Sunday, February 25, 2018

Middle aged activism

I always thought it was supposed to be the young who get all angry about injustice in the world.
I didn't getting particularly angry about it in my youth.
Or maybe I did but I have just don't remember.

Anyway lately I find myself getting really angry about all sorts of issues - plastic in the oceans; Syria's government killing it's own people; sexual harassment; workplace bullying; the National Party; freedom campers who treat the wilderness (or other people's back yards) as toilets...there's too many.

Should I be pleased that I am finally willing to talk about this stuff and even give my MP a piece of my mind?

Or should I be worried that I have started the journey towards becoming a grumpy old woman?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

In which I discover we have been unwittingly eating caged pork! And pick up rubbish as penance.

One weekend I wasn't able to get out of accompanying the boy grocery shopping (usually I get to stay at home and TLM goes with him).

But its a good job I did.

For I don't know how long, he's been conned into thinking that a "pigcare" label on a packet of pork means it's as good as free-farmed. I didn't think so, and after we got home I went on the 'Net to check.

Sure enough, I was right and he was wrong. That label just means the pig farmer met the minimum animal welfare requirements - which is nothing to hug your tree about.

I hope the boy goes back to buying Freedom Farms products because that's a brand I do trust to let their pigs roam.

Also, last weekend TLM and I picked up plastic rubbish that we found in the gutter as we went for my shuffling walk! For the longest time I felt guilty for not picking up rubbish because I knew that by not doing so I was increasing its chance of ending up in a waterway. But this time we did it anyway.

We did have to walk the rest of the way home with our hands away from our bodies, to avoid spreading rubbish germs to the rest of our body...

On social sewing and the picking of brains

So last Sunday I went to a sewing meet-up, my very first. It was a bit daunting at first, because everyone else seemed to know each other well from years' of previous meet-ups. But in the end I not only enjoyed some sewing camaraderie but nearly finished making a long fluted skirt from two pairs of the boy's cast-off jeans (photo to come after I'm done with the project).

I also had the good fortune to be at a meet-up when Bernina sewing reps cam a-visiting. So - after 30 years as a Bernina owner - I learned how best to clean the shit that accumulates in the machine when you use it. Not only that, I got to pick their brains about how best to handle stretchy fabrics.

The main takeaway from this is to use stretch needles (not just ballpoint needles) and the machine's vari-overlock stitch, and that I have the very presser foot that goes with this stitch. So that's what it's for!

I'm still not convinced this will allow me to topstitch the binding on my Thunderpants-lookalike undies, but I will take what I can get and try it out.



Snail's pace

For the last few weeks now I've been forced to choose between not walking anywhere, or walking very slowly, carefully and tensely.

It's not easy being crippled by tendonitis and doc-knows-what other causes of knee pain. It started in my left knee, but I'm now getting more frequent pain in the right knee too (due to the rest of my body compensating for the injury).

I'll be seeing the doctor tomorrow and he'll probably refer me to physiotherapy.





Monday, February 05, 2018

A stripy linen something

I bought 2 metres of this nice candy-striped linen at the Fabric Store sale recently.
This amount should be enough for me to make a sleeveless max dress, a long sleeved short dress, a maxi skirt and a sleeveless shell top, 2-3 sleeveless shell tops or a long sleeve shirt plus something small.

But I cannot decide what to make.

I really enjoy wearing my long linen skirt in this heat we've been experiencing, so it would be good to have another long skirt to mix and match with my tops.
And I wouldn't mind some more tops, a mixture of sleeveless, shortish sleeved and long sleeved.
But I really like the idea of a stripy sundress.
Mind you there are some very appealing jumpsuits around too - even though I'm far too practical-minded to wear one.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A leftovers summer knit


Sometime after I found out I couldn't wear wool hats due to my new-found wool allergy, but before I started wearing a wig (and well before my hair grew back), I ordered enough cotton knitting yarn for hats in five different colours.

By the time I had finished my first cotton beanie (in dark green with a criss-cross texture pattern) I'd already started wearing a wig.

So after a bit of research and a couple of false starts I made this top.
The front is in blue and green stripes, with an eyelet row every 2 or 4 rows. I tried to vary the width of the stripes so that they were narrow around my waist, for an hourglass effect.

It's my own design, loosely based on the measurements of a knit chevron top in one of my Designer Knitting magazines.

The back is the same pattern but with red and orange stripes. You can also see my new hairstyle. Hmm...it does look better from the front especially if you screw up your eyes a bit so that the wrinkles blur.









Worn with my cool Britannia-themed singlet underneath, plus a pair of jeans which has been over-dyed, patched over where the denim has stretched out and become bubbly, and finally chopped off to become a pair of casual shorts.

Unsurprisingly my new top is too warm to wear this summer, except when it rains and the temps dip below 22 degrees and I'm sat on the couch with my injured knee resting on cushions.

Stoppable (except when it comes to sewing)

So I was going to take this whole week off, get TLM out of the house and away from her electronic devices, and enjoy some summer.

I revived my high intensity interval training-style hill walks - this means whenever I have to walk uphill I walk up as quickly as I possibly can. (This, along with my sugar intake restriction, was behind the satisfying weight loss that I enjoyed about 10 months ago.)

I even ran up them hills - well, for the first couple of days of my holiday anyway. On the second day I felt my left knee graunch during an uphill lope. The next day I took TLM to the local surf beach to play in the waves and do an ice cream stroll. And then my knee kind of blew up on me.

Three flippin' days on the couch followed; days of heat and sun (and one of refreshing rain) and restlessness. My laptop sure did get a good workout.

I did get some sewing done - a more successful pair of undies and bucket hats for the boy and me. Making the hats was a great way to use up fabric scraps. I used the free denim bucket hat pattern this time (rather than designing it on the fly, which is so time consuming...). I highly recommend this pattern. Any flaws you spot in these hats is probably due to user error.
I made this in the size large. It turned out to be too big for me so I gave it to the boy. It is mostly a single layer of linen plus a double layer for the brim. The boy won't wear it in public because it's not his style - but he won't give it back to me so that I can resize it for myself :-(

One side of a reversible hat in size medium (which does fit me). Love this cotton print,  which is scraps from a kimono sleeve top.

The other side of the reversible hat. The purple is linen, the navy is cotton, the grey-blue is linen I think.

Undies #6, bound with  lingerie elastic (not correctly, but it works) instead of self binding, using the Acacia pattern. Fits really well, but I think it's a bit low-cut for my taste.
In case you're wondering, I don't often sew for The Little Madam. She is very picky about what she wears - mostly cargo pants and long sleeved t-shirts in non-girly colours. And hat-wise she will only wear baseball-style caps that she can fastern around her ponytail.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Redirecting old clothes

I love to cut up the boy's (and mine) unwanted clothing and turn it into something I (or TLM) would be happy to wear.

But often I don't, because the shirt or jacket is in great condition - and wouldn't it be better to donate it to an op shop, who can sell it to someone who can't afford to buy "new" new clothes?

I'm going to stop doing that now, because apparently a huge proportion of donated clothing just doesn't get sold, but ends up in the landfill.

So I'm thinking that the green way to go would be to re-use our cast-offs - where possible - so that:

  • they don't end up in landfill, which is much more likely than I'd previously thought; and 
  • I consume much brand new fabric.
Last week I turned one of the boy's unwanted Calvin Klein t-shirts into a summer sleep singlet, and two more of his t-shirts into a baseball shirt for TLM (who, although it is high summer, will not expose her arms or legs so must wear long sleeves and trousers).

Undie odyssey part 2 -

There goes my plan to make a matching crop top and undies set.
The cotton/lycra fabric must be less stretchy than I thought, because when I sewed up undies #4 (using Acacia) in this it turned out to be a tad tight. On the other hand, the crop top is a little loose around the ribs and I think I over-shortened the shoulder straps. With the crop top though, it's because I'm still working out getting the fit just right and over-corrected.

Then I bought some more cotton/lycra (this time in an angel print), and sewed up undies #5.
Nope, a bit too loose. I suspect my measuring of the waist and pantleg bindings has been a wee bit inconsistent...

Also, I noticed a lot more rippling in undies #5. So even though the fabric should have good stretch and recovery something is letting me down. After reading on the 'Net and some of my sewing magazines, I've decided its because I shouldn't be stretching the pieces as I sew them.

I remembered that the rippling only started after I top-stitched the binding, so perhaps for the time being I will omit that step.

I did think maybe I need an overlocker, but first I'll try (in this order):

  1. sewing a lot more slowly, and moving the fabric along manually if it seems to be getting stuck under the foot
  2. using some of the stretch stitches (not just zig zag), now that I've gone back to the manual and read about them
  3. getting a stretch needle and twin needle
  4. a walking foot - this will take a while, as I have to find one that is compatible with a Bernina 1020. This machine is older than two of my workmates!

Saturday, January 06, 2018

On my new blog title

I decided to rename my blog, since my knitting has fallen away somewhat (due to the need to avoid wool in particular and animal fibres in general) so the old name is no longer very applicable.

One of my motivations for making my own clothes (even undies) has been to remove myself from that whole planet- and ethics-trashing trend that is fast fashion. So this blog's new direction is about trying to go greener (but I'll still blog about the family and other stuff).

Recently I made the decision to go vegetarian for my work lunches. This doesn't sound like much, but my family is heavily into meat, so breakfast is about the only meal I have that is mostly meat-free!

Then I switched from "normal" tampons to organic tampons - though it had to wait until it was possible to find a brand that wasn't a lot more expensive than the "normal" brands. Apparently organic cotton breaks down within about 5 years, a fraction of the time it takes for the normal cotton to break down. Since our rubbish is usually contained within plastic bags, I don't know that a quicker breakdown is actually realistic. But it's got to be better for my body, and for the people who produce the organic cotton right?

The next stage of my greening is switching from disposable menstrual products to reusable. I won't go all the way and get a moon cup, because to be honest I don't think I've got that many years left of periods. But I have ordered some fabric pads and once I start using them it'll reduce the amount of rubbish quite a lot for approximately one week per month.

Unfortunately the boy is not that interested in the path to green enlightenment (though he will buy free range food for my sake). But TLM is willing to humour me so there's hope she will take it further as she gets older and wiser.

Unselfish sewing

The Little Madam, now 12 1/2, is now big enough to wear women's clothing.
She isn't tall for her age, nor what you might call "well developed" for her age. In fact she's smaller than most of the kids in her age.

But she does fit a woman's size 8 (NZ sizing) in raincoats, almost fits a Warehouse pajama size XS  AND is almost too big to fit a Simplicity size XS.

Today I whipped up a raglan-sleeve tee for TLM using the raglan tee pattern from my Sew U Home Stretch book (by Wendy Mullin). I used the XS size and some polyester/elastane jersey that has a nice dark green-to-pale mint ombre colour effect on it.

I added self-fabric sleeve and hem bands because the body and sleeves were a bit short (to be fair, the original pattern has three quarter length sleeves), and also around the neck (instead of ribbing 'cos I had none). I had to cut down the neck because it would have been too small to go around her head. Not sure if this was user error, or that a XS woman has a much smaller head than a pre-teen of the same body size.

the collar stands up a bit as it's not ribbing, but I like to think of it as a low funnel neck...

it looks like I used contrast fabrics, but these are all cut from the same cloth, which is ombre dyed
Now that I have done my non-selfish sewing for the year I feel justified in going back to sewing undies and crop tops for moi.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

An undie odyssey

I have always liked the undies made by the likes of Thunderpants and Fanny Adams. They are super comfy and soft, and there's no tight elastic or wedginess. However I can't really afford to spend up to $28 per pair. Plus their undies only come in 4 sizes - if their hipster undies don't fit you perfectly they are going to fall down!

The other thing is that I hate wearing bras because they make me feel asthmatic. I basically just don't wear one if I can possibly get away with it (it helps to wear tops made from crisp wovens rather than super-drapey knits). I can get crop tops that fit but are made of synthetic fabric, which is a bit sweat-making in summer, or pretty cotton ones (from Thunderpants for example) that would be great except they don't fit me.

So all this is leading up to...my sewing my own underwear.

I started out with Kwik Sew 3239 which is actually a swimsuit pattern. ( I may even use it to make a swimsuit one day - variations include crop top, halter neck bikini top, low cut boylegs, high cut boylegs, briefs, bikini bottoms and tankini).

I used a viscose and elastane fabric that was sitting around doing nothing ever since I realised that brown looks horrible against my skin tone -
these are the low cut boy legs. I raised it to a mid-waist.

These are the briefs, after I lowered the waist.

For both of these I used self fabric binding instead of elastic, for the Thunderpants look. Of course they otherwise don't resemble Thunderpants pants at all.

Then I had a go at making the crop top, using a combination of the above fabric plus an old black long sleeve t-shirt that I no longer wore -


The fit is almost perfect on me. I had to remove length from the shoulder straps, and veered between small and medium in size. The lower band is probably a bit wider than the pattern would recommend, but that's to accommodate my need for room about my rib cage.  The only thing I would change for the next one I make, would be to narrow the shoulder straps - either by cutting them narrower or by turning in the binding after sewing it in. I may also experiment with using the halter bikini to get a more plunging neckline in a future crop top.

I have also had a go at Megan Neilson's Acacia pattern for undies. This is your classic hipster brief, and the one I have decided to use in future undie-making. The shape is great (covers your bum, just the right about of rise, comfy to wear). However I don't have a photo for you because it's in the laundry basket (have already worn them twice since making them). As I did with the other undies above, I substituted the elastic for self fabric binding.

I've already cut out my next crop top and Acacia undies - it will be the first time I match top and bottom!