An Ode to Stripy Tops (or the Grainline Appreciation Post)

A while ago I realised that I had a wardrobe full of colourful handmade dresses, but nowhere near enough casual tops. I knew that I wanted to wear more handmade while off-duty too, so I’ve been on the look-out for good quality cotton jersey that would indulge my love of stripes. I’d had my eye on the Grainline Studio Linden sweatshirt since it was launched last year, but it had fallen down my to-sew list. As a warm-up I decided to sew up the free Hemlock Tee first so I could work out the sizing.  The Hemlock is free to Grainline subscribers, and I know it’s been hugely popular. The most recent contender for Hemlock I most want to steal was this beauty by Birgitte of Indigo Orchid. Birgitte did warn me that once I’d made one Hemlock I’d be addicted. She was right!

So here she is: the latest addition to my usual off-duty wardrobe of skinnies, flats and stripy tops. My other handmade favourite stripes have been my Tilly Coco and Bluegingerdoll Bonnie. A new stripy top was long-overdue. I love the dropped shoulders and casual but modern fit. I think it looks just a little bit more chic than a pyjama top, but that’s how it feels to wear. I shortened the bodice by several inches.

I am so happy with it that I can’t bear to take it off. The only improvement I would make next time would be to reduce the neckline a little. I had to cut a longer piece of binding for this top, resulting in quite a wide neck (although a cracking binding, if I do say so myself!). Next time I will cut two back bodices to create a boat neck as this one is on the verge of being too wide.

So after a happy experience with the Hemlock, I launched right into the Linden. I especially loved the casual raglan sleeves on this pattern, and used a grey striped French terry to enhance the raglan style. Again, it came out the right side of slouchy.

 Check out my raglan stripe-matching! I constructed both tops on the overlocker, using my new walking foot to topstitch the neckline bands down.  I wondered about the fit as the Grainline promotional photos always look quite baggy, but I am over the moon with both, just as I was with my Grainline Archer shirt. Grainline patterns seem to be perfectly proportioned to be modern and classic.  I had thought a sweatshirt was unnecessary in this climate, but the tyrants of air conditioning keep me permanently chilly indoors. Just like the Hemlock, I can quite bear to take this off to wash it!

I’m back on the balcony for this post. The quest for better blog photos in confined spaces continues. My photographer-husband has a new strategy: muttering insults at me and my modelling technique under his breath never fails to make me laugh!

Bonnie does Snakeskin

I am trying to slow down, I really am! But when the perfect fabric meets the perfect pattern, sewing alchemy happens and you’re powerless. I bought this AMAZING blue python print ponte on eBay for a bargainous £3.45 per metre in preparation for my first foray into sewing knits with my overlocker. I had been cyber-stalking a number of gorgeous Bluegingerdoll Bonnies: my absolute faves were courtesy of Handmade Jane, Heather B, A Stitching Odyssey, and Make Sew Do.  Despite loving Bonnie, I fully intended to make a Bluegingerdoll Violet dress first, which I duly cut out, but last-minute overlocking nerves resulted in a light-bulb moment: I could make a Bonnie with the remnants before I tackle the dress. And my new favourite garment was born! It ticks all of my current sewing aspirations: it’s casual, modern everyday wear and quick to make. I love it! Bluegingerdoll BonnieI chose view B – the cropped sweater version, but with long sleeves and a boat neckline. I was particularly excited to be supporting a pattern company that bases its patterns on my bust size as the norm – a D cup. Choosing ponte as my first knit was a good call. It was stable and behaved well; no slipping around and stretching out of shape. I had a bit of a practice-run on some scraps. It all went swimmingly so I got stuck in on the waistband. Cue first incident of fabric being attacked by the blade. Thankfully, it wasn’t fatal, but a good reminder to keep control of both layers of fabric at all times. Note to self: I really should watch the instructional DVD. On the back shoulders I used stay tape to affix the clear plastic stretch tape, then used the overlocker to attach it. Bluegingerdoll BonnieI am always a big fan of a gathered sleeve-head, and this pattern didn’t disappoint. It’s one of those optical illusions that slims down the rest of your body, creating extra waistline. I sewed gather-stitches on the sleeve-head and then overlocked the two sections together. The gather stitches were conveniently trimmed off by the blade. The whole top was made with the overlocker, except from the neckline and sleeve hems, which I zig-zagged on the sewing machine. It was so quick to make: it probably took me around an hour (not including cutting) to make, with my two small people doing colouring-in either side of me. There was a reason why I sneakily suggested a Crafternoon! Bluegingerdoll BonnieI’ve got a couple more Bonnies lined up as soon as I’ve got a spare hour. I cut a straight size 12 for this version. The only modification I’d make for the next one is to lengthen the bodice by 1″ or so. I’m no Amazon, but the length of this top is verging on the indecent. In the real world I will be wearing this with a long-length vest underneath to avoid embarrassing and unsightly muffin-top revealage.  I literally cannot wait to get going on the Violet dress. I don’t think all-over python is too much, do you?! Bluegingerdoll Bonnie

Winter Knits: A Marin Shawl

Ysolda Marin Shawl

Don’t you love it when you unexpectedly stumble upon crafty inspiration? A friend at work was wearing the most beautiful and delicate shawl. I asked about it, and was excited to hear about a knitwear designer I’d never heard of: Ysolda Teague.

I’m a fairly recent knitter. Being left-handed, I found knitting and crochet really hard to master as a child. But once I had kids I found that I was craving an activity that was both absorbing and useful, and that would allow me a bit of mental space and relaxation. On a mission, I found Knitty Gritty by Aneeta Patel in my local library and I was hooked (pardon the crochet joke). I can’t recommend the book enough if you’re keen to learn and are not blessed with knitting mums or grannies nearby.

Ysolda Marin Shawl

I chose Ysolda’s Marin Shawl, and had some Amy Butler for Rowan Belle Organic DK I’d bought on sale. It’s gorgeous yarn: 50% organic cotton, 50% organic wool. The only drawback is that it’s handwash only. I learned the hard way. After my second baby was born, I knitted her a newborn-sized cardigan in the same yarn during those crazy early weeks. Somehow, in the chaos of newborn babyhood, it found its way into the washing machine. One 40 degree wash later it had felted into a cardi fit for a doll. I was gutted! So there was no way I was going to use this yarn for anything other than a small item that wouldn’t need to be hand-washed often.

shrunk cardi

This project took me the whole of last winter. I started in October in earnest and finished at Easter. Once I was a third of the way through i realised I’d been doing the ‘M1’ stitch wrong and so I had to pull it out. Undeterred, I soldiered on, starting from scratch.

Ysolda Marin Shawl

Tragedy nearly befell the whole project when my youngest, now toddler, had an outbreak of knitting envy. I must have been lavishing too much attention on my creation to her detriment, when one day a pair of bamboo needles sailed straight past my head. It took me a millisecond to realise that the little monkey had found my knitting bag, pulled the needles out of the yarn and thrown them at me. I’ve never moved so fast to get those needles back into the stitches. I’d been knitting it for four months by then!

Ysolda Marin Shawl

By April the shawl was finished, but it was too warm to wear it, so it’s been under wraps until now. The finished shawl measures 128 cm from end to end. I blocked it as instructed (unusually for me!) and saw exactly why blocking is such an essential part of finishing a garment. The blocking really made a difference to the finished look – the scalloped edges have been pulled into shape; the stitches have been evened out across the whole shawl. It was a labour of love, and I enjoyed always having a knitting project to pick up, although I did succumb to a bit of a pressure in the end as it had taken so long to complete. I’m now working on a little something for this winter….

Moneta the Third

Leopard Moneta

At the risk of repeating myself – here’s another Moneta! Seriously, I’ve got to give up the easy stuff and crack on with developing my sewing skills. But it was too hard when this fab leopard print was in my stash purring to become a late summer dress.

Leopard Moneta

As usual, this is definitely my temporary favourite! The fabric was from the ever reliable and always unpredictable Simply Fabrics in Brixton. I love that you’re never more than a cat’s whisker away from animal print when fabric shopping in Brixton! There’s something about this feline number that gives me a spring in my step when I wear it…!