the floral dress

These past few months I have been making a flurry of beautiful things. I’m not sewing now, I’m several continents away from my machine, but I have a bit of a backlog…

Things are entirely out of chronological sequence, and I’m not going to apologise for that. I take photos when I take photos, and I write about the thing I’m interested in. Today, this is that dress.

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(it was going to actually be another one, but I think I want to entirely redo the photos business – few of them are any good)

This dress is an oddity in that it is very beautiful, but not in the slightest bit flattering. Especially not after wearing it for a day. It hangs pretty straight down off me, and despite being cut with zero ease, and then being taken in by an inch, the waistband is too long for my waist, and also hangs too low – such that the top edge is about where I’d want the bottom to be. I intend to fix it when I return to Wellington – I’ve already done several things to attempt to improve the situation, but none seem to be a long-term fix – but in the meantime, washing it every time I wear it at least means the fabric returns to its original length – it doesn’t have very much recovery. And that makes things slightly better.

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You can see fairly clearly here that there’s too much fabric bunching above my waist.

So this will never be a favourite make, although I wear it a fair bit and I do enjoy it. I’m just… rather ambivalent overall, I guess is the best way of putting it. I do think the fabric is beautiful.

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In terms of details: the fabric is a rayon knit, with (clearly) limited recovery. The bodice pattern is a heavily modified plantain tee, the waistband was originally my waist length and is now shorter – it’s actually a double layer of fabric, too, but unfortunately the other pale-coloured knit I found also has limited recovery, so that maybe hasn’t done all that much for stability. The skirt is a simple gathered rectangle, with as much fabric as I had. Still fairly narrow. Somehow the front ended up longer than the back – I honestly have no idea how that happened – so that’s a thing to fix once I’m back in the same place as my sewing machine.

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All of these photos are taken in the garden of the place I’m staying – it’s a good garden. I’ve had a couple of lovely afternoons reading my book on the grass/on one of the sitting places. I’ve also started sitting outside in the early morning for my morning prayers – I’m not sure why it took me so long to think of that! Much nicer than being curled up under my mosquito net. (A mosquito net kinda makes the bed feel fancy – it’s like having curtains – but is also very annoying to deal with, especially when making the bed.)

I only have two more weeks here in Uganda – leaving on the Saturday – and it’s also barely over 2 weeks until Christmas, which puts us squarely in the middle of Advent. I think Advent is my favourite of the church seasons. I’ve bought an ebook of Advent reflections (did you know ebook prices vary wildly depending on which country you’re in? It’s kinda ridiculous). I have been reflecting some on how clearly Uganda needs transformation – I live right next to a smallish slum area and every time I walk past I realise again. And of course I’m working in the devastatingly underfunded national/government hospital. For me, Advent is about preparing for and longing for transformation.

A few more photos from my trip – continuing the tradition of having cool plants here. And also the porridge, which declares in loud letters that it is Human Food – I thought it amusing.

Have a beautiful Advent and Christmas season.

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work clothes

Greetings all! I’m writing this now from Uganda, where I have been for the last three weeks, and am for the next three.  It’s been a bit of a tumultous month! I’ve never travelled farther than Australia before, so this is very much a different world for me. But I’ve managed to get a roof over my head, and get food – even good food – and have done a million things outside of my comfort zone, and – in my mother’s words – am learning that I can do hard things.

Here we have some slightly older makes – probably 3-4 months old. These are sadly not makes that fill me with joy – although the skirt is fun to swoosh in – but they are solid and functional things to wear, for my life (when I have placements, that is) so they get worn. In the interests of honesty, I’m posting them anyway.

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The photos were taken around 2 months ago when I was in Hawke’s Bay. It’s been a while. Usually photos are what delays me in blog posts the most – not this time, clearly!

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The fabric for the top is (according to the selvedge) a hand-woven Thai silk, which I bought at Fabricabrac in June. I absolutely love the print, and for that reason I’m happy with the top, but the pattern was not ideal. I was trialling a different boxy-fit top (the pattern’s from a library book which I have since returned) to my usual Scout tee (and some unblogged), and I didn’t make a muslin (I admit to not having made a muslin in a long time – years maybe? I do mostly sew patterns again and again, or mods of patterns I already have, and I do often do a wearable muslin type first, but not this time). This was a mistake. I cut the size for my measurements, and did pin together to figure out if the top would fit on my body before sewing it, but I was really looking for “is this big enough” not “is this too big”. Which it was. I think it’s mainly a problem because the silk has some body to it – if it were drapier, it would be ok to deal with – but, well, it’s not that great. I could take it in at least an inch, maybe two, and be happier in it – and that is on my task list, it’s just not very HIGH on my task list. I have a lot of new things I want to sew, and my favourite cardigan just wore through the elbow…

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I’m not 100% delighted with the cross-over detail on the shoulders either – it’s not that it’s bad, it just can get a little flappy and annoying. I’m going to look somewhere else for my next not-a-scout-tee make.

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By far the best thing about the skirt is its swirliness. The fabric is kinda heavy, but it does have the loveliest drape, and the circle skirt makes for fun dancing.

It also coordinates with the top at the pockets and waistband!

Other than that, I have nothing to say about these. I’ve worn them a bunch, and they are useful wardrobe things but nothing more exciting than that.

Like I said, I’m in Uganda now! It’s been a complicated trip, and not all sunshine and rainbows – it’s very different to New Zealand – but I’m settling in now, and in fact the portion of my trip here in Uganda is at the halfway mark today. So here are just a few photos of that. (This isn’t a travel blog – but I do put in photos of my garden, so how about photos of plants here as well?)

I went on a trip out to a national park, and that was pretty incredible! I’m used to national parks being filled with trees and birds, not.. elephants.

And one more photo of the skirt swishing before I go!

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Best wishes all!

linen wrap pants

How onto it I am – I’m going to write about the pants, which I finished only today.

I’m going to Uganda and Germany this summer for placements – this is exciting, but the weather is a slight problem; I will be way more hot and way more cold than I am used to. New Zealand is lovely and temperate. Cue, naturally, much sewing. (In between exam study – I am mostly making lists of things to sew in a week and a half when I’m done…)

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These pants are a prime example of hot-weather clothing. You can hardly wear them when it’s not. They have open sides, although I’ve stitched a snap halfway down to keep them decent when I’m sitting (they’re really best for standing around dramatically in), and the fabric is a linen-cotton blend (from Spotlight). Designed for breezes.

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(I had a lot of photos that I liked, so here goes.)

Honestly, there’s very little else to say about the pants. They are literally two rectangles sewn together at the crotch curve, with ties attached, so they have a bow at both front and back. This makes them a little difficult to put on, but highly billowy and fun to wear. I really like how the shape of a body makes it appear that the pattern pieces curve in towards the waist – that’s just my waist being smaller than my hips doing that! But it looks elegant and fun.

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I think I like all the photos because I like the pants so much? They make me feel High Fashion. Who would have thought I’d like a pair of pants? I’ve avoided wearing them for years! This is the first pair real pants (as opposed to pyjama pants) that I’ve sewn, and I guess in part due to them being billowy, and in part due to having designed in a low crotch curve, I feel more comfortable in them than I have in pants in a long time.

I do have to be a little careful bending down – the snaps have a tendency to come apart if I put them under much strain, I used the smallest size in my sewing box because I didn’t want them to interfere too much with the drape of the fabric, but this may have been a mistake. They’re also not quite optimally placed at the moment – I plan to move them. I’d also like just a little more width to the front/underlap edge, so I am considering making another pair if I get time before I leave, and passing this pair on to my sister Sophie (who would rock them, and look absolutely fabulous. They are way more her fashion style than mine, but I’m investigating the option of branching out).

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I haven’t actually been making anything for the Germany side of the trip – and the only plan is to knit a pair of proper gloves, or possibly full mittens, since I lost the pair I made back in high school. I don’t yet have coat-making stamina, or time before I leave, and I hope that I’ll be able to manage with my normal winter clothes plus a really good coat and pair of boots there. The list is mostly filling out my current summer wardrobe gaps, so far as I can guess them from this side of the world.IMG_2561

Because it is spring: a baby kowhai tree in my vege garden.

(I should have taken photos of my veges, or of my viola flowers, which are beautiful – but I didn’t, so a kowhai instead.)

moose pyjamas

One of my life goals is to have an entirely handmade wardrobe – you might have noticed. I’m getting in that direction – I definitely have days when I’m wearing only handmade, or (more common) all handmade except my tights (that’s today). Until recently, my pyjamas were a notable exception to that. I know a lot of people learn to sew on pyjama pants – it’s a pretty basic pattern, and if it’s not that good, no one sees it. I never did. Instead I jumped straight in to woven dresses – princess seams, easing, and invisible zips (I still wear that first dress sometimes, in summer, but the second one got given away a while ago). Well, now I need pyjamas.

Or rather, now I don’t need pyjamas…

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These were super easy to make, as one would expect. I didn’t really buy enough fabric for the pants though – I ended up making cuffs on the legs, and still had to piece one of the back pieces to make it all fit. Fortunately, this is impossible to tell when wearing. I thought it might add bulk, as it’s pieced at the crotch (and at the bottom of the leg, but I don’t have a picture) but it really isn’t.

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I’ve been wearing these for a month now, and it kinda shows in the photos – the colour is definitely wearing off in places. Ah well, that’s what happens when you wear something often. But it’s interesting to notice, because this is very much surface printed only, and on cotton flannel, the surface is soft and fluffy, so I wonder if that increases the rate of dye loss?

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As well as piecing one of the back legs, I discovered when I tried these on that they were definitely designed for someone with a flatter bum than me. I needed quite a lot of extra at the back, although I may have gone a little overboard now – I’d maybe trim half an inch off the yoke if I was to do this again, but, well, this is pyjamas and who cares that much.

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I definitely fell a little in love with the print. It has bears, and mountains, and moose! These are very strong selling points for me – I probably wouldn’t wear moose on day clothes, but I need no sense of decorum in these.

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MOOSE!

Oh, and I used an overlocker for the first time ever! I recommend cotton flannel for the first try with an overlocker – it is sturdy and does exactly what you want it to. The slinky knit I tried next is very much not.

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The top is a merino plantain tee, one of my favourite patterns. Warm and comfortable, but nothing new to say.

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I took these photos while on a 2-week placement in the Hawke’s Bay – where it is actually warm enough to stand in the garden barefoot in the morning, true story. Almost like summer already. I’m back in wellington now – we’ve had three beautiful days since returning, but today is drizzly (and great for the garden. Rain is good, just not warm).

Other things that happened in Hastings:

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a strangely perfect succulent

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a just strange tree (I’ve never seen branches that RED before?)

and since I got back:

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three tiny carrots that were growing in the lawn.

(I picked them because my landlord mows at unpredictable intervals, otherwise would have left them there to grow and become beautiful.)

Enjoy the spring.

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the ocean cardigan

This, here, is a knit that got away from me.

I was planning something basic, boring, and easy to wear, to fill out my work wardrobe. Navy in colour, with maybe a little bit of variegation – I was dyeing the wool myself, so I should be able to get what I wanted.

Just a little lace up the back, I thought, something not too ostentatious. And maybe something matching it next to the button bands, because I like that detail.

Then I dyed the wool, and instead of subtle shades of navy, I got this:

I think we can agree that that is not subtle.

I overdyed it, and it wasn’t perfect, but I decided to go for it anyway – I really like one of the tones I achieved, the colour of the ocean in its best mood, and I didn’t really want to compromise that. So off I went.

The next thing was to choose a pattern. I couldn’t find a single pattern that had both set-in sleeves and a lace I liked, so I chose a pattern for the shaping and found a stitch dictionary at the library to search out a nice lace for the back. At this point I was still aiming for relatively low-key, but probably this was the moment of getting carried away. Instead of choosing one pattern, I picked TWO from the book (looking for what it’s called – it’s back at the library now) and spent some time swatching both and trying to fit them into the same number of rows for the repeat (one started out 12-row and the other 14-row repeats – I fudged things until both were 16-row instead, I’m actually pretty proud of how I did that).

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I rather think that that isn’t basic or boring either (photo from halfway through the knitting of it).

After making the thing I redyed it, and I think it’s a little more subdued, and absolutely gorgeous now – I’m loving the wearing of it.

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I mean, still not boring. So I didn’t quite achieve that. Worth it, though.

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Something new that I noticed with this knit is how much difference blocking it actually does make – this fabric gained a lot of length when it was washed, and it smoothed up beautifully. It makes a fantastic fabric. In fact, I loved knitting with this all round – it’s a merino heavy fingering yarn from Skeinz (in the Naked Skeinz range), and it’s got to be my favourite weight to knit – somewhere between this and double knitting. Either too small or too big give my fingers cramps… Therefore, it was incredibly satisfying and also incredibly fast to knit up. It also took a lot less to make than I thought – I bought 400g, but probably used only 250 (note. Should actually weigh this to check). Which means plenty of gorgeous blue yarn for a shawl… (My 8-year-old friend is angling for a cardigan of her own – she’s asked me about both this yarn leftovers and my handspun. Perhaps I need to just teach her to knit.)

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I am not terribly satisfied with the shoulder shaping on this, unfortunately. It tends to slip off at the front – you can see in the photo above. I’m seriously considering making my own pattern next time – I have sewing patterns that I know fit me, and then it’s “just” a matter of much maths to put things together and get the same shapes as the pattern. At least after all that maths I should get something that fits right.

 

In the midst of all the knitting, there has been much class. I’m six? seven? weeks out from the last exams of my degree (I don’t finish till November next year, but the final year involves no exams – just putting into practice what you’ve learnt in theory over the previous five years). As you can imagine, this is a bit of a stress. It’s hard to work out how to study and also look after myself, and it’s hard to believe that the exams will go ok – it feels like there’s an awful lot to learn, and I don’t know anywhere near enough yet. Some part of me believes that it’ll all be fine, but a lot of me finds that hard to trust. But I will get there, I hope, and I am greatly looking forward to next year, because I have enjoyed the fragments of usefulness and purpose I’ve found in the hospital in the last two years, and that becomes normal not occasional in sixth year, according to everyone I’ve talked to. I do actually enjoy medicine, and it will be good to be in a place where I can be acting that, not just learning.

 

And in other news, spring has sprung. I have baby tomatoes, and today I greeted the new tiny pea sprouts, and look at my flowers:

(yes, ok, that last one isn’t a flower YET but it will be one day, we hope – it’s my purple cauliflower)

the daisy bra

Look, I made another bra. What a nice.

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After the success of my last bra, I really wanted to make a second – I had much fun, and it is so very satisfying to wear a full outfit of handmade clothes (although. Need to work on the leggings – my one handmade pair is very baggy). And I find there’s something irresistible in a pattern that’s almost-but-not-quite right – I have to work out how to make it better, and get it right the next time. This one had some substantial alterations from the last – firstly, I moved across the seam on the lower cups (it’s a little more complicated than that) to try align better with my apex, and second I drastically altered the shape of the upper cup to lower at the centre and at the side seams – this way, my underwires actually fit it. Having a lower bridge definitely alters the fit, and not in a good way – it gapes out from my chest significantly more than the other one does – but, well, I’m wearing it today, so clearly it’s functional.

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The main fabric is merino scraps from a top I made. As usual, I dyed all the bits and pieces with tea and turmeric to give me off-white, because I don’t want bright whites in my clothing, and because I had a pair of underwear in this fabric with cream lace I was trying to match (this is a fun game). I couldn’t find a good cream lace for the neckline, so I tried out my flatmate’s machine’s decorative stitches – I actually really like the daisies, so that worked out.

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The bow is harvested from another bra at some point in the past, as are the underwires, bra strap sliders, and hook and eye – it’s a useful source!IMG_2325

Today I happened to pick up a couple of metres of stretch lace from an op shop, so my next bras are coming…

I’m really enjoying the first signs of spring. Unfortunately, the warmer weather also means that exams are coming for me – my last major exams of medical school! This is slightly a big deal. But life is chugging along, and after exams I leave the country for three months, and I’m really looking forward to next year’s placements, and actually being able to contribute my own bit to patient care. I have plenty of things to look forward to, it’s just the next two months of solid work coming before that. Wish me luck.

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from my garden/on my desk at the moment. complete with tiny spiders.

winter’s best

Kia ora e hoa mā! This post is brought to you by: the weather. It’s been cold and it’s been dark recently, and this here dress is the exact-and-perfect thing I’ve been wanting to wear. Every day, if possible.

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The fabric for this one is a merino knit from The Fabric Store. (I own Many Things in merino knits from The Fabric Store. It is possibly the best thing about that shop.) It’s perhaps a little thinner and more clingy than my ideal, but is also actually fantastic and snuggly. I have now three garments made in this particular weight of merino, and I find myself strategising to work out how many outfits I can wear in a week using at least one of them – I’d wear this dress every day if I could get away with it.

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I think I may have sufficiently described how much I love this dress. 10/10 would make another in a different colour. My only reservation is that it has something of a risk of looking pregnant, but it is lovely enough that I don’t care.

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For pattern details: most of the time, my thought process is that it’s easier to hack an existing pattern into what I want to wear than to get a new one and have to deal with printing a pdf or tracing a paper pattern. The Plantain tee is one of my favourite knit patterns, and it has become many things. This is only the latest incarnation in a long series (I do enjoy days when I realise I’m wearing three different variations of it – an undergarment, a dress and a cardigan).

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For this version, I used the neck/shoulders of the Plantain, and had to adjust the waistline and make up everything below that. Since the original is a swing shape, I folded down the pattern to give a waistline that’s exactly at my waist measurements – I wanted this to be snug, but not tight – and cut a same-size double layer rectangle for the waist band. Some time ago I got sick of drafting new half-circle skirts every time I sew one – which is often – so I made a template out of an old sheet; to adjust it for a knit, I slightly decreased the waistline to remove the ease, and also narrowed the skirt slightly for the sake of fitting on my fabric without needing to go cross-grain or to seam it (neither of which are big deals in wovens – but I didn’t want to manage that in a knit fabric).

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Oh, and it has one small exciting detail! I managed to slice the fabric at the back neckline while trimming the seam allowance, and decided to try embroidering the small patch in place to cover it – I love the concept of visible mending, and allowing mends to make garments more beautiful, so I decided to give it a shot. It’s my first inexpert attempt, representing a leaf, but it’s a start. (One of my challenges is to make visible mends that are beautiful enough for wearing to work – but that’s another story.)

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The photos in this post are taken the same day as the last post – on the South Coast of Wellington, in a southerly. I love the wind (somewhat uniquely – there are far more complaints than smiles around here). The point I took these on is called Te Raekaihau, meaning “the headland that eats the wind”, and I love the name because it seems to encapsulate the strength I derive from the wind. (I enjoyed taking these photos. Can you tell?)

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In a small life update: I’m on a psychiatry placement at the moment. I had two weeks on a community placement (which was ok – the psychiatrist was friendly enough, but I didn’t agree with his approach to patients) and now I’m on an inpatient ward. I’m really enjoying it so far – I definitely end up coming home with things to think about, every day, and I realise that I’m looking forward to the next day there. It’s certainly not as strong a love as I felt for obstetrics, but it’s still something I’m interested in. There’s a strong sense of heartache in mental health though, and I think it takes a strong person to stand up and face that every day. It’s both the reason I’d want to work in the area, and the reason I don’t know if I’d be able to.

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knit mitts

I feel like I’m knitting a lot more than sewing these days – knitting and spinning and gifting. Since I last wrote I’ve knitted another baby cardigan, a pair of mitts for my sister, and half an adult cardigan – and those are big! Today it is a slightly older but seriously beautiful thing I am talking about.

 

I bought one skein of this beautiful yarn at a fair in March. It’s called Road to China Light, and is a lovely mix of alpaca, camel, silk and cashmere. (I have been telling everyone that I’m wearing camel gloves – this isn’t entirely true, but there is camel in them!) I bought it because I was intrigued, and it was soft, and I wanted to come away from the fair with something lovely. Knitting it up was a dream. I was not in a good space for a month or so earlier in the year, and knitting these was my meditative treat to myself at the end of an evening – I memorised the lace pattern pretty early on, so I could just pick them up, knit a row or two, and feel the softness of the yarn moving between my fingers. To be honest, I was pretty sad to finish the mitts – I wanted to wear them, but I also wanted to keep knitting them forever. There will be more beautiful knitting projects…IMG_2279

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Although these don’t have fingers, I’ve worn them an awful lot since finishing. I’ve lost one of my fingered gloves, so these get outings in the outside weather, as well as being great for when I’m typing – she says, wearing them. The only frustrating thing is that the top edge of the mitts tends to gape away from my palm/fingers (technically, the palmar surface of my metacarpophalangeal joints…) I periodically consider ripping back as far as the beginning of the ribbing and either going down a couple of needle sizes or decreasing the stitches – now that I’m remembering how much I loved knitting these, I might do that, actually. It’s so beautiful and tactile in the fingers.IMG_2281

I took these photos on a trip to the Wellington South Coast, which is a beautiful and wild place to be. Supposedly Wellington is the windiest city in the world, and I absolutely love the wind! It feels like strength. So here are some more photos from that day.

I am especially fond of that one seaweed!

the space bra

Guys, I made a bra! It’s way better than my last one – it’s actually more comfortable than most of my bought ones!

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(I haven’t worked out how to take good bra photos yet. Working on it.)

This is actually a slightly old make – maybe in March? April? I took it fromt he Sophie Swimsuit pattern, but changed the shape a bunch – I felt that my swimsuit fit better than the other bra I’ve made, but I prefer slightly more security than either of them gave me, so I raised the fronts. Too much, as it turned out (it’s still suboptimal placement, but I lowered it as much as the already-cut-and-attached lace would let me once I realised, after sewing everything except the straps together…)

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Speaking of which, what nice lace! I’ve had it in my stash for a long time – I think it came in a bundle of things from an op shop, and I wanted the other pieces of the bundle – so it’s nice to have finally found a good use for it. I am fond of it.

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I also narrowed the bridge rather a lot on this – I’ve realised that my favourite bras actually overlap the underwire channeling at the front, so I tried it out, and it has made a solid difference. It sits much nicer at the front now. So that I’ll have to remember.

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I’ve taken the back attachment and rings and sliders from an existing bra (also from an op shop – I periodically search for bras with good quality bits and pieces, preferably that are falling to pieces in some other way so I don’t feel bad about taking apart a perfectly functional item for my own ends). The elastics and back band fabric (duoplex) are dyed with tea and a small amount of turmeric – the colour is not super well controlled, but I knew that any cream was going to be preferable to the stark white, when put next to that slightly cream silk at the front. (Pro tip – if you’re dying with turmeric and aiming for cream, get the smallest amount you can get and still have anything at all on your teaspoon. A quarter teaspoon is far too much and you will have sunshine yellow, leaning towards orange. This may not be a problem if that’s what you’re after, but I don’t aim for bright yellow very often tbh.)

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The front of the bra is some silk scraps, and I lined it with cotton muslin. I am rather fond of the pattern on the silk, with its small space themed motifs, but I actually chose to use it because I wouldn’t be desperately sad if it didn’t quite work out right. I successfully hid all the seams on one cup, but not the other… anyway, this is what I was aiming for. It’s lovely and clean, when you do it right.

 

This is not without its fit problems – it’s perfect around the band, but a little large in the cup size – but I wear it a lot, and will continue to do so.

 

What else have I been up to? Well…

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I’m working on a quilt (it’s halfway sewn together now).

 

I’m making baby cardigans (rather a lot of them).

I went on a very brief trip to Queenstown. There was snow.

 

And, in rather an exciting thing, I fell in love with a placement. One of my friends said to me that she loves watching people find their thing, as we go through clinical placements – some people fall in love with surgery, some with paediatrics… well, I love obstetrics. I’ve been on an obstetrics and gynaecology placement, and I was loving every day, and looking forward to getting back to placements, and studying just because I enjoy knowing about this and because I’m curious, and reading about different philosophies of birth… I’ve spent some years knowing that I was interested in obstetrics, but telling people that I’m not sure what I wanted to do, because I’d never had a placement in it, and placements change things. Well, now I have. And it was fantastic. I’m planning to do an elective placement in obstetrics in Germany in January, so I look forward to that mightily.

(Naturally, I’ve chosen a specialty that has only a 1 in 3 acceptance rate into the training programme. What great planning. Also, I’m trying to hold it lightly because I remember being very insistent that I would never be a doctor and clearly that plan has changed. Who knows – I’m doing psychiatry next and maybe I’ll love that one too!)

Mā te wā!

One Year One Outfit

For a couple of years, Nikki at thisismoonlight has been doing a project called one year one outfit. The idea is that you source and make an entire garment from within your region of the world – fabrics, processing, dyes and all. I’ve been reading with interest since it began, but have not been making. The first year, I didn’t really know what she was intending from the brief description – but watching her research and her progress got me thinking about what fabrics are sourced from within New Zealand, and what I could do. I’ve been doing research on and off, and this year I’m making it a goal to make a full outfit using only materials grown and processed within New Zealand.

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my knitting basket with an assortment of roving to spin

I love doing this kind of research, so I’ve been tracking all I can find about New Zealand fibre production. We have a lot of sheep, so the obvious first place to start was wool: we grow wool here, but how much of it is processed in New Zealand?

The answer appears to be: a fair bit. There are quite a few companies – small and large – selling wool for knitting that’s been spun here, and I know of of one mill processing merino wool to knit fabric, all ready to sew. The real problem here appears to be dyes. The vast majority of NZ-processed wool is available in commercially-dyed colours, and one can find knitting wool and unspun fibre in natural colours if you look for a while, but I have yet to find any wool that has been processed into fabric without a conventional dye being added. I called Levana to ask about this, and they have available the option of producing undyed fabric for you but… only if you want 200m of it. Next time I’m starting up a fibreshed small business I’ll know where to go.

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this one is an odd mix of white roving surrounded by a dark brown halo. not sure I like how it spins up.

There are a few companies selling handwoven and naturally dyed (or undyed) blankets/wraps that I could theoretically use, but unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) handwoven shawls are far, far beyond my price range (honestly I don’t have a problem with them being sold at that price – I respect the amount of work that goes into them – I just can’t afford to buy them. But that’s a whole other conversation).

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a few of the handspun skeins – I now have over 200g

So, as far as wool goes, I have as much as I want of unspun roving and a variety of weights of spun yarn, in a variety of natural colours, but I have nothing pre-prepared into fabric for me. This is unsurprising, but does mean some extra work in the making of the outfit – it suggests that in some manner, whether knitting, weaving or felting, I’m going to have to create the fabric for every part of my outfit.

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testing out photography for a glamour shot of my favourite colour

In my searches for wool, I discovered also that apparently there is a thriving alpaca industry here. Because of the large variety of natural colours, a decent proportion is undyed as well. (There’s also a surprising number of actual alpacas for sale.) I’m not sure if I’ll end up using it, but it’s definitely there as an option.

Now, what of other fibres?

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harakeke – not my photo because it got dark so I couldn’t photograph the one in my garden

Harakeke/New Zealand flax produces a good strong fibre – similar to linen – but as far as I can tell the only people still using it are a few Maori weavers making kahu/korowai – traditional cloaks. I was able to find information on how to prepare the fibre, and how korowai are made, but so far as I can tell, there is no fibre industry around it. I haven’t ruled out using it in my garment – but it would be a lot of work, as I’d need to find, cut, and prepare the fibre myself, and then work out how to spin it, and then follow that up with either weaving or knitting a fabric for a garment. It’d be fun, and a fantastic achievement, and I’d love to be able to say I’d done it – but it’s a lot of work.

I’ve just spent an instructive evening looking into silk in New Zealand. There’s no silk industry here, but apparently you can raise the worms – a few individuals here do! I couldn’t find anyone raising on a scale that they might then sell it on (to me), however. Perhaps next year – or some distant time in the future when I have a thriving mulberry tree – I’ll try grow my own silk. That would be a fantastic adventure!

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Linum monogynum (not my photo) (the other three wikipedia photos are actually hebes)

We have one species of native Linum plant – related to linen flax – but I don’t actually know what it looks like or where it grows, so that’s out. Similarly, there are nettles around so theoretically ramie is an option, but I don’t want to have to hunt down and prepare that. (I have memories of a very large nettle bush on my grandparents’ property as a kid – perhaps if that was still there I would do the nettle thing, but it is long gone.) And as far as I can tell, no one even tries to grow cotton.

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At this stage, my most likely scenario is a 100% wool outfit – I suspect that I won’t have the time to spin and weave a flax garment, as fantastic as that would be. I’ve sourced myself some naturally coloured Romney sheep fibre to spin for a cardigan (from Otago – sourced on TradeMe), just bought 400g of undyed fingering weight wool for a knit top from Skeinz in Hastings (if I do end up with enough flax yarn to make a top of that instead, it’s also a great weight for baby garments or shawls, which means I was happy buying when I’m not 100% sure what I’m making), and am pondering the options that felting offers for making a skirt. I was unexcited about this as an option until yesterday, when I found Andrea Zittel’s beautiful garments. (Go have a look, they’re pretty stunning.) Handmade by Carolyn also made this gorgeous dress for One Year One Outfit in 2015 – like me, she has no premade fabrics and mostly only wool fibres for her outfit. I didn’t know felt could be ethereal!

I’ve also been exploring natural dyeing, but that’s a story for next time….

 

(oh, and side note: me-made-May begins tomorrow. I’ve done it in the past, and was thinking of aiming to wear a different outfit every day for the month this year – I think I can manage it. I am not making a formal pledge though, I don’t need another thing in my life this month.)