Friday 25 September 2015

The struggle to make for me

This whole week I have been buzzing with excitement as I see my little one wear her new lovingly handmade skirt and tunic. If you’re interested, my last post goes into further detail about those two recently finished garments. Now, after finishing these two projects I am back on my slow going adult garments. I am loving the adult knits but I do struggle to actually finish them and long to wear them.

Which leads me to ponder are there any tips for getting through the adult projects quicker?

Does anybody else struggle with making a handmade wardrobe for themselves but the kids are head to toe in mummy made items?

Making for the kids is the thing that got me back into knitting and it is the main drive for my making obsession. I love dressing my children in items that I have made and to be honest it is much more affordable buying a sweater lot of yarn for a little person than for me. Also the gratification is achieved so much quicker with children's projects.

I hope this yummy sweater lot of John Arbon Viola yarn  will become an actual sweater in the near future. Yes, HOPE.
However, I really want to build my own handmade wardrobe and this is motivated by more than the sweater envy I felt while on The Craft Sessions. I want to make my own clothes so that I can be excited about wearing my self made clothes as much as I am excited about dressing my kids in mummy made things.

I also want to engage less with consumerism and the desire to shop when I don’t need. I have become more conscious about how unethical the fashion industry is and self making is a small way that I can make a stand against it. I am also trying to be discerning about where my materials come from and how they have been processed. I am making myself question whether the source is ethical, sustainable and authentic. I want the fabric and the yarn that I use to be natural and that whatever processing it has undergone has maintained the integrity of the natural fibre. I also feel more comfortable knowing that what I’m wearing has been made under fair conditions for the workers.

I saw this saying posted on FB recently, “Why buy it for $7 when you can make it yourself for $92 of craft supplies.” Though the statement is a tongue in cheek jibe at how much makers spend on supplies I read it as a justification for why I make. In my humble opinion something that we can buy for $7 has probably been made by a poor child in a developing nation, who will barely receive a fraction of that money for their labour.

So, with all these thoughts in mind, why is my wardrobe still predominantly store bought? Lack of time obviously is a big factor but there is also a small element of guilt as I work on items for myself. A friend of mine recently confessed to me that she is a selfish maker, preferring to sew and knit for herself than for her kids. So I wonder, is it selfish to work on ‘me’ projects?

Something else I started pondering about was do makers make for fellow makers? Or are our own queues so long that we don’t have time to make for a friend who can make for themselves?

This winter I commiserated to my husband that I desperately wanted some handknit socks but I had too many WIPs already. I wanted someone else to knit some socks for me but to my woe I don’t have enough knitting friends and the ones I do have are probably working on too many of their own WIPs to be able to make socks for me. In the end I did cast on a pair of toe up socks for myself but I barely got beyond the toes because I knit too slowly and I had too many projects on the go already.

The whole making process is a great joy of mine. I am addicted to the authenticity of homemade items. Items where I have personally and lovingly selecting the materials and made by my own hand. There is something organic about the process as I see the beginnings of an item and I watch and feel it grow to completion. I’d just really love it a lot more if I could get through things much quicker.

I'd like to hear your thoughts so please comment and add to the conversation.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Finished object file: Miss L's wardrobe

Miss L in her new handmade wardrobe items: Quaintly top and Gathered Skirt.
This week I've been relishing in the joy that comes with accomplishing my first sewn garment. I am such a sewing newbie so even though the project was the simplest of patterns I am over the moon with joy at the completed object.

I made the Gathered skirt for all ages from the Purl Bee blog. I was instantly drawn to this skirt because of the large pockets featured on the sides and I also love the simple style of the skirt that makes it an everyday kind of item. Another bonus is that the blog provides instructions for sizes 2 year old to an adult 46" hip size. I remember when I originally came across the pattern months ago I shared it with the comment, "I can see myself making this skirt in every size for Miss L." and now after making my first one for her it is very possible that she really will always have one in her wardrobe throughout her life.

As with my knitting, if I am going to make something with love I am going to make it with materials that I love. For this skirt I went on a lovely fabric adventure to The Fabric Store in Fitzroy and selected some chambray for the main fabric and a very cute printed cotton as a contrast for the pockets.

I just love the simple beauty of chambray for everyday wear.
As a newbie I made some mistakes, like not sewing the waistband straight so there is a point where the band is too narrow for the elastic to sit flat so it is folded over. I also had to do the basting stitches twice because I didn't pay attention to the instructions and did them incorrectly the first time. And I wouldn't look too closely at the hem because I'm pretty sure that's not straight either, but despite all these imperfections I am so happy with it. The fabrics are just so beautiful and the pockets are fab.

When I showed Miss L she exclaimed, "So cute!". She very happily put it on and she twirled so excitedly throughout the day.

These little lacy cap sleeves are so beautiful and easy to knit too.
It has been a good week for Miss L's wardrobe because I also finished knitting a Quaintly top in fingering weight (4ply) hand dyed Miss Click Clack yarn. This yarn is such a beautiful colour and it was her own choice. We went to The Handmade Show market in Glen Huntly a few months ago and Miss L picked up this skein of yarn from Kelly's bargain bucket that was sitting on the ground. She did the cutest thing when she grabbed the yarn, she hugged it to herself because it was clear that she loved the squishy softness and the colour. I bought it always intending to make something for her with it and the Quaintly was perfect. It is such a lovely spring top with little lacy cap sleeves and a stockinette stitch body which I knit with extra length to make it a bit tunic like. My project notes can be found here.

Kelly Brooker of Peka Peka Design Studio designed the Quaintly pattern. The pattern is available individually but if you get the ebook you get a set of patterns for the fingering (4ply), DK (8ply) and worsted (10ply) weight and sizes all the way from newborn through to 10 years old. If you're like me and you like to keep you options open in terms of yarn choice then having the pattern written up in the three different yarn weights is great. I have already knit this pattern before in the DK weight in the 18-24 month size and it was a super quick knit. The fingering weight knit went pretty quickly too and I made the 2 year old size with the one skein of Miss Click Clack Merri Creek sock yarn.

The pattern instructions are simple enough to follow and even the fiddly bit of changing between two different needle sizes to finish the sleeves is explained very clearly and not difficult at all. I ended up just slipping the sleeve stitches onto a DPN in the smaller size (2.75mm) and kept everything else on the circular needle. When I came to the sleeve stitches I just held the circular needle aside and knit the sleeves with another DPN of the same size. 

To top of this gorgeous knit Miss L picked out some adorable little sheep buttons from Sunspun during their Spring sale last week. These very cute buttons come from a company called Incomparable Buttons. They are not plastic, so I'm guessing they are ceramic and they are handmade in South Africa through a programme that gives employment to women. These little buttons are so precious and make the perfect finishing touch to a lovely top.

The cutest little ceramic sheep buttons ever.

Miss L is a lucky little girl with her growing handmade wardrobe and her enjoyment of the clothes bring extra joy to both of us. Now, it's time to for us to twirl together.

Monday 14 September 2015

Back from The Craft Sessions

Women carrying baskets were everywhere at the retreat and I wasn't out of place for once.
I also couldn't help buying a few lovely items from the mini market. Clockwise from L: Home and Away pattern book by Hannah Fettig, Lilly Brush pill remover, Maze and Vale freeform patchwork kit by Leslie Keating and Recycled Harris Tweed project bag by Julia Billings of Woollenflower.
So, I got back from The Craft Sessions yesterday and I've got some big thoughts bouncing around in my head and I'm not sure if I am going to be able to coherently express them because I'm still processing. I guess I should start by saying how fantastic it was to be able to spend a whole weekend crafting in the beautiful setting of the Yarra Valley.

For those of you who are not familiar with The Craft Sessions it is basically a weekend craft retreat that is organised by Felicia Semple and her team. Felicia is known for her blog, also called The Craft Sessions and she is a passionate and creative maker and mother. And after this weekend I have come to think of her as the ultimate enabler because she is also passionate about giving others a space to create as well.

I first came across The Craft Sessions about a week before last year's retreat because I was hungry for a weekend of uninterrupted knitting. I had even ranted to a couple of friends about wanting to go on a "yarn weekend" where I could get heaps of knitting done and maybe even visit some interesting yarn and craft shops in regional Victoria. So, when The Craft Sessions came up in my internet searching I was so excited but though there were still openings for last year's retreat a week out from the event I couldn't possibly make it happen with a husband who works weekends and two young children to care for. 

Some of the gorgeous swag that we got in our lovely retreat bags.

I was determined to make it happen this year and though I had 12 months to plan for it I almost missed out again because I missed the sign up when registrations opened and this year's event sold out incredibly quickly. I signed up for the wait list and later when my friend Jenny of JCL Created Cuddles dropped out I think I got her spot at the retreat. I am eternally grateful for Jenny's spot.

Now, to actually talk about the weekend. I signed up for two day long workshops: natural dyeing on day one and hand weaving. I also wanted to all the knitting ones and though I barely know how to sew I really wanted to do the sew a kids wardrobe class too. Actually who am I kidding I wanted to do all of them because they all sounded great but my skills are limiting at this stage; I would have been a bit of a waste of space in things like the embroidery classes.

I fell in love with Belinda's basketful of naturally hand dyed yarn.

All my samples were dyed with Cootamundra Wattle leaves.

It was hard to capture all the samples that the four groups in the workshop created.
In the natural dyeing class we learnt how to extract dye from native Australian plants and how to dye yarn, linen and silk with those dyes. We did some cool experiments with adding different mordants post dyeing to change the colours of the original dyes. It was all a bit like "alchemy" which is what our teacher Belinda Evans likes to call it. She loves the term so much that she uses it as her creative business name/ identity. You can find her on instagram as 'iamalchemy' and her blog is also titled 'Alchemy'.

I had read a few things about dyeing since I started obsessing about yarn colours. I am interested in trying it out and now I feel a lot more confidence for it because Belinda was such a good teacher. It was so exciting to see how the dye was taken on differently by the different fibres and how they changed when different minerals or chemicals were added to the pot. We definitely had some pleasant surprises when we pulled out our bits and pieces.

On Sunday I took the weaving workshop that was also taught by Belinda. She again inspired all of us in the class with her "organic" approach to her creative process. The other exciting thing about her weaving is all the beautiful naturally dyed yarns that she has at her disposal. She generously supplied some of that beautiful yarn and there were a lot of "ooohs and aaahs" over the colours before we all settled down with our colour schemes. To my surprise Belinda really liked my colour choices. I have been really challenged with colour work lately and picking good colour combos seems like a massive puzzle to me. I think since realising Sir S's colour blindness I have been doubting my own colour perception because colour blindness is inherited through the maternal side of the family.

My palette of pretty naturally dyed colours.
I'm taking Belinda's weaving approach, being "organic" and letting the weaving flow without too much planning.
Overall the whole weekend was fantastic. It was so nice to be able to sit down with my knitting and knit uninterrupted for a solid block of time. I also really enjoyed meeting other crafters and oohing over their projects and their yarns. I had serious sweater envy all weekend and I desperately want to improve my sewing and stitching skills. I have also come away from the retreat with a whole lot more instagram crafters who I can stalk because crafters love looking at what other people are making and instragram enables that.

Finally, here on my humble little blog I want to publicly acknowledge what a fantastic job that Felicia and her team have done and I am so so so thankful to her for taking the initiative to create this retreat for crafters.