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