Sunday, March 29, 2009

In search of silver linings

I was overwhelmed by the many kind comments and emails I received on my last post, reminded of how lucky I am to be a part of this wonderful community of warm, funny, friendly and talented women. Thank you so much.

We are adjusting to our new routine and I am looking for things to be grateful for each day, be it the company of my children or the beauty around me, sometimes in fabrics, yarns or the world outside my window.

I always knew that Sunday would be hard, Sundays have always been big in our little family but today a beautiful Spring sun shines and who can be gloomy in the Spring sunshine? We went for a walk, the dogs on leads as their ears turn deaf to my cries when outdoors, perhaps I should record The Technical Advisor's firm tones for such occasions!

There was much to enjoy outside, clear blue skies, a fresh dusting of snow sprinkled on mountain tops in the distance.

The air is rich with the scent of coconut from the freshly blooming gorse that covers our hillsides. The woods we walk through are brighter than usual as they have not yet developed their thick canopy of leaves and just look what we found in there.

Glorious camellias with their beautiful vibrant, frilly blooms, flourishing through human neglect.

We returned with our cheeks pink and our appetites primed. Not a perfect day, it could not be perfect without our missing piece but a good day, a day to be grateful for.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Upside down and inside out

Life has been something of a roller coaster around here for the last eight months or so, there have been all sorts of ups and downs. Much of this is stuff that it just doesn't feel right to post about on here, heavens some of it is stuff that it doesn't even feel right to say out loud.

Mostly I just roll with it, up and down, I take it as it comes and I thank my lucky stars that I have so many tools in my metaphorical bag to soothe and calm me. Knitting, baking, sewing, photographing and blogging - these are my tools, my kit bag of sanity. These are the things that stop me from chewing my nails and pulling my hair, the things that make me stop for a moment and centre myself.

One of our dips came just before Christmas when The Technical Advisor was made redundant and in the last few months that dip has been a difficult one to ride. In the past he has always found work so easily but things are very different now and as one month began to follow another we began to feel more and more pulled down into this dip. Thankfully he has now found another job and I am so happy and so very proud of him but things will still be hard for a while. This new job is over 300 miles away and for the next few months we must live apart and he will come home every two weeks.

For the last week my stomach has been flipping and churning, such a feeling of unsettledness, such a feeling of chaos. I packed him off today and now I must take some deep breaths and centre because the children need me to be calm and solid and I know that we can do this and will do this and come out the other side. I just wish that I knew where the other side will take us!

I am sewing with linen, surely the calmest of fabrics, gentle, neutral woven threads. Cutting, piecing, pining, sewing. Concentrating on this moment now, blinkering my thoughts, slowing down and breathing.

At least my angst is making me productive. There is something of a baby boom going on around here at the moment and I made these little reversible trousers for a boy to be. I am rather pleased with them but anxious on the sizing, I am seriously considering taking them into the nearest branch of Mothercare so that I can compare the sizes, I wonder if I will be thrown out? Perhaps I should take my camera and document the experience for the blog!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An outift for brunch, lunch, dinner, breakfast, or maybe just to go to the park in..

I have been dying to talk about this pattern which was completed back in January and appears as a review in the current issue of the rather good Sew Hip Magazine.

When I put my hand up to say that I would be happy to review sewing patterns for the magazine I had no idea what might come my way. As
you can imagine, I was over the moon when the Oliver & S Sunday Brunch outfit arrived, in fact, I may even have given a little whoop. Yes, I really do whoop over sewing patterns, knitting patterns have the same effect.

I bought the wool fabric from a local mill months and months ago. It was one of those impulse purchases and it has been waiting patiently in a drawer ever since. I instantly knew that it had found its destiny in this little jacket, not too bulky and with a good drape, lovely and soft to wear.
I used a brown needlecord for the skirt and trimmed the pockets with the wool fabric just to tie it all together.

The Oliver & S patterns are not so easily available in the UK but in case you were wondering if they are worth the trouble and expense of getting hold of then I suggest you worry not. This was a fantastic pattern to work with, every little detail has been thought of and the instructions are very well written and easy to follow. I learned a great deal working with this pattern and am very taken with the seam binding technique.

See, so pretty. I love these seams, I spend an alarming amount of time admiring these pretty seams, they make my heart beat faster (I know, I know, but I've told you before, I am easy to please, after all, I whoop over patterns!)

This pattern is definitely transferable to most seasons and I will probably make a more summery version soon. The jacket would work beautifully in linen, perhaps with a bright printed seam binding to match a printed skirt.
I see that Liesl has recently added some new patterns to the range and I am itching to get my hands on more of her designs. The little sailboat outfit looks like fantastic value, so versatile, so many combinations and unisex too.

If you have been dithering over purchasing an Oliver & S pattern then I urge you to dither no more, they are beautifully presented and printed on a heavier weight tissue paper, which I just cannot begin to tell you how much easier this is to work with compared to the traditional tissue paper used by the larger companies. If you take your time and follow the instructions carefully you will have a really professional looking garment and of course, if you trace your pattern pieces off first you will be able to use it over and over, making it an absolute bargain. I don't take much persuading do I? Hmmm, off to get my purse then....

Oh and in case you were wondering, yes there was whooping. Lots of whooping when I opened the magazine and saw my review and my photographs, then a great deal more whooping when Miss Tilly got home from school and saw her very own self right there in a real magazine.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Buttons and kindness

The little Sublime cardigan is finished. This was a pleasure to knit, the soya cotton is lovely and smooth, not too much of the splitting associated with cotton yarns and such beautiful drape.

I have no idea how it will wear or wash but it has already been to a party and survived to tell the tale.

I always knew which buttons would be adorning this knit.

I knew that these three little mother of pearl star buttons would be perfect. The buttons were sent to me by the lovely Anne, of We Three Create. Anne, is from my homeland of Northern Ireland and kindly sent me these buttons after I admired them on her blog. There is something very comforting about the way this community of blogging can connect us with like-minded people around the world. When I mentally visualise this I imagine a map of the world punctuated by little pictures of knitting needles and thimbles, very corny I know but it makes my heart swell with happiness to think of the women behind those needles, women around the world, women like me.

It is becoming harder to photograph this young lady, she has developed some very set ideas on poses..... I have to stand quietly by with the camera waiting and watching, hoping to catch her unaware.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Victorious, almost

I finally won the battle with that fabric.

Gorgeous Liberty Tana Lawn fabric. I don't believe my love affair with Liberty Prints will ever end. Not only do the patterns and colours make my heart beat faster but the handle of this fabric is so very good.

I have wanted to make this blouse ever since this book arrived, about a year ago. I have even had this fabric earmarked for it since last summer but typically it is almost a year later that I finally find myself getting around to it. In truth the collar scared me a little.

I was right to be scared. There was wrestling and swearing, there was a great deal of pinning, and re-pinning. There was even a little blood but I got there eventually.

I know that I frequently sing the praises of Japanese Sewing patterns, I am always saying how lovely and freeing it is to be working without understanding a word of instruction; but quite honestly, in this case, it would have been nice to have understood a perhaps a little of the direction.

It's done now though and I love it. I love that dastardly little collar and I love how girlish and slightly old-fashioned it looks. I think it will be perfect with rolled up jeans on a warm Spring day and now that I have the hang of it I think that Tilly needs more of these. Especially as I made this one in the size I had ear-marked for her back last year when I first considered making this blouse. So it will just about fit, for a few weeks, maybe a month or two at most.

Sigh, should have re-measured.

Kate, Lizzie? I think this one will be coming your way very soon.

Friday, March 06, 2009


Today I have been mostly wrestling. First of all with my hair. I wrestle daily with my hair so I am used to that but as I sat at the sewing machine to quickly finish a little blouse I had no idea just how fast the time would get past me.

I should have been wrestling with dusting and window cleaning but I just could not let this sewing get the better of me so I continued to wrestle. I fought with pins, they stabbed me back. I jostled with fabric, I argued with seams. I grew cross and petulant but I would not give up.

I took a break to knead bread, wrestling with dough is definitely more enjoyable than wrestling with pins. I returned to the sewing machine feeling positive and ready to win.

I am not victorious yet but the end is in sight.

It seems that someone around here could not wait for the bread to be photographed before sampling!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A little sewing

I have sewn quite a few of these little smock style tops over the last few years, they are a regular feature of Tilly's wardrobe, great with jeans and the simple shaping means that the sizing can be fairly ambiguous allowing them a rather longer life in the wardrobe than some of her clothes, a very welcome point given the amount she has grown in the last few months.

I have gradually adapted and re-drafted the original pattern until I have created this, my favourite version so far. In the past I have often made them open at the back with tie fastenings but I am thinking that this closed version may be even more useful.

I am delighted with the method of closure, I love how the little patch looks. I am undoubtedly very easily pleased.

This is made from a lovely, soft linen and I was happy with its plain looks, the contrasting bias seemed enough but what do I know? Tilly was quite certain it needed embellishment. The flower is made from one of a bunch of little corsages that I sewed up from oddments a few weeks ago, they have all been sitting waiting patiently for me to sew on brooch pins and now I have one less brooch pin to sew on. The stem and leaves grew easily from the placing of the flower head.

I am picturing this little smock with jeans and a white under-shirt although perhaps not for another few weeks as my hopes for Spring took a step backwards when the snow began to fall softly and thickly this morning.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Frustrations and therapy

I had to make some very frustrating telephone calls today. They were phone calls made to faceless companies, the sort of telephone calls that require you to listen to a great too many recorded and automated messages. Phone calls
that involve a great deal of button pressing. The sort of phone calls that mean your hackles are well and truly risen by the time you get to speak to an actual person, a living, breathing company representative. A company representative who can only respond to you as a set of tick boxes on a computer screen. A person who is unable to think beyond that set of criteria on their screen.

I really hate having to make these sort of phone calls, I have to keep calm and not lose my temper while talking and, to my mind, this practised, conscious calm voice has the unfortunate side affect of making me sound
as though I am talking to very small children, in short, it makes me sound rather patronising. I suspect that people who work in customer service or in call centres dislike being patronised. I really try not to do it but when you have to keep explaining yourself, slowly and carefully.....

When I finally put the phone down I found I was shaking a little, as though I had drunk way more caffeine than I should. I needed to calm down and a cup of coffee did not seem to be the way to go. So I reached for my needle and thread and began to slowly hand stitch. Each stitch soothed and calmed my troubled head. The rhythmic motion of inserting the needle and gently drawing the thread through the soft fabric, up and down. I begin to breath evenly again, I feel at ease. Perfect therapy.