Planning…

Well doesn’t time fly? Since I last posted you could be forgiven for thinking I hadn’t done anything. Since I don’t post any clients work I can’t show you any proof – but I promise I have been very busy. In addition to that The Management scheduled a trip to Northumberland to visit an old friend who had moved back there….. and deliver our family Christmas presents! At the time I was informed of this I had about a week to buy said gifts. It would be fair to say I was not too impressed, but now that it is done I can relax a bit and finish my other preparations.

During my time under cover I have still been stalking the blogs I know and love, and reconnected with one I used to read a while ago and seemed to have vanished from my WordPress reader (anyone else have those sort of problems? – and if I haven’t commented on your blog in a while it may be that you have vanished off the list and I haven’t noticed yet for which I can only apologise).

Lemongrass_01_small2

The blog I have found again is the lovely Evie at Pendle stitches who not only sews but knits some wonderful things for her family. In the post you get to if you click on the link you will find the fabulous Lemongrass sweater by Joji Locatelli.

Yarn for jumper and fabric for trousers

Yarn for jumper and fabric for trousers

I thought that it was a fabulous sweater with some slightly different detailing (got to love that side feature!) and immediately hot footed it to Ravelry for the pattern. I was fortunate to receive an e-mail from the Wool Warehouse which gave me the incentive to get right on it and buy the yarn ready to start. I chose Drops Nepal in a lovely Pumpkin shade which I consider to be just right for autumn/winter. I really see too many dull shades from clients so like to introduce a little brightness myself where possible – and I love an orange colour in almost any circumstance.

The ideal partner for such a gorgeous coloured yarn is a pair of brown trousers – and my favourite pair are starting to look a bit shabby. OK, a lot shabby.

Priced in pesetas!

Priced in pesetas!

I have been dredging deep in my stash of late and found this lovely piece. A perfect fabric (though truly who knows what the composition is) and just the right quantity. I vaguely recalled buying this on a Spanish holiday but was both amazed and slightly appalled to discover it still had a price sticker on IN PESETAS! Oh, the shame. Now Spain adopted the Euro in January 1999 so I really think this lovely fabric has marinaded quite long enough and is to be made into my Jeanius jeans pattern with a couple of tweaks. There is a bit of lycra in the fabric so it will be perfect for trousers with a kind of jeans styling, but a bit smarter.

I have got rid of two large orders last weekend so I have a little more time to do something for myself – once I clear the family alterations! I have a bag from my mum, and a couple of things for my DD that she has been very patiently waiting for. I’m on it now. Honest.

Hopefully it wont be too long before I can make progress on my two garments.

Swimming progress

As you see from the ticker I am now at mile 19 – actually 19.2 – so I only have 2.8 miles left in the challenge. It seems to have lasted for ages but the end is in sight. Thanks for all your good wishes – and a special thank you to those who have sponsored me for Aspire. I have exceeded the amount I hoped to raise so I can only thank you for your generosity.

 


2014’s hand made Christmas gifts

This house believes

A bit late I know but I can now show you what I made for my friends and family for Christmas.

Damson gin!

Damson gin!

Bottled and ready to go.

Bottled and ready to go.

I started months ago with an unreasonable amount of damsons given to me by a friend. At the end of an hour pricking them (that bodkin will never be the same again!) they were all popped into a demi-john, covered in gin and left to soak for a considerable time to flavour the gin. I probably took longer than was necessary to decide when I had put enough sugar in to sweeten the gin but I can confirm that it tastes great. Not one to waste food (and those damsons sure seemed too good to waste even though they tasted terrible as they were) I also made jam with the strained fruit which tastes wonderful – but I forgot to get any photographs. As you can imagine from the bottle label the jam had ‘Eat Me’ instead but looked very similar! I am told that the gin has now been drunk but that the jam may last a little longer. Opinion is divided as to whether it is ‘Drunken Damson’ or ‘Boozy Breakfast’ jam. If anyone wants the recipe I used let me know.

Granny's Cardigan

Granny’s Cardigan

Continuing my knitting for pleasure around client sewing I was able to knit this cardigan for my delightful mother-in-law. This is The Cosmopolitan Cardigan from Vogue Knitting. It was knitted in a lovely thick, soft yarn called Elegance. I had made this model for my MIL before so I knew it was a hit and would fit. Thankfully I was right – and she loves the colours. It isn’t clear from the photograph but there is a tiny metallic twinkle in the yarn.

Gryffindor hat

Gryffindor hat and sweater – bear sized

Gryffindor hat

Gryffindor hat

Following that, Jess made a request months ago for a Gryffindor hat. Once again I went to Ravelry and used the St Mungo’s simple hat and added the necessary stripes. Now, many (many, many) years ago Jess was given a lovely snow white teddy bear for Christmas. He is now fairly aged, a bit grey, and somewhat slimmer due to lots of hugs – but still very much loved and I knew that  he would also look really spiffy in his new hat and sweater set.

PJ's for The Management

PJ’s for The Management

Despite having to use the sewing machine (and not getting paid at the end!) I knew that The Management would appreciate a new pair of PJ’s. Self drafted pattern already tucked away (TNT now), fabric in stash – sadly not silly this time!- so a good afternoons project. I can confirm that they have been worn and declared a success.

At the beginning of December I received a tweet with this picture saying this would make the DREAM leggings. Brilliant – except that this is just a picture – not a link to some fabric she had found. Supermum into action.

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Find this fabric!

 

 

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Plain blue supplex, and the space leggings!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She had a happy face – but no make-up and hair not done so….

You can’t get a tweet like that and not act on it. After some time searching the internet I remembered that Melissa and Winnie had both used and recommended Funkifabrics. If you are going to click on that link can I suggest that you make yourself a drink and get settled for a long time – there are a gazillion wonderful patterns which are printed to order. I panicked a bit when the fabric arrived as it had a large plain white border and I was concerned that I hadn’t taken that into account when I ordered. Panic unnecessary – the patterned section = the size ordered. Magnificent. She was pleased – I think that was what the scream when she opened them meant.

All in all I think that was a very successful Christmas – even more so as we were able to spend the morning (after a walk in the Wyre Forest) on our balcony in the sunshine with a bucks fizz and a mug of tea.

Merry Christmas from the wine balcony !(Bewdley branch)

Merry Christmas from the wine balcony !(Bewdley branch)

It wasn’t until I looked at the photograph later I realised that I was wearing my Larry sweater, snaky jeans, and hand knitted socks.

 

 


Sometimes life needs to change.

I am not going to make any apology (this time) for having taken so long to post anything new – but I will tell you what has happened here Chez Material Lady.

Immediately after my last post I worked like a crazy lady (no sniggering in the back!) to clear the decks of client work before going on holiday with The Management. We had a fabulous time in the amazingly beautiful medieval walled city of Carcassonne. If you ever get an offer  of a holiday in this part of France take it – Carcassonne looks like medieval Disney. And is the home of cassoulet.

Beautiful Carcassonne

Beautiful Carcassonne

We had a fabulous time…..until I got food poisoning on a day out to Avignon. Big style. After almost a week on fluids and very little solid food I rather foolishly went on a trip to Gozo with some diving friends – I know I probably shouldn’t have done but this had been arranged for ever. The logic was that if I wasn’t well enough to dive then resting in the sunshine would be good for me. I confess that despite still eating very little I did go diving – and wonderful it was too – and very much enjoyed the rest in the sunshine. Lots of rest and back home to start work again.

The lovely bay in Xlendi, Gozo

The lovely bay in Xlendi, Gozo

Or not. My batteries were on empty, and for the first week back almost every time I sat down I went to sleep. Thankfully I had left little client work that needed urgent attention so I was able to just rest, but it did make me consider what I would have done if there had been lots as it has taken weeks to start feeling anywhere near normal again.

I hate to let anyone down, and I always try to ensure that work is completed well within a deadline just in case there should be a problem (I am glad to say that I can’t remember the last time I needed it). I have also been fed up with not having time for my own sewing – it is clear from my lack of progress in the GAM challenge that I am not attaching enough importance to what I would like to make for me. So…I have removed my listing from the Yell.com site and intend to gradually reduce the amount of work I do for other people. I have loved the 20+ years of professional sewing (so far) and intend to continue – but in a reduced capacity. Hopefully that will give me time to play a bit more.

Larry front

Larry front

Larry back

Larry back

During all the time sitting around doing nothing (pffft!) I have at least finished knitting Larry.This is a pattern that is available free of charge on Ravelry which I saw on ‘Pendle Stitches‘ and I fell in love with it. I know it was shown on Ravelry as a mans garment but I thought I would enjoy wearing it. I knitted it in Rowan Pure wool Aran which is so smooth it feels almost like cotton, but with the warmth of wool. As Evie said it was a wonderfully easy knit (despite the fact that she had some difficulties) and is a great pattern for clattering through whilst watching the telly, or listening to audio books (my new addiction – Overdrive app to access the libraries supply on my new Kindle. Brilliant!).I used the sewn cast/bind  off again around the neck and cuffs (the sleeve stitches are picked up at the armhole edge) and love the finish. I know I don’t look as good as Evies lovely hubby in my Larry but I love it and know I will wear it loads now that it is getting cold here in Bewdley.

I am still working on the pattern for Kenneth D Kings ‘Jeanius’ course on Craftsy but I am about to make a muslin to test the pattern. This has taken so long that I need to make good use of this pattern once it is right.

Don’t work too hard out there!


In which I show my ‘Backbone’

Well time has been running away again and you could be forgiven for thinking I am just settled in the garden with a drink enjoying the sunshine. I wish.

I have been sewing like a maniac to clear client work recently, and every time I clear some space more work arrives. Still, never complain when business is good  – but it makes doing any sewing for myself unappealing so in any ‘relaxation time’ (almost always late evening whilst watching mindless TV) I have managed to finish my ‘Backbone’ sweater.

Collar and back detail

Collar and back detail

Backbone

Backbone finished!

Despite this pattern showing in my Ravelry search for what could be made with the quality and quantity of yarn I had I was a little concerned that the Rowan felted tweed DK yarn was going to be a bit fine for the project. Now it is finished I am very happy with the result which is going to be much more wearable than the original cardigan I knitted in this yarn.

As the garment is knitted from the top down I didn’t really want to have the ‘chain stitch’ finish you get from my usual knitted cast off so I used this sewn bind off. By finishing the edges this way it gives a much more ‘professional’ finish – and will confuse my mother when she trys to see how this was made! The other benefit of knitting the whole garment this way was that once the knitting was done there was very little by way of sewing together – just a little seam under each arm, and darning the yarn joins. Brilliant.

Backbone

Backbone … back

If I am being honest life hasn’t been all work – The Management and I had a couple of days in London. We met up with Jess (the Darling Daughter) for a  day at Kew Gardens and Palace. This wasn’t anything like I expected – I thought it may be a bit regimented and stuffy but it was brilliant! We had a fantastic day there, which was helped by the magnificent weather we are having in the UK at present, and I discovered even Royal Parks get yarn bombed!

Yarn bombed tree at Kew

Yarn bombed tree at Kew

Big smocked tree - and little Jess

Big smocked tree – and little Jess

Does that look smocked to you too?

Does that look smocked to you too?

 

 

Whilst walking around I also spotted this tree. It was pretty massive so Jess (who is 5 foot 1″ tall) stood in the picture to give an idea of scale. Doesn’t the bark look like it has been smocked? I had to share that with you all.

 

 

On a total other subject, I think I have to adapt my ‘Garment a Month’ challenge to ’12 Garments in a Year’ since I have failed to sew anything for myself in June or July – and if I am honest August isn’t looking too promising! Still, I have high hopes of managing 12 garments in 12 months – even if they aren’t evenly spread.

 

I hope you are all managing to be more personally productive out there in blogland!


Clearing the dead wood

It feels a bit like making my way through the Amazon with a machete. However, I am starting to feel better with myself. Now the confession.

I have two rooms for my sewing and supplies. Yes, I know I am very lucky – but I do sew for clients so the actual sewing area has to be kept reasonably clear so I can deal with people without wading through other projects. But the other room. Oh boy. No I am not showing you a before photograph! Ever.

When I am busy I tend to put things for my own work in a little (well, it starts little) pile to be done soon. Then another client has a crisis that takes precedence, and another, or I just have a good novel, and am sick of sewing for a while, and before I know where I am ….  chaos. I hope that sounds familiar to at least some of you. So this week, while I have been on my own, I have dedicated some time each day to sorting it out.

Tidy patterns

Tidy patterns

Sorted pattern piles

Sorted pattern piles

I was horrified to find a veritable hornets nest of pattern pieces that had merged into one horrible mess. I know that these were originally put with the intended fabrics when they were traced, but the fabrics had been moved and so they were just a heap. A largely unlabelled heap. Thank heavens for my pattern cutting training which enabled me to sort them into there respective groups.

Having done that I identified them in the Patrones/Burda magazines they came from and checked that they were complete before labeling each piece and putting them into plastic pockets. I would NEVER have let a clients pattern be treated this way so why am I so bad to myself? They are now all nice and neat and put away tidily (where they should have been) so I feel better.

Re-rolled Rowan yarn

Re-rolled Rowan yarn

Harriet Cardigan

Harriet Cardigan

I also had some time sorting my wardrobe. We had a few days of beautiful sunny weather (yes, I managed to get the garden battered into shape) before reverting back to cold, but it made me think I should sort the dead wood from my wardrobe. Isn’t it lovely when everything is put back and you can see what you really wear – and more precisely isn’t it shocking when you find something you thought you would love that you can’t remember wearing? Putting on and taking off many times, but not wearing all day. This cardigan fell into that category.

I really don’t understand why but the cardigan I loved when it was knitted has never been worn. Ever.

Hanks on a side table

Hanks on a side table

The yarn is beautiful Rowan Felted Tweed, and I loved the colour, which I had paid quite a lot of money for so I didn’t want it just as insulation for my wardrobe. So, with heavy heart and a Star Wars film I settled down to take it to bits and deconstruct it. I managed to get it into balls in one evening and then used an upended side table to wind it into hanks. I know a swift would have made the job easier but I really hope not to have to do this too many times. The yarn is now washed and dried in hanks and ready to knit again. I think into this – any opinions people?

Clearing the room (and wardrobe) has cleared my mind a bit so I feel ‘fresher’ and a bit more ready to take on a new challenge. I still have a bunch of stuff to do for clients (all needed soon so they all have priority over my own work) so it is going to be unlikely that I will get the Jeanius trousers done before the end of the month. Perhaps they will have to be Junes GAM.

I wish you all tidy workrooms, and uncomplicated days. Back soon, when I hope I will have something to show you!


A weeks review

I have been pretty busy this week but had fun all the way.

London Bag

London Bag

London Apron

London Apron

I have made four aprons, and six shopping bags ready for fundraising events. There are more items listed ready to make this week but I really wanted to make a start with things in this wonderful fabric showing the major sights in London. It is a lovely heavy 100% cotton that I am sure will be really hard wearing – and obviously washable since no-ones aprons (or shopping bags) stay clean for long.

I would have liked one of these for some cooking I did myself this week – but not allowed! I have been making sour dough bread about twice a week since I was given my starter and last week was no different. I like real ‘loaf tin’ shaped loaves as they are really easy to cut and make into toast – and sour dough toasts brilliantly!

Sour dough loaves

Sour dough loaves

I also made some Hot Cross Buns. I love Hot Cross Buns so when I saw a sour dough recipe on Fig Jam and Lime Cordials blog I had to try them. This is a fabulous blog but comes with a warning. She is an amazing cook and you will want to eat everything you see. I can almost feel my waist expanding as I read each post. And the Hot Cross buns are wonderful. I like mine well spiced so I will probably increase the amount of spice in the next batch. There will certainly be many more batches. Just look how good even my first batch looks (and there aren’t this many any more!)

Fabulous hot cross buns

Fabulous hot cross buns

Between client and fund raising sewing, cooking, and just general life there hasn’t been much spare time but I have eventually finished one of my ‘Little Minx’ socks. These are another toe-up pattern from Ravelry – and I have to say that the jury is out on this style. It has taken an age but only because this is the third time I have knitted this up. The first time I forgot to knit into the back of the knit stitch and the pattern wasn’t anything like as nice (it took a while to work out what I was doing wrong. Note to self – READ THE PATTERN PROPERLY). I love the yarn but at the moment I don’t love the sock. I have managed to make ‘pairs’ of every sock pattern I have made so far. I don’t want this to be the first singleton, but I think I am going to have to leave this a while before making the second.

Little Minx sock

Little Minx sock

I have lots of sewing planned for this week – but I am also hosting a fundraiser for my daughters marathon at my home on Friday morning so I will be knee deep in cake mix later in the week. I hope they all work right. I will report on fundraising progress next week.


My Handmade Christmas

Not all of it you understand, but I do like to try and make some gifts through the year for those who will appreciate the effort involved.

The perfect place to knit

The perfect place to knit

Glamknits textured shrug

Glamknits textured shrug

I started way back in July when I was unable to dive during our clubs scuba diving holiday in Penzance due to my knee problem. I can’t say I felt too happy at the idea of missing out on the fabulous diving but sitting in the sunshine with my book, knitting, and i-pod was reward enough. And I managed to make this for my mother-in-law.

This Glam knits textured shrug pattern is available on Ravelry as a free pattern. I have made it several times already and I knew that the colour of this Rowan cotton/linen blend was precisely what my MIL would love. Finished and packed up by August. Cue smugness.

Back in October when I visited the Lake District I was knitting my first pair of toe-up socks which I have already shown here, and bought yarn at the wonderful Kendal Wool Gathering to make another pair in sparkly purple yarn  (from Yarn Garden UK) ,which was for my darling daughter along with the first pair, and white for my mum which I showed here. These were wonderful to knit, and the method meant that there was no grafting needed, a technique that I always struggled with. Yet another Ravelry free pattern. It really is a wonderful resource.

Toe up sock success

Toe up sock success

I am fortunate that my daughter makes a ‘wish list’ for Christmas – and doesn’t expect any of it really. However, when one of the items is ‘pyjama bottoms’ I really couldn’t ignore that. I dug out the pattern I drafted for her ages ago and cut these from stash. I particularly enjoyed riffling through the button tin again to select suitable ‘fly’ buttons. The only thing they do is make sure you have the pants on the right way round!

Christmas PJ's

Christmas PJ’s

Both myself and J (daughter) are huge Doctor Who fans and the rest of the list included a DVD request for an old series. It starred Tom Baker who was the main Doctor Who of my childhood – so I had to make this didn’t I?

Tom Bakers Doctor Who scarf

Tom Bakers Doctor Who scarf

Along with the obligatory Jelly Babies this was probably the hit of Christmas. Worn all day and no photographs! What can I say – I’m incompetent! Some of the yarn was left form my crochet skirt and I filled in the other colours as needed. The pattern is the real BBC pattern and I found it on – yes, you guessed, Ravelry.

Latergater-1_small2

Another big hit was this lovely neck warmer (from Ravelry!) and I made three in different colours for friends. And didn’t take any photographs. Yet again my incompetence shows.

The Management didn’t get anything hand made this year – something I didn’t realise until too late to remedy it – he will have to be first in line for next year!

I was given the Drape Drape 2 book by my wonderful sister amongst my lovely gifts and will be looking forward to digesting all that it has to offer when things settle a little.

I do hope that Santa was good to you all, and that you had the wonderful Christmas of your choosing.

I will be back soon to reveal my first choice for Garment a month.

 


I’m A Great Aunt!

In truth I thought I always was, though my nephew & nieces may beg to differ, but now it is official. With the arrival of my nephews firstborn I am officially a GREAT Aunt. Both the new mother and I are fans of Converse sneakers so when I found this FREE pattern on Ravelry it was obvious I had to make it up!

Converse, great and small!

Converse, great and small!

My boots are only a size 6/EU 39 so you get an idea of scale. These little boots are just beyond cute! Crochet isn’t something I do lots of, and I struggle a bit with patterns but I managed to make something that looked pretty much like the original picture in not too much time. The yarn was a negligible amount, and all available from stash. It wasn’t as if I had nothing else that should have demanded my attention – but I downed all other tools and enjoyed a few hours immersed in a craft I rarely use. Nice music on the radio, a cup of tea to hand, what more could a girl want? (Chocolate springs to mind!)

I love these, and really enjoyed making them, so I hope that the new parents do too. Now, who else can I make some for….


Toe-up socks finished!

Before I say anything else can I just say how much I loved knitting these socks? Really loved it. So much so that I have already made a start on another pair for my mother!

Lacery socks are fab!

Fab Lacery socks!

Because this was my first experience knitting socks from the toe up on a single circular needle rather than the multiple dpns – and there seemed to be a lot of new techniques to learn – I decided to make them plain rather than following the lace chart provided with the pattern (which is free on Ravelry – did I mention that before?). 

Fear not. These socks proved to be very easy, a really portable project (I took them with me to Windermere), and very relaxing to knit. The ‘magic’ cast on is genius and after watching the you-tube video a couple of times I managed without too much difficulty. I even managed the second sock without referring back to it so it couldn’t be too hard! The heel turn is described as a ‘classic’ heel, with a slip stitch heel flap. I tried to make things more complicated than they were when I got to the heel turn but if you just follow the pattern it is very well explained. And it gives a nice thicker section on the heel where your shoe would be touching/rubbing your foot.

I was a little concerned that they may be a bit ‘baggy’ on the leg without the lace/lacy rib combination on the pattern so I just used a knit 3 purl 1 rib to create a little bit of elasticity. There is an inch of K1 P1 rib at the very top, and the cast off is a ‘stretchy picot’ bind off which looks really cute.

The best bit of making these? After I cast off all that was left to do was darn in the cast on and cast off tails. Wonderful. And the toes? You (well, I) would never manage to graft the toe as smoothly as this is.

Addicted, moi?

Possibly.


Toe up socks – no sewing needed

I have been very busy sewing this week, but it has been all client work. I really couldn’t face any sewing for me at the moment – it just all feels too much like work. My personal sewing mojo seems to have left the building.

One of the things I have wanted to try for some time was knitting socks from the toe up. I love knitting socks but hate the grafting/Kitchener stitch that is needed to close the toe. This seemed like the ideal solution.
I recently commented on the ‘Did you make that’  blog when she asked what autumn knitting plans we had. Quick as a flash sewingjen responded, encouraging me to try a Ravelry pattern called ‘Lacery’ that she liked. It seemed churlish not to look, so I did. And bought yarn, a lovely purple mixture of wool/nylon called ZigZag, and the necessary (2.5mm!) circular needle since I really also wanted to try the ‘magic loop’ method of knitting socks.

Toe up socks going well

Toe up socks going well

The pattern uses ‘Judys Magic cast on’ method (lots of magic in these socks!) which was shown in the You Tube video in a very understandable manner. I have made a start, and since it is possible to knit with feet up on the sofa watching TV when you are using a circular needle made reasonable progress. I am just about to get into the whole ‘heel’ palaver but I am feeling confident – the pattern is well explained – and I will continue tonight. The pattern has a pretty lacy pattern on the front (hence Lacery) but I am knitting these plain this time. I will probably do some ribbing up the legs to help them stay up.

And the other great thing – no sewing in these socks at all! Once they are knitted you only need a needle to darn in any loose ends. Wonderful.

Once I am back in control of the client sewing I will make a start on a dress which I have gathered all of the necessary bits for. It is a Patrones jersey dress which I have had the pattern cut waiting for ages. It looks simple enough, and I can use the coverstitcher on it. More about that later.