A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: handmade

After serving several weeks as my inspiration project, I hit a speedbump in knitting my Mermaid Humboldt sweater. I had a few flights coming up and needed a relatively easy project that I could work on while travelling. I returned to my hibernating She Loves Wool sweater. It’s been a good few months since I ground to a halt with the incredible monotony of knitting long row after long row of black stocking stitch. However, this was exactly what I needed to ease my anxiety on the plane- and simple enough that I could start the new season of Orange is the New Black at the same time.

After a long weekend spent in France with my dad, I had nearly finished the black section of the front.

I am now coming up to what I think will be the most challenging aspect of this knit- the neckline. There are no modelled pictures of anyone wearing a She Loves Wool sweater online. From the few photos of unmodelled sweaters, the neckline looks far too open for my liking. I am going to have to make some significant alterations to get it the way I want, which will mean lots of lifelines and I will also attempt to take detailed notes.

With that in mind, this project was becoming a little unwieldy for travel knitting. I decided to cast on one of the sleeves to take on my various summer holidays. I finished the second ball of black yarn and put the body on hold until I have some time to start working on the fair isle section, which I think I will enjoy.

The first sleeve- I had used up one ball of wool at this point. The sleeves were quite funny to knit. At first, they seemed to be going really quickly compared to the body sections. A couple of inches into the plain black stocking part, they seemed interminable. Then, all of a sudden they seemed super long and the first ball was nearly complete.

I hadn’t mentioned in my previous blog posts but I made one of my standard alterations to patterns and used a tubular cast-on for all of the pattern pieces. I just love the neat edge that it produces. I used the Ysolda method for the sleeve- can’t remember if I did the same for the body but it doesn’t really matter. A tubular cast on is one of those things I prefer to do at home rather than on the move as it’s quite fiddly.

The current status is that the back is complete aside from alterations, the first sleeve is  nearly ready to start the fair isle work and the second sleeve is my current travel knitting project. Since taking the photo, I have managed to start the fair isle on the front section too.

Pattern and yarn: She Loves Wool kit by Wool and the Gang

Ravelry project page

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Before going on a recent holiday, I sat down and had a proper look at my zebra shorts. These might actually be my favourite garment that I have made. Buying shorts ready-to-wear is a complete nightmare. It’s almost impossible to get anything in between booty shorts and knee-length. I have a couple of pairs of short shorts and I really don’t feel comfortable in them. My zebra shorts are perfect for me; short but with absolutely no risk of my arse being unexpectedly exposed.

Because I love these shorts so much, I have worn them loads over the past eighteen months. I wear my clothes HARD and they have stood up remarkably well.

Since I made them from a fabric that is not really fit for purpose, they are starting to show signs of wear. The fabric is fading, which doesn’t really bother me. But something weird was going on with the turned-up hems. Since I didn’t really have time to repair the shorts before I left, I just re-pressed the hems as best I could and made a note to work on them upon my return.

The first thing I did was take out the little stitches tacking down the turn-ups and then put them in the wash. I pressed the shorts and you can really see how the fabric has worn in different areas.

I added some fusible interfacing to try and reinforce the turn-ups. I think the cotton wasn’t really strong enough to hold them so hopefully they will stay looking tidy for a bit longer now.

I simply cut 2″ strips (enough to cover the whole turn-up and then some) and ironed on. I had a few weights of iron-on interfacing in my stash and went for the heaviest woven one.

It probably would have been better to unpick the side seams before adding the interfacing but I was constrained by time for this mend.

Although I did it by hand before, I made the hem on my machine this time. Since the shorts have turn-ups, it will be hidden anyway. I also have a funny feeling that the tiny hand stitches were causing more wear in this high-stress area of the shorts, where the hem had come loose on the backs of both legs. My mum taught me that when making an invisible hem you should try to catch only one thread of the fabric with each stitch. This looks great but can create pulls in the fabric over time.

I have come to realise that I loathe a bar as a trouser closure. I think people use it because it is considered neater than a button. Because I have narrow hips, I need my waistband to be tight to prevent my trousers from falling down, which means it is easy for the bar to come out or make a hole in the facing fabric. On my Cigarette Pants that are actually pants and not shorts, I have already had to patch the waistband and add a buttonhole because the bar destroyed the delicate facing fabric.

An easy repair was replacing the bar with a button. If I had had time, I would have gone out and bought a shiny new button but I just used one I already had in the house.

All in all, these repairs took around 2-3 hours.

Enjoying the shorts with my three friends

Because of the inappropriate fabric choice, I am not sure how long of a lifespan these shorts will have. These repairs should at least keep them in rotation for another summer. I find myself keeping an eye out for some snazzy denim for a second iteration. I do have some denim in my stash left over from my denim day dress. I know I should really use this up rather than buying new fabric. I have plenty of patches I could use to jazz the shorts up. Or- heaven forfend- I could have something plain in my wardrobe.

I hope people don’t find these mend posts boring. I am partly writing them because I want to view mending as a creative process in the same way as making. I’m still trying to create a smallish wardrobe of thoughtfully made items rather than ending up with the handmade equivalent of fast fashion. And perhaps someone else has some tatty shorts out there and might get some ideas on how to spruce them up.


A few weeks ago I went to the Frida Kahlo exhibition that is currently on at the V&A. Titled Making Herself Up, it displays a lot of her personal artefacts. I believe that her husband’s will requested that Kahlo’s bathroom remain sealed for a number of years after both of their deaths. The exhibition explores how she created and curated her image as well as how she presented herself in her artwork.

I thought I knew quite a lot about Kahlo before attending the exhibition. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was under that impression. I never really studied her when I was doing art at school. I was going through a phase of antifeminism at the time and for some reason picked Roy Lichtenstein as the artist I studied for my GCSE art project. Many a regret was had.

Anyway, it was really interesting to learn about her life and how it influenced her as an artist. In particular, I had no idea that she was disabled.

One of my favourite parts was seeing the display of her clothing. Her personal style evolved quite a lot over the years and she seemed to be very mindful of her image. I liked the way that she wore traditional Mexican clothing.

Many of the pieces were embellished with beautiful embroidery or beading, which must have been done by hand. It was also interesting to think about how Frida’s dress enabled her to present herself in the way she wanted in spite of her health and physical challenges.

I felt quite an affinity with Frida through the exhibition, in particular a love of colour and being inspired by flowers and animals. I had chosen an outfit especially to wear to the exhibition. Sometimes I curate my image very carefully, but there are also days where I don’t bother. I generally don’t think that I dress in a notable way until I see a picture of myself in a group and realise that I am wearing every colour of the rainbow while everyone else is monochrome!

I tried to get a selfie with the Frida earrings I couldn’t resist buying from the gift shop. I discovered that, even with a machine designed to take self-portraits in my pocket, I’m not very good at it!


Last week I went to Wilderness festival. I have been mostly blissfully ignorant of the rubbish problem when I have attended festivals before. I’m sure I felt a little bothered by the bins full of disposable cups and plates, and the massive piles of perfectly good items that attendees leave behind. But now my eyes are much more open to the problem.

I armed myself with my vacuum flask, water bottle, keep cup, metal straw and cutlery.  This was quite a lot of equipment to have with me at all times, but I brought my beloved yellow backpack along largely for the purpose of carrying these items. Aaaaand…. like the best laid plans of mice and men, it went completely out of the window.

Delicious food that I felt a little bad eating

I learnt that I actually find it very difficult to make a special request for myself when the infrastructure is not set up to deal with it. All of the plating was set up and I just felt bad asking the vendors to change it so that it would fit in my containers. Wilderness has a lot of ego-massaging placatory messages, such as the dishes being compostable, but of course there is a lot of upstream waste associated with making the disposable items.

Because I am extra af and dangerously addicted to espresso, I took my stovetop coffee maker and milk frother for my morning flat white. So I at least didn’t use any coffee cups during the weekend.

One thing that the zero waste mindset helped me with was with making purchases. Wilderness is a festival where people feel very free to dress outlandishly, which I am very much on board with. This year was one of my first festival experiences where I had some disposable income available. It would have been very easy to spend a lot of money on items that are just not wearable in any other context. I was very much enamoured of this pompom headdress.

In the end, I bought a vintage beaded jacket that was actually very restrained for the festival, but just about straddles the line between jazzy and useful in my real life.

I also bought some little sparkly jewels to wear on my forehead because I couldn’t resist getting a little something.

The festival did allow me to get out some much-loved but seldom-worn items. I wore my rocket Southport dress for just the second time and it was perfect for this event.

I brought the circuit sentiments kit I have had at home for years and used it to fashion my own light-up headdress using a flower crown I bought a few years ago on eBay. The LED kits are the kind of impulse craft purchase that I would like to stop making as much. I used a few of the items to make my Port Charlotte jumper light up when I was pretending it was a Christmas jumper.


I’ve been so busy writing about all my zero waste and cooking stuff that it could appear that I have not been doing any making. The truth is that I am working on a few things, but there isn’t much to post about. Sewing-wise, I am working on one project that I can’t write about yet and held up on another by a technology problem. I will have very little sewing time until September because I have a few trips planned. I can’t wait to get away, but I’m definitely a little frustrated by how little time I have been able to make for sewing.

Knitting wise, I am chugging away very slowly on my She Loves Wool. This project is probably the most suited to travel knitting, so hopefully I will make a bit more progress during August. I’m having a bit of time off from Mermaid Humboldt since I found it quite stressful to decide how I want the colours to look on the sleeves. I have also nearly run out of turquoise KidSilk Haze so I need to get some more.

ANOTHER unexpectedly time-consuming project has been shortening my League sweater. Although I wasn’t as ecstatically happy as I had hoped when I finished it, this sweater has turned into a great workhorse garment during the cooler months (i.e. pretty much all of them in London.) However, I have never been happy with the fit. I always finagle it for pictures so that it looks okay, but it is simply too long.

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I don’t like the way that the combination of relaxed sizing and additional length works on my body. Somehow it took me nearly two years to realise that I could make it shorter (facepalm emoji).

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Looking better already!

This project hit a bit of a roadblock after my Mermaid Humboldt made me realise that I could not re-knit the Titus yarn without washing and stretching it out first. I absolutely loathe winding yarn, so it took me about two months to get around to it.

I also wound the remaining yarn that I harvested from my blue ivy cardigan.

Very much regretting that I only cut the front of the sweater, which means I still have to unravel, wind, wash, hang and re-wind the yarn for the back.

On a more positive note, I have started re-knitting the ribbing on the front. I had to increase a few stitches because somehow my numbers didn’t add up. I’m fairly sure I haven’t dropped any stitches so no idea how that works.


The latest step in my quest to reduce my reliance on single-use plastics has been to make some cloth bags to carry with me. I mainly intend to take them when I shop at the Source, but I also think they will be very useful just to keep in my various bags for incidental purchases. I always try to keep a clean empty container with me, but I still get caught out quite often.

I used this tutorial as a jumping-off point. I accidentally got given an extra length of the cotton I bought to make a summer blouse, meaning that I had a little over half a metre left over. Since I have learnt to my cost that white is a terrible colour for facings, I decided to put it to use here.

I cut the fabric to various sizes. My only criteria were to have the print the correct way up, have bags that seemed of a sensible size (given that I don’t use them yet, so I don’t really have a sense of which sizes will be most useful) and waste as little fabric as possible.

I experimented a little with the construction because I wanted to use French seams on the inside of the bags. I found a way but I imagine there’s a better method so I won’t bother posting pics of how I did it. This is how the inside ended up.

Love me a French seam.

You can see that the top right corner looks a bit weird due to the way I botched constructed the drawstring opening. They lie flat when right-sides out so I’m not bothered by that.

A fun aspect of this project was that I felt very free to make mistakes. On the second bag I sewed the seams on the top incorrectly, so that the channel for the drawstring was on the right side rather than the wrong side. I considered unpicking the overcast stitches before realising that it really didn’t matter which side the channel is on.

I used shoelaces as the closures. I took part in a colour run nearly four years ago and took a load of the laces they were giving out. I’m quite relieved to have finally found a use for them!

I have a rough colour-coded system to differentiate the sizes.

Blue = big

Pink = petite

Y = yeah, I couldn’t think of one for that colour

I am now aware of just how white this fabric is. I am planning to make a second set of produce bags so that one can go in the white wash and the other in the coloured wash. Being in your thirties is so boring and domestic at times.


I finished my latest summer top in short order after my last post, which meant that I met my target to wear it in Florence.

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Fortunately the tight armholes are not too much of a problem.

However, I definitely need a full bust adjustment and possibly a back adjustment too. I see people talking about swayback adjustment quite a bit so maybe that?

For a top made in the wrong type of fabric, I’m fairly satisfied with it. I find the mandarin collar a little constricting around my throat, but I can’t really see myself wearing this buttoned all the way up so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

This picture was taken on the way to my first commentary spot at the 2018 quidditch world cup. Calling and analysing the matches was a lot of fun, and it was nice to realise how much my understanding of the game has increased in the past two years.

Details

Pattern: Threadcount 1617 view B size 10

Fabric: 1.5m cotton lawn from Sew Over It

Fabric: £19.50

Notions: Around £8

Pattern: £3.22 (second use)

Total cost: Around £27.50