Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Me-Made-May'13: I'm in!

Honest to goodness, no word of a lie,  last night, I dreamt I was in a Rolling Stones video for a song called 'Top-stitched Girl'. Er... I think I've got to get sewing!

'I, Giulia of Drop Stitches Not Bombs, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '13. I endeavour to wear a self-made garment or accessory at least four times a week, for the duration of May 2013'

This may be May madness, but by golly, I WILL NOT LET THE MOTHS WIN! Thank you very much for the solidarity in the comments section, by the way - it seems fellow blogger Mikhaela is going through a similar trauma

I read this really interesting article in the Guardian about finding the time to do creative stuff, and am feeling quite inspired. A lot of my fear of sewing stems from a perfectionist streak that is so disappointed every time I sew a wonky seam, or fail to fit something flawlessly to my body, that I just give up entirely - but then in giving up, I don't get the practice I need to get better. So I hereby give myself permission to make some imperfect things, and indeed to make the time to make them. I mean, if I were to sew for six hours a day.... what couldn't I achieve?! Let's see!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


A while ago I hinted coyly about the one wearable sewing project I had completed, but not blogged about. It is the Phoebe skirt from Cal Patch’s wonderful book, Design-It-Yourself Clothes. I might write more about it another time, but for now suffice it to say that this was a good skirt, made in a soft, drapey woollen fabric, in a neutral colour that goes with everything; pockets deep and properly useful, lined in a red Liberty floral; a red silk lining so that it glides easily over tights: a very good skirt.

Good enough to….

… eat?

Fucking. Moths. Much of what is written about them is couched in very aggressive terms – ‘we are fighting A WAR on moths!’; ‘there is a BIBLICAL PLAGUE of moths!’; ‘MOTHS ATE MY KIDNEYS!!’, etc., and it’s easy to empathise with the rage. I felt very angry indeed with these insidious insects: a special, fearful, panicky kind of anger that comes from having a collection of several tens of thousands of yards of wool, and several drawers full to over-flowing with handknits. My skirt was not the only victim: they also destroyed Elphaba. She may have defied gravity, but she was no match for Tineola bisselliella.

The thing is, it’s my fault, not theirs, and that makes it all the more frustrating. It seems I was unwittingly creating a mothy Valhalla. With my central heating, I gave them a warm and inviting year-round breeding ground – a mothy Shagaluf. With all the stuff lying untouched and unworn at the back of my cupboard I provided a nice, quiet nursery for the pernicious progeny of all this uninhibited moth sex. And with the little bits of sweat or grime that I was too lazy to wash off, or too cheap to dry clean, I nourished those chomping larvae: I fed them with my own body, like, well, I hesitate to say ‘a gross mothy Jesus’, but effectively a gross mothy Jesus.

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was nine, and I try to stick up for all God’s creatures – even the unpopular ones. Pigeons? I love the graphic quality of their wing-bars, and the iridescence of their neck feathers. Seagulls? I like to watch the dazzling display of them eviscerating a bin-bag in mid-air. Mice? I think they are cute, and I admire how plucky they are, enterprisingly making a living on things like cardboard and washing powder (I once opened a box of cling-film, to find that a mouse had made a nest in it, and died. Perhaps one day I shall make it into an animated short, entitled ‘Clinging to Life’). Foxes? I enjoy how bushy their tales are, the soft russet of their fur, and their ability to imitate vocally a person being brutally bludgeoned to death (I like to think they are all engaged in a protracted game of Wink Murder). All these are models of resourcefulness, skilled adaptors to an urban environment for which they were not designed, and I find beauty in them all.

Moths, though? I know it wasn’t out of malice that they feasted on their favourite woolly delicacy. I know they were merely fulfilling their mothy natures. I also know that I hate those moth-erfuckers with my whole being from the tips of my knitting fingers to my woolly-socked toes, and that I will continue to wage a wearisome war against them with the only (ineffective) weapon available: tedious housework.

Have you ever been moth-ed? Do your clothes bear the battle scars? How do you combat the evil little destroyers? 

Sunday, 14 April 2013

On Parting With Hand-Knits (Farewell, Liesl and Coraline)

I have just given away two of my hand-knits to charity.

Coraline, originally blogged here (check out the first comment on that post... pretty loopy, right?!).

Liesl, originally blogged here.

These had lain dormant in drawers for some time, and I decided to clear them out to make room, hopefully, for new and better makes in the future. I bid them goodbye partly for stylistic reasons, but maybe more because of the niggling technical issues that both suffered from. Coraline's thread button loops frayed and splayed...

Furthermore, the neckline was just a little too high, so that when buttoned it felt a bit like an alpaca garrotte (when unbuttoned, it looked like it should be buttoned). The whole confection - the sweet pinky-purply yarn, the heart-shaped pink buttons, the picot edging - was rather sugary for my tastes. It was sort of the cardigan equivalent of a fruity sweet bedecked with rainbows and ponies, and aggressively marketed at the under-five market.

As for Liesl, the hooks and eyes I sewed on in place of buttons always annoyed me in their wonkiness; what is more the yarn I made it out of pilled IN HEINOUS CLUMPS. This was entirely predictable, and my fault rather than the lovely yarn's - I would never make a jumper out of a loosely spun, single-ply wool/silk blend nowadays. But still. HEINOUS CLUMPS.


I absolutely don't mean to do down my own handiwork; I don't have a problem with the things I make looking handmade, or indeed homemade, I just think my skills and my taste have moved on from these particular two knits. Both of these were made at the heady height of the button-at-the-yoke-only cardigan craze - I even bought myself some Manos Wool/Silk to make a Moch Cardi, so utterly in love with that style was I*. Like bell-bottom jeans, or shoulder pads, though, that kind of cardigan such a distinctive look that once it goes out of style it seems extra dated. I mean, feel free to disagree in the comments section, but I think the button-at-the-top cardigan is over; most recent patterns I can think of button firmly at the bottom (unless they are drapily open à la Nanook).

I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that there are passing fashions in knitwear just like in other garments... I must confess, though, that sometimes, when I'm knitting, the word 'heirloom' flits across my mind, and I imagine my descendants (probably wearing space-suits, probably driving hover-cars or at the very least jet-packs) reverentially unwrapping my creations from yellowed tissue paper to run their fingers over the stitches... and coming away with a handful of HEINOUS CLUMPS - no, it was definitely time for these cardigans to go.

Despite the clumps, it really was a peculiarly emotional experience giving them away. Moving them out stirred up a whole dust-storm of memories, about the dank basement room I was living in when I made them (around the corner from my friend Patrick with his nifty camera), about the guy I was with at the time, the party I worked on Coraline at, the audiobook I listened to as I finished Liesl, the fraught decision over Coraline's hem, and how long it took to whip-stitch down every one of those live stitches...

Anthropologists talk about objects having a social life, and I think that is especially true for the clothes we make ourselves, which integrate themselves deeply into the fabric of our existence. That in itself, though, shouldn't be enough to stop us getting rid of them if they get old or shabby, or no longer fit in with the rest of our wardrobe. It's time for these two cardigans to start a new social life, and I really do hope it will be full of pleasant adventures.

What do you think? Have you ever given away, or thrown away, a garment that you've made? Do you violently disagree with my controversial statements on the button-at-the-top cardigan? Let me know!

*incidentally, any suggestions on to do with 900 yards of Manos Wool/Silk would be very much appreciated!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Follow Me on Bloglovin'

As you may have heard, Google Reader is in its death throes, so I'm switching over to Bloglovin' - if you would like to join me, Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Me-Made-May... could I do it?

I have been debating whether to sign up to Zoe's Me-Made-May '13. In terms of knitwear, it wouldn't be that much of a challenge for me, as I already wear at least one hand-knit item everyday, and can often be found swaddled in a veritable yarn cocoon of shawls and cardigans. For sewing, though, it would be an enormous undertaking, as I only really have one self-stitched item that I wear regularly (and I've not even blogged about it - I must rectify that). I do, however, have a moderate stash of both patterns and fabric, a lovely sewing machine and a sincere wish to become better acquainted with it. 

Also, although I do have a lot of me-made knitwear, when I imagine displaying it again on this blog, I have to admit that some of it is looking a little tired; perhaps it is time to sift through my collection and make way for some new additions. Speaking of which, I am finally making some progress on Beatnik, which has been waiting patiently, sometimes in the freezer to protect it from moths.

Ugh - red is so hard to photograph. As you can see, I'm nearly finished with the front and the back, and just have to knit two sleeves and a neckband - and seam the whole darn thing together, of course. I cannot remember why I decided to knit this in pieces, but I heartily regret that decision. 

Is anyone else thinking of joining the Me-Made-May madness? Do you think it's a crazy idea on my part? I'm currently trying to formulate exactly what goals I would set myself... It's been quite an interesting exercise just thinking about what are the most gaping gaps in my wardrobe, and which of those I could conceivably fill with my limited sewing skillz. Unofficially taking part in NaKniSweMoDo* back in 2009 was a real boost to my sweater collection - I feel like I need just such a challenge to kickstart my garment sewing. Oh, and I'm finding The Great British Sewing Bee quite inspirational as well - has anyone else been watching?

*National Knit a Sweater in a Month Dodecathon!

Monday, 1 April 2013

Green and Fragrant

I think I mentioned visiting Yumchaa in Soho the other day? I enjoyed the exotic green tea ('Regent's Park') I had there so much, I got a packet to take home with me. How pretty does it look decanted into a glass jar?

It looks like a sort of magical forest terrarium, I think, and it has been scenting my mornings with sweet papaya and strawberries in a cup. 

Brooding over my hat fail, I cast on some green socks, which will be my companions on another pitiless ten-hour Megabus journey tomorrow. 

Also today, I went to see From Death to Death and Other Small Tales, a fantastic free exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Here's me amid my favourite piece of the exhibition, Ernesto Neto's 'It happens when the body is anatomy of time' - great, crazy lycra tubes weighted down with spices. 

The whole room is an olfactory sensation. I'm sorry to keep comparing everything to a magical forest, but that is exactly what this feels like: an enchanted glade of sweet-smelling, elongated elephant's legs. Highly recommended. 
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