Offshore V-Neck

Here’s a jumper I knitted. The Offshore V-Neck by Bristol Ivy:

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I picked up a bag of lovely Debbie Bliss Donegal Tweed in a Brocki for pretty cheap, and started looking for a project. Since my last big knitting projects had been all about colourwork (Aftur and Bláithín), I wanted a bit of the other one: cables. I loved the Offshore jumper as soon as I saw it and dived straight in.

This was all nearly two years ago. The process was a bit of a slog due partly to my own indecision and mistakes, and partly to the confusingly-written pattern.
I started in the smallest size, and after I’d knitted the bottom ribbing and a fair chunk of the cable pattern I realised it was going to be too small, so I ripped it all back and started in the next size up. I hate the idea of knitting something and it being unwearable.
I also made a few mistakes in the increasing and decreasing along the way. In the past  would have left some of these in, thinking it added to the charm of a hand-made piece, but these days I’d rather put in a bit of extra time and do it properly (it’s one of the things about me that winds my boss up).

Here are some pictures of the jumper before the nitty-gritty:

So, the pattern problems. I’ve put these on my Ravelry as well, but for anyone who doesn’t have an account / can’t be bothered to click through / isn’t that interested in knitting pattern notes but will read them anyway if they’re there, here they are.

  • Other knitters have noted that the yoke, as written, is far too small and therefore the armholes and neckhole are very tight. As other knitters did, I added depth to the yoke by stopping a number of rows early, as if for two sizes above the one I was knitting, and spacing out the raglan decreases correspondingly.
  • Something that it would have been nice to mention in the pattern is that it is VERY IMPORTANT that the body and sleeves are both stopped on an odd-numbered row of the cable chart, bound off on an even-numbered row and then joined on an odd-numbered row. Otherwise you will find yourself trying to cable from the wrong side.
  • The “at the same time” section of the pattern is complicated, and even more so if you’re trying to re-write it to make the yoke deeper. I drew out a chart to help me keep track of the neckline decreases and raglan decreases as well as the stitch counts for front, back and sleeves. Here is my chart:
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  • It’s also VERY IMPORTANT that when you get to the end of the neckline shaping you have 25 stitches left for each sleeve so that the saddle section works.
  • I added an extra 5 rows at the end of the neck cable chart to increase the size of the neck hole. I should have added an even number, because I ended up with my cable row on the wrong side for the saddle. This was manageable, but annoying, and a silly mistake to make.
  • There are 2 major actual mistakes that I can remember in the pattern:
    One is on the cable A chart, there should be a purl stitch at the end of the chart (before you go back to stockinette stitch).
    The other is in the right saddle decrease instructions. They should read:
    Row 1: Work 24, p2tog, turn.
    Row 2: sl1, work 23, ssk, turn.
    Row 3: sl1, work 23, p3tog, turn.
    Row 4: sl1, work 23, sssk, turn.
  • The pattern says to pick up 67 stitches around the neck. I’d increased the size of the neckline so I picked up 83: 18 for the back, 13 along the vertical of each saddle, 19 down each side of the front and 1 at the centre front. I picked the stitches up in the 2×2 rib instead of just straight.

I don’t want to put anyone off knitting this pattern. It’s really lovely and I’ve been wearing it almost daily ever since I finished it. It just needs a bit more thinking through than other patterns.

On my version, the beautiful cable pattern gets a bit lost in the tweedy wool, so I’d probably recommend knitting it in something a bit simpler, but I also don’t turn down cheap, good quality wool from a second-hand shop, so I can’t complain.

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Herringbone Bomber

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I started planning this one right after finishing my first Papercut Rigel Bomber. Or at least when I’d worn it for a while and realised that the low neckline wasn’t going to cut it in colder weather. It’s still not up to the depths of the Swiss winter, but it’ll be fine in autumn, and I’ll be able to wear it when spring finally decides to put in an appearance too.

The fabric is a black and white herringbone-weave wool blend (blended with what? I don’t know) with a pink stripe running up alternately-pointing zigzags. Pink isn’t usually a colour I have much to do with, but it’s subtle enough not to offend my taste and it makes the whole jacket a bit less boring.

I lined the jacket using the same bagging-out method that I used on my first Rigel, and I also interlined it with some soft fabric that was the victim of an accidental dying incident involving some red jersey. It took me a while to work up the nerve to start because I’ve never inter- (or under-) lined before, and I knew from the start that the main fabric was going to fray a lot. To try and counter the fraying I used a rotary cutter to cut each pattern piece out really carefully (no impatient tugging at corners when lifting the pattern piece away) and laid them on a large board with a sheet of newspaper in between each pattern piece so I could pick one up without having to handle every other piece in the process. It worked pretty well and I didn’t have any problems with frayed edges.

The main change I made to the pattern was raising the neckline by 10cm which I did by just extending the centre front line upwards and re-drawing the neck curve on the main front pattern piece and then using this as a basis for re-drawing the front facing and lining pieces. I shortened the neckline ribbing by working out how much shorter I’d made the neckline and shortening the ribbing piece by the same amount (and then a bit more to make it hug the neck a bit more).

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I put a little hanging tab in there again, and a label, similar to last time – on a piece of lining fabric and the corduroy that the pocket linings are made from.

Another small modification I made is to make the pockets quite a bit larger so that I can get my whole hand in.
At primary school being seen with hands in pockets was a sure route to a telling-off, I remember one teacher threatening to sew up our pockets if we kept putting our hands in them. In reaction to this ever since I haven’t been able to stand pockets that you can’t get your hands into, like so many pockets in ready-to-wear women’s clothes. It’s just another reason to keep sewing my own.
The corduroy itself is a bit stiff in the pockets for the main fabric – the fabric at the front of the jacket hangs slightly oddly – but I’m hoping that they’ll soften with age and use.

I also wonder if I should have use slightly heavier-duty ribbing, but I could only find it in light grey and I preferred the contrast of the dark grey with the main fabric.

So, I’ve made peace with the jacket’s imperfections, and I’m really rather happy with the outcome. I did actually take it home with me at Christmas and the English climate allowed me to wear a couple of times. This was before I finished sewing up the lining but I made myself finish it when I got back. If I’d started wearing it properly without finishing the last little bits I would have ended up wearing it like that for the rest of my (or its) life!

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Reminiscences of Childhood Figures

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I grew up in the green and grey of the Berkshire countryside, in a brick cottage that stood on the edge of a medium-large estate. A stone’s throw away, in a ramshackle house far too large for the two of them, lived two staunch figures of my childhood: the two Shirleys. For as long as I could remember we’d been able to watch them, children’s eyes peering over the kitchen worktop, as they pottered around their garden, skinny legs protruding from otherwise plump figures. Delicately pickering their way between broken flowerpots and along treacherous mud paths in every weather, they were a doughty pair, we all agreed.

They became known to us as the Shirleys, and what their real names were I have long since forgotten, they disappeared into the mists of childhood myth, until they were just The Shirleys: the larger, ruddier Shirley Brown, and the more petite, paler Shirley Blue. We differentiated by the colour of the wisps around their ears – my first sighting, now I think of it, of a blue rinse.

The house was extremely rickety, really on its last legs (had it had any), the adjoining garden disordered and for quite a lot of the year, despite our best efforts, little more than a mud bath. We helped out, every couple of weeks, two or three of us popping in to help give the place a good scrub and a spick and a span, and to try and bring the garden, if not to fruitful beauty, at least to a state where a slip and a bruise or a break weren’t imminent. While we worked, they kept to a discreet distance, not liking to get under our feet as we hurtled around the place. We must have seemed like a number of methodical whirlwinds, leaving a trail of orderliness in our wakes: floors swept, furniture scrubbed, spiders ousted and their webs dislodged in a flurry of feathers. After we’d rendered the house shipshape with the broom and scrubbing brush, my father, ever handy with a hammer and a few bits of four-by-two, would fix up any bits of the crumbling lodge that had rotted through or given way since our last visit.
We did their shopping for them too, every three or four weeks, together with a big expedition to Sainsbury’s to re-stock our own house. After lugging our own carrier bags from Sierra to kitchen, my mother (with the help of myself, my sister or both of us, depending on the state of sisterly relations that week,) would haul the remaining hefty bags to the Shirleys, grumbling (if we’d spent too long in the supermarket) about the weight. When we weren’t so little any more, we took our turns carrying those bags, amazed that their small frames could consume such heavy food: so much heavier, it seemed, than what we ate. They lived on the sort of food, dried and preserved, pounds and pounds of it, that keeps for a long time, not needing to be bought fresh regularly, possibly out of consideration for their loyal couriers. We could stock them up at the beginning of the month knowing that they wouldn’t go hungry before we could face the supermarket again. They had some fresh greens that by some miracle managed to survive and thrive in the occasional quagmire that was their garden. That and what we fetched for them seemed to be the extent of their nourishment. In these enlightened days it seems like an outmoded way of living, but when I was little it was what I saw and what I knew. I loved filling the larder with tins and packets of rice, trying to work out how long we would be able to survive for, should we ever be besieged. I had read far too many adventure books.

Once upon a time, there had been more than just the two of them, Mummy told us. They had been part of a big group of refugees from one or other of the world’s more tempestuous turmoils. They had arrived one day, and never left. Settled in and become a fixture in the community, part of the neighbourhood furniture. One by one their number had dwindled, some succumbed quickly to illnesses that had come with them, others simply upped and left. There had been a large pale chap, our father said, who’d set himself up as the Man of the household. He was known as Snowby, on account of his so-pale-it-was-almost-white thatch. But as time went by, he hadn’t been able to handle the confined nature of the place. To us the house seemed huge, but he wasn’t used to living in such close quarters to so many others. He needed more varied company, and space to roam, Daddy told us, adding, conspiratorially, that he knew very well the feeling of being in a house with soley female company. At this point he usually caught a look from my mother and backed down, comically shame-faced, daring to wink at us when her back was turned. The last that had been heard or seen of Snowby, he was right over the other side of the estate, with a wild bunch of swarthy, showy chaps, amongst whom his shock of snowy hair stood out a mile. They lived wilder, less settled lives; whenever gunfire was heard, it came from that quarter.
There had been Abbie too. I have faint memories of her, of sitting on the grass outside their house with her clucking around me, ever attentive, keeping me out from under the grown-ups’ feet. I don’t know if she was related to Snowby – I have no memories of him, so I don’t know if they bore any resemblance to each other – but I imagined that they might be brother and sister, since she was so pale too, almost ghostly. And indeed she might well have been a ghost, because one day she simply wasn’t there any more, and my parents couldn’t tell us what had happened.
No-one could remember really how many of them there had been in the beginning. Names floated through the air of half-remembered occupants, names of those who had been in the original group, or perhaps they had come later, were they two separate people, or wasn’t that just a nickname for that old lady, what was her real name again? We could never pin their number down, disagreements arose, and then it would be decided that what was most important were the two who were there now. They were on their own, and it was up to us to look out for them.

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They arrived one evening, stepping daintily off the cold, water-logged streets into the light that spilled from our kitchen window. We had seen her before, a couple of times, just in passing as she went on her way from one place to the next, always, apparently, with somewhere to be. She’d elicited a few appraising glances, this young dark lady, there was no-one else quite like her in the neighbourhood. But that day she simply arrived, two children in tow, went boldly into the Shirleys’ house and stayed there. It must have been arranged before, we speculated, that would certainly account for how often we’d seen her around the place. And why not, there they were, the new family looking for a home, clearly in a tricky situation, and there was the perfect house, all but empty, waiting for younger voices and little feet to brighten up its caverns. And more company for the two old ladies, with enough room for each party to have its own space. “Another Shirley” said Daddy, and so in accordance with the Shirley colour scheme, she became Shirley Black.
For all the positives, it wasn’t a smooth start for any of them. There were raised voices, morning and evening; she wasn’t afraid of making herself heard. Neither, it turned out, were the older Shirleys. The presence of a newcomer breathed new life into their old bones, like a bracing wind, and they went about the place with an energy that we hadn’t seen before. We imagined them facing off across the living room, pale versus dark, like the last stages of a tense game of chess, only a few pieces left, and all vying for domination of the board. The little ones watching from the sidelines, like perfect carved ebony pieces.

From behind the kitchen blinds we watched as the children grew under the tough love of their mother and the watchful doting eyes of the two old Shirleys. The boy grew fast and strong, his sister careened along in his wake, slower, shakier. And then a penny dropped one day and hit the floor with an ear-battering clang, as the boy scampered happily after his mother, round and round the garden, and the girl followed so unsteadily, her little legs wobbling more than her elderly godmothers’. The doctor was called, he arrived and went away again, leaving the words “brain damage” echoing in all our heads. Unable to ask, unwilling to pry, we could only speculate in hushed tones about what had caused it.We knew little-to-nothing of her earliest life – she had been up and toddling when she first entered ours. So we did what we could: we rigged up a chair-support with wheels to allow her legs to propel her along, hoping that the muscles would strengthen, feeding off the strength of blind hope. And when that failed and spittle-and-dust opened our eyes to the cruelty of nature, we could only watch her getting weaker, and make sure that she was always comfortable, seated in a patch of sunlight on the soft, mossy lawn.

When she died, we buried her with a small ceremony in a shoebox at the bottom of our garden, with all the other pet chickens that had gone before her to the great chicken coop in the sky. Eventually she was joined by all three Shirleys, as well as her brother Beaky, who became a cockerel of great character and a family legend, and countless other banty friends that came afterwards.

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Unselfish Sewing – Wahid Waistcoat

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So, about that waistcoat then. I decided quite a while ago that The Boy deserved some of my sewing time and energy, but it’s much harder to find tempting sewing patterns for men than it is for women. I had my eye on the Ryuichiro Shimazak book “Les Chemises” for a while, but nowhere I looked has had it in stock over the six or so months that I’ve been looking. Then I stumbled across Make My Pattern, an unselfish sewing project if ever there was one. Joost de Cock, in an attempt to make sewing your own clothes easier for men has an expanding range of men’s clothing patterns on his website for free! Of course, in this case it’s not a man he’s giving a helping hand to, but I (and hopefully my boyfriend) are extremely grateful nonetheless.

I gave myself a deadline on this project (birthdays are only provisional deadlines after all): I wanted him to be able to wear the waistcoat to a wedding on the Friday exactly one week after his birthday. Well, he did wear it to the wedding. I sewed the buttons on in the car on the way to the church – there’s nothing like leaving it until the eleventh hour.

So – the pattern.

To get a pattern from Make My Pattern, you have to put in the measurements of the person that the garment is for and out comes a pattern specifically for those measurements. The list of measurements to fill in is very long, but there’s a helpful guide for exactly how to take each measurement, and the garment that resulted really was very fitted to The Boy.

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(Those darts look a bit more woman-shaped than man shaped… must work on my cutting and sewing accuracy!)

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Even when you’ve put in the measurements and hit download, the website gives you a whole host of further styling options such as length, where you want the V to fall, how many buttons you want, and fit. There are 5 different fit options ranging from Skinny to Loose. I went for the second slimmest fit (called, appropriately, Slim) and I’m glad I didn’t go skinnier – I really don’t think he’d have been able to do up the buttons if I’d gone for the skinniest. As it’s not part of a three-piece suit I didn’t intend it to be worn closed anyway, so the close buttoned-up fit isn’t a problem. But he wouldn’t get a three-course meal under those buttons!

The shell of the waistcoat is made of a slightly coarse linen-and-something mix that’s been sitting in my stash for a while, and I lined it with some fairly fluid viscose. I left it hanging for a week or so before finishing the lining and shell hem, to let the lining stretch out as much as it wanted. The lining is still bagging towards the bottom a little bit more than I would like, it’s not noticeable when it’s being worn, but you can see it in this picture:

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I had some trouble with the pocket construction. For a start they seem to be very low down on the waistcoat (although they don’t look so low-set on Joost’s example) and when I was sewing them together, the pocket lining and pocket bag didn’t match up length-wise at all. One part was some inches longer than the other. It was only the second time I’ve sewn welt pockets, so I might well have just completely misunderstood the instructions, and I just cut the longer part to match the shorter (and then cut both so that they weren’t hanging out of the waistcoat!) so it wasn’t a very major problem.

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Well I’m not too traumatised by my first encounter with sewing men’s clothes, I’m still determined to make a nice shirt (there’s a pattern for one on MMP, I just have to brace myself for it, and sew a few things for myself first), and I’m looking forward to seeing Make My Pattern’s development.
Now for some simple sewing for myself. If I can bear to turn on the iron in my new top-floor flat, in this Swiss summer heat!

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Trying to come to terms

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In a week where we have been left flabbergasted by selfishness on a huge scale, I finally got around to some unselfish sewing – making a man-garment. It was The Boy’s birthday and I’d promised myself (and him) that I’d finally step out of my comfort-zone of not-too-fitted woman’s clothes and make him something a bit bigger than a bow tie.

However, in the middle of the sewing process something momentous happened in the country of my birth that I found myself pressing with shaking hands and try to thread the sewing machine through a blur of tears. This is not a political blog and I try and keep my political leanings to one side here, so please excuse this slip and believe me when I say that this issue is of such importance to me that I can’t let pass without a short reflection:

Just over a week ago, many of my generation were left shocked and horrified at the thoughtlessness of an older generation who, despite having had the best that Britain had to offer – free university educations, low house prices, good pensions, early retirement – voted in their droves to deprive their children and grandchildren of the freedoms that a united Europe provide, that they themselves had taken full advantage of, such as the ability to work and holiday freely in other European countries such as Germany, France, Austria and Spain.

There are many that say that their leave vote was a protest vote, that they never really expected it to go through (and indeed we saw the leaders of the Leave campaign hurriedly retract their main promises barely 24 hours after the results came through). But I’m not sure if this excuses such a reckless gamble with the futures of younger generations when it was based on little more than nostalgia for Britain in a world that was vastly different to the one we now live in. An unwillingness to let go of a world that no longer exists and look to the future that could be built by current and future generations that still have so much to give.

As young adults we like to think that we’re independent from our parents and the adults that saw us through our formative years, and that we no longer need to look outside ourselves for the wisdom that life experience brings; but if the last week has taught me anything, it’s that I had felt secure in the knowledge that I could rely on the values and lessons that I learned from those adults: the people from whom I learned Christian values of love for others, generosity, unselfishness. Some of the very values that were lost in the bitter campaign of fear, hatred that they succumbed to.
That feeling of security has come crashing down around me; and as the country that I grew up loving seems to disappear under a swell of race-related hate crime and terrifying uncertainty I’m left in (thankfully) another country wondering if there’s anything left of what I left behind three and a bit years ago. It doesn’t feel like the country I grew up in. I don’t recognise it any more.

I saw an article in the Guardian today titled “Poll reveals young remain voters reduced to tears by Brexit result” and I wondered why anyone found this surprising. Quite aside from the loss of freedoms and rights for our futures that the EU had provided, the knowledge that the people you have always looked to for security were complicit in creating this world has been a terrible shock.
It’s taken me more than a week to bring myself to write this. For the first few days the horror of what my country had become kept crashing over me in waves, but it’s less raw now, and I’m able to be a bit more measured about it. I realise that it’s not the end of the world or even of the world as we know it. I don’t know what is going to happen (no-one does) but I know it won’t be Armageddon. I suspect that Britain will continue to be a country with more freedoms than many in this world, but it’s going to take me a while to get over the betrayal. Forgiveness will come, I hope, but it’s going to take some time.

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And Onwards

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As I have a little less than a week left in this little city, I thought I’d post a little collection of some of my favourite things. As much for my recollection as anything.

St Gallen is a long, thin city that sits in a valley which runs, eventually, down to Lake Bodensee. You can see Germany from the top of the hill that runs up from my flat to the nearest fresh milk.

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From almost anywhere in the city you can walk for 20 or so minutes and find yourself in the middle of fields.

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This means fantastic walks in almost any direction.

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At the top of the hills to the south are the Dreilinden lakes where you can swim for free (it’s a rare thing here) in the summer:

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It’s a city of many stairs leading from each level of the city to the next:

A city of stars at Christmastime:

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and where the Christmas tree arrives by Harry Potter helicopter each year:

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And bus- and tram-lines that extend a spider-web of electricity cables over most of the city.

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If you look closely in the top mirror, you can see (upside-down) a reflection of a favourite restaurant, Focacceria.

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And just in case you accidentally find yourself in St Gallen (let’s face it, it’s not exactly on the way to anywhere), here are a couple of places that I’ve enjoyed over the past three years.

Kaffeehaus, Linsebühlstrasse 77 is one of my favourite places. It’s a few minutes walk from the centre of the old town, but it’s conveniently on my way into (and out of) town. It doesn’t hustle, it doesn’t bustle, it’s the perfect place to go to to clear your head. The owner’s quirky style (including piano, trumpet candle-sticks and industrial right-there-in-the-café coffee bean roaster) is just my taste and the coffee is fantastic. I could sit there for hours (and have done), letting the world go by without my participation.

Another coffee shop for a nice but livelier atmosphere is Franz, on the same road but closer to the city, Linsebühlstrasse 35. They also have a garden that’s open in summer and gooooood cakes.

By far my favourite bar is La Buena Onda (Lämmlisbrunnenstrasse 51). Again, quirky style, and as it’s a little way out of the main city (but still conveniently close to my flat) it doesn’t get completely packed out. It seems to attract the non-Swiss locals as well, which makes for a nice atmosphere. And there’s a piano.


There are other places too of course, the Egyptian falafel man in the market place (seriously good) the Abbey is impressive, the library, museums et cetera, et cetera.
I know I’ve complained about you along the way, St Gallen, you might be at the wrong end of the country, you might be a bit on the small side for a city, but it’s been a good ride.

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Here are some things I sewed

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Since my sewing machine has already gone to await me in my new flat, and I am sewing machine-less for two weeks, my mental “oh I’d really like to sew a…” moments have increased (possibly in similar style to the way I now say “oh I wish I’d practised the piano more” to my mother now that I know she can’t enforce practice any more). And since the tailing off of my blogging hasn’t coincided with a tailing off of my sewing habit, I’ve built up a bit of a backlog which I will now try and rectify in one over-crowded blog post to assuage my sewing cravings.

So first up, something I made *ahem* before Christmas: a green Moss mini skirt from Grainline Studio. I had some fabric left over from making the curtains in the van we went to Italy in, it’s a green heavyish cotton something (fabric identification isn’t my strong suit) and I totally ripped off Poppykettle‘s military green with a red buttonhole (although her buttonhole is rather neater than mine).

(It’s hanging wonky because of how I’m standing, not the skirt. It’s boring hard trying to take half-decent photos showing your garment!)

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I like the construction of the pockets – the top layer of pocket has a bit of extra fabric in it to give you room to get your hands in (something which we were told off for at school. I remember a teacher threatening to sew up pockets that she found pupils’ hands in)! I bar-tacked the bottom of the pockets to be on the safe side, which you can just see above with red thread (to match the button hole.)

This was the first time I had done a) a fly zip, and b) flat-felled seams. I think they came off fairly well although I pressed (and flat-felled) the front seam in the wrong direction to work properly with the fly. Note to self: when flat-felling a front seam under a fly opening, sew seam first and press to the RIGHT hand side of the garment before pressing over the seam allowances to flat-fell. I managed to bodge it all together with a couple of bar tacks for security (in matching thread this time so no-one will notice). The flat-felled seams on the back yoke don’t match up perfectly which is something I’ll have to think harder about next time round.
Another thing that irritates me a bit (which could be down to my technique, although I’ve also noticed it on other bloggers’ Moss skirts) is that the waistband kicks up a bit on both sides where it meets at the centre front. I’ve cleverly managed to cover this up in the photo of the skirt on me above, but you can sort of see it on the one side in the flat shot below.

I lined the pockets and the waistband with some leftover red fabric to match the buttonhole and zip to make the skirt neat on the inside.

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Ok, still here?
Right. Next up is another pre-Christmas quickie which I made just before going home for the holiday. It’s the Back is Back top from Vanessa Pouzet, who doesn’t seem to be so well known in the non-French sewing blogosphere. But I have contacts in that realm who give me inside information. It’s also potentially intimidating to tackle a sewing pattern in French, but the internet is a wonderful place full of translation websites and the like, and it’s not a hugely complicated pattern.(French independent pattern companies are also a LOT cheaper than the English-language indie pattern companies. This is a slightly above-basic yoked sleeveless top, and the cost is 4 euros. #justsaying).

This particular pattern has a plunging v-back in two different depths. I think the deeper v looks really elegant in the pattern picture (much more classy evening-wear than the shallower more day-wear variation) but I wanted to be able to wear a bra under the top without it showing, so I cut the back v to stop just above the back of my bra. I used some black viscose crêpe for this, and for the yoke I used lace as similar to that on the website picture as I could find.
Due to my time constraint and my seriously depleted French (it used to be pretty good… until I started learning German) I didn’t read the instructions properly and botched the finish of the back. I think sewing the back seam after binding the neckline would have been more sensible, rather than automatically sewing the centre back seam as the very first step. Still, under low Christmas party lighting, who’s going to notice?

 

If you’re still here, well done. This turning out longer than I expected it to.

On the subject of French patterns, here’s another gem: it’s the Trop Top from Ivanne S. A seriously multi-variation pattern for much less money than other independent companies might charge. It has so many add-ons, collars, sleeves, cuffs, button back, peplums (pepla?) that the reams of French instructions are, again, a little intimidating for non-French speakers, but totally worth it if you’re willing to spend a little time on Google (other search engines are available).

I’ve only made two of the same version (jersey, with cuffs) so far, but I really like the  button-back, back v-neck version in broderie anglaise at the top of the website page.

Front of one top, back of another.

The last two things I want to put up are two things that I sewed in a panic when I realised I’d agreed to send my sewing machine on ahead of me two weeks in advance of me moving – I dunno, maybe in case something goes horribly wrong in the move and I can never use it again!

The first of the two are Ooh la leggings from Papercut, in some navy blue cotton jersey (I think it’s 100% so I’m not sure how well the recovery is going to hold up in the knee area. I like the seam lines down the front and back, they give the leggings a bit of je ne sais quoi over other leggings. I top-stitched all the seams, not just the ones that the pattern suggest top-stitching because, not having a serger, I want a bit more security than the zigzag stitching provides.

The one thing with these leggings is that the front comes up a lot higher than the back, I think next time I’ll try and cut the front piece a bit lower.


I also made a quick Tiny Pocket(less) Tank which I cut on the bias as an experiment to see how differently it hangs.

I think that’ll do for now.

Space Invader Rigel

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In all the kerfuffle of arranging moving (which isn’t even going to happen for another good month) I had a bit of a break from the sewing machine. But I went back to it with what I feel is a bit of a flourish (for me, anyway) this week as I tackled sewing an actual jacket, with lining and welt pockets (a first for both).

The pattern is the Rigel Bomber jacket from Papercut patterns which I bought in the Black Friday sale last year (oops). It’s the first time I’ve sewn anything from Papercut, and besides going all gooey about the pretty, recycled packaging (there’s plenty of that on other sewing blogs) I found the experience very nice. The instructions aren’t as hand-holdy as some companies I’ve sewn from (although much more than some others) and since I wanted to line the jacket (which isn’t included in the instructions) my method diverted from that given at a few points.

After consulting my poor mother and sister over several days, I narrowed my choice of fabric from 5 or so pieces to some cotton chambray that I bought some time ago with a pattern of what looks like space invaders. I love it. I had to go out specially to buy some plain navy viscose to line it – I don’t often buy boring plain fabric on impulse so I didn’t have anything suitable in my fabric stash. I’d already bought grey ribbing and a zip in readiness for the jacket. I used some leftover orange linen from my Chataigne shorts for the pocket bags:

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I also used it to back a label that I made up using some little labels I ordered before Easter. It’s not very square, but this isn’t my day job!

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I used this method to draft lining pieces for the jacket – it’s basically sleeve, back and front pieces minus the width of the facing, plus seam allowance, plus an extra 1/2″ on the bottom. Then I used Lladybird’s method for attaching the lining; (almost) without any hand-sewing and with all seams enclosed between the lining and the shell (a bagged lining.) I had a bit of a conundrum attaching the sleeve lining, which I had to unpick and re-do, but it’s explained well here (there’s a link to it in Lladybird’s post too)

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I shortened the neck ribbing by 1″ to try and stop it from standing away from my neck, but as you can see here it still does a little bit.

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I’m reasonably happy with my pattern matching overall, although it’s not completely perfect across the zip.

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Chickens and Sewing Boxes

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A few months ago I heard, by chance, about a job in a workshop that’s not two and a half hours (by train) from The Boy, so I decided to get in touch. A number of emails, a couple of visits and a week’s trial later and they offered me the job, which was rather exciting. And then the stress of finishing my long-term projects in my current job, finding a flat and dealing the Kafka-esque bureaucracy (seriously, Switzerland, Das Schloss is a sort of satire; not something to model your system on) hit me. So I was pretty glad to get back to Blighty for 10 days’ break in the real world.

Unfortunately a couple of weeks before I got back we lost all but two of our chickens to the fox. The two that survived were fairly traumatised but seemed to have bonded over the experience. 10 ex-battery hens were parachuted in to comfort them (and to continue the egg supply.) They were unbeLIEVEably scrawny, poor things (my sister described them as oven-ready, which just about nailed it) and looked rather forlorn compared to our remaining, glossy birds.

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The new feathers are coming through, but for now they look a bit like hedgehog spines.

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A feather-duster chicken.

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Ex-battery bottoms, and well-feathered ones.

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This one reminds me of Roadrunner.

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A brave hen investigating an equally brave cat.

I’m normally collared to do a bit of mending whenever I go home, because a) I’m often at a loose end without my own sewing projects and b) I’m still at the stage where I actually rather enjoy it. This time however my dad needed something stretchy mended, and since my mum’s ancient, hand-cranked sewing machine doesn’t do zig-zagging, so I retrieved my Granny’s machine from the loft, got out my other Grandma’s sewing box and used them both. (Actually after a promising start, when I actually came to use the zig-zag stitch I couldn’t get it to work properly. I think there’s a problem with a cam – the needle moves both up and down and side to side, but the two directions aren’t properly in sync with each other.)

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Cat approved.

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Between photographing chickens, trees and sheep, I also managed to get in a bouldering session with my sister, bake two not-entirely-successful batches of hot cross buns and see a number of friends including the little girl who has now thoroughly out-grown this, which I made for her last September:

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And indeed, this (which I hope she hasn’t yet outgrown:)

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Two nights before I left we caught the end of Storm Katie (or rather, the end Storm Katie caught us) and we came down in the morning to find a branch from one of the pine trees in the drive, a dent in the bonnet and the car’s badge on the floor. It’s been around since Lady Di hasn’t, so on its last hubcaps anyway.

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