Friday, 2 September 2016

Couturier sewing class: Velvet Top

My newest sewing book acquisition is the Japanese language Couturier Sewing Class, one of the Heart Warming Life Series publications. It was released in October 2015 and I've had it in an eBay cart ever since.
I love the green wide legged pants, the gorgeous mustard raglan dress as made in black by Justine (on Bombazine) recently, the draped cardigan and the sweet white top/green ruffled dress. My absolute favourite however, is the top on the cover, especially it's image in wool inside.
There's a thorough review on the Japan Sewing Books blog - it's what swayed my decision that I simply must have the book!
So that's what I made first ;)
it has a faced neckline and partially interfaced waist
I was shopping with Helen and bought 2m of a stable black velvet for this very top, before the book arrived. I am very pleased to report that this top is exactly as I envisioned, was a pleasure to sew and has had lots of wear already - don't you love it when that happens!!
Black Velvet: so lovely to wear, so hard to photograph
This is the LL, largest, size made without alteration.
For body measurements: height 160-165cm, bust 94, waist 74, hips 98cm. The L would have been fine.

The round neckline is the front, it's shown reversible above, however when I wear the V to the front, it sits a little awkwardly.
and besides, the V at the back is cute and shows the back of the neck ;)
It is a fabric hog. I bought my very first piece of nani-iro double gauze from Miss Matatabi with this book and regrettably, it won't fit on the 1.5m (x106cm) piece without changes.
I will be making a summery version, it's too lovely a pattern not to!
I've been wearing it a lot, on date days with my beau, out to see Curtains at the Art Centre and again to the NGV International for the unpacking of their new acquisitions, all fabulous and fun times!
And my emerald accessory - it's a hand knitted clutch in super bulky acrylic - very hard on the wrists, but it's all worth it for fashion? no? ;)
Knitted on 8mm needles, black 4mm for comparison


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

KNIT: All the hats!

 Facebook/Instagram has just notified me that exactly 104 weeks, or 2 years ago, I posted this:
It's still the best feeling! My mumma is still awesome, knitting and crocheting away for charity and new great grandchildren, inspiring all of us with her independence and enthusiasm.

My very first hat attempts are still works-in-progress. It was spring and I tried knitting hats in cotton and bamboo, on double pointed needles.... it wasn't pretty. Since then I've reached out to the knitters amongst you, fondled your MadTosh cowls, hand-knit socks and snuggly cardigans, soaked up your thoughts and opinions, passed my mistakes over to be ripped and learnt to put life-lines in. 

My very first hat and my penultimate one (for this post).

I've moved from cloche style hats in 2015 to slouchy versions in 2016, I've even ventured back into the non-woollen with a self-drafted version that is simply perfect for days when it's a tad warm for wool.

Hat #1. Escargot by Veronica Parsons May-June 2015
Invigorated with my new found knitting experience on circular needles - the sleeves on my Liathite cardigan - I decided to try knitting a hat again, this time on circular needles.

It worked.

I had to draw/chart the instructions, as I couldn't visualise what I was knitting, the brim, or the snail. It otherwise came together easily enough in 8ply Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic (feltable Australian wool) with accents of my 12ply BWM Stellar (50:50 Australian wool:bamboo)

I'll always be proud of my first hat, even thought it came out a bit wide and far too shallow, I wanted it felted and in hindsight, should have left it alone - it sits a bit high over my curls, so I don't reach for it much.

Hat #2. Sprig Cloche by Alana Dakos in Malabrigo Arroyo - 045 Circas colurway.
Oh how I adore this hat! I love all of the Botanical Knits designs, proper foliage decorating hats, mitts, scarves, cardigans and jumpers. The leafy brim was delightfully addictive knitting, I couldn't put it down and had to knit 'just one more' leaf. I was attempting to make a set of mitts to match and got worried about yardage, so I ordered a 2nd ball online - those following along on Instagram may recall my bewilderment during my first introduction to widely different colours in the same colourway. I knit the body of the hat from the 2nd skein.

Hat #3. Betsy by Jane Richmond in Malabrigo Twist in Grapes

Close on it's heels was my first attempts at lace. Yes, this is supposed to be a lacy pattern. I've since realised that I was knitting into the back of my yarn overs and closing them up - I learn something new with every pattern. I had an absolute ball knitting this up as well, it took me 5 days in August 2015. It's been a surprise hit in my hat wardrobe, super snuggly and is long enough to pull down over my ears and forehead, perfect for this Melbourne winter.

I know I'm not alone when I declare that one of the most rewarding things to knit are hats.

Fortunately I wear hats. I like a woollen hat in winter, they keep my ears warm and best of all, hide a mess of unruly curls during early morning school runs...

Hat #4. Man Hat by Haven Ashley in RedRidingHood yarns Belle 8ply

I have a wonderful DH, who deserved a hat of his very own for those cold mornings and afternoons. He gave me ideas of what he liked, then I let him loose on Ravelry with a tailored search. He chose the free Man Hat by Haven Ashley and it only took me a few rounds to remember how much I detest 1:1 rib. Lucky I love him. It's a broken rib with rest knit rows, which made it go faster - and I enlisted his mum to knit a few rows. That was a fascinating study into tension, our gauges were several needle sizes off and his hat has a lovely demarcation row where I hadn't realised. It's visible if you look for it ;)
The wool is lovely, and possibly started my fascination with shaded greys. It's the Incognito colourway in Red Riding Hood yarn's 8ply Belle Superwash and it was a gift from NZ by the lovely Stitchseekers who run the monthly Men in Knitwear calendar, check it out if you're ever in need of some eye candy paired with masculine knitwear ;)
Yes Maci, it smells like him ;)

Hat #5: My raspberry (non)beret, the Houzuki Hat (free) by Yoko Johnston in indie-dyed bluefaced leicester wool by Little Dipper Yarns

I had a lovely morning at the Handknitters Guild market in Coburg in June. I carried a swatch of my pink Liberty sweatshirting and held it up to the masses of gorgeous hand dyed yarns on offer - it actually made my choice easier by trying to complement it rather than being torn between so many desirable shades. That this Flamenco pink was on a non-merino base sealed the deal, I've been wanting to try different sheep breeds since I realised I could!

Needless to say, I converted my hank to a cake asap and cast on! The wool is a delight to knit with and the subtleties in the colour way are beautiful. The Houzuki hat pattern was clear and easy to follow, such a delight. I carried it around everywhere and found myself knitting 'just one more round' - simply the best feeling.

My modification was a rolled stockinette brim (as I was still scarred and couldn't face a ribbed band), as described on WoollyWormheads blog.

Hat #6. Self drafted Rustic Summer Tam - aka, lets have some fun and see what I've learnt!
In the string-like Shibui Twig - a blend of only 12% wool, with 46% linen and 42% recycled silk. I bought this at Sunspun Fine Yarn's sale, a completely spontaneous purchase based on how unexpectedly soft Jenny's was when we wound it into cakes, and a little bit of fascination with it. It's described as a sport or DK weight to knit with, yet is clearly barely a 4ply/fingering in thickness. It's designed to be used for airy summer garments, so, it's perfect for this.
I held the sock yarn Acorny by Blue moon fibre arts Socks that Rock lightweight doubled with the Twig for the brim as I worried about the lack of intrinsic elasticity in the Twig. And yes, it's a 1:1 rib that I didn't mind knitting, phew! Aren't the colours gorgeous? I have matching pair of fingerless mitts that are almost complete.
I had an absolute blast knitting this and making it up as I went. I have rows of purl/garter ridges and rows of eyelets, and a really cute spiralling decrease for the crown. It's the perfect non-hot hat for warm messy hair days - I love it!

It's been a wild ride! I've had a delightful time, I've met so many fabulous people and patted so many glorious skeins, hanks and balls of wool. I do rather like this knitting caper.
why yes, this is a gratuitous Maci photo!

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Listening to the fabric - Felted Wool Jacket

I love this jacket.
A couple of years ago, Helen mentioned that a small local fabric store was closing down. I managed to go in during its final days and after chatting to the lovely proprietress, I left with some very lovely pieces of fabric.
And every few months I pulled the fabric from my special stash, patted it, dreamt of what it would like to be, and tucked it away again in its tissue paper.
This amazing felted wool is part of that small collection.
I finally settled on a cape last winter, and amped up my collection of all the cape patterns, vintage and contemporary, Japanese, French and English, jacket-cape styles, raglan or circle, arm slits or arms underneath, I have them all.
None of them were 'just right' for this wool though.
So I made my own.
I love that I have raw edges wherever I could. I especially love that the entire jacket is cut from one piece, with zero waste and no interruption to the border print.
Want to know what I did?
It's simply a rectangle of fabric, with 2 slits vertically at my shoulders. I then inserted 4 triangles, cut from a rectangle along the non-border print edge, as raglan sleeves along this slit. I have considered inserting godets in the diamond shaped underarms, however the open diamonds are working very well.
Ok, so I do have 2 spare triangles, but they aren't waste ;)
The felted wool isn't perfect - although it's perfectly striking. I had to reinforce each seamline as it's not particularly strong. I started using rayon seam tape, then changed to strips of charcoal silk. The back neckline is faced with silk as well. Each seam is top stitched on each side for added stability.
Apart from a rather high level of satisfaction that my concept worked (YAY!), what I adore and makes this a 'throw on every day' jacket is that it's perfectly versatile. It is delightfully snuggly when pinned closed high on my neck, perfectly warm when worn with a V-neck - with either a casual exposed facing collar, or with them tucked in for a neat version - or open and breezy when I only need my back and shoulders covered. I've not put any permanent closures on, my everyday bag style is a messenger bag/cross body satchel and it holds it in place perfectly when I'm not using a shawl pin.
And the fabric, I am SO glad I took that deep breath and nabbed my 1.5m of felted grey wool with felted black foliage.


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Dairing at the Dressmakers Do

2016 Dressmakers Do : Party time in Melbourne town
Lace LBD
Machine knit Dairing 2/3/Four
Listening to the fabric : felted grey wool jacket
Another occasion to frock up and celebrate all things made by hand with some very talented sewists, this time at the #DressmakersDo organised by the lovely Nichola of the Handmaker's Factory and Leisl of Jorth.
I went for a textural, black and grey outfit; three separates that I know will get plenty of wear in my Melbourne wardrobe.
First up is my classic black lace sheath dress - some may recall that I made and wore this to the very first Frocktails in 2013. Yes, it's the same lace dress, and I still adore it. It has it's very own blog post here: Everyone needs an LBD 09/2013
still haunted by that flash, but what a delightful introduction it was to some lovely and talented sewing friends!
To add some warmth for my travels, I made a grey coat with the most fabulous felted wool - it will have it's own post soon.
For some interest, I thought an avant-garde top knitted in stainless steel, silk and cotton might be just the thing.
Meet Theresa Dair's Dairing top 2/3/Four.
As an overlay (also great with a black tank)
I really like Teresa Dair's design aesthetic. Textural pieces, often knitted with non-traditional threads, in non-traditional gauges, which can be worn in a multitude of ways. It's very similar to my favourite Japanese pattern designers and when made in shades of black, perfectly me ;)
And from the back in its shawl cardigan view:

Crafting friends really are the best.

I found the Dairing 2/3/Four kit in a Raveller's destash, mentioned on Instagram that I was contemplating dabbling in machine knitting to make it and received the most generous offer of a loan of a knitting machine. (thank you again x)
gratuitous dachshund shot. Yes, he 'helped'...
The hand knitters guild market gave me an opportunity to observe and meet some machine knitters, as well as to meet the talented Teresa Dair herself and get some hints on converting the pattern to being machine knit.
The machine knitters guild (MKAV) in the form of the lovely Christine encouraged and guided me through the skills required and I set to work.
For anyone who, like me, has never dabbled before, it's both as easy, and much more time consuming than I had imagined. The actual processing of each row is very quick. The set up, double e-wrap cast on, troubleshooting and eventual cast off was a steep learning curve.
My swatch - used to determine the amount of stitches to cast on, and how many rows to knit.
I underestimated my sleeve length.
The machine is not unlike my overlocker - adorable when behaving but a bugger to rethread and troubleshoot - I don't 'know' it intimately enough yet, so troubleshooting has been a lot of retracing of my steps and cursing.
After 187 rows, the 2nd sleeve was done! So was the cone of thread....
I then used my sewing machine to attach the 4 pieces (Four pieces is a direct reflection of it's name 2/3/Four. I also have Two/3/4 in the same yarn/threads).
I finished it and wasn't sure if I liked it.

I then had to unpick the left sleeve, you may see it's tight in the photo. This was painful.  It was necessary as my 'loose' cast off was still far too tight, exacerbated by the fact that I'd inserted it upside down. I couldn't move my left arm. The cuff on the left now stretches out horribly after 10min of wear, despite blocking ;( I might add a flared cuff extension to both arms, maybe...
new friends and old ;)
Updated newsflash: I do like it ;) It's missing in most of my DressmakersDo photographs as the venue was warm, and as lightweight as it is, the silk & stainless steel is warm as well. What struck me by surprise is how very soft the fabric is! I really was anticipating it being more sculptural, however it's a delightful soft top.
Project page on Ravelry is here

Photowall props for the Win!