Grainline Lark and Japanese turtleneck
I have a little confession to make: I’ve been a bit love/hate with sewing lately. I know it can all look all sorts of easy when you cruise the sewing blogs and see everyone’s lovely end products, but lately my behind-the-scenes has involved tears, frustration and much, much ripping. And swearing.
I suspect this dissatisfaction of late comes from a mix of unrealistic expectations and not enough time – a recipe for grief in any situation. Like so many of us, I’m a little bit slammed right now. Work is big and wants more of my time. The kids are lovely little full-time freeloaders demanding constant food, lifts, love, listening and occasional hair-brushing. The mister is studying and working weird hours. The dog has an ear infection. The chicken’s gone missing again (she always turns up). The house is a shambles and I haven’t found a matching sock in months. I purposely turn up late to my pilates class each week because I can’t face a whole hour of agonising micro-movements. I haven’t seen friends for weeks. You know – LIFE.
Usually at times like this, sewing and knitting is a welcome escape. I’ve always been okay at blocking out the madness and taking some time to sink into that lovely zone of colour and texture and touch and intense focus that comes when you’re making stuff with your hands. But lately? I can’t get there.
So I decided it was time to dial down the complexity and make a few basics. Klarissa and I both discovered during our recent Me Made May experiment that we’re sadly lacking in winter layers, and we both need to top up on basic merino tops, so the timing was right. Klarissa was after a long sleeved, fitted top with a scoop neck, and I’ve been obsessed lately by skivvies/turtlenecks – like this one (though sadly I’ll leave the bra-less skivvy wearing to the lovely 20-somethings like the woman pictured – it seems to be a thing at the moment, more power to them).
After sorting through pattern options, Klarissa decided on the Grainline Lark – using the scoopiest neck option (so many t-shirty choices in one pattern – it really is a wise investment). I tossed around a few ideas – I thought about the Papercut Patterns Rise and Fall Turtleneck, or the Named Paola Turtleneck Tee, but settled on the turtleneck in my Japanese pattern book for knit basics (it doesn’t seem to have a translated English name). So patterns sorted, we headed down to The Fabric Store, home of rolls and rolls of lovely soft merino knits in about a trillion colours, and quickly snapped up some in oxblood and a slightly acidic yellow. Yum. I also had some denim blue from Rathdowne Remnants in my stash, so thought I’d cut two at once.
So Klarissa reckons the Lark came together like a dream. Quick, easy, great instructions and a neckband pattern piece that was ridiculously exact for the stretch of this particular knit (she’ll probably delete this – but how damn perfect is that neckline?). She will add a couple of inches to the sleeves next time, but didn’t need any extra length for the body. It’s a bit roomy under the arms (made for a fuller chest perhaps?), so she’d consider sizing down in future.
My turtlenecks also came together pretty easily – I messed around with the sizing a little because I wanted them quite fitted, so I cut a size M but only added seam allowances at the neck, shoulders and armholes. I also halved the width of the neck pieces as I didn’t want them to fold over (too many bad primary school memories), and lengthened the body by a good two inches as the pattern pieces seemed quite short.
I made these two turtlenecks last Friday night, and it was the happiest sewing experience I’ve had in a long time. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say it was the happiest Friday night I’ve had in a while! The kids were in bed, my overlocker was fresh home from being serviced, there were good tunes on the stereo and I just got into the zone. My tops are far from perfect – there’s a little puckering on the back necklines, and the hems could be so much neater (I know, I know – I need a twin needle), but I’ve been wearing them all week and they’re exactly what my wardrobe – and mood – needed. Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics.