it turned out, there was enough. I did substitute in a similar yarn (also recycled J Crew) in burgundy for the facings inside the body and sleeves and for the central portion of the belt. As it turned out though, I chose not to use the belt and wrist straps that I knit - I felt that it would have made the garment just too bulky, so I instead bought some lovely grosgrain ribbon from the ribbon room at Nancy's Sewing Basket which I can tie in nice big floppy bows. This also obviated the need to find three matching buckles for the belt and straps.

I also knit the facings in stocking stitch instead of rib because basically, why bother, they're on the inside and that would have made the garment bulkier still. Yes, 8ply (or dk weight) yarn in my opinion produces bulky.

Verdict: Much ado, much ado. I am, actually to my surprise, really happy with this project. I had all sorts of fears about it not fitting well, not suiting me, not being big/long/wide enough or short/fitted/shapely enough - take your pick. But it's great and I feel immensely proud when I am wearing it. There are still two more patterns that I want to knit from this book, Woolsthorpe (for which I have some more recycled J Crew yarn in a lovely blue just waiting) and Souter (although I'm not sure what to do about the fluted peplum which I don't much like). Sunrise Circle must be finished first though!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


That is 103 stories of empty space beneath my feet (and a second and final installment from my Birkenstock wardrobe - I still haven't managed to paint my toenails). In an effort to continue with child-friendly activities last week on Friday we went up the Willis Tower to the Skydeck to have a look at the city from above. This is the sort of touristy thing that I would rarely bother to do but I thought that little miss bear might find it interesting. She was actually pretty nonplussed about the whole experience but I thought it was great! Having children can really teach you things about yourself.

Chicago is a city famous for its architecture and is a wonderful place to look at from above. It was a bit overcast and the horizon between the lake and sky was just a blur and then the grey irregular rhythm of skyscrapers and the voids between them - fantastic.
The newest attraction up there at 412 metres (1353 feet) is the Skyledge which is a glass box that basically sticks out from the side of the building. You can stand there on the (I assume very thick and strong) sheet of perspex/glass(?) and look down at the space between you and the street.

Then, as a reward for this motherly concern for my child's travel enjoyment and edification, we went to Goodwill. The only Goodwill in Chicago and oh, the disappointment. It was small (compared to Seattle Goodwill stores), badly organised and the stock was dismal. We bought a couple of books but that was it. Upon returning home I worked out why (or at least why the Seattle Goodwill stores are so good). Look at the City of Seattle flag!

Friday, 25 September 2009


Ten years ago, my trip to Chicago was planned around visiting the Art Institute of Chicago. Well, ten years ago I actually planned my trips, bought a guide book, wrote an itinerary, did this in the morning, ate lunch here, did that in the afternoon, ate dinner there, occasionally went to the cinema in the evening. (Actually, Chicago is the only place that I have ever stolen a movie! I am generally a very law-abiding citizen but I went to the cinema and saw The Mod Squad. It was so woeful that as I was leaving I saw that Forces of Nature was about to start in another theatre so I just walked right in and watched that one too. Slightly less woeful and I don't mind a bit of Ben Affleck.)

Anyway, Art Institute of Chicago, Oak Park to see the Frank Lloyd Wright studio and homes, somewhere down south to visit another FLW house - it was a packed few days back then. It wasn't until a few years later that I realised that Chicago was on a lake.

Needless to say, this visit has included a couple of visits to the Art Institute but in quite a different, meandering, 'come away from the fountain!' kind of way. I was trying to do some stuff that I wanted to and still engage little miss bear so we looked at the miniatures collection (well, eight of the fifty odd before attention span ran out), visited the education centre, read picture books and took a bit of a stroll through the galleries. Can't resist including this one:

When I was last in Chicago this painting was not on display because it was away on loan as part of another exhibition. That exhibition was actually at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (where I also stayed on that visit) but had not yet opened. So I didn't see it that time. It's always good to have something to go back for.

And I have something to go back for again now. I had been wanting to revisit Chicago for the past few years because I understood that they had some items in their textiles collection made from fifteenth century brocades, which is just the sort of stuff that I love. Due to the construction of the recently completed modern wing, the entire textiles collection has been packed away to protect it from dust and debris. So Chicago is back on my travel list. I have managed to walk along the lakefront a couple of times this visit - next time I might even get out on a boat.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

windy city

We just blew in to the windy city and the windy city is mighty pretty etc etc.

Hooray - we're having a few days in Chicago. I love Chicago. I was last here some ten years ago so I expect that this trip will be a little different to the last.

In 1999, I stayed northwards at the dodgiest youth hostel in Lincoln Park (it may well be much nicer these days). Now we are staying in a plush hotel in the heart of downtown, just blocks from the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1999, I was a student and on a shoe-string budget. Now, well, I have a husband.

In 1999, it was just me and I did what I liked and pleased myself. Now I am acquainting myself with every children's attraction in the city.

And now I knit. In the airplane - so exciting (ok, if you are from Australia where you can't get knitting needles through airport security for the life of you).

Monday, 21 September 2009


... that's the magic number.

Baby bear recently turned three and we had a birthday morning tea for her yesterday. She is such a grown-up girl now (small sob) - no more nappies (even overnight!), no more mother-tot swim classes (just the teacher and students in the pool now), no more bedtime kisses (hugs are ok, she just doesn't want to be kissed; and just at bedtime, I cover her in them the rest of the day).

Happy birthday sweetheart! In honour of this occasion I hereby rename you, for blog purposes at least, little miss bear.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

made for each other

Ooooooooh, it's so irritating when you have a picture in mind and you're sure that it's in a certain book and you go looking for it and it is indeed not there and then you're unsure as to whether you ever actually saw said picture or just dreamed it up and ... oh well, let go.

What I am trying to say is that, once upon a time (and this may be a fairy tale), I saw a picture in a book of a slightly prairie-style striped dress.
Some time afterwards in my op shopping (so we're talking Melbourne days here) I found a great dress from a medium-weight cotton which was just the fabric for said dress, a sort of herringbone-weave self stripe.

Then, some further time later, I bought a Japanese pattern book (at Kinokuniya when we were in Singapore last year) and there was just the pattern for the dress. I have since discovered (in a kind of freaky co-incidence way) that the Japanese pattern book has just been published in an English language version titled Carefree Clothes for Girls: 20 Patterns for Outdoor Frocks, Playdate dresses, and More by Junko Okawa.

So, just a day ago I decided that it was time to dig that original picture out and put some thought into this project. Can't find 'said' picture anywhere in the book that I thought it was in. Will there be a fairy-tale ending to this sad story? Will I remember which book I saw the picture in or will I just have to make the dress myself? Ha ha - I'm not sure which would take longer!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

here's one i prepared earlier

Ah finally, a finished knitted object! Actually, I finished this about six months ago and had been hiding it in the cupboard in anticipation of my friend Anne's birthday.

The Vital Statistics

Pattern: Cable and Lace Scarf Redux by Kim Powell, available for free on Ravelry.
Size: I knit until I ran out of yarn which was 38 repeats. I'm not sure how long it ended up - a good scarf length.
Yarn: Two balls of Garnstudio DROPS Silke-Tweed in colourway 18. I acquired this yarn at a yarn swap and just wanted to knit it up immediately. I can't actually now remember why I chose this particular pattern, I think I had Branching Out from Knitty in mind but came across this one along the way.
Needles: 3.25mm
Start to finish: 22 January 2009 to 17 February 2009 - wow, more than six months ago.
Comments: This pattern is avaialble for free as a Ravelry download and contains only written lace instructions, which I have found that I cannot work from. I charted the lace myself and found it much easier to knit from the visual. It's so long ago that I can't remember much more about it - oh, I reversed the twist on one of the cables so that they mirror each other. The yarn was lovely and blocked out very nicely.

Verdict: My friend Anne was absolutely delighted with the scarf which I gave her for her birthday last month. It was hard work to hang onto it for that long - every time I saw it in the cupboard I wanted to give it to her early. I enjoyed knitting it and can't wait now to see her wearing it.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

houston, we have a quilt

A year ago, when my mum was visiting, we shopped together at various thrift stores for the fabrics to make a quilt, inspired by the one on the cover of Vintage Fabric Style: stylish ideas and projects using quilts and flea-market finds in your home. My mum is visiting again and this evening I finished the quilt. Yes, absolutely finished the quilt, removed it from the 'I'm busy with' list, it is utterly and completely done. HOORAY!!

I estimate that it has taken me a year to make: the squares were cut out and some sewing was done at the end of last September; in October the top was all sewn up but it took me until December to deal with the batting; by the end of March this year I had the top and batting all pinned together and the backing ready to go; in early April, much sooner than expected the quilting was done; and then ... well, somewhere along the line I must have sewn the backing to the top/batting and that is where it remained until today.

What a story of delay and procrastination! Although, admittedly and in my defense, several of the, ah, pauses in production were the result of not knowing quite where to go next and some leisurely consideration of options and possibilities. I was put off at times by not knowing what to do next, but hey, I've made it through.

A couple of quick notes about the construction of this quilt:
  • I quilted only the top and batting together. This was because the top has so many different coloured squares and I wanted to use an appropriate thread colour on each but didn't want a riot of thread colours on the backing (because I always like to match my sewing and bobbin threads). It only occurred to me later that I could indeed have substituted in a different, matching-the-backing coloured thread in the bobbin. Oh well.
  • Following examples in Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts, I then sewed the top/batting and backing together, right sides facing, leaving a gap of about 20 centimetres. I then turned the quilt inside out and ... well, that was April.
Today, in the glow of my recent advances with the doily quilt, I finally stitched that opening together using blind stitch (which is kind of like mattress stitch for sewing). I also stitched the junctions in the pieced backing to the corresponding junction in the quilt top to anchor the whole thing together. I did this in four places. I could have done it in sixteen places but I chose four, that's it. And, last but not least, top stitched around the edge.

It was the details of this last one that has had me held up since April. I was struggling, again, with what colour thread to use. I had toyed with ideas of changing top-stitching thread colours for each of the squares on the top but finally took my friend Di's advice and just chose the darkest colour thread to go all the way around. However, I actually put this darkest thread into the bobbin and did the top stitching with the quilt backing uppermost in order to top stitch in red on the red sections and in blue on the blue sections (not Di's advice, my compromise).

Given all of the above I'm sure that you'll understand that making this quilt has been a real learning experience, but also a real thinking-it-through-and-figuring-it-out-for-myself-(and-asking-for-some-advice) experience. No wonder it took so long! And still, after all the hours that I have spent looking at it and thinking about it and thinking it through, I still love it.

Friday, 11 September 2009

double double doily trouble

No, not really, no trouble at all, I just wanted to get that one last bit of word play* in (plenty of toil though). I have finished sewing together the doily quilt top - hooray! But I am left with somewhat of a dilemma. I'm not sure about how to finish it, that is, about how far to go with finishing it.

I thought that it needed some sort of sashing, even if just in the way of thin coloured ribbons, to divide the patterned from the plain blocks, and some sort of border to make it a bit larger, and they would really need to be from the same fabric and ... and the whole thing just started to get a bit bigger and more 'finished' than I think I ever really had in mind. You know the concept of 'matchy-matchy'? Well, I fear that there is the risk here of being too 'finishedy-finishedy'.

To just bat it and back it with a minimum of fuss and some stitch in the ditch may be just the thing and whatever size that ends up being is just the size that it is. Or maybe just a border, or just the sashing, or ... ok, perhaps a bit of trouble deciding.

* Could also have been called 'Houston, we have a quilt top'

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

marie seznec

A year ago or so I wrote about growing up and going grey. At the time I was unable to find any photos of my favourite grey-tressed icon, Marie Seznec, who used to model for designer Christian Lacroix. When we were recently home in Melbourne I unearthed some magazine pages that I had kept from circa 1991.

Fabulous, fabulous hair.

Reading the article in the (now defunct) British
Women's Journal, I realised that she would now be 50 or so, and I am the age that she was in these photos. I'm not quite as grey as she was; I wonder if I am as grown up?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

and we're back

Connected to the world again that is - the past week has been one without internet and I tell you, it has been stifling. The number of times website addresses are given out on the radio, in magazines, wherever; when you can't actually go and look them up, you really notice (and want to look them up, whereas usually you wouldn't be bothered).

Anyway, finally connected again and I feel like I've forgotten how to blog, and after such a busy month in August too. I really missed my blog when we were away in Australia and had a lot to make up for.

My mum arrived for a visit last Wednesday and that has been wonderful. On Friday afternoon we explored Bellevue Goodwill for an hour or so and I bought this length of fabric. There was a little tag on it indicating 1 1/2, so whether that's a yard and a half or a metre and a half I'm not sure. I love the print and it was 99c. I'm hoping that I can make a sweet top or even a dress out of it for baby bear.

One thing that I have been busy with is Stitchery (which is just my own personal version of Ravelry in the form of a few sets of photos on flickr). I am attempting to record all of the lengths of fabric, garments for refashioning, sewing supplies and patterns that I have collected (or should I say amassed?). I find the pattern search function on Ravelry so helpful, I'd like to just be able to search through my own patterns (Japanese craft books, Golden Hands volumes, random paper patterns) so that if I want to make a size 4 blouse out of this fabric I can just check my set of blouse photos, or size 4 photos. High hopes perhaps? A lot of work maybe, but hopefully worthwhile.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

custom made

The great thing about making your own bag is that you can, indeed, make it your own. Ah, the insight!

I have been working away on the felted jumper bag - embroidering birds and sewing up the actual bag and lining. There's a sneak peek up above. And it occurred to me how great it would be to not have to root around in the bottom of the bag (it's quite deep) in order to find my phone when it rings. So I added internal pockets, tailored to my wallet and phone - hooray!

Next steps in the vision:
- decorative touches on the last two birds
- fix the edges and loose threads
- trim around bird shapes
- appliqué to bag
- sew lining in

Then there's the handle question - that's the one bit that I can't visualise at the moment. I think that I would like some tooled leather handles but haven't yet found any that I really like. I'm going to keep thrifting for a bag that I can recycle them from.

ps. What do your to-do lists look like? I start out with a rough overview of steps, the first ones the most detailed. As I move through the steps, the subsequent ones become increasingly detailed. I rewrite my to-do list (with its many many components) every few days. I wonder what one would look like if I kept it from start to finish?