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! 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Have you seen 'Pretty Woman'? It's about a prostitute called Richard Gere.

Well lads, what's the craic? She's ninety here, as usual. You know I live a wild life.

Ha ha, no. Not really. Nic was away over the weekend and I mainly spent it knitting and watching documentaries. Oh, and being sick, because I had food poisoning, and sleeping. Food poisoning sucks at the best of times but it's especially horrid when it's cold and rainy and you're on your own. I was very lucky, though, because my friends Rick and Lauren invited me round to their house and, once I was well enough to go over there, I spent Friday night sleeping on their sofa while they periodically brought me cups of tea. I have good friends. On Sunday, I went to Coventry with some other friends to visit The Story of Children's Television. I was feeling well enough by then to eat some noodles, and to be a Dalek:


I did a little bit of unselfish sewing on Saturday, making a skirt for my friend Lucy. I don't usually do sewing for others, but Lucy is awesome and she always gets super excited when I make something for her, so it's totally worth it. She had asked for a skirt made out of the wax cotton I had made my Filthy Names dress, so that's what I made:

It was very simple to make. Lucy had given me the measurements of her favourite skirt - I asked her to measure the waistband and also the length of the skirt - and she told me that it had six box pleats across the front and six across the back. I drafted a simple curved waistband and then just box-pleated the width of the fabric for the front of the skirt and again for the back, but with a centre back seam. I used a 9 inch invisible zip and top-stitched the hem. It took a few hours to make and was very satisfying, and she loved it! I gave her all the leftover fabric so that she could make a skirt for her daughter if she wanted one. 

I was too tired to do any sewing for myself over the weekend. I'm hoping to catch up this week - I'm hoping to find time to sew a new dress to take to Paris - but, as ever, I have a few projects backed up to blog about. 

So, long-time readers might remember that a few years ago, I made a dress from some Cath Kidston home dec fabric - the Madarch dress. I loved that dress, but it doesn't fit any more and the fabric faded really badly, unfortunately. I'd been keeping an eye out on ebay for the Cath Kidston dress that inspired it, but any time one came up in my size it sold for far more than I'd be willing to pay for a secondhand dress. Also, the fit of those dresses is a little bit odd on me - the bodice is really boxy. Luckily, I found an ebay seller who was selling the lovely barkcloth that the original RTW dress is made from (rather than the cotton canvas that I made my dress from) so I bought a couple of metres. And, boom! I made a dress out of it...

Bearaigh dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress in Cath Kidston fabric, worn with Swedish hasbeens Lacy sandals

There are a couple of differences between this fabric and the canvas I made my original dress from. One is the fabric itself, which is a really soft and drapey barkcloth. It's really lovely quality and was great to work with, and it has held up really well to washing. The mushroom print differs slightly between the two, though - the mushrooms are slightly bigger and more widely spaced on the canvas than they are on the barkcloth. That's about it, though.  

For reference, this is the Cath Kidston RTW dress:

Obviously the Emery dress was the first choice to recreate this. Also, I made this dress the day after I made the 3 O'Clock in The Morning dress, when I just really felt like sewing something comforting and familiar, and that is Emery. As you can see, I added sleeves, because I could.

I think I might need to drop those waist darts a bit, though. They're coming up a bit high. But still, I love you Emery. I love this fabric too, as it is ridiculously twee. I wish I had bought more of the mushroom print range when it came out, but this is the way Cath Kidston sucks you in. Like, I love a lot of the prints but then I always sort of hate myself for buying into it. BUT I STILL DO. It's cool having found that eBay seller though - it's Pretty Chic Fabrics, in case you want to know - because now I am going to stalk them for a couple of Cath Kidston dress fabrics, if they eventually come into the shop. Like this cowboy fabric and this penguin fabric. I feel a little bit less self-hatred if I have made the dress myself. 

Twee bastard

I actually took these photos a few weeks ago, on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Nic and I went for a walk and then met some friends for happy hour in one of our favourite pubs. I think I might have been feeling self-conscious about the overwhelming tweeness so I tried to be a badass by drinking prosecco and behaving badly...

This leads to this...

Don't worry, guys. I never really fell *out* of love with pizza. I wore this dress to work yesterday and then out to dinner with Nic, but I behaved much better on both of those occasions. 

Anyway, that's the craic with me. I have stuff to do so I'm going to dander on here. Catch you later!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Oh, honey, you are not trash just because you grew up in a trailer and your mama's in prison.

HELLO! What's happening, folks? I've reached a happy end to a weird Monday - I had a bad case of the mean reds today for no reason that I can really articulate. It's weird when anxiety kicks off for no reason you can place - especially when life is otherwise good. I've been suffering from insomnia again and today I had all those other delightful symptoms - palpitations, an inability to eat, dizziness. Lucikily, I was working from home, so I was able to take it relatively easy. I'm feeling a lot chirpier now - when I finished work for the day, I spent some time finishing a dress and then Nic came home and we went out for a walk and a few drinks. When life gets like this it can be nice to have something to pull me out of it, you know?

And it's self-indulgent really because life is pretty good and I've just had a really lovely weekend. One of my big work projects hit a major milestone over the weekend, which means I can go off on holiday soon in good conscience. Amy came to visit on Friday night and we went to a gin festival hosted by Leamington Wine Company with a lovely group of friends. You might know that I'm a big fan of gin, and I have been somewhat enabled in this by Leamington Wine Company. Over the last year I've been going in on payday or thereabouts every month and buying a fancy bottle of gin - usually after a long conversation with the staff and numerous samples. When they announced they were going to be running a mini gin festival I was very excited and the night did not disappoint. We were joined by Rick and Lauren and, as well as the chance to sample a number of gins, we had dinner and entertainment provided by a DJ who thought it was a good idea to play a set that was composed of Blue Velvet, Moon River and Blue Moon - in that order, even though Blue Velvet/Blue Moon/Moon River would have made more sense!

I somehow dodged a hangover the next day - I seriously have no idea how - and we set off for a day of fabric shopping in Birmingham with Marie, Kat and Helen. I managed to go quietly wild and ended up buying a LOT of fabric and doing a lot of gossiping. Most of it is awaiting pre-washing but one piece skipped the queue - it's some Hill-Berg cotton poplin that I bought from Fancy Silk Stores (the lovely owner said to me how nice it was to see us all - "You ladies, you're always so happy") so I took a calculated risk and dodged pre-washing it to make this...

Melody dress - By Hand London Anna bodice with a pleated skirt, worn with Red or Dead shoes

Yeah. More anchors. I don't care. It's summer!

I bought this fabric in Fancy Silk Stores. I was on my way to the back of the shop to have some beautiful Liberty lawn cut (£11.99 a metre SAY WHAT) and I spotted this. I actually bought this exact fabric over a year ago after I saw this dress:

STOP THE BUS. Isn't this jaw-droppingly fabulous?! Now, in my defence, my dress is not as much of a straight-up shameless copy of Melody's dress as it might seem. She made this dress last year as part of Sew Dolly Clackett... so really my dress is a weird telescoping. Like, the human centipede of sewing blogging, only less disgusting? I don't know. Anyway - I saw some of this gorgeous fabric last summer on Goldhawk Road and bought it so that I could make a Melody-inspired dress but then I washed it with some navy cotton and the colour ran and it was ruined. RUINED. It's been sitting in the bottom of my fabric stash box ever since because I was too sentimental to get rid of it. I'm glad to be reunited with it.

I wore it with my Tatty Devine anchor necklace, which I bought when I was in Liverpool in March. It's kind of like anchor camouflage on this print! I also wore these nautical earrings...

They're little paper boats, and they're by Punky Pins! I got very dressed up for going to the pub, but in my defence, I'd been in the house on my own feeling rotten all day. This cheered me up. Also this is a reminder that I need to hit the henna because hello grey hair.

So...yeah. The dress. It's one of my staples - an Anna bodice - with a pleated skirt. I've attached pleated skirts to the Anna bodice before - I've used the skirt from Simplicity 2444 and New Look 6824. This time I went with the skirt from Simplicity 1419 and it was kind of a serendipitous combination because the pleats on the skirt front match up exactly with the pleats on the bodice. I lengthened the skirt a bit and I moved the pleats on the back of the skirt a tiny bit, but otherwise these patterns came together with the minimum of fuss.

The only other change I made to the pattern was to scoop the front neckline out a bit. I didn't want to sew the v-necked version because it didn't seem right with the stripes on the print, but I thought the slash neckline as drafted wouldn't work either. It's a minor change, but I like it. It shows off a bit of collarbone and no bra straps. To me, that's a winner. Nic's a fan too, which is always good.

This dress is pretty fitted, which is fine by me. I usually like my dresses with a minimal amount of ease around the waist because it works with the silhouette I like. It's not to everyone's taste and I must confess to daydreaming recently about trying new things. I can't get the the Xerea dress by Pauline Alice out of my head and I think it could make a very cute alternative silhouette for a summery nautical-inspired dress.

Anyway, that's the craic with this dress. It was pretty grey all day and I managed to catch a brief moment of daylight in which to take a few photos. It started to rain just as we were finishing...


By the time we got to the pub, the rain was blowing sideways. July! Still, it gave us an excuse to stay for an extra drink. Now I'm in my pyjamas and getting ready to watch an episode of The X-Files. I'm thinking some Scully side-eye will shake me out of my funk. Night, all!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

We were getting four pounds a day and all you could eat. But sure you couldn't eat all day, Garda.

HELLO! Twice in the one week, what? That's not like me, eh? But, the dinner is cooking and I got a few photos today of a recently-finished dress and I thought, why not. I'll be a badass this week.

Anyway - no craic with me. I have been working at home this week, writing and monitoring a project that is nearly finished. It's hardly been thrilling, if I'm totally honest. Still - it's better than being out of my head with work stress, but it'd be nice if it wasn't all or nothing. I haven't been sewing this week, although I did have a little surge of productivity at the end of last week, when I had one of those things where inspiration struck and nothing would do only I had to make what was in my head STRAIGHT AWAY. So I did!

I've been looking for another great maxi dress pattern. I'm still not totally convinced by Simplicity 1801, although I like the idea of it, so I had temporarily called off the search. Anyway, as I was putting on a handmade dress - the Stone Flower dress - one morning last week, I was hit with inspiration. What if I just took a skirt pattern I liked, and lengthened it to a maxi? So that's what I did...

Instant Street dress - By Hand London Kim dress bodice and lengthened skirt from Deer and Doe Belladone dress

More star-print wax cotton! You've seen this before in the shape of the Bedelia dress and the Thelma dress but I liked it so much that I bought some more of it on eBay. I actually bought this with the intention of making a shirt-dress out of it - which I may yet do as I have lots of it left over - but this dress kind of barged into the queue.

Having already paired the Kim bodice and the Belladone skirt, all I needed to figure out how to do was lengthen the skirt to maxi length. Now, I'm sure there's a proper, pattern-cutting way to do this, but here's what I did. I pinned the skirt pieces to the fabric and simply drew a line, continuing the side-seam line down to the length I wanted the skirt. There was some method to my lazy way of doing this, in that I wanted the skirt to be pretty flared, and I didn't mind the hem on the maxi dress being wider than that of the original skirt pattern.

I decided to hem the dress so that I could wear it with lower heels or with flats - but I am tempted to make another one with a few inches added to the hem so it can be worn with heels. I'm really pleased with how the dress has turned out and how the silhouettes work together. I think my maxi-fied Belladone skirt might work well with other bodices too... I can see it with a sleeveless Emery bodice or Elisalex bodice too!

I wore this today as it's really good to have comfortable but pretty clothes for working from home. It cheers me up! Nic was at home today too so we went out for a walk at lunchtime and again after work. It's really muggy here at the moment and I felt cool and serene in my dress. Okay, no, not serene. My hayfever has been really bad and the anti-histamines mess with my head, so actually I've been feeling pretty spaced out. At least I looked nice, eh? And, even though I can't see it, I was happy to know that my *white* invisible zip was actually invisible:

HO YEAH. Wrinkles c/o the sofa.

One of the features I really like in the Belladone skirt is the slash pockets on the hips. I wasn't sure if these would still work on a maxi skirt, but I think they do. Also it's handy to have somewhere to stash my tissues as I'm basically sneezing constantly right now:


That's the craic with this dress. I took an admittedly low-risk gamble (I have loads of this fabric and no immediate need for another dress) and I think it paid off pretty well. Happy days! Here's a wee out-take of me looking extremely goofy with happiness about my dress:

I genuinely can't remember what I was doing when I was captured in this moment of natural beauty and effortless elegance but I thought I'd treat you all to it.

Right now, on that note I'm off. Tonight I'm going to eat some ice-cream and watch a film. This film:

And then I will be like this...

Monday, July 13, 2015

He drank a whole bottle of champagne out of one of my pumps. My charcoal pads filtered out most of the alcohol, but he still got tipsy enough to sing me a Chuck Mangione song.

Oh HELLO! I hope everyone is grand. I'm not too bad here, even though it's a) Monday and b) extremely dreary. Things aren't too bad, though. I worked at home today and Nic and I were able to go out for a walk at lunchtime and I found something awesome in the Myton Hospice shop...

It's a tennis-themed Snoopy sheet. I thought I was mostly over novelty prints, but who am I kidding? I am going to have to make myself a little Snoopy dress. Maybe I'll even be able to wear it before the end of the tennis season. I don't often get lucky when it comes to finding fabric in charity shops, but this was pristine and too much fun to pass up. Also, I don't think Nic would have forgiven me if I had left it in the shop!

So that's the craic with me anyway. The fair is in town at the moment so on Friday night, I got to go on the waltzers a few times, and yesterday Nic and I went to Banbury with Rick and Lauren to do a town trail challenge thing. There was a genuine challenge element to it - it was a bit like a treasure hunt, but with no treasure - but it was also a good opportunity to check out some of Banbury's pubs while we dodged rain showers. It was a good day! 

On Saturday (yeah, I'm jumping around in the timeline. I'm crazy like that) Nic and I dandered about town and I took the chance to get some photos of my most recent knitted garment. Having cut my knitting teeth on Andi Satterlund patterns and worsted or DK-weight yarn, I decided it was high time to move onto another designer and a finer yarn. My friend Charlotte recommended I try out some of the yarns from West Yorkshire Spinners, as she thought I would like their Signature 'Sweet Shop' range. She was right. I did. I had a tough time choosing - I really liked the 'blueberry bonbon' colour, but I thought a yellow cardigan would be more practical, so I bought three balls of butterscotch. The pattern I had in mind was the popular Audrey in Unst by Gudrun Johnston, as this is pretty much what I go for in shop-bought cardigans - cropped, and in bright colours. I was helped along by the fact that there are so many lovely Audrey in Unst cardigans out there in blog-land - most recently, Heather B knitted a totally gorgeous green one.

The pattern is designed for DK-weight yarn and what I had was 4-ply, but I wasn't worried by this. A quick cast around the internet showed me that lots of people had knitted it in sock yarn, so I cracked on ahead. I had to size down on my needles to get gauge but otherwise it was all good. I was taking a bit of a risk when it came to choosing a size, especially as this pattern is knitted from the bottom up, but the size small worked out fine. Anyway, enough yammering. Here's my cardigan!

Audrey in Unst cardigan, worn with Emily and Fin Isobel dress

So, this cardigan is not so cropped on me. I just couldn't tell what the length was going to be like - well, I mean, I suppose I could from the schematics provided on the pattern - and this is a wee bit longer than I would normally like. However, I'm really happy with it. For one thing, I think cropping it too much would work against the lovely deep band of ribbing at the bottom. For another, I think it works with the way the fabric drapes. It's a bit outside of my standard fit-and-flare silhouette, but only a bit. It works with my dresses, and that's what's important!

Length aside, I love how this cardigan fits. I decided not to add buttons to this one because the yarn is so fine that it becomes a little bit see-through when pulled closed. I thought I'd never wear it buttoned-up, and didn't fancy sewing buttons on that would never see any use. It does fit buttoned-up though - as best as I can tell from pinning it - so the next one I knit will have buttons. 

Here's the back - I actually really like the length through the back so I'm trying to focus on that instead of my shocking bread-back! Let's have a look at the front again instead...

One of the great things about knitting this cardigan was learning a few techniques. So, as well as trying to keep my tension consistent across yards of stockinette in 4-ply yarn (something I still need to practise, yo) this was my first bottom-up cardigan. I also learned how to do a three-needle bind off (fiddly. as. fuck) and i-cord binding for the neckline. I wasn't sure how much I would like this and it was the one design aspect that was putting me off the cardigan, but on the completed cardigan I love it. I think it's really elegant and unusual, and it works so well with the pretty shetland lace on the bib. 

This picture is essentially identical to one above but I've put it in here because I've just been talking about the neckline. Isn't the neckline pretty, though?!

I thought that knitting this cardigan would take significantly longer than the cropped cardigans in heavier yarn that I learned on, but it didn't really. I had a couple of train journeys to knit it on, which helped I guess. The bit that took the longest was the twisted 1x1 rib, but you get it over with nice and early. Also, once I got into it, even that was kind of satisfying - although my poor old right shoulder didn't massively agree with that. 

Since I finished this, I've cast on another Miette cardigan - I bought some pretty blue Cascade 220 superwash for one, as I've been wearing my Dilly cardigan loads. But after that I'm knitting another Audrey in Unst in some beautiful hot pink - really hot pink this time - 4-ply Merino yarn. Fuck yeah knitting!

Both of the cardigans I have lined up will also look great with the dress I'm wearing in this post, which is an Emily and Fin dress I bought a few weeks ago. I don't often buy dresses these days, but sometimes one comes along that is just impossible to resist, and this was one of them.

The style is called Isobel and obviously I fell in love with the bright floral print. One of the things I really like about Emily and Fin dresses is that they have pretty classic shapes but with interesting details. This one has sweet little pleats at the bust and a really interesting curved waistband. It made it totally worth buying, although I did wait until I found somewhere selling it at an el cheapo price.

Anyway, that's all the craic I have this evening. I need to go and put some washing on - that Snoopy fabric needs to be pre-washed! Have a great week, everyone!