Knits. Not Knitting.

Like most sewists, I was terrified of knits. Especially super-drapey-floopy knits that look and feel divine, but NEVER do what you want when you put them through a sewing machine. But I am fearless. It’s my thing. So I spent the week figuring that shit out.

I had somehow (I don’t know how this happens!) acquired a maaaaassssive stack of various colours of lovely knit over the years. I maybe shouldn’t be allowed into Abakhan ever again. But I think I couldn’t bear it.

Step one was to make a pattern. Luckily, I’ve been doing this long enough now that I can just whip one up off the top of my head. And luckily I had enough fabric to perfect the pattern as I went along.

The main seams were mainly a task for the overlocker, but the hems allowed me to get some sweet, sweet double needle action in my life! I love a double needle.

So here’s the gallery of finished products. Some accessories and bits are not part of the collection (two underskirts and a scarf) but everything else is what I made this week!

 

 

And here’s a timelapse video of me making one of the cardigans.

Hey, did you know I teach this stuff? If you want to learn how to make something, let me know (grace@imakeeverything.co.uk) because I am dying to teach you.

Balloons!

I decided quite a long time ago that my atrium should be a gallery of sorts for an ever-revolving supply of crazy lampshades. These aren’t that crazy, but they are lampshades, and I think they are quite charming in their simplicity. Also they really suit the newly bright and light space.

As ever, I started with a bit of crap someone was throwing out. In this case a poly-cotton sheet I bought for a pound at a charity shop.

I did a rough design on paper to come up with the pattern and cut six panels for each of the seven lampshades.

I made the tassels from cotton thread that I bought for the purpose. One day I will make super-fancy tassels and dip dye them and all sorts. But these are quite plain. The hoops, necessary to keep them from collapsing, are made of basket cane.

The sewing did become quite monotonous, as you can imagine.

But the results are really pleasing. None of the pictures really do them justice, partly because it’s the way they move relative to each other and float in the space as you move around it that’s kind of dreamy.

 

 

 

The Atrium

For a much more detailed look at this space and its recent transformation, see my other blog about building a house. But here’s the short version:

So, I’m building a house and it has an atrium. Yeah, I know, I feel really weird about that, but I was obviously aiming a bit high when I designed the place and now I’m sort of stuck with it, however much of an entitled plonker it makes me sound. Still, if you’re going to have an atrium, you might as well adorn it with italianate fresco-style ceiling paintings, right?

This actually started back in 2017 when we had not even really enclosed the place, but I am not one to let a detail like that stop me from doing the fun little finishing jobs rather than the boring important basics. I spent some time making scale models and miniature pencil versions of various designs.

Come the following June (I am not a fast builder) I had the loan of a scaffolding and I thought as I was up in that inaccessible corner of the building anyway, I might as well get it done. So I designed it and drew it and Alec painted it and I eventually stuck it to the ceiling and then tried to forget the trauma for 3 years.

Here I am 3 years later and just relived the trauma. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. I mean, there was trauma. But I’m used to that now.

Here’s the painting in progress.

It’s painted in cheap acrylic paints on decent quality lining paper.

I thought using the extra-wide lining paper was a good idea… for reasons that escape me now. If I had it to do again, I would use the narrower stuff just to avoid the debacle of trying to put meter-wide paper up on a ceiling. That bit was a nightmare.

But it does look rather magnificent and I am proud of it. It is PEPPERED with flaws, but I am quite happy to ignore them/embrace them.

I think I’ll do something quite small scale and undemanding next…

Mars Bars With No Cow

My latest culinary experiment has been a… success? It didn’t feel that way at certain points in the process, I’ll tell you. But by god, they were tasty…

Ben, my housemate, can’t eat cow’s dairy products. But he loved mars bars as a kid and has missed them for years. And I love a challenge.

Job number one was to figure out the wily ways of nougat. Nearly all of the information I found on the net was about the italian kind with the nuts in, which is disgusting and not what I wanted. But googling “homemade mars bars”, (who’d have thought) yielded some more relevant results.

The making of the nougat went okkaaaaayy. I think I stopped beating it too early (it was still quite warm) and it lost a lot of its foaminess in the setting. And thus never really quite set. But it tasted amazing, so I forged ahead.

The caramel, which was more of a challenge on the dairy-free mission, was where the real disaster unfolded. All the instructions tell you not to stir your caramel, because it can go grainy if you accidentally over-evaporate a bit on the side of the pan and then stir it in to start the sugaring process. So I mindlessly followed that instruction even though my main ingredient, Biona sweetened condensed coconut milk, quite obviously wouldn’t behave the same if I’d stopped for even a second to think about it. Turns out it’s *crucial* to stir your coconut caramel.

That batch went on a plate to cool (without scraping too much of the blackened stuff off the bottom) and was amazing on toast for the next several days. Waste not want not.

The next batch went better. Two tins of sweetened condensed coconut milk and a bit of goat’s butter, low heat, stir stir stir and reduce to soft ball stage.

I poured the caramel onto the nougat and let it all cool and then tried to cut it. The nougat made that a laughable goal through its unbelievable stickiness. If I had done it right and kept beating til it was cool, it may have been slightly less sticky, but as it was, it was literally the stickiest substance known to man. So I put the whole lot in the freezer for several hours and tried again. With a hot, wet knife. Rinsing the knife in water from the kettle between every cut.

With all that, it was only a pain in the ass, not literally impossible.

Thereafter the dipping commenced, which was not as difficult as I thought it might be, possibly because of the cold fillings, possibly because vegan milk chocolate is easier to work with, possibly because I know what I’m doing these days? Anyway it went ok and there were several that looked not too bad.

Obviously they got messier as I got toward the end of the bowl of chocolate, and the last one was a matter of duffing the last nougat-caramel bar into the bowl of melted chocolate dregs and handing it to Ben with a spoon, which was very much to his delight.

All agreed that they tasted very much like mars bars, albeit with a coconutty edge, which was fine. I will probably try it again sometime but I think I will wait for the memory of the stickiness disaster to subside.

Ceiling Painting

Just starting work on the second half of a ceiling painting we started back in 2018 in my fancy straw house where I make everything.

The pencils are all done; 4 panels of 1x2m each. Makes it a bit difficult to match up patterns at the edges, something I’m not that great at at the best of times. But it will be on a ceiling so nobody will notice all the mistakes!

I just finished the first panel’s fancy painted bits. This was my first time doing that bit since Alec did it last time. Big shoes to fill. I think it went ok. More on this later, but for now, here’s a fun timelapse video.

My Lovely Rainbow Mandala Interior Window

I have to say I think this went rather well. Which is not to say there aren’t things I would change (there are) or things I learned along the way (there SO are) but all in all, I am very pleased with my new window.

In true Grace style, I thought, “Hey, why not just do a huge, intricate, difficult painting on a piece of untempered, extremely breakable antique glass? Since that’s what you’ve got lying around.” (My house is built on the site of a former enormous greenhouse. I inherited a lot of glass with the site, most of it broken and in the soil, but some of it in large panes and useful.)

As previously detailed, I found a bit of software that helps me draw ridiculous, overly detailed mandalas. Tick. And then I figured out how to blow them up massive and print them over 12 pages.

And then I set about using up all of my transparent Cerne Relief. and had to put the whole thing on hold while I ordered more.

It’s very pretty and crystally-looking, the clear Cerne Relief. But if you think working black-on-black is hard to see, try working clear on clear. The light shines through it onto the paper below and casts all sorts of phantom lines you can accidentally paint up to and then find you’re either 3mm shy of the line or 3mm over it.

Still, slowly and carefully, over several painstaking days, I got through it and only found maybe a dozen glaring errors when I was done.

If I was one of those exacting perfectionists, I would have set about mixing all the colours again and fixing each and every bare spot, but you know what?

It’s fine. I have better things to spend my time on, and I am perfectly happy with it as it is. Flaws are beautiful.

So in it went to the lovely frame Ben made for it. I must confess, I gave it one go hammering the pins into the beading and then made Ben do it while I hid. I was just so terrified of using a hammer anywhere near un-toughened glass.

And of course it went fine. Ben is fearless.

It’s very lovely from both sides. Above is the bathroom side with some light from the hall. It’s not very exciting when there’s no light behind it, so it’s a good thing I did some gold fripperies on the bathroom side.

From the hall side, it’s pretty magnificent. I do wish I’d extended the design right past the edges of the glass. Live and learn.

But the most dramatic pictures are from when it was flat on the paper. So here they are, looking elegant and colour-rich and not actually very much like it looks now it’s installed. Never mind, it’s lovely and I am delighted with it.

 

Love That Shirt? Copy It.

I don’t often find stuff off-the-peg that fits really well. I’ve got bends in places other people apparently don’t, so everything that’s big enough around the middle is oddly baggy in the middle of the back. So if I buy any high-street garment, I pretty much always have to shorten and dart the back.

However, a top very like the above one came into my life almost fully formed, just needing a couple of inches taking up vertically mid-back. At which point it fit so well I decided I wanted another one. Or another 10 perhaps.

 

I had enough of this lovely sort of Islamic-decorative-art patterend fabric left over from making Julian a shirt to do the main body if the details were something else. (*raids scrap basket and comes up with just the thing*)

I have copied garments before by never something with a detail like the horizontal tucks on the chest. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The original garment was very cooperative in that it was a pinstripe fabric, which makes it ever so easy to know what the curves of the pieces are doing. You can just count how many stripes go by and measure that distance on another part of the fabric. So, to the drafting table!

As always, I start with the fancy fripperies, like tiny button loops made from a tiny foldover string of the blue fabric. What faff. But it worked well.

And of course the many tucks. You need twice as much fabric to make this effect. Seems almost wasteful. Except this fabric was already waste when I started.

I love the way the fabrics look together.

I never have enough of any one button to do much, but I have so many odd buttons that I can usually make up a batch of something that looks good together.

And for this version I kept all the odd little details like a sleeve-holdy-uppy thing that I might forego next time. Too much trouble for something that just makes the sleeve feel bulky and slightly uncomfortable. Still, it looks nice.

Unfortunately no picture available, but I’m really pleased with the fit, so I will absolutely be adapting and playing with this pattern. It’ll look awesome with my breeches!

Glass Painting Some More

Second practice piece, which came out pretty good… need to work on making sure no air bubbles at edges of colour. Back to drawing board. Virtual, automated drawing board, since the universe gave me Spirality with Windows 10. Thanks Windows! Gosh, I don’t thank Windows all that often…

Think how long this would have take me with paper and pencil. Doesn’t bear thinking about. Only trouble is, it’s every bit as addictive as you’d think.

Right, time to either a) make the images for my giant bathroom window glass paint extravaganza or b) mindlessly doodle away the rest of lockdown.

Glass Painting. Well, Plastic Painting…

Hey kids, today’s craft is glass painting!

This is something I’d had a go at once or twice a long time ago, but never really knew what I was doing. Between an extra 10 or 15 years of general craft experience and an extra 10 or 15 years of the internet becoming a better research tool, I have been, if I say it myself, moderately successful this time.

This was sort of a practice piece for a practice piece for an interior window I want to do in the technique.  So although I have quite a lot of spare glass kicking around the place, I reached for a sheet of plastic, just to have a dab and see how the materials felt. But I got carried away.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with the thing, besides trim it and stick it in a window, I guess.

It’s nicely transparent, though the detail of the gold piping is somewhat lost in silhouette.

Anyway, here’s the process. I started with some concentric circles and radii.

And proceeded to doodle in pencil and then pen for the main ribs of the design, intending to do the details in stages.

Using Pebeo cerne relief, I outlined the main shapes. This stuff pipes a lot like royal icing, so there were some transferable skills there, but I still need a lot of practice to avoid the wibbles and splots and gaps I was getting.

After letting it dry for a couple of hours, which was not long enough, really, I set about filling in with the Pebeo Vitrail glass paint, which was lovely and thick and self-levelling, so it can look a bit of a mess at first, but it spreads into a smooth, even-ish fill. You do need to use quite a lot so it pools.

The initial lines were done with the clear cerne relief medium, but I wanted to do some decorative frippery with gold as well. Aside from one experimental bit that was put on before the colour (see above) I decided it was better to put it on after so I didn’t have to paint around it painstakingly. So I let the paint try overnight and this morning I had miraculously got better at the piping.

The gold isn’t dry yet, but I think/hope it will dry as shiny as everything else did. So yeah, generally positive experience! Now, on to the practice piece proper and then the actual windows…

 

Pants!

I’ll be frank, the pants situation was getting pretty dire. Like, not just tired looking but actual holes. And I really don’t like to buy new clothes, but pants… they are not easy to find in charity shops. Unless you find them in the form of t-shirts and other knit fabric garments, that is. So it was that I came away from Sue Ryder in Halifax with about £27 worth of majority natural fibre, stretchy fabric garments in amazing prints and complementing solids. That was, like, a year ago. I finally got round to it last week. By which time, like I said, the pants situation was getting pretty dire.

I am super, super happy with the results though. With careful cutting and a bit of piecing where necessary, I managed to eke 22 pairs out of 12 garments.

As post-consumer recycled garments, these babies can out-eco your £20-a-pair organic bamboo earth-chic knickers with eco to spare, and at less than £1.50 a pair. I’ll never buy pants again. Not as pants anwyay.

Lets take a look at the process. Here’s the pile of raw materials. Mostly t-shirts and tops and a couple of dresses. I was lucky to find a Gudrun Sjödén dress, so now I have pants from one of my favourite designers. Technically.

First I looked for pretty patterns, and then picked out plain t-shirts to complement them.  I was careful about fabric content because, while polyester is evil anyway, it’s particularly evil in the context of underwear. A little elastane is inevitable, though, and really does help natural fibres keep their shape.

I cut all the garments slightly differently. Sometimes I could get the pieces on without any seams, and sometimes a seam ran up the middle of the piece or in the hip area, I just wanted to get the maximum pants and minimum waste, really.

I generally cut some backs and some fronts from each garment, but then mixed and matched them for style, and included any fun bits of trim from the original garment wherever possible, as below, where the hem of the top has become the waistband of the pants.

Some of them just use fine elastic and a folded edge, and some have fancy elastic lace I got a long time ago at Abakhan. It turned out to be a great way to get rid of some ends and pieces of elastic, as you can piece it without really affecting the end product.

Some of the fabrics I found were really flashy.

My pants collection is a lot more colourful now.

This is my favourite combination.

So there you have it, post-consumer recycled pants from charity shop clothes at a bargain price. I think it’ll catch on.