Cabled jumper time

I really like Peter Jensen’s knitwear. I’m quite bad at knitting garments that I actually want to wear, but I knew I wanted  a crew-neck cabled jumper, something like this (without the blue tights)

I started with the Placed Cable Aran, from Interweave Knits 2007, but messed around with it a lot, taking out the cowl neck, and dropped shoulders, adding ribbing at the bottom, and knitting it in the round with top-down sleeves.

The yarn is Jo Sharp Silkroad DK Tweed which I bought in a sale when I’d just started knitting about 6 years ago, so technically this jumper was COMPLETELY FREE.

I’m not a very good jumper or cardigan knitter. I start off with the best intentions, knit half super-fast, and then get bored and shove it in a plastic bag at the back of a cupboard where it sits mouldering gently in the dark. So, this one took me about, er, a year and a half to do.

But at least for once I’ve finished a project in sync with the appropriate season (also apparently crew-necks are back in –  once again procrastination has served me well)

The yarn kind of obscures the cables, but it’s very light and beautifully warm. It’s more of a rich plummy colour than it appears in these pictures, with flecks of bright orange, burgundy, deep blue and white.

I finished it about 2 months ago, but it’s only just got cold enough to wear it (what’s up with the weather in the UK at the moment? Any meteorologists care to explain?).

Wool does have amazing insulating qualities. Knitting has turned me into a complete yarn snob – polyester jumpers just won’t  cut it any more. Check out the Wovember campaign for some gobsmacking examples of shops completely mislabelling garments – £110 for a pair of ‘wool’ tights that are actually cotton and acrylic? Bargainous.

p.s. Some people commented on my wedged desert boots, aka the Best Shoes Ever – it would be remiss of me not to tell you that they’re 20% off at the moment on the Clarks website – but only until tomorrow! The code is BOOTSNOV

p.p.s. Clarks have not sponsored this post (sadly) but if they’d like to send me a free pair of boots (size 8, either dark blue or dark red, not fussy) I will happily rename my blog ‘Clarks shoes are amazing’ or something similar.

V and A Glass Galleries

I like the Glass Galleries at the V&A. They’re always quiet, even on weekends when the most popular rooms are full to bursting.

It’s probably because they’re all the way up on the 4th floor, a long walk via this marble staircase which totally makes me think of Stilton.

Tell me you don't look at this and wish for a giant box of cream crackers

The glass exhibits are jammed together in the old-fashioned ‘pile em high’ style of curation, also used in local history museums (and charity shops). Some of the objects are rather astoundingly tacky, which is always fun to see.

I get the feeling that the staff at the V&A have forgotten about this gallery, as well as most of the visitors. Check out Exhibit A below:

That date at the bottom? Oh, that’s just the 18th Nov, 2011. This case has been ‘in course of arrangement’ for about 6 years. Nothing major.

It’s not just one display case either. Whoever RL, HY and JC are, they clearly had one hell of a long lunch.

Yellow slips are scattered around the gallery with careless abandon. Many gaudy Victorian beetroot dishes (or whatever  – frankly I have no idea) are ‘yet to be labelled’. Have any senior V&A staff ventured up here in the last 5 years? Where are RL, HY, and JC now? It’s a mystery.

They did get around to labelling this small object before they left.

 It looks pretty ordinary and small from a distance, even though it’s on a pedestal. It’s actually an Egyptian perfume flagon, and has managed to stay intact for 4,000 years, which is quite mind-boggling.

The other reason people visit these galleries is for the members room, which is hidden behind a mirror at the end. They’ve put a sign on it now and spoiled all the fun of opening an invisible doorway, but it’s a nice space inside for tea and a biscuit. Strictly for members only though (actually they never check, but don’t tell the V&A I told you).

Worth a look next time you’re in South Kensington.

How to sew belt loops

I think the original intention behind this blog was to document everything I sew or make. But I was reading back through it, after Tilly’s thought-provoking post on what she looks for in a blog, and realised that there is hardly a sewing project to be seen.

So, here is an ACTUAL SEWING TIP to redress the balance. You might already know it, but if not, it will change your life*
*in a very small way 

Instead of stitching up lots and lots of teeny tiny belt loops (for your Beignet, for example), and spending valuable sewing time cursing like a sailor while attempting to turn them inside out, try this. You’ll need a twin needle.

  1. Get a rectangle of fabric cut out as usual. With the right side face down, fold in the two long edges of your rectangle so that they overlap in the back.
  2. Iron them down.
  3. Put the twin needle in your sewing machine and thread it up.
  4. Sew down the belt-loop, with the ‘good’ side facing up.

Ta-da – you have a double-topstitched belt loop!

belt loops right sidej
Right side of the belt loops

And the raw edges on the back have been neatened up with a zig zag:

belt loops wrong side
Wrong side of belt loops

Genius or what?

If you don’t want to see the double topstitching, just use a colour that matches the fabric and you can hardly tell.

Here’s what they looked like on my Beignet skirt:

Belt loop on skirt

Roses in December (nearly)

The visibility outside today is about 10 feet. It’s misty and grey, Winter’s arrived very suddenly, and I just found these photos I took at the Geffrye Museum garden in July. They remind me of sunshine, flowers, and the best garden in London to eat your lunch.

White rose

White and pink roses

Geffrye museum garden with Hoxton station behind

The petals look exactly like beautiful silk fabric

Plants on display

Fruit tree

Orchid close up

Rose heart

Geffrye museum

The garden doesn’t open again until April (it shuts in October) but as soon as it does, I’ll be down there looking for the first signs of spring.

But don’t wait until then to visit the museum, which has 11 rooms showing furniture and objects from different historical eras. At Christmas they deck out each room with the appropriate period decorations and it’s lovely. One of my favourite places in London.

Wintery colour palette

Winter colour for Christmas 2011

IKEA Ljusås Uvås, £24.99
Osborne & Little Pelangi Fabric | Contemporary Wool Fabric, £98
Lazy Oaf | Swatch Watch X Jeremy Scott Punk Watch, £38
Present and Correct Vintage Christmas Travel Poster, £55

Winter has three traditional colour palettes to choose from.

1. Good old-fashioned red, green and gold. Beloved by pound shops and your gran.

2. Incredibly tasteful and muted, with deep velvety texture all over the shop. Think John Lewis in-store displays.

3. Winter white and silver. Only for people who don’t do their own cleaning.

Nothing wrong with any of those, but why can’t we have screamingly bright colour in December as well as in August? Not everything has to be seasonally themed. When it’s cloudy and cold some pink, orange, and green and yellow leopard-print does cheer things up a tad. I put together this garish collection of objects to do just that.

Without mentioning the word ‘Christmas’* I think a cosy orange jumper, some woolly polka-dot cushions, a Jeremy Scott swatch, a retro green mug, a cheery pink vintage print, and a classic IKEA blue lamp would all make brilliant presents as well.

* oops, sorry

Plastic rainbows

I love these ‘Assemblages’ by the artist Martin Waters.

Yellow Stripe Assemblage by Martin Waters
Image source: Martin Waters website
Assemblage by Martin Waters
Image source: Martin Waters website
Faded Strata Assemblage by Martin Waters
Image Source: Martin Waters website

Apparently they’re made from objects washed up on the coast at the Humber Estuary. Which puts a slightly different spin on them – they’re still beautiful, but also a reminder of how much plastic rubbish we’re putting into the sea.

The layout reminds me of Patrick Heron’s stripe paintings:

Horizontal Stripe Painting by Patrick Heron
Horizontal Stripe Painting by Patrick Heron
Patrick Heron Vertical Light
Patrick Heron Vertical Light

I love Patrick Heron so much, if I was a Russian oil billionaire I would have a painting by him in every room. Much better than buying rubbish football teams and multiple mega yachts.

There’s an amusing obituary of him (if that’s not a contradiction) by Adrian Searle, which you can read here – Heron is described as being dressed in ‘clashing shades of acrylic knitwear’ and a ‘lurid purple scarf’, which sounds fitting.

Novelty jumpers – a knit too far?

Are you a novelty knitwear person?

Do you wear your jaunty Christmas jumper with pride? Or do visions of Gyles Brandreth and Noel Edmond dance before your eyes in a haze of static-y acrylic, warning you off?

Novelty knitwear in general is pretty huge at the moment. Inspired by Chuck’s timely post on Christmas jumper chic, I had a look round Net-A-Porter.

Stella McCartney novelty Christmas jumperThis is a Stella McCartney polar-bear themed novelty Christmas jumper. I totally love it, except for a couple of small issues:

1. It’s £670 quid – you could probably get a real polar bear for that.

2. This is the back:

Stella McCartney Christmas jumper backFor nearly 700 quid, I want to see fair-isle coming AND going, Stella.

Christmas knitwear aside, there’s a strange lack of patterns for hilarious novelty jumpers on Ravelry. I have seriously contemplated knitting this one, which is too a bit tasteful to qualify:

Photo from Tiny Owl Knits on Ravelry

But the best novelty knitwear on Ravelry has to be by the amazingly talented Spilly Jane. Behold the pint of beer socks and the German sausage mittens:

Socks with pints on
Photo from SpillyJane's Ravelry account
Sausage Mittens from SpillyJane
Photo from SpillyJane's Ravelry account

The only novelty knitting I’ve attempted so far is this, my ’70s Care Bear’ hat, so called because of the retro brown and orange hearts.

It’s actually the ‘From Norway with love’ hat. I gave it to my ex-flatmate as it looked much better on her than on me.

Do you approve of the rehabilitation of the naff jumper? Where do you stand on novelty knitwear?

Doughnut skirt

According to Wikipedia, a beignet is a sugar doughnut from New Orleans.

Beignet by Colette Patterns

But according to Colette Patterns, it’s a skirt with endless (twelve!!) buttonholes and a neat lining method.

It’s a bright tomato red cotton from Dalston Mill Fabrics

Well, this Beignet is the nearest I’ve been to a doughnut for a long time, as I’m nearing the end of a self-imposed month-long ban on sugar. Nary a cake, biscuit, pudding, or chocolate bar has crossed my lips for 4 long weeks. This is a very big deal. My perfect breakfast is a large mug of milky tea and two (or three) chocolate Hobnobs, but somehow I’ve been making do with Weetabix and boring old boiled eggs.

Warning: giving up sugar may lead to jazz hands

I don’t think it’s affected my sewing skills. It hasn’t made me much calmer when trying to sew 12 identical buttonholes. My machine is a Bernina Activa 220, and I love everything about it except for the lack of an automatic buttonholer. I should have sprung for the more expensive model but I was too cheap at the time. Oh well.

Buttons are from (where else) Ultimate Craft

I’m not 100% convinced this skirt is the most flattering on a pear shape. The fabric is beautiful, organic cotton from Ray Stitch in Islington, but I think a darker colour would be a tad less hip-emphasising.

I cut out an 8 at the top and graded to a 12 at the bottom, which was probably unnecessary. If I make another version I’ll sew an 8 all the way down.

Somehow I ran out of lining fabric, so I ended up having to cut two pockets in black polka-dot and two in red:

Two colour pocket on my Beignet

The instructions are very good, and I followed them to the letter except for the part about sewing 6 tiny belt loops and turning them inside-out by hand. That just wasn’t going to happen. There’s an easier way to do it – I’ll post about it separately.

It’s an unusual skirt shape, somewhere between a pencil, a straight skirt, and an A-line. I tapered in the sides a little bit and hemmed it at knee-length.

Beignet skirt

I give a resounding thumbs up for the Beignet, even though it did make me really, really want a doughnut.

Vintage finds – Inn Sign Cocktail Sticks

Genuine Inn Sign cocktail sticks

My mum found these ‘Genuine Inn Sign cocktail sticks’ at the very back of a cupboard in my Gran’s kitchen. I fell in love with them immediately and took them home to admire.

The packaging is perfect – the 50s chartreuse green, the mix of typefaces, the copy and the illustrations on the back:

Back of cocktail sticks
They’re such an incongruous mix of swinging 50s modernism and Ye Olde England mythology. Each cocktail stick is a miniature pub sign from a ‘Coaching Inn of England’. I wonder how many are still open today.

Inn signs

‘Coaching Inn’ reminds me of Georgette Heyer novels, heroines eloping with Regency cads on uncomfortable horse-driven trips to Gretna Green.

Inn signs back

My mum thinks my Grandad must have bought these – I wonder when, and where? They’ve been in the back of a cupboard for 50 odd years, obviously too nice for everyday.

Martini olive

 I’m don’t think my grandparents were the type to need tiny novelty sticks for their cocktail olives on a regular basis. They were from Shropshire, not the natural home of the martini.

Stay put swinging sign

I haven’t taken them out of the packaging, I don’t think I ever will. They look nice propped up on the bookshelf in our living room though.