knitting and the life I almost have around it

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sew on and sew forth

So, I told you all I was waiting on this sewing machine? Oh the wait!
In some ways it was useful, in that it gave me time to really consider my options. The Sewing Bug had a really good sale on, and I was torn between three machines. As is human nature, I went with the middle option. But while waiting I considered the next model up. The machine I had ordered was a $699 model with $100 off as part of the sale. But this little beauty was $1299 with $500 off as part of the sale! As you would expect with that kind of price difference, there are plenty more features, including twice as many in-built stitches.

So I forked out an extra $100 and took home the 6260QC last Saturday. I have yet to make anything "real" with it - lots of the buttons and levers are placed differently to my old machine, and I don't want to end up making a crucial error because I forget how to stitch back!

I have, however, been having fun with all the fancy stitch options and the one-step buttonholer!
The snowflake stitch is probably my favourite!

We spent yesterday afternoon looking at open houses, which is an experience at once exhausting, exciting and disappointing!
We were looking in a new built area near Gungahlin, which none of our maps covered, and the maps on allhomes were challenging to the intellect. So we got lost and missed two of the homes we had planned to look at. And one we saw on the fly actually turned out to be the most useful! We are now considering building rather than buying new...
I suppose the thing is, neither of us feels very grown-up. And building feels less safe by far! For starters, I've watched enough Grand Designs to be wary! But in terms of cost, we can dictate the design and landscaping (and all the finishes) for less than a similar new property on the market. And... I suppose I am wary of making an easy choice that I'm not 100% happy with. Building would be a pain in the arse, but the investment of time and patience would result in a more suited product. What do they say? The greater the risk, the greater the reward?

Meeting estate agents is rather like dating. They are all trying to seduce, without letting on that they care too much, and trying to hide all their flaws. We spoke to several, and one guy really made an impression (the one who is keen to do builds). While of course he was selling himself, it didn't feel like bluster, and the finishes on the home he was showing were far superior to the others we saw (and it was cheaper). Being a detail-oriented person, I really respected his work.

Anyway, we're having a little breather to think, so we don't rush into anything. But there's a lovely big block at Sprinbank Rise, facing a park, that excited us both more than any of the homes we saw!

I've also made a real effort in the last week to get more exercise! A friend got me on to Couch to 5k. I've been for two runs now, and will do my third today. I've always wanted to run, but have given myself awful shin-splints every time I've tried in the past. This program, however, leads you into the run gently, so you intersperse running and brisk walking as you build up strength. So far, no shin-splints! I felt awesome after the first run, and less awesome after the second (though I suspect this was due to hormonal interference!). I also went for a nice long bike ride around the lake yesterday.
How virtuous I feel! :)

Peace out,
Ms Spider xo

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Belting out the hits 2

As promised, some "modelled" shots. Apologies for the usual crap-ness of photography!
Peace out,
Ms Spider xxx

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On a roll!

I also whipped up a pair of shorts for the husband out of two of his old t-shirts. I made a pattern piece by laying a pair of his old shorts on some old newspaper.

Then I cut the shoulder seams of two t-shirts, and folded them across the centre of the shirt (to preserve the centre image).
Then I cut the pattern pieces (plus seam allowance). I placed the pieces carefully so that I could use the bottom hem for the bottom of the leg, and made sure they would be the same length.
The (once again in the no-photo zone) I sewed the two pieces together along the J-seams. I then sewed the inner thigh seams from one leg to the other. Then I double folded the waistband (wide enough for elastic) and sewed, leaving a gap to thread elastic through. Inserted elastic (and sewed on an after-thought-y pocket which I really should have done at the beginning).

Not the neatest thing I ever made, but I'm pretty pleased with them. The beauty of this type of project is that both shirts have been washed and through the tumble dryer before, and so it's unlikely to shrink. And they make his butt look cute (important!).

Peace out
Ms Spider xxx

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Belting out the hits

On Saturday I bought a new sewing machine (this one) but there's a delay and it won't arrive for at least a fortnight. Yes, this kills me. But I have decided this is the Universe's way of teaching me patience and maturity. Or something.
But my interest is up, and I've been using my old machine a lot - hey, at least I'll appreciate the new one heaps when it arrives.
I've been spending a lot of time trawling for good DIY projects. I found this one for a floral belt a few weeks ago, and spent a while madly searching for a good second-hand leather item to upcycle. And on Saturday, I hit gold.

Most of the stuff at Salvos (Fyshwick store) was hugely expensive, and I had no luck finding
a skirt. Luckily, I did find a girl's suede jacket!
I made a pattern piece (as per the tutorial) based on my waist measurement (plus about 3 inches). I tried the pattern piece on to get an idea of what it would look like. It took some tweaking, but when it looked right, I cut out a piece from the body of the jacket (I put the wider middle section as evenly across the stitching in the middle back as possible - bonus detail stitching!)
I also cut out a lining piece, using some antique blue satin remnants of one of my grandmother's dresses.

Then I got into the zone and forgot to take ANY progress shots (old readers may sense a theme).

I am still attaching the press-studs - I'm using two, about 1.5 inches apart so there's a nice wide overlap (I'm hoping this will keep it together neater than just one).

Finished belt!
And close up of the floral detail :)
I'm really happy with this! It looks super cute over dresses and blouses. As soon as I finish the fastening I'll post a modelled shot!

Peace out,
Ms Spider xxx

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

military-inspired corsage

Yes, I know, same old, same old. But I'm not going to give reasons for not writing, it's boring and no-one cares.

Instead - project!

I was in DFO a few weeks ago, and saw some of those huge maxi-dresses at Industrie - you know the type, t-shit fabric and super long. So I picked up a couple because I can never find any decent t-shirt fabric, and they were cheap, cheap, cheap! They are destined for many new garments, but this is the first:

1. The dress. I bought a small (they're all pretty big though) but only because it was the largest one in the shop. If you're buying clothes for repurposing, bigger is better! It's a poly/viscose/elastane blend, but for $7 I'm not worried. The fabric feels nice, and I'm not looking for anything with huge long-term wear.2. I cut off a few inches from the bottom hem, in a strip. 3. Then I used a darning needle to thread yarn in BIG stitches along the raw edge. I used most of the front piece - you'll see when you've got enough by gathering the stitches as you go. (Yes, that's sock yarn.)
4. Gather tightly and tie off. 5. Stitch up the raw side pieces (you're admiring my crappy hand-stitching, aren't you?).
6. Now, the middle of your corsage will be raw, so you'll need to cover it up. I was lucky enough to find these vintage military buttons recently, so had plenty to choose from. I finally selected this anchor, and found a brooch-backing in my jewellery-making stash.7. Stitch the button into the centre of your corsage. If it has a shank, you probably want to tug it into the centre of the corsage, in amongst the raw edges, so it doesn't rattle around. Now stitch or hot-glue the brooch backing onto the back of your corsage. This fabric is pretty drop-y, so I'll probably stick a bit of hot-glue discretely around the front of the button to make sure the fabric sticks out neatly.
I may turn the top half of this dress into a tank, it doesn't look half bad! I think I get bonus style points for the tracky-pants underneath ;)Stay tuned for more repurposed maxi-dress projects!

Peace out,
Ms Spider xxx

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


And it fits! Ta-da!And less ham-my... and showing off the awesome pockets!
And with my newly finished project, the Miette cardigan in Moda Vera cotton/bamboo (Rav link here). It isn't quite this luminous in real life - this is the result of very amazing morning light.And the back view.

I was at work for 12 hours today, so that's all I got. At least I liked my outfit today though!

Peace out,
Ms Spider xo

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Sew little time!

Ah yes, once a month I said, eh?

Well, so much for that.

Life is busy. My time is rarely my own. Work is busy. Motivation is hard to hold on to. Same old story, nobody needs to hear it all over again.

So, a project! A good 8 or 9 months ago I ran into an old acquaintance at the OBDM wool day, who told me they were dying to see more of my sewing projects on my blog. I've been thinking about this a fair bit, and keep it in mind whenever I embark on a sewing project... trouble is, once I get in the zone, I totally forget to take photos. So I end up with a shot of pattern pieces on fabric, and the finished item on a dress dummy.

I really DID try with this one. I had this lofty notion of a sort of tutorial that might be helpful in this age of online shopping... and forgot to take lots of pics. But there are some, so I'll do my best.

For my birthday (26!) a few weeks ago, I bought myself this dress on My bust size makes me a 10 (according to their sizing chart) and based on the comments that the dress was cut big, I bought an 8. Lucky I did, because when it arrived, it was HUGE!

The husband, who is not known for his fashion sense, commented that I "look like Ponyo", and it really was not flatteringly drapey or anything - it just looked like when you wear a fitted garment that is three sizes too big - ridiculous.

You can see the light coming through under the arm. You can see where the dress gapes under the arm around the side of the bust. The dress form is set to my measurements in these pics, and you can see how much extra fabric there is at either side.
Now, just to make things complicated, this dress is fully and beautifully lined. All the raw edges are inside the lining, and the inside is all beautifully finished. This would have delighted me, if it hadn't been such an unflattering shape.

At this point I do want to mention that Modcloth does have a returns policy, and I did consider returning it for a smaller size. However 1) I would have had to pay postage to the US and 2) There was no guarantee a smaller one would be the right shape, and then I'd have less fabric to work with to make it nicer.

I was initially planning to take apart the entire bodice, remove button bands and collar, and alter the bodice pieces and the linings and reseam.... and then I looked more closely at the fabric. It's a very light cotton-blend voile, and really wasn't going to stand up to all that seam-ripping and re-stitching. So I did the Mickey Mouse version.

First I took the sleeves out. I didn't photograph it, but I marked with a tailor's pencil the point at which the gathers started on the inside of the armhole and the sleeve. I needed to keep track of placement for the sleeve, because taking in the bodice will reduce the armhole and the sleeve will need to be gathered more to fit in the same hole neatly.

After the sleeves were out (and I'd recovered from the dizzying moment where i remembered what I'd paid for the dress and how upset I'd be if I couldn't put it all back together), I pinned the side-seams where I thought they needed to come in based on my dress form. I love the dress form, but it assumes the placement of your inches are funny places sometimes, so I always try on as I go too.
I basted by hand (super-roughly) using very bright thread so I could try it on.
It was now a little tight across the front of the bust, so I rebasted until I was happy with the results.

I sewed two rows of straight stitch (about a 2) on either side, and then a row of zig-zag over the outer straight row (if you were enough of a sophisticate to own an overlocker, this is where I would use one). I then cut the fabric back to my new side seams (only needing to breathe into a paper bag occasionally).

Here is where I forgot to take any progress shots because I was totally in the zone, by the way. The seams shots were just taken on my lap two minutes ago.

I unpicked the gather stitches at the top of the sleeves and ironed the pieces out flat. (Side note - I didn't want to cut the sleeves down even though they were a little big for my liking, because the cuff and button details were perfectly rendered and my mother didn't raise no fool).

I pinned the sleeves in to the marks I'd made on the armhole indicating where gathering started, and made a new mark on the sleeves pieces in a new colour. I unpinned and sewed gathering stitches between the new marks, repinned into the armhole and gathered until it all fit nicely.

I reattached the sleeves (with bated breath) using much the same stitching as the side seams.
And it now fits! k I am relieved, and delighted, and so deeply in love with the print I want to buy acorn earrings or squirrel themed jewellery to go with it...

And I know it's totally bad form to leave you with a dress-form pic and not a proper "see it fits" glammed up shot, but I'm tired, my skin's bad and my photographer needs lessons. I'm wearing it tomorrow with a newly completed cardi, so will rattle up a properly styled pic for then. And I might even post it within the next decade!

Anyway, sorry to spam you with all the pics! If there's anyone left out there, that is :p

Peace out,
Ms Spider xo

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Peacock Feathers II: a sequel (silk-quel?)

In February 2007, I made myself a Peacock Feathers Shawl. - rav link. Also, blogged here and here. It's a great shawl, and gets a lot of wear in cool weather as a scarf. I used my own laceweight wool, and it's grown a little halo over time.
However, I've been thinking increasingly that I need a really lustrous silk shawl for summer evenings, and finally decided that it was time for a rerun. Because I tend to be too focused on projects when they are incomplete to blog about them, here is the journey from skein to feather in pictures:

1. Fibreworks 2ply silk from Waratah Fibres.
2. About 30% done
3. Finished!
4. Blocking.
5. Preening.And it looks REALLY easy when you explain it like that! It took a little over 2 weeks (but I was stuck on the couch for four days solid trying to overcome horrible side-effects to hard core antibiotics, so this isn't a realistic or repeatable timeframe) and I think I might wear this outfit to the yr 10 formal this year. I will just have to restrain myself from flapping my wings, because they already think I'm a big enough dag ;)

The colour in the second pic is most accurate - it's a really lustrous, opalescent purple and green colourway.

Oh and I totally wouldn't have held it together at work over the last few weeks if I hadn't had this baby to distract me ;)

It ain't all bad!
Ms Spider xo

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said the lemming

I've been thinking about my stress levels. They are not necessarily a good thing in my life. It's not just work, it's a lot of things. I know there's always someone who's worse off, and on the face of it I have a pretty happy life. I have a career that I (mostly) love, a happy marriage, a home, more yarn than I can poke a knitting needle at, a good income and my youth. The health thing is not so easy to define, but it's not like I can't work or can never enjoy myself, so let's say I have my health too.
What I also have is a somewhat overactive sense of responsibility. These are not my words, but the husband's. I have a tendency to collect lost souls, and feel genuinely and totally responsible for their wellbeing. You can imagine how inconvenient a trait this is as a teacher. Don't get me wrong, I care about all of my kids. But every now and then there'll be one who tugs on the old heart strings and I lose sleep over them. I'm getting better at compartmentalising with kids, and I think it's because I never have to deal with them in person outside of school. With friends it's a different matter.
The husband says the problem is not that I care, but that it is rarely reciprocal ("they aren't capable of caring the way you do"), and it upsets him to see me invest so much time and concern into people who leave when they don't need me anymore. He has this thing about me being a good person, like I'm some moral compass and everyone else is out for themselves. He watches me on the phone and kisses me when I hang up and says "you are so nice", like I just performed a magic trick.
I don't know if I'm a good person. If someone shoots at the person next to you and you jump in front of them instinctively, are you still a hero? Don't get me wrong. If there's a choice I will try to do the good/fair/kind thing. But does it really count if I keep sacrificing my mental health on reflex? Some days it feels like I'm smiling reassuringly at someone and telling them they really can stab me in the back if they try hard enough, "here, try again". If it was survival of the fittest time, there's no way those genes would get passed on.

Anyway, this was supposed to be about my new shawl. I keep writing these emo posts and then saving them as drafts and ignoring them. I'm just going to post this one so it's out of the way, and start a new one about the shawl.

Oh, and I'm fine. It's just the end of week 6, the year tens are mostly finished and it's making me a bit teary (I know, but I'm basically a person-shaped marshmallow, and this is the first group I've seen through from year 7), and I have the formal, graduation, final assessment and reports to write for 120 kids and no desire to do anything but knit and make amateurish jewellery.

Peace out,
Ms Spider xox

PS. Of course, I have friends who don't use me and who care, and I love them to bits. I'm just kind of bad at deciding to distance myself from people who are making life hard for me if I can see they need me...

Sunday, October 24, 2010


So... this blogging thing. Weird, isn't it?

I think of it as a little like money. You either have plenty because you work but no time to spend any, or time to spend money because you don't work and therefor don't have any. With this blog... I have a busy life, so lots to write about. But no time to write about it! Added to that is the issue of confidentiality with my job, and I end up with lots I want to say, very little I can say, and no time to say it.

I used to compose posts in my head and champ at the bit to get home to write them down. These days these thoughts come to me in facebook updates. The time I want to give to composing just isn't there. All my thoughts are posted as they occur, and I don't want to repeat myself here.

And I am at the point in my life where the world is shrinking. The connection I have with my husband is wonderful. Whatever happens, we have fun and I don't have to be anything except myself (it was just our first anniversary by the way!). The downside of this is that I am kind of getting rusty with the ol' small talk. Don't get me wrong, I have yet to meet a parent teacher night the butt of which I cannot kick. But when it comes to the social thing... I struggle with the transition between acquaintance and friend. Honestly, I think I am most charming and interesting when I don't know people at all.

So this shrinking thing? It was my yr 10 ten year reunion yesterday. I've been battling with the migraines again and was really not well enough to go. And this morning I'm looking at the requisite pics on facebook and thinking "I have no idea what I would have said to any of these people". I can count my friends on my fingers. And of those friends, the ones I manage to keep in contact with I can count on my thumbs. And I feel like I should feel worse about this.

Anyway, the tangential nature of this post reflects a) the fact that I no longer edit the poop out of my posts, b) the tail end of my latest migraine and c) a possible crisis of identity.

But there are socks!Apparently my limited brain power of late has made me susceptible to the deep and calming persuasion of the sock. I've just looked back over my rav projects, and I've finished 7 pairs since the end of August, and have two pairs on the go. More details here: rav link.

I also made another cropped cardigan: Bright Star from Twist Collective in Cleckheaton Country 8ply.
I love the idea of a cropped cardi, but am having trouble finding a colour I can wear that works for this type of garment. All the cute ones I see are bright red or yellow, and I look pretty unwell in both of those. Navy works well for me, but is kind of hard to accessorise. There are only so many white tops I have...

Anyway, a nice wingey, confusing post. Hope to get in another one soonish. Still have no solution to the issue of confidentiality vs. needing to get the hilarity off my chest... I'm open to suggestions, if there's anyone still out there ;)

Peace out
Ms Spider xox

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