Wednesday, May 14, 2014


I have been sewing - sometimes having a garment you can put on yourself in in days rather then weeks (or months, in some of my knitted project cases!)  is a nice thing.

I wear a lot of jersey, and bought two massive lengths of organic cotton jersey last summer  before I realised the lovely Alabama Chanin style clothes it was intended for really don't suit me; all those raw edges, the exposed stitching, the intricate applique, I made one top and it just looked awful on me. Which was a shame as I enjoyed the hand sewing, machine sewing is a bit daunting!

So, and in an attempt to cure me of machine sewing phobia , I went to the other extreme and chose the simple jersey dress pattern 'Coco' from Tilly and the Buttons. This has been made by SO many people, with so many modifications (you can find them on many blogs, and on its own Pinterest board),  it was easy to get an idea of who it would suit. The genius of this pattern is that it practically suits anyone!

Now, the machine sewing phobia - I have made things in the past, but I use guesswork and hope (and red wine)  to get me through. Even though I was probably the last generation of kids to do 'Home Ec' we didn't get to make clothes (in fact I made a clam shaped in cushion in pink satin and fun fur (!!)) so I have no idea what I'm doing. And here again Tilly steps in with her absolutely fantastic sew along tutorials for this pattern. Which is good when you're already feeling a bit scared of the knit fabric, and have heard tales of how hard it is to sew with.

This took me about three days of 'sewing time' i.e. not flat out, but over a morning or two and a few

First stick the pattern together (if you bought the digital version) this is strangely relaxing, and the cat helped. I measured myself and tried to work out what size I was - which is between two sizes  as it turns out, but again there's info on how to deal with that in the instructions.

Coco pattern with added Georgia
Then I cut it out. I used dressmakers carbon and the wheely thing to draw the pattern onto the fabric, very much easier than chalk!:

pieces of fabric
Started sewing. Look at this seam, it's SO NEAT. I was AMAZED:

Amazingly neat seaming
We're told when to press the seams out, when to trim them, when to use a zig zag or a straight stitch and so on. Also the great tip of rolled up towels for pressing the sleeve seams, which doubles as makeshift pin cushion:

Sheep voodoo
I finished and tried it on on Sunday night...and ..somehow I'd made a giant frumpy dress arghhhh!!! (big lesson - read the finished garment size measurements properly!) . But, I felt now I could cope with taking the whole thing apart up the sides, take in by about 2 cm each side, and shorten both length and sleeves. I decided against pockets on this occasion.

This was much better, and to celebrate here's a terrible hospital staff changing room selfie of me in my Coco:

I am going to make another one, probably in a patterned jersey this time, or with a different coloured yoke, with the pockets, maybe the top version...but first I have to look at ALL the fabric on the internet.

Thursday, May 08, 2014


My garden is growing, everything went in late (as usual, I am a fairweather gardener at heart, so most of my plants are tiny seedlings) but other things are coming up too, and the things that are coming up are Incredibly Green.

The fig tree, which sat in a pot for a few years looking sad, really appreciated its move to a dryish bed by a wall a couple of years ago. I put it here because Monty Don said it would be a good idea on Gardeners World, and if Monty says a thing will like it somewhere particular, I tend to believe him.


Strawberries from my Mum which have spent the winter in the greenhouse looking a little bit unwell, but have perked up no end since March.


There are some chives, which should have loads of  purple pom poms on the end by now but something is eating them (these have escaped, so far).


This year I'm growing some 'unusual' veg, this one is 'Minutina' or Bucks Horn Plantain, which is a salad crop, it's supposed to be very easy to grow, and it's certainly doing well so far, some of it is now in the ground, rather than this seed tray. It's so green!:

Bucks Horn Plantain. So called because it looks like antlers, but not yet

Here are  a gigantic amount of poppies, which started as two plants and have become many more. I just let them self seed and then move the new ones around the next year, basic lazy gardening, the kind I like best. I hope they'll flower, it's decided to become cold again just the past couple of days...


I also must present my First Potato of The Year. I grow them in left over compost bags, as I don't have that much vegetable plot space . I get childishly excited at the sight of the first spud plant every year, and here it is:

Hello Potato!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Et Ferdig Ting - DÃ¥rlige Jomfruer Pute

A Finished Thing - Foolish Virgins Pillow  (if that's not the correct translation to Norwegian up there then it's Google's fault).

My obsession with all things Scandinavian seems never to lessen, not only do they do a good crime drama, have peculiar cheese and lovely scenery, there's also of course a  fantastic knitting tradition.

Peculiar, yet oddly delicious
A few years ago I bought a book called 'Norweigian Handknits', which is not from Norway at all but output of  the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum  in Decorah, Iowa. I'm not at all disappointed by this, being able to imagine a museum full of  Garrison Keillor characters as well as all the lovely things (yes, I know his American Norwegians all live in Minnesota, but Iowa's the next state down. And if FARGO is anything to go by, Minnesota looks a bit dangerous).  The book is filled with knitting patterns inspired by textiles in the museum, I pretty much want to make them all !

I had my eye on the Foolish Virgins pillow for a while, in the book it's done in reds and greens, but the magic porridge pot of yarn overfloweth, so I decided to recolour  it in greens and blues (and purple):

Three hours of Excel colouring in
It was pretty tangly knitting, a number of rows had really long floats in them, and trying to twist the yarn to catch them in made it worse.

Oh what a tangled mess...
So knitting this side was a pretty slow job, but the end result well worth it, AND once it's finished you can suddenly see ALL the Virgins!

Here is is before blocking, see how wibbly wobbly it is? Colourwork looks so crap before it's blocked I often think it's gone Horribly Wrong:

Wibbly wobbly, curly wurly
 And after blocking, like a different item:

Flatter now...
Now, in the pattern it asks you  to make the back of the pillow out of fabric, so being a glutton for punishment I decided I wouldn't do that, I'd knit a back panel of my own design using some of the motifs from the front. I did some more colouring in, by hand this time:

Never too old for colouring in
And off I went. I managed somehow to knit it a repeat and a half too long (moral : you really shouldn't drink while knitting, especially while casting on). I also, despite having the same number of rows, had a piece that was about 2 centimeters narrower than the front. I know how to fix this, of course,  which is with a massive fudge of picking up and knitting a few more rows each side, while swearing and drinking Rioja:

Both these pieces were knit in the round with steeks, steeks don't really want to unravel when knit in sticky Shetland yarn, but these also included a fair bit of less sticky Rowan felted tweed and were looking a bit fragile.  I decided it was a bit risky to sew them together raw, so I did a 'steek sandwich' (Kate Davies very lovely way of neatening the ends up) on all four ends, before sewing them together:

An end, earlier.
I made a lining to hold the stuffing out of a piece of cotton, and put it in before stuffing the pillow with some raggedy fleece not really fit for spinning:

Innard, outard.

Fluffy Cloud

This way I can get it stuffed to optimum effect, and not strain the sewn up edge at all trying to get a ready stuffed pillowform inside the cover.

All sewn up, finished, very comfy too!:

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Zuzu's Petals

Let me say first of all, lace and me, we don't get on *that* well. However, Zuzu's Petals looked fairly straightforward and I really need to get through some of my stash of small amounts of lovely yarn. I have a lot of yarn which falls into this category, either given as gifts (and you know, I don't mind that AT ALL, yarn gifters!) or purchased by myself thinking a little bit won't hurt, but now I find myself with piles of scarf or hat sized amounts of beautiful yarn (and it's usually discontinued, so I can't add to it to make larger garments).

I cast on and finished this in a week, and then my mother stole it from me.

This is the colour it really is, round the neck of Mum

The yarn I used was shiny and cosy Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk Aran [discontinued] in a pale cyan/aqua shade. I intended to knit the  large yarn/fewer repeats version of this cowl, but after a while I realised there was no way it would fit over my head, so I did it in the large yarn with all the repeats intended for the 'smaller' yarn (I've lost you haven't I...?). This did the trick.

Once I had got over the odd cast on (totally made sense when I just went with it) found all the stitch markers I needed (a lot)  and my inability to count properly, it flew along, .

Mum encountered this first in its unblocked state and immediately had it round her neck claimed as her own. I insisted it would be even more lovely once blocked so it went on a pillow well away from The Black Cats:

Darkish, early morning photography, it's not this colour at all.

By the magic of blocking the pattern is revealed (the Yarn Harlot has been writing about blocking this week ):

I am so pleased with this that I may need to knit another, or something similar. I have some delicious coolree yarn I picked up at Knit and Stitch the other week, just the one skein...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A new obsession or three...

Obsession 1:
 I got a loom for Christmas - I knew I was getting it because the postman delivered it when I was in, rather than hiding it round the back of the fence as he is wont to do...but that is actually better than the traipse into the parcel office with no parking for customers, even those with heavy boxes to carry.

Anyway, it's an Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom (800mm) and just completely fantastic:

I have woven A Thing:

Practice Scarflet
It's not really long enough to be anything (maybe a wraplet/scarflet/??) but was a practice run. Yesterday night I warped the loom up with an approx 2m warp by using a chair back rather than the warping peg on our not very long table. I have no idea how far I walked while doing this but it felt like MILES.

I am going to cruise through my current stash at record speed if I keep this up [husband heaves sigh of relief, and thinks he will regain the underneath of the bed 'storage area'...he is so, so, wrong]. I wait to see if using the deconstructed (shiny) Guardian Saturday Magazine for keeping the rolled on warp threads at tension will work....

Obsession 2:

 This cardigan out of S2 E1 of 'The Bridge". I must have it. Which means I must work out how to make it OR go to Sweden and buy it. The latter is on the cards so we will see. I totally love The Bridge (and all Scandi- drama) though maybe not as much as I love 'Sherlock' - which had added Scandi Baddie in the last episode of course...

Obsession 3: 

How does one get tickets to see Mr. Cumberbatch in Hamlet???????

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Twelve Owls a Hooting...

My friend the patchworker put in a request for a cardigan version of Kate Davies 'Owlet' for her daughter, who has a great dislike of having anything put over her head (not uncommon in very small children). So I went on Ravelry and found a modification involving a steek, and that's what I decided to do.
I started on Friday 13th December,  possibly not an auspicious date to start, especially after a post-midnight KFC, four hours sleep and too much science based excitement the night before with which we celebrated the husband's birthday. And indeed, things did go a teeny bit awry...

OWLETS showing no sign of PTSD* (unlike me)*post traumatic steeking disorder
I realised when I started the steeking that I have been spoilt by Too Much Shetland yarn (which is, surely, velcro in disguise) resulting in a steeking ALMOST DISASTER on the slippery-slippery Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky I knit this in. It did not stay put with a crocheted steek, and of course, even as I crocheted the steek I knew this would be the case. I didn’t listen though, did I, yarn gods?
I used sweary words that should not be spoken over a small child's cardigan, drank some wine (a lot of wine, rather inadvertantly it turns out) and then came back to it a day later. I had to machine sew the steek, which didn't exactly look neat, but has the effect of stopping the entire garment from falling to pieces in my hands.
I hoped I could  hide the crappiness behind the zip, or in a facing of some kind. At this point it was 23rd December and I still thought (why?) that this child would have an Owlet for Christmas. She didn't though, because wrapping and last minute trips to the shops got in the way. Such is life, and I think she probably won't be any the wiser...
I didn't trust myself with Christmas Day knitting, what with the pre-9am Bellinis and then the wine and the G&Ts during Dr Who. So let's fast forward to 27th December.

I blanket stitched the steek, then I picked up and knit ribbing on the front:

I think I got away with it
I tried to put a zip in but it looked completely hideous. So replaced the zip with poppers, one at the top of the neck and one in line with the owl feet:

I sewed on 24 buttons, 6 during ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ none during ‘Bill Bailey, Qualmpeddler’ (I was laughing too much, ironically, during a sketch about rescuing a live owl  from the menu offerings of a Chinese restaurant in Gaung Dong Province) and the rest during Mark Gatiss’s BBC4 documentary about M.R. James - which may be why I imagine these owlets’ eyes follow me round the room…

'Hoot' said the owl...
She finally got her owlet on 30th December, which is really only five days later than intended. What a hoot!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Northmavine Hoody - Photography by Alex

Here it is, photography by Alex (aged 5)* hence the naive** quality of the pictures. It's really warm, this Shetland wool, which is lucky since it's just become freezing here. Maybe I should light that fire.

Lovely cardigan, lovely woodburner
From the side...
Hood up
 Especially warm with the hood up - not sure what I'm doing in this one!:

From the back, at a crazy angle. I must replace those curtains...:

*but he did OK I think.

**blurryness, lack of top of head