Rayon challis and shirring

Rayon challis and shirring

So I’m a bit obsessed with both rayon challis and shirring at the moment. Rayon challis is just the most lovely, draped summer fabric, and I’m beginning to think that shirring might be the answer to my woven bodice and stiff waistband issues. I started with experimenting with shirring and ended up making Tessa a pattern-free shirred dress!

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I modelled the size of a RTW dress that fit her and added some straps – super easy and I think it turned out pretty cute.

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She’s really running, climbing and exploring so dresses are a bit more practical now she’s off her knees nearly all of the time. I preached the fabric but the dress has shrunk up lengthwise since I made it – rayon challis does have a habit of doing this.

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I’ve got more challis in the works – I think all the girls will be wearing lots of it this summer.

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Gathered Skirt for Althea

Gathered Skirt for Althea

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Althea recently had a day off school due to a teachers strike, which conveniently fell on Julian’s preschool day. She desperately wanted to do something fun (you know, without her pesky brother) and to sew something with me. This skirt is what I came up with, for us to make ‘together’ during Tessa’s naps.

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I might add that Althea didn’t actually sew any of the skirt (“but I might wreck it”), and contented herself with sewing some straight lines on a scrap of fabric and lying under the cutting table reading a book.

The pattern is Gathered Skirt for all ages, a free pattern on the Purl Bee blog. The best feature of this pattern is the large side pockets. I was inspired by Soulemama’s version

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The worst feature is that if I wanted to print it out it would take 27 pages (!), so I had to constantly scrawl up and down on my phone, which was pretty annoying. Weirdly, instead of letting the elasticated waistband create the gathers, the gathers are created by pulling two threads and sewing the resulting gathers onto the waistband. This skirt is actually more involved than it looks.

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My waistband casing turned out a bit narrow for the elastic and I had a hard time getting the elastic in and fabric distributed around. Next time I’d make the waistband a smidgen wider. This pattern also convinced me to buy a quilting ruler.

I made the size 10-11 years, and the elastic to fit her waist which is a bit bigger than the pattern was drafted for (usually she fits measurement charts quite well). The fabric is a printed rayon challis left over from a Gabriola maxi skirt for myself at has been sitting dejectedly around my sewing space, nearly finished, for some time.

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It’s nicely twirly, the pockets are very practical for girls that like to pick up interesting things, and very comfortable. It drapes nicely in the rayon challis – it’s less pouffy than the pattern photo. Overall, a successful project, even though I didn’t quite get it finished on our designated girls day. It should get on to finishing my maxi skirt!

Knitting – Customfit pullover and handspun shawl

My sewing mojo has fled but my enthusiasm for knitting is high. Back in February I was lucky enough to attend part of the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat and I attended two three-hour workshops, one of which was by Amy Herzog. Amy is a very talented knitwear designer with a great passion for helping women make sweaters that both fit and flatter.Her workshop was an introduction to both the fitting and flattering parts and I found her very down-to-earth, amusing, knowledgable and passionate. She has created a fabulous piece of software called Customfit that allows you to input your body measurements and your swatched gauge and it creates a knitting pattern customized to you.

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The kind of shaping darts that Customfit uses – this is the back waist.

I came away determined to knit myself a fabulous Customfit sweater! My husband took the measurements, as did a few of the women in my fabulous knitting group. I also took quite a few peoples measurements which was a great privilege – it’s quite confronting to be faced with a measuring tape in a coffee shop. I trawled Ravelry customfit projects extensively and choose a deep V neck pullover in stockinette, trimmed with garter stitch bands. The yarn I’m using is Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. In my size on 3.5mm needles it’s taking a while but I am determined to have a wearable sweater soon!

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Front and back are completed.

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The yarn is quite heathered.

Finding all the endless stockinette quite boring (but TVable which is good) – I was resisting starting another project as I want to wear the sweater before the summer. However – I have relented. I was thinking of making my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher a hand knit shawl or scarf as an end of year gift. I have this lovely ball of fine wool and silk handspan that I bought from the Handweavers & Spinners Guild of Victoria stall at the Collingwood Childrens Farm Farmers Market some time ago.

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The first pattern I tried was Unleaving by Lee Juvan.  This simple looking scarf has a lace pattern with pattern stiches every row (I’ve only done every other row before) which made it very slow and difficult. By far the most annoying part was that the same symbol means different things depending on whether you were on a right or a wrong side row – and since its garter based both sides look pretty much the same.  I pulled it out before I finished the full 16 row repeat of the pattern.

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So now I’m making Antarktis by Janina Kallio. My mother in law just completed the most gorgeous version of this pattern in Tosh sock while she was visiting – and the finished object was absolutely divine.

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So now I’m making one. I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to give this one away. The yarn is working up gorgeously and this kind of fine handspun is really one of a kind and irreplaceable. I might just have to keep it and find another gift.

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Three A-line skirts

A-line skirts are a basic everyday wear garment for me. I purchased You Sew Girl! (Nicole Mallalieu)’s A-line skirt pattern when I was pregnant with Tessa, planning to make it up postpartum. This pattern has a very funky inner north Melbourne vibe to me. It’s absolutely the kind of thing you’d see people wearing walking down Sydney Rd in Brunswick, or you could pick up at the Ceres Market, or at Inspirasia in Fitzroy.

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I also find yoked skirts very comfortable to wear. I tried to fit a very similar New Look pattern back in the day, and gave up the face of massive adjustments. So desperate for clothes, I decided to fit this basic skirt and then make a few iterations.

Version 1

I had to grade up the pattern, then I made it up in this olive green cotton corduroy that I think was a short piece I purchased years ago from GJs in Brunswick. I don’t love the colour but it actually goes with more of my clothes than I expected. Fitting changes involved running in the side seams above the hip and shortening the front hem quite dramatically.

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The instructions and constructions methods advised in this pattern are really excellent. My only issues is that the way she has you trim the yoke seams make letting the side seams out at the (later) fitting stage impossible in the yoke area. The invisible zipper method gives you a beautiful clean finished result with no hand sewing, but the way you sew up and over the end of the zipper creates a 2cm seam that is bigger than the rest of the back seam and so takes all the stress of movement. Given that it’s a high stress area (you know the bit you sit on) it actually pulled a hole in  my fabric – so I wouldn’t recommend that instruction step either.

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Version 2

I had a lovely piece of Nicola Cerini fabric that I bought in the sale when she moved out of her Abbortford Convent workshop. It is a stamen design, and the fabric is upholstery weight. (I actually have a Nicola Cerini handbag that I use everyday – I love her botanically inspired designs). The pink is a bit of a departure for me but I thought I’d give it a try. The denim is a really lovely quality stretch denim that I bought at Tessuti – what I used here was a leftover piece from some pants I had made.

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I used an invisible zipper but I have a lot of trouble doing it up over the yoke seam – really the fabric is too heavy for an invisible zip.

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Version 3

I decided to make a shorter version, to be worn with leggings, and add some front pockets as somewhere to keep my phone (that is not my bra) is a bit of an issue for me. I drafted the pockets myself – they are pretty shallow and designed to be just a little bit bigger than my phone.

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The beautiful crochet scarf I’m wearing was a gift from the talented designer – Sara of Illuminate Crochet. Isn’t it gorgeous! It’s called the Fresh Air Scarf and you can buy it here. Yes, learning to crochet is on my list of things to do ;)

The fabric of the skirt is a very heavy non-stretch denim that was a gift. I imagine that it will last forever, but sadly does look better ironed, so I might just have to do that! I also put in a a simple centered zipper, plus added pockets.

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I actually had to let out the side seams of this skirt below the yoke as it turned out too tight, even though it was theoretically exactly the same size as the last version. The fabric obviously make a big difference to fit.

I’m done with A-line skirts for now but I suspect that some light cotton ones for summer might be a good idea. I would highly recommend this pattern – it would actually be a great first pattern for a beginner, and it is a lovely shape and comfortable fit.

 

Completed cardigan!

Completed cardigan!

I finally finished a hand knit cardigan for myself. Here it is!

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This garment started with the yarn. I visited the Bendigo Sheep Show in July 2012 with my friend Sarah, her Mum and Julian who was at that time 12 months old. We had a great day, watched some sheep shearing, admired the sheep and ogled lots and lots of beautiful yarn and fibre. There was a stand selling 1kg lots of seconds 100% merino for $25. It was branded as “100% Merino” but I discovered after the show on Ravelry that it was Pear Tree Yarns who were having production problems selling off all their stock. Sadly they have now gone out of business. This was their 8ply (dk) yarn and the other lot I bought is a mauve 10ply (worsted).

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I cast on in October 2012, gave it a rest over summer, and was trying to finish it to wear the Australian winter of 2013. The body was finished when my husband and I had a winter long weekend getaway where I was determined to finish it. Unfortunately I spent most of that weekend in the bathroom vomiting or lying queasily on the couch (morning sickness with Tessa). What with a difficult pregnancy, newborn and international move, the cardigan got put down for a long time. But now it’s done, at last.

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The pattern is Something Silver by Veera Valimaki.  It’s not very well suited to my body shape, and is not a pattern that I would choose now, to be frank. I chose it because of this beautiful version by Ganeshas on Ravelry. I made the size 42 (in July 2012 my bust was about 42″) added buttons al the way down the front, added full length sleeves and added a few more stitches to the upper arms. Given that my bust circumference is now 3-3.5″ larger really I am lucky that it fits at all.

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You can see that buttoned up it is really not the best look for me. Also the armhole depth is not enough and those raglan seams are tight and uncomfortable. This pulls the wide neckline even wider to the point where the whole cardigan slips sideways off my shoulders (I pulled it up for the photos but they slip off as I move). The sleeves are blissfully long enough – 19″ from underarm to cuff seems to be a good length for me – thank goodness for customization!

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The wooden buttons are form Buttonmania, purchased when I was convinced this cardi was almost done! It is the most delightful button shop I’ve ever visited and worth having to collapse the pram and take the baby and all your stuff out to ride the very antiquated lift in the Nicholas Building.

Final result – this cardigan is pretty hot to wear despite the lace, meaning I’m not sure that I’d want to make a garment out of the mauve 10ply, so I’m a bit unsure what to do with that. I do really like the pattern design, the pockets and wide garter bands are lovely and I like the overall diagonal lace pattern. I’m going to wear the cardigan because I’m determined to, not because it’s the most beautiful garment to wear. The tight underarms are pretty annoying. But it’s done! Onward and upward (and CustomFit sweaters from now on…..)

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Malibu skipping skirt

Malibu skipping skirt

This is my favorite make for a long time – I am insanely pleased with it. I have loved this pattern, Malibu skipping skirt by Studio Tantrum, ever since it was released. Althea has only recently become old enough for it, as it is an older girls style. Here is the blog post that Nancy Langdon, the designer, wrote when she released this pattern two years ago, with lots of beautiful versions of the design.   She describes it as an eight-gore wasp waist suspender skirt reminiscent of the 1950s.

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The pattern is available in sizes 98/104 to 170/176, so right up to teen sizes. I made up the size 146/152 from my 140cm seven year old. This would have looked more like the pattern photo had I made the size down, but given how fast she grows I just couldn’t bring myself to make a size she would potentially be out of in a few months.

The back is fitted with darts, which can be left unsewn for a stockier figure. Because I chose the larger size I actually had to make the darts even deeper, giving the back a corseted look.

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The fabric is a Kaufman Newcastle Indigo denim from fabric.com. It is 7oz per square yard and is actually a linen/cotton blend. The fabric has beautiful drape, perfect for a denim dress. It also crinkles a lot as you can see in these unearned photos. Here it is ironed, but life is too short to iron this for one day of school wear (yes she wears cat ears to school!).

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I am planning to order more of this fabric to make a skirt for myself! I feel a bit sad that Althea got this piece.

This pattern has so many gorgeous details, curved panels the form Vs and centre front and centre back, stand-out lined pockets, lots of topstitching, belt loops, four slot button holes in the back seams, fitting darts, centre back zip, and I added a faced hem using a contrast colour bias binding.

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If you follow the excellent instructions you would get a lovely finish using a facing at the upper edge. Knowing that this skirt would go straight from dryer to body without passing by an iron I could not bring myself to use a facing, I really hate them and knew it would stick up if unironed. Instead I lined/interlined the upper torso pieces.

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I sewed the lining to the top edge, turned and pressed, and then treated it like one piece. This worked fine and means that I can let the darts out easily as she grows. It does mean that the finish along the top edge is less than perfect, but still looks better than a rolling facing in my opinion.

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This skirt has a lot of pieces, it is very involved for a childs skirt! The instructions tell you to label the pieces well and I agree this is essential. Here are the eight gores constructed.

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Althea loves this skirt and so do I! It was such a fun sew. It is great to tree climbing and the playground.

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And twirling of course….

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Annis lace shawlette

Annis lace shawlette

When I first joined Ravelry, I could not for the life of me figure out why so many knitters were knitting lace shawls. I mean, who wears a shawl in this day and age? I have always loved knitted lacy textures, like cardigans with lace and eyelet patterns, but I just couldn’t get with the shawls. Fast forward 4.5 years and I’ve just knitted my first lace shawl…..

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It all started when a lovely friend Toni from my knitting group decided to destash her lace weight yarn, and gifted me three gorgeous skeins. Each is a high quality, hand dyed art yarn in shades of blue. This one is Malabrigo Lace which is 100% baby Merino wool, spun in a single ply. Being pure wool it is quite grippy, which is why I chose it, one other skein has quite a sheen, indicating a decent amount of silk, and I decided it would be better to use a less slippery yarn for my first lace project.

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The shade is 99 Stone Blue which I just love. I have always loved blue-grey gunmetal shades. As a child, my favorite pencil in my precious box of Derwent pencils was labelled Gunmetal. My wedding dress was this colour also. The hand dyed colour shading in the stockinette section keeps it interesting without being too distracting for the patterned part.

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These are my first nupps! (Nupp rhymes with soup).  150 of them. I used the crochet hook method shown in this youtube tutorial. It made it really easy and I could work them in one row, keeping the nice easy purl rows as just purls. I probably could have used a bigger crochet hook, but I only have one (I use it for picking up dropped stitches) so I just used that. I quite like the look of the nupps, which is interesting since I hate the look of bobbles.

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The pattern is Annis, a free pattern published in Knitty back in 2010, so there’s only like 7191 versions of it on Rav…. I actually started looking through Ravelry projects made with this yarn and colourway and found a version of this shawl that I like so much that I made my own version. Thanks wackadoodling! Sadly my points along the cast on edge were too tight to get the awesome super long points that the pattern author (Susanna IC) intended, and that my inspiration project actually achieved.  This was despite my using a larger needle and a great deal of effort to cast on loosely – but obviously not loosely enough.

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Still, it’s really pretty, and light and squishy. I’m not sure how much I’ll wear it in the long term. I think this project marks a shift from being a very product driven knitter, to process becoming more important as well. I really enjoyed knitting this and it didn’t matter as much to me as much as it usually does whether or not I got a useful finished object out it. I actually cast it on on Christmas Day and finished it in exactly a month later, which is super fast for me. At first I found knitting with laceweight rather like knitting with dental floss, I just wasn’t enjoying  the feel of the very thin yarn on my hands, I was missing that nice fibre feeling as I knit. By the end though I came to really enjoy it and was petting the project as it progressed.

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I’ll definitely wear it to Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat, which I am going to next weekend. I’m very excited, I’m taking classes with both Amy Herzog and the Yarn Harlot! Wearing rather useless lace shawl will mark me outs a Real KnitterTM don’t you think?