Thursday, 15 May 2014

The only things that separates us from the animals is our ability toaccessorise aka my sew late sew dolly clackett frock.

This is Lovejoy and the use of  him doesn't require reason.

Hey party people,

How the devil are we?  Swell I hope :)  I myself am slightly left of the middle after wrangling with with three different types of spandex but hey you gotta roll with the punches.  As the title of this wee post suggests this is the dress I made in  honour of our darling of the dress dearest Dolly Clackett aka Roisin.

The little darling with the gorgeous ooobop and me cradling a Terry at her surprise supercalifragalisticexpialidcious spoolette hen do organised by the epic trio of Claire, Sally and Jane.  Fabulous photo by Katie

I won't go into huge detail because this ship has already hauled anchor in suitably fabulous fashion :) but in case you've not been round these parts for a while this is the squeeze.  Darling girl is getting wedded to her swell fella Nic (I can vouch for his swellness having drank, chatted and danced with the dude he's good people) tomorrow.  In honour of the sheer fabulosity of Roisin and the joy supreme of the occasion the lovely Sarah from Rhinestone and Telephones hosted Sew Dolly Clackett.  Things like this make my cup runneth over for the sewing community.  Can you honestly get a more supportive loving bunch yay us *chuck pompoms in the air*.  Anywho the sewalong rang from February to April and there were lots of prizes to be won, which were indeed won by v worthy winners. 

Check out Roisin's post with dresses so sweet they'll give you a toothache :) Long and short of it was I knew I wasn't gonna  get my frock done during the the timeframe but I just wanted to get it done anywho to celebrate the little firecracker she is.  Plus fittingly this dress got worn to  the wonderful wedding of our friends Tania and Jo and I do love it when a story dove tails :) 


Here she is my so (sew) late addition to Sew Dolly Clackett - the kiss and make up maxi.  Made using the gorgeous By Hand London Anna, which is hugely favoured by Roisin and hot ass sewists alike and now me too.  I tell you for why because despite my height that would, you imagine v much suit a maxi all RTWs one I've tried have made me look like bad drag.  Hell I loves me some bad drag but there's only so many looks a gal can rock in one life  time but Anna has well and truly broken the curse.  Size wise I cut a 20 and dipped the double pleats at the front 2cm to release the girls into the wild with enough space to roam free.  I shaved 1.5cm off side seams from armhole to waist and dispensed with the back darts.  So all in all very minimal effort required for maximum effect huzzah!  I think next time I could afford to the lengthen the  bodice a little but hey that's small fry.

This is me and my sister giving it our best Joan and Jackie with her little munchins.  As you can see a love of big hair and big jewellery runs in the fam :)
As previously tested by me By Hand London patterns are good for being active in having run a marathon in Flora I can confirm Anna was excellent for all manner of shape chucking on the dancefloor. My friend Ronnie and I appear to be invoking the spirit of the dance lol!
So there you have it the kiss and make up maxi in honour of Roisin.  I think as is tradition at a wedding I would like to give a speech but in the form of a poem to celebrate this lovely lady and her impending nuptials to her charming man :) *raises glass of gin*
Dear Dolly
I write these lines in honour of a lady,
in who's company I have drank plenty of wines,
This is a woman who truly rocks the frocks she chooses,
and hell don't get me started on her awe inspiring collection of shoes (kinda rhymes - poetic licence)
We met online via twitter,
She much like me enjoys a good witter,
Then just over a year ago today happily we met in real life,
and tomorrow she'll become Dr Nic's wife,
He's a lucky old swine,
but rightly so because just like the band she loves together they are divine,
They both enjoy a good crime drama like Morse,
and there's Law and Order of course,
She's sewn her own dress to sashay down the aisle,
and I know for sure Nic's will be the biggest smile,
And when all the formalities done and they've signed their marriage rights,
They'll meet on the dancefloor and perform Wuthering Heights,
To both of you I send  my warmest regards,
because the pair of you are the best kind of cards!
Have the best day tomorrow my lovelies you totally deserve it.. You guys are gonna be so happy and  I know the road will rise up to meet you at every turn.  Huge amounts of love to you both it's an absolute pleasure to call you friends :)
I leave you with this image taken on Monday night at the hen do  I can only assume I'm doing some form of invocation of the good wedding spirits or I'm half cut and throwing shapes either way it goes out to you.
Love and all the joys it brings,
Miss D

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Why I like nothing better than a good stitch and a bitch and how I aim to use this to improve Anglo Canadian relations or She Don't Use Jelly aka as I finished my tangerine jumper

Hello my sweet things,

How the devil are we all?  I for one am embracing the long overdue spring gracing our fair isle by lying on the grass at lunchtime barefoot.  I really do hope it's here to stay even though I've finally finished the woolfest that is the tangerine dream. So typical of me to present the world with a heavy Aran jumper just as the temperature starts to soar.  Fear not though because she's not a seasonal whimsy but an heirloom to be cherished year upon year.

I  think it's best to start at the beginning so let me take you back to when I first came to Brighton and indeed crafting.  As I previously documented I found myself back in B town in 2010 and I spent the summer getting reacquainted with the area.  By the time autumn came I was itching to take up a new hobby to while away the long nights and at that point with my leg still being naff, running wasn't an option. Instead I found myself getting into crochet.  I think I was in Urban Outfitters of all places and I spied the book below and decided to have a crack at crochet.  I made some pandas whilst watching a documentary on the Savoy narrated by Stephen Fry whilst quaffing a full bodied red.  It was then and there I thought I think I'm gonna bloody like this crafting lark.

This book is ace by the way and I highly recommend.

Not long after that I suffered the dreaded insomnia and was up late and crocheting and ended up googling sewing and started reading dear Tilly's blog and woosh my pilot light was lit and sewing was the next thing on the agenda.  I spent a good chuck of  2011 flexing my sewing muscles having hooked up with darling Zoe who herself was a new B town resident.  She massively encouraged me and aided and abetted me with fabric.  The summer flew by and as autumn returned I had a yearning for the yarn once more.  It was at this time I discovered a Stitch and Bitch  at wool shop a few roads from my house and met some amazing ladies and a fella and the best way of spending a Thursday night.

Our original home in Purl until the shop closed.  Where much wine and tea were drunk and laughs were had.

Our new home in the Prestonville Arms in Seven Dials where the wine still flows free and there's an open fire!

Once Purl closed we knew that we all still wanted to meet because what better way can there be to spend a Thursday night than drinking cava, eating chips and discussing bad taxidermy.  Yes bad taxidermy that is one of the topics we return to again and again and I still have no idea why.  After a long week at work there's times when I think oh I'm a bit too tired to go tonight but I kick my ass and I go and I'm always glad of it because it completely lifts me out of whatever funk I'm in.  It's definitely a kind of therapy and all of us have turned up at times with a lot on our plates and we've all gone home laughing and feeling a lot better about life. We've become real life friends to and have celebrated the wedding of one stitcher and the birth of another one's small person plus all the other triumphs in life.  I can thoroughly recommend joining a stitch and bitch group if you want to dip your toe in the crafty waters and meet fantastic people.    I think without them the tangerine dream would have been just that a dream.  I had lots of encouragement and advice from the ladies, which ultimately saw her become a reality. So now you've had the background to this yarn (sorry couldn't resist) I'll bring you to the main event.

The crossover from crochet to knitting came when I promised a lovely lady who is sadly no longer with us anymore that I would keep the knitting flame burning bright.

Tanya, a close family friend, lovely Mam,a champion knitter and all round good egg who sadly lost her battle with cancer 2 years ago today.  

She was an incredible person with an iron will.  She knitted up until she was too ill to.  The last time I saw her we were really laughing about whatever mad item of clothing I was wearing and she was at peace with what was happening to her.  For me it was tinged with sadness because I knew it would probably be the last time I saw her alive.  She loved all my crafty ways and made me promise I  would give knitting a go and I said I'd give it my best shot.  She died a a few days before her 45th birthday and when my Mam phoned to tell me I cried my eyes out and then I made a call to Purl and got booked on the beginner's knitting course because I wasn't going to let a dear friend down.  All the way through the knitting of the tangerine dream I've thought of Tanya and when I thought about chucking it in because it was taking ages or was too difficult I was reminded that to live this life is a privilege and not a given.  So I best to be sure to give mine a damn good go to honour the passing of hers.  It feels like she's weaved into all the strands :)

The book in, which I found inspiration.

Once I'd got a bit of practice under my belt I was gifted the above book in June 2012 for my 32nd birthday. Flicking through it I thought the designs looked pretty advanced bu then I saw her and fell in love.

All parts of me then and now know that tackling an Aran cardigan as your first knit project is not entirely advisable but neither is walking across France and Spain in Crocs but I did that as well.

I kinda figured from small acorns mighty oaks grow and what was the point in knitting a scarf if I wanted a 1960s style tangerine cardigan.  So out went reason to be replaced by my enthusiasm and belief that will a little elbow grease I could knit this baby.  Unfortunately the first hurdle I hit was that the wool I required for the project wasn't available in Europe.  I kid you not the email I received from Malabrigo on trying to source the wool had the subject, "Trouble at mill".  I was not to be thwarted nor was I going to even attempt to substitute.  I was already enough of a rookie on a difficult project let alone adding anymore uncertainty into the mix.

Eventually managed to source it from America and they were doing an offer so it worked out really reasonable and arrived in time for me to walk across Scotland with it.  What more perfect location to start an Aran jumper?

Once I'd gained gauge, which took several attempts I got stuck in and cast on the back, which I think was 150 stitches and the full enormity of what I was doing hit me.  This was November 2012.

I tried to knit most days and many times employed initiative when I couldn't find a cable needle.

I had a bit of a break in early 2013 but my March as spring was springing I was breaking the back of the back.

By May 2013 the back was finally done after having to frog 30 rows at the top after not realising I'd lost my place and thought oh I'll knit  through it will sort itself out.  I warn you this is the belief of a fool.  I eventually  had to admit defeat and rip it all back.  This was when I knew I was gonna finish the swine because although there were public tears on a very busy bus no part of me wanted to say sod it and chuck it out of the window.

Summer came round again bringing with it it holidays and hi jinx.  Progress slowed but on I plodded much to the surprise of myself and those around me who had worried I might get bored and it would be forever a WIP. I can actually say hand on heart I enjoyed the whole experience despite the tears, which I guess is a testament to doing what you want rather than what you should.

Finally, in the September 2013 there was a woollen vest that Delilah dutifully wore all through the winter.  Helpful gal that she is :)

All that was left with the sleeves and I thought ooh blink and they will be done.  Fortunately one of my very wise stitch and bitch buddies, Renee leveled with me and said, "honey the sleeves are like knitting a whole garment again".  This was the reality check I needed because I had delusions of grandeur that I'd be wearing this over the 2013 Christmas period despite a full time job, a shed load of sewing commissions and  marathon training.  Someone needed to put that fire out before I got disheartened and lobbed it in the to be done pile.

By mid January 2014 we had one sleeve.  I hasten to add more wool had to be ordered to finish this beast and again for number two and the making up!

Then hallelujah by 2nd March 2014 she was all knitted and I hit up YouTube to learn mattress stitch for the final push to golden glory.

At last all that was left to do was block it and then pick up stitches and knit the button band.  I decided to go for a wet block after reading it was the best treatment for merino and then for three long days I waited for it to dry out. Then in what I can only assume was a final fit of madness I stayed up until 4am using a crochet hook and a fierce disposition to pick up the stitches from the cast off edge to knit the neckband. On the early hours of 20 March 2014 my woollen baby arrived :)

Welcome to the tangerine dream.

A little from the side.

Check out that decrease in pattern.  That happened!

The face of batshit joy and relief that this woollen beast was finally tamed :)
Phew!  Well if you're still with me then well done because this post was a doosie but I guess that's in keeping with the scope of project.  I'm glad I didn't realise how big a deal knitting this cardigan was gonna be back in June 2012 as I may have tossed it side.  Seeing as this baby encompasses nearly 2 years of my life  I thought I'd chuck in some stats because I'm a bit geeky like that.
Knitting Stats
·         Balls of wool used 13, which equates to 1783m or 1.1 miles.
·         Weight of jumper 1.3kg equal to the weight of an adult human brain.
·         Length of time to complete 504 days, which is equivalent to the gestation period of an elephant.
·         Number of countries knitted in is 4 these are England, Scotland, Germany and Spain.  Most unusual place knitting has taken place is probably outside Amnesia before a night of raving in Ibiza.
·         Number of conversations started up over knitting is too many to count.  Most memorable though would probably be with a lovely Scottish fisherman from Oban whose Mam knitted him several Aran jumpers 30 years ago and they’re still going strong.  He said every clan had a different pattern because if you went overboard you tended to be unrecognisable on recovery but the pattern was easy to identify you as a Mackenzie or Stewart.  Gruesome but nonetheless very interesting.
·         Side eyes from commuting businessmen whilst I knitted and drank cider countless.  I can only think that the consumption of cider and the knitting of an Aran cardigan are mutually exclusive I thank gad they’re not.
·         Number of heartbreaks just one but a big one and one little heart wobble.  All good now though.  Knitting is a good healer :)
·         Number of babies born during the gestation period of my woollen wonder two absolute beauts and one on the way with my gorgeous bro and his lady expecting in two weeks’ time.
·         Number of years the tangerine likely to be worn a lifetime!
So my darlings that is very much that.  I'll leave with a picture of the Gos because rumour has it he is a very keen knitter and I would more than enjoy the opportunity to knock off a few rows with him.  So Ryan if you're reading this the Prestonville Knitters and I meet every Thursday night between 8pm - 10pm at the Prestonville Arms, Brighton.  Obviously, you'll need a place to stay and I'm more than happy to offer mine.  It's no trouble at all ;)  Anyone else fancies a stitch our doors is always open.

Love always,

Miss D


Friday, 2 May 2014

I can run and I can sew aka I ran the London marathon in a handmade dress woot!

Hey darlings,

How are we all?  I've spent my time recently sewing like a machine, dancing like a demon, eating like a Tudor, libating like an ancient Roman and lounging like a Greek God in no particular order :)  I so love the time around Easter because it's the gateway to halcyon summer days (please weather Gods let there be a summer).  As well more often than not you're guaranteed several long weekends and there's aren't so many obligations like there is at Christmas but like the festive season there plenty of food *unwraps another creme egg*.

One of the things I baked over Easter and I highly recommend.  Rhubarb and vanilla cake and here's the recipe.

Alongside  the good weather that is gracing my Isle right now there is much to be happy about, which includes a new frock courtesy of By Hand London's latest pattern Flora and gorgeous fabric from Fabric Godmother.  Oh yeah and I ran my first marathon the other week gah! More of that in a minute though.

Of note there is a Flora sewalong on the go at present.

Firstly, lets talk about how ace Flora is because she bloody is.  She's definitely gonna be featuring heavily in the summer I've already guaranteed we're having in the above paragraph. There's an option of a faux wrap or pinafore front and then either a full straight skirt or waterfall hem.  The girls asked me to pattern test her for them back in February and of course I couldn't refuse them. Plus I needed a dress to run the marathon in as I had originally stated when I signed up to the madness.  Flora couldn't be a more perfect match with her lovely full skirt that would mean I could the let pins spin freely and even her name fitted the bill.  The London Marathon is now sponsored by Virgin but when I fell in love with the race as a little girl and dreamed of one day going over the finish line it was the Flora London Marathon so that was that :)  Then throw into the bargain the offer of lovely  fabric from Fabric Godmother to make her up in and the thing was all sewn up.  I ummed and aaahed and eventually chose the tartan cotton poplin in the green colourway in honour of my Grandad's highland family colours.

Dear Josie's lovely note and fabric.

The fabric arrived and so did a care package in a lovely tote bag from the By Hand Girls that included the tonnes of lovehearts that I'm still finding throughout the House of D, Percy Pigs (my absolute faves) and vodka!  My days do these women get me or what?! :)

I cracked on with the making straight away.  From my measurements I concurred I'd go for a 20 and then probably have to nip in at the waist.  On the making of  a toile I realised I'd need a repositioning of both the bust and waist darts to allow for my ample lady lumps.  Just to make sure I re-toiled (is that even a word?) and realised I could sinch in the sides a little because the newly placed darts gave the girls plenty of room to roam free.

So I surged ahead and cut into my fabric and unfortunately that is when it all went a bit squiffy.  The bodice was a triumph but I somehow managed to cut the waterfall skirt so short at the front it was just gracing my hoo ha and any movement would have demonstrated the big reveal!  It was entirely my fault and nothing to do with the pattern.  A lesson learnt though nonetheless.  As you well know I'm not one for hiding my light behind a bushel and if this dress was meant to be used for a burlesque debut as opposed to my first marathon then things would have been quite different.  Alas this version had to be shelved and a new one constructed.  In the meantime while I ordered more fabric the girls sent me out the actual pattern and I decided to go for the straight hemmed version.

Here she is dear Flora being modelled in my darling friend Emma's back garden, which was where I stayed the night before the race and where I gorged myself on a tonne of sausage and mash.
Here on proceeds a run down (sorry this post is pun central) of the marathon so feel free to move along if you just came to read about the sewing, which is fair enough :)

To be honest it's all been bit of blur and I just wanted to send thank you all from the bottom of my heart. So many of you who have supported me with encouragement and sponsorship I've never even met.  I am beyond touched by our little community and its innate generosity.  It reminds me on days when I worry about the state of the world that people are truly amazing.

A couple of weeks ago now one of my life's dreams to run the London marathon came true and it was because of people power. The people you're supporting by supporting me and that's all the fabulous older people who are going to be assisted by Age UK to make their lives a lot easier. They blinking deserve it because they give so much to society and ask for so little. It was an honour to run for them.  I have since hit target!  So all the money is now winging it's way to the charity to help them help older people.

The other people that got me round were all of you in my life. Honestly if you ever want to feel a bit more sprightly about yourself run a marathon. I've been totally knocked over by all the support, encouragement and belief in me that has been shown since I started yaking about doing this. You drove my legs on further than they've ever run before and reminded me with a little bit of luck and a lot of love life can be amazing.

In my starting pen and smiling but shitting myself at the realisation I was about to run further than I ever had in my life.  Note the flower still accessorising obvs :)


Mile 4 and there was a band on the run :) No sign of Macca though.
Into double figures and just a steps away from being hosed down by firemen.  This is not an opportunity that will come along often.  I savoured it.
Going over Tower Bridge was like being in a film.  The crowd was so loud it was like a roar from a jet engine.  I felt so emotional.
Mile 20 where I realised I was sore but strong and with just 10K to go until I could say I was a marathon runner :)
Mile 24 was time for an outfit change.  Aymi and Emma were waiting at Age UK cheers point to be my wardrobe assistants and spur me on to the final 2 miles!
Flora gave me the lift I needed to keep on trucking.  Amazing the power of clothes.
As I said above you were there with me at the start when I was sick with nerves, at mile 10 when I went into double figures and was deliriously happy, you heard the roar as I went over Tower Bridge, at mile 17 when I thinking shit I've run a long way but I've still got loads to go and you were definitely there at 20 miles when I pulled myself together and was sore but strong and thought sheesh just 10k now that's no probs and I could hear you all celebrating as I pirouetted over the line wherever you were. I didn't do this on my own so I just want to say the biggest thank you to all and send a tonne of love your way.
My batshit joy face that says after 5hrs 30mins 21secs I am a marathon runner.
Massive thanks to all those who made it down to see me trackside with banners and big cheers including Sara and her mam all the way from Southy, the spoolettes, Aymi (who also has had to lived with my mad behaviour since November) and all my family it was such a high to see you at 14 miles even if I did have to doubleback to see Papa Demeanour. The look on his face was worth the extra 400 meters.  Pete and co giving it big woots at 23 miles and the lovelies from Lewisham that put me up and fed me well and provided my wardrobe change at 24 miles and to my marathon buddies Tim and Fi who both put in stirling performances.
Sara who brought the cheer all the way from Southy. She's a pro too check out her cheer crew woot!
The fam including legendary Uncle B and Auntie San who braved London town for me. I love them all dearly.
The future generation of sporting elites getting the taste for medal collecting :) I know there'll be big things to come from these two minkies.

In traditional Miss D style I didn't hit the protein shakes instead I nipped to Soho and quaffed prosecco and stuffed myself with fries in the company of Aymi, Clare, Alison and Sally.  A lovely end to one of the most incredible days of my life.

I'm honestly still so emotional but if I was any higher I'd need tethering to the the ground.  The pain was temporary and I believe they say the glory is forever or well I figure at least until my birthday so yest barman make it a double ;)
I'll just finish my ramblings with a little thought I had just after I went over the line.  The line that some man I didn't know deemed to tell me 3 years ago I wouldn't/couldn't do.  Firstly, I say well and truly damn the man and secondly always question why someone tells you're not capable of something.  It's good to get advice from those that truly care about you but sometimes people underestimate us and that's worth keeping a check on because you lot are bloody amazing and that's a fact!
For those of you hung onto this point here's that video of me going the wrong way up the course to give Papa D a hey as I missed him the first time.  It added on a few hundred metres but his reaction was worth it.

Love in abundance,

Miss D