Topping it off

I’m saying farewell to the sewing machine for the remainder of 2019.

After a protracted period of enforced abstinence, I wanted to finish off this nice orange top. Over the last few days, my eye has got back to normal working order, so I wanted to get the job done before the festivities began. (Apart from the soluble stitches, I no longer look like a movie extra [either Pirates of the Caribbean or some police drama], so no longer feel obliged to inflict pirate jokes on you.) Sadly, the Husband is on night shift and I have no-one to take photos of me wearing it, so Rosita has had to stand in, and very fetching she looks too.

The pattern isn’t one I want to repeat; it was a bit more complicated than I felt it needed to be to achieve the final result, but having said that, it does look pretty and feel comfortable; those big sleeves are especially cool in hot weather. The back looks much the same as the front, but the neckline is higher and there’s no opening slit.

Most of the garments I’ve made recently have been quick, easy and fun, but this one, not so much. Here’s why:

Pattern comments:
McCall’s M7325. I made view D but with shorter sleeves, ending at bracelet length instead of wrist length. The yoke is fully faced, but then, weirdly, they don’t enclose the inside edges of it neatly with the facing, so that apart from the neck and opening, you have to overlock all the other seams. There was a great deal of gathering to be done, and if I’d made View B I’d have lost the will to live long before adding the hem and sleeve ruffles. I didn’t think there was enough fulness in the sleeve head to warrant the length of the gathered area; I would have placed the pattern markings closer together. I also found the way the top was constructed and the sleeves/yoke were added to the bottom half was strange; the same result could have been achieved more easily without Y seams under the arms. The sizing was also a little on the small side for the dress sizes suggested; I had to make my seam allowances smaller here and there. I would not have called this pattern Very Easy, but Intermediate, and I am a competent dressmaker. The steps are few, but some of the processes are unduly complicated. Having said all that, I’ll happily wear the top.

The outer yoke is made from the same Kaffe Fassett Artisan Floral Border for Westminster Fibers as the last top I made, but this time in the orange colourway. The rest of the top is made in a pretty coral batik with a small white spiral dot.

Over the Christmas – New Year period, I hope to spend some time developing the big project I’ve mentioned before. It needs a lot of drawing, erasing, re-drawing, transferring, measuring and standing back and squinting, so it’s a perfect Christmas distraction. If I’m doing all that, I won’t be fridge-diving for mince pies, sausages, chocolate, cake, cold ham and all those other enticing snacky delights. I hope to emerge out the other side actually lighter, instead of heavier. The doctor has told me to lose weight due to some alarming blood test results, and I propose to give it my best shot, despite the season.

Happy Christmas or other festive celebration of your choice. It’s been fun having you along for the doings in Chiconia, and I’ll see you all next decade!

Hugs ❤

The Pirate of Walkerston: back for round 2

Christmas dress-up this year will include an eyepatch, I’m afraid.

I had to go back for a second bout of eye surgery. The lump came back; in only 2 weeks it was nearly as large as it was before. This time, there was no messing about: it’s a fair old incision, on the front of the eyelid, with stitches. Messy, too, accompanied by the smell of Barbecued Me – it seems that the front of the eyelid bleeds like stink and has to be cauterised. Samples of the “weird stuff inside” are going off to pathology (thanks, Dr Li, I feel so much better knowing it was weird stuff rather than boring stuff…), but it’s best to know if there’s something nasty going on there, isn’t it?

So, another extended period of sewing abstinence. I can’t really read, and this post has taken over an hour to write, so there’s going to be a bit of “I’m bored…” whinging going on. Good job the Husband is off work for another day.

Cue pirate noises. If anyone has a suitable hat, eyepatch and stuffed parrot, I can give them a good home.

Miz Lizzie Adventures: all legal

That’s a weight off my mind. Literally.

Miz Lizzie is a small caravan, built on an aluminium frame, but of recent years she’s become a bit of a barge-arse* and not strictly legal. Her previous owners added all sorts of extra goodies that piled on the pounds, until she was at least 400kg (880 pounds) overweight when empty, let alone with all our stuff on board. Deep cycle battery, extra water tank, air conditioning, that sort of thing.

In Australia (and possibly elsewhere, I wouldn’t know) caravans have a compliance plate on their frames, detailing who made them and when, what they’re supposed to weigh, etc. If the Department of Transport does a spot check and pulls you over and onto a weighbridge, and you’re over your correct weight, you get fined a very considerable amount (in the thousands of dollars). Some time ago, we’d put her on a weighbridge and discovered the dreadful truth. So we put her into our favourite caravan workshop to have some upgrades. She got a heavy duty subframe and extra leaf springs in her suspension, plus wheel rims and tyres for a much heavier vehicle. She was now capable of carrying the extra weight plus anything else we cared to throw at her.

The next bit of fun was finding someone authorised to inspect and re-certify her, and issue a new compliance plate. That took a long, long time, but eventually we found someone, he did the job, we handed over a very moderate sum of money, and Miz Lizzie is now the proud owner of a shiny new blue compliance plate.

We are now safe from roving DoT inspectors and the danger of having insurance claims refused in case of accidents. Miz Lizzie rides a good bit higher than before, but her new chunky wheels are less vulnerable to rocks, potholes and gravel roads, she rides more smoothly so I’m less likely to find things all over the floor inside when we pull up, and we also have a shiny new pull-out step to help climb up into her. Mouse has no trouble getting on board, so I think we’re ready for our long trip south in late February.

It’s good to know she’s set for many more years. (Now, what about that paint job we were talking about…?)

* Defined by the Urban Dictionary as “the large, plump and rather gigantic behind a woman tries to conceal by wearing dresses”, but actually used to mean anyone built on a generous scale with perhaps a touch too much extra in the sitting department.

ScrapHappy December: Now we’re getting somewhere

Welcome once again to ScrapHappy Day!

It’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps.

Here’s where I’d got to last time:

And despite a hiatus in actually sewing on this piece due to eye surgery, here’s where I am now, and I’m pleased with progress.

Those three flowers at the end of last month’s photo are attached, and so are three more. At this point, I won’t be adding any more to the length, I’ll start making smaller, squareish blocks to add at the bottom edge, which will make sewing them in easier.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). If you’ve copied this list from previous posts, please use the one below as it’s the most up to date 🙂

Kate (me!)Gun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry, Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.

See you again, same time next month

Drop down, ye heavens*

Someone up there was listening.

For the first time in months and months, we have rain. RAIN!! Accompanied by some quite emphatic thunder and lightning. Poor Mouse is hiding his head under the bedclothes; he hates thunder. He’s showing the whites of his eyes, and will not be pacified or placated with treats and cuddles; instead he stands and trembles and pants, or paces the house looking for somewhere the nasty bangs and crashes don’t penetrate. Poor boy…

I won’t have to water the yard at 6.30am. I won’t have to worry about Mouse’s zoomies wearing bare patches in the brown crispy grass, or losing some of the mature shrubs which are looking very stressed.

Our huge downpipes are gurgling with deep organ tones. They’re 20cm (8 inches) in diameter, built to handle monsoon-style rain, and tonight, they’re doing a great job. The wind is howling a fair bit, and the neighbour’s wind chime is clashing and clanking rather than chiming sweetly. What is sweet, though, is the smell of wet earth and leaves, wafting through the screen door onto the porch. It’s a classic ‘storm from the west’, bringing the thunder and lightning you don’t get with storms coming down from the wet tropics in the north.

It probably won’t last long enough to fill any dams or reservoirs, but it’ll replenish a good few water tanks and save the farmers having to irrigate for a few days and pay the electricity bill for pumping water they can ill afford. (The worst of irrigation is they have to take the water when it’s available, which means they’re pumping water over the crops at a time of day when it’ll evaporate and burn the leaves.)

As I write, the banging and crashing is receding into the distance, heading away to the northwest and out to sea. We’re lucky the cell was strong enough to maintain itself till it reached us; often, the westerlies beat themselves to death against the top of the range and the coastal strip doesn’t get anything.

We won’t have to get on the roof to wash the dust off the solar panels. We won’t have to wash the car or mop the deck. What we will have to do, sadly, is mow the grass, and probably very soon…

Still, it’s a good problem to have!

*Isaiah 45:8

In fine feather

Sometimes, hoarding precious fabric isn’t sensible.

In my last BM&I post, you saw a small piece of fabric featuring all kinds of feathers in shades of grey and light brown. I’ve had that fabric for 7 years, I think. Every so often, I got it out and thought about using it for something. And then I’d put it away again. I used a really quite small piece for the Parterre block, but I still had a sizeable chunk left. Back in the cupboard it went.

The other day I read a couple of things. The first was Anne Lawson‘s comment on my BM&I post, enjoying the feather fabric and pointing out that one of the feathers was from a guinea fowl, one of the types of feathers she has illustrated so beautifully herself. The other was a theme running through a number of Anne’s own posts, expressing a lack of inspiration to continue with much of her creative work, and worrying about how to address it. I thought perhaps I could offer a little encouragement…

Anne derives a lot of benefit and inspiration from artist residencies, taking time out to single-mindedly pursue inspiration and excellence in her work. If she’s anything like me, packing up and preparing creative materials for trips away is half the trick; so often I leave at home something important. Last time, it was my camera…

So I thought I’d make her something that combined the feathers she loves so much with something practical and useful. And here it is: an artist’s tool roll.

And of course – of course – there are plenty of feathers:  a large panel of the fabric on the outside, and one of the two levels of pockets made from it too. What you can’t see very well is that the binding is silver on black, not grey. I love that tiny metallic touch amongst all the softness.

Even the tie is made from the very last scrap of the feathers. And I’m so happy that Anne is the very deserving recipient of all this airy loveliness. 

Look out for it, Anne, it’s coming your way.

Laughing up my sleeve

I’ve finally finished this one.

I’ve been working on it off and on for a few days, doing as much as I could each time before the eye gave out. I cut it all out on impulse before eye surgery, as a sort of distraction from pre-op nerves. Now, it feels almost like a secret sewing project, since I haven’t posted anything about it before, mainly because I had no idea how long it would take.

You may recognise the pattern, this time with a longer sleeve length than the Mango & Papaya top I made earlier. Speaking of sleeves, what do you think? Bright, aren’t they? I bought two half-metre pieces of Kaffe Fassett fabric from his Artisan range for Westminster Fibers. It’s gorgeous, but not cheap (AU$29/metre). One piece was this blue version, and the other is the same print, but in bright orange. In order to make something wearable from the small quantities, I also bought this blender fabric in the same blue. I didn’t have a plan or the pattern at the time, I just wanted to make something that didn’t involve totally cutting up the print.

By shortening the long sleeve from the pattern options, I was able to squeeze both sleeves out of just half the fabric, leaving me a reasonable amount to make something quilty with. I couldn’t resist the acid green binding for this top too, the remainder of what I made for M&P. It’s a great match for colour in the big print, and gives the neckline a bit of zing. The top probably wouldn’t work in northern Europe without sunglasses, but here in the very bright sunshine of a tropical summer, it’s just another colourful garment.

Now I need to get some fabric to go with the other colourway. I still have some coral pink binding from the sleeveless top variant I made from this pattern (did I show that one? I don’t think I did). I reckon coral and orange would work nicely… The question is, same top again, or something different this time? I have a pattern I haven’t tried yet which might utilise the print panel nicely.

Right, on with the next thing!

PS: the eye’s definitely mending. For those who wanted a status update, here’s the new yellow/ brown colourway!