Monday, 24 May 2010

Sweet as a Parrakeet Skirt

I have owned this parrot-y skirt, from the awesome Covet in Islington, for a couple of years. Unfortunately I've never been able to take full advantage of its plumed charms, as the waistband was rather small on me, requiring undignified contortions to get over my aforementioned bahookie. This weekend I decided to reclaim the parrots by making them a new waistband with some fabric left over from a dress I've been working on.

I vaguely followed Gertie's instructions for a full gathered skirt, and found this tutorial on gathering very helpful - I want to gather everything now! Even though I did not sew this garment in its entirety, I am most proud to have made this skirt wearable with my own ingenuity (and sewing machine). I'm quite pleased with it aesthetically as well as practically: the contrasting colour of the waistband seems to make the parrots stand out more. Squawk!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Laminaria Shawl

I took my Laminaria shawl on its first outing today, to the Old Library, which is not a library, but is one of my favourite rooms in college.

A pattern of heart-stopping beauty, and mathematical genius, knit in 100% cashmere that does not sacrifice stitch definition for softness. If I do say so myself, it is pretty much the epitome of lace loveliness; I can't entirely believe I made it. 

The three stitch patterns (the tiny stars, the blossom, the peacock plume-like edging) are all individually glorious, but it is the way they grow out of one another that makes this pattern truly special. I made the 'shoulderette' size, but went up a needle size and did two extra repeats of the first chart because I had extra yarn.

Draped around my shoulders or scrunched around my neck, this shawl makes me feel like a delighted wood nymph. It makes me almost hope for a cooler summer so I can get the most wear out of it.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Ease in Knits (or 'I Stooped to Pick a Buttercup'*)

Maybe it's the current profusion of actual buttercups, but I cannot stop thinking about this very popular pattern (ravlink). I think I would like to make a long-sleeved woolly version (which would still come in very handy in the British 'summertime'), in this vibrant pink Wensleydale Longwool, which featured in my stash pledge all those months ago.

Daydreaming about Buttercup lead me to think about ease in knitwear. The original pattern is designed with plenty of positive ease, to be a swing-y A-line top. I have seen several beautiful fitted variations on Ravelry with waist-shaping, such as this, but then also love this one where the ribbing pulls in the bottom of the A-line for a slouchy, 'boyfriend' look. My instinct with sweaters is always to err on the side of form-fitting negative ease (about 4 inches of it in the case of Snow White), out of a fear partly of drowning my diminutive frame, and partly of repeating my first jumper experience, in which I unwittingly knitted a garment the size of a wendy house. This attraction to negative ease seems to be common to a lot of knitters; maybe it is in some ways a lingering reaction against the shapeless, unflatteringly rectangular patterns of the 80s and 90s. Perhaps the choice between negative and positive ease can be thought of as a choice between a feminine and a masculine look, the one showing off womanly curves, the other hiding them boyishly. What do you think? How do you go about deciding on a size for your knitwear, or for that matter your sewing projects?

* 'I stooped to pick a buttercup. Why people leave buttocks lying around, I'll never know' - Stephen Fry

Edited for spelling.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Drying Seaweed

The Laminaria shawl is damply taking up most of my floor space. It occurred to me that it might be quite happy in this sodden state, given that the design was inspired by this seaweed.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Place Mats and Napkins

Now that the top secret parcel has reached its destination, I can reveal that it contained place mats and napkins. I made the mats in toile de jouy backed with raspberry chambray, using a combination of the instructions for coasters and mats in Bend the Rules Sewing (an excellent book) as my guide. I am pretty pleased with results, though once again humbled by the experience. Perhaps I shouldn't even be thinking of making garments when I'm still fairly inept at ostensibly easy tasks such as sewing straight lines around a rectangle.

For the napkins, I used these directions for mitred corners, and experimented with my machine's embroidery stitches, which was a lot of fun. I read somewhere that 'sewing' might more accurately be called 'ironing' - these napkins certainly bore this out: it took me an obscenely long time to press the double-turned hems, trim the corners, and re-press, then about one minute to whizz through the machine. Anyway, I do hope their recipient enjoys these pastoral-themed table accessories.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Coming Up: a Shawl and a Secret

Above is a top secret project I shall soon be able to unveil. Also, I cast off my Laminaria shawl last night, and just need to find the time (and indeed space) to block it. Even in its scrunchy, unblocked state, though, I think it may well be the most beautiful thing I have ever made.
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