In Top Gear

I am beside myself with exitement because I made a phone call, just checking how the land lies in regard to that film/ theatre work. Part of me thought it was a bad idea because it makes me look potentially very pushy. But on the other hand I thought that I might just not get the work, unless I am proactive and let people know that I am keen.

So, I made the call and managed a light chit chat with the designer, pleasantries and so forth, but mainly letting her know that I am very keen to take on some work and that there is that flexibility with my other job and voila – within 12 hrs I had a call from the cutter to let me know that she is totally overwhelmed with various jobs and could I please come and work in her workroom for one or two weeks! YIKES!

This opportunity has made me so very very happy, I have been sewing and making patterns for all sorts of things during the weekend.

I cut Esther’s T-shirt up and up-cycled my old plain one. Looks cute!image image

I took the pattern of Clare’s jumper – it is the nicest fit ever, so plain and elegant! Now I need to do the number crunching and then I can start knitting away. I am afraid it will be a slow process, the alpaca yarn is very thin and I will knit it with 2 mm needles.image

Here are some linen pants that I started. The pattern is from the Mills & Merchant book. Unfortunately this project is on hold, since I broke the only needle for my industrial sewing machine. Spares are arriving mid- week! I enjoyed the fly, the pockets… All that detail…image

And I also prepared some patterns from the Alabama Chanin book. I bought this some time ago because I just love the simplicity of the collection – the book comes with a CD with all the patterns! But wow – printing the patterns and sticking them together takes forever…image

I did not buy organic cotton – I just cut up some old T-shirts! imageThis skirt is so comfortable. And again – the pattern for my size was way too big, so I just took the skirt in. Any other patterns I will make I will use one or even two sizes smaller!image

Spring is in the Air

We have had our first dinner on the verandah last night, enjoying the view over the tree tops. I had forgotten how quickly it gets dark and how the mosquitos come to join us. image imageThere has been a lot of spring cleaning going on in the school holidays, hosing down garden furniture, blasting away the cobwebs and also giving my workspace a good tidy up. I find a clean workspace very inspirational! starting new things, venturing into deeper waters, trying something new altogether.

And I got myself a few treats, some nice buttons for something special (not sure what that will be as yet) imageand two beautiful books. I don’t need them, no, in fact Patrick said I could write them, true. The design and layout is just stunning, the illustrations, diagrams, photos and even the information¬†is succinct, to the point and professional. Here and there are a few bits on info np entirely new to me, eg. how to make a tailor’s ham.image

imageSo all the three books have a different purpose: the one on the left is really an overview of the art of tailoring/ sewing and lays out all the fundamentals. I bought it last year. It does have a few easy projects and patterns, aprons, pillow cases, travel bagsa and the like. Every project introducing different materials and referring to the techniques illustrated. The book in the middle is just a small reference volume containing the essence of techniques, it’s like Mao’s little red book for sewers. I was so pleased about their brief chapter on full facings, which have been posed an ongoing mystery to me.image

Finally, the Workbook ‘All Season Wardrobe’ is just beautiful. It contains a heap of nice patterns (size 8-18) for very basic, timeless clothes that I love to wear. Plain tops, skirts, pants and jackets. It’s the crumpled and casual linen look… imageAnd I have so many fabrics that are waiting to be made into something… So I made this cotton top last night. NOTE: (1) the patterns are all a bit oversized, that IS their look. I am a size 10, but made this top in a size 8 and it fits nicely. However, I might make a size 10 top from a different fabric and look – so those are still decisions to be made for each garment. (2) the pattern layout on the fabric may not always be accurate in the instructions. I got the size 8/ 10 top pattern pieces out of the fabric amount they recommended – not sure size 18 would have worked.image image


Sample workshop: Fair Isle

Whilst currently feeling a bit despondent about the cable jumper (as you may remember, I have knitted 3 sleeves and now am at my third attempt to master the saddle with decreases matching the pattern), and I am itching to start on something for myself, I have taken a brief holiday/ detour from the current project.

Instead of starting a new project in a flurry and going full steam ahead, I have decided to be very rational and plan the new project carefully and swatch it, so when the cable jumper is finished, I can go on straight to the next well thought out project.

Whilst swatching, I thought I ought to try as many new techniques as possible. So I started with a cable cast on, and was pleasantly surprised with it’s elasticity. Next, I tried the vikkel braid, or herringbone braid. Very nice, but totally wrong for the border of a Fair Isle project. But I can see potential for a plain, tailored design, to finish it off with a decorative border, and even for a button band.
Then I tried a pocket, it works well and is not too hard, either. But again, the top of the pocket ought to be in a dark color, framing it.
And lastly, the color-work. I did not chose the colors, my boss bought these lovely Scottish yarns in Aberdeen for me. I cannot see them work, so I do have permission to order a few more colors. There is not enough contrast (I need a yellow, a light grey, a blue and a dark something) – otherwise it looks like a Christmas design. I will order those in!
Finally, the Fair Isle patterns: it is important to stick to a consistent level of complexity in design – the top pattern is not complex enough and thus stands out.

I found Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting a real treasure trove for the patterns. As well as ideas to copy straight, she gives endless plain sheets of designs, neatly ordered according to row amounts, which just bedazzled me. I found her book in my local library!

What a good holiday that was! I feel rejuvenated to get back to the cable jumper whilst I wait for my yarn additions…

A surprise in the mail!

I love surprises, who doesn’t? To be honest, this wasn’t a surprise surprise, like one of those that you have no knowledge of whatsoever… because I did order this book some time ago. But I had no idea what I was about to see. Let’s have a show and tell, and there is something for everybody, whether you are going into summer (like us), or winter.

A story book? Fairy tales? No… it is for MEEEEE!

And here is what us in the Southern hemisphere should consider knitting quickly, as it is soon time to lie on the beach:

But all my friends going into winter, here are some smart ideas for you: gloves for the horse woman?
Or these marvelous cami- knickers?

Here is a two piece set for those who don’t like the all in one idea…
And I myself should contemplate knitting this set of warm underwear for boys, fly and all, for my 14 year old teenager who is going to Chicago in December, don’t you agree?

Jokes aside now. This is a really inspiring book, there are many wonderful designs in it, and so many ideas for beautifully knitted details. Most designs need updating in terms of sleeve heads and shoulders, though. Never mind. And the instructions are a bit tricky – though very clear and thorough, they refer only to very fine yarn (32 st per 10cm) and there are no schematics, so it is not straightforward to re-create these designs in other materials. Each design is only published in one size, which doesn’t matter to me (since I would just re- do the pattern for the design anyway), but it would be nice to have flexibility in terms of size, if one would like to re-create the design.

Here are some lovely ones I will hopefully have time to do! All the women’s designs are very tailored with fitted waists, and this is achieved by changing needles to a smaller size!

So here are the book details:

Complete Family Knitting illustrated by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster, Odhams Press Ltd, Long Acre, London. Published in the late 1940s.

Saved by the Promise of Joy

I have been saved from myself, from doing more of the same… from designing another quilt with stash fabrics, a regular and symmetric pattern, on a calico base, phew! I tried to go for lunch in Newtown on Friday, but the traffic was so appalling, I chucked a U-turn before I developed road rage and went home – via Material Obsession. After cuddling various wonderful fabric at my bosom, my eye caught Kathy Doughty’s latest book Making Quilts… the promise of joy.

That’s all I needed to find harmony again. The book is full of inspiration, and limitless exploration of design ideas, playing tricks with tradition, combining techniques and being daring and stretching one’s idea of beauty. Oh boy. I am still on a real high. It is full of and why not? attitude, just great.

So here is where I am at with it. It will be a feast of colors and contrasts and techniques. Patchwork, Paper Piecing, foundation piecing; applique, embroidery – the lot. And why not???

The design will emerge, I am sure, that is the part of the joy, exploring as I go. Planning a quilt, testing and trying the best ways to combine the elements. Here is a small sketch, which will not be executed… it’s ready to evolve.

My most famous pieces – a blast from the past and new inspiration!

Uuuuhhh, look what the postie brought to me this morning! THIS is incredible! The ultimate, the most comprehensive, the best! I didn’t think I needed it, but YES I did.

All about vertical insertions, bar increases, intarsia in the round, open side edges, swatch edges, adjusting patterns, chain selvedge seams, sewing in a zipper, facings, twisted twice knits, pleats and tucks… so much I just didn’t know about playing with those sticks!

Well, heaving this book onto my lap (it weighs a ton) makes me feel I have been a complete amateur for all these 30 years!

Hey, that’s not true! Look at these two pieces, my two most famous knits I have made so far:

The first one is a purple cardigan for Geraldine Fitzgerald. She did “Absolute Hell” at the National Theater, London. This is very fitted, very sexy, very beautifully made, just like the designer envisaged. I surprised myself!

The other cardigan is for Rachel Weisz in “The Mummy”. Yepp, that famous movie. I had a 3 month old baby and thought it was very straightforward to work from home under the circumstances… little did I know, I struggled… my friend Jane across the road ended up doing the intarsia, and I did the other stuff and the sleeves on the machine. Phew, was glad when that was over… especially as there (all of a sudden) had to be TWO cardigans delivered – you know, in the movies they like to cover their backs…

my knitting process (3)

Talking about books – there are a number of wonderful Elizabeth Zimmermann knitting books. “Knitting without Tears” is one (I don’t have it, though) and “The Knitting Workshop” is another famous one. This book takes you through all the classic designs from baby jackets to yoke sweaters. In particular I love all the different variations of yokes: raglan, saddle… There are no complete instructions issued – the author simply and clearly explains (1) how it all hangs together and then (2) gives percentages (100% being the stitches for the entire circumference) for dividing the elements of the garment. It seemed a bit vague and cryptic to me initially – but she is spot on!

I am adding this detail of a saddle shoulder jumper I made with her guidance. It fits beautifully. The cable patterns I found Barbara Walker’s books.

My Knitting Process (2)

There is so much talk about how best to achieve a good result in knitting! And there is no one right answer. Here are two books that summarize exactly how I have done it for years. When I came across these books, I felt like I reconnected with a long lost friend.

To me, these two books are what Simone Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’, Aristotle’s ‘Virtue Ethics’ or Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ are to a Philosopher.

I have done “it” intuitively for so many years, and whenever I rush or stray from this approach, I pay the price: unraveling, unraveling, unraveling. I start with an idea, a gauge, a shape, a paper pattern, some arithmetic, lot’s of scribbling and then knitting – and a lot of checking as I go.

These two books are truly wonderful, thank you Maggie Righetti! “Knitting in Plain English” spends the first of the four parts on everything you need to know before you cast on! It is a comprehensive course in knitting.

“Sweater Design in Plain English” takes the magic and the good luck factor out of knitwear design – it delivers all the essential knowledge of the thought process, the creativity and combines those with sound rules about how knitted fabric behaves and how the human body works. It is so thorough – it starts talking about how design flaws are usually disguised in fashion photography. As a trained tailor, I think this is the most sophisticated book for designing knitwear.

Both books are a fun to read, needless to say. Thrillers.