home-grown socks

It is six years since I knitted my first pair of socks.

Holy crap.

Literally holy crap, I need to do some darning. But I don’t really know how to do that so I’ve spent the past couple of months verrryyy slllooowwwly addressing the issue and restocking my hand-knit sock drawer.

I got this skein of MadTosh Sock as a reward for joining Team MURDERPIG in LSGRRG2014. Knitting some socks with it was my ‘reward’ for finishing my MURDERPIGS cardigan.

MadTosh stash photo

I picked a random lace & cable pattern, tweaked it a bit because my stitch dictionary is a bit suspect and doesn’t properly mirror decreases (tsk).

half-knit socks on the beach

I’ve been experimenting with cuff techniques – for this one I increased in some proportion or other before doing my usual tubular cast-off. It was… ok. A bit loose, even, so if I do it again I will do fewer increases.

hand-knit socks in a pleasing shade of lilac

I also made a pair with this rather lovely skein of merino from Mollycoddle Yarns. The colours are totally gorgeous and it’s soft and merino-y and delicious.

MollycoddleYarns stash photo

I thought it deserved more than a plain stockinette because that would be boring, right? So I started a sort of random-ish offset slipstitch pattern.

knitted socks, half-knitted

Sadly this was both boring and demanded constant attention because counting rows when slipped stitches are involved is annoying, slipped stitches pull the rows together so it takes even longer to get anywhere, and I misplaced my second set of slipped stitches so I had to do them every three rows instead of every four. This bothered me but I went along with the mistake for long enough to make it irreversible. As I have a nasty habit of doing.

knitted socks, the colour of tears and sadness

They are warm and cosy and a very pretty colour but I still feel slightly irritable whenever I look at them. Ha! It’s for the best that they’re hidden away under my boots.

NB I will probably forgive them. I forgive anything that keeps my toes warm. On every cold day I am thankful for discovering the joy of knitting socks. I look out of the window at a frosty world and I smile because YAY HAND-KNIT SOCK DAY, probably to go with YAY HAND-KNIT CARDIGAN DAY and YAY HAND-KNIT GLOVE DAY. It’s actually gotten to the point that I am buying non-knit scarves because another bit of knitwear would be Too Much.

What a problem to have, eh, too much knitwear to wear all at once? 😀

hand-made floral shorts

Short Shorts, of the Floral Variety

You may or may not know that England is currently Quite Warm. So warm that I am running out of things to wear. Normally my melded autumn/winter/spring wardrobe can make it through summer with the addition of a pair of flip-flops and a single sundress for the one day it doesn’t rain. But now, after three or four days over 20C, the whole ‘being able to feel my toes all day long’ thing is going to my head and I’m finding myself thinking about developing A Summer Wardrobe.

Hardly surprising with this a short trot from the door.

sky and sea

Last week I gained the sudden urge to make a pair of shorts. I considered buying some, but the thought of trawling through every shop in town to find an appropriate pair (in the sort of temperatures that are making me want the shorts) left me cold. Or hot. Well, grumpy. So, I thought, I should make some, because toiling over a hot sewing machine is so much more sensible.

I did initially resolve to finish my current sewing WIP, the sparkletaupe wrap dress, but no sooner had I dragged the sewing machine out from its dusty corner than I realised I was going to run out of thread. I literally only managed to sew two more seams, but it did take it from ‘oddly-shaped scarf’ to ‘actually sort of dress-shaped’ so I shouldn’t complain too much.

wrap dress - a sewing wip
wrap dress – now actually wrapping

So on Friday evening, on a bit of a whim, I searched out a pattern. Burda 105, Retro Shorts. I downloaded the pdf and sweet-talked the printer into behaving, then arranged the pattern during a highly entertaining thunderstorm.

laying out a pattern
laying out a pattern in a thunderstorm. smart?

This is the first full-size pattern I’ve made from a downloaded pattern; I’ve always been very much a big-four-tissue-paper-pattern-with-diagrams girl. I did make a cute little handbag from a downloaded pattern, but I was nervous of going full-size.

I considered doing what the pattern suggested and tracing it out onto tracing paper. But I was feeling hot and lazy so I just cut out the printed pieces, traced around them in tailor’s chalk, then drew in the seam allowances the same way. Probably not the most precise measure, but I am nothing if not slapdash when it comes to sewing.

pattern pieces for floral shorts
pattern pieces for floral shorts

The fabric is left over from a floral dress I made a while back. I never posted about it because it wasn’t very good, haha. The fabric is cotton (probably) in an interestingly garish batik-style design, a Fancy Silk Store special. I had about 80cm left of it, which was just scraping the minimum pattern requirements. I confess that I did do some flipping of pattern pieces just to make sure I could get all the pieces cut.

wip - floral shorts, Burda 105
floral shorts. only the cuffs left to do.

It was a good weekend project, though I did come very close to burning out on the last stretch. I was tired, I wanted a drink, and the pattern instructions were so very condensed and confusing that I nearly gave up. But the Internet persuaded me to continue (Instagram ‘loves’ are a great motivator).

hand-made floral shorts
floral shorts, finiiiiished.

They are tiny. They are very low-slung, so there’s no buttcheek or pocket bottoms on display (I really, really despise that look), and I am also saved the horror of high-waisted shorts which is all that was available last time I bought shorts (in 1998?). But they are still very short. However: I live at the seaside, and if there is any place that I should be able to wear very short shorts, it is at the god-damned seaside. Right?

I would take a picture of them on to show the fit, but I’ve recently had a run-in with a creeper on Flickr so I’m not going to. Perhaps you’ll see them in passing if I do ever dare to wear them outside the house. 😀

Burda 105 Retro Shorts
Fabric: cotton floral batik print

black death - a knitted shawl

Black Death

Naming a knitted shawl after a devastating plague? These are the depths to which inspiration takes us. You should read the designer’s story, but not until you’ve finished reading this post. 😉

When I moved to Brighton, I was very excited to find that there was a yarn shop within walking distance. It took me a month or so to get down there, what with the move, the job-hunting, and the usual lazy. I finally managed to trot down there on a fine Tuesday, and was greeted by a large sign in the window saying CLOSING DOWN.

Well, shit.

I consoled myself by buying a couple of skeins of Noro Yuzen, a blend of wool, silk, and mohair, in a sort of pleasingly grungy mix of pink, gold, and teal.

cake of Noro
om nom cake

I knew almost immediately what I wanted to do with it; I wanted a triangular scarfy-shawly thing, relatively plain in the body, but with lacy pointy edges. I left it to brew in my stash until such a time as I could be bothered to do the maths.

casting on for black death, from a lovely cake of Noro
casting on for black death

But then Black Death broke out. I mean, it appeared as part of a make-along in one of my groups. I immediately drew the connection between the pattern and the skeins of Noro in my stash; I also made the pleasing mental connection between Black Death, the plague that wiped out 20% of the world’s population in the 14th century, and Norovirus, devastator of cruises in the 21st century.

Noro – the yarn – is also the devastator of knitters. It’s self-striping, with long stretches of colour that blend smoothly into the next. Except for when they don’t.

knot in a skein of Noro
My first Noro knot.

I was forewarned. I had seen many a CAPSLOCK wail of frustration from a knitter finding a knot in the middle of their skein, and tales of complicated jigsaw puzzles with multiple skeins, trying to get the colours to match and preserve the stripe pattern.

Limited as I was to the two skeins, I didn’t bother with this. There were knots in both skeins, but one of them meant the colour transitions skipped the colour I liked least, so I figured I wasn’t in so bad a situation.

knitting on the beach
black death on the beach. no not like that.

I spent some quality time knitting on the beach with Black Death. I finally made another mental connection; a triangular piece of fabric attached to a sturdy but flexible wire doesn’t half catch the wind. Fortunately, knitting does not resemble food, so I was at least safe from the gulls while I fought against the wind.

black death, knitted shawl, unblocked
Black Death, unblocked

I did have some struggles with the pattern, mainly because I was a bit blasé and didn’t swatch or really pay attention to anything as I was knitting. As the silk content in Yuzen is so high (34%?), it’s not very flexible. This meant I was knitting very loosely (as I’d killed my hands on teeny needles for murderpigs), so my gauge was huge and I my skeins began to look very stringy before I was anywhere near finished.

I mention a lot how I am stupid and stubborn when I don’t want to think about things. I knew I didn’t have enough for the border, but I went ahead and knitted the whole main section, and then acted surprised when the skein ran out half-way through the border. Then I half-heartedly thought about it, ripped back, and knitted it again. This time I ran out of yarn half-way through the bind-off. I think I had another false finish due to a yarn-hungry bind-off before I finally managed to get the damn thing off the needles.

flipping the bird at a blocking shawl
“Block aggressively”

The instructions said “block aggressively” so I hurled a few expletives for good measure. First outing for the blocking wires; verdict is that they are GREAT. I’ve got some really nice sharp corners on the… uh… corners, and being somewhat violent with the blocking is much kinder on the freshly knitted object as the stress is spread through the wire instead of yanking on a few stitches.

black death - a knitted shawl
black death shawl

And so, the finished object. It’s a very simple pattern, which is exactly what you need for a self-striping or variegated yarn. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Noro, and it will look terribly with my tweedy winter coat, but I can see it working really well in autumn when we’re still having office air-conditioning battles and I need something, anything, to preserve some warmth.

Black Death
Pattern: Black Death, by Hoxton Handmade
Yarn: Noro Yuzen
Black Death project page on Ravelry

MURDERPIGS: a knitted cardigan


When I took up knitting, I never imagined I’d end up making a cardigan inspired by unorthodox methods of corpse disposal. Then MURDERPIGS happened.

MURDERPIGS was my entry for the 2014 LSG Raveldacted Renegade Games, under the banner of Team Murderpig. Team Murderpig was inspired by the tale of a spurned lover posting his ex-partner’s yarn stash on Craigslist. We couldn’t believe that a knitter would voluntarily part with her stash, and came up with various theories about her disappearance, not least of which was corpse disposal by murderpigs.

(Note: A member of LSG actually claimed this stash, and was not murdered and disposed of by pigs. This is only one datapoint and does not necessarily disprove the murderpig theory.)

Thus Team Murderpig was started, and served as more of an archive of pig and boar gifs than a home for a knitting team. Such is the internet. But LSG knitalong rules are thus: do what you like, take as long as you like, just post about it before the demise of society and someone’ll be along to mash ‘love’ eventually. So we all had plenty of time.

Tweasel, my very own murderpig, acting as mascot, Ravatar, and inspiration for this cardigan.

The idea popped into my head fully formed: stranded colourwork pigs & crossbones, v-necked, steeked front because I was feeling bullish after Little Birds, sleeve setting borrowed from Little Birds. It was one of those moments of beautiful sparkly inspiration when you see the thing in your mind and are just YES THIS IS THE THING I WILL MAKE AND THIS IS HOW TO DO IT AND IT WILL BE PERFECT.

unravelled sleeve

Knitting it wasn’t quite such a smooth process. It was fine for a while, the body took no time at all, but then I moved onto the sleeves. I don’t know if I got the numbers wrong, if I picked up the wrong needle, or if some atmospheric change affected my tension, but I ended up with two sleeves that were Very Wrong. It took me some time to come to terms with the reality of ripping them back, and then even longer to get round to redoing the maths and trying again.

By the time I got back to it, recalculated the sleeves, and got myself back to where I was before The Realisation, I had lost my original notes. I can only guess what I was thinking about at the start of the V-neck shaping. I don’t think the slight curve where the two sides join is intentional, but it works and I like it so I’m not going to argue. Past-me strikes again.

murderpigs on the flat

I didn’t bother to reinforce my steek before cutting it. Live dangerously. It was fine; the Shetland yarn is super-sticky and didn’t give me any trouble at all. The only minor difficulty I got into was that it was harder to trim the steek back before finishing it. I did crochet reinforcements on the last steek, which made it easier to hold on to and to see where to trim. Black yarn possibly not the smartest choice, there.

I didn’t think carefully enough about my pattern positioning, so I have a stray murderpig butt disappearing off the left front, though the piggies do (completely accidentally) line up between body and sleeves. Well, on the front, anyway. And if I’d thought about it and not been all OMGPIGGEH!!!1! I wouldn’t have gone for the black seam stitch.

And finally,


recalculated sleeve

Pattern: my own
Yarn: Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift
MURDERPIGS project page on Ravelry

Finished Object: Capucine

Still not quite ready to get back to MURDERPIGS, but basking in the warm glow of a completed paulie, I was in need of a new project.

Instead of breaking into a new unit of stash, I decided to do a bit of stash-busting and clear out some leftover skeins from older projects. Enter Capucine, a hat pattern that had been in my Ravelry favourites for years, actually, without finding the right yarn to make it. In a moment of clarity, I realised that leftover aran alpaca/wool blend from my open cardigan and DK wool from lace and cables would make a nice variegated bulky-weight yarn and free up a bit of space in the stash box.

capucine in progress

I have trouble with hats. I have a weirdly-shaped head, of prodigious size, and too much hair. It’s not only hard to find hats that fit, but damn near impossible to find ones that stay on through such dangerous manoeuvres as looking to one side or going out in a breeze. You’d think I’d have more luck making them but no; I trust patterns, I fail at maths, and I end up with a novelty miniature bonnet that pings three feet in the air if I raise my eyebrows.

But, I’m not one to let experience teach me any lessons, so it came time to make another dumb hat. 😀

I did my preparatory maths and I did at least four rows of ‘swatch’. I went up a size in needles, I kept my tension nice and loose, and it actually came out *almost* the right size, pre-blocking.

capucine hat, pre-blocking

I waited until the next day to start the tassels because tassels require concentration and steady hands, and my hands were killing me after such a knitting binge. I did briefly consider yarn plaits and a pompom but in the end, tassels won out for the longer silhouette. Or something. This is also where using two yarns really came good, because the tassels would have required more work if I’d started with a bulky yarn.

capucine, complete with tassels

A distinctly unseasonal project… that got even worse. 😀

Despite my stash-busting intentions, I ended up with half a ball of each yarn still left over. “Well,” I said to myself, “I don’t really want to put this back, and perhaps there’s enough to scrape some mittens?”


Well, as it turns out, there wasn’t, but I worked that out pretty quickly. I figured I could at least get some fingers (not-fingers?), maybe some thumbs, and then worry about the cuffs later. I did have to go on a panic-search for some more of the grey alpaca, but luckily, past-me had stored an extra 5m in a bag in a bag in the bottom of a box I don’t even use for stash. I would question past-me’s logic but I did find it, so it can’t have been that crazy. Right?

Capucine – project page on Ravelry

paulie cardigan - finished

Finished Object: Paulie cardigan

What to do while one cardigan project is sitting in the corner, refusing to behave?

Easy. Cast on another one. 😀

So. Misbehaving murderpigs were in the naughty corner, and I needed something to help me back on the horse. In last week’s post I believe I termed it a knitting palate cleanser. No nonsense, pick a pattern, follow the instructions, profit.

I needed a change of texture from the scrubby Shetland yarn, so I dug out some lovely soft Drops baby alpaca/silk blend, and a pattern I’d had my eye on for a while. I was so keen to follow the instructions and do as I was told that I even swatched.

gauge swatch for Drops baby alpaca/silk

The pattern is Paulie, by Isabell Kramer. It crossed my radar a little while ago, and I thought it would be perfect for the alpaca/silk which I already had in stash from a moment of weakness faced with an online store sale. I got myself a couple of balls of contrast colour (not on sale, sadly) and it officially went into my queue.

Paulie is a top-down, seamless raglan cardigan, with garter stitch yoke and a simple stripe pattern.

crumpled paulie wip

The pattern’s easy to follow and it knits up fast for a 4-ply. The body came together really quickly, then I had to steel myself for sleeves. Luckily, as it was top-down, they would get faster as I went along.

sleeveless paulie

Paulie was my faithful companion on the beach for lunch and evening drinks with friends and colleagues. It provided some entertainment for the local wildlife too.

seagull staring at my knitting

Of course, the disadvantage of stripes is weaving in all the ends. I was a bit daft – if I’d been thinking straight, I’d have done as I did for my Little Birds cardigan and woven in the ends as I was going along. But I didn’t. I spent a night in the pub – after the garter button band (hate) and i-cord bind-off (haaate), with this carnage:

weaving in ends

But, I was on the home straight, and I had some super-cute buttons with which to finish Paulie, so I forged on.

finished paulie


cat buttons

Like I said, I had forgotten that Etsy was a thing. Now I have an app and oh dear.

True to form, despite wanting to follow a pattern blindly to the end, I did not end up following the instructions to the letter. I increased the number of sleeve decreases, and replaced the garter waist and wristbands with 1×1 rib. Tiny wrists ruin patterns. The yarn is possibly a little bit too drape-y for it – it doesn’t look great in garter stitch – but it’s so lovely and soft I forgive it everything.

Now it’s done, I feel revitalised and ready to face murderpigs again.



Paulie – project page on Ravelry

Checking in

Six months into the year. Half way through. Have I been making more? Do I care less?


If nothing else, I’m still happy with my lunchroom.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself some goals. Run more, read more, make more. The goals were modest, achievable, and I started really well.

Running went marvellously. I started a 10k training plan and blasted through 70% of my 240 mile goal by about April. So I can afford the current hiatus due to a stunning combination of wonky hip, work stress, and It’s Far Too Hot To Go For A Run Let’s Just Drink Beer At Home syndrome. Also, douchebags on the prom who resent allowing runners any space. Nice weather brings out the worst in people.

Reading also has been proceeding at a good pace. I’m six books ahead of schedule, and my e-book queue is down to 77 books. cough. I’ve only ditched three books unfinished due to awfulness, and actually genuinely enjoyed a few extremely random choices from Before I Learned Not To Trust Amazon Reviews. I keep meaning to take a book and a couple of beers down to the beach and just hang out on my own but it’s like eight minutes away and I am a terrible lazy lump. Slumping on the futon and open a window is almost the same thing, right?

The only thing I feel slightly shamefaced about is the making. I stormed in with Galaxy and Little Birds, but then I got a mental block on the next project, MURDERPIGS.

(There is a story behind MURDERPIGS. It is long and complicated, and I will tell you one day. For now, you only need to know that it is a cardigan.)

Anyway, I made a slight miscalculation with gauge and ended up with sleeves wide enough to make off-colour jokes relating to wizards. Worse, I ended up with one sleeve wide enough etc etc and then made another one. Sigh. So it got screwed up and stuffed in the corner for a couple of months while I spent my time very industriously replaying Skyrim.


I did eventually manage to kick myself into action and frog those sleeves. I then put the whole project in the knitting naughty corner so it could think about what it had done, and allowed myself to make some other things. To cleanse the palate, as it were. I may also have allowed myself to replenish my stash.


Just a little.


Yeah. I kinda remembered that Etsy exists. And then there was a sale in a local yarn store and now I’ve found out about Unwind Brighton and soon I’m going to need a bigger house, let alone stash box.

As of right now, I’m on four FOs and three WIPs, which puts me just about on target for 12 items this year, if I ignore how much I have left on the WIPs. And the sewing project which is also sitting looking balefully at me from the corner. So actually, I think this has been quite a successful half-a-year. I hope you lot have been having a nice time of it, too.

enough with the tiny sweaters already

Cute as said tiny sweaters may be, I’ve had about enough of the whole ‘coerce knitters into making stuff’ thing. I had an article pop up in my feeds this morning that made me LOL and tut with knitterly ire at the same time.

The Tour de France will be passing through Cambridge in July this year, as part of the UK leg of the event. A cycling enthusiast wants to decorate the streets of Cambridge with miniature knitted jerseys as bunting. BBC News story here.

When pressed further he admits that a) he doesn’t knit, b) it’s not an original idea, and c) it’s not even an original idea for this Tour because Harrogate have already arranged the exact same thing.

So, let me get this straight. He wants 3000 hand-knit jerseys by July. He doesn’t knit. It’s not even his idea. And this will ‘show how different Cambridge is’.

oh yeah, sure

He claims that “knitting is in Cambridge’s DNA”. I am from Cambridge. Knitting is not a thing. Cycling is a thing. Punting is a thing. The uneasy coexistence of town and gown with occasional outbreaks of violence is a thing. But not knitting, not any more than anywhere else in the country. It’s nice that he wants to do a thing but surely you’d pick something that was actually relevant to your town?

The Harrogate campaign was launched in November, at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show, with plenty of time to get things knit and sent in. They received items from at least 15 countries, enlisted the help of multiple shops and community centres to collect the jerseys, and even designed their own pattern. They received 16,000 jerseys and are now starting to string them together. A well-planned and relevant campaign.

Cambridge guy is only just thinking about this, four months before the event. He doesn’t have the council on board (they said they were ‘interested’, which in councilspeak normally means ‘please never mention this again’), he can’t do any of it himself, and he has no idea how long it will take.

I mean, it’s one thing to be all ‘oh hey, you’re a knitter, can you knit me *massively complicated or huge item*, I’ll pay you for the yarn’ and be blithely ignorant of the time investment but to want three thousand items is really pushing it. It’s not like people go oh, ‘you work in IT, I’m sure you’ll be willing to spend hours helping me set up a website for no pay.’

Oh no wait.

This isn’t even charity. People love to knit for charity, almost as much as people love to tell people that they should be knitting for charity. See the knitted penguin sweater debate that’s flying around at the moment; every knitter in existence must by now have been harangued by a well-meaning friend to knit a penguin sweater, even though sticking acrylic yarn on an oil-soaked penguin virtually guarantees spontaneous combustion. In fact that should be the new motto for the campaign:

If you wouldn’t put it on a baby, don’t put it on an oil-soaked penguin.

Hint: actually don’t put a sweater on an oil-soaked penguin. It can lead to burns, and not just because you made it out of acrylic because ‘what’s the point in using good yarn, penguins won’t appreciate Wollmeise’

Moral of the story: If you want to be different, be different. And if you want to save penguins from oil spills, don’t rush to the cutesy option of tiny sweaters, do an actual helpful thing and give the cleaning crew some cash.

Finished Object: Little Birds

In the grand tradition of knitting bloggers trying out new knitting techniques for the first time, I present to you My First Steeked Project, In Pictures.

I started knitting the Little Birds cardigan in September. For a short while it went everywhere with me, including the beach.

Little Birds on the beach. #knitting

I even took it to a work do, to cope with a sudden and intense bout of social anxiety. As I sat there, alone, Little Birds in my lap, strand of yarn in each hand, I felt like a god. Eventually I even managed to separate myself from my knitting and Have A Conversation. I was proud.

Then I noticed that I was running out of yarn. I panicked about the problem, then I ignored the problem, and eventually pulled myself together and did something about the problem. This is my usual way to deal with problems. This particular problem took three months to get from realisation -> resolution, which in comparison to how long crafting problems normally sit around being ignored is a pretty speedy turnaround.

Little Birds is coming together, into a misshapen pre-steek point.

Lots of panicking in this post so far. Don’t worry, it doesn’t last for long.

Eventually the remaining yarn turned up, and I could finish the knitting. I re-discovered the technique of steam blocking, which had an absolutely magical effect on my previously uneven, puckered colour work. I carried my floats like a boss, but you know how knitting likes to misbehave.

it is amazing, the difference that a tiny bit of steam blocking makes. nearly steek o'clock!

I read around a bit, researching my steeking technique. Probably the most useful post I found was this one from Elinor Brown, which has lots of pictures and instructions for various steeking techniques.

Supposedly, with Spindrift, you can just cut away and not worry about reinforcing the steek, but since it was my first time steeking I decided to go for a row of crochet, and take the obligatory ‘scissors on my knitting to terrify my knitter friends’ picture.

deep breaths. #steekoclock

I had poured myself a nice strong V&T in case of need, but it turned out that cutting it wasn’t a big deal at all. The crochet edge held it nicely and what was previously a misshapen lump of knitting began to look like an actual cardigan.

et voilà! #steekoclock

Then I got to add the border, tidy up the steek with some oversewing, and do some more steam blocking to finish it all off.

Steam blocking is my new favourite thing. No damp cardigan sat on the floor for weeks!

Then, buttons.


Ta-daa! All done. Steeking was actually the least stressful part of the whole project. Now the biggest problem is finding an outfit with which to wear it. But, until that point, I am 2 for 12 on my 2014 crafting goal, and feeling good.

My finest sewing moment of 2013: a 1920’s dress in a week.

From themed invitation to finished dress: story of a sewing project I totally should have blogged at the time but totally didn’t.

The theme for my work’s 2013 Christmas party was 1920’s/Speakeasy/Great Gatsby. Do I need an excuse for Making A Thing? Hell no. But a themed party is an even better way to exercise my Making Things Skillz. The invitations went out quite early, but somehow (somehow, I can’t imagine how) I wound up a week before the event with no dress, and not even a backup. I had to start thinking, and quickly.

Now, of course, the 1920’s silhouette is slim, straight, and somewhat severe. I am none of these things (barring my librarianface), so any dress would have to be balanced very carefully so as to fit the theme, but also make me look good. I spent a long time trawling image searches and pattern sites to try to get inspiration. What really sparked things off was a Great Gatsby-themed dress by Cation Designs. I thought the layered approach was very pretty, authentic, and would give me a good opportunity to say ‘hey, I do have a figure under here’.

I wandered the fabric shops in search of a suitably frou-frou fabric, but the answer was under my nose (and in my stash) all the time.

Blue chiffon

I’d bought this crinkle chiffon online as a reward for getting a job interview (possibly the job interview for this job? That would be a nice coincidence), intending to make a top, but the pattern turned out far larger than I’d expected. Oh, internet fabric shops, how often you betray me. But for a dress, for a themed party? Distinctive, frou-frou, perfect.

For the lulz, this is my original sketch of the dress.

Suddenly, it was there. In my head. The whole thing. I knew exactly what I wanted from it. I would draft it from an easy-fitting bodice block, and extend it down to hip level. I’d also give it some very gentle bust and waist shaping. For the skirt section, I’d make a very gentle arc to give some movement around the knees and break up the tube effect. Underneath would be a white slip, perfectly cut to conceal my underpinnings, and with a more tailored fit to maintain the whole ‘I do have a waist, I promise’ effect.

The sewing process took about a week of after-work sessions. I don’t really know how to describe it, other than a manic episode. I was a woman possessed. It just slammed into my head and my hands did the work and then it existed, on my tailor’s dummy, exactly as I’d imagined it.

1920s dress

I was sort of terrified. I’d never worked with fabric this delicate, so I did a lot of basting and tailor’s tacks. To deal with fraying ends and a delicate, sheer fabric I learned how to do French seams, which turned out to be about my favourite sewing technique ever.

for someone who pinks her edges and pretends not to notice the frayed threads floating behind her, this is witchcraft.

Every time I settled down to cut a piece of fabric or perform some arduous task like finishing my neck and arms with bias tape, I announced to nobody in particular ‘well, if I do this wrong, the whole thing’s screwed’. I needn’t have worried.

*assumes heroic pose indicating success*

I’m glad I didn’t do self-facing. For a start, I would have had to buy a bias tape maker gadget thing. And I wouldn’t have had enough fabric. As it was, I barely squeaked a sash out of the remnants. There is literally nothing usable left of the 2 metres of fabric I bought. I think that is pretty cool, in and of itself.

I teamed the dress with the obligatory string of pearls, some silver feather hair grips, and a ton of hairspray. Oh, and these, in a rather spiffy return to my internet roots.

back to my internet roots.

I was so, so, super-stoked by all of this. I was probably the most obnoxious person in the room as I tottered around all HI HI I AM MINGLING ISN’T THIS FUN DID I TELL YOU I MADE MY DRESS LET ME TELL YOU ALL ABOUT IT. HEY LOOK FREE BAR. There was a roulette wheel. I lost my chips in three spins and laughed. Someone said I looked like a movie star. At one point a colleague came in from the smoking area outside (aka, outside), shaking the rain from his fedora, shrugging the trench coat from his shoulders, and augh it was like a TNG private detective holodeck episode.

I’ll leave you now, as my boasting is possibly going too far. But I’ll just say one more thing: this back view, the cutesy bow-tied opening that goes down far enough to allow a risqué glimpse of slip, is exactly, exactly, as I saw it in my head. This is probably my proudest sewing moment ever. I hope I have a lot more of these moments. 🙂

This is genuinely, literally, exactly as I imagined it.