Thursday, 4 December 2014

Knitting: Knit-a-long progress

Once upon a time (in May), there was a knit-a-long organised by Rowan that offered 8 different patterns for 20x20cm squares.  These  were meant to be knitted one pattern per week, and so have a finished blanket within 2 months' time.

Fast forward ... six months:  after a (small) hiatus, in order to knit/sew/cross-stitch other projects, I'm in the final laps of this - my first - knitalong!

I've managed to finish the first two patterns and I'm happy to report that they are all nice and pinned, slightly sprayed with water to highlight the pattern, waiting to be assembled:

Does this mean I may actually have the blanket ready by Christmas???

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Knitting: baby blanket

There is nothing better than to handcraft a present for a new life.  I was moved when my friend Jessi asked me to make a blanket for her first baby and I wanted to make this a special one.

After several patterns, she and her husband chose the Daisy pattern, which in the beginning slightly disappointed me:  I thought it was way too easy, and wouldn't show off my craftsmanship!

Was I wrong... This pattern is fairly difficult to learn - but at least once learned, it's easy to memorise and I did not even need to keep track of my knitting.  I just stopped at 70 cm and started the edging.

But starting from the beginning:  as the sex of the baby was not known (it's a boy!), I went with trusted colour green.  But not just any green:  groovy green if you please!  The yarn is Baby Bamboo from Sirdar and I really loved the fact it's 80% bamboo -- so soft, and so right for a newborn!

I slightly changed the pattern (as I always do) and cast on 204 stitches, working with 4.0mm bamboo needles.  The blanket was my true companion many evenings in front of the TV, in the early hours of the day when I couldn't sleep, and even traveled with me abroad and kept me sane after long days of meetings...

But even in my wildest dreams I couldn't imagine it would turn out this beautiful.  I'm really pleased with the result and it made me embrace all those little presents that make a new addition in life so much more comfortable - welcome to the world baby John!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sewing: Glamour Exhibition in Brussels

Brussels may be tiny, but it never ceases to amaze me what wealth of attractions it has. True, they may not all be at the palm of your hand - but with a little bit of search one can find all the pleasures of a cosmopolitan capital (ok, almost).

Detail from a Vionnet dress 
on display
I'm interested in all crafts, but I'm more drawn to sewing, and more particularly the art of stitching. I just love the craftsmanship that goes into each and every well-sewn garment - and I'm more and more interested in the history of sewing. I really enjoy the old-fashioned way of doing things and the attention to detail, and I would like to see more everyday garments receiving that special care - not just haute couture.

I'm also interested and fascinated by the 1930s - I love how fluid the dresses were, how the colours complemented the patterns, how Chanel, Vionnet and so many others made their mark in sewing history by pioneering styles still embraced today... I was thus thrilled to find that both these interests found their way into my hometown.

Evolution of style
The Museum of Costume and Lace in Brussels is known for the well-cared exhibitions it houses. Currently, "Glamour" displays garments of the 1930s and lets us take a peek into the fabulous world of (well-to-do) women of that time. (I am conscious of the fact that the majority of people living then would not be wearing such clothes, but I'm also aware of the wonders great sewing can do to humble fabrics).

We are greeted by a pair that makes the difference between this and the previous decade evident: from straight, sack-like to fluid, body-hugging dresses. The accompanying guide informs us that one would change attires throughout the day, going from plain to more elegant and formal as the day progressed (and here I go straight from work to dinner in the same set of clothes...). The exhibition displays the costumes for the respective time of day / social activity but always makes the point to include several types of examples. And that's what makes this exhibition so interesting: not only to witness the variety of the styles but also to mark the evolution through the years.
Dress code for the casino

The majority of garments displayed are gifts from private families in Belgium, which in my mind also shows how lively little Belgium was (and still is). One would have to even have to seriously consider what to wear when going to the casino - dress codes reminding me of the likes of The Great Gatsby... 

Tiny, really tiny but
beautiful dress
The exhibition continues, and I lose myself to a myriad of delicate fabrics, all hand-sewn, with little flowers decorating the hems of otherwise simple dresses and I'm thinking of an era when bespoke was the norm, not the exception...

Also interesting to note is how tiny women were in those days: all the dresses shown are really minuscule and it makes me wonder how such styles would look today. Don't look further: also on display are creations by contemporary Belgian fashion designers, inspired by the 1930s and made for today's body types.

how to stay flexible and THIN!!!
This exhibition is a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning, when the rest of the city is trying to make the most of the last rays of sun and when there is a noisy beer festival going around town - inside the Museum, the soft 1930s music takes me to a calm place, full of nice perfumes, soft fabrics, exquisite accessories, girdles... Wait, what?

Well yes, my dears. While on the surface everything is smooth and fluid, underneath there is a lot of construction work going on. A self-explanatory display informs us what to wear on what occasion...

If you happen to be in Brussels, this is one of the exhibitions I fully recommend. It is on display until February 1, 2015.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Knitting: My first knit-a-long!

One of the many amazing things in the online community is the team spirit in almost every activity!  From books to cooking to fashion to crafts, it's all for one, one for all! The exchange of ideas, advice and support (as well as a gentle competitive spirit) make an -a-long experience really worth the effort and time - plus it's fun when are you're among friends!

That's why I subscribed to Rowan's Mystery afghan KAL (that's knit-a-long)

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Knitting: family presents

For the first time in my crafting career, I offered hand-made gifts to members of my family, and (to my surprise!) they all adored their presents.  So much so, that I now receive orders from other (neglected) family members and repeat orders as well!

Without further ado, here's what I made:

For my lovely sister, a cowl:  I like how it "hugs" the shoulders and keeps a sensitive and beautiful neck warm and protected.  I used the ombre pattern and I'm pleased with the end result (so was my sister...)

(from the scrap yarn, I made her this cute little neck scarf by Martha Stewart)

For my niece, I knitted a cowl of her own in the very exciting colour of ... mouse grey (her choice, not mine...).  I used the canaletto pattern and I  was surprised by how beautiful the lace pattern - discreet but making a difference!

For my nephew, a classic men's scarf (he's actually the one who started the trend:  he made a specific request for this!).  He already knew the colour and, when I sent him several patterns to choose from, of course he chose the difficult one - but also the better-looking one: Kyoko Nakayoshi's men's scarf introduced me to the world of finger-twisting knitting.  I didn't expect to manage it, but manage it I did and now I feel much more confident about new techniques in the patterns.  Bring it on, I say!

Now, as to my mother:  she's old school, so her request was a simple, two knit, two purl kind of scarf... You can imagine my disappointment that I would not get to showcase my "talent"... So I got to choose the yarn:  a beautiful purple-grey chunky yarn and I got to choose the ends - ruffled!  At least something to get me interested in the knitting!

Before I start the next rounds of gifts, I'm now knitting for me... a cardigan in the making!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Crafts: The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show

Well hello there - glad to find you again!

Having spend this past year and a half on a personal matter, I'm really glad to be back on track and back to my beloved activities:  crafts galore...

I'm just back from visiting one of the more famous shows and my first outside Belgium:  The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show in London, UK. 

Rowan - so much to choose from...
When:  Of course, the very first day - I naively thought to take the day off work, so that I would be one of the first visitors, avoid all those not being able to come because of work and thus be comfortable.  Right?  Wrong!  This must be one of the more visited venues I've ever been to!!! Good thing I dont' suffer from agorophobia, because it's places like this that can trigger major emotions.  To explain, I'm of a certain age, don't like being tread on constantly, rather enjoy lingering over "stuff" and appreciate contact with the sellers that takes longer that 3.2 seconds...

Soak and needles
Where:  Olympia, London.  London Underground is great for such things, and the people at the reception great - helpful and calm and very, very accomodating!

Time:  given that I was there for anything knitting, stitching, sewing only, I managed to skim on the remaining parts of the show, so overall it took me about 3 hours to get a very good glimpse of the show!

sewing patterns with a difference
What I left with:  I'm happy to say that there were a good many offers to be had.  And a lot of new businesses worth getting to know:  my bundle of joy included:

-  Rowan yarn, at a staggering 70% reduction
-  Knitting needles, at the difficult sizes of 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5
-  Knitting soak (from Canada!)
-  By Hand London sewing pattern (btw, the girls were amazing and their stand really cute!)
what presents are made of
-  Sew la di da vintage sewing pattern (intrigued to try this one out)
-  Stitching little projects (for various presents I have in mind)

I didn't buy anything from but I'll seriously consider once I've mastered my sewing skills:  a rather new company, Til the sun goes down, with a selection of vintage-inspired fabric --delightful!  Really, people, keep an eye for this site, because the fabrics are the most elegant and a treat to see and touch!  The shipping costs to Belgium are more than reasonable, so I'm already thinking of all my DVF-inspired wrap-dresses I'll be making...

What I really enjoyed:  the whole buzz and the way all workshops were full -- so full! The whole experience showed what a great community the crafts community is - and what a great escape from all that can be negative in our lives!

Now, on to stashing everything away...