making, making, making..

I have all three Alabama Chanin books.  I know that most of you won’t have heard of this Southern American clothing design house and if you are not of the sewing/making persuasion you might want to go off now and descale the kettle or sit about gazing blankly or what ever else you non-makers do in your sad, sad down time ;-).   That’s just me trying to justify my absurd need to always be doing something even whilst watching a movie.  If I could sew/draw/crochet/knit while reading a book my life would be perfect.

Natalie Chanin is a designer and maker who lives in Alabama and heads the company that sells utterly gorgeous, hand made clothes out of organic jersey cotton (t-shirt material), you might want to check out their website now and see just what I am talking about. The unusual thing about Alabama Chanin is that not only do they support their community by employing local people to make their clothes (and pay them a living wage), they actually encourage you to make their clothing yourself – it’s the whole handmade DIY aesthetic and to that end they have published three books with instructional how tos, and patterns.

I bought the books last year and got slightly obsessed about making her clothing – creating a set of fingerless mits out of a double layer of jersey and a sleeveless bolero out of an old t-shirt.  I learnt two important things from these experiment, firstly – I would need to scale up the patterns to fit me if I was ever going to get serious about making these garments, and secondly – don’t make handmade anything out of old or poor quality fabric, too much time and effort for a finished project that bobbles quickly or just looks plain crap.

In saying that, I was immensely pleased with myself for making these things and until the mitts started to bobble I just loved them to bits.  Sewing by hand is a whole different ball game from using a machine, the act can become a contemplation, it’s slow (although you do get faster, just like every thing) and  a lot more comfortable for me, possibly because it is so portable, you can sew watching telly or wherever you want really, and if you make a mistake, it’s ultra easy to unpick.  With this style of sewing the stitches can become part of the design, like drawing on cloth – not something to be hidden and I really like that.  Sewing for me has always been pretty scary, I was very bad at it in school and never really thought I could get good at it.  Plus I guess I never saw anything I really wanted that much to sew – until now..

I stumbled across the Craftsy website the other week,  I was aware of it but had not been attracted to any of the courses they offer, and then I saw a course to make this Alabama Chanin jacket run by Natalie Chanin herself – how cool is that! I had to sign up.

Alabam Chanin jacket

The pattern is free with the course and arrived last week, I have the two layers of jersey yardage, one of which I have yet to dye.  I have a shit hot pair of sewing scissors and am partway through cutting the surface design stencil into milar.  I have yet to get the textile paint (next week) and I will be ready to go soon.  I’m scared..

To help me conquer the fear I have already practised by cutting a stencil and negative reverse appliqueing my favourite t-shirt and I have made a long sleeved black bolero from the book Alabama Studio Sewing and Design, which I enlarged and it fits me, hurrah and amazing.  I am up to attaching the edging with cretan stitch and then I will take a photo and show you the finished product.

So that is me at the moment.  Or part of me anyway.  What are you lot up to?  Is there anything you are all excited about at the moment?

Three for Sunday..

It may be hellish dark outside, the rain stabbing at the glass, but in here it is mmmmmm…

Last years damson gin added to hot berry cordial and a lovely husband making enchiladas for tea..

Only five more sleeps till the Solstice 🙂

All is good here – hope it is for you too.



chain reaction..

I came across Mark Steel when we moved to the UK the first time in 2003.  He was on the radio with a series called The Mark Steel Lectures where he argued for the importance of particular historical figures, fascinating AND funny. I loved it.

I would have posted a video of one of the  lectures  from the t.v. version off You Tube but it won’t let me embed for some reason, so you will have to check them out for yourself.

Today we tuned in to listen to Chain Reaction on BBC Radio Four and were pleased to discover that Mark Steel was being interviewed by the equally brilliant Kevin Eldon – if you are in need of a laugh you can find it here for the next 6 days.

Oh and a photo of me wearing my latest creation 🙂

My neighbour who obligingly took the photo had just said "Nice tits"

welcome home toastie..

The visitors really are gone now and although I have lost points in Habit Judo for not blogging during their stay I don’t care.  Really visitors take up all the rest of the time I have spare from essentials and I aint going to push myself too hard just to ramble on here – I doubt you lot noticed too much anyway!

A phone call from my GP on Wednesday informing me that my blood test showed high TSH levels has given me the reason for my increasing tiredness, problems with memory and concentration etc.  Basically that means that the well meaning doctor who lowered my dose of Thyroxine last November was an idiot and I am suffering for it.  At least I know that I will be better again soon…

And now for my big news.. TA-DAR!

Toastie and me

This is Toastie.  She is a rescue dog and comes to us courtesy of a wonderful woman called Glenys Bufton a one woman dog rescue Queen.  We had put our name down with Glenys about a month ago looking for a small friendly dog and last Friday we got the call. Glenys was over run with dogs needing help and had run out of foster carers, would we like to foster a small x breed terrier and if we liked her we could keep her?  Oh Yes..  So, Friday afternoon we found ourselves arriving in a Lidl’s carpark ready for the handover – sort of like a drug deal, only instead of cocaine Glenys was cradling in a blanket a very small pink pig that had been found in the middle of the road somewhere.  Fortunately she did also have a Toastie in the back of her car and the deal was done.

We think she is the greatest as do our friends and visitors-  although she does have a few challenging personal habits including rolling in poo – causing our friend’s son to create this work of art..

Then she had her first bath in her new home..

i love my town..

I am a crocheting fool this evening and then later T and I  are off out to the Open Mic Night at Kilvert’s to meet our friend Leslie.  Hope it will be a good night – doesn’t really matter, it will just be nice to be out and have a lovely pint and great company.

I have been crocheting these..

It’s a African Flower/Granny pot holder – pattern taken from the Crochet With Raymond blog.  There is a great tutorial if you feel like trying your hand. I gave this blue beauty to my mother -in- law Coral and now am over half way through my second one (purple).  Lots of fun.

Just before I go I have to show you this lovely face cloth that my friend M gave me – she is very clever and I am a lucky girl 🙂

Cotton owl dish cloth - cable knit

By the way – I have just got hold of the programme for the philosophy and music festival called How The Light Gets In that runs during the Hay Book Festival but is based at The Globe on the other side of town – OhMyGod!!!!  It sounds amazing…  If you ever get the chance to come to Hay – come at this time of year, it’s going to be brilliant.  If you’ve got time click on my link and check it out.

crochet post alert – look away if allergic to hookers..

So most of you out there will not have heard of the Japanese flower motif, and there is absolutely no reason why you should have.  Except that this crocheter has been amazed by the way word has spread in the hooky internet world in the last couple of months.

I saw my first Japanese flower courtesy of Lucy at Attic 24.  She had been looking for some time for a suitable motif to make a shawl with – and being picky it was taking some time.  Finally she came across two French blogs this one  and this one from which she downloaded the (french) PDF file and then she blogged about it.  Lucy’s blog is extremely popular and I and about a thousand other readers of Attic 24 also downloaded it – the pattern had gone viral.

It then occurred to the French woman who had put the PDF file up for download that maybe there might be a small copyright problem with doing that.  Being that she had originally taken the pattern directly from a Japanese crochet book – Pattern Book Vol 4.   She had the pattern on her blog for the last two years but hardly anyone had paid much attention to it so it all seemed ok – now every person and their hook was visiting and it all seemed to be getting out of hand – so she took it off.

But it was way to late, way, way ,way too late.

And now it is everywhere – like some weird weed that keeps popping up month after month.  And what a beautiful weed..

One would have thought that now the only way to get the pattern would be to buy the original in the Japanese crochet book (expensive) or to know someone who had got in on time and downloaded the PDF,  BUT  the wonderful Elizabeth Cat stepped in and posted a tutorial on her blog – slightly different from the original but it looks pretty much the same.

Since then I have seen references to this motif on many  blogs including Crochet with Raymond, one of my absolute favourite crochet blogs whose author hails from Wellington, New Zealand – my home town.  Also  I have found a Ravelry group who have been making this shawl for the last couple of years. If you are after inspiration check them out.

I am not going to comment on the copyright issue except to say that hopefully once all those thousands of crocheters get exposed to the incredible lovely crochet (and other craft books) that come out of Japan, support for the designers will go up hugely.

One of my favourites - this one is by Adelaide and can be seen on Ravelry

The motif was originally created by Mayuko Hashimoto (橋本 真由子) and pretty damned cool it is too.

stir the stumps..

It’s late.

Late for me anyway, it’s usually pumpkin time around ten – ten thirty.

But I’ve been an eBay listing fool for the greater part of the evening as well as cooking a chicken dinner for His Nibs when he got in.

So what with one thing or another, blogging got pushed to up to the time where my eyes are sand paper  and I keep making mistakes… CONCENTRATE!  Ah – that’s better..  I’ve just been handed a mug of tea.. enough to keep me going at least till I have finished this.

Now I have the eBay listing out of the way I have only one day of work tomorrow and then my time is my own until next Wednesday.    I have a possibly mad hope that I will get all the flower motifs of my shawl sewn together some time soon.  It really is a pain in the bum to have to do and next time I make something like it I swear I will join  them as I go along.  The thing is I suspect that it is going to look fricking fabulous when it is all put together and also – once you have actually crocheted 34 motifs it would be a crying shame  not to finish it.   Sooo..  I need to stir my stumps..

Two photos for you before I hit the hay..

Thirteen joined up so far 🙂
Mother Clanger

I have a small obsession for Wombles, Moomins and others of that ilk, including The Banana Bunch.  From another age when I was A LOT less cynical about television.  Anyway, I found this fair maiden at Past Times in Hereford the other week and just had to have her.  She even whistles when you squeeze her tummy – how cool is that!