A Grainline Linden and first impressions



This is a story not so much about the Linden (what's there to say really? it's fantastic!), but about adjusting to life in the North. I've mentioned in my 2017 summary that I haven't really loved Manchester since moving here. And neither has Josh. A big part of that is that we miss our old life in the Oxfordshire countryside.

So after a few months in a Manchester suburb (nice, as far as suburbs go) we decided to have a look outside Greater Manchester, to see if maybe there was a bit of countryside a commutable distance away.

We really liked the little town of Glossop and its surrounding towns/villages, at the edge of the Peak District. With its stone cottages and windy streets and cute shops and restaurants it reminds of some of the Oxfordshire towns. But while Oxfordshire has picturesque green rolling fields, Glossop is set against the dramatic and rugged Peak District. As you can image, it's gorgeous!

(Also, we're not hung up on Oxford, but it's where we spent most of our life together, so in many ways it's a reference point.)

So we did it. We moved. And it was stressful and unsettling and exhausting. But now it feels good.


Admittedly, we've only been here a week, but I can already tell a difference. The very air feels different (colder!). There has been an instant improvement to my sleep. It's so nice knowing there is beautiful nature a short walk away from our house (as opposed to a drive away!). I'm feeling very positive about this decision.

In celebration of a good decision I took my new Grainline Linden for it's first wear, a freezing walk around a reservoir.


So let me tell you a bit about the Linden. I bought the pattern some time ago and indeed intended to make it some time ago. But then I was distracted by the Toaster sweatshirt, and suddenly it was spring and the last thing on my mind was a sweatshirt!

Last autumn I started thinking about it again, but the fabric I wanted, this fleece lined yellow cotton sweatshirting from Guthrie & Ghani, was out of stock. I emailed them and they were amazing! They got in touch as soon as it was available again. I ordered it straightaway, but I was too busy just then. So, it became my January project. I finished it a few weeks ago, but because I was packing to move house, I didn't get a chance to wear it. So as you can tell, this sweatshirt really is a story of delayed gratification!

But it was worth the wait. It kept me warm on that freezing walk, and I am wearing it now, writing this with the snow falling outside (Sunday afternoon).


In terms on construction, I cut a size 6 of view A, but omitted the waistband. It was incredible easy to sew, once I figured out why my machine was skipping stitches.

This was really strange. I changed the needle, tried both a needle for knits and a regular one, played with the tension, everything I could think of. In the end I tried another thread, and the problem was gone. Which makes me think that the cheap polyester thread I had bought was rubbish. The problem was, I didn't have another yellow thread. So I switched to a white top thread and kept the yellow on the bobbin, and that was ok. But it was very strange and cost me an hour of sewing time! Not to mention that I had to do all topstitching upside down! Luckily there's not much topstitching.

In terms of the pattern, I found the neckline band a bit too short and had to cut a new, longer one (about 6 cm longer). I'm thinking maybe my fabric wasn't stretchy enough? Also, I thought the neckline band was a bit too thin, so I added on 1 cm of width.

Other than that, this pattern is easy peasy! I'd quite like a white or pale pink one for spring, but for now I need to stick to my resolution to not buy fabric until I've made a dent in my stash.


Are you wondering yet what's up with me holding my phone in every single photo? Well, I bought a new camera, which connects wirelessly with my phone. It lets me import photos straight to my phone for editing on the go (I'm so tempted to get a new phone with a huge screen for this!), and also makes the phone act like a remote shutter. So useful!

I was trying to keep the phone subtly by my side so it wouldn't be in focus in the photos, but then I couldn't find the shutter button. Such a grandma. I need to have the phone pressed to my face and ideally concentrate hard. See unflattering photo above for evidence.

I'll practice over the next couple of self-portrait 'shoots.'

Right, time for a cup of tea now, methinks! Hope everybody has a fab week!




Goals for 2018


In keeping with what I can now call a yearly tradition, I've been thinking about what I want to get out of 2018.

But first, an evaluation of the goals I set myself for 2017:

2017 goals...


  1. Read more books. Ideally an average of one per month
    I haven't read one book per month, but I have read regularly and made time for it, which I'm really happy about. So I'm counting this one as achieved.

  2. Do more!
    Have I? Hm...probably not. I got into gardening this year, which meant that most spring/summer weekends I preferred to stay at home working in the garden over doing something (seriously, I was obsessed!). While I have no regrets (because it was awesome!), I do miss the day trips and stuff like that. So a bit less gardening, a bit more doing stuff this year!

  3. Go somewhere I've never been before
    Yes, Josh and I went to Rotterdam in the beginning of the year. And towards the end I went to Innsbruck and the Austrian alps. Admittedly, that was a work trip, but it was probably the best work trip I've ever been on!

  4. Keep exercising
    Kind of. I got into British Military Fitness in the spring and LOVED it! Mixed it with some running and plenty of cycling to work and felt fit and healthy. But then I moved to Manchester and didn't enjoy BMF here, so I quit it. I have kept running, but there is no denying that my fitness levels have gone straight down since moving.

  5. Continue keeping a visual diary
    Yes, especially on Instagram. But there is room for improvement. There are so many moments and experiences I wish I recorded better, so this one stays on for 2018.

  6. Sew a coat and a pair of jeans
    This was a reasonable goal actually, but I never got around to the jeans. And probably wouldn't have gotten around to the coat either if I hadn't been asked to pattern test Jasper. But at least I can tick off the coat. And it was my first properly lined garment, so I'm pretty chuffed about that!

  7. Finally finish that quilt
    Errr...no.

  8. Career, career, career
    YES! I wanted to do a PhD and get a studentship. After a few setbacks it finally happened!

  9. Consume less/live more frugally
    No. This is getting embarrassing at this point.


And the goals for 2018 (in no specific order)...

  1. Travel - more day trips
    I'm keeping the goal from last year to go somewhere I've never been before. Also, in 2017 I missed the day trips I was so good at in 2016. So more day trips.

  2. Exercise - 100 push ups 
    My exercise goals are never particularly specific, which is probably why I always stay on the same level of kind of fit, but not really. So a concrete goal for 2018: to be able to do 100 push ups on my toes. I've always wanted to be able to do this for some peculiar reason.

  3. Personal relationships - be a good friend
    When I have a lot going on in my life I tend to withdraw from the world and neglect the people in my life. Along the years I've lost several friends this way and now I'm really too old to not know better. Life will always be busy, but the people in my life need to take priority.

  4. Visual diary - organise photos
    I want to keep taking photos (and better photos!), but also find a way of organising them. When I was home over the holidays I found lots of photos from waaaaay back in the day when I had a film camera and had to get the photos developed. And it was SO nice to look at them. Digital photos just tend to be forgotten. I don't know what my solution will be yet, whether I simply print them or what, but I'm really keen to think of something.

  5. Consume less - don't buy crap!
    I aim for this every year and I fail every year. But now I'm really quite fed up with myself. When I was in Sweden over the holidays I decided once and for all to clear out my childhood bedroom. As I was filling garbage bag after garbage bag with stuff I was just disgusted at the sheer volume of crap! (Most of this crap was stuff I acquired in my late teens, when I became materialistic.) I kept everything that I can't face parting with for whatever reason, and that all fits into a small crate. The rest is all rubbish.

    The sad thing is that my consumption habits are not that much better now.

    So here's the deal for 2018: I won't buy anything I don't have a specific need for that can't be fulfilled by something I already own. At the end of the year, when I do my goal evaluation, I will account for exactly what new items I have bought.

  6. Money - save and learn about investing
    And on a similar note to the above, it's time to be a grown up about money. I'm used to earning lots and spending lots. Now I earn little and need to spend even less. When I finish this PhD I want to buy a nice house in the country, and I want to do so with a sizable deposit. Time to start building that deposit!

  7. Sewing goal 1 - buy less fabric
    Every year I keep saying I'll buy less fabric, and I never stick to this. So this year I'll make the goal more specific. I keep my fabric 'stash' in a storage box, because if I have more fabric than fits in there I just forget what I have. But things have gotten out of hand lately and the box won't close. Not even close. So, no new fabrics until the lid closes again.

    (And no spree then either, only as much as will fit with the box fully closed.)

  8. Sewing goal 2 - sew a lined Kelly Anorak
    There needs to be a challenge, a learning of new skills. So, I'll make a lined Kelly Anorak this year. Hopefully for spring, but if not, then for autumn.

  9. Sewing goal 3 -  unselfish sewing
    In 2017 I made 23 items, out of which 21 were for me. There is just no need for that. So in 2018, every 1 in 3 items I sew have to be for somebody else.

  10. Sewing goal 4 - that quilt!
    That quilt again.... I almost mis-typed and wrote 'guilt.' Freudian slip!

A 'weather safe' merino turtleneck



In 2016, when I went to Australia on holiday, I picked up some absolutely lovely merino jersey from The Fabric Store. Most of it was used to make a Maria Denmark Rachel wrap dress, which I've shown on Instagram a number of times. But the second make from this fabric, made from the scraps that remained after the dress, has been hidden away like a well kept secret. Actually, there is nothing secret about it. It's just that it's usually layered underneath lots of other clothes (like in the photo above) and rarely gets photographed.

I'm talking about the best turtleneck ever.

It's unfortunate that the shutter went off just as I was pulling up my jeans, but the tee looks good here, so forgive my wardrobe adjustment.

As you know by now, I love turtlenecks. Not least because they are a fantastic layering item but also smart enough to be worn on their own. And the perfect pattern in my opinion is the Named Paola turtleneck tee.

So naturally I had some make one in this lovely merino. However, when I made it, I don't think I realised quite how much I'd love it.

It has become my 'weather safe' turtleneck. What I mean by that is that I can rely on it to keep me warm and comfortable in most winter weather I might encounter. I've worn it in the Alps, far up in northern Sweden and most recently in the Scottish Highlands. And it hasn't failed me yet.

It's like a great merino base layer, but looks a lot nicer.


These photos are from a reaaaaaally windy walk along the canal in Inverness. It might look sunny, but can you see in the first photo that I'm holding my hair? It's because in every photo that I don't you can't even see my face.

Later that day my friend and I were heading out for a few drinks and dinner. All I did was change my trousers and shoes and put on some lipstick. The turtleneck stayed.


And this is another reason why I love it so. It's versatile and can look perfectly smart too. In fact, its first ever wear was to one of my PhD interviews, tucked into a black skirt and worn with ankle boots. It was cold but I didn't want to wear something bulky or too many layers. The turtleneck did the trick to keep me warm.

So now I'm thinking that ahead of next winter I'll order more of this lovely fabric from Australia and make a few more of these turtlenecks in different colours. A grey and a black one are a must in my wardrobe.

Especially as there'll be many more trips like this one to Scotland. Which brings me onto the reason for the trip. A very close friend and her fiancé have moved up to Inverness. They moved some time ago but life has gotten in the way on both sides and we haven't found the time to meet up in either Inverness or Manchester until now. But last Friday I got on a 7h train and spent the whole weekend with them. And it was amazing!

Here are a few photos from the first day, before the snow melted:


(PS. Photo credit for the photos of me goes to Victoria.)

Fairfield button up for Josh

The first post of 2018 (not counting my year summary post) stars one of my favourite people and an unselfish make...


When I first learned to sew shirts I made one for Josh, but it didn't fit well at all. I only took measurements before starting and didn't check fit throughout the process and it came out too big. Since then I have wanted to try again, but never gotten around to it.

This Christmas I was knitting presents for my family and I wanted to give Josh something handmade too. He doesn't really like knitted/woolly stuff, so it was a great opportunity to try my hand at another shirt. I had the perfect fabric, this plaid brushed cotton from Fabworks. Josh likes plaid shirts, I like him in plaid shirts, simple! In terms of pattern, I decided to try the Thread Theory Fairfield. Last time I made him a shirt I used the Colette Negroni, which I think is a really great pattern, but I liked the more classic look of the Fairfield for this shirt.

Only trouble, this time I couldn't fit it to him at all, because it had to remain a surprise. So I used one of the most reliable tricks in dressmaking - I took the measurements of another shirt that fits him well and matched this one to those. Which led me to cut out a size M, with a bit of grading towards L at the waist for a more straight fit.


Because of the plaids there is a lot of pattern matching and I dare say I did fairly well...


...except for the back, where the box pleat goes across two stripes. In hindsight I should have cut it so the box pleat is on one of the brown stripes. But you live and learn.

Although, check out how nicely the back yoke and collar cut on the bias came out! I'm pretty chuffed with that! The yoke took two attempts to get the dark brown diamond where I wanted it.


I also cut the front pocket on the bias, and like it, although I see now that I should have moved it a few millimetres towards the button band.

In this picture you can also see that the shirt stretches a little bit across the chest, so for the next one, I'll have to make it a bit wider in that place.

Because I was sewing this shirt as a surprise and I live with Josh, I had to work on this only when he wasn't home. Which shouldn't have been too hard this autumn as he was travelling a lot for work. Except I was too. So finding the time was tricky. I did the cutting one day and started the sewing another. And only a few days before Christmas I spent a whole day finishing it. That day was massively rushed, because I only had until Josh came home from work and that was it. So the sewing towards the end is quite sloppy (I finished it 20 minutes before he got home). But, because the cutting was done meticulously, I don't think it really shows. So much of good sewing really is down to the cutting, and this project confirmed that for me.

So I'm happy that I cut it out on a separate day. I'm not sure I would have been as careful in my cutting if I had made it part of a bigger job instead of its own job, allocated a whole afternoon. I think this is how I will work in the future too.


And overall...I think it turned out well! And Josh likes it (a lot more than the first shirt I made him!), which is the main measure of success here.  I love sewing shirts, so now that I've figured out the measurements I think there'll be many more.

We visited our friends in the North of Sweden over New Year's, where I took these photos. Gorgeous, no? They have an amazing log cabin (parts of which you can see in the first photo), and visiting them there and just hanging out in the snow always is the most relaxing time of the year. And a time to wear lots of plaids, obviously!

My 2017 summary in Instagram pics

So this year summary in Instagram pictures has now become a bit of a tradition and towards the end of 2017 I found myself quite looking forward to writing it.

However, for some reason my pictures have come out really blurry. I have this problem now and then with Blogger and think it might have something to do with how it compresses them, but I'll just live with the blurriness for now and resolve it for future posts.

So, with blurry photos and all, here is my 2017 review in Instagram pictures.

January


In the autumn and winter of 2016 I was applying for PhDs after spending years making the decision to go back to school. I applied to several, but only really wanted one, the one I'm doing now. I had the second interview on January 11th and spent all my free time until this date preparing. After the interview I had a few hours to kill before getting the train home, so I visited the Abakhan store in Manchester and bought these buttons.

The rest of January is a blur as I waited for the result. (I didn't get the funding straightaway, but got on the reserve list and eventually received a studentship.)

February



On February 1st Josh and I hopped onto a flight to Rotterdam. I wrote about it a bit here. We don't go on a lot of holidays together, so it's supernice when it does happen. This one was extra nice because it was so chilled!


By mid-Feb I started getting over my annual winter blues and started getting excited about spring. The appearance of snow drops was magical.


And before the month was over I decided to join in on the Moneta party, last minute, on the closing day. And to my great surprise I was a semi-finalist! That was the biggest boost to my sewing confidence ever!

March



March brought new hobbies and new love for old ones.

I decided to learn how to garden! Did my research, ordered my seeds and got to work. It was a project filled with love and happiness and I miss that garden dearly. Scroll down to July for more details.


And I bought a new sewing machine! I went for a computerised one with lots of lovely features, and am so happy with this purchase. It's supposedly great for quilting, which was a factor in my choice, but I still haven't tried it for quilting.

April



In April I was making beautiful things on my new machine, like this blouse, and enjoying the fab weather...


...which warranted walks in the woods among the bluebells. Magical.


Meanwhile I had more than plenty of Spanish bluebells in my garden. This is probably the prettiest weed ever.

May

May is usually one of my favourite months of the year (along with October and December), and this year was no different. I only posted photos of my Me Made May outfits, partly because I really didn't get up to much else this month. It was probably the busiest month in the garden, and every free moment was spent tending to it.

The one massive event of May (and the year!) is that I heard about my PhD funding!! I got it! And one week later I gave my (3 month) notice at work!

While choosing the PhD over my job at the time wasn't that hard, because I'd made the decision a long time ago already, it was really, really hard to give up my life in Oxford. I was tired of the city, but I had just began to explore the countryside and I LOVED my country life and everything and everyone in it.

June



June is my birthday month and I am slowly turning into one of those people who celebrate all month long. The weekend before my birthday I went to Brighton with one of my best friends, and it was amazing. The day was hot and sunny and we had so much lovely food, delicious frozen passionfruit daiquiris and even dipped our toes in the sea!


My birthday itself was in the middle of the week and because I was about to leave my job and needed every last day of annual leave to house hunt in Manchester, I decided to not take the day off. But it was really lovely anyway. It was a hot day. I had lunch with two friends in a local farm cafe and after work I mowed the lawn (as you do) and then got dressed up and cycled to the pub with Josh.

July



The beginning of July was fab! The weather was good and life was sweet. The evenings involved drinks with friends and the weekend mornings plenty of lazy al fresco breakfasts in the garden.


The garden vegetables finally started being ready for harvesting!


And this is when the garden looked its best. Everything was blooming or bearing fruit. This was my happy place. I can't begin to tell you how much I loved this garden. I dedicated a sewing project (the Turia dungarees in the photo) and a blog post to it.


And then at the end of July Josh and I went up to Manchester for a few days to look for somewhere to live. We had a pleasant enough first day, with nice weather, a run in a beautiful park (where I run regularly now) and dinner out. But the remaining days it rained relentlessly, we got car trouble and the house hunt process was wearing us down.

August



Ok, one last picture from the garden before we moved. My sweet peas. These were amazing. It took them the longest time to blossom, but once they did they didn't stop. They bloomed all summer and when we moved away they were still in full bloom.


And then we moved to Manchester. And frankly, we don't love it. Maybe because we had such a fantastic life in Oxford and our life in Manchester is so different. Maybe because we haven't been here long and don't yet know it. Maybe because we don't know many people here yet. I don't know what it is. But we're here for the next three years, so 2018 will be about trying to find our favourite things about Manchester and build the kind of life we actually want.

September

September was a long month of settling in and starting the PhD. The former was not so easy, the latter was fab!


A close friend was moving to Australia forever, and I went down to the south east to say good bye. The photo is from brunch with friends the next morning. The friends in question moved away from the area themselves a month later, to Scotland, and in less than two weeks I'm off to see them. Can't wait!

October



October is usually my favourite month and I love going for long walks in the country and foraging in the hedgerows and making bramble jams and sloe gins, but this October I wasn't feeling comfortable with my life, so I didn't do any of that.


Instead, I turned to the two hobbies that always lift me out of an unhappy mood. Firstly, running. And secondly, sewing. This Nina Lee Kew dress was my first make since moving to Manchester, and I love it both for its beauty and for cheering me up.


And finally at the end of October I went to Paris for a conference. I stayed with a close friend I don't see often and just hanging out with her and having fun was tonic for the soul. The conference is the biggest in my area of research and the presentations and talks were the biggest boost of inspiration ever. I came back and couldn't care less about my unhappy life in Manchester, the next few months were going to be all about work!

November




And the next month I went to Obergurgl in Austria to attend a training course organised by the Human Brain Project, where I got to present my research to fellow junior neuroscientists. Came back even more motivated, inspired and committed to this PhD.

December



December was a mad race to finish the first draft of a literature review and some other bits and pieces. On the 22nd Josh and I finally got on a plane home to Sweden for two weeks. We had a lovely Christmas with my family and as her Christmas present I took my mom for afternoon tea in Stockholm.


And then we went to the very north of Sweden to visit our friends. We chilled, rode snow mobiles and just hung out. It was perfect. This photo is the sunset on New Years Eve from a mountaintop. Shortly after my friend and I had a sauna bath and rolled around naked in the snow in -24 degrees C to cool off. Spoiler: it worked. This is the good life.

We stayed in Sweden until the 5th, and now we're back in the UK and ready for 2018!