Sunday, June 28, 2015

FO: Brumby Skirt by Megan Nielsen in Denim

Hello again!
Another day, another finished sewing project - hooray for holidays at home!
I swooped upon this skirt pattern the day it was released.
I had been looking out for a midi-length style that didn't scream "frumpy middle-aged woman stuck in a time-warp" and hopefully this is it.
Though I must admit that the thick black tights and brogues might be a little bit Maria Von Trapp with this hemline.
I reckon I need a pair of funky clogs ;)

One of the best things about this pattern is the humongous pocketty goodness.

They are deep enough to hold a bottle or two of wine, or a couple of kittens, if you prefer!

Definitely Roo-pockets...  for those of us with marsupial tendencies :)

The other great thing about this skirt is the shaped waistband.

Unlike the band on the Kelly Skirt, this one delivers a high fitted shape while allowing you to breathe.

And the gathers fall low enough to flatter.
In this fine lightweight denim, I do not feel they give the wearer a balloon at the tummy or hips.
I would hesitate to make it in a heavier fabric though.

And don't forget the exposed zip feature :)
I do enjoy a good set of metal teeth!
The instructions for this one were really clear and helpful.


Pattern:  The Brumby Skirt by Megan Nielsen.  I bought the paper pattern from Backstitch in the UK, but it is also available as a downloadable pdf.  I made size Small and it came out a perfect fit, straight from the packet - hooray!

Fabric:  2.5 metres of 5oz dress-weight denim from Merchant and Mills.  It is only £6.75 per metre, and also comes in black.  I was initially a bit dubious about the quality of this fabric, as it felt very crisp and dry, even after a pre-wash.  However, it softened up a lot as I worked with it, and it irons really well.  It is definitely a good choice for this pattern, as it takes the gathers and holds them nicely.


I am pretty sure this is going to be a wardrobe staple, taking the place of my much-loved dark denim Kelly Skirt, which feels a bit too short and tight around the middle these days.

I am wearing it here with my Portfolio top and it feels like a good match.  The skirt pockets remind me a lot of the ones in my Portfolio dress, but even bigger - woo hoo!  I wore the dress yesterday - it is still going strong and makes me happy after 4 years.  I hope this skirt will have the same sort of longevity!

Will I make it again?
I have a terrible longing to use my stashed Little Red Riding Hood-print fabric.. and maybe even adapt it into a dress by adding a bodice?
Eek!  Novelty prints strike again!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

FO: A Seer-iously Summery Maya Shirt Dress

Now I have my sewing machine to myself again, you would think I would be stitching up a storm.
But it has been so grey and cold around here that I couldn't quite bring myself to crack out the summer cottons.
I had to give myself a severe talking-to.
A whole week at home, with no obligations on my time?
Get to it, Roo!

OK... but I'm not taking my cardigan off.
Side view.

Back view.
What do you mean you can't see my dress?
OK - take this will you?

I made another Maya Dress.
This one is in a very fine, soft seersucker.
I am wearing my Cali Faye BASICS.tank underneath, as otherwise you would see my underpinnings.

It is definitely more of a shirt than a dress, this time around.

I made fully-functioning buttonholes so I can undo them for extra stride-power.
There are two hip-level pockets for additional slouch-appeal.  The stripes would have matched if I hadn't sewn them on inside out :)

I also added super-thin ties at the back to add a little shape without wearing a belt.
I regret that I sewed them in a couple of inches lower than planned, which works well with a cardigan on top, but makes me look like Shrek from behind when I take it off.
I suppose you need to see that...?

Pattern:  Maya Dress by Marilla Walker in size 2.

Fabric: 1.5 metres of seersucker from Croft Mill  at £7.50 a metre.

Other:  7 vintage buttons from the local charity shop (10 for 70p); home-made white bias binding leftover from my Bantam Top for the ties; thread.


Apart from the tie-back issue, I love it.
And I am not attempting to remove them because they are buried in my beautiful French seams!
To be honest, I don't expect to take my cardigan off very often, so my inner Shrek-ness can remain a secret... between me and the world wide web!

Am I done with the Maya pattern yet?
It doesn't seem so!
I still want to make the plain-fronted top (no buttons) and have my eye on some Liberty print that would be perfect.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

FO: Swedish Spring Cabbage Shawl

Ah yes - more romantic pictures of the compost bin!

I finished and blocked my Swedish Spring Shawl while The Girl was here.

She went home on Sunday, so I had to rely on my trusty garden wall and the self-timer to take these photographs.

I chose to knit the large version and as a result ran out of yarn mid-way along the bind-off, despite missing out the last 4 rows of the edging.

This is my own fault - I should have seen it coming.

But I was determined to make the most of the beautiful plant-dyed yarn from Gregoria Fibers.
It was dyed using red cabbages.
Red cabbages! :)

I used a few yards of light grey sock wool to finish the bind-off from the mid-point.
I rather like the way it underscores the edge.

And let's face it, I wasn't about to rip it back at that stage.


Pattern:  Swedish Spring Shawl by Maria Montzka

Yarn:  Red cabbage hand-dyed sock yarn, 75% merino, 25% nylon, 459 yards for 100g from Gregoria Fibers in Germany.

Needles:  4mm (US 6) Knit Pro Spectra interchangeables.

A very smooth knit once I understood how the chart repeat worked.
I absolutely loved the subtle colouring of the plant-dyed wool.
I could happily have kept knitting on it forever... which is how I ran out of yarn!

I am not usually drawn to pastel colours, but this is rather special.
The finished shawl is big and drapey and soft and lacy.
Good enough for a party but simple enough to wear every day.
I love it!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sewing with The Girl

This week, my daughter came back to Scotland for a holiday.
We had planned in advance that she would so some sewing while she was here, and I tested a couple of vest top patterns on her behalf.
She tried on my Bantam Top and my Cali Faye BASICS.tank... backwards.
And she decided that she preferred the front of the Cali Faye as a scoop-necked flared back, matched with the front of the Bantam Top.
So we drafted a mash-up pattern, blending the two together at the shoulders and underarms.
Because we are fearless... 

The fabric is a lovely Merchant and Mills linen in scuttle black, bought from Ray Stitch.
I wanted her to make a garment to be proud of, so supervised her first ever French seams and DIY bias binding.
Thanks to a helpful reader of this blog, we were directed to a tutorial on how to fit bias binding to curved seams perfectly - hooray!

It took longer than she had expected, but the result is definitely worth it.
The scrumpley linen suits her style and will be lovely and cool in the much-warmer south.

She also hoped to make a tee shirt.
I didn't have a pattern to suit.  She wanted it to be just like her favourite Forever 21 tee, but a little bit longer.
So we traced the old top, and created our own pattern from it.
The fabric for this one is from The Village Haberdashery.
I don't have a serger, so she learned how to change the stitch on my Bernina to the "vari-overlock" to put this one together.
A knit lesson!

Two successful sewing projects - phew!
I am sending her home with my copy of "Sew U Home Stretch" and the promise of a sewing machine.  Her granny has suggested she could have her old machine, which has lain in a cupboard unused for years... we just need to work out how to get it to London.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday WIPs with Myeloma

It's been a while since I managed to coincide a catch-up post with WIP Wednesday - anyone would think I planned it!

It has been birthday season here:  Grandma (90), FL (80) and The Girl (19).  The only one to receive a hand-knitted gift was Grandma, who fell heir to a pair of socks from my gifting box.  Will she wear them?  Unlikely.  But I never know what to get her and if nothing else she can show her sister my knitting.

I took FL out for a meal at a favourite South Indian restaurant.  He has not finished a meal in weeks, so it was good to see him make a valiant attempt for his birthday.  I bought him a gooseberry bush because that was what he wanted. No socks this year!

The Girl arrived on Monday and we have some sewing planned.  After some debate, she decided she wants a Bantam Top front with a Cali Faye BASICS.tank front as the back... so I did some redrafting to make sure the pieces will fit together at the shoulders and side seams.  I hope it works!

Yesterday was FL's regular hospital appointment.  We saw the lovely Italian doctor and she was very straightforward, as usual.  His Freelite number is up to 148 from 80 the previous month.  This is a significant rise.  If the blood test from this week shows a further rise, they will have to reconsider his prescription for Pomalidamide.  If it is a dramatic rise (and when the number rises, it tends to do it on a half-life-type curve) they will call him in for a review before his next appointment.

How is he?  It is difficult to tell whether it is the Myeloma or the shingles that is laying him low.  He is in a great deal of pain, but it appears to be located in the right upper arm, close to the site of the shingles.  His blisters are almost completely healed.  The doctor explained that shingles pain can last for a year.  A year!  FL said he could not possibly survive his much pain for that long.  It would appear that he is on the standard pain relief regime, so he just has to keep taking the tablets.

He is asleep right now.  He says he only gets peace from the pain if he is asleep.  As a result, his writing has ground to a halt and he has stopped going into the local town to see his friends and buy the newspaper.  This is totally out of character.

The good news is that I am on holiday from work for two weeks:  this week and next.  So I am able to watch over him and keep him company.  I have until 10 July to apply for Voluntary Severance and it is a decision I need to take very seriously.  I might not be successful if I apply, but it could be a good option to allow me to be at home with him when he needs me.

In knitting news, the Swedish Spring Shawl is almost complete  I love the cabbage-dyed yarn from Gregoria Fibers!  Although it is a basic (75% wool, 25% nylon) sock yarn it has a slight halo and I think it is going to bloom beautifully after a wash.  The colour is simply lovely.

I have been so besotted with this project that I have not touched my other shawl or my sweater.

I finished Haus Frau by Jill Alexander Essbaum.  It was a fairly unremitting tale of depression, with a downward spiral.  Very well written, with lots of interesting detail about living in Zurich and the German (and Swiss German) language.  I would recommend it only if you are feeling strong and like linguistics!

At the moment I am reading The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell which is a far lighter take on "being foreign in a European country".  The author is a former Marie Claire magazine journalist, now working as Scandinavian correspondent for the Guardian, and it certainly reads a lot like a Sunday supplement series in book form.  I do hope she is mocking herself when she laments the lack of designer handbags in rural Denmark... but I am not sure.  It is an enjoyable read nevertheless.

I also have Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which is all about developing better habits.  Gretchen annoys me, but I think there is a lot of wisdom in this book.  I am trying to use my two week break from the office to establish new routines:  running, cleaning, healthy eating. This has all been put on hold following a spoonful of mouldy blueberries eaten on Sunday.  I am still suffering the consequences.  I am just glad FL did not have any!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

FO: Cali Faye BASICS.tank, the oversized version

Happy Sunday everyone!

In today's episode of The Vest Quest, may I present the Cali Faye Collection BASICS.tank?

Before I show you a picture of me wearing it, I need to point out that I expected it to be slightly too big.

The Vest Quest is an unscientific experiment to ensure that I have couple of pattern options to try out with The Girl while she is here on holiday.

I am sure she won't mind me saying she is a wee bit bustier than me, so I opted for size medium, instead of small.

I squeezed it out of scraps of fabric from the stash.
The back is the same white cotton that I used last week for the Bantam Top trial run.
The front is the final piece of broderie anglaise from a never-ending half-metre I bought years ago and have been pillaging for collars and yokes.

It is totally transparent.
This is another nightie!

But that's not a bad thing.

The Bantam Top is the best pj top I have ever had - the cotton is so smooth and cool.  Perfect for the summer, when FL is still cuddling up with a hot water bottle, wearing two shirts and a woolly hat, but I am hanging my feet out of the duvet to breathe!

Speaking of FL... it would appear he laid a bowl of rhubarb crumble down on my ironing board while I was out of the room.

My DIY bias binding smelt amazing as I pressed it and I wondered why... that stain had better come out, or he's in trouble!  (The ironing board cover has a big blob of ironed-on fruit, the binding escaped with just a smidgen.)

Making and attaching the bias binding was a bit stressful altogether, as my Instagram followers will have gathered.

The Cali Faye tutorial would have you fold it under itself at the join.  But past experience of that method left me with a too-tight underarm seam.

I much prefer the Merchant and Mills method (from the Bantam Top), of seaming the binding at an angle before you attach it... but that only works if it is exactly the right length and I found that hard to judge.  M and M provide a pattern piece for the bias binding.  Cali Faye does not.

By sewing it at an angle, the bias retains its stretch and fits the curve far better.
This is what it looks like once you get it trimmed down to size and stitched, ready to attach:

Back to the BASICS.tank...

The straps are just the right width to cover bra straps, back and front.
And the back neck sits really nicely - no gaping.
The front is cut a bit lower than I prefer, but I think The Girl will like it.
The armholes are deeper than I like too, but not ridiculous.
The shirt tail is perhaps an inch and a half longer at the back than the front.
It flares out at the hip and covers my jeans pockets - a good length.


Pattern:  Cali Faye Collection BASICS.tank, a print-at-home pdf, in size Medium.  This is supposed to fit a 34.5 inch bust, but even though I used French seams when the seam allowance was only meant to be 3/8 inch total, the finished top measures 36 inches at the underarm level.

Fabric: Two scavenged scraps, as described above.  The bias binding gobbles up yardage though, so beware being too ambitious.  You could probably make it from a yard (or metre) in the medium size.


At the beginning, there is a warning:  "skill level is based on the complexity of the garment construction, as well as the verbiage used in the tutorial."

Really, it should be a breeze to sew a simple vest and I see no reason for fancy "verbiage" when plain English does the job.

In comparing construction methods I much preferred (and used) the Merchant and Mills method: stitch the hem first; French seam the sides and shoulders; stay stitch the neck and armholes edges; sew the bias at an angle to preserve the stretch... and you are done, with not a stray thread in sight.


In the right size and the right fabric I can imagine making this again for me, if I was going somewhere hot and sunny.
But more importantly, I think The Girl will like this pattern a lot.
As long as I can guide her safely through the bias binding, we should be on to a winner!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

FO: Bantam Top from the Merchant and Mills Workbook

I couldn't resist copying the Merchant and Mills style of photography!

Today I made a "wearable muslin" of the Bantam Top from the Merchant and Mills Workbook.

To be honest, this is more The Girl's style than mine.
My motivation was thoroughly altruistic - she is coming to stay for a week and we plan to do some sewing together.  I wanted to have a tried-and-trusted pattern ready for her to use, rather than risk wasting time on a dud.
I love the idea of a sleeveless top with a cutaway back, but it is rarely warm enough here for me to take my cardigan off... and of course there is the bra strap issue.

Why yes, I do have neon pink straps - don't you?!  (TopShop if you are interested.)

Clearly I won't be wearing this to work!

Not only does it reveal my underpinnings at the shoulders, but it is also semi-transparent.

It will make a brilliant pyjama top though :)


The Bantam Top from the Merchant and Mills Workbook, in size 8 (the smallest size).  For your information, the back piece is 3 inches wider and 2.5 inches longer than the front.  I would say it is a generous cut.  Size 8 would fit a 34 inch bust comfortably.

About 1.3 metres of "optic white" cotton shirting from Croft Mill - I think it was about £8 a metre.  It feels amazing - very smooth and soft and a truly dazzling white. 
However, it is so fine that I could read the sewing instructions through it when I laid it on top of the book.  Ah.


I traced the pattern on Friday night.

On Saturday afternoon, I cut the fabric and sewed the top.  It was done in about 4 hours.

Lovely clear instructions on how to do a French Seam and wise advice to start with the curved hem.

My only issue was with the bias binding.
The instructions say to stay-stitch "inside the seam allowance" at the neck and armholes... but there is no indication of how deep that seam allowance should be.
I assumed it would be 1.5 cm, as for the side seams.
However, when it came to sewing on the binding, I realised that if I lined it up with the edge of the garment, the stay-stitching would not be enclosed.

The diagrams seem to show a much narrower line of stay stitching - perhaps at  0.5 cm?

So I performed some minor acts of fudgery...

I attached the binding so that the 0.5cm fold lined up with the stay-stitching, and trimmed away the excess fabric from the main piece round the neck.

I then ignored the direction to turn the bias binding along my seamline, so that the full width of it would fall on the outside of the garment.  By that point, it was looking as if my straps were getting too narrow and that the bias binding round the neck and armholes would overlap at the shoulders.

So I added another dollop of fudge to the armhole binding... just to be on the safe side.  This entailed some fiddling around with the length of the bias strip and folding it to the outside at its half-width point.   So it is no longer the same width as the neckband binding.. and the stay-stitching is visible on the inside of the garment.

Let's do the sums:
The shoulder strap is 4 cm wide before sewing.  The binding is 2.5 cm wide when opened out flat and should have a finished width of 1.5 cm, with two 0.5 cm turns to enclose the raw edges... so I am pretty sure that means I only had room for a 0.5 cm seam on each side of the strap, so should have lined up the raw edge of the main pieces with the raw edge of the bias binding - yes?
So the stay-stitching should have been 0.5 cm from the raw edge at the neck and the armhole.

This means my version is not quite right.
There ought to be 1.5 cm of binding showing on each edge of the shoulder strap on the right side, with only a tiny piece of the main strap showing in between.

But at least I sorted this out before using the pattern as a learn-to-sew project with The Girl!

To be fair, this is not meant to be a book for beginners.
However, the instructions take the time to explain the purpose of stay-stitching in some detail  - it would have been so much more helpful if they had also said "0.5 cm from the neck edge".

I am looking forward to trying the other patterns in the book, but I will definitely be making a test garment before cracking out expensive linen or wool.

Friday, June 05, 2015

The Benefits of a Siege Mentality

After months of strict self-control, I appear to have let the genie out of the bottle and have been buying All The Things.
This is either because:

 (1) I think I will give up my job and so will no longer have a personal disposable income, therefore I had better stock up NOW; or
 (2) I think I will stay in my job and will therefore need to sew and knit more to
 (a) appear presentable
 (b) stay sane.

It's probably (2)(b) (or not to be... that is the question?!)
Anyway - new things!


I am besotted by the new Merchant and Mills Workbook.

It chimes perfectly with all my talk of uniforms and a psychological need for a simple, comfortable wardrobe which allows me to get dressed in the dark.

Of course, the longer I spend poring over its pages, the more likely it is that I will start with the trickiest project in the book, the Strides wide-legged trousers.

Or the fantastic 1980's drama student meets Philip Larkin in the library coat - ooh yeah!

I am a bit shy of the Curlew dress.  It describes itself as "sexy".
Um... really?
 But it planted the doubt in my head - that's not a look I aspire to. 

Good sense suggests I kick off with a Bantam Tank - if only because I think The Girl would like it too.

I have already bought Cali Faye's basics.tank pattern in anticipation of a flurry of Girl-ish sewing, but there's no harm in trying out two patterns, is there?

The Brumby Skirt from Megan Nielsen also awaits my attention.  I purchased some lightweight denim and washed it mid-week, in preparation.

I have been buying quite a lot of fabric lately.  Mostly denim and chambray, with a dash of cotton chino fabric.  There was some lightweight wool before that.  All excellent choices for my new patterns, though I might still "need" some lightweight cottons / linens for tops.


My new Instagram account (I am theroobeedoo if you want to follow me) led me to a yarn purchase.

This is natural-dyed sockweight from Gregoria Fibers.
The blue/green is dyed using red cabbages, while the tweedy yarn is dyed using a mixture of onion skins and nuts.

FL cracked me up by sniffing the yarn to see if he could detect any "eau de legumes".  I can assure you there is not a soupcon of soup-fragrance!

I plan to knit a Swedish Spring Shawl using the cabbage-dyed skein.
Such a beautiful pattern!

Meantime, I cast on the Tailspin Shawl by Josh Ryks.
I have wanted to knit this ever since I saw early fragments of the design on Josh's podcast.
I am using The Knitting Goddess yarn in Bigger on the Inside (black to navy variegated) with a set of Blackened Rainbow mini skeins for the kite stripes. 
The yarn was bought with this project in mind, and has been squirrelled away, awaiting the right moment.
That time is now!
Although I have been buying new things, I have also been paying attention to what is already in my stash.  Not least because I am currently in the midst of a moth epidemic - noooo!
I have been assassinating upwards of 20 of the beasts every evening in the bedroom and sitting room.
I have put down pheromone traps, with some success. But the old-fashioned "smash them over the head" approach is very therapeutic!
And yes, there is lavender everywhere.
And cedarwood balls.

Update on FL:
A few kind readers have extended "get well soon" wishes to FL, in the wake of his attack of shingles.
He has been very unwell and unhappy over the past few weeks.  However, his back is beginning to heal, so we are hopeful that the pain will reduce soon.
He is having his dressings changed by a nurse at the GP surgery, so I have the reassurance that an "expert" is in charge of that now, after my early attempts at First Aid using Always (with wings, naturally)!  LOL  Poor FL!
We get our laughs where we can around here!

Edited to say:    I am clearly going senile - I already told you about that!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Finding JOY! in Me Made May 2015

My pledge for Me Made May 2015 read:

'I, Roobeedoo, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May '15.  I endeavour to wear me-made clothes that bring me joy (ooh - there's the catch!) each day for the duration of May 2015'

What I wore on 2 June 2015
The Sources of JOY!:
I wore 11 out of the 20 me-made items in my wardrobe that I had designated as work-appropriate, plus my new Maya top.
Out of these 12 items, 8 gave me JOY!:  5 tops, 1 dress, 1 skirt and 1 pair of culottes.
A further 4 RTW items registered JOY!:  3 tops and 1 cardigan.

Bottom half:
Dark denim Peggy skirt:  7 times
70's Culottes:  6 times

Jersey tops:
Stripey Renfrew t shirt:  2 times

Woven tops:
Raindrops on Roses top:  1 time
Seersucker Portfolio top:  2 times
Vicar's Wife back-buttoned top:  2 times
Seersucker Maya top (new in May):  2 times

Joyful woven me-made tops
Nani Iro double gauze dress:  2 times

The Joy-filled RTW items I wore were
Howies tartan shirt:  2 times
Refashioned-by-me white broderie vintage top:  1 time
Brora long-sleeve tee:  1 time
Boden black cashmere mix cardigan:  18 times

So what DIDN'T I choose to wear?
My black cotton jacket - I feel more like "me" in a cropped cardi.
Love Cats dress, Bluebirds dress, 40's tea dress - the Nani Iro dress is easier to wear than any of these... but I still like them and will keep them and most likely wear them.
My mustard and watermelon linen Chardon skirts - they felt too bright and I didn't know what to wear on my legs. I made an effort to wear the mustard one today - I like it, but I may have looked a bit crazy.
My dark denim Kelly skirt - it felt uncomfortably tight on my waist  - I got as far as the car one day and ran back inside to change!

Questions posed:
I don't know what to wear on my feet or legs in warm weather - mad coloured tights feel too eccentric, but it is too cold to go without... and is it possible that Doc Marten boots will feel too hot in July / August?

Do you think anyone noticed I wore the same black cardi almost every day?!
Happy (but seasonally inappropriate) Feet!
Lessons Learned :

  • I prefer to wear a woven vintage-style top to work - they look smarter
  • The only tees that feel appropriate for work are very close-fitting
  • I prefer a simple, figure-skimming dress rather than one with fussy details
  • I prefer plain, dark coloured skirts
  • I can't bear tight waistbands!
  • I only wear comfortable footwear 

What does this mean?

I could live comfortably with a much smaller wardrobe...but I was excited to welcome my new Maya top into rotation, so I do actually enjoy having new things!

Silly Old Suitcase beads - my accessory of choice :)

And after all this... do I need (or want) anything new?

Footwear - I am considering a pair of clogs and / or a pair of Doc Marten sandals.
Trousers - a full-length pair and a cropped pair.
Skirts - at least one more everyday staple skirt.
Tights - non-crazy-coloured cotton?
Knickers - a borderline emergency situation!

And finally...any closing remarks?
My Doc Marten boots bring me JOY!
My Silly Old Suitcase beads bring me JOY!
My hand knitted shawls bring me JOY!

So despite my failure to snap a selfie every day in May, I reckon the Me Made self-analysis more than made up for it!