Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cardigan Ethics (Again!)

Here we go again:  cardigan ethics, round three (at least!), seconds out, ding ding!

Uniqlo cardigan
 My navy Boden cardigan has collapsed under the stress of constant wear.  Even the bobbles have bobbles.  It was always too long for me, and it has developed a permanent "seat" feature - so flattering!
Here we are, almost in August, and I can only remember one day this year when I have not worn a cardigan to work.  There is a clear gap in my wardrobe for at least one long-ish v-neck everyday smart-casual cardi in black, navy, grey or red.  Or mustard if I thought it might suit me (not sure). 

OK, so where could I get such a thing?

Charity shop?  No - hand on heart I have never seen a good-quality neutral basic cardi in any local charity shop.  Weird-looking smelly acrylic in abundance.

Ebay?  I have been trying, but there is too much to sift through and an awful lot of over-priced buy-it-nows.  I saw a cashmere cardi that had shrunk 6 inches in the wash and the seller was asking £30?!

Boden? Rumour has it (from their own website reviews) that they are using cheaper materials, no longer manufacture in the UK, and bobbling is rife.  And they are flipping expensive.

Toast?  Too expensive.

Howies?  What has happened to them?  That Timberland take-over was a mistake.

White Stuff?  As previously discussed.

So I cast my net a bit further... and so it was that I turned to Uniqlo.
You may recall that I have purchased a couple of scarves from them:  one turned out to come complete with a contribution to charity, the other... didn't, but had an Orla Kiely print!
Now, nobody can accuse Uniqlo of ignorance of ethical issues.  There is a large Corporate Social Responsibility section on their website, which I recommend you spend some time reading if you are interested in these things.
They are voluble on the topic of their various worthy initiatives such as recycling and the employment of people with disabilities. BUT... 90% of their garments are manufactured in China.  The working conditions of those who make their garments are not mentioned.
I found myself immensely challenged by reading about their project in Bangladesh to set up a sort of "Avon-lady"-type franchise to sell their products locally.  For example, they are extremely proud of their promotion of underpants to Bangladeshi women, creating a whole new market among a population who would not traditionally wear such a garment.  Is this a good thing?  I really don't know!  It smacks of a sort of missionary moralising in the name of "development".
I was definitely disturbed by the idea that the company buys saris from local markets for re-sale through their self-employed representatives - surely it would be cheaper / better for local people to buy direct from the markets?  Yes, a few people are earning commission, which improves their individual income... but what is the net effect on the community if goods are generally more expensive and aspirations raised so that it becomes the norm to buy and wear underpants when you can barely afford a bowl of rice?

But back to the cardigans...

Uniqlo sells a basic extra-fine merino v neck cardigan in  a multitude of colours for £29.90 (compared to £69 at Boden).  Online reviews suggest that they last forever (though obviously these could be written by the PR team!)  They do not claim to source their merino from New Zealand, so like Boden they are almost certainly party to the mulesing of sheep.

If I buy one of these cardigans, I am supporting a very large company whose ethical thrust is to encourage the westernisation of "third world" peoples in support of their own corporate business growth.  I am reminded of Victorian bonded labour schemes, where e.g the local factory-owner provided tokens to spend in the factory shop, in lieu of actual wages, and families were basically "owned" by their employers. Is it enough to provide employment opportunities to people who might otherwise have no work at all?  This is not altruism, it is a form of slavery.  Have I misunderstood?

So I have not bought a cardigan.

I think the only answer is to knit faster.

Monday, July 30, 2012

FO: A Trend-Happy Bird Tee

Hmmm...  does this top look somehow familiar?

Maybe it's the fabric.  It popped up on The Sew Weekly recently, and of course Gail made a beautiful Renfrew out of it.

Or then again, maybe it's that collar / placket feature.  My, it looks rather like a Banksia, doesn't it?

Then again, perhaps it's that mullet hem.  Oh dear, Roo you've really jumped on the trend-wagon today!  Is that a Summer Concert Tee?

Actually... it's all of those things and none of those things.

This top began with me wanting something to wear NOW.  Something NEW.
Something that wasn't screamingly vintage or home-made-looking.
I wanted to use this bird-print jersey while it still felt fashionable, and I fancied pairing it with an eyelet-fabric collar and red buttons.
I didn't have a pattern for the top I had in my mind... so I made my own.
It's not exactly "self-drafted" but it is definitely not straight out of a packet.
I took the front piece of a 1970's t-shirt pattern (McCalls 4322, seen here), but scooped the neck along the line of a Renfrew tee.  The back used the side piece from 4322, which I kind of "fanned out", inserting a triangle of extra fabric between that and the original centre back piece, changing it from a three-panelled fitted back to a single a-line piece, which I then shaped downwards into a shirt-tail using my Fashion Curve tool.  There are gathers at the back shoulders to draw in the excess fabric.

The placket was adapted from McCalls 4322, as were the sleeves.
The collar (which starts at the shoulder, and doesn't appear on the back of the garment) is based on a collar piece from my Female Spring 2012 Japanese sewing magazine, tweaked to fit the neck curve of my garment.

I had to drive to the nearest supermarket to examine similar necks in the clothing department, to work out how to attach the collar without creating a bulky mess.  Good old George at Asda did not let me down!  (Not quite Prada, eh Karen?!)

The collar is two layers of eyelet cotton, cut so that the holes lined up top and bottom.  I sewed the pieces right sides together across the top (shoulder) and outer edges, turned them right sides out, and then sandwiched the raw edge into a narrow binding strip of jersey around the neck, continuing round the back edge. 
I held the collar free while I stitched the binding, attaching it to the outside shoulder seam right at the end.
The buttons are sewn on through all the layers of the placket, as I didn't need them to function.

Pattern:  Inspired by Banksia and the Summer Concert Tee, cut with help from McCalls 4322 and Female Spring 2012.
Fabric:  Bird-print jersey from Girl Charlee in the States, by mail order.  I had one yard and used it all.  It worked out at about £7 for the piece once you add on shipping to the UK (I bought 3 different prints to make the most of the shipping deal).
Eyelet cotton from Ditto fabrics.  I just used a scrap, cost about £1.  I have another 30cm or so to play with.
Buttons:  Left over from my Darling Ranges dress.

I am delighted to have produced the garment I had in my mind's eye without having to purchase a pattern.  My only regret is that I did not make a paper copy of the pieces as I cut them:  this top is a one-off!

It is such a change for me to make something modern.
I really like it! 

And for those of you who don't sew - Asda was a revelation!

If ethics are no object...they had a really cute polka-dot chiffon top with a cream crochet collar for £12.  And if The Girl had been here I think even she would have agreed the black-and-neon-tie-dye chiffon top with exposed back zip and racer back was absolutely on the trend-wagon (£12) - it's a much better colour in real life!
Me?  I don't buy clothes, remember?  (Damn!)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

FO: Roo's New Loo

The Boy and His Girl have been hard at work over the past couple of weeks, bringing fun and sunshine to the upstairs loo.
This was probably the most depressing room in the farmhouse and I avoided it as much as possible.  It tended only to be used by the kids, as it is near their bedrooms and has a rather dramatic floor-flooding flush if you forget to put the lid down before you pull the chain (yes, really - it is an overhead cistern).

The makeover began with with the stripping of three layers of wallpaper:  1970's, 1960's and 1950's.  I wish I had got there in time to see the 1960's as the tiny scraps I saw were of a psychedelic turquoise and yellow paisley sunflower pattern :D

They stuck up a roll of thick white lining paper (£4.99) while I thought about my colourscheme.  I prefer to use eco-friendly paint, but I was still prevaricating when my decorators ran out of paste and I found myself in Homebase looking at the Reduced Items counter...

So I presented them with an anonymous "matchpot" of Dulux matt paint for £2.49 in this rather lovely light sea green / blue, and a larger tin of Dulux Bathroom (mould resistant) paint which had been mixed specially for another customer and they hadn't like the colour:  "Easter Morn", for £9.

The yellow is really rather scary, but it's fit for purpose on the sometimes-damp wall.

 Portrait of the artist, seashell-encrusted mirror and perky prawn.

I gave them a free rein on the artwork.  I vaguely suggested a beach theme, and The Boy's eyes lit up:  "Whales?"

He has been reading Moby Dick for the past two years. Every time he comes home he starts at the beginning again, but has never yet reached the end.  It has become a tradition.

And then the project grew...

Listen, if you were an art student stranded in the middle of nowhere for three weeks of summer rain, with nothing but your paint palette and an intermittent internet connection, what would YOU do?!

Oh yeah... read Moby Dick!

I joked with them that they could get a job decorating children's playrooms... but actually I think there might be a market for their work. Although perhaps they would have to leave out the steampunk octopus in case the kiddies had nightmares!

... and this is what it looked like before.  Peeling Laura Ashley wallpaper in a fetching shade of beige, circa 1976, broken frog toilet roll holder (it used to croak when you pulled the roll, but the inner spindle is long gone).  Dark, dreary and dirty-looking no matter how often it was cleaned.

Total cost of makeover:

Materials:  £18

Labour:  One trip to Balmedie beach to gather further materials, including portion of chips between two (£2.90);
two cinema tickets, popcorn and train fares on day off (£20);
celebratory Indian takeaway meal for everyone at the end of the project (price not known - FL paid!)

Heritage value:  Priceless.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The 1970's Raincoat: First Fitting

Ok sewing people, here are the first pictures of my Betsey Johnson raincoat-in-progress.

Please excuse indoor flash photography but it is raining again (sigh).

 Contrary to what you may think, the belt does sit at my waist - my photographer has made me look like a Munchkin!

So far, I have taken narrow (6 or so mm) seams down the front, sides and back, but pinned the shoulders to the full 15mm seam-depth on the outside to try it on.

I think it fits really well from the waist down, but I might have to increase the size of the seams through the bust and upper back.

What do you think?

It is so tricky to know how much "ease" to leave in a coat.  This is me wearing it over a single t-shirt.  In real life wear  I expect to have at least one other layer under here, plus the coat lining.

Here is the enormously unflattering rear view .

I think it's pretty obvious that I need to lose some width across the upper back.

I wonder how to tie the belt for day to day wear?  I remember having a belt on a coat like this back in the 70's and it was forever coming undone in a flappy annoying way, but it is so much part of the design I felt I owed it to Betsey to put it in!

 This is a better picture.  It doesn't look too bad at all from this angle.

It's a good length.

The skirt isn't as wide as I expected, but that's probably a good thing - it won't be too bulky over a skirt.
For some reason I feel tempted to burst into a chorus of "Stand and Deliver"!

Oh - and don't worry, it isn't going to have stripey sleeves!

So... what do you think?  Reduce the girth back and front?  Or just at the back?  Or not at all?

It's so hard to know...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

This Week's Big Read: Capital

I mentioned at the weekend that I only have a week to read Capital by John Lanchester before it is due back at the library, as it has been reserved by another reader.
My policy in these circumstances is to read the first chapter quickly and make a snap decision:  is it worth the effort or should I just return the book unread?
That was on Saturday...
I am now on page 304.
So there hasn't been much knitting or sewing or indeed sleeping around these parts over the past couple of days!
It is a Big Book (577 pages) but is a very smooth read.  Although I am going pretty fast I have not once had to look back to check who's who - the characters are all strong and distinct.  Some might say they are a bit too obviously "types" ticked off on a list of "London dwellers:  common species":  Polish builder, African traffic warden, City wide boy, yummy mummy, poor old lady with cancer, Banksy-esque artist, Asian family with a corner shop... but the forward momentum of the writing saves it from a mire of stereotype and cliche.
It is not a particularly "literary" book, though you will find nods to other fictional cityscapes:  Mrs Dalloway, Bonfire of the Vanities, White Teeth, Brick Lane, a splash of Underworld and perhaps even a hint of Beckett's Murphy (though it's so long since I read it, I can't be sure).
I don't "know" John Lanchester and I can see that I need to investigate his other work.  At this half-way point, I am beginnning to see the gradual interweaving of the apparently disparate characters' fates and appreciate that there is probably a clever plot in here, which the author is going to reveal to me in his own sweet time.  But it's OK.  I am enjoying the journey.
I don't think it's a book that will make it to the A-level reading list anytime soon but it is bound to be a best-seller among those who like a Big Read without  the challenge of explicit sex / violence / drugs (although all three are "reported" in a very neutral and broadsheet-journalist sort of way).
In summary:  yes, it is definitely worth reading.  I am sitting here itching to get back to it, which says a lot.  The more I think about it:  it is like reading an enormous Observer / Guardian Weekend magazine without the food and fashion.
Now there's an idea!  Write a novel using only the characters you find in one edition of the Sunday supplement:  ready, steady.... GO!

P.S.  There's an interesting interactive website linked to Capital here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

With a Scoop of Oh My!

I don't like ice cream.  I know that probably makes me very weird indeed, but it is just too ... cold and... creamy.  So I think I must be really ill.  I ate a mini tub of Ben and Jerry's Oh My! Apple Pie.  Whisper:  and I liked it!
The Big Kids are at the cinema.  FL has gone to Braemar with the golfers for their final fling, or should that be swing?  I just watched the dvd of One Day while knitting a sleeve of Shalder and eating ice cream.  I do hope I can pull myself together in time for work in the morning!

Yesterday I was all set to start work on my red drill suspender skirt, when the postie delivered 3 metres of cobalt blue waterproofed wool which I had only ordered the day before via Eebaay.  Waterproofed wool?  Yup!  Can you imagine anything more appropriate for this Scottish summer?

So I ditched the skirt for probably the fourth weekend in a row and pulled out my vintage (1970's) Betsey Johnson coat pattern.  It is a teen size 7, which is for a teeny tiny 31 inch bust.  I re-drafted the bust to be larger and lower and after some fiddley maths and measuring, I reckon I can get away with taking smaller seam allowances everywhere else.

I am making the above-knee-length version of the coat, with self-ties at the back and without the furry collar (sorry!).  I need to order some funky lining and I have half a mind to pipe the collar.  I already have some rather special buttons ear-marked for this project.

But I am not sure I have the energy for much more today.  I might just carry on knitting.
I have knitted up to the armholes of the body and am working on the first sleeve.  I have to say I am liking the Rowan All Seasons Cotton far more than I expected.  It is quite light in weight, but produces a nice firm drapey fabric. 

In reading news, I gave up on Girl Reading and Mrs Robinson's Disgrace  on the grounds that I didn't need my nose rubbed in the herstory of downtrodden women right now.  They are both probably very good books, but I am not in the mood.  So my bedside companion is The Cookbook Collector (second reading) and my sofa reading is Atonement, which I was surprised to find in a box upstairs. I dug it out to give to The Girl (it is on her A-level English reading list) but decided I would read it first.  I never did see the film - maybe I should?  But I also have a pressing appointment with Capital, which is due back at the library next weekend and is as yet unopened.  So what am I doing sitting here blogging?  Tsk!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Wave of Wellness?

The Boy and His Girl
My face is a snot festival.  I can speak again but I have a horrible cough, a running nose and now, worst of all, I have caught FL's eye infection.  Oh how wonderful it would be to feel WELL again!

FL is functioning with two eyes again and managed to get out with his golf buddies for their annual Indian restaurant trip.  He has had a big breakthrough with his book and has been holed up in the New Library consulting crumbling documents in the Archives. 

On Thursday, The Girl had a belated birthday  / leaving celebration with a pal from school, at the Fun Beach.  This was done in a spirit of kitsch and irony, for which I am eternally grateful.  I love my daughter!  On Friday she flew to London. She is going on a fab holiday with her dad and aunt - woo hoo!
Mending the bat-wing bag!
After the airport, I took The Boy and His Girl to the (natural) beach at Balmedie.  They don't do kitsch and irony.
Sunshine!  Everything looks better in the sunshine!

I have employed Boy and His Girl to redecorate the upstairs loo.  They made a fine job of wallpaper-stripping and now have plans for a seaside-themed mural and a shell-encrusted mirror.  Exciting!

I have hopes for a quiet weekend dedicated to knitting and sewing.  The weeds can look after themselves for another week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Normal Service Will Be Resumed...

Grandma has gone home.
The Boy and His Girl have arrived.
The Girl heads off again on Friday.

Meanwhile, FL has conjunctivitis and I have lost my voice.

The only possible solution to any of this is to curl up on the sofa and knit.
I cast on Shalder while Gma was here.
The yarn is Rowan All Seasons Cotton, which I purchased from A Girl In Winter via a Ravelry destash.  (Thank you - what a bargain!)
I bought it with the intention of knitting Headland from a back issue of The Knitter... but Gma took one look and said "Short sleeves?!"  and while my instinct was to snarl:  "Yes - short sleeves!  Have you got a problem with that, eh?"  I actually stopped and thought about it.
What was I thinking?  Aran weight cotton with short sleeves?  It would only have worked as an over-garment and it would always have to match what was underneath... so how often would that get worn?
And then I remembered Shalder.
I knew that whatever I made with this shade of yarn (Wisteria), it was unlikely that I would ever wear it to work, so it needed to be an "evenings and weekends" garment.
I have wanted to knit Shalder since the first previews of The Shetland Trader, but it hadn't occurred to me to use cotton until now.

I have exactly the right yardage for the second size, so that's what I am knitting.  A gauge swatch?  That's for cowards!  I am knitting, that's what I am doing.  And despite the acres of plain stocking stitch as I plough my way up the body, I have that yoke to look forward to - woo hoo!

My yellow cardigan is in the doldrums.  I am not sure I would ever wear it.  The bigger it gets, the more sure I am that it looks like spare tyres stacked around my waist.  I can feel a ripping session coming on.  That's why I started Shalder.  To give the illusion of successful knitting output before I start the unravelling of several weeks' worth of full-time fingering-weight trauma.
As for sewing... I have a plan.  I'm just not ready to talk about it yet:  no voice remember?  But I reckon I will have something to show you at the weekend.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Just Flogging my Socks

This week we have Grandma to stay, so I am managing to knit, but sewing is too anti-social.
So I finished off my Licorice Allsorts socks.

One leg is shorter than the other.
This is the effect my mother has upon me.
It explains the atmosphere of panic lurking in the background of my past two posts.
The dog is hiding in his basket.  The Girl tries to hide in her room.  FL is studiously asleep in his chair.

You would never have known there was a problem if I had shown you THIS picture, would you?

Last weekend, The Girl and I tackled her room head-on, and took 3 sacks of children's books to the charity shop, 3 sacks of rubbish to the tip, and filled the recycling bin at the end of the road with old magazines.  This cleared: her bookcase, her desk, her shelves and the top of her dressing-table.  Now all that remains is the sliding-doors cupboard... which as you can imagine is where things get shoved out of sight.  Be afraid... be very afraid!

She now has a pared-down selection of books, music, art materials, clothes and make up:  still too much to get into one suitcase to take to London, but probably manageable in two trips, as long as she leaves everything behind on the return journey!

De-cluttering is a contagious sport.  I found a great book at the library called What's A Dis-Organised Person To Do? . I left Grandma at home reading it yesterday morning while I went to work - hee hee!  It is full of really obvious stuff that you might not think of but will transform your life.  My favourite new trick is the "landing strip":  I stop the dog just inside the front door and throw down an old towel, where he has to lie until he dries off - ha ha!  No more full-body mud prints in the front room!
Shame I can't do the same with FL, but give me time...

And there is such an obvious solution to the where-to-put-cookbooks question, that I cannot believe I overlooked it:  on top of the Welsh dresser!  It is a solid piece of furniture and all that's up there just now are my son's school experiments with clay and spare lightbulbs.  So the step-ladder is coming out today and I will be scrubbing the top before re-locating my recipe collection - woo hoo!

It is, of course, still raining.  Grandma is confined to the house unless we can shoe-horn her into a spare pair of wellies.  I hoped to take her to a few local castle / garden / tearoom destinations, but it is really no fun in the rain when you can't walk very fast.  Maybe she will enjoy watching me teach The Girl how to hang wallpaper in the upstairs loo?  Hmmm... could be too stressful for all concerned.

We tried to visit Monymusk Walled Garden yesterday... but it wasn't there!  I should have taken a photo of the forlorn wet blackboard hanging on the locked and overgrown garden door: "la...te" .  As in: "Too late for a latte - ha, ha, Losers!"
We are trying again today:  another day another garden.  The whole of the North East of Scotland cannot possibly have shut up shop and gone on holiday, tempting though it is in this weather.

P.S.  The title is what Grandma thinks I am doing just now.

P.P.S. Note new knitting project on top of my book!  More on that another day :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

We are not 20

In my LGO post the other day, I showed you pictures from the 2012 White Stuff catalogue and observed that it looked exactly like me in 1981.  I suggested that I should forget about all this self-re-invention sewing and revert to wearing clothes I recognise as "like me".
Beate commented: "But we are not 20..."
I have been pondering on that point.
Do we have to try harder as we get older?

Is it the old chestnut about becoming invisible as an older woman and having to wear more flamboyant clothing in order to be noticed?
Do I want to be noticed?  (Answer:  No thank you.  Leave me alone.  I don't like most other people.  Especially the male sort.)

Christine said she doubted I really wanted to wear shop-bought clothes.
Oh... but sometimes don't you just want to give up trying so hard?  Just take the easy option and pick some clothes out of a catalogue and wear them and not even think about it?  Not worry if they are a bit too big, but are basically comfortable and warm and washable?

One skirt.
One pair of trousers / jeans.
Three t shirts.
A cardigan.
A crew-neck sweater.
Canvas shoes.

Isn't that enough?

And with that as a blank canvas, get on with your life?

Read and knit and crochet and paint pictures and write poetry and embroider and dance and paint the walls beautiful colours and grow vegetables and pick wild flowers and drink cups of coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.

I would love to just... get on with my life.

Why is that so hard?

The book I will buy before the day is up

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Life Goes On (LGO)

The Girl has a wonderful expression:  LGO.
This stands for "Life Goes On" and she uses it liberally - so if I drop  food on myself at the table:  LGO.  The dog walks across my newly-mopped floor?  LGO.
And although sometimes it makes me want to scream, it is a useful phrase to cut things down to size, see them in proportion, and move on.
Another month of waiting for medical results?  ELL   GEE   OH!

Thank you for your comments, we appreciate your kindness.  Truly.

Meantime, I am distracting myself by pondering the old chestnuts:  (1) what would I wear if I was to start afresh and (2) what would I wear if I didn't sew. 
I know - earth-shattering stuff, right?

Oh look - it's my old friend the White Stuff catalogue !

This is me.

No, really - this is me as I dressed in 1981:  denim skirt, v-neck t-shirt and canvas shoes.  In a caravan.  With crochet blankets and flowery curtains (except they were orange).  Only the cushion covers are different.  And the hair:  mine was wild and curly.

If I didn't sew and if my workplace was less formal, this is exactly what I would buy.

And I must get on with that crochet blanket I haven't started to make yet.

Oh look - there's more!

White Stuff again, dammit!

And although this cardigan is astonishingly 60% modal, 40% YAK HAIR, this is basically me in my Renfrew Tee, Portfolio pants and Boden cardigan (tsk!)  like this.

And a large part of me  is shouting: "LGO Roo!  Stop sewing stuff you don't really want to wear but keep making because of your high-minded principles and show-off-y blogging streak!  Throw the whole lot in the bin and go shopping for a capsule wardrobe at White Stuff!  Chuck in your job and go live in a houseboat in Hebden Bridge!"

So that's sorted then.

But while I think about it, I might just crochet a blanket.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

FO: Raindrops on Roses Shell Top

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens... these are a few of my favourite things!

Oh... but summer would be good!  Just enough sunshine to let me wear this top without a cardigan... please?
FL dropped the camera in a puddle...

Pattern:  Simplicity 6238 from 1965, size 12, 32" bust
Fabric:  0.6m of rose print cotton from Ditto Fabrics plus a slice of dobby dot leftover from my Portfolio top and my Pyjama Party baby doll top.
Other:  Fancy lace-edged zip from the V and A shop online (they operate a lucky dip on the colour!)

Rain + my hair =  sheep

My initial impression was that this fabric was as soft and fine as an old-fashioned lady's handkerchief.  I was worried that it would be completely transparent, and that if I applied a strip of plain cotton fabric to face the hem scallops, they would look too heavy and clumsy and knock the garment off balance.
So I decided to copy the two-layered top from my Japanese pattern book Female Spring 2012, using the shaped contrast layer as an underlining below the rose print.  I thought the  texture of the dobby dot would shine through  like.. um... raindrops on roses...?

Well... only if I stand in extremely strong sunlight!

But the swiss dot is a very similar weight to the rose print, so the two work well together.  I decided to scallop the front hem but leave the back plain... because it already has a fancy scalloped-edge zip and too much of a good thing can be... too much!

I have been let down by vintage shell-top patterns before (here and here).  They can be deceptively simple.  The critical issue is often the dart placement.  Vintage underpinnings tend to... peak at a different point to modern ones, leading to all sorts of ill-fitting nonsense.

Friends - this pattern absolutely hits the apex!  I took the precaution of measuring the distance from my shoulder to the dart point before I cut the fabric and couldn't quite believe that it seemed to be right on target - but it is!  Woo hoo!

I took my time and finished all the seams by folding under the raw edge and stitching along the fold.
It felt strange to sew the zip on the outside of the garment, and I wasn't sure what to do with the bottom end, so I just tucked it underneath and stitched it in place.

The neck and arm edges are finished with white bias tape - I was having nothing to do with floppy facings, thank you!

Smug face!

At last I have found a vintage shell-top pattern that fits me straight out of the packet!
It is quite square, but not too baggy. It works tucked and untucked, with skirts and with trousers.
The fabric is beautiful and kinda vintage-looking without being too costumey.

Other notes:
The collar was my mother's in the 1960's.  I can't sew it on because it fastens with a hook and eye at the front and the blouse zips up at the back.
But that's OK, because I like having the option to wear the lace butterfly brooch (also from my mother) or a necklace.

Would I make it again?
Just try and stop me!

Now I am watching Jessica to see what she does with the rest of the fabric :D

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

WIP Wednesday

Welcome back to the Land of Lists!
Thank you for your kind comments about my kodak-limbo-land photos - I have yet to gather the courage to try the software download, but I know I must.  It is the kind of computer-based project which gives me anxiety attacks.  It feels easier just to let them go!
My "To-Do"s are looking slightly less daunting this week, with the approach of some eked-out Annual Leave which will allow me to work mornings only for the next couple of weeks while The Girl is back at home.  Grandma is coming for a few days though... so there are new tasks to undertake, not least of which is "clear spare room"!
However, I have already squeezed in some sewing this week and am feeling very positive about that.
Here's a sneak peek...
Jessica and I are having a mini-swop arranged around this rose-print cotton.  She took a shine to it when I mentioned that I had too much and felt guilty "wasting" it, so it's off to California with a couple of other goodies.  I can't wait to see what she does with it!
My rosie project is now on hold pending bias binding... but my red zip is here, so if I was really smart I would make my red skirt while I wait.  If I did that, I would have an actual outfit to show you!

But in the meantime, have a preview of incoming stock for my Etsy shop :)
Do pop in and have a look at the weekend!  It is hard to let some of these beauties go!

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Five Years

Today is the fifth anniversary of FL's diagnosis.

An odd thing to celebrate!

But... he's still alive and he's still enjoying life, and we were promised neither of those things five years ago.

Ullapool 2012
 I was going to include a photo from 2007... but today I discovered that Kodak Gallery has taken down its UK site, where I stored my family photos from 2007 to 2012.  I only put them there after a couple of hard-drive failures and corrupted back-up discs left me with no digital files from 2004 to 2006.  There are instructions on how to download special software to allow me to retrieve my pictures... but I don't hold out much hope since they no longer recognise my email address on the website.

Print them or lose them, people!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Una Stubbs: Role Model

Una today
Yesterday's Observer Review had an interview with Una Stubbs.
This morning I did a Google search, and as I expected, it caused a Tumblr storm.
Let me quote from the article:

"Rehearsals have been extremely physical. 'We have two hours' warm-up and it's really fierce, like being trained for the SAS', says Stubbs. 'There are press-ups and a lot of leaping and jumping.'

Una, back in the day

So far she has taken it all in her stride. 'I get teased a lot [by the rest of the cast] when I can do things they can't physically,' she giggles. 'Because I'm a dancer, obviously I've still got a bit of that and they all go, 'Wow'. It's like Granny Takes a Trip!

'A lot of people say to me, 'Can you still dance?' Yes!' she shrieks. 'Although I think if you do dance when you're older it's better to dance with a little restraint. I can't bear it when you see those old dears flinging themselves around, going, 'I'll show 'em.'"

She is 75 years old.

That does it.

I have got to get fit.

You might be too young to remember this, but she was quite well-known in the early 90's for a series of How-to-Sew videos.  I remember reading an article about how she loved buying fabric from Liberty and was working on a Vogue Issey Miyake pattern.  I bought the pattern but I never made the shirt!  (...and sold the pattern on Ebay several years ago - this is a picture from Etsy!)

There are a couple of books out there with her name on them - but I think it was only "In Stitches" that she wrote herself. It's a rather lovely embroidery book which inspired me (at the time -1980's) to get busy with my needle and some pillowcases.  In it, she shows a sketch she did of her lanky teenaged son, in preparation for an embroidery.  Fab!  Despite looking quite dated, I need a copy to keep (and it's only one penny at Amazon).

I just did a search, and as well as the expected videos of Worzel Gummidge there is a vinyl copy of "Have Fun Keep Fit" - who knew - a fitness LP?!  Someone really ought to commission her to make a new dvd  for women of a certain age - I would buy it!