Monday, 15 October 2018

Bloody Knitting!

I have lost my knitting mojo. I can't find it anywhere: I have looked under sofa, in the yarn cupboard, amongst my pattern books but I just can't seem to get anything going. The last good thing I knit was finished at the start of September ready for Little M's ninth birthday.

The Good
The pattern is from Sirdar which is made with Sirdar wash n wear. This is a synthetic yarn but good for regular washing, especially children's wear. This is the third time I have knit this cardigan, it is one of my favourite patterns. Each patterned section gives an air of satisfaction before moving onto the next. The body is knit in one piece to the armholes and then divided so there is limited sewing up at the end. She had it for her Birthday and was really pleased with it, sparkly buttons and all.

The Bad
That was the good news, now for the bad. I have been trying to knit the Beatnik sweater since last Autumn. I chose some wool I knew would be warm for winter and didn't pill. Drops Nepal is a great value yarn which my mum made my Aftur sweater in. Aftur is now the only winter jumper I have so I wanted another one. 

The agony of thinking I was getting the hang of it only to find there was a mistake in the first rope cable on the left annoyed me,  I let it go, but as I progressed I spotted that the lattice cables on the left were all going over the top not dipping underneath. I painstakingly unpicked 16 rows stitch by stitch but couldn't get it going again. I took the whole lot out back to the rib and tried again but after a week of evenings knitting and unpicking I decided that I had been beaten by the Beatnik. HELP! I need my mum. I have knit the back and am going to make a start on the sleeves. Maybe I can kick start it again when my brain is less cluttered. I actually realised on the second attempt that I was supposed to put the lattice in the centre and a rope either side - I mean, how wrong can you be??

I thought I could get my knitting mojo back by buying some new yarn but it was not the right gauge for the pattern I had in mind and it has no purpose at the moment other than taking space in the craft shelf but it is a keeper.

The Ugly
I eventually thought right, I am going to knit that long stripy garter stitch - knit every row while wathcing TV - scarf I promised for my brother but that turned out to the ugliest combination of colours I ever did see so I rolled it all back into balls.

After heading to the yarn cupboard for inspiration I came away with some hand dyed Araucania aran weight cotton. I knit a tension square and decided on a sweater I have wanted for a while. The green yarn above was what I initially wanted to use but it was DK. It is knitted cuff to cuff in one piece so I thought I would blend the variable dyed yarns across the work. It was all going so well and then I couldn't work out how to cast on for the body from the sleeves. I swore a lot and my mum was in Cardiff so I couldn't ask her. I stuffed it to the bottom of my basket. Another false start. AGHHGHHH!

I think I will just leave it for a while and see what happens. Life has been a bit hectic of late what with work, two houses and two children at two different schools - it is a wonder I can remember how to knit at all!

Any ideas? What should I do?
Jo xxxxx

Friday, 12 October 2018


Welcome to

Making - A little card holder from this free pattern. It is really useful. I can now close my actual purse properly.

Buying - Cast iron guttering for our new house. Yawn!

Building - Scraping tar from 320 parquet blocks. I was given them for free so I have to put in the time. I have done 199 so far.

Thinking - What is next on the enormous house list.

Fixing - My big girls school tie. She has found the metal clip so uncomfortable. A little hidden felt sleeve over the clip did the trick.

Loving - Some new fabric choices, both stretch. 

Wondering - Where the minutes of my days, weeks and months are going?

Eating - A coffee cake in the shape of a hedgehog - it was requested!

Growing - My late flowering Hebe.

Getting - As many blog photos as possible before the shorter days.

Watching - Megan turn into the best little independent reader ever.

Disliking - The Beatnik Sweater process. I have spent a week of evenings knitting and unpicking 16 rows stitch my stitch. More later...

Considering - What to knit instead. 

Enjoying - Alternative yarny time with an ongoing crochet baby boy blanket whilst simultaneously finding out one of best friends is going to be a grandma - twice over!

Feeling - The squeeze of having two jobs, two houses and two children. 

Deciding - To hand in my notice on one of my jobs. I really like my two children!

Wanting - To relax a bit more and be kinder to myself. 

Jo xxxx

Monday, 8 October 2018

Quick Knit Yarn Review

Today I am reviewing a yarn by Erika Knight called Studio Linen. It is made from recycled fibres and creates a summer weight fabric.

I am lured by yarn on a skein, are you? but this was a pig to roll into balls. It is slinky and smooth therefore my yarn winder was hopeless because the ball didn't have any purchase and just kept slipping and unraveling. Andy spent 2 hours one evening unknotting one ball that I had made a hash of. That said, knitting with it was sublime.

The pattern is free from Ravelry called The Summer Vacation top. You knit it with two strands held together on 7mm needles, this creates a very free flowing fabric. It is a quick knit and ideal for taking on holiday or knitting in the garden because it is simply two squares with no shaping. Great for a beginner too.


I used six skeins comfortably. Six would enable you to make the S, M or L sizes available on this pattern. The linen based yarn is so cool to wear on hot days and I love that it is made from recycled fibres - 85% viscose and 15% linen giving it a beautiful silky feel.

It is a very versatile pattern: you could change the length, width, mesh section to suit by using more or less of the lovely yarn. If I was to knit another, and I surely will, I will lengthen the stocking stitch and make a more shallow mesh section. Mine seems to have a larger section than others on ravelry which gave a bit too much bra to the general public. 

Thinking ahead though, I am currently wearing it with a white shirt underneath for work. The drape means it does not stick to the cotton shirt. Perfect for Autumn!

Thanks for dropping by. Jo xxx

Friday, 5 October 2018

Oh Marigold, I'm too late!

I am a bit late to the cutting table this year with the Marigold pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. The jumpsuit is maybe a little too exposed for me even in the summer, I don't know when I would wear it, but I liked the idea of comfy trousers(who doesn't?)

I bought some beautiful viscose fabric with a nice texture in Louth in Lincolnshire way back in August especially to make them. 

I had seen on other blogs that people had found them quite long in the crotch so I took an inch out on the lengthen/shorten line. I still felt they were a bit too big though. My girls laughed at my MC Hammer impression even though they are too young to know who he is! I took some more out of the crotch altering the overall feel but I learnt a lot making them.


I had hoped to wear them to work but they are too casual with this loose fit however, next summer if we are bathed in sunshine again, they will be perfectly cool and floppy.

The pocket and pleat construction is a lovely detail and I would say they are definitely an intermediate make if you fancy them.


Shame to be packing them away so soon after making them but never mind, they will re emerge next year as a nice surprise because I will have forgotten all about them by then. 

Have you ever made this pattern? I would be more than happy to hear about your crotch? :)

Jo xxxxxx

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Who do you think you are?

I used to be really big into scrapbooking before I returned to the machine and needles which you may know me for. Every afternoon on maternity leave 10 years ago I would lay the babes to sleep and cut and stick for an hour and a half every day. I loved it.

Then I started to make their clothes and mine. I didn't get bored of scrapboooking but I simply ran out of photos and events to journal. I ran my papercraft supplies down but kept the girls books up to date - nothing major though.

I started a family history scrapbook way back then which I used to add to periodically. My great Aunts were alive then so I could ask them about the people in the black and white photos. It was a nice conversation focus when I went to visit them.

Lately, my dad's wife has been giving me little shoe boxes of his artefacts and this has rekindled my interest. Also a colleague gave me two boxes of scrapbook stuff she no longer wanted, and you know me, I couldn't say no to free stuff. While sifting through historical papers I found old paperwork relating to people I already had pages about. It has been so interesting matching those belongings to these familiar people. For example, I had a page about my great-grandfather, Jack, and his farm tenancy agreement from 1937 turned up in one of the shoe boxes so I slotted it in.

My dad was from a farming family and they did not stray far geographically so I recognised most photographic images: the houses, farm yards, churches, and events that we still traditionally hold now.

I already had pages of my Grandparents but I found some more of their wedding photos, pictures of my Nan and her sister as farm girls and a lot of pictures of women wearing stout shoes on days out. Luckily, I knew who most of them were. 

My Grandad was the only son of his father who was one of nine so it appears he was the executor on a lot of his aunts and Uncles wills. I guess his two sisters didn't hold that post in the 1930's. Reading all of the probate notices was interesting. It turns out two of the pieces of furniture I have in our house are listed in probate from the early 1900's: an oak chest and our dining room table. Both of these I had from my dad when he moved into a bungalow and didn't have room for them. The probate notice above is from my four times great grandfather from 1862. It has a wax seal. Amazing.

There were postcards, certificates of educational achievement, death certificates, Victorian school books in wonderful script handwriting and so much more. I slotted them into pages I already had of the person they belonged to.

There were certificates of monetary gifts to the WW1 effort from my great, great Uncle who emigrated to Canada, my Nan's WI calendars of events, her driving licenses, my grandfathers Young Farmers Club meeting cards, ration books, notices to families on what to do with evacuees... invitations and gift cards, coronation memorabilia, mine and my dad's school reports, notes of currency from around the world: the list is endless. I didn't want them to just remain in shoe boxes forever so I have filed them all away in little pockets on my existing pages.

It was such a satisfying way to spend the last days of summer. I have been on my very own episode of 'Who do you think you are?' 
I do love that program.

If you have always wanted to catalogue your family history I was told the best way to start is to have a shoe box marked 'family' and then collect everything in one place - it has certainly worked for me and it appears generations of my family.

Thanks for reading. Do you hold important family information?
Jo xx

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Sew Different

 My Minerva make this month had some ups and downs. I was really taken with a Sew Different pattern called The Essential Denim Dress. It showed so much potential for using up spare bits of fabric.

I was equally keen when the Linen Look Polyester blue and beige fabric arrived. I knew I had piece of grey denim from a bag project to throw into the mix and the thought of mixing and matching excited me. 

My skin tone is not great with beige against it so I opted to place those on the side panels. I placed the blue nearer my face. I started to have a wobble when I saw the size of the yoke piece because I was getting worried it was going to have 'sack appeal'.

On sewing, the top was indeed huge and the dart was nowhere near my breast, I tried it in three different places before I realised that it looked better without it altogether but also retained a nice shape. Strange. I took quite a bit off the side seams too. Maybe I just chose the wrong size in the first instance?

It is ridiculous to say but I pinched out another 1 1/2 inches out of the shoulders from the original seam line. If you make this pattern I recommend a muslin/toile to find the best fit or size choice for you. At this bodging stage, I was losing hope it would ever be a dress that would get any air time but on completion, I loved it.

My friend gave me this jacket at the start of Summer in her wardrobe clear out however I doubted I would ever wear it but it felt such good quality and here it is making a perfect match for me. I think this garment will have a double life as a work dress and a casual tunic. There are not any zips or fastenings so this is as shapely as it can be whilst enabling me to get it on and off.

The pocket is excellent and if I made it again I might even consider adding two. 

The fabric is light but dense which makes it perfect for Autumn/winter.I wore it to teach today, in fact this is me at home in the evening after a full days wear, and it doesn't hold a crease in the underarm keeping it smart all day. It was really comfortable and easy to move around in. I wore this same outfit to a Christening too.

 This project started off on a high, dipped in the middle during fitting and ended with a triumphant finish. 

Jo xxx

Friday, 21 September 2018

Harris Tweed Refashion

Thank you for your kind comments on my last post, it was great to hear your memories. It's a bit of a strange one today. I have refashioned a mans jacket into a womans coat. It is hard to photograph and explain the process but anyway here goes.

This is the jacket before the hack... a hacking jacket if you will. It is a Harris Tweed vintage jacket of my late fathers. His wife wanted to know if I could make it fit her so that she could wear it as a coat - I like a challenge.

I pinned out the back seam and took deeper darts on the front to give it some waist shaping. 

The trickier part is a tailoring technique called raising the shoulders which alters the neck to shoulder measurement. 
I am not an expert but I learnt how to do it two years ago from a mate who is a bridal and alterations seamstress. I used to do some alterations for her in the summer when she was busy with wedding dresses to keep her other customers ticking over so I knew what to do.

Sometimes this alteration just flies off the machine and other times it can be a real pig of a job to avoid getting tiny tucks on the new shoulder seam. 

Firstly, you find a point of entry. If you look closely on the inside of a jacket there will be a place that is sewn from the outside where the jacket was 'birthed' on turning it right side out on making. You have to unpick this and wrestle about to get to the inside of the jacket. 

This jacket was particularly well made and there were a lot of gubbings inside. Firstly, I did the darts and back seam which gave an instant new female shape.

Next I unpicked some of the shoulder seam lining to expose the shoulders. I cut out some of the padding and unpicked the tweed shoulder seam and made a new seam line. I checked for puckers (only one on my first attempt) then cut off the excess leaving enough bulk to support the top of the sleeve. Here is the new and old seamline. I trimmed about half way between the two.


This is what happens to the shoulders. You get a softer more womanly shape.

Finally, I removed the two buttons on the bottom of the sleeves and used them to make a new profile on the front. I made two new button holes and steam pressed the collar to make a new shape. The buttons were beautiful leather football style ones actually made from leather not the plastic repro ones which you get on old mans cardigans!

Tah da! a new coat. I hand stitched all the linings back down around the shoulders and at the point of entry. It is for Chantal's birthday present, she loved it. I made her a brooch to add to the lapel too although my photo is a little out of focus.

What do you think? Jo xxx