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
It was a year of making - sewing and knitting wearables for me and for others (but mostly for myself). I definitely didn't set out to make the amount of items I did. I had some loose plans and hopes at the beginning of the year, which grew and grew as the year plodded along.
Being able to slowly work on projects with my hands brought much comfort in an otherwise strange and sad and unsettling year: something I could tangibly hold, control, complete. Something beautiful and useful. It was play, and it was meditation, medicine. I also loved learning new crafting skills along the way. These are my top nine makes from the year:
1. Teahouse Dress // pattern by sewhouse7 // pure linen fabric from the fabric store
I wrote a blog post about this dress here. I loved the process of making this dress so very much - the clean lines of the pattern, the challenge of learning new things (the gathered yoke in particular), using dark blue linen that had been sitting my stash for a couple of years waiting for the perfect pattern, and the result of a dress that is both comfortable and flattering, that I really can feel myself in.
2. Sibella Cardigan // pattern by Carrie Bostick Hodge // wool/yak/silk blend yarn by ochre yarn
This was my first time knitting lace which was a bit tricky but also a lot of fun. I didn't make the arms quite long enough - this is a recurring problem for me as I get so impatient to wear the knitted item I rush the sleeves! It's actually perfect wearing for the crisp summer mornings we've been having lately and the yarn which is a blend of merino, silk and yak fibres is deliciously soft and breathable. I think I would size up if I ever made it again so it could be used as a layer over a top - instead I wear it over bare arms with sleeveless tanks/dresses etc.
3. Wiksten Shift Top // pattern by Wiksten // double gauze cotton by Artelier Brunette
My most worn handmade item of the year, for sure. The pattern is roomy and comfortable, perfect layered over jeans or a skirt. I have worn this all year round; over thermals in winter and by itself in summer. I think the fabric is what makes it so special though: a lusciously soft double gauze with these golden embroidered spots scattered over it. And pockets, gotta have pockets. I have already sewn two more tops in this pattern!
4. Flea Cardigan // pattern by Pinneguri // yarn by Ochre Yarn, Jamieson & Smith 2ply, stash 4ply
I love this cardigan - I used the English translation of the original Norwegian pattern - it was so pleasurable, I almost didn't want it to end. My first time knitting a steaked colour work garment (and my second time doing colour work ). Someone said knitting colour work was like painting and there is something so playful and beautiful about the process. Like the Sibella cardigan I skimped on the sleeve length and ended up with 3/4 sleeves instead of full. I really must stop doing this! It's lovely and wearable and I would like to try a second one with longer arms and different colours one day.
5. Vertices Unite Shawl // pattern by Stephen West // yarn by Ochre Yarn, Bendigo Woollen Mills, random stash
Best shawl ever! The perfect way to use up bits of 4ply yarn you have leftover from other projects or stashed away. Such soothing, simple knitting with lovely little features where sections join. I looooved how the pattern works each panel into it as you go along and the I-cord bind off is just divine. I know I will make this again one day in different colours...
7. Origami Face masks // pattern by Aplat // fabric cotton, linen etc from stash
Such a wonderful free pattern from Aplat. We had to wear masks (and still do in grocery shops) for months during the lock downs this year so making some of my own, beautiful masks made a difference about the whole thing for me. I made some for my parents and sister and friends, plenty for ourselves. Best of all easy to adjust with each cord or elastic and washable.
6. Field Hat // pattern by Amy Christoffers // yarn by random stash, Ochre Yarn
I made so many of these! Addictive, quick week-long knit hats in the round using colour work patterns that truly feel like play. A win that the boys liked them too and could help choose the colours. I made one for my sister, one for Beren, one for Archer.
8. Tamarack Jacket // pattern by Grainline Studio // fabric by Robert Kaufman, random stash
We affectionately call this the "dog jacket"! This was the most tricky make of the year - firstly the quilting of each panel, then the welt pockets (which still weren't quite right) and finally the hand stitched binding around the edges. All in all I like it - it's super warm and the chocolatey brown Robert Kaufman linen-cotton fabric is beautiful, but I don't love it... It still feels quite stiff and a bit restrictive to wear with lots of layers underneath. I'd like try it again one day and had more length to it so it comes past the hips; and maybe size up so I can include buttons and have pockets on the exterior instead of welt-inner ones.
9. Trillium Dress // pattern by Made by Rae // cotton gauze fabric by Nani Iro
A dress for spring! It has pockets and can be layered over tops and tights on cooler days or worn with bare limbs on warmer ones. I used the washi dress pattern (now named called #trilliumdress ) which I actually sewed a version of about six years ago - it was my first ever handmade dress and although made of the most glorious cotton it was a little too short and tight for my liking. I didn’t wear it much and in the end cut it up so I could use the fabric in other things. It seemed fitting to make this dress again with the right modifications in another equally dreamy blue @itoitonaocotton gauze. Such lovely fabric calls for a simple shaped garment I think. I wear this one so much!
Eight years ago I made a skirt from the most beautiful fabric I had ever seen: a linen and cotton blend by Japanese textile designer Nani Iro of dark blue with sage and green and purple and cream and yellow gold hues. We were living in France and I had recently had my first baby. I was 23, and learning to sew clothes for myself felt exciting and daunting in equal measures. It was a gathered, high-waisted skirt with a zip, I had just enough fabric to make it. And while I loved it, I found the skirt to always a wee bit tight.
In eight years my body changed further. I developed an autoimmune disease and lost and gained weight, I moved house five times, I became a farmer, I grew and birthed and breastfed two more babies. The skirt was sometimes worn (partially zipped), but eventually got packed away in my sewing box to "do something with one day".
That day came recently when I decided I really wanted to modify it; extend it's waist so I could wear it with comfort (and joy!). I unpicked the zip and the gathers on one side of the skirt - I inserted a piece of dark blue linen in the waist band (since I didn't haven't any of the original fabric left) and re-attached the gathered skirt and zip. I added a little silk thread embroidery to blend the linen in - but also make a feature of the modification, a whiff of whimsy.
The skirt reflects my body in many ways: the lines and scars of wear, of use and growth. I am softer than I was eight years ago, softer to touch, yes, but also softer in my heart and mind towards myself. I speak kindly to the face that looks back at me most of the time: the body that enables me to do and feel and sense so much life. I am also stronger than I was eight years ago, in muscle and also in resolve to stand up straight and speak clearly to the world of the things I care about, the hopes I hold.
Making clothes is never just about the clothes, it's a story of who we are.
It may not look like much to you but this is my #teahousedress sewed in beautiful dark blue linen I bought at the The Fabric Store a few years ago with my sister. I fell in the love with the linen and at the time thought I’d make a roomy wrap dress.
Then I came across this pattern from @sewhouse7 which is inspired by the lines of a Japanese kimono. For a fairly novice sewer like me this required careful concentration. The pattern is so well written, it was actually a pleasure to follow. I took the advice of others and sized down for a more fitted look. I am so so happy with the result - it is truly comfortable and beautiful feeling dress that doesn’t over expose or hide away oneself. The deep pockets and waist tie and box pleat at the back are my favourite details. I now want to make another three!
I’ve felt for a long time that sewing my own clothes is a profound act of love to myself. Taking the time to make something for my specific shape and needs. To champion patterns by independent, female designers and purchase fabric from small businesses who follow sustainable practices and source their fibres ethically. To limit waste and save the leftover "scraps" for future making.
There's a tension that I feel between wanting to care a lot about clothes, and not care too much at all.
In a time where collectively as a culture we own more material posessions that ever before; when fashion fads seem to come and go at whim; when clothing is cheaper and flimsier than ever; when garments are made by people who are underpaid, undervalued and overworked; when we dispose of so many still "wearable" things into landfill or dump by the garbage bag to our local charity shops (for them to deal with) in our pursuit of "joy-filling" minimalism - I want to say enough! I want to spend more time making and mending garments I will savour wearing, and save up for fairly-made items I can't make myself but will last a very long time. Because the process, materials, intention and feeling do matter. The ethics and disposing of our things matter too.
Here’s to our clothes, and the stories we sew into them...
Eggs and chickens are often seen at Easter - but what about trees, what might they represent to us at this time? Traditionally trees have been symbols of faith, wisdom, transformation and liberation. Do you know that the image of the tree is used repeatedly throughout the bible; Jesus dies on a tree - a cross made from the wood of a tree - just as it was said in the Old Testament. And like Jesus, trees give life - they provide safety, shelter, sustenance and substance. In the natural world trees have sophisticated root systems that keep the ground stable and nourish many creatures and fungi. Their leaves produce oxygen so that we can breathe and even their sap or resin can be used to make medicine and other useful things...
Try making an “Easter Tree” as a decoration in your homes to remind us of the life-giving power of trees and the way our own faith can start small and grow and grow.
You will need:
- a small pot, jug, vase
- sad or gravel or small stones
- a full branch - gum tree branches work well, so do olives or laurel branches!
- scissors, ribbon or sticky tape
-decorations such as blown eggs (see method below)
Support the branch in the pot or vase using sand or stones to keep it in place. You will want to show in a prominent place in you house like the living room or even the kitchen table.
Blown Easter eggs
Blown eggs are eggs that have had the gooey insides “blown” out of them. They are then carefully dyed, painted or drawn on with markers. You could even glue stickers or coloured paper on them. They are extremely light-weight when blown and make beautiful decorations to hang on your Easter Tree. Please supervise children while they use the safety pin!
You will need
- Fresh eggs
- A safety pin
- Plastic straw
- A bowl
Sit an egg in it’s egg carton or a egg cup to steady it. Next tap a push a hole into the top centre of the egg with your safety pin. Once you have made the hole, carefully push the end of the pin down to widen the hole. Insert the toothpick into the hole and turn it around inside the egg to break up the yolk and make it easier to blow. Flip the egg over and make a second hole on the opposite side with your pin. Try to make the hole on the bottom a little bit bigger - but be careful not to crack the egg as you go!
Hold the egg over a measuring jug or bowl with the bigger hole facing down. Gently guide the end of your straw into the top of the egg (or you can just use your lips!) and blow - runny egg should begin to come out of the bottom hole. It can take a minute to get going - so be patient. You’ll know it’s all out when the egg feels like and only bubbles of air come out. You can wash it carefully in some water water and then let it dry. Decorate it with whatever you like: pens, paint, dye, glue and tissue paper, stickers!
We drew on our eggs with crayon before sinking them into jars of dye + water. Once dry, we painted them with a thin coat of craft glue, then we attached a piece of string to the top of each so we could hang them on our tree...
Herbal Body Butter Lotion
I may be biased but I really think this is the BEST all-purpose body lotion - it can be used all over your body, or as shaving cream or for nappy rash cream. It is thicker than most lotions thanks to beeswax and solid oils in it, and really moisturisers and protects dry hands and skin. You will never want to buy body lotion again! Best of all you can use YOUR preferred oils, with no nasty chemicals or preservatives. To make it you will need some basic equipment that you probably already have in your kitchen: a bar mixer, small saucepan, measuring jug and electric scales.
It can be a little tricky to get the emulsion process to work properly - that is to introduce water molecules into the fats + oils so that they permanently change their structure (much like the process of making mayonnaise) so that the water and oil are evenly combined and can no longer separate. I find the emulsion works best when the water mixture and the oil-fat mixture are the same temperature before combing.
You will need:
210g boiling water
2 tablespoons fresh herbs/flowers (lavender, chamomile, rosemary, mint, calendula) OR 2 herbal teabags
85g solid oil such as lard, coconut oil, cocoa butter
170g liquid oil such as olive, sweet almond, argan,
40 drops essential oils of your choosing
**fills two 250ml jars approximately**
Make a herbal infusion by bruising the leaves of your flowers/herbs in your hands or with the back of a knife. Place leaves in a mug or small pot. Pour over boiling water and allow it to steep until faintly warm. Strain the herbs/flowers out. Gently heat oils/fats/wax together until melted. Cool to room temperature. Slowly pour the infused water into the oil mixture, while beating with your bar mixer. Continue to agitate and beat up and down until the mixture is combined and thick. Spoon mixture into jars and containers. Store up to six months - you might like to store your lotion in the fridge over the summer months to prevent spoiling.
Remember your lotion only contains natural preservatives (beeswax) so will not last like store-bought preservative rich lotions. Cocoa-butter and coconut oil are known for their anti-fungal properties and are a good addition to the solid fat component of the lotion.
I find it is better to make a small amount and use it up quickly, than make too much that you can’t use quickly enough. I often halve the recipe above to make a smaller jar quantity or just give half away to a friend.
Herbal lotion made in different seasons: I love that every batch is a little bit different...
I have always wanted to make my own quilt and with the help of Clancy's mother (who is both expert and artist in this field) I embarked on designing my own. I wanted to start with a fairly simple pattern that could incorporate all my favourite fabrics; making a feature out of the linen babushkas, repro ironing ladies and polka dot scarf girls - but also using triangles and squares of lots of other beloved cotton.
With the help of Alice, we busily cut dozens of triangles, squares and birds making quite impressive scrap mounds.
Once cut, we attempted to make sense of all our fabric pieces - I am sure this is the hardest part of quilting - there is so much to consider; prints, repetition, colour and light balance. At first I was a bit let down - seeing all the beautiful fabric together was a bit shocking and not quite what I had expected - but after a bit of tampering and eliminating some colours and fabric we ended up with something quite thrilling:
On every square is either a red, white or black bird - each row flying in a different direction. Thus how it got the name of the "Serendipity Quilt" - there are many unexpected patterns, repetitions, colours and the birds add a sense of calm and peace to the otherwise completely haphazard display of fabric! Each bird was blanket stitched place using contrasting cotton:
The sewing of squares and triangles then took place with two machines (thanks to Alice and Jenny) - so before we knew it a quilt-like-thing emerged:
I choose a nice thin wool wadding and the bright red apples for the backing fabric: It was all then thoroughly basted into place. I have now bought a lovely big ring, more sharp needles, thread and acquired a perfectly fitting thimble. So the quilting begins - a true test of endurance and perseverance!
I am going to quilt the "diamonds" made by the squares and triangles and around each bird. And with one bird down - only 31 more to go! At this rate it may be finished by the cooler(ish?) autumn months. There is something to be said for quilting - and how it has impacted many many generations of women around the world. I love the old quilts that incorporate tiny scraps of preciousfabric, clothes, and so I'm told even flour bags back in the day! I also like that there are no restrictions, that any colour, size, shape can be made and there are so many ways of doing it - by hand, with a machine etc. Yes, I have already started collecting fabric for my next quilt - and all I can say is that it will be very, very blue.
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...