Product review – Prym Ergonomic Knitting Needles

A few weeks ago I wrote a guest blog/ product review for the Minerva Crafts website but I totally forgot to post the link for it over here. The review was for some single point prym ergonomic needles in 3mm and 5mm.

work in progress photo

You can find the review on the Minerva Crafts website here. Be warned I got a little bit geeky when it came to putting the needles through their paces.

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Slow Crafting Podcast – Episode 11: More to life than merino

A bi-weekly podcast charting my efforts to incorporate a slow living/ slow fashion approach to my crafting life through knitting, spinning and sewing.

This episode I talk about my experiments spinning fibre from different breeds of sheep including;

Norwegian (Spaelsau)
Jacob
Masham
Swaldedale
Lincoln
Shetland
Manx Laughton

All fibres were sourced from one of the following;

http://www.winghamwoolwork.co.uk/6-wool

http://www.adelaidewalker.co.uk/natur…

The books I reference are

Deborah Robson (2013) The Field Guide to Fleece

Sue Blacker (2012) Pure Wool

British Wool Marketing Board (2010) British Sheep and Wool

My review of The Field Guide to Fleece can be found here

https://themanyknitsofnadine.wordpres…

 

 

Acoustic Guitar 1 by Audionautix is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/…)
Artist: http://audionautix.com/
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A letter to my daughters

Dear Ingrid and Erika

I sit here now watching you playing so nicely together, happy and confident little girls content to wear the same outfit over and over again until I have to forcibly remove it from you and put it in the wash before it walks there itself. You are so proud of your hand me down clothes from your older cousins and tell everyone about the dress that mummy made for you but I know there will come a time, all too soon, when you will start to think differently. As the pressure to be just like all the other girls your age starts to weigh upon you, you will stop marching to your own beat and start buying as many clothes as you can cram in your wardrobe (and on your floor) because as a teenage girl you will believe that clothes are what define you and influence how other people interact with you.

I could tell you how in the age of Kickers shoes and Kappa tracksuits I was the girl flouncing about in tie dye and smelling of patchouli and that this refusal to conform and disregard for the judgemental attitudes of other girls my age are part of the reason that I am the strong, confident woman that stands before you today. I could tell you all this, but as I am your mother you will no doubt groan and roll your eyes at me so instead I am just going to ask you to think about a few things before you head off on your latest shopping trip with your friends.

  1. Next time you want to tell me how unfair it is that I won’t give you £20 to buy the dress you want I’d like you think about the young woman in the factory in Jiangsu who has left behind her family (including her children) to go and work in a factory 6 days a week where she gets paid on a piecework basis, has to sleep in a poorly lit and ventilated dormitory and isn’t allowed to speak during working hours. If you still feel hard done by I have a list of jobs that you can do to earn that £20, I will pay you when the list of jobs is completed, you will work 12 hour days plus any over time that I ask you to at no extra rate of pay, you will also be sleeping in the shed until you earn the full amount. Oh and I will be docking your wages for food and board as well.

  1. Next time someone looks down their nose at you and says “oh you are wearing that again!” think of the 40,000 Chinese garment workers that went on strike to demand better pay and conditions despite a fear of reprisals, injury or violence. I want you to channel their bravery, stand up to that bitchy teenage girl and tell her to wind her neck in.

  2. Just because something is beautiful doesn’t mean that it is free from dirty little secrets. The silk dress of mine that you love so much (I know you do, when you were 3 you asked if you could have it when I died!) might be beautiful but behind it lies the taint of child labour. The company that made it were involved in controversy over the use of child labour in their factories in China and India, and they performed incredibly badly on other measures of ethical production (traceability of garment, paying living wages, identifying and fixing problems with the supply chain, paying a living wage and consumption of resources). The silk that it is made from has a reputation for a whole range of health problems for the workers who produce it. Heat exposure, lung disease, skin disease and musculoskeletal problems might seem far removed from your world but let me put it another way, imagine you were having your period and instead of laying on the sofa with a hot water bottle complaining about life you were stood in a room as hot as a sauna for 12 hours scooping up dead and diseased silk worms (and their poo) with your bare hands all the time breathing in tiny little scales off the worms themselves. Not such a beautiful picture now is it, and I hadn’t even got to the bit about toxic chemicals.

  3. Try making your own outfit from scratch even if it is just the once. Pay attention to the pain in your back as you stand at a table cutting out the pattern pieces, or as you hunch over the sewing machine in the same position for hours on end. Acknowledge the frustration you feel as you thread the over locker and then 5 minutes later have to re-thread it because something went wrong or as you sit and unpick the stitches you have spent the last 30 minutes sewing because you sewed the wrong sides together. Keep track of how many hours it took to make that dress. Now imagine I bought that dress off you for £8 wore it once then threw it in the corner of my room and never bothered wearing it again. How does that make you feel?

In a way you were right, the clothes you wear and how you wear them does say a lot about you, just not in the way you thought. We will talk about side issues of feminism and self identity (much to your irritation I am sure) another time but for now I hope you have taken the time to think about these things, if you are the still the kind and considerate girls as teenagers that you are as toddlers then I know you will now be thinking twice about whether you do really need to go shopping. You will probably be asking me to help you repair the jeans you already have or alter something else in your wardrobe to give it a new lease of life.

As for whether or not you can have my silk dress when I die, you’ll have to argue that one out with your sister!

monsoon dress cropped

Lytpabta

Mum

xxx

This letter was written as part of the Who Made my Clothes course run by the University of Exeter and Fashion Revolution through Future Learn, see here for more information https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/who-made-my-clothes

I took my inspiration for the format from Caitlin Moran and her posthumous advice “letter to my daughter” published in The Times and her book Moranthology.

Further reading:

https://cleanclothes.org/resources/publications/factsheets/china-factsheet-february-2015.pdf

http://www.wiego.org/informal-economy/case-studies-garment-workers-around-globe

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/china-garment-workers-strike-shenzen-demand-following-apparel

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-27059434/thousands-of-china-workers-on-strike

http://silkwormmori.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/occupational-health-problems-in-silk.html

http://www.ijaiem.org/Volume4Issue5/IJAIEM-2015-05-18-45.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/nov/21/monsoon-child-labour-india

http://fashionrevolution.org/faqs-fashion-transparency-index-2017/

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Things I learned from Me Made May 2017

I think the biggest thing I learned was that I don’t have enough handmade clothes to sustain me for an entire month – not even as a minimalist/ capsule wardrobe. The second thing was that I am all about the knitwear when it comes to handmade clothes and finally, if I was only allowed to wear handmade clothes from now on I would end up walking around with a bare bottom!

Lets just look at these in a bit more detail;

Not enough clothes

Yes I know it was only a few months ago that I was complaining about having too many clothes but when it comes to handmade I really don’t have that many. Even though I have made garments on and off for the last 20 years these have mostly been “occasion” garments like ball gowns or wedding outfits. Tempting as it may be to rock up to the allotment in my vintage vogue pattern cocktail dress and wellies it is not very practical. Added to this is the distressing fact that most of these actually no longer fit me, partly because I have put on weight since gadding about at balls but also because since having children the shape of my body has altered so even the ones that in theory should fit don’t, at least not without needing alterations. As I am not yet a confident enough seamstress to make alterations happily these garments are banished to a suitcase under the bed.

All about the knitwear

Lets be honest, my first love is knitting and sewing will always come second to this which does have its advantages, one being that given its stretchy nature knitwear is more forgiving of fluctuations to body size and shape over time, it is also something practical – living in the UK particularly in the North West where it appears to rain or be grey and overcast for 80% of the year having nice warm woollens is a must. However, it does have its disadvantages too the first of these is that on those few and far between days when the sun does shine I run the risk of melting. Yes I could knit with cotton or linen for more lightweight summer garments but I have done that before and ended up with a jumper that resembles a dish cloth and hurt my wrists to knit. An alternative would be to stick to wool but just knit with a lace weight rather than a 4 ply or DK as is my preference which is something worth investigating (especially after spending several days immersed in one of my mum’s books on vintage style knitwear). A final point to make is that out of all the jumpers I have only 2 are 100% wool, on top of this 1 is an alpaca/silk blend but the rest are wool/ acrylic blends or just 100% acrylic depending on how long ago I made them. This is not an ideal situation, I want my wardrobe to feature more natural fibres and as such I need to make sure that when I do add anything to my knitwear collection this is at the forefront of my planning decisions.

Walking around with a bare bottom

I’m making a joke about it but this is actually quite a serious point. I have a few tunic length garments which with tights could function as a dress at a push but I do not have any skirts or trousers made by my own fair hands.

Back when I was a student I had lots of pairs of handmade trousers mostly based on a vintage sewing pattern I picked up in a charity shop and given that I didn’t own a sewing machine at the time they were all hand stitched too. I absolutely loved them and wore them to death. Unfortunately I was at least 3 stone (42lbs/ 19kg) lighter in those days and even then my legs were never slender. The women in my family have what we affectionately call “sturdy walking legs” but we also have small waists in comparison. In reality this means that when it comes to fitted trousers a standard size is not going to work, to fit my hips it is going to need grading down at least 1 size for the waist and it will probably still need alterations making to the width of the leg to make room for my larger than average thighs and calves.

A further complication is that despite a significant amount of fabric in my stash very little of it is suitable for making trousers with and what I do have I don’t want to ruin by making it in to a garment that doesn’t fit properly. The solution to this would be to make a sustained effort to reduce my weight (but as I am already thinking about getting myself a biscuit when I have finished typing this I’m not holding out a lot of hope on that front) or to make a toile and go from there. I have come to the conclusion that a toile is to sewing what swatching is to knitting – a dirty word for something that most people try to avoid because it is not as exciting as cracking on with the real thing but as with swatching I am beginning to think that taking to time to make a toile would really be the sensible thing to do and worth it in the long run.

Conclusion

The over riding thing that Me Made May 2017 taught me though was that when I wear clothes made by my own fair hands it makes me happy in a way that no ready to wear garment ever could.

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Slow Crafting Podcast – Episode 10 : Where I get giddy about fleece and fibre.

 

 

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Slow Crafting Podcast – Episode 9 : Upstaged by my co-host.

Slightly later than usual and with a very cheeky co-host this week. I talk about my finished Dottie Angel vest, Simplicity pattern 8153.

 

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Slow Crafting Podcast – Episode 8 Plans for Me Made May 2017

Here is the latest episode of the podcast where I talk about my sewing plans for this month and a couple of my recent hand spun yarns. The links referenced can be found over on the episode page for my YouTube channel.

 

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