I have knitted two things recently using the scrumptious yarn dyed by my beautiful, clever friend Caitlan of A Maker's Burrow. A "stay-soft shawl" in 4ply yarn - a soothing, simple pattern with lovely stripy details. And using 4-ply means it is incredibly light feeling but also warm. I find myself reaching for this scarf day after day!
I've also made a "Stockholm pullover" vest in Caitlan's 4ply yarn held together with alpaca/silk fluff. We call this my cloud vest because it is so very soft and snuggly and warm. A wonderful winter layer. This is my first time knitting a vest and I loved the pattern - simple and yet elegantly shaped at the neck and shoulders.
I have also sewn two dresses - another sleeveless trillium dress in nani iro double gauze cotton. Yes, I have made this exact dress before in the same kind of fabric - so I knew it would get lots and lots of use. It's the kind of dress you can wear through the seasons with layers or none. The golden, brown and green and pinky hues just delight me - I think of autumn leaves and sunshine and summer grass. I had just enough fabric for the dress so the pockets were made with linen scraps from a kind friend.
And I also tried sewing this wraparound dress as a test - using a pattern I have wanted to try for so many years from this Japanese sewing book. The fabric was entirely recycled - it was once was the cover for an armchair which we threw out last year - a linen-cotton blend chambray in grey hues.
I am pretty happy with the result - but made copious notes of tweaks I'd like to make when sewing it again for a better fit. I have some black linen stashed up for my second attempt. It also lacks pockets which will need to be remedied. I like that I can layer it easily; wear it as a dress or a jacket - and those 3/4 length sleeves will always be my favourite.
Over the last few months I've been trying to document my handmade outfits with my phone. It's been helpful to see what colours and shapes I gravitate towards most days, but also to think creatively about how to wear things in different combinations.
Looking at these collages, I am reminded that making clothes is a privilege; a hobby which requires both time and resources. I don't want to just make clothes for the sake of having something to do/buy/acquire. I want to make things of beauty, use and longevity. And in the process of making my own clothes I find I am kinder to my body - her unique curves and quirks, her desires and sensations. I grow confidence and patience and playfulness. I find a little more of myself.
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
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?
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.
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...