Thursday, 31 December 2015

Year wrap up: Knitting and Sewing

The year is coming to an end. Everywhere year reviews are starting to pop up. I like to wrap up the year by looking back at various aspects of my year. Buckle up guys, this is going to be a long one.

As will become apparent when reading this post, 2015 was a tough year. It was my busiest year at uni, I took some difficult (but fulfilling) courses and of course there was my thesis research which took up most of my life for a considerable part of the year. Unsurprisingly this had effect to other parts of my life; for crafting it mainly meant that there was simply less. Not all was bad though: I'm absolutely positive that the knitting and crafting that I did made the year considerably better, and perhaps most important I'm just really happy with most of the things I did manage to make this year. In general 2015 was the year in which I knitted less sweaters than I wanted to, got back into sewing big time and made my first socks.

First I'll look back to my year in crafts, then I'll make it a bit more personal for those interested. If you're not interested, feel free to scroll further to that ultimate accountant-cum-judge of years: the final check list of last year's resolutions....


☆  Knitting   ★ 

It has been a very dry year for knitting at the Treehouse and it shows in the amount of finished knits, especially compared to last year, which was a wonderful year for knitting. This has everything to do with my life at uni. This year's coursework was incredibly intense, but most importantly my research and thesis soaked up a lot of my time, and basically took over my life for a while. A whole month could pass without me having picked up the needles once, something that would have been unheard of before this year. Only since September things have picked up again, though I still don't feel I'm back at my old level. But that's okay, I'm just glad to be knitting again.

Favourite makes this year:

Sweaters:
1. Freydis (Grettir)
2. Foxglove
3. Nikka Vord


Accessories:
1. Follow Your Arrow II
2. A Hap for Harriet
3. My First Socks

Favourite knitting Books Published this year:
1. Autumn - Marie Wallin
2. Kofteboken 2 - Sandvik & Samsoe (This was on my wish list only two weeks ago, but the Christmas Goat has brought it to my door!)
3. Penguin: A Knit Collection - Anna Maltz




Most used yarn:
1. Lopi: 4 projects: one sweater, 3 Accessories
2. Old Maiden Aunt: 2 projects, both Shawls
3. Shetland yarn 2 projects: 1 sweater Jamieson's, 1 sweater Jamieson's and Smith.

☆  Sewing   ★ 

Even though I had as little time for sewing as I had for knitting, 2015 feels as a much better year for sewing. Part of this is because when I finally had time for crafting again the sewing bug hit with a vengeance. So far the bug is still here! Most importantly I now feel much more confident in my skills with a sewing machine and therefore dare to tackle a lot more projects. I think I learned many new sewing techniques, and progressed a lot. I'm also able to balance sewing better with my the rest of my life; enabling me to sew for small amounts of time in between other things I have to do. All in all I feel al lot more positive about this year's sewing than this year's knitting.

My patterns and fabric stash has grown considerably over the past half year. I'm very happy to have discovered some new pattern brands, while at the same time some of my older favourites, like Colette and Deer and Doe, have continued to make gorgeous patterns to fawn over.

Favourite makes:
1. Cooper Bag
2. Seda Dress
3. Flora Dress




☆  Personal Bits or what else happened this year ★  


2015 was a big year for the Treehouse. When I look back on this year I mostly think about academic things, everything else is pretty much a blur. I know it has come up here on the blog a couple of times but the past year was easily the busiest and most draining year of my life. As has been mentioned several times *cough*sorry*for*the*cough*repetition*cough*, my thesis did occupied most of my time and energy this year. It's been an extremely interesting process, and considering how much I was both dreading and looking forward to it in my wrap-up post of 2014, it is a strange sensation to have it behind me now (Oh, hullo there, master thesis!). I'm still fascinated by the subject of Irish modern and early-modern literature, but between the thesis and other coursework, it has also cost me a lot. Even now, almost four months since turning it in, I still feel like I haven't regained the levels of energy I had before. Nevertheless, I do feel like I have learned so much over the past year. I've read so many books from sources I hadn't been able to imagine. Irish farmers, cosmopolitan Nigerian female academics, Canadian Native Americans and Japanese-British novelists: the things I read have certainly diversified and reached across the globe this year. A part of this is to thank to a course on post-colonial literature I had, but from this has sprung a wider interest in literature from across the world.

My boyfriend graduated earlier last summer, got his first proper job (in local government), finished that job (it was a project that only lasted for a couple of months) is now jobless for a month or so but will start a new job around the end of January, at Loesje, a creative writing/activism organisation. He did an internship there during his studies and it is basically his dream job so we are all very happy about that. It was a bit of a roller-coaster, and I'm glad that the uncertainties of the past few weeks are over. He has been very lucky, getting a job that soon after graduating and after that project a new job straight away. Many people, especially in the past couple of years, have not been that lucky, and we have several friends who had to deal with unemployment for a year or longer.

☆  Books   ★ 

Because, even if I do this succinctly, I can't do this post without a list of my favourite books I read in 2015:
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - James Joyce
  • All Quiet on the Western Front -  Erich Maria Remarque
  • Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Islandman - Thomas O'Crohan
  • Fortunately the Milk - Neil Gaiman
  • Peter Pan - J. M. Barrie


Social Media and blog

My goal for the blog was to post a wee bit more and post more consistently. I did not make this goal. Things started out pretty well in the first few months, and even though uni was very busy I tried to keep up with the blog as best as I could. I think the Follow Your Arrow II KAL helped with this, as it offered me a steady supply of topics to post about. But in the end, when thesis madness really took over, the blog just slipped away, with august being the ultimate low point. While it makes me a little sad, I've accepted it. It has been a rough year and a lot has had to give and unfortunately blogging, as well as knitting and sewing were snowed under. It makes me sad, but it is the way it is.

One of the things I've let drop away was the monthly book posts I experimented with between December and March. I did like writing them, so maybe I'll bring them back in one form or another. Books are an important part of my life, and I read quite a lot, so I'd like to give them a spot here.

Another goal was to comment more on other people's blogs, and to be more 'social' on social media. I've started commenting more on other blogs in the beginning of the year, but as with everything things started to go downwards once the uni work started to pick up space. Since I haven't kept the resolution up all through the year, this resolution stays.

As for other social media; I signalled a slight shift from twitter to instagram in 2014, and I think the trend has continued. I've become much more active on instagram over the year. I  participated in my first photo challenge on Instagram; a 'photohop', a challenge similar to a blogweek. I had a lot of fun with that, and overall I think I feel much more in my place on instagram.


☆  Resolutions for 2015   ★ 

So... the end balance: Let's see how I did with my goals.

Knitting
Make one project from the book Yokes by Kate Davies - Success: Foxglove.
Make one jumper/cardigan with colourwork all over - Success... though it is yet to be blogged (sorry!)
Make one jumper/cardigan without colourwork. - Success: Sibella Cardigan.
Make a jumper/cardigan in Icelandic yarn - Success: Grettir
Make a jumper/cardigan in Shetland yarn - Success, foxglove again!
X Make a garment using my colourwork motifs books - Failed.
X Finish one shawl by Lucy Hague - Failed, though I did make several other shawls that I'm very happy with.
Make a pair of mittens - Success, but is yet to be blogged 
Try new yarns - Success: Old Maiden Aunt, Buchaille, Jamieson. 
X Knit with beads - Failed, though I did sew with beads, and I liked it!
Make four (or more) projects with yarn from my stash - Success! Grettir, Foxglove, Mullspice, FYA2, Hap for Harriet, and Sibella were all made with yarn bought before 1-1-2015. This didn't mean I went cold-sheep, though.

Other crafts:
  Sew more, and try to pace sew time - SUCCESS!
  Sew with knits - Success!
X Make a doll - Failed.
X Try making jewellery - Failed.
  Do some small embroidery projects - Success! 


That's it! 2015 was an odd year for me personally, It was both incredibly fulfilling and at the same time a very rough year. Ah, well, onwards and upwards! I'm quite excited that 2016 is here and hopeful that it will be a grand year!

Thank you for reading my blog this year, thank you for your comments here and on instagram, and thank you for sitting through this year wrap-up with me. I'll be with you in a few days, with a list of my ambitions for 2016! Until then:

HAPPY NEW YEAR,
AND ALL THE BEST IN 2016!!







Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas Ornaments


Hey there,
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I just got back from a couple of days back in the south at my parents' place with my family. I stuffed myself silly with Indonesian food and Christmas pudding, got spoiled rotten with books, yarn, fabric and other crafty notions ( I finally own a blocking kit) and spend boxing day outside getting muddy feet in Belgium. Since it is over, I can show you some of my secret makes.


I don't often make any "big" handmade gifts for Christmas, and this year is no exception. But I do like to craft some small things to tag along with my gifts.  This year I spotted these ornaments on the Grainline Studio blog and thought they would do well for this year's Christmas. For gifts, knitting is usually my craft of choice, but this year playing with felt, beads and sequins was a nice change.  Also you simply cannot go wrong with whale or owl inspired gifts.


I did most of the sewing on my sewing machine. I started out with hand sewing, but my stitches are just so much neater on my machine that I soon switched over. Some parts were a bit finicky on the machine, because they are so small, and this felt isn't the sturdiest of fabrics but it all worked out fine.




I particularly enjoyed sewing on the sequins, especially when I found out how fast you can attach them if you use beads. I'm not particularly drawn to beads, glitter or sequins on clothes or in shawls, but I do think they look charming on these little guys.


I'm happy with how it turned out. I gave these guys away, but I do think I have enough felt, beads and sequins left to make some extra for next year's tree.


xxx

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

December Dress


This is my December dress. Also known as my "fancy-ish dress", or the "don't let the cats near the lace-dress" and the "if all fails I can always become a romantic heroine in a Gothic novel-dress". December seems to be the month in which a lot of makers either start to make tacky over-festive Christmas outfits, or fancy party wear. This year I decided to jump on that bandwagon.

Initially I wanted to make the Ava Dress by Victory Patterns. It is one of the patterns that caught my eye when I just started to get interested in dressmaking, but was way (WAY) beyond my skills at the time. It wouldn't be stretching reality too far if I said that Ava is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a better seamstress. So I decided that this year I would take the incentive of a Christmas dress as an opportunity to actually make it. But then Pauline Alice released the Seda dress in November and turned my plans upside down.While both have a lace yoke, the rest of the dress is considerably different. After a couple of days turning it over in my head, I decided to go for the Seda Dress, as it had the sleeves in favour and a more casual neckline which I felt slightly more comfortable with. Also: I tossed a coin and Seda won. Ava will have to wait for a little longer.



I ordered the Seda Dress directly from Pauline Alice. The pattern was swiftly brought to my door. Two days after I ordered it, it landed in my mailbox. I was impressed, I've waited longer for patterns ordered in my own country. The package of the pattern is beautiful! A large cardboard box, with a pretty illustration of the pattern on the front and pattern details at the back. Inside you'll find a multi language (Eng, Fra, Esp) pattern instruction leaflet and pattern sheets. The pattern pieces are printed on sturdy paper, which makes tracing the pattern much more pleasurable. I'm always happy to find pattern companies that print their patterns on sturdy paper instead of the see-through paper most companies use. In my experience, European pattern companies are most likely to print on sturdier paper, and American companies on the other variety. My guess is it's because tracing patterns is more common in Europe, and in the US most people just cut out the actual pattern. Aside from all this paper excitement, I think the overall package is just really beautiful. I can see that a lot of care and though has been put into it and just as with a pretty book or LP cover, I appreciate that. 


 Pauline's patterns had been on my radar for a while, she has a couple more that I'd like to make such as the Cami dress and the Turia Dungarees. I was anxious to try one of them, so I could see how I'd like her instructions and such. Sewing the pattern went really well and I didn't  run in any problems. The pattern is classed as intermediate, but I think that view A (the off the shoulder look) is harder than view B, which I made. The pattern instructions are not overly extensive, for some of the techniques she assumes that you know them. This wasn't an issue for me, but beginners might need to google a couple of things here and there.



I picked a medium weight cotton to sew my version. I wanted a thicker fabric, because it's a dress for winter temperatures. Or it's supposed to be, today we hit 15 C making it the most unusual winter I've ever experienced. Finding suitable lace was harder. I wanted a lace that with a lot of motives and would give some more cover. I found lots expensive bridal lace online, but didn't really liked most of them. Eventually I went with this cheap lace that I found at the market. It works well, and because the dress bodice is high cut, modesty isn't really an issue.


I'm really pleased with the end result. I think it can be both dressed up for fancy wear and dressed down for a more casual look. I'm a big fan of the fit and flare dress silhouette and wear it quite a lot. I think the dress has the best finishes of all my sewn projects so far. I upped my serger game and overlocked all the seams, which has made all the difference. The inside just looks much more professional. Finally, any dress that has big pockets is worth an extra star.



That's all I wanted to say about this dress. Now all that is left for me to say is send you warm wishes. I'll be popping back in here before the end of the year, but in the meantime, I hope you have a lovely holiday and want to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas.

xxx

Friday, 11 December 2015

Wicky's Sokkar


Last week I finished the socks I was knitting for my boyfriend. I made these socks twice before.
He specifically asked me for plain Icelandic socks in a natural colour. You see these are not to be normal house socks, these are to be Viking socks!

Let me backtrack for a bit. Ever been to a reenactment/living history fair? Think fields filled with tents of people recreating whatever time period they're into. There's people wearing period-correct clothing, made using period-correct crafts and resources, doing period related activities and making music on period-correct instruments. Now, my boyfriend isn't a die-hard reenactor, but he does enjoy visiting living history festivals every now and then, and he's been gathering a wardrobe of late iron-age to early viking age clothing.


The one thing missing in his wardrobe has always been the shoes. This summer he started working on a pair of Iron age shoes, although the project went in hibernation when his graduation and new job came up. Now, in addition to the above, he's also quite the fan of Viking saga's and medieval legends, so when he saw an announcement that one of the winter fairs was going to have a "Vertelþing", or, a storytelling contest, he signed up immediately. Only when his participation was confirmed, he realised:  a) he still needed to finish his shoes an b) they were woefully unsuited for winter. So that's where I come in. He was in serious need of a pair of thick woollen socks!


I choose my beloved Icelandic Lopi, which is both perfectly warm and conforms to the look and feel of the kind of thing he wanted. There's a few things to say about the historical correctness of these socks. First of all, medieval clothing needn't necessarily be natural, bland, grey or brown colours. As many natural dyers know, there's a wide range of bright colours to be made with natural dyes that have been available for centuries. According to several sources I found however, socks were usually made using undyed wool, while the dyed wool was reserved for more prestigious garments.


Now for the obvious: did Vikings knit? No, they did not. Or, at least, no evidence has thus far been found to prove it. They did used Nålebinding, a craft similar to but predating both crochet and knitting. Archaeologists without proper knowledge of needlecrafts have often mistaken nålebound finds for knits: although the technique is quite different, the result looks remarkably similar to the untrained eye. Because of this, knitting seems to be close enough to produce 'Viking socks' that are comfortable to wear, simple to make and look convincing. My boyfriend isn't super particular about the period-correctness (hence "not die-hard"), and he likes warm feet so he's very happy with these socks. It helps that my boyfriend cannot needlebind, and I am not motivated and/or keen enough to learn it.


Finally I want to mention that I've been participating in my first ever photo challenge on Instagram. Those of you who follow me there will have noticed that it undoubtedly increased the amount of posts from me. It is a crafty photo challenge in the days leading up to Christmas. Each day has a theme, and participants post sewing or knitting related photos in accordance with that theme. I've seen these challenges before, and enjoyed browsing through the pictures posted there, but wasn't convinced I could keep up with posting everyday. Most of these challenges take a month, but this one was a lot shorter, so seemed a good way to test my endurance. There are only a couple of days left but you can see what I've been posting on my Instagram profile or in the daily photograph widget in the sidebar.

Have a great weekend!