Natural dyes – Anna and Juan course

Way back in April and with some trepidation I went along to the Zürich stitch-n-bitch group (planned through meet-up and active-ish on Ravelry).  Through the group I met some lovely people and discovered the joys of regular Tuesday night knitting at the Wädenswil brewery.

A couple of the members mentioned that they were signed up for a ‘Natural dying’ course – and with minimum research I also signed up for this weekend just gone.

Indigo scarves

Travelling on the single track trainline west from Zürich we entered a beautiful part of the country which was completely new to me.  We were welcomed at the home of one of course organisers’ parents where in their sprawling garden of local plants they have founded a garden to grow dye plants.

Anna and Juan is a new venture run by a passionate and skilled Swiss/Argentine couple (whose design backgrounds are evident in the best way).  They have been researching different plants and processes and now share their learning and great enthusiasm at workshops in a natural and relaxed,  yet entirely compelling, way.

Dye stages Collage

The plants we used has such ancient sounding names:  madder, weld, woad and Dyer’s broom.  We also used Indigo, Hollyhocks and cherry tree bark.  We created ‘teas’ from the plant:

Dye Teas

As well as dying samples of wool we each had a scarf that once wet we attempted to pattern using Shibori techniques.  These included knotting and tieing the scarf using thread and clamps.

Shibori collage

I opted for Hollyhocks to dye my scarf (these had been frozen when fresh) and followed the process through to create a unexpected colour.

Hollyhock Collage

The info sheets and ‘theory’ presentation were super organised and clear -as well as being really well designed with beautiful, inspiring photographs.


Drying 2

Drying 1

I loved the whole day and the feeling of magic not knowing how colours would pan out.  My fellow course mates were diverse (from 6 countries) and added to the fun and enthusiasm throughout the day.

Finished scarves

My take home point was that whilst I would love to give this a go at home, there is a certain amount of ‘kit’ required and our flat just does not need that at present!


Mission Maxi but not maxi

My new found confidence sewing knits knows no bounds…..

liberty dress

I’ve had the Mission Maxi pattern (bought at Ray Stitch is Islington) a good few months.  And in fact this is version 2 as the day before I made version one from super synthetic brocki fabric that clings to my legs in a nasty way and which I can’t figure out how to photograph.  These boat photos could be better – but my smile shows how chuffed I am with this dress.

My main learning from this is: Wow, good quality fabric makes such a massive difference.

This is a liberty knit that I bought at Fabrics Galore in Battersea a year or so back when working close by.  I didn’t have enough for the maxi version but in our current hot weather this shorter version is already proving very useful.  And with a jacket on top it’s also just about work appropriate.  The design and fabric combined are figure hugging but not clingy.  I was worried that the hips would be too narrow compared to my waist but the pattern is a little pear shaped.  I also skimmed a little extra off the side to fit my shape more.  I also find the racer-back way more flattering than I expected – I see more vests like this coming on!

liberty dress on boat

I used my new-best-friend overlocker to seam and add the binding and used my twin needle to finish the binding and hem.  Despite concerns that the right hand seam was a little lumpy once this had hung for a day it was fine (lesson number 2 – don’t rush straight into remedial action).


No more to be defeated by knits!

I can happily make knit skirts till the cows come home (see here and here) but I tried the sewaholic renfrew top nearly 2 year ago and it just did not work at all (I think the fabric I had was the wrong weight, plus I made some mistake which led to unpicking horrors…)

So I convinced myself the solution was an overlocked.  Right after buying it (during the olympics in London last year…) I spend loads of time reading up, learning to thread it and generally getting excited about all the knits I could sew.  And then I tried the Maria of Denmark free kimono tee pattern and it was a disaster…. Looking back I think this was because I used really cheap fabric which seemed to get chewed up by the overlocker, and the also I couldn’t get the twin needle to behave.  So I did what it seems many people do and pushed said (not cheap) overlocker to the back of a shelf and ignored until it learnt to behave.

And now with no work I felt the need for a proper project and getting stuck into mastering sewing with knits seemed ideal. I’d been convinced by the Megan Nielsen tutorials as part of the briar sew along and so this was my chosen test project.

Briar 1

It’s far from perfect but the twin needle top stitching is awesome and it’s more than wearable.

- My stripe matching is better than it should be given how much effort I put into it

- The high-low hem is such a good length even on my long body – and the other half loves it

- I used the neck binding method rather than the band (as my previous renfrew band experience wasn’t great I steered clear – maybe next time)

- is the neckline wonky???  Maybe a little – will look out for this next time

- the twin needles works when I change the bobbin tension, use longer stitches and don’t go too fast.

This fabric is from a brocki and would have cost max 3chf (so I didn’t learn from my previous poor fabric choices) and is lovely apart from seeming very static and sticking to itself, which you can see in this picture (although this could have been the tumble drying).

Briar 2

I want to make more – how many briars can a girl have??


Somewhat adapted grainline tank

After a month of seemingly endless deadlines (including one on a Sunday – thank you NHS for that lame effort at supporting work life balance) I couldn’t wait to get sewing again.

And I’m really pleased with how this turned out.

Silk grainline 1

This started off life as a skirt from the brocki (I guess 3chf).  I originally wanted to shorten it and take it in but the pleat and pocket placement would have made this quite tricky.

Skirt collage

The fabric is a really nice silk (I liked it because I thought the colours quite subtle, R’s first remark was how bright it is……)

I decided on the grainline tiny pocket tank pattern due to the lack of darts and because I reckoned I could adapt to keep the bottom hem from the skirt intact.  Once I’d unpicked the fabric though I had a problem – the zipper in the skirt left a bigger wider hole in the fabric than the front pattern piece allowed for.  Originally I thought I would do a pleat Colette sorbetto style before settling on this inverted pleat just a few inches long.  I then had to take the sides in a corresponding amount.  I left off the pocket because with the pleat I thought it would look too fussy.

I used cream bias binding from my brocki stash and this was a quick and easy sew.  I perhaps could have matched the front pleat better but this doesn’t bother me.  I like the floaty-ness and coollness of the silk.

A good way to get back in the saddle.  Plus I first made this pattern a couple of years back when I started sewing again and it was a lot easier and neater this time round.  However slowly I must be learning…..


Squeezing in some Brocki shopping

Because my work is freelance and comes in fits and starts I really try to keep up with friends even in the busy times (I don’t  want to go to ground for weeks on end).  This means despite manic working I still pop into town occasionally and can normally combine a trip with a Brockenhaus visit!

And just a couple of days ago I met up with Catherine who lives nearer Winterthur and is a relative newbie to Switzerland to show her my favourite Brockenhaus.  Catherine is a super talented and experienced knitter and also from the sewing I’ve seen is also pretty much a dab hand at that too (a lovely Purl Bee shopper caught my eye).  We have the best time.  She was super delighted with what she found and how cheap it was, and I think appreciated the “thrill of the chase” as much as I do!  We both spent 19chf (£13 ish) and managed not to fight over anything we both wanted!  And she bought a christmas present for her mother – check that forward planning.

Brocki finds - red

Brocki finds- blue

Sitting in the sun with a Hugo (popular drink here of Elderflower, Prosecco, water, lime, mint and ice) we then schemed a little as to how we could collaborate on something crafty.  After the summer we will scheme some more!

And I was then able to catch a lift back home on a friend’s boat!

Boat trip home

Mostly working trip to London (who am I kidding???)

BraceletI say mostly working because I also squeezed in seeing my sister and a lovely evening in the park with Jules, some wine, followed by pizza.  And Jules fixed my broken 25th-birthday-present-to-myself silver bracelet. Am sure this is easy for her (and anyone else who can 



Also my very first meeting was at the Kings Fund behind John Lewis and their tempting haberdashery and conveniently close to Liberty.  And they may have just happened to have a remnant sale on as well as giving me the chance to stroke some of the stunning new prints.


I love Liberty fabrics and when I work up the guts to sew with them (the fear of ruining/wasting such good fabric acts as a brake) they are just so practical as they wash well and do not crease. Liberty prints

I also finally got to the newish (well since I moved away 3 years ago) knitting shop in Stoke Newington.  Knit with Attitude shares a site with a lovely gallery/craft/design shop (Of Cabbages and Kings).

Strikk (another Zürich resident although we’ve not met) as some lovely pictures

I could have bought lots (from both halves) but just focused on my to do list and bought some very soft silk/baby alpaca for a Purl Soho cap sleeve lattice top.

London wools

I’m well aware that this may only get made for next summer – but also it does sometimes stay warm here a long in to the Autumn (really, who am I kidding…..)

And after lots of meetings I now have lots more work- best get to it


July is for challenges (and discovering Instagram)

I signed up to a few challenges in July following the fun of me-made-may.  But that was before my work went crazy and all thoughts of dedicating lots of time to new projects rather than existing Works in Progress (which are being neglected too) were pushed to the side.  That notwithstanding I am still dabbling in all three challenges and hope to get back on top once a few deadlines are out of the way:

The Phone Photography Class by Big Picture Classes.  I signed up for this at an early bird rate.  I’ve not managed every day’s challenge (and some I’ve done on the wrong days….) but it has really made me focus on taking a lot more pictures.  I get a bit muddled whether to use my DSLR or phone (or both).


Some of the challenges have been like light bulb moments – and others less so (there does seem to be a focus from instructors/participants on family/people pics which I’m less keen on -with us just being a family of 2 most of the time, and with R being reluctant to have his photo shared on the web).  I’ve learnt loads of useful technique tips and have focused in on useful apps for me and what I want to do.

Photo challenge pics 1(Where I’m standing, Clouds, Perspective)

And most fun-ly I have found I love Instagram (OK I’ve not really delved into the social side) but as a record of our life I love it.  You can find me there as nomoretwist.  I have found with twitter and facebook that i get really bogged down with contacts I don’t necessarily want to share with so am determined to use instagram to make connections which mean something.  (Ps – Kirsty sign up now!)


Find Your Voice by Rukristin Papercrafts.  This free 8 week workshop aims to help you improve your storytelling in the broadest sense.


Whilst I have worked through a lot of the information and worksheets I’m yet to actually follow through and write something (my freelance work is all writing and when for work I’m churning out 6000+ words each day I’m not going to have the same energy for more ‘personal’ writing).  The course is maybe more focused towards scrapbookers, but the format is brilliant and the tips really make you think.  With 3 more weeks to go I really hope to get more stuck in and catch up.

Wild Olive – Summer Stitching Club.  And now this just gets embarrassing… I was one of the first people to sign up to the club and yet…… not one stitch has been made.  Wild Olive was one of the first craft blogs I found and I love the simplicity of Mollie’s designs.  My final deadline for work at present is 29th July and then I fully intend to blitz through some hand embroidery.


Favourite magazine

Birthday trip to Burgundy- part 2 – some crafting

The countryside was so beautiful we spent most time out and about but I can’t help myself keeping my eyes peeled for an interesting crafty find!

Beaune is a lovely old town and also has a lovely newer yarn store- Kape Laine. I’d never come across Drops Loves You before but a quick look on Ravelry shows that people love it (and the price!)  This is my first wool purchase without a specific plan in mind – I do want to carry on avoiding buying on spec.

French wools

As a birthday treat I also splashed out on a few sewing magazines I’d not seen before – I especially like the look of Couture Boutique

French magazines

And then as we were leaving on the Sunday I persuaded R to stop at a Vide Grenier (car boot sale) and I’m glad we did!

Vide Grenier collage(Petitcolin celluloid dolls and heaps of toy sewing machines)

At first I spent a couple of euros on some patterns and masses of wooden beads in cool shapes:

Vide Grenier

And then right at the end I lucked out and spotted a massive pile of 1950s sewing/fashion magazines.  At 1 euro each I could have happily taken the pile but resisted and came home just with these:

1950s magazines

There are some patterns I would totally love to make and beautiful illustrations.  I’d love to share all the pictures but haven’t the time now – this is my favourite front cover:

Favourite magazine

A potentially exciting shop -but nothing there!


Probably for the best – time to come home.

Birthday trip to Burgundy- part 1 – no crafting

Despite having masses and masses of work we booked a last minute trip to stay in a self catering apartment near Beaune in Burgundy.

Flowers collage

The neighbours were super friendly and invited us to a 4th July party and gave us a stack of restaurant recommendations.



roof and flowers

We spent our long weekend:

-Cycling through vineyards


- Eating lots at lovely restaurants


- Nipping to the bakery every morning for yet more bread and shopping at the market


- Touring the mustard museum

Mustard museum

- Tasting local wines


- Sleeping in late

- Indulging my craft shopping habit (see part 2!)


Nothing finished – but so many Works in Progress

With all the travelling I’ve been doing lately the one thing I have managed to chip away at is a number of kitting projects. (Although the Luton airport security team tried their best to bring several projects to an untimely end……)

Firstly – this is another Rae scarf by Jane Richmond after the relative success of the first.


I used this as my practice piece in the knitting class I did at the beginning of June, and as result of the unpicking/increasing/decreasing/random knitting/purling and general mucking about it’s looking a little wonky in places.  I don’t think this will show once wrapped around a neck and I like the colour so this is there waiting in the background for when I need something easy and not precious.  No idea why I picked these needles – they feel horrible.  Unsure whether switching now is worth it……

Secondly – this nemesis knit for a simple top has taken me so long to get the ribbing right.  There is no logical reason for this other than my daftness.


This has now somewhat put me off picking this up, although the yarn (see here) and the pattern (from here) are lovely, and now I’m in the swing of it it knits up fast.  This is an easy one for whilst watching tv (although not the Scandinavian subtitled crime shows we’ve been loving recently).

Thirdly – it’s totally the wrong season for knitting a Gap-tastic cowl but I bought this wool in Yorkshire and just love it.

GAP tastic cowl

I don’t love the feel of the needles –  but there’s something pleasingly bling about the gold against the natural colour of the Blue Faced Leicester (cashmere of the British wools – apparently!)

Fourthly - my current favourite. I am learning loads from knitting this and it’s what I find myself reaching for if I had a good long stretch to knit (like a flight to England maybe….)  This will be a Georgia cardigan again from Jane Richmond and the wool is from Innsbruck.


Lastly – novelty knit time!


My sister gave me this kit for my birthday and I realised that the suggested project (a very simple cushion) will be ideal for trips to the Badi (beach on the lake) to prop me up whilst reading (or knitting) as I never can quite get comfortable on the grass.  The ‘wool’ is discarded selvedge from British, French and Italian woollen mills (and I think looks like Royal Stewart tartan – which is apt as my Mother’s family are Stewarts).  Knitting with these super sized needles is a great upper body work out (in the picture the blue needles are 10mm for size comparison!!).  But at 14 stitches and 19 rows this will a quick knit anyhow.  I plan to finish this today!