Monday, April 28, 2014

Summer Work Top Plans

I had a little fabric splurge.
Recent stash-busting activity has left me with very little office-appropriate fabric to play with. I have the ingredients for a black skirt and a grey skirt and possibly a leftover-plum-wool skirt, but that's about it.
So I decided that it was about time I made some minor investments:  a Re-Stash, if you like!
Tops by Anna McClurg, $130 each - beautiful!
My inspiration began on Anna McClurg's blog.   Her simple sleeveless shirts in understated fabrics strike me as perfect for summer work-wear, with a cardigan on top.
Of course, I am not terribly good at "understated" so the plan... mutated.
My splurge involved 1950's strawberries, Snow White's apples, Cosmic Blue, rainbow stripes... and sober white.
Note that last one: sober white.
See? I can do it when I try!

I have a 1960's Simplicity shirt pattern that I want to try out.
It is the same size and from the same era as my Raindrops on Roses top, so I am hoping that it fits as well.
I had earmarked the rainbow-striped cotton for my first attempt, but it turned out to be much narrower than I thought and I can't squeeze a blouse out of my single metre, not even with a plain white collar.  So I am back to the drawing board.
Or should that be the ironing board?

Yay!  I finally bought myself a proper solid, beech wood ironing board :)
It is incredibly sturdy and ominously heavy.  I still have to perfect the art of putting it up without falling over under its weight.
The old one was so flimsy it bounced while I ironed, and the dog knocked it over as he barged past.  It was made of wire mesh, covered in crumbling yellow foam and hole-ridden polyester.  I used to iron on top of a towel to protect my clothes. The final straw was when the edge of my iron slid off the towel and caught the foam, which instantly melted and spread across the blouse I was ironing.  Grrrrr.....
Tonight I made use of that lovely smooth wooden surface to lay out my fabric and play with my pattern pieces.  Very satisfying, if unproductive.
Maybe my first job should be to make an ironing board cover.  What a shame there isn't enough of the rainbow striped cotton!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

FO: Lisette Portfolio Top in Stripey Seersucker

I bought this fabric to make a 1940's pattern blouse, back in 2011.
It became one of those projects that I had made so often in my head that I forgot I hadn't made it, and that this orange and white striped seersucker was still down at the bottom of my stash suitcase, where the wild things are.
Last weekend, I dug it out for an airing.  I had just made my Portfolio pants, and I realised that I would much rather make a relaxed Portfolio top than a starchy blouse.  So I did.
Except I ran out of white thread halfway.  Grrrr.
Today, thanks to some midweek re-stashing (oops!), I threaded up my sewing machine and finished it off.

Pattern:  Lisette Portfolio (Simplicity 2245) in size 8
Fabric:  Just over 1 metre of pure cotton orange and white striped seersucker, from Croft Mill in 2011.  Price forgotten.  Maybe £7.50?
Other:  White thread, interfacing and two emerald green buttons from stash:  it was these or pale blue.  FL is not impressed.  I like them!
Tsk - overlapping buttons? Must fix that!

No real problems.
I spent an awfully long time deciding which way the stripes should run on each piece. I wanted to spice it up a bit by stirring the stripes around. Otherwise it might have looked like a nurse's smock? 
I had a moment of brain-fog when I tried to put the neckband on upside down, but I soon saw my mistake.
And I failed to turn the back loops inside out so re-did them with a folded-under edge and stitching on the outside.

This was a deliberate attempt to replace my white dobby dot Portfolio top which was worn-out beyond salvage.  You might think orange is a difficult colour, but in my experience it goes with most things:  green, blue, black, purple... yes, all of those and more!
But maybe that's just me.
I am expecting to get a lot of wear out of this at the office.
I am wearing it here with my Peggy skirt.  This has become one of my most frequently-worn garments.  The denim holds its shape beautifully, looking crisp all day long, and it is a really rich indigo blue. Love it!

Also pictured:  bead necklace from Silly Old Suitcase.  I have two of these.   The other one doesn't have stars, crosses or roses  - it is plainer in that respect.  I have a lot of fun with them, as they pick up the colours in my clothes so well.  They are the same... but different. A bit like my new top!
 The light has been really strange today...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pomalidomide: The New Regime

I'll say this for the NHS:  they don't give up easily.
FL has worked his way steadily through the menu of drugs for myeloma, and just when we thought his number might be up, the Consultant has pulled a dodgy-looking bunny out of her hat.  Or maybe it is a guinea pig.
Or rather, no... FL is the guinea pig.

Pomalidomide is not yet approved by NICE or the Scottish Medical Council, but has been sanctioned for selective use in Europe. You won't yet find it on the Macmillan website, but there is lots of info available from a US-based website: here.   I like that website because it doesn't mess about.  You want to know what your chances of survival are?  They will tell you.  Try extracting that sort of info from a UK-based doctor!

So here is the new regime:  Pomalidomide, 4mg daily (21 days on, 7 days off) for an initial cycle of 3 months (subject to tolerance); Dexamethasone, 20mg once a week; a daily Heparin injection (to thin his blood - guess whose job that is?);  Allopurinol (for fear of gout); Omeprazole (as usual, to protect his stomach), Sodium Clodronate (as usual, to strengthen his bones).
We have a gorgeous red record book which must cost a bomb to print due to the saturation of the ink on the risk assessment pages.  Lovely.
I have to check his symptoms against that list every day, and ring the Helpline if he strays into the red zone.
And we were given a thermometer, because I have to check his temperature twice a day.
I am not going to pretend I am happy about this new turn of events.
Obviously, I would like him to stay alive for as long as he is happy to do so.
But we have always agreed that quality of life is more important than longevity.
And dignity.  And independence.
Right now, he has driven himself into the local town to buy the newspaper and some eggs for tomorrow's breakfast.  He might pop into Wetherspoons to say hello to his pals and manage half a pint of beer before he drives himself home again in time for dinner.
That level of independence is crucial to him.
And every time we embark on a new course of treatment, the poisonous power of the medication takes another swipe at his energy levels, his physical strength and his general sense of self esteem.
We thought we were done with this sort of commitment to a regime.
I had imagined a gentle slowing down of pace, longer naps, a gradual decline.
Instead, he is being offered the hope of ... what?  A few more months?  At what cost?
But how can we refuse?
Really, truly there is no choice to be made.  We have to grab onto the hope of a little longer together.
And good gracious, man!  He has a book to finish writing!
And so it is that I must learn to be a nurse.  On top of the day job:  because I dare not let that slip.
Thank goodness for knitting.  That's all I can think about right now.  Thank goodness for knitting.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunshine and Flowers

This weekend I got started on the annual weeding marathon.
An hour a day and I might keep on top of it.
It is fantastic to see the sinks at the side of the house coming into bloom with last year's tulips, anemones and grape hyacinths.  There are a couple of thyme plants in there too.

Indoors, I have a bunch of narcissi, picked at the side of the farm road, in a jug on top of the woodburner - I must remember to move it before FL lights the fire for the evening!
I did some sewing today, but it was an unplanned stash-dive and I ran out of white thread. That most basic of provisions, and I managed to run out on a Bank Holiday weekend!
Never mind.
I have my Mystery Crochet Blanket to get on with.  Almost every row brings an exciting new stitch to practice.
I am going into work tomorrow, "Holiday Monday" - it will be peaceful enough to catch up on some serious report-writing.
FL has a hospital appointment on Tuesday and I can't afford to take two days out of the office at this time of year.
I will take in some daffodils to brighten up my desk  and maybe I can listen to some knitting podcasts while I work.  I am almost looking forward to it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Stitchy Catch Up Post

I feel like I have been flying past, posting a string of Finished Objects like some kind of handmade stitching machine!
I had my holiday, I came back, and then The Girl was here for 5 days:  you may have spotted her modelling Christine's Ripon Hat.  She also took home with her:  one Drafting Top, one hooded cardi, and one Vintage Fremont scarf - yay!  That's what daughters are for isn't it?  To help keep their mothers' wardrobes under control ;)
The Girl Was Here
I haven't shared all the stitchy craziness that has been orbitting my head - lucky you!

In knitting news, I decided to make FL some cotton socks.

FL's Immunes
I realise that I did not tell you that FL had a nasty reaction to the single Octagam infusion he was given back in February.
Octagam is basically an injection of someone else's immunes. In theory, it helps an immune-suppressed patient fight off infections.
FL had been suffering from a series of lung infections that multiple doses of antibiotics had not helped to clear, so it was hoped that the Octagam would give him a boost.  In fact, it knocked him flat.  He lost an awful lot of weight and became very weak and breathless.
He also developed a horrible itchy rash on his feet and ankles.  This made sock-wearing almost unbearable.  We have developed a  new ritual of me applying heavy-duty moisturizer to his legs every night to try to soothe his skin.
Eventually, one of the doctors suggested trying Piriton - shazzam!  Relief!  It was "just" part of his reaction to the single dose of Octagam.  But it triggered the idea in my head that he might need cooler, softer socks for the warmer weather.

So I sought out a cotton-mix sock yarn, which other knitters on Ravelry seemed to think was worthwhile.

This is Schoppel-Wolle "Boots" in the "Strange 2072T" colourway.  I bought it under the pseudonym "In The Shoe Shop".  It reminds me a lot of the barkcloth upholstery of the chair in my childhood bedroom.  Contrary to expectations, it is not very soft to the touch.
I may have made a mistake.
For the time being, I am knitting a pair of Hector socks.  It is a super-stretchy stitch pattern and FL loves the first pair I made for him, because they are so easy to get off and on.
However, the last thing he needs right now is a pair of pot-scourers on his ankles.  I will keep on knitting and wash the first sock to see how it feels.  But I am not optimistic.  These might be for The Boy instead!

Perhaps I will give up and knit the latest Knitting Goddess / Rachel Coopey collaboration kit instead - look at those colours!
Mmmm.... rhubarb!
The colourway is called: "You're not my lobster".  Um... right...what?  Sorry, the reference is lost on me, but the colours are glorious!  The pattern that goes with it is Didrika:  love, love, love!

In sewing news, I have been on a stealth-mission to smash my fabric store into submission.
I can report that my stash suitcase is now only half full - woo hoo!
I disposed of an entire box of redundant sewing patterns to the charity shop and sent the good ones to better hand-picked homes :)
So I felt a lot better about succumbing to Anemone, Mortmain, and most recently Beatrice.

Beatrice is a pinafore / apron which I can imagine wearing as my at-home uniform.  I plan to make at least two of these huge-pocketted wonders to live in when I am not at my place of employment.
Linen.  I am thinking lovely crumpley pre-washed linen.

Which leads me to Me Made May...

Me Made May

I already wear home-made clothing every day, so that is not in itself a challenge.
This time around, my personal goals are (1) to smarten up my work wardrobe, and (2) to wear a wider range of me-mades at home.
I am not yet sure how I will document the month, but I intend to take the opportunity to organise myself better and try out / record new "outfit" combinations.  I have been getting into a terrible rut recently, wearing the same few items over and over again.
It should be fun to mix things up a bit.
I also want to use the month as a focus to sew more basics:  a black skirt, a white shirt, camisoles, simple tees... the really boring but necessary staple garments.

I will stop there for now.
I haven't even mentioned my crochet obsession.

Or the new cook book.
Another day!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FO: Lisette Portfolio Pants: Dangerously Suitable Trousers

This weekend I made a pair of trousers.
It has been two years since I tried this trick with the same pattern.  On that occasion, I thought I almost cracked it and that all I had to do was make the next size up and everything would be fine.
These are the Portfolio pants from Simplicity 2245, that sought-after out of print Lisette pattern we all know and love for its tunic / dress style.  I have had people write to me on spec asking to buy my copy and I have regretfully turned them down.
If you google the pants, you won't find quite so much adoration.
ScruffyBadger wrote about her experience here, which led her to call them the "Miss Ellie pants".
I was puzzled at the time, because my first pair seemed quite close-fitting and jean-like.
Ha!  This pair certainly isn't either of those things!
Look at all that drapery!
Where did that come from?
This is what the first pair looked like:
You would not believe this was the same pattern!
Two things are different: I made the next size up (10 instead of 8); and I used a thinner fabric.  My first pair was stretch cotton, while these are stretch wool.  Just one of those changes would have been enough.
They are certainly comfortable.
But after all, that's what slacks are meant to be.
OMG I made a pair of slacks!
Which is why I call these my "Dangerously Suitable Trousers":  they are absolutely perfect for a 50-year old woman to wear to the office.

Pattern:  Lisette for Simplicity 2245, in size 10 (dammit), the "Portfolio pants".
Fabric:  A lightweight wool with some stretch, from Mandors in Glasgow, from stash. It cost about £18 almost 2 years ago, I think.
Other:  An invisible zip, some woven interfacing, and thread: all from stash.

Machine-stitched blind hem - not bad!
It all went swimmingly.
The invisible zip is pretty near perfect, and I used the method from my Anemone skirt to secure the waistband oh-so-neatly.
I even used my Bernina blind-hemming foot (number 5) for the first time ever - go me!

They are just so middle-aged looking!
I set out to make a pair of "appropriate" trousers to wear to work, and boy-oh-boy did I get them!
Honestly?   They are perfectly fit for purpose. 
But they are just so bo-ring!
If I am not going to feel like Frumpy MacFrumperson, I am going to have to add some edge.
Maybe a high-low top?
An incredible funky haircut?
Massive shoes?
I may be almost 50, but I am not giving up yet!

Friday, April 11, 2014

FO: Ripon Hat by Rachel Coopey

The last of my holiday knitting is complete!
This is the Ripon Hat by Rachel Coopey from her Toasty collection.
As you can see, it looks great with a nose-ring!

But this hat doesn't belong to The Girl.
It is about to have a little bath in wool wash before I send it off to its rightful home with Christine.
You might spot a couple of ladders between the cables?
Those will block right out :)
This is what comes of knitting hats on dpns and trying to "transition" in between the cables:  uneven tension - tsk!
The yarn is from JC Rennie - Unique Shetland I think? It only took one 50g ball to knit this hat - amazing!
So Christine has enough left to knit herself another one... or add a pom pom?
It would look fab with a pom pom!
Now all I have left to finish from my holiday projects is my crochet blanket... um, maybe not this week!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

FO: Vintage Fremont Shawl: House of the Rising Sun

The shawl:  Vintage Fremont by Jami Brynildson
The dress:  a ridiculously extravagant, delicate and beautiful gift from FL.  (From Brora.)
For weddings, graduations and funerals he says.
Let's stick to the first two, shall we?
The yarn:  Crown Mountain Farm Sock Hop handspun in "House of the Rising Sun".
I had 400 yards.
This shawl takes 400 metres.
Yes, of course I ran out!

It took 200 yards to reach the end of the 12th wedge.
I decided to work one less "plain" wedge (so 11 instead of 12) and then another 6 of the graduated wedges.
This got me 2/3 of the way along the pointy bind-off edge before I was certain I would not make it.
I improvised a couple of smaller pointy bits and then cast the rest off "plain"... except you know how it is.  I had just enough yarn left to work a little loop of i-cord at the very end of the point to weight it.
I have this half-thought that I might sew a button on somewhere to secure it... but I haven't done it yet.

It may be a little "rustic"in texture to pair with this dress, but the colours are a perfect match.
Obviously, I will get my hair fixed and dig out my amber necklace when it comes to The First Occasion.
It was a lovely thing to knit and I think it will be a lovely thing to wear.

Monday, April 07, 2014

FO: Love Cats Mortmain Dress

So here is the dress I made on holiday:  The Mortmain by Gather.
I was attracted to the high-waisted skirt plus bodice style, which I thought would give me the shape I like in one piece, instead of having to play matchy-matchy games every morning, looking for a top to wear with my skirts.
This pattern, unusually, recommends quilting cotton.  Those box pleats and quite formal-looking darted bodice definitely benefit from a fabric with some structure.
It's other quirky feature is the exposed zip.
Ha ha ha - you should have seen FL's face when I turned round!  Perhaps they are an acquired taste?  He actually gasped:  "That's a very visible zip!"
And I like it!
Maybe not for every dress I make, but it's fun once in a while, and I think it goes well with the fabric I chose.
You might be surprised to hear that you turn the raw edges of the centre back to the outside, edge stitch the zip in place near to the teeth (but not too near - ahem!) and then trim away the excess fabric under the zip tape, before sewing it again near the outer edge.
All the raw edges are neatly hidden away.
Except on the facings.  Ugh.
I really need to buy some pinking shears.

I finished the inside of the hem with  black and white gingham bias tape.
Is that a dog hair I see there?  Already?!  Sigh.

Pattern:  The Mortmain Dress by Gather, £13, in size 8 - this is the smallest size and it is surprisingly busty.  Check your measurements!
Fabric:  2 metres of Cocoland cats sailcloth from Frumble Fabrics, £26.40.  I used every last scrap of the fabric - you would definitely need more than 2 metres if you added any length at all.
Other:  A 22 inch brass zip, £5.20 (ouch!)
Love Catsssssss!
I lowered the bust darts by almost an inch and shortened the front waist darts by the same amount.  I could have done with lifting the shoulders too, but I only realised this when I saw these pictures.  That would have meant lowering the darts yet again, so... yeah.  Maybe I need to accept I am smaller and shorter than average.  This is the sort of messing about that puts me off making fitted dresses!
Otherwise, I followed the pattern instructions, which were really detailed and helpful - hooray!
It took quite a lot of sewing. 
Call me a wimp, but I wouldn't want to try to make this in one session.
"So  wonderfully, wanna flea wanna flea wanna flea PRETTY!do do doobee doo da!
Oh dear goodness, I gotta have a dance now!
Join me?
"Hand in hand is the only way to la-and, always the right way round!"
P.S. Why is it that every time I start singing The Cure, the wind gets up and my hair goes back to the 1980's?

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A Finishing-Off Day

I was rather ambitious when I packed for my holiday...
Did I really think I could work my way through all these books?
Today I hope to finish reading Romany and Tom and The Road to Middlemarch.
The end is nigh for both of these.
Romany and Tom is desperately sad reading:  Ben Watt recounts his parents' lives from the perspective of their final years.  Possibly not the best choice of book at this point in my life with FL.  But it has given me plenty to think about.  Just don't get old - that's the answer kids!
The Road to Middlemarch is a lighter read but again is all about age and the stages of a person's life, set against the perspective of George Eliot's  novel, which I love.
Phew!  I don't half pick 'em!
Next?  Probably Rachel Herron's latest:  Pack Up The Moon.  For a bit of light relief.

But right now I have a dress to work on.

I am rather grumpy to notice that the lightest-grey cat on the right has fallen out of alignment and you can see his whole head below the waistband:  all the others have their heads tucked under.
How did this happen?  I was absolutely meticulous with my cutting, so perhaps my stitching is off.
I shall investigate.  I am not saying I will unpick it... but I feel the need to check it out.
I just have the facings to stitch down and the hem to sew.
I still can't decide whether or not to line the skirt section.  It is pretty heavy cotton so may not need it.  I will have to experiment with tights.  I can't stand dresses that creep up my legs as I walk.

See that jug in the photo?
It lives in the holiday house.  I was so tempted to ask the owner if I could buy it from her.  I know that it is "collectable" and I found it in the depths of a cupboard, obviously ignored and unloved.  Every time we go to this house (4 times now?), it is the first thing I look for.  This time, thinking we would never be back there again, I developed an obsession about "rescuing" it.
But in the end, I managed to let it go.
I don't do "stuff". 
I don't need a jug.
It belongs there.
Move on, Roo!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Love Cats? The Holiday Cure

Have a sneak peak at my Mortmain dress :)
It is still bristling with an armoury of pins but I should finish it in another hour or so...
except I don't have a spare hour right now.
So much for my plans for posing by the holiday house piano in my finished dress!
It was a grey and rainy day on our last day in Ullapool:  perfect sewing weather!
I spent the whole afternoon at my sewing machine, listening to podcasts as I stitched.
FL surprised me by settling down in front of the tv to watch a film.  Daytime tv?!  Whatever next!
I caught this sneaky picture of him yesterday, wearing my Lonely Tree Shawl :)
Mr "Scarves are for Wimps" has not taken it off since I draped it round him the other day.  Ha!
He has developed a whole vocabulary of shawl styling for himself.
This evening he was working a bit of a Cary Grant look, with it tucked into the neck of his sweater, which was in turn tucked into his belted chino-esque trousers.  Sadly, I have no photo to prove it... and he would deny any attempt at "fashion"... but I was there and I saw it!
It has been a lovely relaxing holiday.
Where we stayed
We didn't attempt any sightseeing or days out.
And I think we are both feeling a bit better for having done nothing much for a week.
Home again tomorrow.
And a finished dress soon!