Tuesday, June 16, 2015

As I sat looking up at the Guinness Ad, I could never figure out how your man stayed up on the surfboard after fourteen pints of stout

Hello everyone! How's it going, there? Everything is grand here - Nic and I are just back from a lovely long weekend at home in Northern Ireland. It was brilliant. I had been feeling ill all last week with an annoying sinus infection that just wouldn't shift, but being at home made me feel better. I slept well and of course it helped that I had my parents to look after me, but whatever it was, it was great!

We arrived on Thursday evening and came back yesterday. The thing that prompted the visit home on this particular weekend is that I had bought Nic and I tickets to see Christy Moore, who was playing with the Máirtín O'Connor band in Dungannon Leisure Centre. I've seen Christy live before, at Warwick Arts Centre in 2006, and it's something I have wanted to do with Nic ever since we've been together. Christy Moore is an artist who means a lot to me, and he is absolutely brilliant live. When my cousin's husband told us he'd seen Christy live in the leisure centre, Nic declared that this would be the only way to see him. Luckily for us, this declaration coincided with Christy Moore touring and so, on Friday night, Nic and I joined my cousin and her husband on the basketball court at the leisure centre for an absolutely brilliant gig.

It was quite strange to be back in the leisure centre: the place where I tried (and failed) to learn to swim, where my friend Davina and I ate chips while we waited for the bus home after school, and where I (very occasionally) went to basketball matches on a Friday night. That said, it really was an excellent venue. The audience was small and engaged, and the sound was brilliant. It was a very emotional gig and thoroughly wonderful to see this living legend in an Irish crowd. Thankfully, Nic loved the gig as much as I did, and we had a splendid evening also. Before the gig, all four of us had dinner together in Cano's and we saw the night out in The Square Bar. A great Dungannon night out, even if Nic has never really managed to get over the disappointment that the bar itself is not actually square (it's in The Square.)

It was one of those holidays that felt longer than it was because we managed to fit so much in - mainly spending time with family and eating, but we also made it to the Armagh Show in Gosford Forest, which was every bit as much like an episode of Father Ted as I hoped it would be.

There's one out-and-out winner and rather than waste time with a speech I'll get on with the job of announcing the winner who, today, has come first in this competition to see who the winner is in the King of the Sheep competition that we have all come to today wondering who indeed will it be, who wins the prize of King of the Sheep.

We were very lucky to be able to spend so much time with our gorgeous nephews, who change so much every time I see them. My mum is always telling me that Joe reminds her of what I was like as a baby and I must say that I'm beginning to see the resemblance myself...

His shoes have giraffes on them and mine have birds, but I think we can all agree that Joe's footwear is totally awesome.

We were also very lucky with the weather. In a shocking turn of events, we were even able to sit outside in the sunshine at my sister Colleen's house! I brought home summer dresses and wasn't even cold. High summer indeed in Northern Ireland! The weather was so beautiful that I was able to take the opportunity to photograph a couple of finished projects.

As I've mentioned before, I decided to take part in the Outfit Along organised by Andi Satterlund and Lauren Lladybird. The idea is that you make complete outfit by sewing a dress (or a skirt or whatever, I guess) and knitting a cardigan or sweater to wear with it. There are suggested patterns but it's really up to you what to do. Anyway, the suggested cardigan is Andi's newest pattern, the Vianne. I'd been hanging out dying for this to be released ever since I saw Andi's completed one on instagram. I loved the lace pattern insert on either side of the button band. I didn't even know at that stage about the lovely lace work across the back. 

The pattern is designed to be knit with DK weight yarn. I bought a few balls of Cascade 220 Superwash in a colourway called 'flamingo' which I hoped would be a really shocking pink. It turned out to be a bit more subdued than I hoped for - and pretty close in colour to the pink of my Dilly Miette cardigan - I still need to find the perfect shocking pink yarn. Still, this colour is lovely and I have already worn this cardigan a lot:

Andi Satterlund Vianne cardigan, Doralee dress (Simplicity 2591) and Swedish hasbeens Mimmi sandals

This photo is such a goofy one of me, but it's the best one of the cardigan! I cast the Vianne on in the car when we were on our way down to Kent with my parents and it knit up really quickly. Actually, after that weekend I frogged what I had done - I can't remember why, but I did - so I think this was only really on my needles for a few weeks. I was a little bit hesitant with this pattern and enjoyed it less than I have done other projects but this was nothing at all to do with the pattern and everything to do with the fact that the Marion cardigan fit me so badly. Vianne is a similar shape to Marion, so I was a little bit worried, but I decided that it was worth trying anyway. I'm pretty happy with the outcome but, as ever, there are a few things I would change...

Here's a a close-up so that you can see the lace pattern around the neckline more clearly. I really love this stitch pattern, even though you can't see it especially well in this photo.

I knit the smallest size, which I think is a really good fit around the shoulders and a pretty good fit across my bust. I think I could stand to go up a size at the waist, maybe. I'm not really at my fighting weight in these photos - something about the food at home (potatoes) makes me a bit (potatoes) bloated (potatoes) and I think that a few days back on my regular diet will make the fit around the stomach a little more forgiving! I like wearing the cardigan open, anyway:

Nic caught me mid-reaction to a giant bluebottle dive-bombing my face, and this photo keeps making me laugh!

This pattern was very easy to follow. The back looks very complicated, but actually the stitch pattern was easy to memorise and so knitted very quickly:

I panicked about the cardigan a bit when I joined the back to the front, because the armholes seemed absolutely massive. I tried the cardigan on after knitting a few more rows of the body and the armholes just seemed impossibly long, and it looked like the cardigan itself was going to end up being much longer than I would like if I continued to follow the pattern to the letter. So I busked it a bit at this stage. I looked ahead to see what the stitch count should be on the last row before the waistband ribbing started and took a stab at how many more rows I'd need knit to get to my desired length, and then I worked the decreases closer together over that number of rows. It didn't work out perfectly - I should have had fewer rows and more ribbing - but I was pleased to have cobbled together a solution. Once I picked up the first sleeve, I was hugely reassured that the finished cardigan would be a decent fit. I powered through the sleeves and am happy with those, too. They're a much better fit than the ones on Marion.

I love how the pattern around the neckline is mirrored on either side of the mesh on the back, and I think that I'd like to knit this cardigan again with those details and a stockinette back. Andi has written a post on how to knit the back plain, which I will have to try to modify to my own ends at some point!

So, I don't totally love this cardigan but I am very pleased with it, and it's definitely a worthwhile addition to my massive collection of cardigans. Judging by how often I wear my Dilly cardigan, I know another pink cardigan will see lots of wear and I'm pretty happy with how this one looks.

I wasn't keen on the suggested dress pattern in the OAL - after my last Belladone dress, I decided that open backs on dresses isn't for me - so I was a little bit lost as to what to sew to match my pink cardigan. Then, weirdly, inspiration just hit, late at night. When I was trying to fall asleep I decided to try revisiting Simplicity 2591, which was one of the first dress patterns I sewed from, and I even knew the stash fabric to make it from. Isn't it funny when that happens?!

So, Simplicity 2591 is now out of print, but it was one of the first patterns I sewed from when I started sewing four or five years ago. I've changed size and shape a little bit since then, and after checking out all the measurements, I decided I'd try going a size down. I didn't toile this - but as my fabric had only cost me £4.99 per metre, I thought it worth the risk.

Doralee dress - Simplicity 2591 in rose-print cotton poplin from Birmingham market

I don't think I made any alterations to this one, so this is basically straight out of the packet. Man, I think I even hemmed it to the suggested length! I bought the rose print cotton poplin from a stall in Birmingham market when I had a shopping trip there with some sewing friends in March (I think a few of them might have bought some too - I can't completely remember) and I had 2 metres in my stash, which was the perfect amount for what I needed. This was a completely no-fuss project, which I sewed on a sunny morning on my week off a few weeks ago.

As with the cardigan, I'm pretty happy with this dress, even if I don't completely love it, and if I sew another 2591 there are a few fitting tweaks I'd like to make, such as lowering the armholes very slightly and reducing some of the bulk there, and also giving myself a bit more space in the bust. These are only minor things though, and not enough to prevent me from wearing this particular dress.

It's a shame this pattern is out of print now, because it really is cute and unusual. I no longer have any of the ones I sewed when I first started out, so there probably is room in my wardrobe for another 2591. I like the gentle gathering at the waist and the usual design of the pockets. My mum was delighted with the pockets and pointed them out to my granny when we visited her on Sunday, which is when I wore this dress. My auntie Jeanette liked my shoes, which was also pleasing:

Yeah, that's right. And I got another pair of clogs in the post today. Insert Ron Swanson Don't Even Care gif.

It was a beautiful day on Sunday and I was able to put this whole outfit through its paces by wearing it to play in the park with my nephews, visit my granny, eat lots of sandwiches and sit outside in the sunshine with my sister, brother-in-law, parents and Nic, watching the dogs play and catching up on local gossip. This dress is already full of happy memories, and I ended that day full of noodles. You can't beat holidays, lads.

Anyway - you've had to tolerate seven million photographs of me, and also it's getting pretty late here and I have stuff I need to do before I go to bed. Before I go, here are some photos of the dogs of the weekend...

My sister Colleen had a difficult start to the year, but Lola joining the family has helped put a smile back onto her face. She's a shih tzu, apparently, but I think she's actually an Ewok. She's ridiculously cute, at any rate.

...and who can forget our Mini?! My parents were trying to work out how old she is, and we came to the conclusion that she must be seven, because we've had Nic for longer than we've had her. Certainly, she's finding it more difficult now to jump up onto the sofa and she's become tolerant in her old age. I saw her allowing Joe to stroke her and she even tolerated Lola in the house. She still barks at the postman who, more than once, has threatened to stop delivering to our house. It would take far more than her being cheeky to the postman to knock her from her pedestal in our house, however. She's top dog by some long way...