Blue Linen Factory Dress

Since I spent most of last summer running around in loose-fitting sack dresses (including my Camber dress), I decided I was on to a good thing, so when a new batch of Merchant and Mills patterns arrived at work I decided to add a Factory Dress to my collection.

I haven’t always been convinced by the Factory Dress (in fact I was very derisive when I first came across it…) but after seeing some great versions on Pinterest I was confident that it could look good in an oversized Japanese style sort of way.

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I had a really clear idea in my head about the fabric I wanted. It had to be linen, not too light weight, and what I’ve started calling ‘old-Dutch-painting blue’ – a dark, lapis blue that’s navy but also not quite navy. I find that this is a good neutral colour for me (I’m too pale for black..) and it works really well with my favourite catsick green scarves…

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After uhming and ahing online over Merchant and Mills linen (which was a little too light weight, and not very budget friendly) I found this beautiful Irish linen for a very reasonable £10.50 a metre, at local fabric treasure trove Stone Fabrics .

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As expected, it was a well drafted pattern, but I found the instructions frustratingly vague and inconsistent in places (e.g. the diagrams aren’t properly mirrored when showing the inside of the dress, so I got confused about whether it was referring to the inside or outside. Also, sometimes it specifically instructed you to finish seams before proceeding and other times it didn’t, but the diagram for the next stage would show magically overlocked edges). They’re not major issues, and anyone with a bit of dressmaking experience could easily work these things out, but it did have me unnecessarily scratching my head wondering if I’d cut/marked my pattern wrong, or missed out a crucial step.

That said, this may be my first ever dressmaking project without any major sewing disasters and it all came together fairly easily. Even my ninja (can you spot it..?) topstitched pocket looks acceptable!

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I made the smallest size and didn’t make any adjustments to the pattern, other than shortening the skirt by a good 13cm before hemming. All the seams were overlocked apart from the back neck facing, which was finished with some chartreuse bias binding left over from my Camber dress. I’m still planning to stitch the neck facing down by hand, as it won’t stay put, despite lots of pressing and clipping.

I had a brief moment of doubt when I first tried this dress on when I wondered if it was a bit comically oversized. I hadn’t been entirely sure how it would fit, even after looking at other versions, as quite a few people have sized down to reduce the amount of ease. Oversized can be it a bit of a fine line and no one wants to look like a school dinnerlady…

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I think I got away with it though…? I wore this dress everyday for a week after I finished it, and it’s proved comfy and surprisingly versatile. I’m patting myself on the back for my colour choice, which works really well with the rest of my wardrobe, and is neutral enough that it can easily work in winter or summer. I also really love having pockets to shove my hands into (more dresses need pockets!).

I think it’s going to be a great basic workdress this summer. All in all, another win from Merchant and Mills!

Funchal Moebius: Work in Progress

Hi Readers, it’s been a while has it not? I’ve been working on a slow and (literally) lengthy fairisle project which I started back in September.

I’d been mulling over fairisle patterns for a while, and decided on Kate Davies’ amazing ‘Funchal Moebius’ because it only has two colours and would be forgiving of any beginner tension issues.
Fairisle cowl wip

I also wanted to (gulp..) use up the Ochre Malabrigo Sock that I salvaged from my machine knitted t-shirt. I hate admitting defeat, but I wasn’t wearing it, and frankly, it was too small. I combined it with more Malabrigo Sock in ‘Natural’. As someone who doesn’t really ‘do’ bold patterns, I really like how the Ochre shows a defined pattern against the white, without it being too stark.

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It’s slowly growing, but I’m not quite there yet. I’ve knitted about 11 of the recommended 14 repeats, and it’s shorter than it should be and also quite a bit narrower (judging from the pattern photos). I’m trying to keep it all super loose, but clearly my gauge is still pretty small. Hey, that’s why I chose a scarf and not a jumper for my first fairisle project… I think I’ll need at least 16 repeats altogether to get it to the right length.

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I’ve heard (and seen…) a few fairisle puckering horror stories and  was initially quite worried about the uneven texture of my knitting, but it really settled down after a quick steam with the iron. I’m optimistic that a good wet-block will even everything out when it’s finally finished (oh the miraculous wonder of blocking)

The first repeat of the pattern was quite the learning curve. The provisional cast-on took me at least 5 attempts to get right and looks a bit…rough. I also blundered in without properly familiarising myself with the colour work basics (“I tried it once 5 years ago, I totally know what I’m doing!”). My stranding was all over the place in the first couple of rounds, and it took a bit of experimentation to get the colour dominance right. I eventually found that it worked best with white carried as the dominant colour throughout (you can clearly see the ‘experimentation zone’ in the first row of diamonds below).

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I had rather optimistically hoped that this cowl would be finished by Christmas, but it looks like it’ll be one for next winter. Only 5 more repeats to go!

The Anniversary Cushion, and Playing Catch Up

I’ve been knitting, sewing and taking loads of photos this summer, but have struggled to find the inspiration to write about any of it. Perhaps it’s down to my tendency to over think, but every time I open my laptop at the moment, my ideas vanish into a muddled…mess. I won’t claim to have a massive following here, but people have started asking when my next post is coming (you flatter me…), so this autumn, I’m going to work on toning up my blogging muscle, starting with my backlog of summer projects that have been lingering in the wings.

Around this time last year, my aunt (and godmother) asked if I could please save the date for a big ‘do’ to celebrate her and my uncles 25th wedding anniversary. There’s a pretty strong crafting strain in our family DNA; my grandma embroiders, my aunt is a very accomplished dressmaker, me and my sisters knit, sew, embroider, weave….

So, I immediately started looking for ideas for an anniversary present to make them, but what on earth do you give to a couple that they will both like??

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An anniversary cushion…!

Ok, not the most wildly exciting idea, but I was really struck by this pattern with its lovely intertwining tree motif, and it’s something they can hopefully both enjoy having on their sofa. I chose silver-grey Cascade 220 (for a silver anniversary…) held double to make a big 18 x 18 inch cushion. The pattern recommends using a yarn with a bit of acrylic, but I hate acrylic and I know Cascade wears really well so…

I started it way in advance, but it turned out to be a surprisingly quick knit, only taking a week or so. I worked it entirely in the round to save on sewing up (more details on my ravelry  project page).

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The pattern included instructions for one-row buttonholes, which are MUCH better than the usual way – neater, less prone to stretching out of shape, and no weird gaps! I finished it off with some lovely teal buttons, and a slightly too big feather cushion pad…

It was ready by the end of June, and it finally made its way to Belgium a few weeks ago (taking up at least half of my suitcase…).

They seemed to like it!