Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The meaning of lace

Birch is complete, one month from its beginning and the timing seems right. Lace was the perfect thing to knit pre-move. My tired, stressed brain needed something that would absorb it completely, wiping out the other worries of the day. Some evenings I only managed a row and on other evenings I somehow worked through a whole repeat. The beauty of a shawl like Birch is its ever-decreasing nature, as I worked by way through the repeats, decreasing 10 stitches each time, it seemed that my load got a little lighter.

It did not even occur to me to start counting stitches and thinking about the end until a week or so ago, I suppose about the same time that I started to feel a bit more moved in and settled.

Now the lace envelopes me, light and warm.

And I love it. It came out just as I hoped and I will remember it as the "moving shawl", the piece of knitting that helped to keep me anchored in a sea of chaos.

I cannot properly express the magic of knitting lace. For me, it's a little like right back in the early days of learning to knit, the time when the frustrating, haphazard throwing of yarn around needles suddenly began to make sense and proper stitches began to form. As my confidence grew I felt the bug take hold; slowly, rhythmically working my way along each row, unable to hold a proper conversation or watch television, completely transfixed by the fabric forming beneath my needles. Well, lace is a little like that. I cannot do other things whilst knitting lace. This is not mindless television knitting, not the sort of thing I can churn out almost with my eyes closed, perhaps checking a pattern or row count from time to time but not expecting any surprises. Lace is special, it requires all of me and for that reason it gives so much more too. Even when the pattern is easily memorized I cannot race ahead, I must stay in the moment for those yarn overs in slippery thread-like yarn are only just held upon comparitively heavy needles; it only takes a momentary lack of concentration to lose one of those precarious stitches and throw the whole thing off.

The strange thing is that I do not even mind when I do find myself tinking back, for there is no point in getting cross. I always knew lace was more to do with the process, I always knew that it wouldn't be quick.

And at the end you get this. Something light as a feather, how appropriate, it's as though this piece of knitting took my worries and spun them out until they felt like nothing, no burden at all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Something from the weekend

Of course we all know that you are never too grown up to appreciate a twirly skirt and whilst simple twirl skirts like that of the last post may be rather unsuitable for those of us with a little more around our middle, ahem, there is a skirt pattern with marvellous twirlability and a flattering waistline.

I present to you the Yard-Sale Wrap Skirt from the excellentWeekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitchingby Heather Ross.

Should you make this skirt please be sure to check out the errata page on Heather's blog. I missed this, meaning that my skirt could do with an extra panel and necessitates the careful placing of a pin to avoid showing more of myself than the public would wish to have inflicted upon it.

I really like this skirt, I used Liberty Tana Lawn which w
ould have made it a rather indulgent skirt but I found the Liberty at a bargain price on Ebay so cutting into almost 3 metres of the stuff was not as painful as it might have been. The light fabric works beautifully with the shape of this skirt and it is just the right sort of skirt for a hot summer's day. I followed Heather's well written instructions (bar the errata) to the letter and the pattern came together very easily, I think next time I might skip the hand-rolled and sewn hem, it was a whole lot of hemming, maybe the ribbon technique would work?

Weekend Sewing: More Than 40 Projects and Ideas for Inspired Stitchingis a great book. Possibly my favourite of all the recent sewing book releases. There are more than 40 projects to choose from, ranging from the obligatory, but useful, drawstring bags and simple aprons to a fairly advanced and very polished looking shirt dress pattern and a rather cute tent. My favourites include the Kimono Dress with Obi Sash, I am keeping my eye our for the perfect fabric for this one.

The Summer Blouse which has been popular in blogland with lots of lovely versions popping up.

And the Trapeze Sundress, I just love a dress with pockets and a forgiving line.

I really do think this is one of the best sewing books on the market at the moment, it is nice to come across so many attractive and adaptable clothing patterns in such a user friendly format and the patterns are printed on sturdy paper for you to trace off, none of the dreaded scrunched up tissue paper. I cannot always justify my craft book purchases (shocking as it sounds....) but this one really does offer good value with plenty of really usable patterns interspersed with the odd recipe too, peach and basil salad anyone?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A summer skirt

The arrival of the school holidays have brought to my attention some big gaps in Tilly's summer wardrobe. The girl has grown this year, my goodness she has grown, like a beanstalk I tell you. Nothing from last year fits (in spite of my insistence in always buying/making things at least two sizes too big!) So this morning, instead of trying to sort out the study or make sense of all the boxes in the shed I took the very sensible step of sewing the simplest of skirts. Just a length of fabric joined at the selvedges, an elasticated waist and no hem, just grosgrain ribbon enclosing the raw edge.

The Lazy Days Skirt pattern does what it says on the tin. So quick and easy. I used two widths of fabric, for extra twirlability.

What do you mean twirlability isn't a proper word? It certainly should be.

So if you have something else you really should be doing then I urge you to delay it for an hour or so and take the time to enjoy choosing a piece of fabric and sewing up one of these in just two shakes of a lamb's tail. Instant gratification for you and your resident twirler.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On the other side

We are now well and truly on the other side of our move and the painful bits are beginning to blur. There were a few very painful bits, for the removal men too. Having had some totally shocking removal quotes I was quite happy to go with the guys who came in with a considerably less eye-watering price but it would seem their estimator guy had rose-tinted spectacles on the day he came to quote for the work was rather under-estimated and those men really did work their socks off, they pretty much sweated their socks off too as it would seem that we chose the hottest days of the year to move.

At one point it really did seem that the house would never be empty but eventually it was and there was just The Technical Advisor, the dogs, myself and an airbed. It was good of our neighbours to choose that evening to ask if we had ever noticed any strange occurences in the house.....Thank you Gail, it was good that when I woke up due to the sweltering heat at 2am my mind began churning over the whereabouts of the ghostly axe wielding gamekeeper rather than anxiety over what had been packed where, it proved quite the distraction!

The TA set off very early in order to arrive in Suffolk before the lorry and I left at a more reasonable hour collecting children on route. My very un-glamourous rickety old ride was packed to the hilt with a strange assortment of last minute items collected from around the house and the children and I hit the motorway heading South, full of excitement and nerves. Over the next 5 hours those feelings where overcome by sweat. It was so hot and let me tell you, a Landrover Discovery without air-con is actually a mobile conservatory, given our direction, a south-facing conservatory at that. It was not fun, not fun at all.

After what felt like the road journey through the firey pits of hell (and there are those who might say that the M6 actually may well be in the devil's control) we finally made it to Suffolk and the house we had only seen in photographs.

The photographs proved poor, the house is much better than I had hoped. The Technical Advisor did well, this house is has more light and space than our previous little cottage and how I love my bigger kitchen, I may not have finished opening boxes but I am already churning out bread and cakes, no longer the frantic nerve soothing baking of pre-move but a slower, gentler sort pottering type of baking. We are still getting used to a noisier way of countryside living; for village life, though for the most part quiet, is considerably louder than we are used to but we are making adjustments very fast and much as I miss my hillside and mountain views I am thoroughly enjoying those big wide East Anglian skies, the slightly warmer and certainly drier weather. I am enjoying my daily check on the acres of wheat at the bottom of the garden, my eyes soak up the warm golden glow against the everchanging sky. I love the many farm shops and roadside stops with their abundance of ripe juicy soft fruit and our walks through the village which take us past orchards laiden with apples and plums.

And now I think perhaps I must go open another box but I will be back here soon. Thank you so much for all the recent comments and emails, they have brought me so much pleasure, I am sorry I have not been able to reply but normal service should resume now.