Not a natural knitter

A little self-knowledge is a valuable thing and I have come to the conclusion that I am not one of life’s natural knitters. Would that I were.  Oh to effortlessly slip from my needles exquisite lace shawls, historically accurate river ganseys and drawers and drawers of colourful, fine-gauged socks.

I have tried to improve my knitterliness. I attended a day-course where I was, by a few hundred yarny yards, the slowest wielder of the twin pins of doom.  As far as I am concerned the final dropped stitch in the very fabric of my non-knitterness came this week.  I had the urge to create a scarf from these luxurious, rainbow-hued mini skeins.

I took up some needles and

Lumpy, mis-shapen and what do I know about designing a scarf for multi-coloured mini-skeins?  Yet, when I pick up a hook

The first (parquet) stitch-y experiment is a success.

Warming to the theme that it is not just knit necklines that are my nemesis, I present the following:

An adored ensemble.  A crocheted hat, mittens from a pattern by Made in Oxford and a scarf that literally and figuratively had me going around in circles for nearly two years.

Don’t even get me started on this attempt to merge crochet and knit and socks:


Holey heel-y moley!  Heel-y holey moley?

In conclusion, whilst I continue to aspire to knitting proficiency, I fear knitterly excellence might always elude.

By the bye, would you Adam and Eve it, I’ve snuck in another #VintagePledge.  The pattern that I used for my excellent hat appears in my 1981 printing of A Complete Guide to Crochet and it’s brilliant!

Here are the other eight #VintagePledge makes 8, 76, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  xx




Posted in #vintagepledge, crochet, knitting, knitting pattern, Natural Dye Studio, work in progress, yarn | 5 Comments

Goth Gingham

Posting this, I’m as nervous as a Bake Off contestant approaching the Gingham Altar after a particularly gruelling technical challenge.


What will everyone think?  Will it be good enough for The Handshake.  You know, The Hollywood Handshake.  Sure, I start every make hoping to be worthy of such an accolade.  However, as things progress, you reach hurdles of a practical and philosophical nature.

Do I have enough fabric for some pocket improv?

Is gingham really me?


Gah!  There’s a choice to be made between good bum fit and good pattern matching.

Bum Fit

Instead of The Handshake, my sights are lowered to a “It looks a little informal but I bet that it tastes lovely” from Mary.


There is yet more self-doubt.  Have I made the best of that interesting hem feature and the double sided nature of the fabric?

Finally, I begin to doubt the entire escapade.  Checked trousers?  What was I thinking!  All these will be worthy of is a quip from Mel or Sue about how I’m wearing a Goth’s tablecloth.  At least it’ll make my fellow makers smile.  Oh, and I like them!  The trousers that is.  I also like my fellow makers.  In the weird Bake Off/Sewing Bee hybrid that is currently inhabiting my imagination, I’m not that sort of contestant.

In conclusion.  Thank you for organising a Ginghamalong Karen.  I enjoyed the challenge and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what everyone else has made – be they technical, signature or showstopper!

Smallest print:  As a special and exciting bonus for me, these trousers count towards my #VintagePledge2016. This is Make Eight.  Here are makes 76, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Posted in #vintagepledge, self-drafted, Sewing, Simplicity 5631, Vintage, Woman's Realm Special Pattern L147 | 23 Comments

gnome-one has trousers like these


One could argue that gnome-one else would want trousers like these.  But in counter-argument I would say I care not a jot because I like them a lot!

A lot a lot.  I was sooo pleased to see them after the delayed-baggage-debacle.  If only the little garden gnomes could talk they could tell me where they spent those nine nights…  Baggage reclaim, lost luggage, Heathrow, JFK, Boston Logan International ….  I suspect that only the gnomes will ever know what really happened during that week and they have been suspiciously silent on the subject.

The only thing better than garden gnome trousers?  Garden gnome trousers and a matching top.


All the look of an all-in-one without the hassle of totally undressing to take a tinkle.  The top is based on this Betsey Johnson pattern:


Fancy a gnome-y close up?  Fair warning, they are quite enchanting and there are more gnomes that need a home.



I think that’s a pretty neat neckline given that knit necklines are my nemesis.  On this occasion I would like to record…  moderate success. Moderate success by way of a turn under and stick with Prym Wonder Tape, followed by a wide-as-it’ll-go triple step zig-zag.


As you can no doubt tell from my joyful expression, these gnomes make me very happy.  All the more so because they count towards my #vintagepledge.  That’s Pledge Number 7.  Here’s where you can find 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Posted in #vintagepledge, Betsey Johnson, Butterick 3719, jersey, Margo, Sewing, Stretch, Vintage | 7 Comments

Hot Weather Hat – Simplicity 5631 #VintagePledge16


I love the idea of a hat in hot weather.  Something to shade one’s face.  Something to look elegant and sophisticated beneath.

The reality of a hot weather hat is that I can’t get one to stay put.  The merest whisper of the most gentle of on-shore breezes and pooft, my hat is cartwheeling its way into the nearest rock pool.  Ah me.  Perhaps I’ll stick to gazing lovingly at my handiwork:

Simplicity 5631

I adore the colour and texture of this fabric.  It’s a brocade-y, terry-toweling-y, stretch something and it is an absolute blighter to work with.  Every manipulation is an opportunity for this cloth to fray and distort.  The hat band?  A bias strip some 62 centimetres long .  Knowing a bit about bias I kept the band carefully folded with the pattern piece.  Over the course of one night it grew a whopping 8 centimetres. 8 centimetres.  Overnight.  I know fabric can relax but this hat band must have spent the evening at an expensive spa resort.  In the hot tub.  Being massaged by attentive staff.


Despite having reservations about the whole concept of a hat for hot weather I found the construction entirely engrossing.  Crown.  Brim.  Decorative top-stitching.  Inner ribbon for stability.  Teeny-tiny shiny bead at the top.

I want to have another go!  Would this work in a wintery fabric?  Must put my thinking cap on!


#VintagePledge16 small print.  This is Pledge Number 6.  Previous pledges took the form of, a pink floaty top, an orange jumper, a black shirt, some purple pants and a zebra scuba jacket.

Posted in #vintagepledge, fabric scraps, jersey, Sewing, Simplicity 5631, Stretch, Vintage | 7 Comments

annual rhythms – sewing, not in circles, but in cycles


I sometimes wonder if I know myself at all.  There’s a rhythm to my sewing productivity and I’m astounded that I have, until now, been so blissfully unaware of this that at the beginning of the year I made a pledge that involved a monthly sewing target.  A monthly sewing target! I’m putting in a request to HR that the figure be annualised because, well, because I should have known better.  Nothing gets made or blogged in the summer.  There’s so much else to be done.  The thrill and disappointment of the new raised beds:  Will the rambunctious pumpkin/courgette-cross that has already escaped the confines of the bed make it to the end of the patio?  Will I get more than 3 purple mangetout?  Will the tomatoes ever ripen?


Then there’s the decorating.  Sewing has to take a back seat when you’re convinced that the sills, soffits and fascia might part company with the rest of the building and the two teens request (quite sweetly actually) age-appropriate decor.

All of this is a very long way of introducing my latest vintage pledge.  A seventies Style, number 1834.


(Nearly) view 4 in a fine, gauzy, (vintage?) fabric find.  It’s a very simple raglan sleeved top.  My sleeves don’t have much puff because I didn’t have enough fabric.  I never have enough fabric.  It’s not a tricky sew, apart from threading the neckline, which was tricky at the sleeve seams.

Style 1834

The matching beads were a late addition and please me way more than I think that they should.  What also pleases me is that the fabric could have been fashioned from my palest pink, grown-from-seed-i’ll-have-you-know hollyhock. Look:

That’s it my lovelies, that was, and indeed still is, my fifth #vintagepledge.  In reverse order the previous pledges were:

4. orange jumper

3. black shirt

2. purple pants

1. zebra scuba jacket

Posted in #vintagepledge, foraged fabric, Sewing, Style 1834, Thrifting, Vintage | 5 Comments

#SimplicitySewingChallenge – Simplicity 1365 – View C by the sea

Simplicity 1365 is a sassy seventies sew.  Think Barbara Bach modelling Bus Stop, think Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels , think Linda Carter in Wonder Woman.

Think middle-aged lass arsing about in America.

Simplicity 1365

#Holiday #ByTheSea #SaltMarsh #MultipleInsectBites

It’s mostly rendered in a liberty print called Beth’s Flowers and it’s jersey.  Rendering this is jersey meant that I could cheat somewhat and miss out the buttons at the back.  This wasn’t entirely out of laziness.  To me the slim and sexy silhouette said swimsuit and a swimsuit needs a bit of stretch. This is a test of sorts:  Will I be able to make some bathers from this pattern?

You know what else yells swimming and summer and sun and sea and sand?  These ties:

Simplicity 1365

I think that your swimmers would be secure with these.

Simplicity 1365

I was so taken with the idea that this would work as a swim thing that I tried it on top of my swimsuit.

Yep, I think that there’s two-piece potential there.  I’m imagining a high-waisted shorts-style bottom half, I like plenty of coverage.  The top pattern, as written, is fully lined with a neat and fully enclosed finish at both the top and the bottom edges.  There’d be plenty of scope for slipping in some swim cups and maybe some other secret support.

Simplicity 1365

There we have it my lovelies.  Simplicity 1365, a super summery top and, for me, possibly a swimsuit!

Simplicity 1365

If you want to find out more about the #SimplicitySewingChallenge, you can, there’s more information here.


Posted in #SimplicitySewingChallenge, jersey, Liberty, Sewing, Simplicity 1365 | 14 Comments

Weird Crush


Dear Sewsan,

What’s a ‘weird crush’?  I get the crush thing, several years as a teenage Duranie taught me that, but what makes a crush weird?  I mean, surely all crushes are a little bit weird?

I’m not asking for me.  It’s for a friend.  She’s got this pattern and ever since she made her first pair of pants she doesn’t seem to be able to make anything else.  Fabrics that were bought for other patterns have mysteriously become additional pairs of pants.  It’s like she’s addicted!  She keeps asking if she can ‘re-purpose’ my Grandmother’s tablecloth or the throw that I bought in Morocco mid-gap year.  I knew that I had to write to you when there was an incident during our usual Monday Meet-Up.  You know the kind of thing, a few ladies, some lemon tea and Loose Women on the telly.  Well, my friend disappeared upstairs on the flimsy pretence that she needed the bathroom.  Twenty minutes later Loose Women had finished and I had become concerned.  We’re all of a certain age, what if she’d had a funny turn on the toilet?  No such luck:  I found her in my linen cupboard rifling through my antique coverlets.  

I’m as broad-minded as the next person, I could fully understand the fascination if she were making floor length evening gowns or dramatic velvet-collared coats or, or, well more or less anything else.  Pants are so mundane!  I’m worried that in a year’s time she’ll wonder what on earth the attraction was and she’ll regret spending so much time with this single pattern when she should have been shopping around.

A concerned friend.


Dear Concerned Friend,

Whilst your anxiety for your chum is admirable I cannot see that she is doing either herself or anyone else any harm.  Yes, she could widen her repertoire, but from what you have told me the crush is neither overtly strange nor radically out of control.  I’ve come across needleworkers who compulsively quilt and are not content until every bit of fabric they encounter is both pieced and padded.  Needless to say they often encounter intimacy issues.  After all, a padded brassier is quite traditional but quilted boxer shorts? 

I would also take issue with the word weird.  It is an unkind word.  How much more tolerant would we be if we thought of your friend as having tastes that are unusual or unconventional.  They are possessed of a rare gift, they can see  the beauty in this every day workhorse of a pattern.  We can’t all aspire to the red carpet my dear, some of us have laminate flooring.

My final word to the wise would be to lock that linen cupboard when hosting future luncheons – lest your best duvet cover ends up gracing your friend’s derrière.  

Remembering to always sharpen our shears, 

Auntie Sewsan





Posted in #vintagepledge, Butterick 3581, Sewing, Sewsan, Vintage | 5 Comments