Sunday, September 27, 2015

Boos? Really, how gauche.

Hello my little chickens, how is everyone? I'm sitting here, drinking gin, with half an eye on the first episode of that terrible mini-series The Kennedys. You know, with Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy? Nic bought me the DVDs as part of my birthday present. I wouldn't usually go in for watching something just because it is bad, but this is an honourable exception. You guys, it is so bad. I love it. Katie Holmes is pretty terrible (which is a shame, because I think she's not totally untalented) but she's trying her little heart out, you know? And I have just heard that they're making a follow-up called After Camelot, which, YES.

So, after a rollercoaster few weeks, life is starting to feel a lot more positive. It was my birthday on Friday, so I have just had a long weekend of birthday celebrations and spoiling. It was pretty great, not least because I was able to spend the day of my birthday with my dad and my sister Colleen, who had come over to England for the day. Daddy had to go to Manchester for a work errand and it proved easier to fly into Birmingham and drive up to Manchester, so Nic and I joined them. We only had a few hours in Manchester but mainly what was good was being able to spend the whole day with them. We had a lot of fun and I even managed to sneak in a quick trip to Abakhan to buy some fabric.  I have been terribly spoiled all weekend by the people I love, and it's been just the tonic I needed after a difficult few weeks. Even Angry Baby got in on the action:

Photo by Angry Baby's caretaker, Amy

Thanks, Angry Baby! I did some sewing on Thursday afternoon and some on Saturday, and I cut out a dress today to try to sew in the next few days. It feels good to have the time and the mental energy to want to sew, you know?

This post tonight isn't about sewing though. It's about knitting! While I was knitting my Audrey in Unst cardigans, I realised that I had been incorrectly knitting into stitches that had been formed with a yarn over, and that this was why the holes in my lace stitches didn't look as good as I would like. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment, and also a moment of feeling profoundly daft - but then, this is one of the downsides of teaching yourself. Anyway, armed with this knowledge, I decided to have another  go at knitting Andi Satterlund's Agatha cardigan. I was inspired by my friend Lauren, who is currently knitting a Chuck sweater in a lovely deep red yarn - Cascade 220 superwash in 'really red' - which is a great, blueish red shade.

I had knit my yellow Agatha in size medium, but it was too big across the shoulders, so this time around I decided to knit the size small. I was also knitting in a DK rather than aran weight yarn, so I used a smaller size needle to get gauge. Apart from that, I knitted this cardigan exactly to the pattern:

Andi Satterlund Agatha cardigan, Ruby Belle Owl dress and Irregular Choice No Place Like Home shoes

I think choosing the smaller size was a good idea for me personally, as I like my cardigans to hit my natural waist and to be pretty fitted. So I'm very happy with the fit of this cardigan, although I wish I had used a slightly stretchier cast-off for the waist ribbing than I did. I chose not to, because I wasn't sure I'd like how it looked, but then I did use a stretchy method for the cuffs and it looks fine. Ah well, live and learn, and this certainly won't be the last Agatha cardigan I knit.

Here it is, close up! Annoyingly, there's a little bobble of fluff at the waist that I didn't notice before we took the photos. Ah well. You can see the button band pulling at the bottom button, and I think that this would be less of an issue with a more flexible cast off there. But you can also see how lovely the lace design is! Hey, and check out the back...

I'm very happy with the fit through the back, although part of me wishes I had knit the last central repeat fully before moving onto the ribbing. I followed the pattern, and maybe if I had knitted a few rows more I'd be crabbing that I should have knitted it a few rows shorter! This is the thing I am finding with knitting - it is a lot of trial and error. 

And here's how it looks unbuttoned! I have worn this cardigan a fair bit since I finished it - it's been nice, actually, because this brief indian summer we have been enjoying has meant that a thicker cardigan is the perfect layer without a coat. These photos were taken on Thursday, when I was working from home and going out for lunch with some friends. The dress is a shop-bought - or rather, ebay-bought dress from a number of years ago. I try not to feel guilty when I buy dresses in shops or even when I wear the small number of shop-bought dresses that I still have in my wardrobe, and the guilt is definitely assuaged when I am able to wear them with hand-knit cardigans!

I still feel that I have a long way to go with knitting, and that I really am learning something new with each project. That's satisfying and exciting and it means that I can take a lot of joy out of completing something even when it is far from perfect. You can't say fairer than that, really. I have cast on my next project, which is a navy Hetty cardigan. My thinking there is that my newly improved lace knitting skills will work well with the all-over lace pattern on Hetty. So watch this space for that!

Anyway, time to dander on here and do Sunday night up in style with another gin and tonic and maybe something slightly more edifying on the TV than that Kennedys thing. Goodnight! 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Analyse, Strategise, Succeed. A.S.S. I'm going to crush this problem with my ass.

Hello hello! It's a chilly Tuesday here and I have had a tiring day, but I am looking out of our living room window at a pretty pink sky and Nic is cooking something that smells delicious. So that's good.

I have had a mentally and emotionally exhausting couple of weeks. My ten-day work week finally came to an end with a two-day-long meeting (we really know how to have fun where I work) and on Thursday morning, Nic and I travelled down to Folkestone so that we could go to his grandfather's funeral, which was Friday. I was nervous in anticipation of the funeral and so was feeling a bit emotionally wobbly anyway, and then on Wednesday morning I received the very sad news that my cousin Angie had died the day before. This was very shocking and very sad as Angie was only 36. She had suffered from health problems in the past and was very seriously ill a few years ago, but nonetheless it was a horrible shock to lose a family member, and one so close in age. Angie and I weren't close - I have a large extended family and am not close to most of them - but we had been as children and, as I say, it was a very great shock to lose someone of my own age in that way. Funerals are arranged much more quickly in Northern Ireland than they are in England, and it turned out that Angie's funeral was also on Friday.

Nic's grandfather's funeral went very well and it was an oddly uplifting day - he was 92 and had had a very varied and satisfying life, and his funeral was a fitting tribute to the man he was. Nic, my dad and I were determined to make the rest of the weekend as positive as we could to help raise Nic's parents' spirits, and we ended up having a very lovely weekend. Friday was very rainy and grey, but on Saturday and Sunday the weather was glorious and we made the most of the beautiful Kent countryside and coastline with a trip to Rye followed by an evening on the Folkestone Harbour Arm on Saturday. We came home on Sunday feeling a bit overwhelmed and exhausted, and I spent yesterday feeling pretty out of sorts, but now September is almost behind us I feel like I'm getting onto more of an even keel.

Aaaah. So that's the craic with me. That was a massive emotional blob, and I know that lots of you are mostly here for the sewing. I do have some sewing to show you, finished a few weeks ago and before life all went a bit mad. This is a dress I made from some of the fabric I bought in Paris. I ended  up going a bit wax cotton mad when I was there because I am powerless in the face of the amazing prints and because it's so lovely to sew with. I bought two lengths of Julius Holland wax cotton for myself from Toto Tissus on rue Clignancourt (and one length for my friend Lauren) and this dress came from one of them:

The Good Wife dress - By Hand London Anna bodice with a pleated skirt, worn with Swedish hasbeens lacy sandals 

So, tell me. What do you see when you look at this print? I saw buildings, but Nic saw faces. I see faces now too, especially as I have a face on my upper chest! I promise, though, that this was deliberate. I spent as long cutting this dress out as I did sewing it, I think. The print actually runs with the chevron shapes more like L-shapes, so I cut this dress out on the crosswise, and I paid careful attention to where I wanted the chevrons to be. That might seem strange, but it seemed a waste of such a distinctive print not to showcase it on the most unbroken part of the bodice, so I ended up with a face on my bust. Hey, at least it's a smiling face though, right? And it's not like I haven't gone there before (*cough* stag boobs *cough*).

Because the print is so great, an Anna dress bodice seemed like the best way to show it off. I did wonder if there was too much going on with the bright green and yellow so close to my face, but all the same I thought that the slash neck variation would work better than the v-neck. I managed to achieve a little v-neck trompe l'oeil effect though with the print, though:

Because I was cutting on the crosswise grain and there is very little drape and no stretch to wax cotton, I used a slightly smaller seam allowance on the bodice side seams. It was a small amendment, but it made a nice difference - the bodice is close-fitting, but not overly tight. My preference is for the bodice of my dresses to be fit with minimal ease, and that's not to everyone's taste. Still, it's worth bearing in mind that you might need to give yourself a bit of extra breathing room if you're cutting a bodice on the crosswise grain.

Here's a massively awkward photo of my back to illustrate that I have a happy face there, too. You'll see some wrinkling across the back, which is partly due to the fact that the bodice is very fitted. 

Other than the little bit of extra thinking that cutting this dress out took, this was a breeze to sew and a joy to wear. I think I could sew the Anna bodice in my sleep by now, probably! 

I wore this dress for the first time a couple of weeks ago on a day when I was working from home. I had just got this pair of Swedish hasbeens in the post, bought in the final days of their summer sale for a ludicrous £49. It's a style I had been stalking all summer, so even though I could only wear them a few times before packing them away for the season, I didn't think twice about buying them. In real life, I think they're sort of ugly, but as I quite like ugly things (see also: this dress, almost everything else I have ever sewn) I was happy enough:

I don't think I'll be packing the dress away for the colder weather, though, as I think it'll look good with dark tights and shoes, or with my yellow shoe-boots. 

Normally I really dread the onset of autumn and winter, but this year I don't feel that way. Don't get me wrong - I love the summer - but I see a lot of promise in the coming season, and that is a nice feeling. Having a few final days of summer this past weekend in Kent helped with that, I think. 

On Saturday we went to Tenterden, and then on to Rye. Daddy took this photo of me with a stuffed bear outside some sort of sporting goods shop. Then after that, any time he saw a bear in a shop or even a photo of one, he tried to get me into a photo with it. He's an eccentric man, my dad. But I like this photo. It makes me want a DSLR. 

I took this photo on Sunday, before we left Folkestone. On the left of the photo is Sunny Sands, The Warren and the Martello tower. On the right you can see the White Cliffs of Dover and, although I didn't catch it in the photo, further to the right you can see France. Apparently, dolphins live in the harbour in Folkestone, although we didn't manage to see any.

Folkestone's Harbour Arm opened to the public on the 8th August and it's a real asset to the town. It has been regenerated with places to eat and drink, and all sorts of activities. Nic and I were staying with our friends Dan and Vic on Saturday night, and we met them down at the harbour arm for drinks. This lighthouse is home to a champagne bar. When Folkestone Harbour closed as a passenger port in 2001, I think the lighthouse fell out of use too, so we were surprised and delighted to see it lit once again on Saturday night.

Nic took this photo

Saturday night was very special. We arrived at the Harbour Arm in time to see the sun setting, and spent a few hours drinking champagne with my dad and our very dear friends. It was oddly emotional to watch the beam from the lighthouse circling the harbour, and to see the lighthouses at Dover and Dungeness twinkling away in the distance. It was a very beautiful evening indeed.

Here's Nic at sunset on the harbour arm. Behind him you can see the Leas and Sandgate, and further round you can see some of the coastline of Kent and East Sussex.

Wow, that ended up being quite the random photo dump! Well done for sticking with it to the end there, guys. Thanks!

Right now, I must go. I have another all-day meeting at work tomorrow (my life: what is it) and I need to put in some quality time with my knitting and my sofa and my TV. Oh, I know, ambitious, right? I'm going to leave you with one more photo of my dress though because, you know, sewing blog. Goodnight!

My face is smug in this photo because I was pure loving my hair. That happens pretty rarely!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Let's drink at my place so I can walk home.

Hello hello! What's happening, everyone? I'm not too bad - almost at the end of a ten-day stint at work (working over the weekend blows, jsyk) and I'm a wee bit tired with it. Needless to say, I'm being looked after by Nic and right now he's cooking dinner. I got a good one there.

Anyway, life lately has been a bit of a blur, but that's fine. My life is not as stressful as Alicia Florrick's life, so we're still watching a lot of The Good Wife because it's weirdly comforting for that reason. Also, I still love Chris Noth. Big forever.

Do you want to see a dress, though? Yeah, why not. Here's a dress I made a few weeks ago...

Charmed Life dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress bodice with a pleated skirt and Red or Dead 'Shirley' shoes

Another day, another Emery dress, right? But isn't this fabric just the best? It's Cloud 9 barkcloth, and the print is called 'Ripple'. It's by Jessica Jones and is from the 'Timewarp' collection, which obviously makes me smile because:

I watched this film so many times as a teenager, it was ridiculous. It was partly because I had loved The Crystal Maze so much as a child, but it ended up mostly being because I thought Magenta was the bomb. I'm not sure I could handle watching it now, though. 

So anyway, yes, the fabric. Let's try to tear our minds away from Tim Curry and think about the fabric. I bought it from The Village Haberdashery at the end of April, and it had been simmering away in my stash ever since. I'm glad I bought it when I did, because I gather it's fairly difficult to find now. Anyway, it sat there until a few weeks ago, when I popped into Berylune on payday - mainly to gossip and scrounge a cup of coffee - and I bought some of these lace zips. Sometimes the perfect item of haberdashery is all it takes, and in this case that's what happened. So this happened...

Pretty exposed zip! I'm pretty pumped by how well this turned out and although it kind of limits me to accessorising this dress with red... well, it's navy and white. That was blatantly going to happen anyway. Inserting an exposed zip is a obviously a little different to a standard dress zip, and I used the instructions for the exposed zip on the Mortmain dress by Gather. I had to tweak things slightly as the Emery bodice is lined, but only slightly, and I'm really happy with how well it turned out.

This is my happy face.

The fabric was lovely to work with. The barkcloth is probably intended for furnishing, I don't know, but I think it works brilliantly as a garment and it wears really comfortably. I think that it probably would have been fine with the gathered skirt that is part of the Emery pattern, but I'm on a bit of a pleated skirt tip at the moment, so that's what I went for. I didn't line the skirt as, if I wear this dress with tights, it will only be in the winter and I will be wearing a slip - but you'd probably want to line it if you're more into wearing tights than I am.

It won't surprise you to learn that after the success of this dress, I went straight back to Berylune and bought more of the lace zips. You'll see a few more of them round here! I also bought some navy yarn to knit a cardigan. You know. For those days when I don't want to wear red. I like to be prepared.

Here's a close-up of the fabric so you can see the pretty print. This also gives you a good idea of the feel of the fabric - you can see the slight slubby-ness of the fabric. I did pre-wash this fabric before sewing my dress, and it washes fine. I think I want more barkcloth dresses in my life. Obviously that's totally necessary. Stop laughing, it is. 

So there you go. Now I need to go, because Eddie Izzard just showed up in The Good Wife and it's pretty fucking weird. It needs my full attention. I'll leave you with a wee present though...

Make-up goals

Monday, September 07, 2015

I don't understand the question and I won't respond to it.

Hello strangers! It's been a while, yeah? It's been a difficult week or so. Nic's grandfather died suddenly last week and... well, yes. That's been very sad and very difficult for everyone. He was a great age and thankfully hadn't been seriously ill, so although it was a great shock at least it wasn't the case that he had been suffering. His funeral won't be for a little while yet so I think the next couple of weeks will be similarly difficult. Ahhh, I tell you what, being a grown-up is pretty hard sometimes.

So, anyway. That's what's been happening. I've been busy at work and trying to squeeze in crafting and general life around that. Weirdly, when I'm busy elsewhere in my life I become a bit better about making time for sewing - I suppose because I need it more for my sanity! I've made a few dresses and I've made great headway into knitting another Agatha cardigan, so that's good.

Last week, I cut into the first piece of the fabric that I brought back from Paris and I made another Vogue V8998. The fabric is pretty amazing. It's a printed cotton that I bought from Moline, which has gold foil in the print:

Birds, flowers and gold foil. This has a little bit of everything going on! The selvedge says 'Japanese 40s by 40s superfine cotton lawn' by Miroto Great Flower Designs, just in case anyone wants to try to track some down. They also had it in pink, which I kind of regret not also buying. I'm not sure what the birds are, possibly cranes? Anyway, it was very pretty and I immediately envisioned wearing it with gold or silver shoes.

I initially thought about making another Emery dress with this but when the time came to cut into it, V8998 presented itself, so off I went. I've tinkered with the fit of the bodice of this dress each time I've made it, and this time around I decided I needed to shorten the bodice. This was a good idea, but I think I still need also to shorten the shoulder seams and maybe pinch a little bit out of the neckline. Hmmm...

Birds of Paradise Farm dress worn with Swedish hasbeens 'Cobra' sandals

I have to be upfront and tell you that this dress was absolutely horrible to photograph. I wore it on Saturday and I don't know if it was bad lighting, or the fact that the gold foil reflects badly or what, but Nic seriously had to take about 3000 photos just for me to get four or five that I didn't totally hate. Needless to say, this meant that I was an absolute delight to work with! You'll just have to take my word for it that this is much cuter - and much, much less wrinkled-looking - in real life! Even if you don't (which, fair enough, I could be totally fully of shit) once I got over my tantrum about the photos, I did enjoy wearing this dress!

Dolly Clackett: Possibly full of shit

The fabric, while pretty, was kind of a pain to work with. Even with a press cloth, it was difficult to press the seams because of the foil. This has probably also contributed to the wrinkled look! I can only hope that washing it a few more times will make it easier to iron, even if it makes it look a little bit less shiny. Maybe I don't actually regret not buying the pink version of this, come to think of it!

Isn't it funny how your feelings about a project can change, though? I loved this as soon as I finished it, and then was totally raging when I saw the photos... and now I'm not sure. I'll wear this dress, but it's definitely not by best work. Anyway, I think it looks good with my pink Audrey in Unst cardigan...

Who is more awkward than me, then? LITERALLY NO-ONE, THAT'S WHO.

I wore this on Saturday to go down to Leamington Food Festival with Nic, Amy and Barney. We pottered around trying to find the vegetarian options for a while before Nic and Barney went record shopping and Amy and I went up to Berylune to bring Emily and Amy some banoffee toasted sandwiches. It was a pretty nice day, so my dress already has lots of lovely happy memories attached to it.

So anyway, that's the craic there. I've had a busy day at work, and my brain has sort of run out of words. I need to go and knit and watch some trashy TV! I'll catch you soon, though. Since making this dress, I have sewed two more dresses that I feel much more positive about, and which I can't wait to show you! You can see a preview on my instagram if you're curious.

Now. I have to crack on with my second sleeve and with binge-watching The Good Wife. Yes, five years after everyone started watching it, I've finally moved past my irrational hatred of Juliana Margulies and got really into this show. Look, it is actually kind of awesome. Carol Hathaway totally sucks in S1 of ER but, subsequent to that she's awesome, and Alicia Florrick is okay too. The star of the show is really Christine Baranski though. I could have a drink with Diane.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why are we watching a foreign movie? You'd think if it was any good they would make an American version.

Hola boys and girls! Has this week not been the longest week? I think this week has been three weeks long and it's still on Thursday night. WTF? It hasn't been a bad week or anything, just long. Some weeks are just like that, I guess.

Anyway, it's all good here. The landlord did an inspection of the flat on Tuesday and a carpenter is coming to properly fix the hole in the bathroom floor and the skirting boards. Old Smokey McBitchcrackers downstairs (yeah, I've decided that I hate her) had been smoking her head off and even though the hole had been filled in, the bathroom was still stinking of smoke. We put a note through her door asking her to go outside, as we had discussed previously, but she didn't acknowledge it.

I think this was the most annoying thing of all, actually, because it's one thing to be inconsiderate and not know that you are, but once it's been pointed out to you - well, it was just RUDE! Obviously, she didn't smoke at all on Tuesday morning because the landlord was coming, but her flat must reek and the landlord told me that she was on a warning - any more complaints or any further evidence of smoking in the building and he'd be giving her notice for breaching the terms of the letting agreement. It has worked - to a point. The smell of smoke is back (although not as strongly) as of this evening, so I'll have to see how it is over the next few days. This whole situation sucks, and although I enjoy a bit of recreational complaining, it's really not nice to have to complain about a neighbour in this way, you know? But anyway, the toilet is still working so things are a great deal improved on how they were when we got back from Paris. Phew!

So anyway, that's the craic there. Apart from being long-ass, this week has been grand. I've mostly been working from home and have been getting out for walks with Nic whenever the random weather we're having allows us to. At the weekend, I finished a knitting project that I started before we went on holiday and today I was able to get some photos of it. The project in question is another Audrey in Unst cardigan, in some hot pink Drops 'Baby Merino' yarn that I bought from Wool Warehouse:

Pink Audrey in Unst cardigan, Profoundly in Love with Pandora dress and Irregular Choice Can't Touch This shoes

I cast this cardigan on while Nic was in Amsterdam at the end of July, but I took a break from it when we went to Paris. I did consider bringing it with me, but in the end I decided that it would be good to have a complete break. Then, when I got back, I had more to do on it than I remembered! But all the same, this time around it came together very quickly.

I knitted the same size as I did for the yellow cardigan, but the result is not quite as drapey. The Drops Merino yarn was very lovely to work with - soft and springy, and I love the colour. I decided to shorten the body by a few rows, although I left the ribbing the same length as specified in the pattern. The only other change I made to the pattern was just in the order of construction. After I had knitted the body, rather than moving onto the sleeves, I did the button bands and the neck binding. This is just personal preference - I have found in the past that I rush the button bands when they're the last bit to do, and this way I enjoy them a little bit more.

I was a little despondent after I blocked the cardigan though, as the fabric seemed to have lost some of its bounce. I had a little whine about it on instagram on Sunday morning but it was misdirected anger - I was really bummed out about the disgusting smell of smoke in the bathroom and the whole situation with the neighbour was making me feel really sad and angry. Nic and I went out for a walk and when we came back I sewed the buttons on and felt a lot better about it. I'm very grateful to everyone who gave me suggestions on how to put the bounce back into the finished cardigan, though! I had the buttons in my stash and I still have loads of them - I won a massive bag of them in a giveaway that Karen held a few years ago - and, in truth, they're a little small for the buttonholes. They're such a perfect match for the yarn though, and they do hold it closed!

Here's how it looks from the back. Hey, that is never not weird to me. But I love the fit of this cardigan through the back!

I used some ribbon to stabilise the button band but the buttonholes were so small that I didn't attempt to do the same for that side. The buttons are very small and light, but because the yarn is still pretty fine - it's another 4-ply rather than the suggested DK - the buttons do drag a little bit when I wear the cardigan unbuttoned. This annoyed me a little to begin with but it's something that I also experience with shop-bought cardigans, so I'm feeling better about that now too.

I really enjoyed knitting this cardigan - even with my minor tantrum at the end - and I'm very happy with the outcome. I am going to wear this a lot, and I'm super-happy to have found the ideal shade of pink! The pattern is a little bit fiddly to knit - I'm not sure that I like knitting seamless when it's bottom up because the bit where you separate out the front and the back is a bit irritating. When you're working up one side, the other side is flapping around. It's only minor, and I will knit another Audrey, but it's not my favourite thing to do. I'm thinking of knitting it in the recommended DK, in maybe a dark green. I just need to find the yarn!

I wore this today with a dress I made months ago, but which I never got around to blogging...

It's a By Hand London Anna bodice with a circle skirt in Liberty Carline poplin. Yes, it is VERY similar to my wedding dress! Weirdly, that's sort of the point. I do wear my wedding dress - I wore it on honeymoon, on our weekend in Bristol for Nic's birthday, on our wedding anniversary and again when we were in Paris - but it is something I want to keep for special occasions. This isn't because it's super-formal or anything - it's not - but mainly I don't want to drop food or spill coffee on it, and because I am sentimental about it. Obviously, I'm sentimental about it!

Anyway, this dress is subtly different because the roses are a different colour. These are bright pink, and the ones on my wedding dress are more of a purply pink. Seriously! I didn't realise that when I bought this fabric. It came from Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road, and I bought it in January. The variation in colour might be down to the fact that my wedding dress fabric is tana lawn and this is poplin, but anyway. The colour is different. IT'S A DIFFERENT DRESS TED, IT'S A VERY DIFFERENT DRESS. IT'S A DIFFERENT SHARK.

So yeah. This dress didn't seem to warrant a post of its own and also, I never got around to getting photos of it, but it does go perfectly with this cardigan. BOOM. It's probably silly, but I do really enjoy the fact that I can pair up my handmade dresses with handmade cardigans and knitting has become a little bit addictive. Since finishing this cardigan on Sunday, I have already cast on another cardigan. It's useful for me to have a variety of colours and styles available but it is getting a bit out of hand now. It took me a good fifteen minutes the other night to put all of my cardigans away. It might be time to start some unselfish knitting.

Right lads. I'm away here. Goodnight all!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Ooh, 'sofa'. Somebody got all flouncy when I wasn't looking. What are you going to do, put on galoshes and eat fruit like a Frenchman?

Hello lads, what's happening? It's been a while, but I was on holiday and then I was not on holiday. I'm back now though. Being back isn't all that bad - it's weirdly nice to come back to normal life - but we had a bit of a nightmare when we got back because we had some bathroom-related drama. While we were away the plumber came to investigate a leak into the flat below. The estate agents let us know he would be coming, but we came back to find he had 'fixed' the unreliable flush on our toilet. Instead of intermittently not flushing it now flushed, but the cistern constantly emptied itself. He also ripped up the skirting boards behind the toilet and left a hole in our floor. A hole big enough to see light from the flat downstairs. Oh also, he left all of the broken skirting boards and bits of wood and old nails on the bathroom floor, but he had lots of room to do this because he had piled everything else in our bathroom into the bath. And then I guess he went to the pub, or something. The worst thing is that the girl in the flat below us - the one who almost set fire to our whole building in March - well, she smokes very heavily and the hole in her ceiling/our floor meant that our bathroom and most of the flat absolutely stank of smoke. Like, you could see the smoke in the air in the bathroom. Our lovely flat smelled like a train station toilet.

It's mostly fixed now - the toilet flushes and the girl downstairs has been told by the estate agents not to smoke (it's a non-smoking building) and the hole has been temporarily filled in. But it was pretty depressing to come home after a lovely holiday only to have to spend the first few hours back at home with my hand in the cistern trying to fix the toilet. GRRR!

But back to happy thoughts. We had a brilliant holiday. Paris is just as lovely in August as it has been all the other times we'd visited. I'd been treated to some hyperbole in various travel books about how Paris basically completely shuts down in August, but this wasn't the case at all. It's true that lots of shops and restaurants were closed. We couldn't go and listen to jazz at Autour de Midi, for example, and the place that does the amazing vegetarian bobun was closed because they were extending it. But mostly everything we wanted to do was open for business. So were the fabric shops. Hurrah! We stayed on rue de Clignancourt, in Montmartre. Our flat, which Nic found for us on Airbnb, was incredible. It was on the top floor of a building set way back from the street and it was spacious and light and incredibly chic. It was the perfect base for a relaxing holiday of sitting at cafes, exploring and, of course, fabric shopping!

I won't bore you with holiday photos. Also mainly our holiday photos were of me pulling faces at things - you can see them on my instagram if you want - but we did take some photos of a dress I made before we went. It was another McCall's 6696 because, well, I don't care. Also: anchor buttons. More anchor buttons. All the anchor buttons.

Encore Tricolore dress worn with Swedish hasbeens lacy sandals

Yeah basically nothing more to say about this dress, so let's talk about the fabric. I sewed this with some lovely cotton sateen from Barry's in Birmingham, and the buttons are from a local haberdashery. The sateen has a slight stretch to it and it's really good to work with. I wish they'd had it in more colours, but maybe I'll go back and investigate what else they have the next time I'm in Birmingham. 

Obviously the star is kind of the buttons, which are the same as the ones I sewed onto the Larry Vaughn dress (and also onto a cardigan I haven't blogged about yet) I have a lot of patience for repetition. You might not have noticed that yet, like, but that's the case. I did have a wobbly moment just before I sewed the buttonholes, when I wondered if I should use some hot pink buttons that I have in my stash instead. The struggle is real, you guys. But anchors it was and, while it's pretty fucking twee... well, so am I. I like it.

Here's an over-exposed close up. Buttons! 

I'm really happy with this dress. I think it looks fab from the front and I felt great in it the whole day I wore it. The only slight criticism I have is the one thing I'm still not totally sure how to fix on this dress, which is a little bit of excess fabric across the back. I'm kind of loath to over-fit this though, as it is meant to be a bit more relaxed. If I remind myself to stand up straight, I don't look like too much of a hunchback.

I think I still need to take a bit of width out of of the lower back. Maybe. I think it looks grand, all the same.

We had good craic the day I wore this dress. It was on the Monday of our second week in Paris and, after having been closed the whole week previously, my favourite fabric shop (the branch of Toto on rue de Clignancourt) opened and I did some fabric shopping. Nic and I pottered around Montmartre and bought a few presents, and then we went for lunch on rue Paul Albert. We had couscous at a little restaurant at the top of the steps that lead down to rue Andre del Sarte, and the owner gave me a little Eiffel Tower keyring as a gift! It was only a little thing but it made me very emotional, because it was so kind. I have heard so many people say that the waiters or the people who work in shops in Paris are rude, but this has never been my experience.

Being a flâneur was the object of the holiday, and I'm proud to say we achieved this aim handsomely.

There's really not a lot more to say about this dress. As with the Where I Come From dress, the collar worked very well in the slightly weightier fabric. I used correspondingly weighty interfacing on the waistband, the button bands and the collar, and it gives this dress a lovely crisp finish which I'm very proud of. My machine had no bother with the buttonholes either, although I made sure to test them on a swatch that replicated the thickness of the button bands. I didn't sew a buttonhole or a button onto the collar stand, though.

So, yay dress! And I know I said above that I wouldn't bore you with too many holiday photos but, eh. I lied. I'm going to give you a couple and then I'm going to peace out and watch an episode of Murder One, because Daniel Benzali's burning rage is really cracking me up at the minute. It's making me feel better about the fact that I totally wigged out about the bathroom shenanigans that I described above.

We went to Belleville and Ménilmontant on the Saturday of our stay, and we both really loved the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get up on top of this little cliff thing to the Temple de la Sibylle as it was all closed off for repairs. The landscape of the park is completely stunning and we had such a lovely time walking around it.

The view from the highest point we could find in Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

The same day, we went to La Défense. I've always wanted to the the Grande Arche in real life and I'm so glad that I did, because it was pretty fucking surreal. As it was a Saturday, the esplanade was pretty empty because the offices were closed, which just heightened the effect. This would be a great place to film some kind of post-apocalyptic film. It was a little overwhelming to stand at the top of the steps  into the arch and see the whole way to the Arc de Triomphe (which is, to my shame, another landmark I have yet to see in real life. Maybe next year.)

We really put the strolling into being flâneurs. Even on days when we didn't plan to go very far, the pedometer on my phone clocked up eight or nine miles, so there were a few evenings when we were just too tired to go out. Nic took this photo of the sunset seen from the kitchen window of our apartment. You can just see the very top of the Sacre-Coeur between the chimney pots on the right of the picture. 

On one of the days we wandered down through Pigalle and into Batignolles, in the 17th arrondissement. It's a really beautiful area and it always takes me by surprise the way the different arrondissements look and feel so different, yet still have that architecture that is so common across Paris. All we did was to stroll the streets and have a drink in a cafe in a little square. We chatted for a long time about François Truffaut, as I had just bought Nic this copy of La Nuit Américaine in Gilbert Joseph. As we walked back towards Montmartre, we turned onto rue Truffaut. Truffaut was born in the 17th, but it turns out this street wasn't named after him. It was still a nice co-incidence! Actually, there is a rue François Truffaut in the 12th arrondissement, near the Cinémathèque, and it's not nearly as picturesque as this one.

And here I am in the living room of our lovely flat, just as we were leaving to catch the bus to the Gare du Nord. What a lovely holiday!

Okay, you'll be pleased to know that's it. Au revoir, mes amies! 

Sunday, August 02, 2015

All the professional actors write their lines on each other's clothes. The longer the play, the bigger the shirt!

Hello! How's Sunday treating everyone? I'm not too bad - a little tired out after a very sociable weekend. Nic and I ended up spending nine hours in the pub with friends yesterday. It was brilliant - one of those times when you sit down for a drink and a chat and the next thing you know, you're in the middle of a lock-in and the landlord is giving you free tequila shots to acknowledge your longevity. You know. One of those. Nic and I are off on holiday soon though, so I'll have time to recuperate!

I had a weirdly stressful and annoying few weeks at work. I'm having some issues with a more senior colleague who is going out of her way to be negative and critical of everything I'm doing at the moment and it's been pretty exhausting and occasionally quite upsetting. I'm not massively helping matters by pushing back in a pretty sharp way when I think a line has been crossed: I could probably find a more diplomatic way to deal with it, but at the same time it's hard when you're the more junior person in the exchange. I have two weeks off work now and I'm looking forward to having that time to regroup and I'll hopefully return feeling far less annoyed, and better able to deal with it! I hope that it won't become a big problem, but I have let a trusted colleague know how I've been feeling and she's been watching it out for it too.

Anyway. I'm on holiday now. Yay! And I've been dealing with work stress by knitting, sewing, watching 90s TV and drinking gin. I think I have fairly good coping strategies. I've had a productive week - I finished a cardigan and sewed two dresses. Boom! I sewed one of them yesterday morning and, when I finished it, I put it straight on and wore it to the pub. I sort of love it when that happens.

The dress in question is a bit of a departure for me. In my last post, I mentioned that I had been considering buying the Xerea dress by Pauline Alice. I've done a bit of pattern testing for Pauline in the past and I really love her designs, even though most of them are outside of my usual style. Something about the Xerea dress really appealed to me though, so I was really delighted when Pauline offered to send me the pattern. It arrived on Friday morning and by lunchtime on Saturday, I had a new dress!

Bend of the River dress - Pauline Alice Xerea dress* in swallow print cotton poplin, worn with Swedish hasbeens Flora wedges

I bought this fabric when Nic and I were on honeymoon in Paris last year. It's cotton poplin and I bought 1.5m of it from Dreyfus. I didn't have anything in particular in mind for it and I didn't totally love it, so I thought it would be good for a wearable toile of this dress. Just prior to hemming the dress, I tried it on and thought that I looked like I was wearing a pillowcase, and I think that's at least partly due to the colour and the print of this fabric. Nic told me to hem it and see what I thought, and after I did that, I liked it a lot better. I think it still sort of looks like I'm wearing a pillowcase, but also that it's fine.

I sewed view A, which is more of a shift-dress shape than view B (which is described as a 'tent dress'.) I love the look of view B, but didn't have enough fabric. I only really had enough fabric for view A by omitting the sleeves. To be honest, I don't think I'd like sleeves on this dress made from this fabric - I'd look like I was wearing hospital scrubs. One of the issues I have with this dress, though, is the armhole area. There is a bit too much ease there without the sleeves and, if I make this sleeveless again, I'll redraw the armholes to remove that. I'll also lower the front neckline a bit, although I'm happy with the back neckline.

Again - I think it will look better from the back with a little bit more shaping around the armholes. It's a wee bit sack-like, but I'm honestly not massively bothered by that.

It's a bit weird to get used to looking at myself in a dress that isn't at all form-fitting. It's sort of why - fitting issues aside - I wasn't sure if I liked it when I put it on. This isn't anything to do with the pattern, which is great, but rather that I'm such a creature of habit that moving even slightly out of my comfort zone feels very strange! Do you know what, though? This dress isn't perfect, but I kind of love it. I felt fabulous in it all day!

This is at least partly because Nic liked the dress so much, but it's also because it was cool and comfortable, and I liked wearing something (admittedly, only a bit) different.

The detail of this pattern are kind of lost in the print, here. The front of the dress has two side panels with front pockets, and it's a really sweet detail. I'd like to make this dress again in a more graphic print that would show this detail off. I'm also really looking forward to trying the tent dress version, and I think that both would work in slightly heavier fabric to wear in winter with boots. This dress is kind of what I hoped that the Francoise dress would be, but with more easily solvable fitting issues. Hurrah!

This dress was very quick to sew. It's not lined, and the armholes and neckline are finished with bias-binding. There are no closures. The instructions were brief and to the point, but very clear and helpful. I think that Pauline is a really interesting designer and I love that she is doing something a bit different and that the quality of the drafting and instructions in her patterns is very high.

I've already ironed and packed this dress to take on holiday. The five-day forecast for Paris is looking like it's going to be pretty hot, so this will be a great dress to wear on one of those hot days.

Anyway. That's the craic there. Something a wee bit different! Now I need to get back to those pre-holiday chores of ironing and packing. See you on the other side!

*Disclosure: Pauline Alice sent me the Xerea dress pattern. I wasn't asked to review it or to do anything in exchange for receiving it. Thank you, Pauline!