Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Cape Disappointment

Last month, I mentioned I wanted to make a cape. It had to wait until I went to London to buy lining fabric, and then for me to actually find the time to sew it up, However, I managed to put some time aside to cut it out over the weekend and have done about 30 minutes a day the last couple of days.

And I hate it. I am so annoyed. >:(

The pattern I eventually chose was the Woodland Stroll cape by indie designer Liesl + Co.  That plaid one on the left is the company image by the way.  Here's my official pattern review. I haven't taken photos yet and I don't know if I can be bothered. You can read all my problems with it on my review, but the upshot is: it's too small (even though I fit perfectly in the size range on my real, for serious measurements); it's too short; the pattern has stupid non-standard seam allowances which drove me nuts the whole time.

On the plus side, my actual sewing was awesome. Except now I have a 90% finished cape (I haven't done the buttons on) that is well-sewed but that I hate. The fact that it's too small is less of a problem than it might be since my weight is still changing -- it might fit in the spring. Maybe if I stuff this in a cupboard for now I might get over my loathing?

(I have been sitting on this post and review for a few days because I had followed the kerfuffle on Debbie Cook's blog where the indie pattern creator LOST HER SHIT over some critical comments. I don't have any reason to think the pattern-creator of this pattern is going to be running around like a 2 year old having a tantrum like the other person, but still.)

Sunday, 24 November 2013

A birthday scarf

I know this blog seems to have descended into scarf knitting mania, but this one TRULY is my last scarf this year and we will shortly be returning to your regularly scheduled sewing posts. Honest! I have even just cut out my cape at last and will be posting about it soon, sewing time permitting.

Sirdar Taffeta in Portobello
Meanwhile, however, it was my birthday last week and my mum and dad came over from the UK to spend a couple of days with me. Since the baggage limits are pretty tight on RyanAir they mostly gave me money for my birthday, but they also brought me a couple of little gifts, the most relevant to this blog being a ruffler foot for my sewing machine and a scarf-sized hank of really interesting yarn called Taffeta by Sirdar in the "Portobello" colourway.  I haven't tried my ruffler foot yet, but I jumped right on casting on the scarf.

I'm not going to lie, I was initially utterly baffled by the instructions for how to make a scarf from the yarn that were printed inside the label, and even once I started knitting I had a highly sceptical O.o face going on the whole time.

However, after a half hour of knitting it all started to make sense, and I knit it on and off Friday and Saturday until I ran out of yarn, ending up with this:

I think it's really cute! It's got a slight feather boa look about it, and I love the colours and the fringe. Now I just need somewhere to wear it! (Although, this does make me think again about the amazing theoretical evening wear wardrobe currently still fabric that I aspire to own one day, and how well this scarf will fit into it.)

Monday, 18 November 2013

Goldhawk Road haul and two finished scarves

I was in London this weekend for a pre-birthday treat to myself (my actual birthday is this week). I stayed with my friend B, who also sews and was therefore willing to accompany me fabric shopping (although she didn't buy anything herself). Thus on Saturday we trekked across the pretty much the whole of London to go to Goldhawk Road for my second break from my fabric buying fast. When I moved to Ireland I decided I had TOO MUCH FABRIC and couldn't buy any more this year with two exceptions: the Dublin K&S show at the beginning of this month (where I bought just under 9m of fabric), and this trip to London, where I bought 14m. The only time I broke the rule was when I bought the sheets to use as fabric for my two Washi dresses in the summer, so I am actually really happy with my willpower! I went to London with a list of possible fabrics/colours/etc that would fit into the wardrobe I want to sew over the next 12 months, a budget and a very hard limit that whatever I bought had to fit into my little carry-on bag to come home to Dublin.

On my list were some requirements for lining fabrics for a variety of forthcoming garments. I bought 10.5m of various ridiculous colours and styles because I love a wild lining in an otherwise sober and sensible garment (the blue animal print, white blobby print, leopard print and blue tulip print are all lining fabrics). I also bought 2m of classic stripy shirting, and my absolute favourite purchase, 1.5m of gorgeous lace. The lace was a bit of a splurge, price-wise, and actually in the shop for some reason I thought it was stretch lace and it turned out not to be so that scuppered the original plan I had when I bought it. On the plus side, it's totally in my colour palette, I loooove it and I've already had way more ideas than I have fabric for what to do with it even though it's not stretch. Overall, I'm calling the fabric buying trip a win.

Meanwhile, I also made my friend B a tiny little gift of a scarf before I went. The yarn is Sirdar Firefly, and I bought it at the local yarn shop in Booterstown when I bought the yarn for my Gap-tastic cowl. It didn't photograph very well, unfortunately!

This is a really skinny, interesting yarn with two metallic and black threads connected by little squares in blues and greens. I picked up a single skein so, in order to make a scarf long enough to be useful to wear, I decided to knit it fairly narrow (20 stitches of garter stitch) and on my massive 15mm needles. (I tried on 9mm needles first but it wasn't quite what I wanted). It made for a very delicate looking, airy knit, but I think the scarf actually looks best sort of scrunched and twirled up together like a rope. I decided I wanted to make & gift this at the last minute and I am not 100% happy with the cast on row, but I didn't have time to fix it before I left.

To amuse myself in the boring parts of the travel experience (airports/the plane), I also took another little Aldi scarf kit with me. This red scarf is identical to the purple version I made at the start of October. It's really tremendously unexciting, but it was the perfect travelling knitting project because it required zero brain power. I really need to stop knitting scarves though now. Jumpers or death!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Made: Absolutely positively the last cowl I am making this year

Another really simple cowl -- same yarn (super-chunky from Aldi), same general "pattern" (moss stitch on gigantic 15mm needles) with only one difference that I made it slightly narrower (16 stitches wide rather than 20 stitches like the previous one) and therefore slightly longer. I'm not sure I love this length. Maybe the happy mean is the one stitch width I DIDN'T try of 18 stitches! Obviously it's also in a different colourway of grey/pink/purple. The only disappointing thing is that the previous one I made turned out in kind of an interesting pattern, whereas the variegation of this one just looks like regularly repeating blobs. However, I still like it! It took me basically just Sunday to knit this and again, I am really happy with the way this cheap and cheerful yarn worked out for me. I know a lot of people loathe super-chunky wool and I'm not likely to use a lot of it again, but it's been weirdly confidence boosting to knit with these two cheapie skeins from Aldi and I don't regret buy it.

That is absolutely, definitely the last cowl I am making though. They all go nicely with my winter coat, though, so I should now have enough to get me through the winter season!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Made: Another simple cowl

Super-chunky cowl in moss stitch

Weirdly, I feel like making this incredibly simple moss stitch cowl was a really great learning experience. There was no pattern to this at all, just 20 stitches of moss stitch until I almost ran out of yarn and then grafted together the short ends of the scarf to make it a cowl. I didn't make a single mistake in the whole thing, mainly because with knitting with such a huge super-chunky yarn it was almost impossible that you wouldn't see a mistake while you were knitting. I could really see the anatomy of the stitches, especially since I was knitting on huge 15mm straight needles. So, huge cowl to keep me warm, plus a great way to improve my knitting.

I'm probably not the biggest fan of these super chunky weight yarns, but I would recommend them to a learner trying to figure out what they are doing. The actual yarn was variegated so I had nothing to do with the colour changes - it's just one big 300g ball that I bought from Aldi for €8. I actually have another, more attractive ball the same except in grey/pink/purple which I might make up next. Unless I embark once more on the increasingly depressing purple jumper of doom.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Dublin Knitting & Stitching Show

Yesterday I toddled off to the RDS in Dublin to go to the Knitting and Stitching Show, which is on for the rest of the weekend. I've wanted to go to this event for a while, and I've been looking forward to going to the Dublin dates ever since I moved here at the start of June.

I got there late morning, just after 11am sometime, and toured the place spending my ill-gotten gains for about two and half hours. It made for a very expensive day given that it's €16 to even get in the door, but I enjoyed it nevertheless and the whole thing was a very pleasant break from my usual sense of geographical isolation from anybody else who does any kind of sewing. In fact, the whole experience was thoroughly enjoyable except for the impact on my bank balance, which was not at all good. D:

Despite the name of the event, there were actually a lot of other crafts represented in addition to knitting supplies, fabric sellers and haberdashers. There were some stalls for things like papercraft and jewellery making, which I didn't really explore (I am interested in jewellery making but I cannot possibly engage in another expensive and stash-creating hobby). There were also some sewing machine manufacturers/vendors in attendance as well. The final category of 'Other Stuff' was quite diverse and ran the usual gamut -- people selling finished goods from designer handmade to chintzy semi-mass-produced crafty stuff (wooden clocks and the like), several stalls full of Made-In-China handbags, plus the usual semi-mass produced stuff like candles, massage oils, and, most randomly of all, a booth for the Irish Farming Times, manned by two men, one of whom I heard asking the other whether he'd ever seen so many women, ever. (Knitting and stitching events? 99% women, plus the occasional (a) manstander, holding bags and waiting more or less patiently for his spouse to finish shopping; (b) elderly Irish gentleman buying knitting needles, one of whom I had a long conversation with as I bought the most ENORMOUS 15mm needles and he wanted to know what I was going to do with them. He was buying new needles to make cabled socks). Additionally, there were crafty people and artists around the edges of the event and a big quilting display, and there were also classes but none of them really appealed to me so I didn't even consider going to one.

I concentrated mainly on the fabric stalls with an occasional foray into notions and knitting. There was a LOT of quilting stuff in the fabrics and much less suitable for apparel than I would have liked, but from the conversations I struck up with total strangers, garment sewing is really not a big thing here. (Although I'm stupidly shy, in some circumstances I will strike up conversations with anyone, and fabric shopping is one of those times.) I did buy some nice fabrics, of which more anon, although nothing really inexpensive. The knitting stuff I found disappointing. Almost all the knitting stalls were just selling mass produced wool, the same stuff you can buy from Deramores. There were some really nice artisanal wools here and there, but they were all so expensive that I couldn't justify buying anything without a specific plan for the wool. I did buy one out-of-print pattern, which I kind of wish I hadn't bought, and the aforementioned enormous 15mm knitting needles.

My major purchases, were of course, fabric. I bought 8.8m of fabric in total. From left to right: 1m of slinky turquoise jersey; 1.3m of plain black suiting for a skirt; 2.5m of blue and white striped Irish linen; 1m of a blue/green print; 1m of turquoise and brown stretch cotton; and 2m of blue/green checked Irish linen.

The best buys on that list were so VERY much the two pieces of linen. They were from a little stall being run by two charming ladies from Fabric Affair, who are actually based in Northern Ireland. They sell Irish-made linen and tweed fabrics. The tweed looked lovely, although I didn't investigate it very thoroughly (not least because it was INSANELY expensive). However, the shirting fabrics were just gorgeous: mainly blues and greens, all traditional stripes and checks. If I had won the lottery as I hoped yesterday, after my appeal to the universe, I would have gone and bought up everything they had today! Alas, in the absence of instant millions I initially restricted myself to just the blue/green check. Then I got to the end of my tour of all the stalls and found I still had some money left, and since the blue and white stripe was calling out to me, I went back and got that.

The good thing is that all of this has been bought with a very specific purpose in mind. It won't get used immediately because I want my weight to be stable before I start sewing some things, but those linen pieces will be turned into shirts in the summer :D