A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: making

Without tempting fate, this should be my last WiP Wednesday about this project. I did quite a lot more work on this sweater after my most recent post about it, which I think is worthy of some blog space.

Finishing the sleeves was quite straightforward and I joined the sleeves and body for the yoke. It was quite fun to work the marlisle pattern again, which was just as well because the first few rounds of the yoke feel incredibly long after the relative speed of the sleeves.

Checking the finished projects on Ravelry, I saw that there was a lot of variability in the necklines. Some knitters (including me) write quite detailed notes on their projects, while others don’t add anything. It was hard to tell how my project was going to turn out. I added a lifeline before working the neck shaping and I’m glad that I did.

A few rows into the neck shaping as written, it became obvious that the pattern is for a boat neck. Boat is one of my least favourite necklines- I just don’t think it suits me. I ripped back to my lifeline before going on holiday.

In the end I decided to tackle changing the neckline in two ways. I added more increases (every other row rather than once every three rows) along the raglan seams in the body on both the front and back. Since I have quite broad shoulders, I don’t like excess fabric  to accentuate that part of my body. I also changed the short-row shaping on the front neckline.

I had to do some more ripping when I accidentally knit the additional raglan decreases before I had calculated the changes to the neckline shaping. I used a combination of eyeballing and maths to work out how I wanted it to look. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my pet peeves is having a t-shirt showing when I am wearing a sweater. I just think it looks messy. So my aim was a close neck that should cover the layer beneath.

I visually estimated the number of stitches I wanted left and then calculated which rate of decreases would get me closest

I took some pictures of the notebook pages where I did my quick maths. Kate Davies wrote a recent blog post about knitting and creativity. It discusses the idea that knitting is ‘relaxing’ at the expense of allowing knitting to be creative, engaging and absorbing. This relates to the idea that ‘women’s work’ is something straightforward and mindless, or even frivolous.

Even when following a pattern, knitting can involve a lot of processes that are not remotely relaxing. Undoing work can be frustrating. Figuring out how to change a design is a highly creative problem-solving endeavour, bringing to bear all the knowledge one gains through years of practice. It is an engineering project. Part of the reason I write all of these WiP posts is to give an impression of the work that goes on behind the scenes. When you say, “I made it,” most people have no idea of what that actually means.

In the end, I didn’t have quite enough of the light blue kidsilk to finish the sweater, so I had to buy one more ball. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that the balls are £8.95 each last time I went to John Lewis! I will have most of a ball left over.

The neck ribbing is virtually done now, so the final stage will be the finishing. I am using I-cord edging throughout, which I hope will give a very clean finish. It’s currently a bit warm for a sweater, but knowing English weather I imagine I will find an opportunity to get some pics once this garment is ready to wear.

Previous posts in this series

Planning

Ripping out a cardigan

Frogging a sweater

WiP Weds 1

WiP Weds 2

WiP Weds 3

Ravelry project page

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This sweater has been in my WiP basket for several months now. Shortly after my last blog post (and taking this photo), I ran out of turquoise yarn.

I was also a bit uncertain about how to do the ombre on the sleeves. All in all, I was not feeling so inspired by this project, but fortunately that gave me the impetus to finish my She Loves Wool sweater that had been similarly languishing.

Looking at this photo with fresh eyes, I felt that it probably was time to start changing colours soon. I think it will make sense visually to have the colour change over my elbow.

Another complicating factor was the yarn. I had hoped that I had salvaged enough from my Bay sweater for this whole project but, alas, that was not the case. Even worse, I wasn’t sure which colourways of Kidsilk Haze I was working with.

I’m sure Stitch’n’Bitch, my bible in my early years as a knitter, recommends that you never throw ball bands away and thus avoid these problems. I know I followed that advice for quite some time, but old ball bands are a super annoying thing to have lying around the house. I’ve discarded them all in various house moves.

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What would make sense in the modern world would be to record this information on Ravelry. Now-me generally does that (I would like to be more fastidious about including all info, including dye lots), but unfortunately the Monique of 2013 did not. I have the colour recorded as ‘blue-green.’ I was fairly sure that the colour was ‘peacock’ but when I checked the Rowan website, there are two other shades that fit the bill. I had hoped to buy the extra yarn on eBay, but in the end I made the pilgrimage to John Lewis, praying that they had the right colours in stock. I took my swatch with me to compare.

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Not an exact match, but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the colours to be a super close match when you buy extra yarn over six years later.

I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough of the lighter colour either, but I decided not to buy more at this stage. What I will do to try and circumvent that problem is make the section with the sequins longer than originally planned. I also wanted to use up the Kidsilk Haze Glamour.

I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the May bank holiday weekend. I was coming off an incredibly stressful week, and I needed the time to myself.

I finished the second sleeve and realised it made more sense to use up all of the turquoise yarn in the sleeves. Hopefully this will mean I have enough of the pale blue to finish the yoke without having to purchase any additional yarn.

I tried my best to make the sleeves match by weighing the yarn as I went along. Unfortunately I only have digital food scales that measure to the closest gram. Not especially helpful with mohair, which is incredibly light. Hopefully a local drug dealer will donate a more precise scale to one of the charity shops I frequent.

I have now ripped the first sleeve back to the turquoise area to insert the remaining yarn. The sleeves are lovely and quick to work so should be on to the yoke soon.

Before unravelling the first sleeve

I really really hope I am going to come out with a sweater that I am happy with. I have put a lot of work into recycling two old garments into this piece so I will be quite heartbroken if I don’t like the way it turns out. That being said, I am having a cropped sweater moment so it should slide seamlessly into my wardrobe as long as all goes to plan.

Previous posts in this series

Planning

Ripping out a cardigan

Frogging a sweater

WiP Weds 1

Ravelry project page


I was going to include some about the change to my make-up habits in my previous post about cosmetics, but it was starting to get a bit long.

The biggest change there has been is that I am simply using less. It makes me a bit sad to think that when my skin was near-perfect in my late teens, I covered it up with loads of products. This is probably part of the reason I feel so sad and outraged when I see young women plastered in foundation. As I’ve grown older, I have become more able to accept the fact that my skin has some flaws. Most days, I don’t wear anything on my face except moisturiser. If I’m feeling fancy, I still have a bottle of Mac Face and Body that will probably last me for years to come.

I also accidentally stopped wearing blush. For a long time, I used Posie Tint. I wasn’t able to restock it the last time I ran out (I generally buy make-up at the airport) and I have now reached the point where I’ve not been wearing it for so long that I don’t think I need it.

I am quite reliant on eye make-up. I’ve been wearing liquid eyeliner on a daily basis for at least a decade. Someone (normally my friend Paula, who I don’t think realises what a faux pas this is) comments that I look tired every time I appear in public without it. And I agree. I don’t like to have my picture taken if my eyes are bare. Maybe this is something that will change over time, but the eyeliner certainly creates a dramatic change in appearance compared to the subtle blurring of a tinted moisturiser.

One thing I’ve never understood was makeup brands constantly changing their formulae. I used a No.7 product for ages until they changed it. I switched to Illamasqua and the same thing happened. Since then, I have been on a carousel of trying new brands, never finding a product that I really loved.

The last time I was at the airport, unable to find a suitable product, one of the employees suggested that I try one from Boots. Pfft, I scoffed internally. I have become way too fancy to use a drugstore brand. I bought a long-wear brand from Mac that looks great but needs professional make-up remover to get off. It is like glue. I am not willing to invest in a special make-up remover to keep fuelling my habit.

A few weeks on, and a few eyelashes down, I re-thought. Since when did I become a slave to the idea that more expensive brands are inherently better? Why am I determined to buy from a premium brand when I have been disappointed time after time for several years? I popped into a Boots store to see if any of the brands (I had long since forgotten the recommendation of the nice lady at the airport) appealed. While I was looking for a tester that didn’t look replete with conjunctivitis, I spotted a gel eyeliner kit.

It was a lightbulb moment. Gel eyeliner comes in a small glass tub. You use a proper make-up brush rather than the disposable one inside the plastic tube of a liquid liner. I’d tried a gel a few years ago in my search for a consistent brand. I rejected it at the time because I was still in love with the look of liquid. Now, the idea of a less defined wing doesn’t bother me so much. The next time I passed the Mac store (I know I realised earlier that I didn’t need to be a sucker and stick to a more expensive brand, but throw a girl a bone), I made the switch.

I realise that this has been a ridiculously long-winded way of saying that I changed eyeliners, but I guess my point is that change happens incrementally at times. In an ideal world, I would just be happy with the way I look bare-faced and stop wearing make-up altogether. I still feel the need to balance my personal comfort with my desire to have less of an impact on the planet.


I finally got around to making some reusable cotton pads for removing make-up. I ran out of disposable cotton rounds some time ago.

My handmade pads took some getting used to. They absorb a lot of liquid, which seems a bit wasteful, but then I probably need to re-think using micellar water once I run out of that. The crocheted surface is also very different to the smooth surface of a disposable product. However, I used them to take off the makeup (liquid eyeliner and lipstick, false eyelash glue) from my Wonder Woman costume and they worked fine.

I would probably mark the cotton pads down as a fail overall. I bought some pre-made reusable cotton pads from the Source and they are much better. Removing make-up with toner is still an occasional part of my skincare routine and my skin suffered when I stopped using disposable pads.

It’s so interesting to reflect on the genius of the cosmetics industry. I started using micellar water when it came out a few years ago and totally believed that it was superior to toner. I remember how MW was marketed as being better (and thus justifiably more costly) because it eliminated the ‘need’ to use cleanser. I thought this was great! A few years later I wanted to take some MW on holiday so looked for a travel-sized bottle at the airport. They had nothing under 100ml so I reluctantly bought toner instead.

Reader, the two products were indistinguishable to me. I got got. I have since switched to showering at night, which means that I seldom need to remove my makeup (I just wash my face in the shower) but it was such a revelation at the time. Marketing can be so powerful, even if you consider yourself to be a thoughtful person with a critical eye.

Speaking of showering, I have also been trying to get single-use plastics out of my bathroom in general. I went to Lush and bought a few plastic-light things to try. I went in looking for a shampoo bar and some face wash. I came out with two solid facial cleansers. I have to say that I’m not too keen on them so far. The base is quite oily and I find it impossible to remove the oily feeling without using soap on top of the cleanser, which doesn’t really make sense to me. I am yet to try removing the product with a hot washcloth (this is my face wash routine in the morning) so perhaps that will work better for me.

In the end, I got a tub of liquid shampoo since I didn’t think that any of the bars would be suitable for my hair. The tubs can be returned to their stores. I’m not sure if any of their products are designed with POC in mind. I am planning to cut my hair very short soon, so perhaps I will try a shampoo bar then.


I finished knitting my Paper Whales sweater and I have to say that I think baby jumpers are the way forward. So quick and a great way to use up yarn left over from adult garments. I think this one turned out really cute.

I felt like there was still a long way to go after my last post, and I even envisaged doing a few posts about the sweater as I did with Paper Totoros. However, knitting the sleeve caps was super easy (just a couple of hours each) and then the yoke was so addictive that I nearly completed it in a weekend.

Here she is on the blocking board

The only change I would make would be to have the zigzag design both below and above the whales. The design is quite bold overall so having the more delicate fade design above the whales looks a little out of place.

Some notes for any future Paper X sweaters:

  • Knit ribbing on 3mm needles and body on 3.25mm
  • When decreasing, do so on colourwork rows (if alternating colour and resting rows) where possible to keep colours evenly spaced

I can already see myself making more of these for friends’ kids. I have nearly a skein of Titus in grey and I’m starting to picture a Paper Elephants…

I really wish I had weighed the yarn I used for this project. I even forgot to weigh the end product! I less than a skein of the main colour (I started out with a full skein plus some odds and ends).

I actually finished this sweater well over a year ago but didn’t want to post about it until I gave it away. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide if they think the gift ended up with the recipient I had in mind when I started out! I think baby knits are a gift that need to be given in person (not least because I am rubbish with sizes so tend to have little idea when they will fit). My friend sent me a picture and I was relieved to see that the sweater fit her elder kiddo (though perhaps March isn’t the best time to be given a jumper 🤪).

I also have to trust that my friends will be happy with my colour choices. I am a firm believer that clothing does not have a gender and I think this little sweater would be adorable on any baby.

Yarn: Baa Ram Ewe Titus

Pattern: Paper Dolls by Kate Davies (smallest size)

Ravelry project page


I finished knitting the modified spindrift shawl I’m making for my aunt with the yarn I picked up at Countess Ablaze when I was in Manchester last year. I decided to omit the eyelet rows because I didn’t want the shawl to look busy. I think the yarn speaks for itself. However, it did mean that knitting it was unbelievably boring. I just don’t like knitting stocking stitch flat, but I do really like the way that it looks.

I took these pictures when I was at Hampton Court Palace for my embroidery workshop.

I ended up doing quite a few rows of garter stitch for the border since I had quite a bit of yarn left. I didn’t want to risk running out of yarn but I needn’t have worried. I actually finished the knitting and cut the yarn in Finland, before realising that I didn’t have a darning needle with me for the sewn bind-off.

I have no recollection of how I did it the last time. I’m fairly sure I used this technique on my Bad Day shawl, since I got the idea from looking back at the boneyard shawl pattern. I used this technique. It took HOURS.

Anyway, I hope that my aunt will appreciate this gift and get a lot of use out of it.

Pattern: Spindrift shawl (modified)

Yarn: Viscount of Spark by Countess Ablaze in Bienvenue

Ravelry project page

Cost: £20


Last weekend was really a tale of two embroidery workshops. After spending a happy Friday evening stitching a vagina at the Tate Modern, I got up bright and early on Saturday to travel to the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace.

When I was really unhappy in my job over the summer, I started thinking about alternative things to do with my life. One option I considered was a degree in needlework. I had really enjoyed playing around with beading when I tried to stem the flow of damage to my beautiful vintage jacket. I thought it might be a good idea to try out a workshop before taking things any further.

The price of the workshop (£125 I think) included the kit. The kits were on sale in the shop downstairs for £45. It includes most things you will need to make the song thrush, though not a large embroidery hoop. I picked one up from the RSN shop because I only have a little hoop at home and it’s not very good.

The first step was to create the beak using satin stitch. We then tacked a piece of felt padding to the linen.

We next learnt how to use soft thread to create an additional level of padding. This helps to make the final item more 3D.

We learnt three gold work techniques; couching, pearl purl and cut work. You can see a little bit of all three in the photo below. The head is couched in gilt thread, the wings are outlined in gold pearl purl and the brown bits on the wings are the cut work.

This is what I had achieved after the five hours of the workshop. I’m not sure when I’ll have some time to return to it, but it’s a project that I definitely want to finish.

I really enjoyed doing this workshop. I found the process really absorbing and meditative. Of course, I had my usual feelings of competition with my classmates. I’d been a little anxious when we were waiting to be picked up and I noticed that there was only one other person under the age of 60. The other women had probably been embroidering longer than I had been alive! Fortunately, the techniques for gold work are actually fairly straightforward providing you have decent fine motor skills and patience.

Funnily enough, I spotted some brooches in Liberty a few weeks ago that really caught my eye.

The company is called Macon & Lesquoy if you want to check them out. Their pieces are really stunning and contemporary. When I saw that the labels indicated the patches were handmade, I couldn’t work out how such tiny beading could be done. I realise now that a lot of the design is metalwork. I feel really inspired by learning this technique and I have some designs in mind that I would love to be able to create one day.