Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Knitographer interviews… Dresses & Me

From humble beginnings as a sewing blogger to becoming the go-to gal for independent sewing patterns, Penny Arrowsmith is the lovely lady behind Dresses & Me. Her great website stocks Colette, Grainline Studio, Sewaholic Patterns and many more. For those of you who like to make awesome garments but want to avoid the generic pattern brands, Dresses & Me is the place to visit!

You are the clever person behind Dresses & Me (which has really enabled my learn-to-sew quest!) Tell me a bit about your journey to establish this awesome site.
Hi Joanna, thanks for asking me here today  I started my blog in 2011 writing about the clothes - mostly dresses - that I'd sewn. I realised pretty soon that in NZ we were missing out. There was no NZ-based provider of indie sewing patterns and I thought to myself "I could be that person" so I made some enquiries and got started importing them. 

All of your stocked patterns are from independent pattern designers - why is this important to you?
So many reasons. I think it's important to support creativity and creative businesses. There's a movement away from the mass produced and towards artisan or indie or craft (or whatever you like to call them!) enterprises. These micro-businesses foster community in a way that large companies - they work tirelessly for their customers and their customers rally around them to champion them. I love the feel-goodness of this area of the sewing world!

You just posted a pre-order for a range of patterns from the amazing Grainline Studio and you've already sold out of one of them - what kind of patterns are most popular?
Well it's pretty unusual to sell out of a coat pattern in high summer but that's exactly what happened! Jen from Grainline Studio makes lovely patterns and the Cascade Duffle is no exception! My most popular type of pattern are certainly the dresses (particularly the Alder Shirtdress right now) however my highest selling pattern is the Renfrew knit top by Sewaholic. 

I think more and more people are getting interested in making their own clothes - are you getting a lot of beginners visiting your site?
I guess it's hard to say unless I already follow that customers blog or Instagram! I'm aware that there are lots of people who are interested in sewing but perhaps feel intimidated by complex patterns when they first start out. There are some great resources out there - tutorials on the designers' blogs, YouTube and even asking people on Twitter. 

Do you get much chance to make stuff for yourself? What kind of things do you like to make?
I love to sew for myself! Mostly I make impractical party dresses like my recent Georgia dress. Right now, as I've started working full time again, I'm looking at building my work wardrobe. I've already made some Scout Tees and I'm brainstorming some Oakridges. I'd love to make some Hawthorns shirt dresses too. 

What advice would you give to someone wanting to make their own clothes but doesn't know where to start?

I would say throw yourself in the deep end - buy some fabric and a pattern and have a go. Post about your sewing on social media and you'll be pleasantly surprised by the generosity of time and expertise that comes your way. I would also caution against using vintage patterns as they often only come in one size (which is disappointing if it's not your's) and the instructions can assume a lot of prior knowledge. I've written some posts on my blog about my tips on pattern and fabric choice for beginners too.

Find out more about Dresses & Me on Facebook and Instagram and don't forget to check out Penny's amazing online store!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Libraries - an inspirational knitting space

I've been struggling a bit with projects that just don't seem to end. I don't often have that much to say or update because I haven't completed anything or the moss stitch is never ending. I'm doing my very best to not start anything big until Amelie is finished, and it's been tough. So instead of staring at my yarn stash while sitting on my hands to resist casting a new project on, I'm hiding at the library and staring at knitting books instead. 

I think we are extremely lucky to have such an amazing crafty resource at Auckland Libraries. I always find something to browse through and I definitely credit its collection with helping me reduce the amount of books I buy. 

If I'm a bit overwhelmed by the choice, I always get drawn to the vintage style books. As a lover of vintage style, these always give me great inspiration and ideas for new projects, when I'm allowed to cast some on. In saying that,  I am always on the lookout for new books to browse through. Do you have any favourite knitting books you can recommend? 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Knitographer Interviews… TinyLovely

I met the lovely Rebecca from TinyLovely at KAN in 2013, and she designs some super cute patterns for kiddies! More recently she's ventured into designing for bigger people, and her Autumn Branches beanie was one of the favourite items I knitted last year. I have a quick chat to her about what she's making and creating.

Tell me a bit about TinyLovely - how did you get into designing?
I have always enjoyed craft and using my creative side. I started designing after a couple of years of test knitting for other designers. I really enjoyed the process and decided to give it a try, my first design was Woodland Tee which was published by Petite Purls. After that I started self publishing on Ravelry and I have really enjoyed coming up with new designs.

When did you start knitting? Did you grow up crafting or was it something that came a bit later on?
I learned to knit when I was about 8yrs at school, but didn't really pick it up again until I was pregnant with my eldest in 2009. As child I enjoyed sewing a lot and went to classes with my Mum.

You have a young family - how do you fit your designing and craft time around everything else? 
I often work at night after everyone is bed, and knit during the day. It can be hard sometimes and I try not to work too much when the kids are at home. It has been a lot easier now that they are at school and kindy. And I'm very lucky to have good support from family.

Your early patterns focus on little people - did this begin from wanting to make unique things for your kids?
Yes it did, I love creating new designs for my kids and they are actually not too bad at modeling these days. Although they still pull silly faces which is fun. Often I get an idea for a neckline or a texture that I want to try out, or just that one of them really needs a new hat for example. And my eldest has really started taking an interest and will help when I'm sketching an idea out.

You've also started designing a few accessories for adults (love your Autumn Branches hat!). What are the main differences in your design process between designing for kids and adults.
Thank you Autumn Branches is one of my favourites too! I think designing for adults is about refining an idea and thinking about how it would appeal to adults. Or it can also be about designing something that I want to wear.

What are your plans for TinyLovely this year? Are there any specific designs you have in mind to make?
My plans for this year, like most years are big and optimistic. I want to release more designs than the fourteen I did last year.  I have just released Lennix and Elowen for Mosaic Moon yarns. And Mackenzie in testing now. I hope to release my first adult sized garment and plan to work on a shawl or two as well as the kids wear designs I have in the pipeline.

When you make stuff as part of a business, it can be hard to separate crafting from also being a job. Do you have any non-TinyLovely related crafting on the go too?
It can be hard to separate crafting from business, but I do enjoy the design process of knitting the prototype a lot. I always have a few wips on the go that are patterns from other designers. I'm definitely not a one wip kind of person!

Being in New Zealand, we have some amazing local yarn suppliers. Do you have any favourites? 

Yes I love using yarn from indie dyers! We have a thriving indie yarn scene in New Zealand, but my favourites would be Meraki Studio NZ, Featherbrush yarns, Hollyberry designs, and I have just cast a new design in the silver lining heritage merino from Skeinz. 

You can find out more about TinyLovely on Facebook!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Progress and plans

It's been a bit quiet around here this week, but take that as a good sign! I've made some serious progress on my Amelie dress!

We took a road trip this weekend up north to Whangarei Heads for a wedding. Deciding to make the most of a weekend away, we took Friday off work and rented a bach. Aside from wedding celebrations, all I did for almost three days was yoga, beaching, board games and knitting.

I mean check out this view - the best place to do very little!

Hear this people - I knitted 20cm of the last piece of the dress! I think I have a good chance of getting it ready for making-up this week. 

We got back into Auckland this afternoon and I found a sweet surprise in the letterbox, two new patterns from Dresses and Me. I really want to extend my sewing this year. And now after one bach weekend and the intention to have many more away this year, I've decided I need to make much nicer travel bags. I have a couple of sports bags that do the job, but in my quest for a more sustainable wardrobe, I see no issue with extending that to accessories too. 

Grainline Studio's Portside Travel Set is going to be my first sewing project of the year - I'm thinking of recycling an old wool blanket.

If that's successful, I'm going to totally over-extend myself and try to make a shirt. 
I find it really hard to find shirts I like. I own one that I love, and the rest have been given away as part of my buy one, get rid of two wardrobe items challenge. I work in an environment where more shirts would be handy in winter, but I find it so hard to find shapes I like that I'm determined to make one.

I've heard there are a lot of steps involved to making a shirt, so I'm expecting the first one to have a fair few imperfections. The second one though, that'll be much better. I've picked Sewaholic Patterns' Granville Shirt because it has a nice slim fit and classic styling. 

Now to knit some more of this dress - I've got renewed enthusiasm for this project!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Craft table chaos

I'm the first person to admit that I like to live in a state of organised chaos. My husband would probably substitute the word chaos with mess, but I think that's a bit harsh. It's not like I can't find anything. Everything has a home. Like the one third of the couch for my knitting / backpack / three jackets / the cat / bike helmet and the floor beside my bed that houses about 20 books I'm part way through reading. 

But I have to admit, the craft table is getting a little out of hand. It's just yarn everywhere. Project pieces waiting to be sewn up if I'd just hurry up and finish the last piece. Some finished projects. That jumper I've given up on. There's yarn I caked in a moment of weakness because I was so desperate to knit something new. There's the new yarn I bought off Happy Go Knitty this week because she was having a sale and I just want to knit something new. Then there's all the other yarn I got out of my yarn drawers just to stare at it because I want to make something new. I think there's a familiar theme here. But I know if I start something new, I will avoid working on the dress. Maybe I can avoid knitting that by tidying up the table instead!