Sunday, 21 November 2021

A major project, and a peacoat...

The beginning is always a good place to start, right?

It's 2018 and we've finally decided that our dark, cold, double fronted Victorian house with the concrete slab-bathroom-kitchen at the back is ready for a renovation.... How to choose an architect? Why not with a recommendation and that good vibes feeling at the first meeting. It worked for us.

Three years later, and we've been in our renovated house for 12 months now. Needless to say we love it. 

This afternoon we invited our architect over to play (yes there was champagne and card games, cause you know, it's been a long lockdown and we may have forgotten how grown ups are meant to socialise...) and I gave him this gift I'd made:

It's our house, in the form of a peacoat:

During the long winter lockdown of 2020 there were plenty of site meetings, on a concrete slab, under a frame, and we were freezing. The idea of a nice wool coat had already come to mind. I just needed to find the perfect materials.

If you were inclined towards stereotypes, you could imagine what "colours" a Melbourne architect wears: There's only one, and it's black. I pushed the boundaries a bit with this very dark grey. It's a pretty close match for the dark grey external trim of our house...

I got lucky with the main fabric. It's from SuperCheap and is one of their wool/cashmere fabrics. It's a  great feeling wool, a lovely coating weight without being as stiff as some wool melton, and instead of being a solid, flat grey it has that tiny check look to it.

Cause they really are super cheap fabrics I bought two wool cashmere coatings sight unseen. One, the charcoal grey was perfect for the coat. The other, called Thunder, was perfect for the hood lining. No-one wants a slippery satin lined hood right? There's enough of that left over for another coat another day.

The thunder wool is a much lighter grey with quite a greenish tone and was really just a light version of the green colour that's used for a large part of our house. It also had a slightly brushed face which made  it ideal for a snuggly hood lining.

The pattern is the Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat. A pattern that I've had in my stash since it was first released. My husband's never wanted one, and until recently my son had still fit in the Oliver + S School Days Coat (if you need me to link that one you've not been paying attention!).

I was itching to make it, and this seemed the ideal project. I gave away a bit of a clue in asking for my architect's measurements which he provided, in true style as a list titled "Anthony's dimensions". He fit squarely in the size M, but while I'd had him measure sleeve length, inseam, neck etc all as per the Thread Theory how to Measure a Man chart; the pattern only asked for chest and hip. I decided to be brave and just go with a straight medium and keep it a surprise

The coat is a combination of the two views throwing all the elements in the mix. I wanted pocket flaps and sleeve and shoulder tabs and the hood. Maybe this is where the project veered somewhat from the restrained you-can't-have-it-all-Shelley nature of the house renovation .

The lining was the real treat. With Lisa's help we digitised our house plans and turned them into a tileable repeat and then had Next State Print print them onto their satin polyester fabric in exactly that shade of green.

You'll have to take my word for the colour match as the sheen to the satin fabric means that if I hold it up to the green walls of the house there is no way a camera will happily photograph the two colours as the same. They look the same to the eye. Anyways, I've learned that building tolerances allow you to say that anything viewed from 1.5m with a bit of a squint is good enough!

To make the coat really warm I used wool quilt batting from Spotlight and quilted along the 10x10cm lines of the print tiles before cutting out the lining pieces for the body. The sleeves are just the wool coating and the satin polyester lining without quilting.

All of this was made much more fun by that birthday present to myself: My new sewing machine. Look at all that sewing space in the picture above. bliss!

The dining table has always been my sewing space. I can carry out my craft addiction but still feel like I'm part of my family. A sliding door means that the overlocker can come out and make a ton of noise and I can shut the dining room off from the living room. That's all the sewing space I need.

We were in and out of lockdowns throughout the year and sometimes I could have had the houseguest but not the ready made gift and then the gift was ready but the visitors were banned. Eventually we were getting close and I realised that, like every good building, I need my construction date to be recorded. Thankfully Kylie (of Kylie and the Machine) still had a spare Circa 2020 label in her personal stash that she could part with.

Earlier in the year when I had the wool in my hands and shops were open I'd zoomed over to Jimmy's Buttons where I'd found the perfect buttons. They were exactly the dark, marled grey I was after and even came in two sizes: large ones for the coat front and smaller one for the hood attachment and sleeve and shoulder tabs.

The pattern was great to sew: If you're so inclined there's a full sew along on the Thread Theory blog where it gets a tailoring treatment. This one is the fusible interfacing easy route. The only minor gripes were the minimal measurements (especialy compared to the detailed man measuring chart) on the pattern envelope and the lack of any extra lining length for the sleeves. I feel they should have a 1cm overhang at least, similar to the coat hem,

Otherwise I think it's a great pattern that can be a fairly simple sew as this one was, or it can be used as the base for a full on tailored affair.

It was a real struggle to photograph the coat. I needed a human shape to make it hang nicely. I had one that was too small and one that was too big, but it was neither of theirs to model. I think the kids were frankly surprised when I didn't insist on Anthony modelling it for me for a photograph - after all it's been the rule for them since birth!

Ever since finishing it I've been terribly nervous that the sleeve length would be too short. Just before wrapping it up to gift I got monkey-boy to try it on and when his arms fit the sleeves I relaxed! :)

I'm happy to say it looked absolutely perfect on Anthony!

Pattern: Thread Theory Goldstream peacoat
Size: M
Fabrics: Wool cashmere main and hood lining both from Supercheap fabrics.
Lining: Satin printed fabric from Next State Print
Buttons: Jimmy's Buttons
Shoulder pads from Spotlight
Label: Kylie and the Machine (out of print)
Amazing house design: Bloxas

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Homewares: the next episode

The not-quite-scrubby-enough bath mitt that I knitted from nettle earlier this year lasted about 6 months then started to wear out.

Time for version 2.0

This time I used some of the Nutscene jute string from String Harvest. I'd bought a 40m ball of the forest green and a 130m ball of the natural colourway

I just made this one up as I went, using a "ripple" stitch on the front side (reference was my crochet stitch bible book, looking for something in the "texture" section) and a simple treble crochet on the back side

The two pieces were then crocheted together using slip stitches in the green yarn, with a second row in the other direction to make it look good from both sides, and some slip stitching into the stitches on the free edges.

In hindsight it was too dense a technique for the thicker, heavier yarn. This one should probably have been a looser knitted mitt. It also used up almost the whole, larger ball of jute. It's scrubby enough alright, but is quite heavy and solid for a bath mitt, especially when wet. I'm predicting it will last quite some time.

Meanwhile I picked up the Dishie yarn again and made a few dishcloths for our house

I used the free Nordic Dishcloth pattern on the KnitPicks website (where the Dishie yarn came from).

It was fun as I had to learn to knit cables. A new first. It would obviously be easier with a cable needle, but I made do just using another small circular needle.

They look great. Until you get them wet that is! Then something happens to the cable pattern and you end up with dense vertical lines of knitting with thin, sparse horizontal ladders between.

Even though this might not be the best stitch pattern for a practical dischloth, I am sold on the idea of knitted cotton dishcloths as they work well and don't get smelly at nearly the same rate as a sponge or commercial cloth. These three on rotation from the cupboard to the sink to the wash basket is working well. When they wear out I'll try a different stitch pattern and make some more!

Pattern testing for Liesl & Co

I'm way behind in publishing blog posts again while I'm busy making things almost every day. I can always find time for craft!

Maybe what's caused the backlog is the same as in January... Back then I did a pattern test that was not a great experience. I made a raincoat from a pattern that had a lot of issues, didn't fill any niche hole in the marketplace, cost me plenty of money to print the pattern, took a lot (really, a lot) of time and energy to proofread the pattern and submit feedback and finally, left me with a garment that I wasn't particularly happy with. The feedback I gave did amend, and hopefully improve the pattern in it's final form, but was not all that well received. I'd been thinking I'd photograph it further and at least write a blog post about construction techniques for raincoats. But to be honest, I just want to donate it to charity and move on. I have a bit of the fabric left and it will make good toiletry bags. One day I'll make those and write about them.

Meanwhile, I did a few pattern tests for a designer who always makes me feel appreciated: Liesl & Co.

Let's start with the Fira dress

I might have slipped up in that I went with my memory and "vanity" sizing rather than really getting the tape measure out and checking what the world's longest lockdown had done to my hips! This is a straight size 10, A/B cup and while that's right for my top half I should have blended out to 12 for my lower half.

Initially I was a bit meh on the pattern as I'm always concerned that my shoulders and lats look kinda eastern bloc '80's shotputter in that sort of bodice/yoke.

But it's growing on me seeing other versions and I am tempted to make another. The changes I need to make: Lower the bust dart. Oddly this pattern and the Gelato blouse/dress are the only Liesl & Co patterns with bust darts that seem oddly high to me. This one needs to go down a good inch.
I need a bigger size over the hips as well as to use that centre back seam to do a bit of a sway back shaping. I also need to add some length to the sides (sort of sway back adjustment also, right?) to avoid drag lines towards the armpit from side on.

Then I think I'll have a nice throw on, but look dressed up, kind of summer dress. I have some Nani iro double gauze that will suit it well, but I also can't go past Liesl's terracotta linen version. This one is a poor choice  poly shirting that had been intended for a kid's button up and had been in the stash for years. It'll go off to the op shop while I dream up a better version

The first of the three pattern tests that I did this year was the Geneva blouse

Again I made the straight size 10, and given my hips don't enter the equation I got away with it this time.

the fabric is a bit of leftover cotton linen from a long ago purchase from Phillips Shirts and there was just enough for this top with just one join in the neckline facing that wouldn't normally be there.

For me, this pattern had the bust dart in just the right spot. The only thing I'd change if I made this again is to give my Popeye forearms a smidge more room. The sleeve hem tends to catch and ride up towards my elbow instead of floating free and showing off the lovely lantern shape.

I've been wearing this one a lot. I like the easy blouse/shirt look but with a t-shirt level of comfort. It could definitely be lengthened to a shirt dress too.

Finally, I made the Melville cardigan. This was the only one I didn't have a suitable stashed fabric for, so I hit up Fabric Deluxe and landed on this curious poly boucle. It was priced such that it was suitable for a pattern test, but would hopefully still be nice enough to wear.

This one's a simple knit cardigan with facings at the neckline. There's this cropped jacket length as well as a hip length and a full length version. And options for sleeves or sleeveless.

The sleeves are finished with a cuff with a notch which looks quite elegant. I've surprised myself by how much I like wearing this. I often wear it unbuttoned over a plain shirt and it's really quite stylish. 

For an open poly weave, it's also surprisingly warm. This pattern is straight out of the packet perfect for me.

Looking for the perfect size and style of button I eventually decided to use these super special buttons. these were custom designed for Melbourne Frocktails 2018 by ArrowMountain. It was the first Frocktails that Lisa and I hosted, and HoMei of ArrowMountain designed these beautiful buttons for us and put a little origami folded package of 4 buttons in every take home bag.

They were perfect for this cardigan.

Liesl + Co take pattern testing seriously. They reimburse for the cost of printing the pattern and pay for the pattern test. They employ their pattern testers to do a good job and it's always an honour to do it. It's not a workshop of the pattern, it's not a popularity blog tour.... It's checking a pattern, providing feedback via a detailed form, and being paid to do so. I invariably use the money I earn testing the pattern to turn around and buy the hardcopy version of the final pattern! It's the only way pattern testing should be done, and I swear to myself, again, not to fall into the trap of offering my services freely in any other way.

If you're interested in testing for Liesl & Co, they've just put out a call for more pattern testers. Check it out here.

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Harry Potter knitting

Before it's forgotten altogether I need to get this project on the blog.

I made the rookie error of completing the much asked for Book Week costume Harry Potter scarf and beanie in sufficient time that, a week later, when book week dress up day came around the novelty had worn off. Potter was out of favour and I was making the last minute Malory Towers dress. You'd think I would have learned by now. ;)

At the peak of her HP obsession, A dragged me to a Harry Potter shop over in Fitzroy which is actually quite a neat conversion of an old terrace house. A shop downstairs and Potter themed cafe upstairs. She bought herself a tie with her pocket money and really, really wanted s scarf too. I said, "I could knit that..."

The scarf took forever as the whole thing is knit in 1x1 rib which I believe is slow knitting even if you're not already a slow, novice knitter.

The beanie was much more fun and actually went along quite quickly

Both are knit in super cheap Stallion 8 ply acrylic from Spotlight, which is really very soft and pleasant.

The scarf is based on the Harry Potter Slytherin House Scarf pattern although I used 3.5mm needles, cast on only80 stitches and did only 9 repeats of the pattern. The original pattern in a finer wool and smaller needles would take me FOREVER to knit.

The hat is the Hogwarts House Hats pattern by Sarah Belcher. 4.5mm needles for ribbing and 5.0 for hat. Only other modification was 4 rows of ribbing in each colour rather than 3. This was really fun to knit and I'm a little sad to have not seen her wear it yet. But, for a $2/ball outlay, I was much happier to spend less than $20 and a lot of time for a passing fad than the official merchandise retail price!

Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Lockdown crochet critters

 How can you tell how long I've been in lockdown?.. the number of crochet animals around the house.

Melbourne has, I think, just won the world record for the city with the most number of days in lockdown. If I can't celebrate that with a blogpost about crocheted critters, what I can do?*

This is "Georgie" who was a request from A when she was flipping through my Crochet Wild Animals book.

I was ordering some yarn online for a different project and it seemed easy enough to through in some cotton for this one. I think it's a Bergere de France yarn, but I appear to have tossed the wrapper already

It was a fun little project to make and those horns (ossicones, to be precise) are just too cute!

The primary reason I was yarn shopping, late at night, on my phone was for a different project.

Actually, the real reason is because we were STILL in lockdown and late night wine fuelled online shopping is what you do when there is * (see footnote) else to do

We have a bit of a gap under our front door and the cold winter made it clear we needed a draft excluder.

Let me introduce you to Portal, the door-snake

Portal is also made form a pattern from the same book. She's crocheted in a cheap King Cole Merino blend DK that was a bit of a beast to work with as it tended to split really easily.

But the real challenge has been trying to train her to stay at her post by the front door... Here she is in a brief moment of good behaviour:

A little off duty leisure time on the carpet...

Then, good girl, back where you belong

The pattern had an error in how much of the beige/off white yarn was needed, and she lay around half finished for a bit while I waited for another ball of yarn to make it's way to me (and yes, I bought that ball late at night, with wine in hand and may have added something else to make up for paying for the shipping, see footnote)

In the end I ran out of the brown colours a repeat or two before the pattern indicated I should stop, but she was already long enough.

once she was finished, she was off!

She's stuffed with tiny scraps from the fabric bucket which gives her a bit more weight and better draught excluding properties and also makes for some interesting views of her multicoloured "guts" between the crochet stitches. 

P managed to wrestle her down out of the trees and tame her..

or did he?!!!

* sweet fuck all is the correct answer.