2016 reflections

2016 reflections

I’m sitting here with coffee and sourdough toast, and it’s 6am on the first of January – I guess it’s time for reflections. After 2014’s year of massive change (having a third baby, moving across the world), I consider 2015 a year of consolidation. In 2015 Althea became much happier at school and has some lovely friends, Julian started at a new, friendly co-op preschool, and Tessa turned into a talking, walking toddler. My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is finally under control and stable, and I guess I’ve settled into, and accepted, my role as a stay at home parent of three children at this time.

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We managed to get our entire family able to bike ride together – Althea on her own bike with gears and the younger two in a trailer, which is really, really heavy to pull especially since it’s so hilly here, but for someone who used to love her daily cycle commute, being able to take a family Sunday morning bike ride is a big achievement.

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I managed to get into a great lap swimming routine, two evening a week, then it fell apart. I joined a great choir, then it fell apart. That’s ok. I’m starting with a new choir next week, and I’m going to try to set up a home yoga routine, starting with a 30 day yoga camp.

My sewing mojo just disappeared this year, but my knitting mojo fired, probably partly because of my awesome Sunday knitting group. Such an interesting group of women – I’m so lucky to have found them. I did manage to sew a few things including a pieced duvet cover for Althea’s birthday in September. Since Santa brought me an automatic buttonhole foot for Christmas it might actually get it’s button closures some time soon.

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This dress/skirt for Althea is my favorite piece of sewn clothing for the year.

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This skirt is one of the few useful bits of clothing I made for myself this year. I made a lot of duds.

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I made my first Customfit sweater this year which I am very, very happy with. It’s a bit short but is still a great fit improvement on every other sweater I’ve ever knit. I have almost finished my second Customfit, it’s an alpaca Foyle’s cardigan. I am so determined to have it finished while winter is still in full swing – it’s going to be warm.

A wearable sweater – huzzah!

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I’m pretty proud of this Welcome to the Flock set I made for Tessa.

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Baa-able hat for Julian

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The lace required a lot of concentration but I’m so proud of this alpaca Rosewater hat.

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We had three lots of Australian visitors in 2015, my mother-in-law in March, my dear friend in August and my sisters in December. This was just so wonderful and I’m so grateful that they all gave up so my of their time and money to cross the vast Pacific Ocean to see us.

The beautiful rose garden in Portland, Oregon, that I visited with my friend Kate.

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I also survived the three month summer school vacation which was, well, pretty challenging. Our house was very hot, with no cooling and we had quite a few nights when it was too hot to sleep. Three months of being the sole source of entertainment for three children was tough, even with a few activities (holiday programs/day camps) thrown in. I also eventually calmed down when taking taking my three little drowning hazards swimming in the lake. We only took a two day/one night weekend away to Mt Rainier. Next summer we’ll definitely try for more.

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I’m looking forward to 2016. We are taking out first trip back to Australia since we moved here, and it’s going to be timed for sunshine and Womadelaide! It’s going to be bittersweet seeing all our dear friends again and then leaving though. Hopefully summer will be less exhausting.  Julian is starting school in September and Althea is changing schools. I’m going to try Tessa out with a few hours of preschool. Hopefully full nights of sleep will materialize. I’m not going to make crafting goals, as that is too much pressure for me. Crafting fits around the other non-negoitatable things in my life. I make things as the mood takes me, catching the sparks of joy.

A baby in January, a toddler in December 2015.

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Wishing you all the very best in 2016. Another year, another adventure.

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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.

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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.

 

Grey denim skirt

So here’s the first thing I made on my new machine – a grey denim skirt using the OOP Kwik Sew 3362.

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This is the fourth time I’ve made this pattern. I made it in purple corduroy as one of my first sewing projects back in 2008 (photo here). I made a full length version in dark red ponte (pictured at the bottom of this post), and a I made a blue denim version that I later maternity-ized with a stretch waistband. I was still wearing that version a month ago, and I wore the red one recently too.

This time I graded the pattern to an XXL, added back waist darts, reshaped the side seams considerably and used an invisible zipper. I also had to shorten the skirt a fair bit which is pretty unusual for me as I’m 5’10”. I top stitched all the panel seams too.

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The invisible zipper foot on my new machine is quite different to what I’ve used before so I had quite a bit of trouble with it. I sewed it too close for the zipper to close and unpicked it several times. Now it’s too wide, but in the interest of gaining a wearable skirt sooner, I left it.

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You can see that the back waist facing is rolling up already which is a pain, and not something I’ve ever managed to solve.

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I think I’m done with this pattern. I wear the skirt all the time, but I’m not in love with the way the grading made the curved panels come so far down onto the thigh. I think I would have been better just to cut wider side seams so I could do the dart/shaping that I needed to.

Overall this is a very useful wardrobe basic that I was desperately in need of. Sewing time is incredibly precious and rare these days – this skirt took me weeks of 20 minutes here and there. However on I go. I have a floral maxi skirt in progress…. I think it’s destined to be worn with leggings the way the weathers going. Oh well!

 

Nighties for Althea – fairy and granny

I would be perfectly happy for my daughter to wear pyjamas as nightwear but unfortunately she was gifted a totally hideous 100% polyester Barbie (shudder) nightie. This became her favourite thing ever and had to actively confiscated to get it washed. So when it became too small I hid it (mean Mummy that I am) and the requests for more nighties started. Crazily enough I discovered that they are not easily available – I mean Target don’t sell any in her size! It’s onesies, pyjamas or nothing.

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I had been gifted this fairy printed interlock and matching ribbing by my aunt, who had intended it for a nightie for Althea but had never got around to making it. While heavily pregnant I thought this this might be a quick and easy project, scoured my Ottobre magazines for a suitable pattern and ta da! fairy nightie (much preferable to Barbie, and the fabric feels like it has at some cotton content).

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The pattern is Ottobre 3/2012 – 34 Jungle Stripes, a knit dress for older girls. I made the size 134 and added 3cm to the length. It is still very short, mid thigh, the photos don’t really show the true length. It’s also quite a snug fit through the shoulders, so although it fits she’s not going to get very much wear out of it, especially as the weather has cooled down so much now.

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I got Althea to help me trace and cut the pattern, after which she lost interest in this being a mummy-daughter project. The pattern has raglan sleeves, cute pleats at the front and back neck and elastic casings around the neckline and sleeves. I hemmed it with a multistep zigzag.

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Unfortunately my Ottobre collection did not contain a suitable winter nightie pattern, I was unable to find a downloadable pattern larger than a girls size 8, and so I had to purchase a big 4 pattern from Spotlight. Enter Simplicity 1569. Even though daggy granny nightwear is a Big 4 speciality there is not a lot of choice past a size 8 there either. The fabric was also from Spotlight and is of an abysmal quality. I felt terribly annoyed sewing with it knowing that it is not going to last long, but sadly Spotlight and Lincraft are the ONLY purveyors of printed flannelette in Australia. The smaller , better quality online and bricks and mortar stores don’t stock such a pedestrian stuff.  I felt sick when I discovered 1499 items listed for cotton flannel fabric at fabric.com. But I’m not paying for transPacific postage for printed flannelette!

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You can see the loose weave.

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So the nightie was pretty quick and easy to sew (good as I have a newborn) and Althea is super pleased with it. However….this pattern is everything I hate about big 4 patterns:

* the stupid fragile tissue paper. So annoying. Requires ironing flat. So hard to trace. I ended up cutting out her size because I really couldn’t be bothered which is such a waste of a multisize pattern that I will probably want to use again.

*Crazy amounts of wearing ease, and too much ease in the sleeve cap.

* Stupidly bad fit. I made the size 8 which is for a child 132cm tall, Althea is 135cm tall and it is FLOOR LENGTH. (The pattern envelope illustration is also misleading as the view C nightie is shown as mid calf length -it’s not).  The sleeves and yoke seem to be right for her size though. I was planning to make the 10 but once I saw the pattern pieces I sized down.

*Terrible instructions – I mean who would pin, baste and then sew, and then NOT finish the seam.  Needless to say I sewed the sleeves in flat, not in the round as instructed, I used 12mm bias binding to finish the neckline not 25mm, and closed the neckline with a press stud not a button and loop.

Anyway Althea’s very happy and I might even sew her another winter nightie soon. And I feel better having ranted at the interwebs!

Owl dress for Althea

I’m so happy to have snatched the time to post this – Tessa is actually asleep in the bassinet!!! not on me!! Actually this dress for Althea was sewed entirely in Tessa’s second week of life. Then on day 12 she woke up and, well, I’ve had almost no time to sew since then.

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The pattern is Farbemix Muriel in size 134/140. It is a smidge big as Althea is about 134cm, but I am happy with that as it should last her a while.

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I have made this dress for her many times before, it is one of my favourite patterns, and seems to work well from toddlers to older girls. I used bias tape to finish the neckline and arm holes, and did a centred back zip. The fabric was denim from the stash, left over from a skirt I made myself I think. Althea’s getting so tall that it’s hard to get dresses out of remnants for her any more.

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The owl appliqué is an iron-on transfer from Spotlight, and we chose coordinating ricrac and ribbon. I am quite pleased with the effect, and am super glad that my big six year old is not past such decorative styles yet!

 

Kaffe Fassett summer dress

My daughter Althea was given a gorgeous dress for her sixth birth last September. She absolutely loved it. It was however a very small size 9 (I had worded up the gift givers on size) and proceeded to shrink several more sizes in the wash. She squeezed herself into it for quite a while but I eventually convinced her to gift it to her petite five year old friend, whose Mum and I agreed that the dress was about a size 6. In compensation for having lost her favourite dress I decided to make her a new summer dress.

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I was after a very simple pattern (I’m pretty tired and I wanted to give it to her soon) and this Ottobre dress 3/2013-16 Flower Hexagon (sizes 92-146) fit the bill. I made size 134 – Althea is currently 133cm tall and you can see it is a loose and roomy style. I lengthened the skirt by 1cm as I thought the modelled picture looked a bit short and omitted the pockets.

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The back ribbon tie is a nice detail and the binding for the back slit was the only slightly time consuming detail. I like that this dress has short sleeves. There are not many older girls dress styles that are not strappy and it’s so annoying to have to ask Althea to wear a Tshirt under her dress on a hot day  for sunsmart compliance (bare shoulders is sunburn waiting to happen).

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The fabric was from the box of fabric that I ordered from fabric.com to celebrate finishing my PhD thesis and to be frank I was always disappointed with it. It is a rayon even-weave woven with a Kaffe Fassett design. The colours are more fluorescent that I expected and it has a real 80s vibe that I hate. I was never able to use this fabric for myself but Althea doesn’t seem to mind it. (If you happen to like it fabric.com has that design printed on cotton in stock – it’s called Millefiore Blue).

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In fact, this whole dress is not my favourite make really. The drop waisted and style and the bright print look really 80s, and not in a good way (well IMHO there is no good way). Anyway, the dress is cool for the current horrifically hot weather and fits well. The fabric is even not too bad at a distance 😉  Althea likes it so I guess that’s a win!

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