In July this year I celebrated my 40th birthday with an incredible trip to Reykjavik in Iceland. I had wanted to go there since I was 16 years-old and obsessed with the singer Bjork.
The Bjork obsession has diminished somewhat in the last 24 years – I still love her but no longer feel the urge to pretend to be her – but my fascination with her home country still remained.
It was a perfect holiday. Iceland was magical, with scenery unlike anywhere I have ever been before. I waited 24-years for that trip and it was everything I wanted it to be and then some.
Knitting is huge in Iceland – no doubt it stops them going mad in the cold and dark winter months spent indoors – and the traditional Icelandic yoke jumper, the lopapeysa, is sold all over Reykjavik.
It is a style I have always loved and I knew that making my own with a traditional Icelandic pattern and Icelandic yarn would be a perfect souvenir of my birthday trip.
I bought my pattern and yarn from the Icelandic Hand Knitting Association and, considering how shockingly expensive everything in Iceland is, it was pretty cheap. The yarn and pattern came in at less than £30. And the ladies in the shop were incredibly helpful, explaining the pattern and yarn to me.
The yarn I bought, Plotulopi, is a a traditional unspun yarn that is incredibly fragile and really unlike anything I have ever knit with before. I knit the lopapeysa with two strands of yarn, on size 6mm needles. I loved knitting this jumper. The fairisle yoke was so much fun to knit. And it was a pretty quick knit. Well it would have been if I didn’t have the kittens. I know I have mentioned this before, but it is almost impossible to knit or sew with two very active and very curious kittens jumping around. The majority of this jumper was actually knit under a blanket so they couldn’t pounce on the yarn! But they are very cute so I will put up with this!
I love my finished lopapeysa. It’s so warm and snuggly. I feel like I am being hugged when I wear it. And best of all, like all good souvenirs, it brings back happy memories of a perfect trip to Iceland.
How have I never made myself a pair of pyjama bottoms before? Seriously? I’ve made literally hundreds of pairs with my GCSE textiles classes. It is always the project I start off with at the start of the year, before they are let loose on their coursework.
In the spirit of slowing down and going back to basics with my sewing, I decided to make myself a pair of Margot Pyjamas from Tilly Waldnes’s gorgeous beginners’ book ‘Love at First Stitch’, with this amazing deer print jersey by Girl Charlee.
There’s pretty much no difference between Tilly’s pattern and the one I use with my GCSE students (they are pyjama bottoms, there’s not going to be much variation) so all very easy and straight forward. And, as ever, Tilly’s instructions are very clear and detailed.
I made no adjustments to the fit or length of the pyjamas and just cut straight out for my size (38″ hips, 30″ waist). The only minor change I made was to add elastic to the drawstring waist, just because I thought they would be more comfy that way.
I sewed up the leg and crotch seams with an overlocker and used a walking foot and straight stitch for everything else. My 6 month old kittens still won’t let me sew or knit at home, so these were made during a couple of lunch breaks. One of the many benefits of being a sewing teacher!
I was very excited to buy myself a copy of Wendy Ward’s new book ‘A beginners guide to making skirts’ this week.
Whether they are aimed at beginners or someone with a bit more dressmaking experience, I love getting new sewing and knitting books. There is always something new to learn and/or lust over. In the case of Wendy’s new book, even though I am not a beginner, I figured there would be some good basic skirt patterns in there that I could adapt and use with my GCSE textiles class.
I was right. This book is lovely and has patterns and detailed instructions to make 24 different skirts from 8 basic shapes. I decided to make the skirt featured on the front cover – the Rusholme A-line skirt – out of a small bit of blue chambray I had left over from another project. I cut a simple version of the skirt – no waist band or pockets – with a centre front seam. If I was making this again I think I would like to add pockets – because pockets – but I just didn’t have enough fabric this time.
I took my time over this skirt. I followed all the instructions exactly as Wendy gave them and let myself slow down and enjoy the process. I didn’t make a toile but I did take the time to fit it to my waist and hips as I went along, and the result is a simple skirt that fits me beautifully. And can we just have a moment to appreciate that topstitching.