Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Knit-along #2

Before I got started I wanted to make some slippers for friends. What is nice about knitting for others is that you get to use colours that are not your own ideal shades. Orange, or pea green for example. Both these colours make me look a bit unwell. Fine for slippers of course, but I prefer the blue and pink ones…I love these vintage slippers – such a clever and elegant pattern.

OK Knitalongers, let’s get started!

Now we have got our yarns chosen and have a good idea of our gauge, we can cast on for the body piece. This is a simple formulae – your personal gauge [with these needles and this yarn] (say 4.5 per inch) multiplied by the circumference of the chest on your favourite sweater (say 34″ for me) = 153. Obviously different numbers if you are young,  modern or European in which case it is centimetres. That is it. Historically I have done between 140 and 200 stitches depending on what weight of yarn or needle sizes I am using. Mrs Z says 200 is always a good number, and I think she is right, but best to get your own number.

Obviously if you are using DK or four ply this will affect the number of stitches. Similarly on needle size. So that is why a swatch is essential. I usually make a guess and start with a sleeve as if I get it right I can carry on, but I am keen to tell you the proper way here. So make a swatch! Please.

What have I done this (busy, book launch) week?

Well, I said green, and this is what I have;

Green cashmere
Mixture of green yarns

You can probably see that we have a two ply (top horizontal cone) and a double knit (right hand vertical cone) and a mixture in between (mostly four plys). Probably not the ideal combination but I think I can mix and match. Such lovely shades, don’t you think? The little bit of pink is my last supply of bright pink so I will use it sparingly, but I wanted it to set off the greens. I will add a bit of grey, and maybe some mauve I have too, just to liven it up.

My inspiration would be malachite!

Zaire Malachite (Wikipedia)

How to start?

You can do your border first – using ribbing, or moss stitch, or a few rows of garter stitch. All of these methods creates a stable edge to stop your stocking stitch from rolling. But you may like a rolled edge. Or you may wish to create a hem. Choice is yours. If you are hankering for specific instructions you will not like the Zimmermann approach. It is always up to you. Personally I find this freeing, and it starts you designing your sweater rather than slavish following.

Or you can leave the border decision until much later. You can add hems in particular, or any of these finishes at the end (and I will show you how). However I have found that if you are going to do ribbing it makes sense to do this at the start. The ribbing added later is not as stretchy and there is a seam that you could do without.

Helene suggests provisional cast on so you can decide later on lengthening your jumper. I tried provisional cast on once and found it a bit like hard work. But there you go – these are the options for making a start.

Let us cast on and do our border, or just launch into the body tube. For tube it is. We are going to knit one big tube for the body and two smaller tubes for the arms, and then join them just like we did with the colourful yoke sweater. If you have made one of these before you can just rush on to that point if you wish.

Otherwise do your rows of ribbing, for as many rounds as you like – I have done about 3cms. Use a marker for the beginning of the row. If you are a bigger you may want more ribbing; smaller, less. On commercial patterns they suggest using a smaller needle (.5 or .25 less) for your ribbing. If you have lots of needles you may want to do this. Or you could start with a smaller number of stitches, say 10 per cent less stitches and then increase in a regular way to reach your starting number. Either approach will make your border a little neater and slightly tighter. But I don’t bother.

Then you get the marker and you start knitting your jumper. Round and round you go. If you are changing colour frequently to create the stripes you need to decide on how you are going to join your colours. I will be using a knot, but there may well be better ways and we will wait to find out in the comments below.

Making a start on the body
Knitting stripes, using knots and not correcting for jogs

You can see how the “seam” looks on my knitting. The “jogs” are there but I don’t feel they are too noticeable, and the whole thing will be fine when it is finished and washed.

If you want to read more about this stage my previous EZ knitalong will help.

Please use the comments to ask any questions, give advice or tell us how you are getting on.

PS The slipper pattern is in Making Life more Beautiful.

 

 

EZ Seamless Raglan Knit-along #1

posted in: knitting | 25

Thanks, everyone, who has signed up for the Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless Raglan knitalong. I am very excited by all the participants this year. Knitting together and learning from each other and getting new ideas from others is what this is all about. While I have knitted seven or eight of these sweaters I am still learning, so this is self-help rather than instruction. If in doubt Elizabeth herself will guide you through her lovely book Knitting without Tears.

I hope you have worked out your gauge by now – instruction were provided last week. 

Today we are going to discuss colour and stripes.

Here are some designer items for you to consider.

What do we see? Actually on the whole we have exciting and very novel approaches to colour combining, differential widths of stripe and a few interesting details. Have a look at some well-known fashion houses – many of them have some nice striped jerseys at the moment. You may also notice how terribly expensive these items are, reflecting small runs and an exclusive look. But, ladies, our sweaters will be even more exclusive. We are making made-to-measure one offs. And we have the wonderful advantage of chosing colours that harmonise with our colouring.

Colours that suit your colouring

Apart from a couple of muted colourways I have gone for fairly bright examples here as they tend to suit me better than deeps or lights. Think about choosing a set of colours which go your colouring. If you have black hair maybe choose deep colours, with a few brights thrown in. If you have warm colouring what about greens and orange? And if you have light colouring look for subtle, gentle light colours that almost blend as you knit them. The Pringle monochrome is a nice sweater with its shading from light at the base to deepest green near the face. I would have reversed this arrangement so you have the deeper colour around the hips/waist and the lighter colours over the bust and nearer the face, but if you have a large bust you may want to have the deeper shades at the top.

Colours that work with your wardrobe

A striped sweater is a real wardrobe staple as it can go with so many things. When you choose your colours you can introduce colours you wear often – your best neutrals for example – denim blues, grey, black or brown. Or if you like a contrast with your mainly blue wardrobe include pinks, yellow or orange. For me green is a colour I am a bit low on, so I am going towards green this time.

One of my previous seamless Raglan striped sweaters features neutral colours – greys and beige, with a little light pink, lemon and white. This has proved to be a very nice, versatile item. The shades also harmonise well with my hair that includes  beige, blonde and grey and silver. Although I generally like to wear colour in my jumpers this neutral colour scheme is a keeper and I am surprised that it is often complemented. I think it is quiet but a bit different – and compared to a plain grey or beige sweater it does have a bit of excitement.

Beiges

I made one in gray cashmere (you can see this is a try on picture as the underarms are not yet sewn and it is paired with running shorts…). I actually lengthened this with ribbing later on, but you can see how one colour can work well with stripes. I really like wearing this sweater as the cashmere yarn is so very soft it feels marvellous and warm.

Grey #EZRaglanKAL

My third version is much more colourful. I used whatever I had for this one, with grey and beige playing their part. It includes quite a few blues and greens, deeper reds and purple too, so it works well with lots of my skirts, especially a deep red corduroy one I have, and navy.

Stronger colours

I also made a couple of these with an ombre look which might appeal to you. This is easily achieved by using an variegated yarn, or just doing slightly more subtle stripes. The bright pink was a plain yarn, and the rest of the jersey uses the variegated yarn. I have a small amount of the bright pink left and am thinking of using this up with my green yarns this time.

Elizabeth Zimmerman raglan
Zimmermann raglan sweater

What colours to mix together

While I have made suggestions on tending to stick to one colour scheme, there is also the issue of how you balance and blend colours together. I like to mix neutrals in. I find colour after colour can be a bit tiring, whereas when you add some neutrals it helps the colourful colours along. Some neutrals can really make other colours stand out – particularly if you chose white or black consistently. Helene is planning on brights against black, and recently Helen used rainbow colours against white. These are both the most effective backdrops for the clear colours. But if your colours are a bit softer or mixed then grey or beige will be easier. My stronger colour jumper above has beige, grey, and a few pastel colours in.

Using what you have

And then there is economy and using up what you have. I was sort of following this principle with all my jerseys so far, but when I was buying I had this idea in my mind. I think you can mix just about any colour with any colour, but if you stick with one palette eg deeper, or cool, or muted colours, you will get a harmonious look. In my stronger colour jumper all the shades I have are cool (with a blue undertone), or they are neutrals which go with anything.

Stripe size and placement

I tend to stick to two to six rows. This means my stripes are fairly narrow, but also varied. You can do this too, or use larger stripes, or stick to smaller ones. Generally if you are larger you will suit a bigger stripe, and vice versa. If you are making for a child or a man, bear scale in mind. Also look at what the designers have done. I would steer clear of an obvious pattern like four rows of navy, followed by four rows of white, ad nauseam. This will look like RTW and is more boring to knit. BUT the choice is yours, of course.

How to join your colours

This is a tricky one. I have tried all the techniques and I do get a bit of looseness around the interchange. In the end I do the simplest thing and knot the two colours together. The other method seems to be to knit one or more stitches that include both colours. I don’t have a brilliant solution here, so I will wait to see if anyone can suggest a better method.

The issue of “jogs” will irritate some of you. The method that Helene showed me involves slipping the first stitch on the second row of the new colour. I think this is very neat and you could try this. Personally I don’t care about jogs.

What colours are you planning to use? Any colour, sizing or gauge questions?

And any tips on joining your yarns?

 

Seamless Raglan Knit-along – Introduction

posted in: knitting | 28

It’s June already. Lovely summer weather in the UK makes thinking of a knitted sweater a little challenging. But you know it won’t last.

Who is in?

As Karen wrote “Bringing the world together through knitting”. What a nice thought as we gather to knit the same thing, in completely different styles, colours and sizes. I am pretty sure we have people in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and UK – probably other places. So far the following knitters (four joined me last year) have said they are keen:

 

  • Chris
  • Cynthia
  • Geo
  • Giorgia
  • Helene
  • Hila
  • Karen
  • Kerry
  • Kim
  • Michelle R
  • Michelle S
  • Nadia
  • Sue S
  • Susan W

 

Maybe some will drop out, and maybe some will join in, but a dozen or so is a good number. (with Geo and Helene now added!)

If you have already completed one or more Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless colourful yoke sweaters this project is very easy as it follows on in a logical way. If not, don’t worry. It is a straight forward project suitable for a beginner.

If you want to do the yoke instead here are the instructions.

Now I am going to assume that most of us are going for stripes! That is because this jumper just looks lovely in stripes and it is nice and eco-friendly to use up small pieces of yarn. I always feel sad when I waste yarn or silk, feeling the animal has worked hard to create the product and we just throw it away. Silly sentimental feeling for silk worms (who of course usually perish) and sheep who are probably glad to lose all that hot fleece. But I hope there are a couple of knitters who go with plain as it is always interesting to see the variations.

Materials

So, from past experience, you need 500 grams of yarn. I find 300 grams more than enough for me, but I am saying 500 as you don’t want to run out and you may want a really big, baggy one, or you may like a large size. I suggest for quick results double-knit yarn and something like 4.5 to 6mm circular needles. You can also do this in 4 ply and smaller needles, or just about any variation. In this Knit-along we all take responsibility for our own gauge (I will hold your hand if this is a new area for you). Buy or borrow the book if you don’t have it, Knitting without tears, by Elizabeth Zimmermann. But if you can’t get hold of one, don’t worry. You can knit this sweater just through following the blog posts. I will be suggesting a more comfortable and modern neckline you might like to try, and I (or a more experienced knitter) will answer questions as we go along.

#EZRaglanKAL Gather your materials

The yarns I am looking at are the last knockings of some soft DK merino yarn sets I got from Colourmart yarns. I also have some green cashmere in odd bits from the same source. You may already have a colour scheme in mind, but next week we will talk about colours for a striped jumper. I am thinking green this time as it is such a good colour to go with my wardrobe. Now might be a good time to see if you have yarns you can use up. The received wisdom appears to be to stick to one fibre content eg merino, alpaca, cotton, silk, acrylic, or of course a mixture.

If you are itching to get started, work out your gauge. I will reproduce my instructions from the last KAL.

Guage

  1. You can check the gauge by using say 5mm needles and DK yarn; or say 3.5mm needles and 4 ply yarn. This is just a suggestion – you do have to make your own mind up, or use what you have! Cast on say 20 stitches and knit in stocking stitch for say 20 rows. Then measure one inch or 2.5cms across and count how many stitches are included in this length. It is likely to be a whole number and a part of a number eg 4.25. This is the figure you multiply by your chest/bust circumference measurement to find out how many stitches you need to cast on. The width is the most important measurement – depth is not as important as will be measuring the length of the jersey with your tape measure, or against your body, as you go along, rather than counting rows.
  2. Now you know how many stitches you need to cast on for the body. For me (s8 UK), with my personal knitting tension, I have used 160 stitches for DK and 200 stitches for the four ply. This is just a point of reference – you may be smaller or bigger, and knit tighter or looser. The other casting on you do is for the sleeves and the number of stitches is a percentage of your first cast on number for the body ie 160 or 200 in my case. I will explain this as we go.
Striped knitting
Striped sleeve

I will be back next Saturday to discuss colour and stripes before we begin to knit. Do ask any gauge, sizing or fitting questions at this point – or anything else you would like to know.

Royal Wedding

posted in: Style advice | 14

I have held off from writing this post as I didn’t have time to watch the wedding. But a few people have asked for my opinion. Well Claire has. So this post is for you Claire.

Overall I was a little disappointed. Here were the rich, the glamorous, the famous, the international, and yet. To my eye it all looked a little dated and predictable. Images from The Kit. 

Full disclosure – I am not keen on fascinators, preferring a proper hat. Not many were worn, which was a great shame. I also feel the long midi dresses that dominated the wedding were not the best length for all. Just above, on or just below the knee is a better look for many figures. I think summer weddings are just the moment for a nice summer dress – I love florals – and slightly informal shoes rather than spikes. A vintage summer hat that looks like it could protect you from the sun is preferable, or for something smaller perhaps a hair band with fresh flowers.

Let’s start with the dresses I liked. These three were successful because the wearer looked comfortable and pretty. They suited what they wore. All three are nice dresses and the hats were complementary. I love the green worn by Kitty Spencer. It is a nice, A line shape and the orange heels and little bag complement the painted flowers. The neat hat works well. Her cool blonde hair and silver jewellery looks nice too, and the wide neckline is flattering and stops the Dolce and Gabbana dress looking dowdy. I would have made it a shorter and perhaps used pinks rather than orange, but otherwise very nice. I think Sofia looks really great. The blonde colours in her dress, with pretty floral reds, blues and yellow really suit her colouring. The fascinator is a good colour with the dress and I like the black shoes which give an edge. And Jacinda’s deep maroon dress is a winner for me. It really looks lovely with that above the bust triangle, and the interesting shaped sleeves. I like the little hat too with just enough trimming to lift it above ordinary, and the nice brooch and simple black shoes. As she is quite fair I think brighter, lighter accessories might have been more interesting, even silver. But this elegant shaped dress with lovely pleating and shaping is very attractive.

Now let’s look at some maybes. Princess Eugenie is wearing a nice sixties inspired dress with a sort-of pill box hat. She has got shapely legs and this length is OK on her. While I like the overall shape and colour of the dress it emphasises the bust a bit too much. She would be better with a lower or V-shaped neck. The bag isn’t quite right either. I like Cressida’s dress, in pink and green stripes, with dangly bits and surface detail, and think the light coloured shoes look good too, and the restrained fascinator.  It is a nice shape for her figure, but maybe it is just not quite special enough. Joss Stone looks grand in her light short dress and bouffant headdress. I really like the shape and length of this dress, but I dislike the black accessories which are just too heavy. Dark green or light navy would have looked better, or brown.

Finally let’s get to the not so good looks. The men are much more successful I would say. Caroline has chosen a nice colour but it just looks messy with all the ruffles, cut out shoulders, flounces and layers, the matching hat and shoes, sunglasses, fluffy hair and bag. Too frilly, too much going on. Giada has got a great figure and this shade of ice turquoise does flatter her nice deep colouring. But again it is messy and the coat is baggy and unflattering. It looks like she is just nipping out to the shops. If she had taken her coat off it may have been a big improvement. While black shoes are not the best wedding colour here I think they would have done something to ground the outfit. The hat is fussy with her long hair. Pippa just looks “meh”. The sludgy pastels just look too ordinary. She has strong, deeper colouring and I think a more fashionable dress in a stronger colour – red or orange for example, would have set her off better. The hat looks a bit like a cake.

Finally, here comes the bride. I am a big fan of Meghan. But I was a little disappointed, to tell the truth. The dress was too simple for me, and the fit was off. I loved the fabric and the purity of the whiteness. Darted from bust point, and with an off the shoulder Raglan sleeve, I just found it nice, but too ordinary. I didn’t love the tiara, nor the hair style. I loved the sentiment of the veil and Meghan looked sublime lit by the sun when she entered the church. I may be going out on a limb here but no.

The evening dress was better in terms of its shape, and the bloke looks great. But I wonder why she went for another long white dress? I would have chosen a deeper colour. Also, while halter necks are a good look for women with straight bodies (like Meghan and Harry’s Mum Diana) I thought her shoulders looked wide in this Stella McCartney dress. It does fit really nicely and I love the drape over the hips and the full skirt. Very elegant.

 

And best dressed? That would be Amal. In another Stella McCartney number this dress was spot on. A great, strong colour that complemented Amal’s deep colouring, a great shape for her figure with just enough detail, including a swishy train, a nice hat that works well with her long hair, and discrete accessories.

Amal Clooney

 

What do you think?

Book launch events

posted in: Book writing | 14

This weekend is the last push. I am doing the final edit, check of the design, knitting a pair of slippers and making a skirt (don’t ask!), last minute photographs (including re-doing some of them, again don’t ask), checking the colour and details and proof reading the text (another area of difficulty. You would not believe the debate on how many commas are appropriate we have been having). But there you go! No-one said it would be easy.

But it is close to done and then I can look forward to the party!

I know not everyone can come to the launch of my book – it’s in London and its a Thursday, and some of my friends are on holiday or have commitments. It’s the first anniversary of Grenfell and a number of my friends will be involved in special events in our area. it is a big day for me and I am very grateful so many have decided to come along. If you are still thinking about it, or even if you are not able to attend “in person” I thought I would publish the programme so you can see what is on offer.

Here are the details of the event.

I have finally tied down the programme for the launch, which maybe of interest. I am very grateful to my friends, especially other bloggers Giorgia of One Stitch Forward and Marijana of Sew2Pro, who are getting involved in the festivities.

Making Life more Beautiful 14 June 2018

6pm arrivals

  • Pick up or buy your book, with a personal dedication if you would like one
  • Get a drink – wine, water, juice, tea or coffee
  • Enjoy the garden if the sun is shining
  • Food – Iraqui buns (spinach and feta), Samosas (potato and pea) and snacks, home made chocolate cake and lemon buns
  • Music
  • Meet the bloggers, sewists, knitters, international visitors, and my family

6.30 Speeches

  • Gus (Master of Ceremonies)
  • Kate – why I wrote the book and thank yous
  • Response (to be confirmed)

6.45 Colour consultation

Recently qualified Giorgia of One Stitch Forward will demonstrate a professional colour analysis  – model selected on the night

Giorgia

 

7.15 Workshops

Use your Gele with Remi

How to select and wear a Nigerian Head tie with Oluremi (on the right)

Farhana on Making the most of your eyes

Make up artist Farhana shows you how to use the right colours to enhance your eyes.

Farhana

Lyla’s session on how to make slime

Lyla, with her Mum

Eight year old expert Lyla shows you how. This is surprisingly addictive and fun to play with. Lyla will provide materials, colour choices and small pots so you can take your slime home with you.

Paper crafts with Marijana and Nhi

 

Marijana and Nhi introduce you to Origami (using techniques Marijana first perfected with the Brownies), and show you how to use Indian wood prints to make your own wrapping paper. You will be able to wrap a copy of the book as a present and make an origami card!

Meanwhile

  • Mingle and Network
  • Visit the selfie booth. Photograph yourself with our colour boards and decide which colour direction suits you best.
  • Use the hashtags to share your photographs
    • #fabrickatedbook #truecolours #makinglifemorebeautiful
  • Eat some more food

8.15 Workshops close

Final thank yous

And finally if you cannot come in person I will be sending out books on the same day. I will post anywhere in the world, and apologise in advance at the price of postage. It is free in the UK and I have knocked a similar amount off the international prices, to be as fair as possible. I do hope you will consider getting a copy. It is fairly short, tightly written, very colourful, somewhat original and I think it expresses what many people like about the blog – authenticity, style, the friendship and support of the sewing community, diversity, celebration, experimentation, being happy in our own skins, and a fascination with making beautiful things. It is also useful in helping you determine your own colour palette and shape. Here is the link which is now working.

 

 

 

What about a Seamless Raglan Knit a long?

Last July I organised a Knit A Long! It was a crazy idea really as I was still very new to knitting and I hardly knew what was involved. But I loved this particular jumper and I was keen to show others how beautifully simple it was to make one.

The Elizabeth Zimmerman seamless colourful yoke sweater
The Elizabeth Zimmerman seamless colourful yoke sweater

About 12 of us got involved all over the world – some very experienced knitters, and some almost complete beginners. And every week for six weeks I explained how to make the jumper, so that in six weeks most of us had a nice, wearable sweater. And some took a little bit longer. And quite a few went on to do another one.

I have since raised the possibility of creating an Elizabeth Zimmermann New Zealand sweater which has a very nice construction. The body is knitted in stocking stitch in the round, then the work divides and the upper part is knitted in garter stitch. The sleeves are created by picking up stitches and I knitted them using the magic loop method. I used Kitchener stitch for the shoulders, and there are some short rows involved that I have not perfected yet, but I am improving.

EZ New Zealand sweater
The Elizabeth Zimmerman New Zealand sweater

I have made this up as a sleeveless sweater too, and it worked out well. But when I tried it for my husband in a chunky yarn I was disappointed with it, so I pulled it out and went for the seamless raglan.

Let me make the case for the seamless raglan so you can think about joining in with another cheeky Knit A Long. Here is the inspiration photograph supplied by Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Sweater
Elizabeth Zimmermann Seamless Raglan Sweater

To be frank, although she is great knitter, this doesn’t do anything for me. In fact I only tried it because I wanted to do a striped sweater. All my seamless raglans have been striped. I have two good reasons for doing a striped sweater.

  1. Firstly why knit a plain sweater, say in red, when the market place can supply millions of plain red tops? Stripes of different reds, or combining two or three colours are so much more interesting. And individual. And you can use up left over yarn or buy odd balls in charity shops and make something sensational. Here are a couple of my striped raglans. I particularly like the way the stripes sort of go a bit square at the shoulders. The yellow stripe and the blue one give a very nice bit of definition I think.

2. The method of decreasing creates a false “seam” on the raglan line. While I would not generally make a raglan as it is not my best shape in a tailored garment, with this method the shoulder is very soft and flattering.  The sleeve is made in the same way as with the yoke sweater and the fake seam is not nobbly or annoying. There is some jiggery pockery in shaping the neckline, and if I might suggest it I think mine looks a lot nicer with a slight boat-shaped neck rather than the tiny neck hole which looks itchy and tight to me on the original.

So, arrogant beginner that I am, I believe I have taken a very wonderful idea from Mrs Zimmermann and improved it. I feel sure she would be entirely happy with my changes as she was a hugely community minded knitter who encouraged us to do our own thing.

Finally I know knitting in summer (UK centric that I am) is a bit crazy, but that means you have a jumper ready for autumn. Also these are little jumpers, the sort of thing I would wear in summer, as I have been doing. These shots are from Me Made May as it happens. They are nice over underwear or a slip, but of course you can wear a T-shirt or shirt underneath. I like a long-sleeved T so there is another layer of colour coming out from the very slightly too short sleeves.

Anyone up for a EZ Raglan KAL? I want a green one (striped). I won’t judge if you want a plain one. Or a little neck hole!

I would propose to start in June.

Too busy to blog

I have spent all weekend watching the royal wedding, followed by the football! Weren’t the dresses/hats/goals impressive?

Not.

Actually I have been sitting in the sun with my daughter Charlotte. Wearing linen dresses. Mine by YSL. Charlotte’s by me (with help from Winnie). Books on Chanel and Schiaparelli.

Making life more beautiful
Sunloungers on the roof at Rainshore

 

Not.

We were taking photographs for the book, and Char has been hard at work on the final layout. She is amazing and has been, as my Australian PA Sarah used to say, “head down, bum up”. As she flicks between Indesign and Photoshop I have been running around taking photos of whatever she needs. “I need shoes”. “What sort?” “Flat”. “OK, coming up”.

I have ironed, folded or put on just about everything in my wardrobe. And then tidied, and put away. And made tea. Gallons of it. And then done corrections, and decided on captions, and discussed the openers and the spreads (yes I thought these were kitchen words, but it is all learning). I think you will be pleased with the outcome. It really is starting to look professional thanks to Charlotte.

Mainly we have been eating amazing food, but that is what happens when you put Nick and guests together. All of the meals have been outside on the balcony, which has been so very enjoyable.

Bircher museli
Bircher muesli for Breakfast

Better get back to the book now as I have a deadline to meet. We go to print on 30 May. On this blog you can pre-order the book, and if you are in the UK I will pay the postage and packing. Sending the book to Australia and US/Canada is really expensive so I am sure that will put most of you off. You are welcome to collect in person! Or get it sent free to a friend in the UK and maybe they can bring it over when they come. Anyway I am sorry about that. I would appreciate pre-orders just to get a sense of how many I should order from the printer. That is one of the topics of the day!

Also party plans are coming along. Just to remind you that you are most welcome to the book launch in London on 14 June. Please do come if you can – I still have plenty of space.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend, whatever you are doing. I am sure the wedding and football were lots of fun.

Charlotte and Ruby

 

Me Made May 2018

I have been participating in Me Made May again. Have you? This great initiative by Zoe of So Zoe encourages people who sew to wear their clothes. Although I have plenty of Me Made clothes I don’t wear them everyday.

This year I asked myself why?

I think the main reason is that they are a bit fancy. For work I tend to wear a “uniform” of trousers, shirt and jacket, with flat shoes. At weekends it is jeans and a long sleeved T and a jumper. Apart from the jumper, and the jacket most of these items are RTW.

Many of my Me Made items are party frocks or dressy items and they are not worn regularly.

So I was interested to see when “forced” by the SWAP rules to make neutrals and rather plainer garments if these items would get worn during Me Made month or not.

Here is my progress so far. I will not go through every day, just some of the “new” outfits I put together for MMM.

Work Old SWAP skirt and EZ jumper
Work – SWAP trousers and EZ jumper
Cold weekend Lorelle jumper with jeans
Sunday Vogue 1955 kids T shirt and self drafted and unironed curvy pencil skirt
Day off “sloper” sweater and sport summer sewathon shorts – self drafted and printed with a pixelated peony print.
Day off EZ sweater inspired by Helmut Lang and pleated skirt based on Sew magazine pattern
Day off Dress made from my Aldridge semi-fitted dress block, based on an old Hobbs dress.

 

I found a few surprising combinations, all of which I enjoyed wearing. At weekends it is easy as anything goes, even too dressy. It is also much easier when the weather is warm. And I have found that even when I wear my work “uniform” I invariably need a sweater and now I have an absolute avalanche of hand knits.

I am on the case with dressing Me Made until the end of the month as I always learn something new. But I am now more and more convinced I have way too many clothes and maybe my next challenge is to go down to four or five interlinked capsules that reflect what I wear the most.

A thought for another day.

Do you wear most of what you make? Or do you stick with a few TNT outfits?

Confessions of a Cushion Cheat

This whole post is a cheat.

Firstly my blog site was blocked yesterday, so I couldn’t post or even open the site.

Secondly this post was written in January and I felt it was a bit lightweight at the time.

Thirdly and far more importantly I have been struggling with the “interior design” of my book. I have laid it out in Indesign not once, not twice, but three times. It has been nerve wracking and disappointing and I have relied on a triumvirate of my son Gus, daughter Charlotte and Justin at work to help me work out, occasionally in person and mainly over the phone, what I am doing wrong and how to rectify it. Hours and hours have gone by. This has allowed me scant time for blogging.

So, following my SWAP photos post, because a couple of people admired my cushions, I figured it would be legit to drag the draft out and publish it today. By the way voting is now in swing for anyone registered on the site. There are some great sets – do go and have a look at Artisans’ Square.

 

Today’s interior fashions are mostly minimalist, supported by a light sludge or slight muds colour schemes. It’s understandable. With our busy, distraction-ridden lives we yearn for peaceful interiors. Additionally, homes are getting smaller and can soon look cluttered.

When we chose our colour scheme at Rainshore we went for grey! Farrow and Ball call these “easy neutrals” and I have to agree. Then, last Christmas, we watched the 2015 Walt Disney/Kenneth Branagh Cinderella (no excuse, the little kids were with their Daddy).

Not only were the clothes absolutely sumptuous (wicked Stepmother and Stepsisters) the interiors are completely over the top and glorious. Lots of pattern, texture and colour. I so enjoyed the riotous clashing and fabulously stylish draping. It is well worth watching if you love clothes and design. The naughty sisters wear gorgeous great knitwear and Cate Blanchett has some of the best hats I have ever seen. To be honest it would be hard to live comfortably in an environment as lively as this.

But we need a bit of excitement and beauty in our homes. Although I hate making household goods with a passion, colourful textiles can make our homes more interesting and personal. In fact if you dress head to toe in navy, maybe having red or yellow in your living room can provide some visual titillation. If it’s a lampshade, a table cloth, curtains or cushions you can change them if they bore or overwhelm you.

I go for cushions every time.

Cushion making
Nice cushions!

Buying lovely ones are expensive, and making them properly is skilled and dull. Here is my cheat.

Buy some inners. I have found cheap polyester ones perfectly OK and you can get packs of six or eight delivered by Amazon.

  1. The key with cushion making is to make the cushion cover smaller than the inner, by as much as 8 cms (3-4cms on each of the four sides). This makes the cushions nice and fat.
  2. Have one edge of the fold so you only need to sew two sides up on your machine.
  3. Press. Trim off the corners and turn the cover right side out and press again, this time folding in the seam allowance on the fourth side.
  4. Stuff the inner cushion in, pin and sew up the final edge by hand with a neat stitch. No zips. Cut open the stitches if they need a wash or if you fancy a change.

Now, I will get back to the book. I have a date with the printer (30 May) to focus my mind.

Do you cheat with cushions?

Would you like to come to my book launch?

I know not everyone can because this is a real life event and it is in London. But if you are based here, or not too far away, then any of my readers, followers or commentators would be very welcome indeed. I have organised the event to be very welcoming for anyone who is on their own and is scared they may not know anyone other than me.

I said what I was thinking about, and having listened to your advice I have more or less gone with the plan.

The launch will be held in Central London, on Thursday 14 June, from 6pm until about 8.30pm. My work is offering our “break out” area which is very nice and airy, with an outside area, decent loos and other facilities. The office is wheelchair accessible.

Kings Cross break out area (it won’t be quite as full as this!)

 

Entry is free with a book which you should be able to buy on the night. A few people think this is cheeky, but I hope you will like the book and find it useful. I will also be (provisionally) offering four workshops on the night

  • Learn to make a granny square
  • Paper crafts – origami greetings cards and printed wrapping paper
  • How to create an African headwrap
  • Making slime with Lyla

In each case you will have something to take home (including the slime!).

Also there will be plenty to eat and drink. Nick, in the guise of “Jack and Mrs Spratt” our jokey catering “brand” (Nick labels his sausages…), is making Iraqi stuffed rolls and maybe something else. Mandy is cooking chocolate and lemon cakes. And there will be wine and soft drinks too.

Music will be on tap, organised by my son Gus who has bought some equipment to make it sound good.

We will be having six “selfie” corners with clothes and other items in each main colour palette so that you can try different looks to see what suits you best, and then we can take a snap on your phone so you can compare the different looks.

I am hoping that one of us can do a mini colour consultation on the night. Alternatively I will offer a full consultation to one of the attendees whose name is pulled out of a hat.

Some of my lovely blogger friends who will be there (I hope!)

Several friends will be acting as hosts to help ensure you have everything you want and will be on hand to introduce you to people that you might like to know, increasing the networking opportunities so you will not feel left out even if you come on your own.

As usual with a book launch there will also be a couple of short speeches, and thank yous, and signing if anyone wants that.

So if you would like to come please follow this link and put your name down.

I do hope you will be able to come and I will do my best to make sure you have a nice evening a chance to meet other people who make life beautiful everyday. Even if you can’t come I will try to make the book special for you. I will have it for sale on this website and on Amazon.

Here is my daughter Charlotte doing the illustrations for the cover.

And no it is not finished yet. I have been busy with work and my SWAP. But now I have a deadline I will have to get it completed. I have the final few photographs planned, then I must finish the layout  and the final edit. Then I need some proof readers and a nimble printer. I’ll let you know how I get on!