Thursday, 23 September 2010

my sewing circle

Ravelry for sewing? I know that there are a couple of sites like this around but mysewingcircle seems to be the one that all the cool kids are using. I'm on there too, user name 'amelia', and I've started an alabama stitching group for discussion and sharing of Alabama Stitch Book and Alabama Studio Style projects. If your a seam-ster/-stress (as opposed to a sewer which just makes me think waste management) you might like to have a look.

And here's something that I've sewn recently:

We're attending a wedding next weekend and little miss bear is very excited as it is her first since she was a baby. This dress is taken from a Japanese pattern book and the fabric is a silk-cotton blend recycled/upcycled from a Sally Smith womens skirt that I once upon a time bought at an op shop in Melbourne just for the fabric. I had to alter the style rather because I didn't have enough fabric to cut the extra flare that the original pattern included. To use up as much fabric as possible I also made it longer.

I left off the front ruching as the fabric is so lovely and I didn't want to break up the print. I also finished the hem with bias tape, again to make the dress longer. Actually, my finished dress didn't end up much like the tunic pictured here at all - the reason that I used this pattern is because it was cut on the bias as was the skirt that I was sewing from.

There wasn't a lot of fabric left over (surprising how much a child's garment can take up from an adult skirt) so I had to make the bias tape from lots of small strips sewn together; came out fine though. No hand finishing on this one except for sewing on the button loop and the button (both from stash).

And that 'decorative' zig-zag stitch? There are no mistakes, just design features (I didn't do a great job of sewing on the bias tape). Same goes for that diagonal seam on the right front shoulder - the fabric went through the overlocker by accident and I couldn't cut the whole piece again so I just had to make do.

I used my overlocker/serger on most of the seams so hopefully there will be no fraying after washing. Impeccable finish is very important to me and I was put off home sewing for many years by the fact that I didn't have an overlocker and I just couldn't bear those raw edges. Funnily, nowadays I actually find those overlocked edges tacky; they are redolent of commercially produced garments rather than hand made. When using a weave, I actually much prefer French seams like I was doing on the (admittedly, yet-to-be-finished) tunique francaise; there is clearly so much more effort in them, the hand of the maker is somehow more present.

Saturday, 18 September 2010


I think that I have a good memory. I remember peoples' names, I remember details about them, I remember episodes and feelings from childhood. Sometimes what I remember though is just a sliver and that can be frustrating. For ever so long now I have had a fragment of memory of books that I read as a child, probably in the eighties:

1. in this book the young female protagonist gets kidnapped and raises the alarm by switching on a stove which ignites a bag that is sitting on it and sets off the alarm.

2. a book about a kidnapping; when the young male protagonist tries to escape he recalls that people often stand with their weight on only one foot.

3. a spooky book where the young female protagonist has an excellent sense of time and so realises that her father's new love interest and her son are somehow living forever.

These are truly the only details that I could remember about these books. I posted my queries to Abebooks'
BookSleuth® forum and lo and behold within a day I had my answers from other readers:

Third Eye by Lois Duncan
On the Edge by Gillian Cross
Locked in Time by Lois Duncan

I'm really excited to read these childhood favourites again, but also apprehensive as I guess that the impact that young adult fiction will have on me twenty years later will not be quite so profound. I'll let you know.

Friday, 17 September 2010

what colour is your parachute silk?

What Color is Your Parachute?* is a famous job hunter/career counselling book. For someone who has always felt so conflicted about career choice, it's kind of funny that I have never read it. I wonder if it even includes motherhood as an option?

Anyway, having children changes you, obviously, but in subtle ways which you might not expect. My experience is that when you get over those first few weeks (months) and re-emerge from your tracksuit pants into the world you find yourself a different person. You want to wear different clothes, different colours. Dark blue, which I had always eschewed as looking matronly on me, is suddenly just the right colour and I have recently acquired a few t-shirts (yes, the dreaded VS) and two cardigans (Ben Sherman and H&M via Goodwill) and Yves and Daybreak have come off the needles.

And suddenly you also want something different in your life. Something neutral, something chic, something ... beige. Yes, I was looking at yorkiegirl's knitting projects on Ravelry; all those neutrals - cream, oyster, alabaster, parchment, linen - so serene, so sophisticated, so what I wanted right now. So, I knit myself something.

The Vital Statistics
A Little Ruffle, available free from Sadie & Oliver. Thank you!
As per the directions is a great size.
I had always thought of paler neutrals as something that I couldn't wear but on this project I didn't care, I wanted something beige (or thereabouts, I'm calling it wheaten). And I'm delighted with it - I received a compliment immediately from a very colour- and design-savvy friend that the brown looked great and the grey picked up my blue eyes and I felt wonderful. I will have no hesitation in wearing this with confidence now.

Oh and the yarn, well of course I liked the colour - it was a men's zip-up cardigan that I bought for Tim but there was a mark on it and a hole appeared and it sat around for a few weeks so I decided to make it into
something else, for me. To achieve the weight I wanted, I ended up double stranding this yarn but picking out a single ply as I knit along - tedious and a bit wasteful. It's 92 per cent merino and 8 per cent cashmere - it didn't knit up very nicely which surprised me, given the yarn content. That was perhaps because it was recycled and had a lot of kink in it. Once I blocked it the drape became beautiful and it's very soft.

The grey is some Columbia Minerva Princessa that I got free at a stash swap, colourway is 2229 'Dark Oxford'.

4.5 and 5mm.
Start to finish:
18 August to 15 September 2010.
Stash/recycle content:
Whoo-hoo - all of it!

Comments: Excellent, simple, free pattern - not really a half-circle shawl, more like a scarf with tapered ends and a frill. I did a provisional cast on of the initial 10 stitches to avoid having to pick stitches up in order to do the frill. that just seemed like double work and I try to avoid that where I can. As for the striping, I just winged it on that. As I didn't carry the yarn up the sides of the work, I was able to knit three rows of alternating colours and I really like the effect, it's quite graphic.

I really love this scarf. I have already worn it a couple of times and felt great for being a bit daring. My only reservation about it is that it might be more a 'little house' than 'little ruffle with the brown and grey but I think that the graphic effect of the stripes updates it a bit. I must say that wearing it, I realised, that if you are a knitter, you need to be comfortable wearing knitwear.

* I'm not one for extreme sports but I have been watching Project Runway lately so parachute silk seemed like a more appropriate title for me.


I have finished placing, cutting and pinning the spirals on my alabama dress. I have even done a little bit of stitching. There are a lot of pins though so it is unfortunately not a very portable project. And heavy too! All that cotton adds up.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


Stella is a lovely neighbour of ours who recently turned nine (ok, not so recently, in fact, weeks ago but I only just finished making the present for her). There is a great home decor shop in Capitol Hill that I forget the name of - I'll look it up and provide details but for the moment it's just along from Molly Moon's Ice Cream, reason enough to go there - that sells 'green' products: recycled, upcycled etc. There I saw some blank books that were actually bound in fabric that had been salvaged from clothing with the pockets nicely placed in the front centre of the book. I love the idea of always having a handy place to store your drawing materials.

I realised that book binding is outside my craft skill set and besides, it would be sad once you had filled the book to no longer have use of that cute fabric cover (and especially the pocket), so I decided to sew a sketch book cover that can be reused (even greener!). For the fabric I chose a floral-printed mini-corduroy jacket that has been in the cupboard for sometime (bought at a thrift store here in the US though, so less than two years).

The construction is a very simple - a rectangle with flaps sewn at either end which the book covers slip into. There was no appropriate pocket on the jacket so I made the pocket and pocket flap (and a buttonhole - still a mental block for me but actually oh so simple) just the right size for some mini pencils. I went to a lot of trouble to make sure that the pattern met up across the pocket and flap - it worked out well. The button is from the jacket cuffs.

As a finishing touch I embroidered Stella's name on the inside flap using some embroidery floss that I bought at the thrift store (of course).

Sunday, 5 September 2010

august reading

Three books!

She Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumb - More in the Ballad series, really enjoyed this one.
Last Rituals and My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir - I actually picked the second of these up at the library from the 'grab and go' shelf but had to put it back because I saw that it was the second book with the same character and well, I had to read the first one first. So I did, and then the second one immediately afterwards. Great Icelandic murder/detective fiction. I'll be on the lookout for her next novel.