Monday, 25 April 2016

Get Yo Freekeh On

The first draft of this post was entitled something lugubrious along the lines of: "The dust is settling".
And then I read a blog post which kicked me up the backside and reminded me that I am not dead yet.
I need to keep my energy up.

The other day, the Most Huge Boss asked me:  "Ruth, tell me - are you feeling empowered?"
The boiling bubbles of laughter were not easy to quell , but somehow I managed.
"Absolutely!" I replied. "I always feel empowered!"
You don't really need to know the context of the question (it involved a deeply sober Committee) but it was one that I have continued to ponder.
Empowered?  Wow.
It's a concept that fits well with my plan to take control this year.
I don't have a clear direction right now, but I need to get on with living my life.
As FL put it (one of the last things he said to me):  "Roo, you need to get your zing back".

So this weekend, thinking that a healthier diet would be a good start, I drew up a list of 5 recipes I want to try this week.
The first:  Seeded Halloumi and Harissa Rainbow Bowl involved a special trip to the shops and broke the scanner in the supermarket, as nobody had ever bought Freekeh before and it was not on the system.  It was absolutely worth it - I had trouble saving the second portion for Sunday lunch, it was so delicious.
The second was:  Roast Roots with Grapes and Lentils, an unlikely sounding recipe which has you roasting cauliflower, sweet potato, squash and grapes with fresh herbs and eating it with puy lentils.  Another taste revelation!
Both recipes come from Anna Jones' A Modern Way to Cook.  Buy it now!

On Saturday, it snowed.
So I lit the woodburner, and started a new knitting project:  the Always Amsterdam shawl by Isabell Kraemer.  I am using some beautiful handspun by Teos on the Isle of Skye, a gift from Christine several years ago.  It is going to be gorgeous - soft, warm and drapey.

While I knitted, I listened to the audiobook of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, a modern-day rewrite of Pride and Prejudice.  It got a scathing review from Ursula Le Guin at the weekend, but if you enjoyed An American Wife I reckon you will appreciate this as a novel in its own right, Austen roots notwithstanding.

On Sunday, early morning sunshine saw me loading rubbish from the side of the house into a wheelbarrow and decanting it at the back of the garage, for a future trip to the tip.
I actually found a full sack of seasoned logs under the 3-foot deep pile of dead leaves, broken window frames, empty oil cans and golf balls.
Woo hoo!

Later in the afternoon I had a trip to the village, where a "collector's" shop opens only at weekends.  I was hoping to find an outdoor bench, but instead came home with a sturdy vintage wicker basket with lovely wooden handles - perfect for logs and a definite upgrade from the plastic sheep feed bucket which used to sit at the fireside.

The bench was intended for my Garden of Remembrance up on the hill.
The deer have nibbled the buds from FL's tree, so I need to protect it somehow.
I have a little cairn of stones beside it that I add to on significant dates.
7 April was the anniversary of the day in 1979 when he first gave me a poem.
I want to put a seat up there so I can sit and knit .
I scattered some poppy seeds, in the hope they might grow and help FL sleep.
Don't worry -  I know how crazy that sounds.

The roof repairs are complete:  it no longer rains in the kitchen and I can open the upstairs windows  - huzzah!
I have moments when I start to think I might have the kitchen refurbished... or I might keep chickens... or wallpaper my bedroom.  But I still shy away from anything that feels permanent.  A rug can be rolled up and taken to my next home, but new kitchen floor tiles would be part of the fabric of the farmhouse.

So although I am trying to dance again, I am treading carefully, in case I trip myself up.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

FO: The Mercury Top by Marilla Walker

The first sewing "FO" of my new blog is definitely worth celebrating.
This is the Mercury top by Marilla Walker:

I knocked out a couple of Renfrew tees last weekend, but that felt like production-line sewing, so familiar am I with that pattern.
This was something new and shiny and I welcomed its novelty while relishing its dependability:  Marilla Walker's patterns feel like good friends from the start.

I bought the pattern for the trousers, so you can expect to see them appear here sooner rather than later.
The top was a bonus... but it might actually turn out to be the main attraction.  I can see me making lots more of these in different variations, just as I did with the Maya pattern.

What's special about it?
It is the strong and silent type.
That simple shape?  It is perfectly balanced:  just the right amount of high / low hem differential, with no danger of indecent exposure over my jeans.  The neckline is neither annoyingly throttling nor embarrassingly wide or deep - which sounds like a simple requirement but one which is so rarely delivered - the Maya top is a notable exception. This has the advantage of having full length sleeves.  It is still freezing here:  we had snow yesterday.  I definitely get more wear out of my long-sleeved tops.

It was really straightforward to sew:  the neck facing fitted perfectly; the sleeves went in first time without any puckering; and best of all the bottom hem has an interfaced facing too.  The Girl was using this finish on her coat toile - clearly it is a "fashion design thing"!  I had never come across this detail before, but it really works to weight the bottom edge of the garment and give it substance and swingy drape.  Who knew?!

Pattern:  Mercury top by Marilla Walker in size 2
Fabric: 2 metres of Atelier Brunette cotton lawn in the Hirondelles print, from Guthrie and Ghani.
Other:  thread and lightweight woven interfacing.

Pesky wind!
A winner!
I rarely buy 2 metres of fabric to make a top, because I feel like 1 metre should be enough.  But I will definitely be topping up the stash with more 2 metre lengths to sew this again.
I am wearing it here with jeans, but I am expecting it to become a workwear staple with wide-legged trousers and a drapey cardigan.
I had better get on and make those Mercury trousers...!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Two by Two

Last week I had The Girl to stay.

It turned into a week of list-making and box-ticking - very satisfying!
She was working hard for College:  filling her sketchbooks with drawings, photographs and stitching... and making a toile of her first coat design - ooh!

She also helped me with the Great Decluttering.

The Special Refuse Collection went ahead without a hitch. 
FL's car went off to the scrapyard.
We took several bags of junk to the tip and many more to the charity shop.
We moved furniture between rooms, opening up the space.

I appointed a roofer to repair the long-standing leaks... and he actually turned up and started work!

The house started to breathe again.

I bought a cheap (but pure cotton) duvet set and used the last of my stashed cotton lace to trim it - with neon stitching of course!
Step one towards making my bedroom into an oasis of calm. 
I threw out the dusty old carpet tiles and scrubbed the tiled floor. 
Now I need to choose a rug.
And put up some artwork.   The walls look awfully bare and empty, now the clutter has gone.

I finished a pair of socks for me and was inspired to cast on two more.

The Girl liked mine so much, she is getting her own pair of self-patterning socks in Regia Mix-It Color (9383). 

I am using a different heel for hers: the Vanilla is the New Black pattern.  I planned to just  use my leftovers for her pair, but misjudged the leg length.
This heel comes up quite high at the back.
I might have to buy another ball, even with contrasting cuff and toes.
That's OK - I can always make yet another pair!

The red sock is Tavia by Rachel Coopey, using Travelknitter BFL in Double Happiness, purchased at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

The pattern came in a sock supplement from The Knitter magazine and the photos don't exactly match the pattern as written.  There ought to be a section of lacey cables before the heel flap.
I decided just to knit a longer section of cuff ribbing and transition to the cables at the ankle.

The yarn is a lovely rich and saturated colour.  I will definitely be treating myself to more Travelknitter at some point.

After waving The Girl off at the station, I was determined not to lose momentum.

After cleaning down the walls of the hallway, ready to paint, I spent the weekend sewing two Renfrew tops out of stashed Alison Glass jersey - one in navy and one in forest green.  It was very satisfying to sit down and sew a tried and true pattern - no problems!

The painting?  I'll get there!

I also spun up a second bobbin of Oregon Green Corriedale fibre from Porpoise Fur.

I am going to 2-ply it to knit the Inglis mitts from the cover of the EYF magazine.

I just noticed that my mitts will go well with my new top :)

Back to work again now... but my action-packed break has restored my energy.
I am full of plans for sewing and knitting and spinning.

And my next holiday :) 

Friday, 1 April 2016

A Painting Shirt

This week I have been sewing an Archer popover shirt.

Fairly early on, I realised that I had cut the placket facing inside out.  I still don’t know how that happened, since the pattern was absolutely clear that the interfacing should be cut “glue side up”.  That being so, there was only one way this could possibly be sewn...?

So I ploughed on, with an ever-growing sense of dread as I realised that the only way I could make a pointy end piece appear on the right side of the garment was to turn the placket inside out and have the interfacing on display.  Um… no.

So then I tried to trim it down, and tuck the end towards the inside of the garment, out of sight… and made myself a bulky square-ended lump of a thing at the centre front of my “lovely” new shirt.

Really, Roo?

A week of evenings was devoted to this endeavour.  Good knitting time was wasted.  My spinning wheel was gathering dust.  Books lay unread. 

And the thought that popped into my head was “Oh well… at least I used up that fabric and got it out of my stash!”

Really, Roo?!

The point of sewing is not to use up the stash, it is to make garments I want to wear!  This shirt was to have been something I really wanted to wear – a light blue chambray cotton that could be worn with so much that I already own.  It was pretty much a substitute for a shirt I saw in the Hush catalogue but felt unable to buy because…?  Ethical qualms?  Frugality?  Residual guilt about buying “stuff”?

Hush shirt-of-dreams
With the advent of spring, I am once again on a decluttering kick.  You might assume there is nothing much left in my house to declutter, but believe me I have a very long way to go, to refresh this living space and cleanse my soul.
I have booked a special refuse collection to dispose of old / worn out / excess furniture that lacks the necessary fire safety certificates to allow it to be reused.  The unwanted books are boxed up ready for the charity shop.  Once the study is clear of mouldy furniture / broken Video Cassette Recorders / photographs of lions, I can rip up the filthy old moth-ridden carpet and paint the walls.  I already have paint to freshen up the hallway. 
In my bedroom, the remaining few carpet tiles (after the flood) are on their final warning, pending the purchase of a soft and pretty rug, for my toes alone.  The empty chest of drawers (which has no handles on the drawers and smells of mildew) is off to the tip.  The simple cube shelves are moving in to store my yarn and pattern stash.

Can I say it?  It‘s really exciting! J

Which brings me back to the offending shirt project… I plan to finish it, if only to practice my skills.  So that next time I will know better.  When I posted that picture on Instagram, people were very diplomatic and some said they would never have noticed.  You are very kind.  But I strongly suspect that I have spent the past week sewing myself a painting overall.

Oh well!