Sneaky peeks….jackets and skirts and shawls oh joy!

Today is rainy and miserable so I thought I’d cheer myself up with some crafting updates.

First up – progress on my Victorian walking jacket.

It’s slow going – I’m finding it hard to get the back of the neck to sit right and the problem with pinning something on myself is that every time I reach up to put in a pin I either stab myself or the whole thing moves around and I’m left taking random tucks. My method has been:  *try it on, squint critically, take it off, baste like my life depends on it, try it back on, wince, take it back off, unpick. Repeat from *.

I’m happy with bits of it. My embroidery has improved no end (considering I had zero embroidery skills at the start of the project, that’s not really very hard).  And the sleeves bring me joy. This may not look like very much to you but to me it is the pouffy sleeve of dreams (and of the late 1880s).

Authentic 1880s style

Authentic 1880s style – with a hint of my Mimi blouse by Tilly and the Buttons underneath

If I can persuade someone to take better pictures I’ll post better pictures soon. Once I’ve finished wrestling with the lining anyhow. At the moment, the lining looks like it’s making a mad dash for freedom. I had a mad idea of wearing it to the Roehampton graduation ceremony next week but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen…maybe the elves will finish it if I leave it out overnight?

Next Up: Vintage find of the week is this skirt kit.

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Yorkshire Fine Woollens & Tweeds Skirt Kit

That’s right, a skirt kit, complete with lining and a zip and its own little sew-in label.

It cost me the princely sum of eight English pounds in a charity shop in Putney.  It’s a thing of wonder – mostly wondering where the hell it came from.  I haven’t been able to find out when Yorkshire Fine Woollens & Tweeds were producing these sort of kits or if there was a wide range of them.  There’s no company trading under that name now so I’ll have to do a but more investigating.  If anyone has any leads on skirt kits, please let me know!

This is definitely going to become a skirt though – I’m thinking a sort of Miss Jean Brodie style thing. The kind of skirt you can wear on a sit-up-and-beg bicycle with a basket of fresh bread and terriers on the front. Or the kind of skirt that you wear with thick boots and a scowl.

This past month, I’ve been taking part in a Terry Pratchett themed swap organised by Louise Hunt of Caithness Craft Collective and I’ve been busy getting a little package together for my swap partner.  I like listening to podcasts and audiobooks but I find I can’t use the sewing machine if I want to listen at the same time.[1] So over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a fair bit of knitting too – well, designing really. I’ve designed my first ever lace shawl.

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Blocking the shawl…

I’m ridiculously pleased with myself about this – it brings elements of Estonian lace and English mesh lace together and it’s inspired by…well, I can’t reveal that just yet.  This is just a sneaky peek after all. I’m in the process of writing up my scrawls into an actual pattern that I will publish on this blog soon.

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[1] My friend Jess once said my sewing machine makes a sound like a drunk person rearranging furniture – there might be something wrong with it but then again it’s ALWAYS made that noise so it might be OK.

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Me Made May – the halfway line & the fabric dreams are made on…

So, I’ve passed the halfway mark of my very first Me Made May.  I know this veers away slightly from the old books and vintage crafts remit of the blog but, trust me, by the end of the post we’ll be back in familiar territory.

I’m not one for instagram or millions of photos of myself so I haven’t been recording the day-by-day stuff online.  I’ve made some discoveries though:

  • I have only two pairs of hand-made socks. I make a lot of socks. All the socks I make are for Karl. This is probably an injustice.
  • Me Made November would be kinder for knitters. Many of the sewn items I’ve made are very summery and I haven’t been able to wear any of the tops because the weather is stupid.
  • I have made a lot of things that don’t suit me. Why did I make them? What was I thinking? Some genius put me on to Wardrobe Architect which might actually lead to me sorting out what I actually want to wear and planning projects properly.
  • I buy a lot of fat quarters.
  • Fat quarters are not as useful as I often believe them to be.
  • I have a lot of buttons.

But so far it’s been an interesting and oddly productive month.

First off – I won something! East London Knits were holding a May Day giveaway.  And I made out like a bandit.  Look at all this!

There are seven skeins of yarn – two laceweight in pale yellow, two laceweight in blue, and three DK-weight skeins of undyed silky lovely stuff. I’m not sure what it will become yet but I am thinking about lace projects and I’m toying around with a new design…

And on May 1st I started working on the Ginny cardigan which has been in my Ravelry queue since the dawn of time. Or at least since it was published. Same thing.

And so…to vintage crafts….

Yesterday I went on a lardy-cake eating, fabric-buying adventure to Witney where I found this:

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I know it doesn’t look like much but it is the fabric for my Victorian Walking Jacket.  I first blogged about the jacket months and months ago and since then I’ve been looking for the right fabric. This purpley-auberginey stripey fabric is the stuff dreams, or at least Victorian jackets, are made of. I was restrained through. I even made myself soak it first.  Which was a good thing because huge amounts of dye came out of it.

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The next step is to get hold of lining, piping, nerves of steel and huge amounts of tea and start making. That might be next weekend’s project…

And so to old books….

Tomorrow, I’m taking part in a short film about the University of Roehampton’s brand new collection of very old children’s books. The film will be part of our big announcement about the collection and I’ve a blog piece all about it ready to post as soon as I get the go-ahead!

In the meantime, here’s a sneaky peek of the collection:

Some day I will sit in the archive wearing my Victorian jacket and telling everyone who strays within earshot about my research. And because of my mighty sleeves and exquisite piping details, they won’t be able to get away.  It will happen. Soon.

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#loveyourblog challenge: Ugly – a work in progress

love your blog creativity challenge with A Playful Day 1

This week’s theme for A Playful Day’s Love Your Blog Challenge is “ugly”.  It got me thinking about how ugly gets sidelined in favour of beauty.  Beauty is lovely.  Beauty got itself connected with truth and honesty and all kinds of great stuff. We like beauty – we stick pictures of pretty things on Pinterest and make sure we only upload the more flattering photos of ourselves to social media sites, and post nice pictures of perfectly finished craft projects.

I’m guilty of this.  We’re all a little too guilty of this.

So today I’m going to share all kinds of ugly. Specifically, my sad attempts at learning how to make bobbin lace.

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Karl got me a lace-making kit for Christmas.  I had visions of me sitting pertly upright, making perfect, snowy drifts of lace. There would be classical music.  And a soft-voiced person would read excerpts of charming Victorian novels to me as I worked. I would be like this lady only more elegant and less squinted. And with better hair.

Vermeer's Lacemaker

Vermeer’s Lacemaker

And for once in my crafting life, I was sensible.  I decided to made the lace flower described in the kit and not go all ambitious dilettante like I normally do with craft projects.[1]

The first piece of lace I made was a piece of cake.  A little finicky to get started, certainly, but I got the hang of it easily enough.  One pair of workers, four pairs of passives, same stitch across and back, over and over.  Simple.  OK, it doesn’t look like much but I think it’s a pretty passable sepal for the flower.

tada! Lace sepal!

Tada! Lace sepal! Obviously will trim ends before wearing…

The next piece of lace I attempted was…well…see for yourself.

Disaster

Disaster

It’s a hot mess. I don’t know if lace-makers have an equivalent of the knitters’ term ‘frogging’.  But I frogged this.  Over and over.  Five times I got about four lines into it, got hopelessly tangled, pulled out the pins and then spent the guts of an hour trying to find which bit of thread belonged to which bobbin.[2]

Ugh.

After industrial amounts of tea and television, I felt like I might be able to face the lace again.

This sixth (seventh?) attempt is better – a little – the top edge of this piece is still really, really ugly.  All I can see are the mistakes.

But I’m going to finish my ugly flower and make it into a brooch.  Maybe the finished thing will be more than the sum of its parts. Maybe it won’t. But that’s OK too. Because lovely isn’t everything.

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[1] I’m the kind of fool who goes straight to the back of the ‘learn to…’ books to get to the good stuff.  None of those boring beginner’s projects for me, no ma’am.

[2] No exaggeration, the neighbours will attest to the violence and volume of the swearing…