Friday, 17 February 2012

Look good and have a good day

A few days ago I unexpectedly gained 3 hours – time to (machine) knit the final sample for a man’s fair- isle jumper. I have decided to knit a strip from bottom to armhole as this will check my ability to get the colour sequence correct and check the length of more than a 60 row sample.
Well, it was a disaster, I made endless mistakes in the colour and needle selection and then an hour later realised that I had never set the tension correctly. Well mistakes are there to learn from. But, the key factor in all this is that I decided to do this while wearing my ‘cleaning clothes’. I like a clean and tidy house but I do not enjoy the process of getting there and hence do not wear clothes I like for cleaning (see later may be a mistake!). I continued to wear these for the knitting.
So, a few days later, having planned meticulously how to succeed at the sample, I dressed up in clothes I adore and took myself off to my machine knitting studio and knitted the sample again. No mistakes and a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Here is a sample of the fair-isle jumper project, ignore the green – it is a tension sample!

This reinforces what I know already - the clothes you wear influence your mental state. Why wear clothes we don’t like, ever? I am now going to re-evaluate my cleaning clothes too; can I get to enjoy the process of cleaning? If the cleaning journey could be as enjoyable as the destination that would be truly great.

Monday, 13 February 2012

My oldest sewing machine

Having done a quick count up I currently have 5 sewing machines and I have given another one to my son. That’s nearly as many as I have looms.
On browsing ebay to see if an early electric one had any monetary value I noticed a couple of rare long spindles that I thought would fit my oldest machine. This machine was duly lugged from the loft by DH (I think the base is lead lined) and yes they would fit. So the machine now has 3 spindles that pass as bobbins. There is a sort of automatic bobbin wider but then the fun bit is putting the bobbin in the little boat and threading through a number of holes to provide bobbin tension.

Research has shown that the machine was made in 1898, Singer were great they engraved a number on each machine which makes dating relatively easy. It is a hand machine model 12K (I think) and it has the most beautiful gold decoration, virtually all over.
I have had this machine since my early student days, I couldn’t live without a machine – how can anyone! I can’t remember what I paid, I do remember carrying it back to my flat on the tube – I have no idea how I managed – but then I was determined.
Yesterday I threaded the machine from memory, popped some wool material under the foot and wow it stitched beautifully - the wiggles are due to the operator! Untouched by me for 40 years I think. Then I tried some tricky sateen cotton and yes success again. I am so delighted. It is now sitting out in pride of place in my studio.

This experience has prompted a few questions:
1. Will my beloved Janome bought about 2004 still be going in 2118?
2. If so when it brought to life again, will it give such a moment of joy?
3. How many students aged 19 could not live without a sewing machine today?

Sunday, 5 February 2012


Wightwick Manor, just has to be one of my favourite National Trust properties, particularly due to the Pre Raphaelite and William Morris links. I just had to treat myself to a tea cloth when I visited, not because it is a tea cloth but because of the William Morris quote ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’
I have spent much of January, thinking about or actually involved in sorting out my aunt’s bungalow after her death. This quote kept coming back to me – why were some things kept? I can understand the sentimental things, the favourite cake tin but others were a mystery.
There were new unwrapped and unworn clothes, lots of clothes the same, clothes that would never be worn and so it went on. They were, for the most part, tidily arranged on nice hangers, mainly padded but oh so many! That got me thinking about my own clothes and what would someone be thinking if they had to see to them!
So I am forming some New Year resolutions (for my New Year which started on Feb. 1st!). I have already sorted the wardrobe and have only one item per hanger and only things hanging up that fit the William Morris mantra – but it is the last part of that which I am going to aim to home in on … ‘believe to be beautiful’. I do have real joy when I open my wardrobe door. But how will I do? I have clothes in other places! Then when I have done the clothes what about my yarns and fabrics? I do have quite a store of each!

I have yarns that I do not believe to be beautiful (very old acrylics) I am a ‘natural‘ person- wool being my favourite yarn and these that are pretending to be wool substitutes are the ones I so dislike. I can’t really see that many of these are useful to me. Will I think of ‘a use’ for them for me? Do I just remove them from my house? The answer ought to be yes but will it be?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Blue Tweed Coat

Most of last year was a challenge to me, due to my husband’s ill health, subsequent operation and recovery that much of life went on hold. January has been disrupted too, for an entirely different reason. As the month comes to an end, life is beginning to return to ‘normal’ whatever that is and I have decided that Feb 1st will be my New Year. I am determined to spend more time on textile activities. I have managed to immerse myself into some projects but not enough.

I have made another coat, this is a real winter one. The fabric is from Trefriw Woollen Mill in the Conway valley in Wales, and the tweed was woven there. It is very thick and hence very warm.

The silk lining, which I think is THE best part of the coat is from Bollington in Cheshire and chosen especially to be the lining in this coat. The pattern is the same one as the camel coat I made in early 2011 (details on this blog) and I pretty much used the same techniques. The one addition was the use of a ‘clapper’ for pressing the seams etc after steaming. It is a brilliant piece of kit and has allowed me to make an even more professional job. I so love the coat and I am determined to wear it and not keep it just to look at lovingly.
I’ve been asked how long it took to make – I have no idea – I am a ‘Slow Textiles’ follower and believe in enjoying the journey as much as the product – also a bit of a perfectionist! The coat is mainly natural fabrics -the interfacings and thread are synthetic however unfortunately! The buttons are vintage, early plastic from a favourite of tin vintage buttons.