In Praise of the Handmade Sweater

On the whole, I'm anti-resolution because to be honest, life is just too short to setting myself up for disappointment as an annual event. However, if you were thinking about taking up a new hobby, perhaps leaning towards a little crafting, may I make a strong case here for knitting yourself a sweater?

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Slow Fashion October: Worn

Sashiko: A Japanese form of decorative reinforcement stitching (functional embroidery), traditionally used to reinforce or repair garments.
Sashiko example found  via Pinterest

Sashiko example found via Pinterest

One of my favourite pieces of mending has to be my Reworked Jeans project. Patching, over dyeing and adding a little Sashiko, saved jeans destined for the charity shop pile. There was a real sense of achievement in making my clothes work a little longer rather than just giving up and buying more. It's 3 months on and I have worn and worn these jeans. Not only has the patch held but I really love the little detail on an otherwise plain outfit. (I am a plain tee, grey scarf, jeans and sneakers kind of girl)

Reworked Jeans - pin for later

Reworked Jeans- pin for later

The project was such a success that I've been inspecting another pair of jeans with glee because I think they could be much improved by some visible mending too!

This time though, I'm thinking I might not dye the jeans but work with that faded denim glory. There's something really amazing that happens with the embroidery as visible mending on denim. I'm not sure if it's the fact that jeans are so utilitarian and quite tough but I am really drawn to the way Sashiko and denim work together. 

I recently fell in love with this image of Sashiko and patching jeans that I saved on Pinterest:

Sashiko Image  via Pinterest

Sashiko Image via Pinterest

In my first attempt I didn't widen the hole that I was patching at all and went a little freestyle to stitch around it. I was being cautious of making a hole worse but I think if I want to make the best of the detail, I can snip the worn knees wider and trim back the edges a little so that I can really show the patch. Then it's an evening with some good tv and a darning needle...

Have you got any good Sashiko examples? I'd love to add them to my Pinterest Board. Please don't feel bad about feeding my current obsession. I'm *almost* entirely harmless. 

Slow Fashion October: Small & Loved

Karen Templer's Slow Fashion October has given me plenty of food for thought. Her prompt last week (SMALL) and this week (LOVED) has helped me make connections that I hadn't fully appreciated up till now. 

A small and very loved pile of knitwear

A small and very loved pile of knitwear

I don't craft particularly fast. I am not a speed knitter and I rarely find time for other making such as crochet or embroidery despite a keen interest in both. When I complete a project I'm thrilled but more often than not, I move on to the next thing as it's the creation that I crave more than anything. 

In my mind, my daughter and I wear hand knits all year round without any need to 'top up' with store bought items. Our sweaters are plentiful and there's the right accessory for every weather condition. I'd make simple skirts and a play apron for little one that would be a quick afternoon spent on the sewing machine rather than a guilt ridden click on a website for a ready made. 

In my mind, I'm living the life I crave: not consuming but creating. I rework clothes with hand stitching, sewing, patching or modifications which means that I don't need to constantly buy new. I am able to Make Do and Mend because I have the skills and time with which to execute these tasks. 

A small and very loved pile of knitwear

A small and very loved pile of knitwear

However, the reality is that I don't even make half as much as I wish and what's more, those things I do create have been slowly given away over the last few years. 

In searching my wardrobe for my most loved and cherished handknit while I prepared to respond to Karen's words 'Small' and 'Loved' made me realise that there is a limited supply of handknits in my wardrobe despite many years of knitting diligently. My ruthlessness when it comes to clutter means that handknits that are not being used quickly find themselves repurposed or donated. I recently gave 8-9 pieces like this to the collection for Syria, grief stricken that families would have come to us so cold from the water just to head into Winter without a handknit to bring them comfort. 

So this tells me a huge amount about my crafting and I've started to question how functional it really is. Am I whimsically creating or am I trying to clothe my family? There's joy in both and making something because it makes your heart sing to do so is certainly not a wasted endeavor in my humble opinion. 

well loved handknit socks

well loved handknit socks

However, as I look at my tired looking hand knit socks that I rarely photograph, I realise that the most functional items of my handmade wardrobe are the smallest and least celebrated. In my life it would seem that warm feet and cosy toes triumph over all. 

What about you? Do you have a few go to items that you've made?

Minikrea- Kjole

This sponsored blog post is brought to you by Ray Stitch. and views expressed here are my own. To find out more about sponsorship opportunities, please email me. 

 

I've become polycraftual. 

There, I said it. I have been wanting to tell you all for a long time but today's finished item means that I can't hide it any longer. I still love knitting but we have agreed to see other crafts and knitting seems ok with that. In seeing other crafts, I've come to the conclusion that it actually makes my relationship with knitting stronger. Learning to sew has taught me an enormous amount and I am so thrilled with the results. 

It all started with last month's focus on a Handmade Wardrobe. I decided it was time to take the plunge and just commit to sewing something. I was daunted by the idea of an adult garment so I spent some time looking at simple patterns for childrenswear and reached out to Ray Stitch for some ideas. As always, they were amazingly encouraging and full of helpful suggestions to get me on the right path. 

I had the pleasure of living near Ray Stitch in my North London days. I would regularly go in to soak in the inspiring fabrics, notions and samples, all presented in a way that was uncluttered and appealing. By the time I got a sewing machine though I was already heavily pregnant so it's only now that I have found myself with fabric, machine, pattern and the determination. 

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

The details:

Pattern Minikrea Kjole 20002

Fabric Birch Fabrics Serengeti 100% Organic Cotton (Giraffe family, shroom)

Making this dress for my daughter was such a learning lesson. Curved hems, pinning accurately, cutting the fabric correctly (with huge thanks again to Rachel for rescuing me when I cut wrong and wept the first time), lining , armholes, placing button loops... 

I've since realised that a mini person sized pieced dress is ambitious for a beginner like me. I think the fact that I had made the commitment thanks to the talented help of Lisa and Rachel from Ray Stitch meant that I stuck with it when I might have been otherwise tempted to put it aside and make something that felt less complicated for me to achieve. This isn't a hard pattern but there was a lot more steps than I had in my skill set at the start. I chose all the easy options with the exception of the button loops as I wanted cute buttons. There are options for puff sleeves, bubble hems and all sorts that would be fun one day but for now, simple lines is perfect for this newbie. 

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Still, I now have a dress that is hanging and waiting for the Playful Tot's return and I can't wait to show her. We've already tried it on at the midway point so she's been asking ever since for her new giraffe dress. I am slightly concerned it might fall apart the minute she starts twirling around in it but you know what? I wouldn't mind because this feels like a huge step forward for all of my making. 

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Minikrea kjole- 2002 using Birch Fabrics Organic Cotton

Lessons:

Plan ahead- When I knit, I tend to jump in and figure things out on the needles because I have the safety net that I can unpick if I make a mistake. That's simply not an option in sewing so I know that from now on I will be less resistant to researching a little so that I knit just once in the first place. It's ok to take your time!

A good start saves time- On a similar note, reading the pattern thoroughly each time you have a bit of time to sew as well as setting yourself up with all the equipment and information you need, leads to a much more successful crafting experience. I tend to have an extremely limited amount of time to make these days so using some of that time to get organised has been a revelation for me. I zipped through tasks on the days I did this rather than fumbling about and getting frustrated. 

Room to Create- I live in a smallish London home. We don't have spare rooms to make and create in so everything has to be contained in a way that I can stop and start whenever I feind a spare few moments. I have a new found appreciation for knitting fitting between those times in our lives when I can just put in a few minutes of stitching while my daughter brushes her teeth or we wait for a bus. Dedicated craft time can then become a little more extravagant in comparison if I remember the first two lessons. 

I could really get into this polycraftual thing.


With huge thanks again to Ray Stitch for setting me on my garment making path! Ray Stitch is a ‘fabric boutique’ selling a carefully selected and wide range of designer prints, plains, weaves and knits. The range is underpinned by a fully comprehensive range of high quality tools and accessories and a plethora of seductive buttons, ribbons and trims. Committed to a conscious approach to product sourcing, many of the products they sell are organically or sustainably produced.

This Month I Wish I Was Knitting.... May 2015 Edition.

My handmade wardrobe thoughts are currently pretty rampant. I've been looking at shapes, yarns and my queue with fresh eyes. A ransack of my current wardrobe showed me that boxy tees in light  fabrics are my staple uniform. Also, I now own 3 denim shift dresses and that's not stopping me looking for more as I rummage in the local charity shops.  It's making me realise that I could do a lot more to complement things I already have and develop a stronger style than I usually have. This pleases me as the girl whose socks rarely match. 

This Month I Wish I was Knitting.... May 2015 edition

This Month I Wish I was Knitting.... May 2015 edition

So I'm reviving my monthly knit list with this top 5 (and a half) wishes for my Handmade Wardrobe. 

Hesperus by Bristol Ivy

Hesperus by Bristol Ivy

1. Hesperus by Bristol Ivy

Let's all get on the cocoon shrug band wagon. The Shift dress is a tricky layering piece and I think therefore I need a cardigan with an interesting shape. This is the perfect accompaniment for that shift dress uniform I seem to be falling into. I've been in Berlin for 3 days and I'm already craving this shape in a super urban colour as the cocoon like shrug is a must have round here. Also, Bristol reassures me there's only a very small amount of seaming. Sold!

Lobelia by Meghan Fernandes

Lobelia by Meghan Fernandes

2. Lobelia by Meghan Fernandes

I think it was while I was pondering my growing aversion to showing my arms that I fell for the cute shape and laceweight appeal of this little cardigan. If I'm going to get over this shift dress thing, I realised that summer dresses with cute skirts and proper waists are inevitably going to mean bare arms. This is where I think the lace weight cropped cardigan needs to make an appearance in my wardrobe. It's also got to be a pretty thrifty make with only 1-2 skeins required for making this unusually girly addition to my wardrobe. I think this kind of garment could be a game changer for me. 

Lus by Mer Stevens

Lus by Mer Stevens

3. Lus by Mer Stevens

Talking of lace weight handmades, I am very tempted by this little tee. I love the peephole sleeves and the colourwork. I also keep pondering what would happen if we took out the mohair and put in something a little less allergy inducing. Anyone got any suggestions for good substitutes? I'm all ears because this would get worn and worn over a simple tank as the evenings cool down. 

Starstruck by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

4. Starstruck by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

So how to reconcile these uncharacteristic feminine urges with my love of a good classic tee shape? Well, this newly published pattern doesn't hurt. It has a central lace panel for interest and calls for Walk Collection Delicate Silk. Cathrin's work is impeccable. This was an instant crush for me. I think this would pick up some of my go to days of my favourite pedal pushers made from cut off jeans and sandals (note to self, make more of these as store bought shorts are hideously short). 

Pellucid by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

Pellucid by Dieuwke Van Mulligan

(Incidentally I was torn between this and Pellucid which I still very much adore). 

Mitchell by Ysolda Teague

Mitchell by Ysolda Teague

5. Mitchell by Ysolda Teague. 

If you heard the interview recently with Ysolda, you'll know she sparked a lot of this Handmade Wardrobe obsession. It's no surprise to me that she released a pattern that is destined to become a regular part of my wardrobe. I love my baseball tees and jeans in the winter. I occasionally switch for  striped long sleeve tee but my love for the baseball tee remains strong. Imagine my delight when Ysolda brings out a cute version with lace sleeves? 

 

So it would seem this month has taught me to recognise my go to shapes and uniform but also where I can grow an existing style into something new and exciting. Interesting.... 

I'd love to hear yours!