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Xerea dress – tick!

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I’ve been observing the Pauline Alice Xerea dresses popping up thither and yon, and I have been specially taken with Meggipeg’s versions (here and here), as well as the gorgeous chevron one on Pauline Alice’s web site. Most of the versions I’ve looked at seem to be made from a heavy knit style fabric, so when the time came for me to make mine, I selected some knit fabric. And then I read the instructions, and they call for a light to mid weight woven fabric. Back to the drawing board.

I burrowed in my stash and found this wool flannel that I bought at Astratex in Melbourne a few years ago.

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It is lovely – light, but warm. I made view A, which doesn’t have the inverted pleat at the front.

One of my favourite components on this dress is that v-neck at the back, although it’s a bit draughty in the chilly weather!

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I’m also partial to the princess seams and pockets, and of course, that sixties vibe!DSC04971-2

I lengthened the sleeves to accommodate the wintry weather, and made bias binding from the fabric for the neckline. I did fiddle quite a bit to get the V to meet at the back and did a passable job. I also lengthened the dress by 6cm, and would have gone a bit more except I thought the balance of the dress might be affected, and of course, as a nod to the sixties.

I’ve worn this dress a couple of times now and have the perfect pink shoes to go with it. Here is an exceedingly dodgy photo showing pink shoes!

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The verdict: A fabulous all seasons pattern, which I think will be a go-to dress as spring appears. I am looking forward to making some summer versions. The front and back yokes and side panels make this dress ideal for colour blocking or for using up largish pieces of leftover fabric. And yes, I am going to make one from knit fabric!

Jumper for him from Molly the alpaca and a vintage pattern

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A couple of months ago I bought this book in an op-shop for 20cents and fell in love with so many patterns. The patterns range from the 1920s to the 1980s, and yes, there is a knitted swimsuit in there! BTW does anyone recognise the model on the front cover?

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yep, it’s Andie MacDowell, apparently she modelled for Vogue before taking up acting.

Anyway, I bought some wool from The Fibre of the Gods who not only grow their own alpaca wool, but also have a processing mill. My wool came from Molly and I love the fact that she features on the band. This fact becomes important later in my post.Molly

I initially bought the wool for my One Year One Outfit mission, but then had the brown crisis so decided to knit a jumper for Mark and found this 1957 pattern in the above-mentioned book.

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I do love Aran jumpers. The cabling and raised stitches make the fabric much thicker and therefore warmer. So, this jumper is light but very warm. I also love knitting cables as they give me something to think about when I’m a passenger in the car or watching television. Whilst I don’t mind mindless knitting, my threshold for boredom is pretty low, and that’s why I have a knitting machine (or four) in my stable (see knitted trousers).

I was busy knitting away and realised that I was going to be about 30g short of wool. I emailed Hazel from the Fibre of the Gods for more Molly and she informed me that she didn’t have any more. Mild panic ensued and she scoured the known universe and tracked down a ball sold to another customer, so the crisis was averted and I was able to finish the jumper.

I am pretty good at doing tension gauges when I knit, but for some reason I doubted the one I did for this jumper and went for slightly bigger needles with the result that I think Mark’s jumper is too big for him.

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He of course denied it, but I could tell that it wasn’t comfortable by the way he adjusted the neckline. So, I have managed to convince him to give it to me for “tweaking”, which means that I am pulling it apart and reworking the entire thing, making it smaller and reducing the width of the neckline. This means that the extra ball of wool I had Hazel track down was completely unnecessary.

I am not done with this jumper yet!

Knitting trousers,

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I have to say at the outset that the prospect of knitting trousers filled me with a certain ’70s nostalgia, as well as dread, but I really wanted to experiment with cut-and-sew, and trousers seemed to be a good choice.

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I let the natural roll of the knitting finish off the trouser cuffs, but might do a finished hem on the next pair.

In terms of construction, the fabric was machine knitted. I simply did a tension gauge and worked out how long and how wide to make each leg, and then knitted four of them. Once I got going, each leg took about 30 minutes to knit, and Megan from meggipeg knitted one of the legs whilst I knitted her a waistband for her skirt. Seemed like a fair trade. The idea for the trousers came from Sarah at Workspace-FADS, who managed to magic up a pair from thin air for me to try on and then we reverse engineered a pattern from them. The fit is so good that I am going to make some from cotton/lycra to wear for exercising.

Soo, once the legs were knitted, I laid the pattern on them, being careful to have two pairs of legs, cut them out and whipped them up on the overlocker. There seems to be a bit of consternation about cutting knitted fabric, but once it’s been steamed and blocked it tends not to unravel as it felts slightly. Mind you, I was pretty quick with the overlocking :). It is worth mentioning that I could have fully fashioned these trousers, which means making all the increases and decreases on the knitting machine. I considered this, but only briefly. There is a lot more working out to be done and I really like the idea of cutting a pattern from fabric I’ve knitted myself, and the bonus is that it’s much quicker. I did have some trouble putting the fabric scraps in the bin, but I got there in the end!

As I’m going to make a pair of these trousers for my One Year One Outfit challenge, I need a way to hold them up without the aid of zips or other manufactured fastenings. To experiment I knitted a ribbed band and sewed it round the top of the trousers. This successfully held them up all day, even as I dashed about avoiding the rain.

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I wore these trousers all day to see what the issues might be. Would they go baggy at the knee? Would they “seat”? Would they grow? Well, the answer is no to the first two questions, but they did grow a smidgen, so I will make the next pair shorter.

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I also had no idea what to wear with these trousers, so put them on with what I was already wearing, which wasn’t ideal. I will find myself a long tunic for the next time I wear them, and I will wear them again as they were remarkably comfortable and the itch factor was surprisingly absent, given that I’m not convinced that it’s merino.

It is a shame that I couldn’t use these trousers for my One Year One Outfit challenge, but the wool came from the now defunct Yarra Falls Mill in Victoria, so it wasn’t eligible. No matter, I am treating these as my toile, and I whipped them up on the overlocker instead of hand stitching every bit, so there is an upside.

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Just on the Yarra Falls Mill, it was in Abbotsford, Victoria and only closed in 1998. It also processed cotton and silk and was a major employer in the area. It does make me sad to see our industries close down and I am so glad to have a few cones of wool from this mill.

The details: Trousers are copied from some RTW knitted trousers, and the fabric is machine knitted and then constructed with the “cut and sew” method.

I have teamed them with my blue Nettie and a hand knitted Endless Knitted Cardi Shawl by Stitch Diva, which can be worn in a number of ways, two of which are demonstrated here.

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As I seemed to be having a ’70s moment, I thought it would be fun to team the trousers with my sheepskin jacket, which is also from the ’70s.

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Felt, felt, everywhere and not a bit to wear*

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I’ve been felting furiously for my One Year One Outfit challenge, but I have yet to complete a garment. I did make a jumper earlier but decided that it was totally frumpsville when combined with the other felt I was producing. I was going to look rather, um, brown. I consulted with Megan from meggipeg and we had a good snigger at my appearance. Soooo, it was back to the drawing board.

I have been reading tutorials and blogs, having lessons, watching demonstrations, and have finally developed my own, rather eclectic approach to felting. I went to the local craft show at the weekend and saw some of the felt outfits produced for display, and felt both overwhelmed and inspired. I took some photographs, but as I don’t have permission from the owners of the garments, I decided not to put them up here, which is a shame as some of the clothes were amazing.

I began my new batch of felting – this time in pristine white, outside … when it was raining. Nothing stops me when I want to get something done, hehe!

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Being outside brings its own challenges. Felting with wet hands is tricky – the wool sticks. Then, a puff of wind and the garden looks like a demented Persian cat has run amok. This happened a couple of times and I found wool in strange places for a few weeks. Please note the vinyl apron – not sure what I thought this was going to do for me!

As winter set in I had to relocate to the garage and the table tennis table. The problem with this is that (a) the table is quite low, so tough on the back, (b) Archie kept telling me that I couldn’t put any lateral force on it, which is tricky when felting, and (c) I struggled to put any pressure on the felt in the middle of the table because it’s so wide. I did produce a large piece of felt but it is disappointingly uneven (don’t worry, it won’t be wasted, I have plans). I had a quick discussion with Archie and he built me a felting table – go Archie!

He used a workbench that he  built when he was in Year 9. It’s got a wheel for manoeuvrability and normally sits under the fixed workbench when not in use.

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To this he added some formwork plywood

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and screwed it down for stability

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It is brilliant. I can lay the wool out straight onto the plywood as it is shiny, clean and waterproof. How soft and cloudlike does it look?

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Then I made an amazing discovery in Bunnings. I found an attachment for the watering can which finely sprinkles water evenly across the whole table. Look, there’s no water on the floor!

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This is so much easier than me flinging water around with my hands, which I have been known to do! Here is a close up of the device. I also now have a pump sprayer for the fine mist. Please note that I did initially put plastic down until Archie questioned me. It is so much easier without plastic sheeting.

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This whole setup has made a massive difference to my felting output. I had never felted before this challenge, so I’ve had quite a steep learning curve. I have managed to get quite thick, sturdy pieces together but now I have produced some fine felting with hopefully enough drape for one of my garments. Here is a piece, still wet and not smoothed out yet. It turned out to be quite nice.

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I’ve also learned how to do cobweb felting, thanks to Sarah from Workspace FADS. It is all in the laying out. This is my sort of felting – messy!

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I have learned a few things on my felting journey:

  • Solid, thick felt does not like being dry felted to other felt
  • Extreme care has to be taken to keep the felt clean – don’t take it camping!
  • Dirty felt can be washed
  • Felt is a really forgiving fabric. If it’s not completely felted, more felt can be added (carefully!) to cover weak spots.
  • Felting takes time and patience, plan to have at least a couple of hours and minimal interruptions
  • Size does matter! Try to work out how big your piece needs to be and add about 30%. Wool for felting is cheap, but it is labour intensive so you don’t want too much excess and you certainly don’t want the piece to be too small.
  • You need to do more teasing than a sixties hairdresser
  • I love the smell when felting – eau de sheep
  • Making felt is fun!

And here is my felt mountain! There is a wide variety of felt in here, but not one item of clothing yet!

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This is going to be an interesting outfit! Keep in mind that it all has to be handsewn, which is not my forte

PS: Before anyone asks I don’t have a piece of purple felt lurking in the stash, it is simply a shadow on brown felt. Shame though…

* My apologies to Samuel Taylor Coleridge for the misquote from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner

1960s shirt in a hurry

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Archie has been trying to engage me in a conversation about a Woodstock themed party he was to attend this weekend, and I confess to feigning interest, having suggested that attendees hadn’t actually worn too much, so it was easy. Then I was unexpectedly free on Friday so I agreed to go op-shopping with him to find something.  Woodstock was held during the summer and we are in the depths of winter, and he wanted to replicate Jimmy Hendrix’s outfit, below. Golly! and Folly!

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Having dragged round a multitude of op shops I finally agreed to make him the shirt (having previously made him tight white jeans he could wear), and I had less than 24 hours to do it, so off we went to Spotlight. I wasn’t taking much notice of the fabric he chose, but after purchasing it I noticed two things: (a) it was swimsuit lycra, and (b) it was the only fabric in the entire store that wasn’t discounted. We had a conversation about whether he would ever wear this shirt again, and he thought not. I decided to make it in such a way that I could reclaim the fabric for me. Luckily it was mostly green, my fave colour!

I thought I would use a shirt pattern from the time, so trawled through my Lutterloh patterns. I chose this one (on the right) as being a vague approximation of Jimmy’s shirt. I think that vague is the right word!! I also like the way the TV is resting on the left hand man’s shoulder. Who remembers those rabbit’s ears?

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Before I started I needed feeding. I asked for chocolate and health nut son said no. So then I asked him to cook me lunch (he cooks, I don’t), and every offering he made was far too healthy, so we bickered for a bit and then he relented and made me a toasted cheese sandwich. Best toasted sandwich I’ve ever eaten! I even love the way he put it on a wooden board instead of a plate.

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Anyway, back to the problem at hand. So how did I do? Not too badly as it turns out. I knocked it out in a couple of hours – I think the sandwich motivated me. Warning: the following photographs show a lot of bare chest because, er,  that is the look.

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I had to replicate the tie and the belt. He managed to buy some sort of dance fabric for the belt!

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He tried it on with his father’s sheepskin jacket from the ’60s. It’s what they would have worn at Woodstock had it been held in the winter! The coat got rejected as not looking right. Silly boy!

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I didn’t finish any of the hems, but I did manage a bit of decent pattern matching!

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So off he went to the party in the middle of a storm, with bare chest and bare feet! I hope it was all worth it…

Details: Pattern is Lutterloh from my 1960s collection. Fabric is swimsuit lycra from Spotlight, with a strip of dance satin for the belt. The jeans are KwikSew 3504. He wasn’t wearing a great deal more than this :)!

I had to put this photo in – he’ll kill me, but it seems to have a Woodstock vibe, if you know what I mean!

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Bubble Bubble toil and trouble

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This phrase came to me because I’ve been dyeing some wool for my One Year One Outfit challenge, and I felt very witchy indeed as I was stirring my cauldron and watching my wool change colour!

[I have since changed the title, and I know I am misquoting William Shakespeare, but if Walt Disney can do it, so can I!]

First up, sourgrass flowers. I am pretending that I am cultivating sourgrass in my garden for this project, but I’m really just too busy lazy to pull them out. I have masses of the plants but no flowers. This sent me on a trip round the neighbourhood, but my neighbours groom their gardens so I was reduced to finding some on a vacant block, which I happily harvested.

I simmered my flowers with some knitted i-cord and some 4ply wool, and the resulting colour is a deep, deep gold. Lovely.

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I had a friend visiting and she needed some yellow wool to mend a teddy’s ear, so we dunked a bit in the pot towards the end of the simmer time, and then I put a piece of white knitting in after we had turned off the gas.

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From left to right: my piece of knitting which spent about five minutes in the cooling liquid. Teddy’s wool. My i-cord and the length of wool.You can see the variation in the colours.

Then Nicki from Thisismoonlight told me about red ink sundew bulbs which dye a bright red. Hmm. I had to google the flowers as I had never heard of them. According to my good friend, Wikipedia, their botanic name is Drosera erythrorhiza and they are a flat, rosetted tuberous, perennial herb. A herb? Well, when I saw the picture I had a conniption. I love these little plants and take photos of them constantly. Here are some in what I call my “fairy dell” at our holiday place. See the little rosettes?

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These plants are quite shy. They hide under leaves and, once I started looking, I found them everywhere. I didn’t have a trowel to use to dig them up, so I started with a chisel. No bulbs. So I went to a shovel. The bulbs are surprisingly deep and remarkably coy. I worked hard – and destroyed quite a few plants – in my attempts to get just a few bulbs. I was careful to minimise the destruction, and harvested from several different locations. The bulbs are orangey red and vary from minuscule to the size of a pea. I started with two bulbs and a short length of wool and got a dried blood colour. Not bright then. I took some bulbs home with me and simmered them up with some lengths of wool (sorry the photo is out of focus, but I only took the one for some reason).

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I used a stainless steel pot instead of the aluminium pot I initially used and the result was quite different. I got a gorgeous dusky pink colour.

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I put a piece of felt in the cooling liquid and zapped it for a minute in the microwave and love that colour too. Here it is with my golden i-cord.

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I have already run out of the gold for my project. Erk! Back to collect more flowers.

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I think I  left too much greenery with the flowers because my wool is more yellow and I need that almost medieval gold for my outfit. Can you see the difference?

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I only need a small amount to finish a little section, so I’ll be back picking flowers again tomorrow for another go. Today’s batch won’t be wasted though, I will find a use for it.

I also had a little experiment with snake vine flowers (Hibbertia scandens) and they do nothing when simmered. Nada. Zip.

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I might have another play with these, but in the meantime I really must start getting an outfit together!

Presto Popover #2

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Having made my first Presto Popover by Savage Coco Patterns, I couldn’t wait to make another one, and had it cut out ready to go very smartly. This one is a plain textured wool blend, so no pattern matching required – what a relief! I bought the fabric at Textile Traders and it is soft and delightful. DSC04862 It took less than an hour to make – after I had cut it out. The cutting out was rather stressful as I only had 1.1m of fabric and it needs about 1.5. However, I laid each piece on the fabric and drew round the pattern ensuring that I could fit the whole thing on, so this took time. It makes a huge difference when one is short of fabric to do the cutting out in this way. DSC04864 Having teamed the top with trousers, I thought I would wear it with a skirt and add a belt. DSC04841 The belt is fabric, shaped to my waist, with a wrap tie. The wide part meets at the back, and it ties in the front. DSC04844 I have worn the collar both standing up and folded over, but this fabric is very soft and I think it looks better folded. In this photo I seem to have a bit of both going on! DSC04840

I didn’t get so much underarm wrinkling in this version, which may be because the fabric has a bit more give. I feel a third Presto Popover coming on, but this time I am going to do a sway back adjustment, add about 15cm to the length and add a smidgen to the arm length. These are the perfect tops for mild days in (Perth’s) winter or for trans-seasonal weather. I have teamed this grey one with my grey Nettie.

[Later Update] I’ve had a couple of requests regarding my skirt. It is quite a fine boiled merino wool, and it is several years old (with the odd moth hole!). I don’t have a pattern for it any more, but it has four gores – 2 which are 13cm at the top and 43cm at the bottom, and two which are 26cm at the top at 64cm at the bottom . All panels are cut on the bias, and the hem is distinctly uneven (remember that trend?).

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It is very hard to see with the black, but you can see that every panel is cut on an angle at the bottom.

The seams are done with flat locking, which I used to be good at, but seem to have lost the knack now, and the hem is finished with a three-thread overlock. It has an elastic waistband, which is quite fitted, so no gathering. I have long wanted to make another of these skirts, so the interest in it has pushed me over the edge. I shall rub off a pattern and will try and publish it on the blog. I am going to have to scour the known universe for some similar fabric.

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