A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

WiP Wednesday: Tropic like it’s hot

My eyes locked on to this fabric from across a crowded room and I knew I had to have her. I really can’t resist a fruit print and these pineapples are so much fun! I instantly pictured myself in a cute skirt, frolicking joyfully during a mini-break. For a while, I thought that we couldn’t be together. The lady in the shop told me that the fabric was all used for online orders. I was heartbroken. But then I checked the website and was able to buy her there. She’s worth the postage.

I decided to take a risk and try to squeeze this skirt out of a metre of fabric. When I measured the last tulip skirt I made, it took 1.1m of fabric. I really hoped those 10cm wouldn’t cause me too many problems…

Nope! Most sizes could easily be cut from 1m of 145cm wide fabric. I didn’t even have to use a different fabric for the waistband facing.

Having seen the gorgeous sample in quilting cotton in the Sew Over It store, I decided to use lining fabric for the pockets. This cotton-linen blend is quite heavy. I used the pocket pieces for the Day Dress because the pockets on my first tulip skirt aren’t quite capacious enough for my liking.

Doing the pleats and darts was a breeze as the linen in this fabric allows it to hold a crisp fold. I’ve never worked with linen before, either as a knitter or a sewist, so it’s been fun to learn about a new fibre. I’ve just realised this skirt will probably crease like billy-o, but I’ll be too fabulous to care.

I wanted to overlock the pattern pieces as both the fashion fabric and lining fray easily. However, I ended up pulling out my trusty overcasting foot and finishing the edges that way. This is the most excited I’ve been about a project since my zebra shorts and I couldn’t wait to get to a sewing cafe.

I couldn’t find a suitably coloured invisible zip at Liberty or John Lewis, so I decided to use an exposed zip. I followed the same tutorial I used before. I’d forgotten how laborious it is to put in one of these suckers! It took forever. I also had to use a 7″ zip (8″ recommended in pattern), which gives me just enough wiggle room to get this thing on and off. Be careful of using a shorter zip for this skirt if you are pear-shaped!


I have to say that my perfectionist tendencies came out big time when installing the zip. I found myself getting very frustrated that the two sides weren’t symmetrical. Fortunately, I decided to give myself a little break from the machine and try the skirt on. I was very relieved that it fit! I decided to use my mother’s old trick of cutting some pattern pieces on the selvedges to save finishing those edges. The problem with doing that on the centre back seam was that I wouldn’t have been able to let the skirt out if it had been too small. I’m not sure I’ll do it again in future.

Even though I realised the zip looked absolutely fine when I tried the skirt on, I also noticed that the placement of the pattern isn’t amazing on the back. There are lots of pineapples cut in half. As usual, this is something that I would probably ignore if I bought this skirt RTW, but it bothered me that I hadn’t foreseen this problem. I just need to take it as a reminder to be more mindful of pattern placement when using such a bold print in future.

Fabric: 1m (145cm wide) cotton-linen mix from Sew Over It

Pattern: Tulip Skirt by Sew Over It (size 10)

The fickle gardener

Dabbling in indoor gardening during the winter whetted my appetite for a larger project. I soon found myself asking my landlady if I could tear up her garden, hoarding compost and ordering seeds online. I even bought a gardening-themed necklace.

Here are a few of the seedlings taking over my house.


Clockwise from top left

  • Various seedlings in my mini greenhouse
  • Dahlias
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes and Brussels sprouts

A mistake I made when I tried to grow pumpkins was not preparing the soil. To be fair to the me of two years ago, the only tool I had was a hand trowel. However, it was ludicrously optimistic to think that I could just chuck the plants into the ground and be rewarded with an abundance of fruit.

This time, I spent a lot of time digging out my vegetable patch. I picked stones and I yanked roots. I dug in organic matter and two types of compost.

I realised the other day that I have only become interested in gardening since beginning intensive psychoanalysis. Something that I especially like about psychodynamic theory is its links to literature, and use of association and metaphor. I could hardly think of a more apt metaphor for analysis than taking the time to transform rough earth into something that can bear fruit.

I’ve written before about how my psychological state can be seen in my creative pursuits, a very obvious example of art imitating life. When I tried gardening before, I was unsuccessful due to a lack of preparation. I didn’t have all of the tools and equipment that I needed to turn my sandy London dirt into a garden that allowed my seedlings to thrive.

Two years on, I find myself researching and making plans to give myself the best chance at success. I took the time to observe my garden to put the vegetables in the best spot. Could this represent..growth?

WiP Wednesday: Floral Macaron

I was scrolling though Pinterest the other day, looking for pinspiration, when I was reminded of the Macaron dress I planned to make nearly two years ago.

I’ve got a wedding coming up in a few months, and I think this dress would be perfect. I immediately dug out the pattern pieces I cut over a year ago.

I’m pretty much planning for this project to be a toile. I have a weird love-hate relationship with the fabrics I chose. I never normally wear pink, but I couldn’t resist the pretty floral pattern and birds. I remain unsure about whether the blue looks good, or the top of the dress would pop more with a white contrast.

Anyway, it will be a pleasant surprise if I end up with a wearable dress. I’ve never bothered making a toile before, but I paid full price for the Liberty fabric and I’m really looking for perfection in the final garment. Macaron is quite an intricate pattern so I’m a little apprehensive about my ability to fix fitting problems. Eek!

I whizzed through the steps of constructing the bodice pretty quickly.

As soon as I tried on the bodice, I realised there were big problems. The fit on the waist was tight and the bust seemed okay, but I had a lot of fabric pooling in the back.

You can even see the bagginess on the hanger. I tried pinching in the side seams and tugging in various directions, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it lie flat. This is my first solo attempt at a fitted bodice.

I decided to trace a copy of the bodice pattern to make my adjustments. This is a bit of a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted- since I cut out the pattern pieces, I’ve lost the larger sizes. However, this way I still have a back-up in case my alterations somehow make the fit even worse.

I ended up deciding to book a private sewing lesson to get some expert fitting advice. I completed as many steps as possible to take along. I have to say, Macaron is surprisingly easy to construct given the polished final look of the dress.

Slashing the pleats to place the pockets was a bit scary, but I adore the final result. This is what the pieces looked like before my lesson.

Wish me luck!

Pattern: Macaron by Collette Patterns

Fabric: Viscose bought on holiday in Indonesia. The blue is some random fabric purchased on Goldhawk Road

FO Friday: Turquoise striped Bettine

I finished sewing my second Bettine dress! I’m so pleased with this project, especially considering that this is my first time working with jersey.


I detailed the changes I made to the pattern here. I’m very happy with the alterations I made from my first go at this dress. I think the Bettine works really well in a knit. I’m really pleased with the fabric, too. The jersey feels heavy and of great quality, but because it’s cotton, it’s also breathable.

When I tried the top and skirt on before constructing the waistband, I realised that the tulip skirt looked a bit silly on me in this heavy jersey, so I reduced the curve.

I love the way the neckband gives the dress a more t-shirty look. I would agree with others that a jersey Bettine is basically secret pyjamas.

Somehow this dress seems a little on the short side. My raindrop Bettine seems around my standard dress length, whereas this one is only just long enough (for my personal taste) to wear to work without tights. I made the hemline exactly as instructed so may lengthen by a centimetre or two if making in jersey again. I am only 5″4, though I do have long legs.


Slightly random note, but this project uses a lot of thread. I bought a new spool of turquoise polyester thread and had to get a second one to topstitch the hem. While I did a fair bit of unpicking, I didn’t finish any of the edges (apparently you don’t need to with jersey) so I was surprised that I got through so much thread.

I’ve always been very apprehensive about working with a knit fabric, so I’m relieved that I was able to do it. I did really take my time with this project, which helped. I’ll see how this dress wears, but I can definitely see more jersey Bettines in my future.

Pattern: Bettine by Tilly and the Buttons

Fabric: 2m cotton jersey from Sew Over It

WiP Wednesday: Wee Yellow Owligan

Since I had the stirrings of a wish to knit while I was laid up ill on the sofa, I bought a Wowligan kit from the Kate Davies website. Ever since Kate started producing her own wool, I’ve been itching to try it. None of the kits were quite speaking to me until these ones for cute baby cardigans were released.

I knit up a couple of swatches and soon cast on. I got gauge on 3mm needles. Since I couldn’t find any other small circulars, I used 2.25mm needles for the rib. I was a bit worried that the ribbing would be too small and look silly, but actually it looks great.

I was wondering whether Buachaille might replace Titus as my go-to yarn for sweaters. I think Buachaille is wonderful for wool. It softens up after blocking and has a lovely drape. However, it is still a tad itchy for my sensitive skin. Still, great to try a new product made by a small business that I’m keen to support.

Quite a few American knitting bloggers I follow mention knitting during meetings and at conferences. I never know whether this is a standard ‘thing’ in America, or something they have pioneered themselves, but it’s definitely not common here in the UK. As a psychologist, I know that keeping your hands busy with activities such as doodling can actually enhance concentration. However, it’s not widely accepted for adults to do anything other than stare in rapt concentration at the speaker (or play with their phone under the table).

While I don’t feel comfortable enough to ask to knit in team meetings at work (yet), it is something I’ve started doing when I’m attending training. I think I feel freer because I generally don’t know the other people there. Anyway, doing so really works for me, and gave me several hours of free knitting time on the body of this little cardi, which otherwise might have been quite dull going.

The sleeves are going super speedily! I used 2.5mm DPS for the rib and went back to 3.5mm for the stocking portion.


Pattern: Wowligan by Kate Davies

Yarn: 3 skeins Buachaille in the Furze colourway, provided in kit from website

Garden update

Since my last post about my garden, spring has sprung and I’ve become quite keen on the idea of growing a few things, as well as making my garden friendly to bees.

I’ll start inside the house. So far, the plants I repotted are doing okay. Since I took the sprouts from my mint and strawberries out of my hedgehog planters, I replaced them with some mini cacti that shouldn’t mind the lack of holes in the base.

The strawberries are doing well, but the mint just never did much. When my penultimate seedling died, I decided to pop the little pot into my mini greenhouse and since then, it’s been doing a lot better.

The other compost plugs have dahlia sprouts I’m growing for a study called Blooms for Bees, being run by various institutions including Coventry Uni, the RHS and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, of which I am a member. The seedlings appeared really quickly, so I repotted them because I was worried about overcrowding.

The coloured sticks indicate the variety of dahlia. I kept the spare seedlings in case I’ve killed any of these.

Thinking about my dream of having a smallholding one day, my herbs are doing okay, apart from the fact that my rosemary actually seems to be sage.

I’m going to look into buying some small rosemary and thyme plants. I think they would be lovely to keep in small pots in the garden. I also have some tomato and beetroot seeds that I need to get on and plant.

My landlady has said I can plant a vegetable patch in the garden. I’m excited to give it a go but apprehensive about whether I’ll actually be able to grow anything edible. The patch looks like this at the moment.

Eep.

FO Friday: Raindrop Bettine dress

I finished sewing my Bettine dress!

I made a few alterations to the pattern, including a full bust adjustment. I included a bit more information about the changes in my previous post.

Overall, I think this is a great pattern. The only minor comments I would have is that my neckline gapes a little, and I find there is a bit too much ‘blousiness’ in the bodice- I will shorten it in future.

Although I’d read that double gauze can be translucent, I thought I’d be alright because the double gauze I bought from the same supplier before was solid. All I can say is, white makes fools of us all!

I think the biggest issue is likely to be that the fabric creases quite badly. I’m just going to have to live with that as I seldom iron when I’m not sewing!

Pattern: Bettine by Tilly and the Buttons

Fabric: 3m double gauze, 108cm wide