Linden

As soon as the Grainline Studio Linden pattern was released last year I knew this was going to be one of those patterns that I end up making numerous versions of, just like the Colette Mabel (five so far!).  In fact, that could pretty much be an everyday uniform for me – Mabel and Linden.   Sooooo comfy.

The first version I made up in some of the fabric I had left over from this Mabel skirt, and was pretty pleased with the fit straight off (I made a size 8).  The only thing I needed to change was shorten the sleeves a bit, and I decided in the end to shortern the body by a couple of inches too, although it works at both lengths.  I never blogged this version because unfortunately it got pretty tatty really quickly as the fabric snags really easily – weirdly it hasn’t so badly on the skirt.  My initial plan was to make a second version in a classic grey marl, but when I saw this Linden by Karyn of The Workroom in Liberty Manning fleece I was desperate to make one in the same fabric.

Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt in Liberty Manning fleece

The design of the fabric appealed to me hugely – it almost has the look of camo, but made out of images of mountains.  According to the M is for Make website where I bought it from the fabric is inspired by William Morris’s poem ‘Iceland First Seen’, and is a digital design created using photographs of Icelandic glaciers and mountains taken by the Liberty design team on a trip to Iceland.  Sadly the actual quality of the fabric is surprisingly poor for Liberty, but I was prepared for this as I’d seen it mentioned by a few other bloggers who’d used this fabric, including Kelly of Cut Cut Sew who made up a Linden in the pink floral version of this fleece.  It’s quite thin and has virtually no stretch (!) so I needed to cut a much longer piece for the neckband than the pattern suggests, but other than that it went together fine and is actually really nice to wear as the fleecy inside is really soft.

Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt in Liberty Manning fleece

I hadn’t initially intended to make the short sleeved version but I had to in the end as I was really stingy when I ordered the fabric, mainly because it’s pretty expensive and I didn’t want to spend too much on it knowing full well it wasn’t the best quality fabric and I was basically just paying a premium for a design I really loved.  It also meant I couldn’t do any pattern matching but I don’t think it matters that much with this fabric.

Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt in Liberty Manning fleeceI opted to do a bit of a mix of the two versions of the pattern as I didn’t want a cropped body so I did the regular body with the short sleeves.  I was pretty dubious of the usefulness of a sweatshit with short sleeves but now I’ve tried it out it turns out it’s perfect for an English summer, and I’ve been wearing this version loads recently.

I took these photos outside the recently refurbished and reopened Whitworth Gallery just before I went to see the M+Sigg Collection exhibition of Chinese art from 1970 to now which was really excellent.  I highly recommend you go see it if you get the chance.

Avery

Without planning it, I seem to be focussing on re-making and refining previously made patterns recently.  I first knitted the Avery cowl pattern by Melissa Labarre about two years ago in a lovely grey Artesano Aran yarn that’s a blend of 50% wool and 50% alpaca with tiny pinkish flecks in it.  It’s super-soft and really lovely to wear, but I find it a bit narrow so that when you wrap it twice round your neck it’s a bit gappy and not as cosy as I’d like.  I’ve been meaning to knit another all winter and finally got round to it this last week.

Avery Cowl knitted in Lett Lopi

The pattern is written for Quince and Co. Osprey yarn which I’ve never knitted with, but looks to be a beautiful 100% wool aran in some gorgeous colours.  I would love to knit Avery in Osprey, but I was on a bit of a budget when I was purchasing the yarn for this project and I guessed I’d need one more skein than the three required by the pattern so I was looking for something more affordable.  Osprey yarn is available in the UK from Loop, and at £13.99 a skein (170 yrds) my modified Avery cowl would have worked out at just over £55.  After scouring the internet looking at various options I finally hit on the idea to use Lett Lopi (bought from Meadow Yarn here), another fantastic 100% wool yarn but amazing value at £3.90 for 109 yrds.  I bought 5 balls which came to £19.50, but in the end I used just over 3 balls.  And I mean just – I had to change to the fourth ball the row before I cast off.

Avery Cowl knit in Lett Lopi

Having just recently knit this jumper in Alafoss Lopi (the bulky version of Lopi yarn) I knew that this was not going to be anywhere near as soft as my previous Avery, but I think the softness of the alpaca yarn had contributed to my previous version stretching and losing a bit of width so I fancied something a bit more durable.  The Lopi yarn is a mix of the soft, superlight inner layer of the fleece and the strong, water-repellant outer layer so it creates a pretty warm, durable yarn.  There are really nice longer, tougher dark fibres running throughout it that give it a fantastic texture, and it’s amazingly light and airy.  The finished cowl feels so light it almost feels a bit thin at first, but it’s really warm to wear.  It blocked nicely and I love the way the stitch pattern looks in a yarn with a bit more definition.

Avery cowl knit in Lett Lopi

As an added bonus you also get picture of my Eppleby hat that I knit a few months ago now.  I’ve worn it to death and it’s stretched out a wee bit but still looking good.  It’s knit in Titus yarn and in the exact same colour as the pattern.  It was a really fun knit and the pattern was pretty easy to memorise.  Ravelled here.

Avery cowl knit in Lett Lopi

 

Marled

Just because we make our own clothes doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re escaping all the problems that ‘fast fashion’ entails.  Knitters and sewers are still susceptible to impulse buying fabric and yarn and building up huge stashes of materials that may or may not eventually be made into anything.

Now that I’ve decided that making all my own clothes is going to be a bit of an aim for me I’ve been giving a lot more thought to what supplies and patterns I buy and how much wear I can get out of the finished item.  It seems that this is something of a theme at the moment – many, many bloggers have been writing recently about buying yarn and fabric more thoughtfully, stashing less and planning more carefully.  I’ve certainly come to the realisation that making your own clothes is not enough in itself, thinking about how you make them and what with (and what for?) is the next logical step.

Mabel skirt and Lopi jumper

Taking photos of handmade clothes in front of the huge old mills of Ancoats (now inevitably turned into luxury flats) really made me think about all the changes we’ve gone through in textile and clothing production in the years since these mills were built.  The resurgence of knitting and sewing now as a leisure activity probably would have seemed pretty strange to the people who used to work in these mills, especially when for some people it’s just another way to spend money on amassing more and more stuff that sits around filling our houses and self-storage facilities.  By making all my own clothes I’d like to get to a point where making is both useful and satisfying.  Thankfully not drudgery like it was for many women in the past, but hopefully not all froth either.

abel skirt and Lopi jumper

I’m really, really pleased then, that I’ve finally put this yarn to good use.  I’ve had it in my stash for years and years, it’s Alafoss Lopi yarn that a friend brought back from Iceland so that I could make him a jumper out of it.  I’m pretty ashamed to say that I started that jumper but never ever finished it, have since lost contact with him, and the yarn stayed in my stash for ages.  I’ve been on a bit of a budget recently and have been trying to finish off half made projects and use up yarn and fabric that I already have – I’m not a huge hoarder but I do have enough to keep me going for a bit.  I dug out this yarn and made it up into the simple, warm, baggy jumper I’ve been after for ages.

I didn’t follow a pattern, it’s just a simple bottom up raglan knit in the round with no waist shaping.  I knit the Lopi on 8mm needles as I didn’t like how dense the fabric was coming up on the recommended 6mm.  It’s a rustic sort of yarn so I wanted a fabric with a bit more give in it.  I absolutely adore the colour, it’s just black with white tweedy flecks in it. So simple but absolutely perfect.

Mabel skirt and Lopi jumper

The skirt, as you might have guessed is another Colette Mabel.  I could (and probably pretty much will when I’ve made a few more) wear this sort of skirt as my daily uniform.  I really like working with the same pattern over and over again, gradually tweeking it until it’s absolutely perfect.  This time I added an inch to the waistband so it’s much deeper which worked really well and makes the skirt feel a lot more fitted and secure, and I also added another couple of inches to the skirt from the last time I’d made it (so 8.5 inches longer in total over the whole skirt).  I also spent a bit more time making and pressing the waistband so that the lining properly sits to the inside which is a lot neater than my first attempt. I’ll probably grade from a S to an XS at the waist next time I make it as I find it a little bit loose.

The fabric is a really lovely marled, textured ponte from Fabric Godmother – it was pretty easy to work with, although I think it did stretch out quite a bit as I was working on it so that’s something to watch out for. The raw edges seemed a little bit fragile and it did shed a bit, and when I came to sew the waistband it was much smaller than the skirt pieces.  I just eased it in though and it worked absolutely fine.

Mabel skirt and Lopi jumper

I did buy the fabric new this week (I’ve no knits in my stash) but I bought it specifically to make this skirt and had it made up the day after it arrived in the post.  I definitely haven’t hoarded enough supplies to not buy any new fabric so I just want to make sure that if I buy something it’s for a specific project and preferably the next one in my queue so that the fabric doesn’t sit around not being used.  I find it harder to find local, ethically produced fabric than I do yarn so I’m not that strict with my fabric choices but I do like to support great independent businesses like Fabric Godmother and to buy fabric of a good enough quality that I feel my clothes are going to last.

I wish I’d got a closeup of the skirt but it was bloody freezing (as you might have guessed from the ice just forming on the canal) and there was only a limited amount of time I could bear to stand there taking photos.  Sorry about that.  I defninitely started this blogging business at just about the worst time of year…

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Greyscale

Sometimes yarn’s undyed, natural colour is just perfect as it is.

Strikkekista Konglelua hat and Grainline Studio Hemlock teeThe mid-grey of this alpaca is so warm and has such depth to it, it immediately stood out to me when I saw it.  Even the lovely halo around the yarn somehow enhances the colour.  It’s pure alpaca 4-ply from Town End Alpacas in the Lake District, I bought a couple of balls from their stall at Yarndale last September always intending to make a hat.  It’s such unbelievably soft yarn I can’t think of a better way of using it.

Konglelua hat and Hemlock tee
I deliberated long and hard about what pattern to use in order to get the most out of this yarn.  I wanted something with texture in it, and was thinking of cables originally but then I came across this pattern – Konglelua by Strikkekista – and knew it would work so well with this yarn.  The original yarn used for the hat in the pattern photos is much crisper, and I liked the idea of using a yarn that would soften the edges of the pattern quite a bit.  The stitch pattern is simple but effective, and gives the fabric a beautiful structure.

Konglelua hat and Hemlock teeThe tee is a pattern I’ve been meaning to try for some time now.  It’s the free Hemlock tee from Grainline Studio, and like so many of Jen’s patterns it’s another killer wardrobe staple (the skirt I’m wearing is another Grainline Studio pattern and a firm favourite – the Moss skirt).  I’m on a bit of a roll with knit fabric at the moment after sewing with it for the first time at the end of last year.  I started with a Colette Moneta dress, then made a Nettie dress for New Years Eve, a Mabel skirt last week and now this Hemlock tee.  I’m absolutely hooked on how quickly it sews up.

Konglelua hat and Hemlock tee 19I struggled a bit with the neckline, as it was only the second time I’d finished one like this.  Amazingly, after a good press you can hardly see the places where it got a bit wonky.  I’m not sure exactly what the fabric is, it’s a marled grey jersey with plenty of stretch and a good drape that I bought from John Lewis a while ago.  The only change I made to the pattern was to lop 4 inches off the length (I’m around 5’3″ so it was a bit long on me), there were no real fit issues to contend with as it’s nice and loose fitting.  It was a really easy and satisfying sew.

Konglelua hat and Hemlock teeThere will definitely be more Hemlock tees coming up…..

Back to Basics

When I originally thought of the title for this first post on my blog I had only intended one meaning for it.

Ysolda Blank Canvas close up of shapingLet me explain.  Like many, many other makers I was drawn into teaching myself knitting and sewing by the desire to make some fairly frivolous items.  In my case the specific item in question was an enormous fuschia pink scarf made with super bulky Rowan Biggy Print (now discontinued – probably for the best).  That was around ten years ago now and whilst I no longer have that scarf (I have absolutely no idea what happened to it in the end but I think it ended up looking fairly scraggy) I’m still as excited about knitting now as I was when I first taught myself from Debbie Stoller’s Stitch and Bitch book back in the early 2000s.  Over the years I’ve learnt more and more and have now reached a point where I feel pretty happy that I can make successful knitted items, at least most of the time.

About a couple of years ago I began to sew again for the first time as an adult.  My mum taught me when I was maybe early teens, and I sewed a few dresses with her but never really caught the bug for making my own clothes as none of them fitted just right.  Not great when you’re a self-conscious teenager.  I was given a sewing a machine for my birthday in my early twenties but never really used it for more than altering clothes as I hated all the patterns that were available at the time.  Finally at some point I discovered the burgeoning indie pattern scene and got myself back into sewing with Christine Haynes’s Craftsy class, and a fairly strange Colette Macaron made from some old flannel from my Mum’s stash.

After a fair bit of trial and error I’ve reached a place where actually making ALL my clothes seems pretty exciting, and kind of do-able, and that means making more of the clothes I wear everyday.  Hence…..back to basics.  But then, in typical fashion, I had a classic case of overthinking things combined with a self-imposed inaugural blog post deadline and a desperate eye on the quickly disappearing weather window I had for photographing, that meant both of these items didn’t exactly go to plan.

Blank Canvas and Colette MabelFirst the jumper.  It’s Ysolda’s Blank Canvas pattern modified to have longer sleeves, and knit in John Arbon Viola yarn.  Now, I’ve knit this pattern before about a year ago and had to go up two needle sizes to get gauge.  That time I knit the size 40 which was really erring on the side of caution a bit too much and it came out a bit big.  I knitted it in West Yorkshire Spinner’s Blue Faced Leicester DK and the fabric that resulted from knitting on 4.5mm needles was just a bit too soft and floppy, and it soon stretched out and was about three sizes too big.  And ridiculously bobbly.  Seriously, there are whole sheep that come off that jumper regularly.  Ack.

Blank Canvas and Colette Mabel

So, here comes the overthinking.  Obviously I sized down to the 38 this time.  But the previous jumper was really way too big and I still didn’t get gauge SO I was really worried that I was using another super soft yarn (100% merino) and that if I knit on 4.5mm needles again I would have another case of really un-durable fabric.  So I knit the size 38 on 4mm needles.  And it turned out just a wee bit more fitted than I was aiming for.  Duh.

I kind of thought I could resolve it through blocking but no such luck.  So, not the comfy, just-throw-it-on sort of jumper I was aiming for when I tagged along on the Sunday Sweater Knitalong but it’s still wearable and the yarn is lovely.  The colour was a limited edition one called Gingernut and it’s a really amazing chesnut-ty, russet-ty brown.  And the pattern, btw, is excellent as you’d expect.  I really love the way the waist shaping is moved from the sides to the middle and the pseudo-saddle shoulders fit like a dream.

Back to Basics Lesson No.1 – YOU DO NOT KNOW BETTER THAN THE GAUGE SWATCH

Blank Canvas and Colette MabelSo now on to the skirt.  First things first this turned out exactly as I planned and it fits perfectly straight out the envelope which is awesome and one of the many many advantages of sewing with knits.  The moments of stupidity occurred entirely in the process of construction and luckily didn’t affect the end product.

The pattern is the Colette Mabel (view A) but lengthened 5.5″.  I was aiming to replicate a skirt I bought from American Apparel about a year ago that has not lasted well – the jersey just won’t stay in shape any longer.  It’s the sort of skirt that is absolutely my style, usually worn with a boxy jumper or top, not something so fitted (although I kind of like this look).  I was excited about making the Mabel cos I knew that if it worked I could whip up another four or five of these and have an awesome and easy day-to-day wardrobe.

Blank Canvas and Colette MabelI made the size small and made no changes at all apart from altering the length.  Next time I’ll lengthen it about another inch as I had to make do with a minute hem to get it the right length and I’ll also make the waistband a bit deeper, just for personal preference.  I made the skirt with some beautiful navy ponte from The Fabric Godmother which was just about THE perfect choice for this pattern.  It’s super-soft and thick and really easy to sew with.

So, now onto the bad part….

I had the skirt all cut out so my plan was to make it in the morning on my day off and then photograph everything a soon as I’d finished.  I’d checked the weather and I had until about 2pm until it clouded over.  Everything was going ok, but I’m still a fairly slow sewer so putting the skirt together was taking a bit longer than the hour I’d anticipated.  I could see beautfiul clear blue skies out of my window as I was slaving away at my serger.  It got to about 10.30am and I was on track, I just had the hem to sew.

Now, by this point I was beginning to rush a bit.  The beautiful weather outside was goading me and I was gettting increasingly panicky that I was going to miss this perfect winter sun.  I stuck the hem up with wonder tape and changed to my twin needle for the final bit of sewing.  Then had a serious senior moment.  I set off sewing with my stitch still set on zig zag and immedately there was a horrible crunch and the two ends of my twin needle skittered across the table.  Oh. god.  You aboslute, monumental idiot.  Cos, of course what you absolutely don’t need when you’re rushing towards a deadline is a broken needle and no spare.

Cue panicked phone call to Abakhan to check they had the right needle in stock and a mad dash into town and back to get the needle so I could finish my skirt.  About an hour later I returned home with the right needle and sat down again to sew the hem.  Then sewed it the WRONG. WAY. ROUND.  Seriously, wtf.  I sewed it with the wrong side towards me so the lovely lines of twin stitching were on the inside.  *Head on table*

Anyway, after unpicking and re-doing it for the final time I finished it and got some OK photos in semi-decent light.

Back to Basics lesson No.2 – UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES MUST YOU EVER RUSH

So there you go, a couple of wardrobe basics and a couple of very basic lessons that I really should know by now.  I leave you with an outtake of me being photobombed very fast by an extremely friendly small dog (bottom right corner).

Blank Canvas and Colette MabelThanks for reading, and please do leave a comment if you happen to stop by.  This is my first post so I appreciate any feedback!!  (And I realise now I should have taken some closeups too – I’ll get the hang of this eventually)