It has been the wettest October since records began, 250mls of rain fallen and counting. To say the ground is wet is an understatement. Soggy, sodden, mush. Water and worms and mosquito larvae collect in puddles that don't have enough time to evaporate. Twice the river has broke it's banks, sending torrents of debris into the fencing and gates and trees and flood plains of the farm. The big dam is full to capacity for the first time anyone can remember. There are regional towns throughout the state grappling with extensive flood damage, and one day school was cancelled due to a wild storm and power outage. Still the flowers bloom and the bees hum when the clouds part and the rain stops. Still we marvel at the warmer nights and milder mornings. Still we count our blessings to live atop a hill with a secure roof over our heads. Still we read and bake and listen to music and walk with umbrellas and dream of another season. I recently finished Alex's birthday "rift sweater" and it is still cool enough for him to enjoy. It is the colour of dark rain clouds and is soft and warm thanks to the possum, alpaca and wool fibers it is made from. I have cast on another birthday present, this time a many coloured shawl for a woman who loves bright hues and brings a smile to my face just thinking about. My little sister of course //
My newly finished Steele pinafore is a labour of love! The pattern is very well written but requires careful concentration. I enjoyed the challenge of sewing it, and even though my topstitching is not perfectly even, I am happy with the results. The fabric is "Roccoco" gingham linen from Merchant and Mills and is deliciously soft and comfortable. I love that it throws navy, grey, beige and mauve depending on the lighting. I know I will wear this pinny over and over again.
I also recently made another Eva dress as a sample for a sweet fabric and haberdashery shop in Bendigo called "House of Cloth". It was a pleasure to test this pattern using their beautiful European linen which has black and green threads woven together to create this shimmery teal hue. It is a lovely pattern; enjoyable to read and follow. Once again I decided to lengthen the sleeves to 3/4 length.
It has been so cold recently. The coldest beginning of June I can remember since we moved to these parts nine years ago. I wish I could tell you that each time the winter season comes around I am better prepared, more accepting and embracing of it's unique opportunities and prompts - but I'm not. I loathe it. My whole body seems to go on protest: sore, knotted, aching, raw, sad. I have some deeper issues with my health and specifically my thyroid that we are trying to pin down and support - and interestingly one of it's symptoms is poor circulation and an increased sensitivity to the cold. Knowing this helps, if only to remind me that my body is actually finding it more difficult to winter than previous years. I wish I could curl up in a cave to hibernate and reappear with the bright sun in spring!
I recently finished knitting a shawl using a skein of handspun and dyed wool I bought on my birthday weekend at Tarndie Farm. I used some other fingering weight yarn a friend gave me. All through the knitting process I wondered how these colours would sit together, how unusual and theatrical they seemed. I wasn't sure I would like it, let alone want to wear it. And now the shawl is finished I chuckle at it's honest reflection of winter: the brown wood for the heater, table tops and toast, the silver frost, grey hairs, woollen jumpers, and the red rosehips, beetroots, swollen fingertips, blessed life-giving blood. Best of all it's soft and warm, exactly what I need.
How are you going? Is it winter for you or is summer unfurling? If you were here I'd put the kettle on and we would pull our chairs close to fire and sip warm relief. Take care x
Here we are again in the month of me-made-May; that delightful celebration of handmade and repurposed, mended and altered garments. I love seeing and reading about other people's makes, and I celebrate the emerging diversity of body shapes, pattern styles and sizes, sustainable fibers and thoughtful conversations around it. These blog posts by Felicia Semple and Meg McElwee are well worth reading!
With each year I hope to become a better maker - with less emphasis on acquiring new patterns and fabrics and more focus on recycling and mending, improving my sewing skills, altering patterns for a more satisfying fit. Basically to make less but better garments that I will actually reach for and wear over and over again.
In no particular order, some outfits of me-made things I am wearing often this month:
Cleo Skirts + Lark Tees
The Cleo Skirt is a simple pattern, with an elastic band at the back for a comfortable fit and roomy pockets. I've now made two versions with linen-cotton blends from my local fabric and haberdashery shop. I find the Japanese printed fabric of moons and stars particularly whimsical and up lifting. I love the Lark Tee pattern, and have made a handful of them now in cotton and wool jersey fabrics. I have managed to get some very affordable merino jersey from the Fabric Store by looking in their "remnant" sale - the pattern only requires 1-1.25m of fabric so it's not difficult to find a small piece to use.
Pictured here in my green Cleo Skirt (a colour reminiscent of the Lambs Ears that are growing in my garden) and black merino wool Lark Tee // Another day in my moon-print Cleo Skirt with a grey pointelle merino Lark Tee and my many coloured Vertices Shawl.
Eva Dress + Felix Cardigan
I recently made the Eva dress using a cotton-linen chambray fabric I had stashed away as a possible quilt backing that I never ended up needing. The fabric is exquisitely soft and shimmery. The dress shape has a lovely bell shape to it, and the construction was really enjoyable. As the weather cools I am wearing it with leggings or tights underneath and my cosy Felix Cardigan over the top.
You might remember I made Felix last year by unravelling an old (ill-fitting) cardigan and knitting it together with a strand of fine mohair-silk. The result is an incredibly soft and fuzzy, hard-wearing cardigan that I reach for day after day.
Trillium Dress + Sibella Cardigan
This is one my all-time favourite outfits. I adore the combination of my blue Sibella Cardigan (you might remember I made a golden-brown version a few years ago), my Trillium Dress in painterly blue cotton gauze by Japanese artist Nani Iro and my pale green-grey seaside shawl which bunches up nicely into a scarf.
All the textures and hues together make me happy, and with some warm leggings underneath is perfect on a crisp autumn day.
Trillium Dress + Coppélia Cardigan
Another outfit I love to wear. A sleeveless Trillium Dress again - this time in embroidered cotton and a very warm and snuggly wrap top - the Coppélia Cardigan which I recently made in this grey woven/knit fabric which contains wool, silk and mohair (a wonderful remnant find from the Fabric Store). The Cardigan is a clever wrap design and one I plan to make again in a lighter stretch fabric.
How about you? What are you making, mending, altering, wearing this month?
A week of me-made 2021
winter + spring making
More scenes from a special birthday weekend away with my friends: the lovely brown faces and speckled fleece of Polwarth sheep, beautiful yarn purchases from the farm gate shop (I opted for the undyed brown and grey which I hope to make a warm sweater from), our matching Wiksten oversize jackets, paddocks studded with oak trees, farm fresh figs, apples and honey, art in the farm cottage and electric pink amaryllis blooming everywhere...
2021 was another year of frequent making; sewing, stitching and knitting things to wear and give away as gifts. I found having a craft project going at all times helped with the constant changing and unsettling of routines. It tethered me to the confines of a thing - something to hold in my hands - to start and finish. To wear with joy, to give away with love. I was able to fill some gaps in my wardrobe and make use of scraps and offcuts too.
Here are my favourite me-made things from the year:
Hinterland Dress + Lark Tee
The perfect combination! I ended making two hinterland dresses this year - the first in a beautiful terracotta/clay coloured linen cotton and the second in a natural oatmeal hemp-linen. The pattern by Sew Liberated is well-written and easy to follow, but it's worth taking time to make sure the fit is correct, especially in the bust and shoulders. I opted for the sleeveless version without a button placket and the thin waist ties. The pockets are deep and generous.
I also made 5 long-sleeve lark tees (pattern by Grainline Studio). This felt like a real accomplishment - the pattern itself is very straightforward and easy to follow. I loved being able to modify the arm and torso length to fit my body perfectly and the rounded boat-neck (which has always been my favourite neckline). Not to mention being able to use natural knit fabrics that suit the seasons - cotton jersey and merino wool jersey. I reach for them day after day! They are wonderful worn on their own and under sleeveless dresses like my hinterland and washi dresses.
Someone once told me knitting in colour work was like painting; it is so enjoyable! And stranded colour work is not nearly as difficult as I always thought it would be - the hardest thing is holding an even and relaxed (but not too relaxed) tension with the different strands of yarn - and like most craft techniques it becomes easier and more natural the more you do it.
I loved this pattern inspired by traditional fair isle designs the first time I saw it. I extended the ribbing on the brim so that it would cover my ears a little better - I can't stand a hat that doesn't do that - what is the purpose?! I was also able to use yarn already in my stash.
Seashell Mitts and Fiddler Mitts
Warm fingerless mittens were a saving grace for me this year over the cold months when the circulation in my hands got so poor I was getting blue and white fingers and chill blains on my knuckles. It seems my thyroid is no longer functioning as she should and that is affecting a number of things, including circulation in my body.
Melissa's seashell mitts pattern is free and wonderful to follow. The other pair were requested by Archie - I used the Fiddler Mitts pattern without the frilly edging.
Seaside Shawl + Felix Cardigan
I finished this shawl at the beginning of 2021 and have worn it non-stop through every season - it is so versatile! I love the subtle sage green colour and can wear it with pretty much everything I own. The cotton-silk yarn is soft and durable and doesn't pill at all. The pattern is by Carrie Bostick Hodge.
And the Felix Cardigan. It is perhaps my favourite knitted garment yet - it was a simple and quick knit and is flattering over dresses or tops. I used wool yarn unravelled from a wrap I made years ago held together with a silk + mohair blend. The result is soft and warm and snuggly. It does pill but not too noticeably thanks to the halo of the mohair. I love this dearly.
Wiksten Oversize Jacket
Thus was a very luxurious and technically challenging project for me. I have admired versions of this jacket using the Merchant & Mills jacquard cotton for a few years. When this clay-rose hued version of the fabric came on sale I purchased just enough to make one for myself. The jacquard was quite fiddly to sew neatly with, but I got there in the end. The jacket is also lined with a medium weight cotton-linen fabric - the result is a very warm and quite heavy, snuggly jacket. You really do feel like you are pulled down into a hug - or wearing a quilt around your shoulders. I love the pockets too. Pattern by Wiksten in Making Magazine.
I love these camisoles. They are the perfect summer layer - lightweight and almost silky cotton lawn from Liberty of London and the elegant and simple camisole pattern from True Bias. I was able to cut them from just 1 metre of fabric with generous scraps left over. Highly recommend the pattern too which is easy to follow.
Flying Geese Cushion + Prayer Quilt
I also have to include these: a flying geese prayer cushion and also reflective blanket as a collaboration with my friend and artist Adam Lee. It was an invigorating and enjoyable creative process to play with linen and cotton and the traditional geese "triangle" design. The cushion was to accompany a commissioned painting of his and the prayer blanket will be part of an exhibition Adam is doing for Kyneton Contemporary in March. The latter will include five of Adam's mesmerising, beautiful paintings with five accompanying blankets that have been made by local makers and artisans and are in conversation with each his painted works and themes. I cannot wait to see them all sharing space together.
Winter + Spring Making
How about you friends, what have you loved making this past year?
An overdue making post with things made in winter and more recently in spring. Nights and mornings are still quite cold with delicious mild, sunny afternoons here and there. I think my making has reflected this balance of wanting to be warm and cozy and yet also anticipating the changes of the new season - and hopefully more short sleeves and sandal wearing! And though I said I never would, I have become a person who loves to wear a bit of pink...
Oversize Kimono/Unfolding Jacket
Pattern by: Wiksten Made (Size S)
Fabric: Jacquard cotton by Merchant and Mills (outer) // Essex dyed linen/cotton from Robert Kauffman (inner)
I have admired this jacket for years and especially versions using the exquisitely made jacquard cotton from Merchant & Mills. I was able to purchase some of the latter in musky pink on sale (I also managed to get the inner fabric heavily discounted as it had some minor imperfections in the weave). I cut a size S, and was able to squeeze the jacket pieces into just two meters. The jacquard frays easily when cut and is definitely not the easiest fabric to sew with. I took my time and sewed it in stages over a few evenings. I absolutely love the finished jacket - it is so warm and cosy. It is designed to be oversize and can be worn over a few layers. It has this heaviness too, which I kind of like - literally pushing my body down and enfolding it in soft fibers. The boys call it my "pink cloud jacket" and it really is...
Linen Hinterland Dress
Pattern by Sew Liberated
Fabric: Japanese washed linen
Another pattern I have long wanted to try. I decided to go for the sleeveless version without the button placket. Its a simple, gathered skirt, dress, with two waist ties, bias binding on the neck and arm holes, darts at the bust and lovely, generously sized side pockets. The fabric is a medium weight linen and is great worn over long sleeve tops (such as the Lark Tees I made in autumn) or on warmer days on it's own with a cardigan. I tried extending the hem with a thick band (that took the length just above my ankles) but decided to unpick it and do a simple folded hem just past the knees instead.
Gingham Array Shirt
Pattern: Array Shirt from Making magazine
Fabric: Linen/cotton blend
Excuse the crumples! I have made the array shirt a couple of times now and really love it's comfortable fit and how quickly it sews up. It is essentially a box shape with a bias-binded neck and folded hems for the sleeves and bottom. I love that it uses just-under a metre of fabric. I mistakingly sewed the bias neck band on the wrong side but decided I would leave it. Am I crazy? Probably..
Pattern: Serpentine Hat
Fabric: linen and cotton offcuts from my stash including part of an old dress.
This is a super speedy, stash-busting hat pattern! I was need of some wide-brimmed sun hats now that the weather is warming up. I used fusible facing for the brim - to add a little structure - and am experimenting with threading a line of plastic wire around the edge (Top hat has the wire / second hat is without it). I also used the inside-out method/hack that some people shared when using the pattern, whereby you join the inner + outer hats together and sew around the brim (right sides facing), then feed them through an opening in one side that was deliberately left un-sewn. I love that the hats are revisable and fit my head perfectly - I can't abide a too-tight or too-loose hat.
Pattern: Carrie Bostik Hodge
Yarn: Ochre Yarn 5ply, 304 Range (merino + yak) colourway "gem"
I knit this short sleeve tee with a group of three friends in a KAL (Knit-along). It was such a pleasure to see the progress of all our versions (using four different colours and kinds of yarn) - and is clearly a versatile and flattering pattern. I couldn't resist this warm, chocolatey brown yarn from my local fair-trade Ochre-yarn lady. It is a blend of merino wool and yak and is extremely soft and delicious. The panel of lace in the middle of the tee kept the project interesting enough all the way through without being overwhelming or mundane. I highly recommend it.
Super Comfortable Cotton Leggings
Pattern: Avery Leggings by Helen's Closet Patterns
Fabric: European Cotton Elastane Jersey, Melange "putty" colour
Finally some handmade leggings! A friend shared this pattern with me and it is perfect. I find myself intimated by the prospect of sewing jersey fabrics but then soon discover how straightforward it is with the right tension and stitch-style - and I loooove how jersey fabrics don't fray on you. The pattern is well written and I love the addition of a gusset and wide waist band. I will wear these under skirts and dresses, the perfect layer for sprinter weather.
What have you been making lately?
Me Made May is a month-long festival of people wearing their handmade clothes. I so enjoy seeing what people are making, wearing, mending and rediscovering. A friend asked me to share some of my outfits so I decided to challenge myself to wearing handmade things for a whole week:
Lark Tee in cotton stretch fabric which I found at an op-shop for $1
Trillium (Washi) dress which I made last year, in beautiful blue double cotton gauze by Nani Iro
Sibella Cardigan which I also made last year using Ochre yarn's fair-trade merino-yak-silk blend yarn
Seaside Shawl which I finished earlier this year and is being worn almost every day! The silk-cotton blend yarn which I bought years ago at Bendigo Woollen Mills is very stretchy, light and soft and doesn't pill at all.
Lark Tee in a bark-coloured merino wool knit from the Fabric Store that my sister generously bought for me and which is incredibly warm.
Tamarack jacket which I made last year using a lovely brown linen-cotton blend from Robert Kaufmanm and some cotton gauze and quilt-weight wadding that I had scraps of in my stash. Each panel of the jacket was individually quilted before piecing them together and attaching bias by hand. Affectionately called "the dog jacket" it's rather warm but a little stiffer than I was hoping.
Lark Tee in striped polyester cotton that a friend gave me and was my initial test of the Lark pattern. Makes a lovely layer under dresses like this one - which is the Trillium (Washi) Dress in dark blue linen that I had leftover from another project. The generous, side-seamed pockets are the best bit of course.
My newly finished Felix Cardigan over one of the three Wiksten Shift tops I have sewn and wear all the time. This one is made from soft Japanese cotton that has these lovely little embroidered pink spots on it.
Channelling the Boy Scout here, and not at all sure if it works but going to try anyway. Lark Tee in cotton jersey and a well-loved linen skirt (see below for my modifications to it), with my Seaside shawl.
My striped Lark tee again with lots of warm woollens - Felix Cardigan, fingerless mitts I crocheted for Alex a few years ago and a recently knit Bisbis Beret in mohair and wool.
This autumn I've worked away at a few practical clothing projects. The first was the Felix Cardigan (Pattern by Amy Christoffers) using quince and co yarn unravelled from a garment I made nine years ago (which I never quite loved the fit and feel of and pilled dreadfully). I paired the recycled wool with a fine silk-mohair blend from Isager which I bought new and the result is this super soft, warm and snuggly cardigan. I particularly like the simplicity of the pattern and the generous fit which allows me to layer it over lots of things and roll up the sleeves if need be.. I found the perfect buttons made from coconut shell at my local craft shop.
Following in the blending mohair and wool theme, I knit myself a Bisbis Beret (pattern by Sari Nordlund) using some old dark blue Bendigo Woollen Mills 4ply yarn I had in my stash and a strand of black Isager silk-mohair. I love how together they make a rich dark blue-grey that shimmers depending on the light. The pattern is fairly simple and goes from top to bottom - which meant I could add extra length as I went along for a more roomy fit - and finishes with an elegant i-cord bind off.
On the sewing front I have made three long-sleeve lark tees in cotton jersey, a poly-cotton blend and merino knit fabrics. The latter was gifted to me last year by my lovely sister and seemed only right to do a test first using the other fabrics. I am so happy with these tops! As someone with a long torso and arms it's difficult to find tops that are "long enough" or at least get to that point of real ease and comfort - which for me is well past my hips. I hate having to pull a top down! The lark tee is a pattern by Grainline studio, and like the other patterns of theirs I have tried - it is well written and a pleasure to follow. I also like that they give you a range of options for sleeve and neckline modifications. There will be more in the future!
There was also this fun, improvised project I did for Archie. He has long wanted a turtle daddy in "ice colours" to accompany the green crochet turtle mama and babies that a kind relative gifted him for his 4th birthday last year. The turtle was made by a woman in Cambodia through a fair-trade organisation and is truly delightful. It was fun to pick up a crochet hook (which I rarely do these days) and play around to construct a mate for her. Made from bits and bobs in my wool stash and stuffed with soft fabric offcuts, he's turned out okay I think.. I also made a few little blue babies to add to the family...
Currently in progress are some fingerless Fiddler Mitts (pattern by Ysolda Teague) which I initially intended to make for myself but are way too small and have now been claimed enthusiastically by Archie. He is the most keen to wear (and commission) hand knits of my three boys, which makes my heart happy.
I am also knitting a pair of fingerless seashell mitts using Melissa's wonderful free pattern that she put up on her blog and fit perfectly. My hands have really been aching in the cold weather so it will be good to have a lightweight pair of mitts that I can tuck in the pocket of my coat and pull out when needed.
Have you sewn or knit anything this season? I'd love to hear what you're working on...
I completed two garments recently: one began slowly and I lost interest in, only to pick it back up and love it completely! The other was sewn in a frenzy of excitement and anticipation only to find it didn't look or feel as lovely as I hoped. As in much of life, in making I find myself wondering about needs, wants and expectations. About the process of a thing, not only the finished product.
The first make is a lightweight summer shawl using a cotton-silk blend of yarn that I have had in my stash for about seven years. I'd actually used some of it to make a crochet vest a few years ago that I hardly wore - so I unravelled it and used the yarn along with the other balls to knit this shawl.
The pattern is called "The Seaside Shawl" by Carrie Bostick Hodge and follows a fairly straight-forward hour-glass lace pattern with increasing garter rows in between. I was attracted to the semi-circle, urchin-like quality of it. When I started it though I didn't feel overly excited and found myself getting a bit bored in the garter rows. I wondered how practical the shawl would be and if I'd ever wear it. I eventually put it aside to work on some other crafty projects for a few months. Then after Christmas I got it out again and found myself enjoying then knitting so much! The simplicity and repetition, was just what I needed at the end of a busy year. I took it down to the riverside and knit as my boys played.
Once finished the shawl blocked out beautifully and I've been using it often in the mornings when there is still a touch of coolness in the air before the heat of the day sets in. It is the perfect summer weight shawl, and the colour reminds me of so many things I have growing in the summer garden - silver dust, lambs ears, succulents - as well as the lichen that grows so abundantly on the granite rocks and hawthorn bushes around the farm.
Pattern: Seaside Shawl by Carrie Bostick Hodge
Yarn: 4ply cotton/silk blend from Bendigo Woollen Mills
The other recent make is my second version of "The Teahouse Dress" by Sew House 7 (which I have posted about before) but this time in a beautiful, soft double gauze cotton by my favourite textile designer Nani Iro.
I confess I fell in love with the hand painted flowers and swallows in the design, the sage green hues and the little bursts of blue and teal green and soft pink. I thought it would make the perfect, comfortable special occasion dress that I could wear to my sister's 30th birthday and then for Christmas in December - as it turned out both events fell on unseasonably cool days and I couldn't even wear it!
I dreamed about this dress long before I started sewing it, and even as I worked on it I thought I would love it so much. But when I finished I soon found that I didn't! The cotton sits so differently to linen; I feel like every seam and stitch and rumple is visible. More un-ironed vintage curtain looking than flattering kimono dress. Sigh, perhaps it will grow on me with time? I wonder if I should just unpick it and make it into something entirely different.
Pattern: Teahouse Dress by Sew House 7
Fabric: "Jardin" double gauze cotton by Nani Iro
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...