Saturday, February 28, 2015

When you think about it, thinking about thinking is the hardest sort of thinking there is, which makes you think.

Hello hello! Happy weekend, everyone, and happy end of February! I am so ridiculously pleased to have reached the end of what is always a very difficult month for me that I celebrated last night with gin and I am going to celebrate tonight with champagne. That sounds more wild and exciting than it will be - one of the reasons that February has been so difficult is that I have been ill for quite a lot of it - so I'll probably be having a glass of champagne in my pyjamas before going to bed at 9 o'clock! Oh well!

I am honestly glad to get to the end of this shitty little month. It's probably the busiest and most stressful month in my job. Still though, I got my 2015 Big Project signed off, came to the end of a long series of meetings (no more basement meetings for a few months now.) Getting to the end of this period means that, while work probably won't be significantly less busy, it should be less stressful. I have a bit of leave coming up at the end of this week and I hope the rest and the time away from work will help me see off this virus that has been sapping my energy for the last few weeks.

That's mainly the craic with me. I'm a bit tired of not being myself, to be honest, but I'm getting there. In the meantime I'm trying to do lots of restful things like watching trashy TV and knitting, as well as a bit of sewing when I feel like it. I made another McCall's 6696 shirt-dress a few weeks ago and, last Saturday, took my chance in some early spring sunshine to get some pictures of it:

Joy Parade dress - McCall's 6696 in Liberty 'Carline Minor' poplin, worn with Kurt Geiger Dolly shoes

Another Carline shirt-dress! Well, when you find a formula that works there's no shame in sticking with it. That's what I tell myself, anyway. This Carline print is the same colourway as my wedding dress, but the roses themselves are in a smaller scale. I bought it from Kat's Fabrics on ebay, because obviously. She is awesome. I wasn't actually that sure of this print when it arrived - one of the things I like so much about the Carline print is the scale - but it looks so much better as a garment than it did as a piece of fabric. Well, I think so anyway.

I'm still working on the fit of this dress. After I made the Montague Terrace dress at the end of last year, I made another version of this in which I shortened the bodice. It wasn't quite the right adjustment to make and, while there's nothing really wrong with the finished dress, there's something about it that I don't like so it's kind of a wadder. It's been too cold to wear it, so maybe I will re-evaluate it when the weather is warmer. I don't know. Anyway, what I needed to do to this pattern was a sway-back adjustment, so that's what I did this time round. The bodice still needs some work - in addition to the sway-back adjustment I need to take some width out of the back. I possibly also need to curve the waist darts slightly but I won't really know by how much until I take the width out of the back. But hey, it's all fun and I'm nitpicking. I'm very happy with how this dress fits!

It was a chilly and windy day last Saturday when we took these photos, so I suggested taking them in the arboretum. Sadly this wasn't practical. For one thing, it was full to bursting with sloaney Leamington families so it was hard to find a quiet corner (I mean, fair enough, it's a public place. I'm not genuinely hating on families for enjoying the park, like) but also it was so warm and damp that the camera lens kept misting up!

I have to admit, I was at the end of my tether last weekend with feeling exhausted and over-committed, so I was in a super shitty mood when we were taking these photos. Poor old Nic is such a patient man, and he took very lovely photos even though I was basically non-stop bitching and moaning. I really did find a good one there, so I decided to thank him by taking him to The Larder in the Park for coffee and cake. It turned out to be a lovely place for a few photos also.

The coffee also helped to stop my whining, so there's that as well.

You can see that there's a bit of wrinkling across the top of my chest and also under the bust. I wonder to what extent this will be affected by taking width out of the back. It's hard to tell, and this dress is kind of hard to toile without making the whole thing. Anyway, I'm going to treat it as iterative, and see what happens the next time I make this pattern. Because there will definitely be more of these - I love wearing this shape of dress and I have thoroughly enjoyed sewing with this particular pattern.

Here's the back view. So I think that I need to take probably about half an inch or maybe even an inch of width out of the centre back. I'm not sure if I need to do the same with the yoke, because it looks and feels fine - it's really in the lower back that there is a lot of excess.

Mind you, I still think the dress looks good and it's comfortable to wear, so I'm not about to lose any sleep over it. As we got up to leave our table, a woman who was waiting for it complimented the dress and told me how much the colour suited me, so I'm calling it a win.

Here's one more photo - it doesn't add to much to everything I've already said, but fuck it. Poor Nic laboured hard with an unwilling model to get these photos: it seems a shame not to use them!

This is me, pure RAGING at the cold wind blowing my hair in my face and at being surrounded by other people, trying to smile naturally. Those hands are almost fists! 

So anyway, that is the craic with this dress. Despite my awful mood the day these photos were taken (at one point I swore blind that I was going to go straight home and put this dress in the bin) I am really happy with how it has turned out. And yeah, I know that it's getting to be a bit All Liberty All The Time up in here, but seriously, the poplin is just the tightest shit. I love it. Earlier in the week when I wanted to do a bit of easy sewing, I busted out the pink Carline poplin I bought last month on Goldhawk Road and made myself an Anna dress with a circle skirt. I really take this whole concept of a signature look and run with it, eh?!

And I guess that's it. My head is fuzzy and my eyes are tired so I'm away to lie down. I need to build up enough strength to lift that glass of champagne, you know! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Peachy keen, jellybean.

Hello! What's happening, folks? It's Sunday and I'm sitting on the sofa, under my favourite blanket with my head wrapped in clingfilm. Applying henna to my rapidly greying hair is one of those things that I always put off until it can be put off no longer, not least because for the first day or two after I've done it, it's so orange that I look like (you can choose your favourite here) Chuckie from Rugrats, Pennywise the clown from IT, Ronald McDonald or Rainbow Brite.

Actually, Rainbow Brite had a pretty strong look. I quite like it.

It's been a tough old week. No tears this time, but I've found the endless grey skies and cold winds to be really hard. It was sunny on Wednesday but I spent the day in another meeting in a basement, then on the tube, a train and a rail replacement bus that smelled almost comically bad. By the time I got back to Leamington any good mood the sunshine had given me had disappeared and I went straight home and put my pyjamas on. In fairness, I did have a better week this week than last week but OH MAN am I ever ready for the spring.

That whine aside, I am feeling better. A few irritating things happened this week and, rather than dissolving into a pool of tears, I channeled my inner Rizzo. Sometimes, that's the best thing a girl can do.

So anyway, that's what's happening there.

As I said in my last post, I have a finished knitted project to show you today - an Andi Satterlund Agatha cardigan. I'm so happy to have finished this cardigan because it has taken me months to complete and everything about it was a challenge. I don't mean that in a bad way at all - knitting Agatha really stretched me and, while the finished article is far (very far) from what I would like it to be, I'm still tickled to death to have got this far with it.

I first attempted to knit an Agatha cardigan about a year ago but was totally foxed by the instructions. I gave the pattern to my friend Char to look at, and she knitted one up as a sample so she could talk me through the instructions. She's pretty awesome like that (and in other ways too, actually) At around the same time, through a combination of blog comments and a couple of emails from knitters, I realised that I had been wrapping my purl stitches wrong. Well, not wrong, but wrapping them in such a way that I was getting a twisted stockinette stitch. That is totally a thing, but as it was unintentional, it was good to get the heads up on where I was going wrong. Char showed me a better way to wrap my purl stitches, talked me through how to read the charting on the pattern and lent me her umbrella swift so that I could wind my skeins of Cascade 220 yarn into balls that I could use. See, I told you she was awesome.

I got going on the cardigan in October but only made serious headway on it at Christmas, when I was suffering very badly with insomnia. Most of the body of this cardigan was knitted on the nights when I didn't sleep at all and instead stayed up knitting and watching Mad Men. Then, I took a break from it when I ran into difficulty with the sleeves - which again, I was helped with by you excellent readers  - and I finished it last week. Here it is!

Andi Satterlund Agatha cardigan, worn with Bernie Dexter 'Fall Leaves' Paris dress and Swedish hasbeens peep toe sandals

YAAAAAAAAY! As I said above, this is nowhere near perfect, but I am super proud of it all the same. The yarn is Cascade 220 and the colour is Aqua - actually the very bright peacock blue of it is sort of hard to capture in a photograph. It's so bright and jolly. The Cascade yarn was really lovely to work with. It didn't split at all or go all fluffy - I had been knitting with a Rowan yarn last year that I eventually had to put in the bin because my throat filled with fluff every time I got it out of the knitting bag. I'm already trying to decide which colour to go for next because I'd like to knit another Agatha at some point, to put into practice all the things I learned (and hopefully some of things I will learn when you guys tell me!) I'm thinking maybe Goldenrod will be the next colour...

Here it is buttoned up! And here are my criticisms of it. I'm still trying to get to grips with knitting button bands neatly - the bottom of the button bands just haven't lined up with the ribbing at the waist at all, so that's an area that I need to take a bit more time over on my next cardigan. It's not a massive problem, but it does make the cardigan look more home-made than I would like. I think that stabilising the button bands with petersham ribbon will help with this - Lauren Lladybird has a great tutorial on this that I'll have to use the next time I knit.

You can see what I mean a bit more clearly in this photo. It's not a massive problem because the cardigan is still very cute and totally wearable, but I think it would look a LOT better if that weren't the case. I had been feeling a bit bad about the fact that you can see both bands when the cardigan is buttoned up, but actually that's the case in Andi's Agatha as well, so I feel a bit less bad about it now.

The other thing that I'd like to be better at is blocking. I did block this cardigan and it helped even out my stitches - not completely, but that's fine because my stitches will get more even as I get more practiced at knitting - and it also helped me with shaping the cardigan. BUT, I know that my blocking techniques could be better. For instance, I think I stretched this out a bit too much at the waist, and not enough in the back body. It could just be the case that I need more experience in doing this but, my readers who are knitters, do you have any favoured methods of blocking? I wet-blocked this, but would steam-blocking work better, do you think?

I'm also not totally certain that I knitted the correct size! I knitted a size medium. Now, I have lost weight since I started knitting this cardigan (stress and insomnia will do that to a girl) and, as I said above, I think I was a bit too vigorous in stretching the waistband when I blocked it. It is supposed to have negative ease - should I knit a bit smaller than my measurements and then get closer to those in blocking? Fit is very personal, but when it comes to knitwear I like it very fitted.

STILL THOUGH. I finished this cardigan! It was complicated and it took me ages, but I finished it! The lace pattern on the back is lovely but I'm not going to post a picture of it, because the photo is so, so goofy. To give you an idea of how much, it is about seven times goofier than THIS picture:

Ha ha, WORST PHOTO EVER. But look at how happy I am with my sleeves! I knitted the sleeves a size smaller than the rest of the body and I could have possibly even gone a bit smaller with them. As I said, I like my knitwear to be fitted. You can also see in this photo that I needed to stretch the back body a bit more in the blocking, as it rides up a bit. This is something I might yet go back and do - especially if you all give me your best blocking tips!

So. Not a total success in terms of the finished item, but a total success insofar as I finished it and it's wearable, and I'm getting better at knitting. I call that a win, really!

Persevering with knitting this cardigan has made me feel good about myself when other things in life have made me doubt myself. There's something a bit magical about knitting in that respect. Also, I think I find it easier to go easy on myself with knitting than I am when it comes to sewing. It's because I am still learning, but of course when it comes to sewing, I am still learning as well. Knitting this cardigan has been good for my mental health, so even though there are things about it that could be better, I am really happy with it. The only one of my hand-knitted cardigans that currently sees much wear is my nautical Miette - partly because I still really hate the feel of the cotton yarn that I made the pink Miette from, and the others just look a bit crap. I'm hoping that the happiness I feel at having finished this cardigan will mean I am more inclined to wear it. I think I will be.

Right-o, I must finish up and crack on with the rest of my day. At some point I'm going to have to let this bright orange hair out of its clingfilm prison so that I can go to Poundland and buy a multipack of pickled onion monster munch. I'm going to keep hold of my inner Rizzo this week, so that any shit can be dealt with in a constructive way:

My twitter friend Lucy and I came up with an outstanding idea for a TV show last week. The basic premise is that it is Stockard Channing and Kim Cattrall just swanning around being sassy as fuck and taking down the patriarchy while drinking and cracking wise in beehive hairdos. It would be like Absolutely Fabulous, only they'd both get to be Patsy. Tell me you wouldn't watch the shit clean out of that show. It needs to happen. Special guest stars Allison Janney and Hayden Pannettiere. Working title is Sassy-ass Bitches.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Jealousy is a very ugly thing, Dorothy. And so are you in anything backless.

HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEYYY you guys! I'm back! Back and badder than ever! Or, you know, back at any rate, and feeling a good deal better than the last time I wrote.

Thank you to everyone who got in touch with words of reassurance! After crying at work last Monday things picked up somewhat, and then took a dramatic nosedive on Thursday. I was working in London, attending another all-day meeting in a basement meeting room of our biggest supplier. Anyway, without getting too much into it, I had to make a (small) change to my big project and it just tipped me over the edge. Crying at your own office is one thing, but crying uncontrollably in the lunchroom of someone else's work is actually the pits. It was so fucking embarrassing. Thankfully, my completely wonderful colleague R was there to sort my head out and I managed to dry my tears and wash my face so I could get on with the rest of the meeting, but it really was evidence that I am a little bit burned out.

It turned out to be fine, though. The change was easy to make and was signed off that afternoon. I got to Marylebone on time to go to Marks and Spencer before getting on my train, and this is a thing that exists in the world:

Look, I'm not advocating drinking your way through your problems. At least, not all of them. But this acted as an anaesthetic to the embarrassment of having cried at work twice in one week. And, just so you know, it wasn't too bad. A bit bitter, even for a gin and tonic, but it really did the job.

I had the day off on Friday and spent it having fun with Nic and our friends Rick and Lauren, which was very much what I needed. It took until Sunday for me to stop worrying about work, though, so I'm still not completely back on form. Things are looking up, though - the Deputy Director gave my big project the final sign-off on Tuesday, so I can stop worrying about that until at least May, when it goes live. The mornings are brighter, the evenings are longer and I can start to look forward to work not being quite so hectic. And I even managed to get some sewing done at the weekend as well as finishing my Agatha cardigan. GO ME!

I did a bit of pattern testing for By Hand London a couple of weeks ago and, as of today, you can pre-order the pattern. The Sophia dress is going to drop (lol) in the middle of March, but as you can order it now I can share the test version I made. I wasn't asked to blog about this or to link to the pre-sale or anything, but I'm pretty happy with how the dress turned out. I had only very minor comments to make on the test version as well, so this should be very close to the finished pattern.

Margarita dress - By Hand London 'Sophia' dress in watermelon print cotton poplin, worn with Kurt Geiger 'Dolly' shoes

Here's me pretending it's not February. DISCLOSURE: It's February.

So, there are two variations available in the Sophia pattern. One has a collar and a full skirt with godets, and the other has a straight skirt with a split in the centre front. The full-skirted version is the more obvious Roisin choice but I had this watermelon fabric in my stash and it immediately came to mind as being a good pairing for the straight skirt. In fairness, it's probably not the best choice to showcase what is unusual about the pattern - the angled darts on the bodice and skirt - because the print is so busy. In fairness, though, that is going to be true of almost any fabric I choose because I am all about the fun print.

This dress was super straightforward to sew. I did a toile of the bodice using some pink cotton that I had in my stash. This was to check that I had chosen the right size - depending on style I vary between an 8 and a 10 in By Hand London - and to check that the unusual darts were going to be in roughly the right case. As you can probably see from the slight wrinkling under the bust, the fit isn't totally perfect but it's not too bad out of the packet. I took the shoulder seams up a bit but have since realised that I need to do a sway-back adjustment to this pattern as the bodice is still slightly too long in the back.

Here's an awkward-as-fuck photo of my back! You can't really see the wrinkling at my lower back because of the goofy way I'm standing but it is there when I am standing straight!

This dress is really not an everyday dress for me but I kind of surprised myself with how much I like it. It's not totally me and I think that the watermelon print gives it a real 90s feel, as does the very straight skirt. But those are also the things I like about it and it's good to try new things once in a while. It's a fun party dress though, and what woman doesn't need one of those?! (Yeah I know, loads of women. But it doesn't hurt to have one, is my point.)

And we need to take a moment to talk about what might be the best shoes ever...


These Kurt Geiger shoes are from 2009 and were my first choice for wedding shoes. I saw a pair for sale in a random second-hand shoe shop in Warwick about six months before our wedding, but they weren't in my size. I thought the bright green would look gorgeous with the pink of the Carline print. I immediately started searching for them on ebay and a pair finally came up in my size about a month ago. I got them for £16! They were in basically perfect condition apart from the fact that they were muddy. The seller had kept the original box and tissue paper and everything, but couldn't be bothered cleaning the mud off them before posting them. WTF. But they were worth cleaning because although they are ridiculous, they are ridiculous. I need more sequinned shoes in my life.

Between the sequin shoes and the watermelons, this outfit made me think of Carmen Miranda (Carmen Miranda if she went on the game) but, in truth, it's made me think more of Margarita Pracatan. Both of those ladies were pretty awesome, in fairness.

I have plans for a second Sophia dress soon - I want to give the full-skirted variation a try and I have some beautiful fabric lined up for it - this red telephone print that was a gift from Amy:

I have some red lawn for the godets and the contrast collar. I think it has the potential to be kind of awesome: I just need to make some time to sew it!

I also need some time to go out dancing. Possibly in some sort of head-dress. I do regret not getting married in a hat, veil or head-dress of some kind.

Fucks given: None. Literally none.

Right now, I had to get up at 5:30 this morning to go to London for a meeting so I'm going to go to bed now. I'm tired and I need to build up my strength. Plastic fruit is heavy, you know. I will be back soon though with pictures of my finished cardigan. Until then, take it easy. Goodnight!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I may have just burnt the house down, but I made damn sure you were in it when I lit the match.

Helloooooooo! Long time no write, isn't it? I'm sure that 2015 is going to be a good year, but the first six weeks of it has been kind of kicking my ass. The last few weeks in particular have been a bit intense and I'm a little bit burned out, so I haven't had much time or energy for sewing or blogging. So, this post isn't going to be sewing related and it's going to be a little bit of a whine because, fuck it.

Well, it's not going to be a total whine. Good things have happened in the last few weeks too! Nic and I have spent lots of time having fun with friends. While I haven't had the energy to sew, I have been motivated to get back into knitting. With help from a few of you lovely readers who commented on my last post, I finally cracked where I was going wrong with the sleeve on the Agatha cardigan and now I have one and a half sleeves. Hurrah!

Yay! I had been getting tripped up on the distinction between knitting the lace repeat flat on the short row sections and knitting it in the round for the rest of the sleeve. To you non-knitters to whom that reads like a foreign language: I KNOW RIGHT. This sleeve is far from perfect - my stitches aren't as even as they could be - but I'm so happy to have cracked it. I'm hoping to get the rest of the second sleeve knitted this week and maybe the button and neckbands over the weekend. I might have this finished soon!

It's been good to have a small, manageable project on the go at home. As much as I am (still) enjoying my job, the last few weeks have been really overwhelming. This is a really crucial time of the year in my job and, although I have been through it over the last four years, this year is the first where I have had all the responsibility for my project. I've been working extremely long hours - I worked 27 hours over my contracted hours in January- so as well as having a lot to do, I've been exhausted.

Unlike in other areas of my life - notably in my sewing and housekeeping, where I am pretty relaxed - I've become a bit of a perfectionist at work and have been putting myself under pressure to get everything done to a very high standard, and to get everything right first time. That's not always possible with the deadlines we work to, and I have been struggling with a near-constant feeling of guilt for not - I don't know, bending the rules of time to get more done? It's stupid. It has seeped into other areas of my life as well and I spent Saturday night in floods of tears for no reason, because I feel like I'm not doing anything as well as I could be or should be at the moment.

Yesterday at work I realised that a mistake had not been picked up in a piece of my work - not even my mistake, just one I hadn't noticed - and, even though it was totally minor, easily changed and arguably not even a mistake - I ended up so upset that I cried. I fucking hate crying at work because it is lame, and this was a stupid thing to be crying about. I don't think anyone else would have cried about it because it was so easily sorted out, but I was unreasonably upset by it.

So all of this is totally irrelevant to sewing but it explains why I haven't been around much. I'm hoping to see some improvement in the next while - I think that understanding why I have been feeling so inadequate will help me to feel less so, and that will make me feel more excited about sewing and blogging again.

While it's still cold, the fact that it's starting to feel like spring is going to be on its way eventually is bound to help. I've been doing a little springtime shopping and I bought a new coat and a new satchel (and, you know, my clog collection is growing all the time) which I took out for a spin on Saturday:

Collectif 'Marlene' raincoat, Vivienne Westwood for Melissa Lady Dragon shoes and pastel pink Zatchels satchel

I used to have a lovely trench coat. It was just from Tesco, but it was a great fit and a lovely shape. I stupidly lent it to someone who never gave it back, and I have been looking for a good replacement ever since. I'm not sure this Collectif raincoat is it, but it'll do for running about in. I've liked the look of their 'Dietrich' trench coat for a while, and this is the companion coat. It's the same cut, but waterproofed, and it was £29 in the sale so I thought it was worth a punt. It's too long in the bodice and probably a bit too long in the skirt for me, but that's fine. The buckle broke the first time I did it up, which I'm not thrilled out, but I can live with. It's grand, and I'm sure it will come in handy. I'm going to keep looking for a replacement for my Tesco coat, though.

I really love the pink satchel, however. It's awesome! I have quite a collection of Zatchels satchels now - I have the 14.5" satchel in cornflower blue, yellow and red, the 11.5" in green and neon yellow floral and a metallic purple saddle bag. Every time I see someone with a different colour, it makes me want another one! I saw a girl on the tube a few weeks ago with a pink one, so when I saw this pale pink one in the sale I bought it. It's a 13.5", which is the perfect in-between size. I use the 14.5" satchels for work, and the 11.5" is basically just big enough for my purse and my phone, but this size is a good weekend size. But mainly I just wanted a pink one. Practicality wasn't my first concern, to be quite honest.

So, that's an update from me. Sewing hasn't totally ground to a halt, however. I was sewing at the weekend - pattern testing the new By Hand London pattern, Sophia. It's pretty damn cute, and the whole thing has got me pining for warmer weather...

The shoes! I will write more about those shoes in a future post but, for now, see my comment above about practicality not being my first concern.

Okay boys and girls. If you've made it to the end of this post: well done! Go and have some gin! I will be back soon with more cheerful news and possibly even a new dress. Goodnight!