Brooklyn to Halifax Hoodie

Would you be shocked to know that Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams was one of my childhood heroes? Of course you wouldn’t be shocked. I mean–just look at this hoodie.

Hey June Halifax Hoodie

This project actually started it’s life back in May as the SBCC Brooklyn Hoodie. The Brooklyn has a relaxed, classic fit that just didn’t play nicely with this fairly limp, unstructured cotton French Terry. (Also, I’m not sure I get the deep love for French Terry as a fabric. People seem to praise it for being really soft, but this fabric doesn’t seem extraordinarily so–at least not more so than sweatshirt fleece. Plus it sheds everywhere. Maybe it’s just that I prefer body over softness in a fabric?) Of course, I didn’t realize that the fabric and pattern were a poor match until I’d cut everything out and sewed the body together.

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Earlier this month, I decided to see if I could salvage the fabric by recutting the pieces using a more fitted pattern. I decided to use View C of the Hey June Halifax Hoodie pattern. I was able to cut the Halifax fronts and back from the already-cut front and back pieces and then had enough extra fabric to cut the sleeve pieces for the Halifax.

Hey June Halifax Hoodie

Because this was a salvage operation, some of the details on my hoodie are different than they would appear if I had made the Halifax pattern as drafted. My hoodie is shorter through the body since it’s cut to the length of the Brooklyn. I also used the pocket, hood, sleeve cuff, and hem band pieces that I had already cut out using the Brooklyn pattern, adjusting them slightly as necessary to make them work.

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But where it counts in terms of fit–through the body and the sleeves–this is the Halifax Hoodie. Since I wanted something fairly fitted, I went with a smaller size than my measurements would recommend. My current measurements (for reference: Bust 41″ and Hip 45.25″) would put me around a 1x according to the Hey June size chart. Based on the finished measurements indicated on the pattern, I cut a straight XL. I’m fairly happy with the final fit, which is very similar to the fit of an Old Navy hoodie that I wear all the time.

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My only complaint about this pattern is the number of pattern pieces that call for being cut on the fold. I hate when relatively small pieces like sleeve cuffs are meant to be cut on the fold, especially since you need to cut 2. The sleeve is also cut on the fold, which is one of my pet peeves–not just because it would be infinitely more convenient to cut both sleeves at once but even more so because sleeve caps with symmetrical fronts and backs don’t tend to fit that well. You can see that there’s excess fabric at the front sleeve cap–something I’d probably try to get rid of if I made this pattern again. I also printed the pattern piece for the cowl neck since I was considering making up View D or E with another piece of fabric. The cowl neck actually has two “cut on fold” lines that run perpendicular to each other as though you are supposed to fold your fabric in quarters and cut the cowl that way. I mean, I didn’t and wouldn’t actually follow those instructions–I just traced the pattern piece, flipped it over, and traced the other side. But it’s still annoying that the pattern pieces are organized that way. I’d much rather print a few extra pages than have so many “cut on the fold” pieces.

Hey June Halifax Hoodie

Still, I’m happy with how this one turned out and even happier that I was able to save a project that nearly ended up in the trash. I feel like it’s a sign that my sewing skills and confidence have increased.

Pacific Leggings and McCall’s 7386 Tank

Behold, my third pair of black pants in a row. I made a pair of lounge pants, then a pair of jeans, and now: activewear. And it’s activewear meant for actually being active in–I promise that I have not worn these pants while laying on the couch or while doing my weekly grocery shopping.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings and McCalls 7386

These are the Sewaholic Pacific Leggings. I made view C, but added two inches to the bottom of the leg to make them more of a cropped length rather than capri length. I also added the yoke pocket from View B.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings

My current waist and hip measurements match the size 14 almost exactly, so I cut a straight 14 and made no pattern adjustments beyond lengthening the leg a bit. Overall, I’m really happy with the fit for a first go with this pattern. My only issue is that I’d like the waistband to sit a bit higher. I sewed the waistband with a smaller seam allowance to give myself a bit more height and while the rise is high enough to wear comfortably, next time I’ll add an inch to the rise of the front and back pieces.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings

The fabric is a black poly/Spandex activewear knit I bought from Fabric.com. It’s a nice medium weight that is very shiny on the right side and a bit more matte on the wrong side. I decided to use the matte side of the fabric as the right side since I’m not into shiny pants. I wanted to try to highlight the seaming on the pattern, but didn’t want to do something like top-stitching in a contrast color. So for the outseams and the waistband seam, I decided to serge the seam wrong sides together, press the serged seam to one side, and then top-stitch it down. The result is an exposed seam finish that looks a bit like a faux-flatlock stitch. I just used a straight-stitch to top-stitch the seams to one side, and it is surprisingly stretchy. I’ve pulled these on and off multiple times and moved around a lot in them and haven’t had any popped stitches.

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I wore these on a long hike this past weekend, and they were very comfortable. It’s been many years since I owned activewear other than cotton-spandex yoga pants, and these leggings are infinitely nicer than anything I’ve owned before. The waistband fit is perfect for me. I usually have a hard time keeping any kind of elastic waistband from sliding down my hips but this waistband fits firmly and stayed in place throughout our hike.

Sewaholic Pacific Leggings and McCalls 7386

I also made the tank top I’m wearing here. (Although please ignore my embarrassing farmer’s baseball spectator tan, acquired during an intensely sunny Reds game over Labor Day weekend.) I’ve been looking for a basic tank top pattern that does NOT have a racer back, which is surprisingly hard to find. I ended up buying McCall’s 7386, which is a “learn to sew” pattern with options for a basic knit tank, skirt, and tank dress.

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I cut a L for the upper body and blended out to an XL through the waist and hip. The tank top, as drafted, is pretty short, so I added 3″ to get a low-hip length. I had to take a small wedge at the side seam under the arm to get a better fit in the armhole, but otherwise the fit is good. The pattern has a shaped back seam, which gives a close, curvy fit through the back. It’s a nice detail to include on a very basic pattern like this.

McCalls 7386

The pattern instructions call for finishing the armholes and neckline with a simple turn-and-stitch hem. I wanted a more professional-looking finish so I tried the skinny knit binding method described in this post from Sew Fearless. I pretty much followed her tutorial, although I didn’t fold the binding under as I sewed. I’m just not that coordinated. Instead, I pinned the binding in place so I could just focus on making sure my topstitching was even. This is probably the nicest finish I’ve managed on a knit top to date, and the skinny binding is definitely a technique I’ll use again.

Skinny Knit Binding

The fabric I used is a cotton/rayon/Spandex jersey I got from Girl Charlee at the beginning of the year. Their jerseys can be a bit hit or miss and this is one of the nicer ones I’ve bought–super soft, lightweight but not sheer, drapey but not clingy.

Overall, I’m really happy with both of these pieces. I’ve been hiking and walking enough recently that I should probably be making more things like this!

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Black Ginger Jeans

Hey, look — I made another pair of black pants. So novel! This time, I made what I think of as real pants with a real waist band that I can feel comfortable wearing outside of my house. (I do not give a shit about what other people wear in public, but I do not feel fully dressed without a non-elastic waistband.) This is my first pair of Ginger Jeans, which I had originally planned to make as part of the Outfit Along. I missed the deadline and the sweater I planned to make with these still isn’t done, but who really cares?

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans

To parrot what so many other sewing bloggers have said before: I was a little anxious about taking on this project, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The sewing was very manageable, and top-stitching is incredibly satisfying. I can see many more pairs of handmade jeans in my future. And yes, it kind of blows my mind that I was able to make a pair of jeans.

I had actually started to get a little bored with sewing because I was playing it safe and only choosing boring projects. It was nice to get that slightly obsessive “must get back to the machine!” feeling with this project, and it ended up being a bit of a breakthrough project. I’ve had lots of more complicated patterns that I’d like to try, but didn’t feel competent enough to take on. Sewing these jeans got me over that mental obstacle.

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I made the skinny leg version of the pattern, altering the high-waisted version to be a mid-rise per the instructions in this tutorial. I started with a size 18 (for reference, my current hip measurement is 46″ and my waist is 34″). I also added 1″ to the center back rise through a full seat adjustment (should have added a little less, I think) and removed 1″ of length from the legs above the knee. After my basted fitting, I ended up sewing the outseam with a 7/8″ seam allowance and slimmed the legs a bit more. I also moved the back pockets in by 1/2″ on either side, although I think I would have been better off moving them in a bit more.

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I used a black stretch denim I got from Fabric.com. It’s a cotton/poly blend with a little more poly content than I would like. The wrong side of the fabric definitely has a synthetic feel to it, but the right side has a really soft, brushed finish. The fabric has a lot of stretch, but it seems to have really nice recovery so I’m hoping these don’t bag out a lot with wear. I used quilting cotton for the pocket lining and added the pocket stay, which is a really nice feature.

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I used the denim for the waistband facing and didn’t use any interfacing at the waist. The waistband application is probably the thing I’m least satisfied with on this pair–I used my edge-stitching foot to try to ensure even top-stitching, but it just kind of dragged the fabric down and stretch it out a lot so I ended up with a rippling waistband. I was able to mostly steam it back into shape, but next time I’ll use my walking foot.

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I think the next time I make this pattern, I’ll also experiment with using the pocket lining fabric as the waistband facing since I could use a slightly more stable waistband. I’ve also seen people use elastic as a kind of interfacing at the back of the waistband to keep it from stretching out over time, which is something else I might try at some point.

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For my first pair of jeans and my first time using this pattern, I’m pretty happy with the fit I got–I’ve never had a pair of jeans that fit this well at the waist. And I feel like it will be fairly easy to keep tweaking this pattern to get an even better fit. I need to shorten the front rise next time–I think that’s why I’m getting wrinkles at the front. It’s a bit hard to see at first because of the stiffness of the interfaced fly front, but I can actually pinch out about 1″ of excess fabric from the front rise. I wouldn’t want to alter the shape of the skinny leg, but if I were making the straight leg version, I would probably also do a wide calf adjustment.

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I’m pretty sure that I also need a knock-knee adjustment. In a post on common jeans-fitting adjustments, Heather from Closet Case Files referred to the knock-knee adjustment as the cutest sounding fit adjustment. That is a sweet thought, but it does not feel very cute to me. These jeans and their knee wrinkles are bringing some latent knee insecurities to the surface. It’s weird–I make lots of different fit adjustments for many unglamorous reasons, but the idea of having knock knees kind of messes with my head.

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This picture shows the knee wrinkles in their truest form. I have now analyzed many pictures of myself in pants and found that I consistently have this cluster of wrinkles pointing at my inner knee. For the sake of comparison, I have also analyzed pictures of many other sewing bloggers in pants and found that their knees look quite different than mine. Even allowing that you may likely end up with some wrinkling at the knee in skinny jeans to allow for movement, most of the skinny jean knee wrinkles I’ve seen run horizontally and don’t come to a point like mine. I think the knock-knee thing is evident in my stance too. If I “zip my thighs together” like so many yoga instructors are fond of saying, my knees come together and I naturally end up with about 3″ of space between my feet. And if I try to force the inner soles of my feet to touch, it is physically painful because my kneecaps are essentially fighting one another for the same space. And yes, I see that this all makes very public the crazy amount of time and energy I’ve given to contemplating my knock knees.

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans

Anyway. I respect my knees and acknowledge that I cannot change them, so I will just start making a knock knee adjustment part of my regular pants-fitting repertoire. In the meantime, I’m happy enough with how these pants turned out to keep wearing them, and I’m already excited about making the next pair.

Vogue 8909

I have not been particularly inspired to sew this summer. I think I pretty much stopped sewing around mid-May and haven’t done much of anything in my sewing room until this past week. I haven’t done much knitting either. I had a brief burst of knitting activity in June where I managed to finish the body of a sweater. Since then, I’ve knit a single sock. I don’t particularly like summer weather or warm weather clothes, so it’s not a very inspiring season for me. Plus, I’ve kept fairly busy this summer–traveling, entertaining houseguests, finding new places to hike, reading a lot, teaching a summer class.

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At the very end of July, I finally got around to cutting out the Ginger Jeans I said I was going to make for the Outfit Along. (Obviously, I didn’t meet the deadline for the actual OAL, but I’ve made progress on both garments and will finish them eventually.) But when everything was cut out and ready to do, I realized that what I really wanted to sew at the moment was something simpler–I wanted a gentler reintroduction to the whole process. So I pulled out Vogue 8909 and sewed myself up an easy pair of lounge pants.

Vogue 8909

I made View A, which uses ribbed cuffs to finish the pant legs. The fabric is a heavyweight cotton jersey I bought awhile ago from Girl Charlee. I think it was one of the designer exclusive that they have from time to time. It has minimal stretch and feels a lot like the jersey used for something like a Hanes Beefy T. The ribbing is the cotton ribbing they sell at JoAnn’s, which is a little on the heavier side so it works well with a heavier fabric like this jersey.

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I started with the XL (my current hip measurement is 46″). I did a quick tissue fitting to check the length of the rise and ended up shortening the front rise by 1.5″ before cutting out the pattern. I did a basted fitting after and decided I could use a bit more length in the back, so I let out the yoke seams at the center back–I started sewing on the side of the yoke that meets in the center back using a 1/4″ SA and then gradually tapered back to the recommended 5/8″ SA by the time I reached the side seam.

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I was pretty pleased with the fit on these out of the envelope. I experimented with a couple of different crotch curve adjustments during my basted fitting, but none of them got me a better result than sewing that pattern as is. The only problem I had was that once I had completely finished the pants, I realized that the bottom of the legs was too wide and baggy. The cuffs were about 3″ too big and the legs didn’t really look tapered at all–the result was a pair of pants that looked less like joggers and more like a pair of weird sweats that had shrunk to high-water length in the wash.

I ended up unpicking the cuffs (which I sewed on using a lightening stitch and then serged to finish, all in black thread–it took FOREVER to get them off) and recutting them to the measurements for the L. I then tapered the leg to also be the same measurement as the L at the leg opening. I’m much happier with the resulting fit through the legs. I looked at a lot of reviews of this pattern, but no one mentioned problems with the width of the cuffs/legs. I think it is likely one of those plus-size grading issues where all parts of a pattern get graded up equally despite the fact that plus size bodies aren’t proportioned that way. In other words, having wide hips does not mean you have the ankles of a severe edema patient, no matter what the grading formulas think. So if you are thinking about making this pattern in an XL or XXL, be mindful of the width of the lower leg.

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This photo shows some of the design details on this pattern–it has a back yoke and forward seams with inseam pockets. The front is finished with faux-fly topstitching (which I did not get a good picture of). The waist band is a 3-channel fold-down waistband that has elastic in the top and bottom channels and a drawstring through the middle. The yoke gives a better fit than your standard elastic waistband pants, and all the other details kept this from being a completely boring sew and make the finished pants look a bit more polished.

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I’m really happy with how these turned out–they fit well, they are easily the most comfortable pair of pants that I own, and while I am not one to go out and about in sweats, I appreciate the fact that I now have at least one pair of lounge pants that are decent enough to be worn out of the house on a quick errand.

Now that I’m back in the sewing swing of things, my Ginger jeans are officially underway. I just finished my basted fitting so it’s on to the actual sewing!

Outfit Along 2016: Mireille and Ginger

Despite my terrible track record for actually finishing knit- or sew-alongs, I decided to participate in this year’s Outfit Along, which is co-hosted by Andi at Untangling Knots and Lauren at Lladybird. The idea behind the Outfit Along is that you make two garments–one knit and one sewn–that can be worn together as an outfit.  It’s a fun, and kind of rare, place where the online knitting and sewing worlds come together.

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I’ve followed the OAL for the past two summers and have really enjoyed seeing the combos that people come up with, but I hadn’t ever really planned to participate myself. Like I said, I’m terrible at seeing things like this through so I’ve kind of given up on them. Also, the OALtends to lean towards a particular aesthetic that, while lovely on other people, is not really my thing.But when this year’s OAL was announced, I immediately had an idea pop into my head, and I just decided to go for it.

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My plan is knit the Mireille pullover from The Shetland Trader and sew a pair of Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans. For the sweater, I’m using Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal. For the jeans, I have some black stretch denim that I think will work really nicely for a pair of skinny jeans.

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In my last blog post, I talked about how a lifelong emphasis on practicality and lack of interest in style has led to me having an aggressively boring wardrobe. As soon as I envisioned both of these patterns together, my inner censor started hounding me: It’s not seasonal. Why would I make an oversized pullover when all advice suggests I will look best in something fitted? I’ll always be too hot in an alpaca-blend pullover. I’m not competent enough to sew jeans. I’ve only owned one pair of skinny jeans before–shouldn’t I pick a “safer” style if I’m going to go to the trouble of making jeans? This is just going to be a waste of good fabric. That censor voice (which is discernibly different from the quieter moments of intuition that tell me when something in a project isn’t working out quite right) is fucked up, so I’m ignoring it and forging ahead with the original plan. Basically, I’m using the OAL as a way to push myself to pay closer attention to my impulses and my intuition, like I talked about in my previous post.

Anyway. I haven’t done anything on the jeans, beyond buying the pattern. I also bought the Sewing Your Own Jeans e-book that Closet Case Files put out–I’ve read through most of it at this point, and it seems really helpful. The OAL goes through the end of July, so I’m hoping to gather my jeans-making supplies, get the pattern assembled, and maybe get a muslin started by the end of June, which will give me plenty of time to actually finish my jeans in July.

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Mireille, on the other hand, is off to a very strong start. The OAL started on June 1st, and I cast on for my sweater at about 12:05 a.m. In about a week’s worth of knitting time, I’ve made it entirely through the yoke and am now into the body of the sweater. The construction of this sweater is interesting and entirely new to me. Mireille has a drop shoulder. But unlike the the uber-boxy drop shoulder of the 1980s, this sweater is knit from the top-down, working from the shoulder seam and using short rows to create a carefully shaped, sloped shoulder that looks more modern. It’s meant to be loose-fitting, but the body still has some shaping and the sleeves are slim fitting, so I think it’s going to look really good once it’s done.

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I’m making the 48.5″ size, which puts me right around the lower end of the recommended 5-10″ of ease. I’ve swapped out the cables written in the pattern for a more traditional rope cable and I’m altering the waist shaping a bit to give me a bit more room at the hips, but otherwise the knitting should be pretty straightforward. I’m just keeping keeping my fingers crossed that the Ultra Alpaca doesn’t grow more than expected during blocking. I’m watching my row gauge carefully, but alpaca is always a bit of a gamble. I’m going to try to finish this sweater sooner rather than later so I have time to go back and shorten the sleeves or the body if necessary before the end of July.

My Clothes Are So F****** Boring: Me Made May 2016 Recap

At the beginning of Me-Made May, I pledged to wear one piece of handmade clothing each day and to alter five pieces of clothing to make them more wearable. I didn’t take pictures everyday, but I did keep track of what I wore in one of my journals. I easily managed wearing at least one handmade garment everyday. However, I only got around to altering one garment—I took my Ottobre “Get Moving” hoodie in at the sides and shaved some of the depth off of the pocket bags since they tended to poke out of the bottom when I put anything in them. We took a week-long trip to San Francisco in the middle of the month (where I wore my altered hoodie almost everyday), and when we got back I was tired and busy and needed time to recover the energy to sew, so ….no more alterations. I at least made a list of alterations I want to make and actually intend to take them on, so there’s that.

Simplicity 1062

S1062, which I still really like

The biggest thing I learned during Me-Made May is that I find my clothes very boring. There are, of course, some exceptions (I got a lot of joy out of wearing my Simplicity 1062 shirt and my newest Onyx shirt this month). It would have also been different if I had done this during colder weather, since I have a lot of hand knits that definitely do not feel boring. But for the most part, my closet—store bought and hand-made alike—is lean, utilitarian, and uninspiring.

So I’ve spent a lot of time this month thinking about my history and experience with clothing. I grew up in kind of a big family, living in very small Midwestern farming towns. My father is also a pastor (as was his father). I don’t ever describe myself as coming from a religious family or as having been “raised in the church” since people in the U.S. tend to have very specific associations with these ideas that don’t at all reflect my experience growing up in a very liberal, progressive church environment. But, looking back on my childhood and my family, I feel like there was always a distinctly Protestant moralism to the way my family looked at clothing.

Paprika Onyx Shirt

Love this Onyx Shirt, although I need to more permanently secure the sleeve cuffs

The basic goals for clothing in my family were that we had enough (and not much more), that our clothes were practical, and that they were economical. My family did not shop for clothing for fun—we got things as needed (and my dad is a no bullshit kind of guy so the need had to be real and demonstrable). My dad was also really suspicious of trends and a lot of the more ornamental aspects of fashion, which he saw as frivolous, irrational, and as a distraction from inner, personal growth. I remember having several conversations with my dad in which he basically argued for the value of intentionally eschewing trends and changes in fashion as a way of demonstrating humility, challenging the cultural value placed on material things, and developing a sense of self that does not depend on external validation. I think my dad has actually relaxed his view a bit as he’s gotten older, but I’ve really internalized a lot of his ideals and I can see now how much my attitudes toward clothing are tied to a very specific set of ethical principles that have shaped who I am.

 

Madigan Pullover

I really like my Madigan pullover (although it was too warm to wear it this month), but it’s actually too big now

But before I was thinking enough about my clothes to see how they are tied to a set of ethical principles, I just thought about myself as a person who didn’t care about clothes. This attitude was bolstered by my deep, deep hatred of shopping for clothes. Shopping for clothes feels like such a massive waste of time and just an ongoing exercise in disappointment. For basically all of my adult life, I’ve waited until I was at the point where I didn’t have enough clothes to get through a laundry cycle and then I would do one big shopping trip where I would fill in the holes with new clothing that was just minimally acceptable to my tastes. I go through cycles of being deeply dissatisfied with my clothes and then just deciding not to care about what I wear until the angst surfaces again. In Overdressed, Elizabeth Cline argues at one point that if we all think about it enough, we are actually very particular about the style and fit of our clothes, although the conditions of fast fashion tend to force us to settle for things that are just okay. I’ve done a lot of settling and had basically given up on finding things to suit my particular desires because they just didn’t exist.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

Wore this a lot after I altered it to fit better. This falls in the category of boring but very useful

Even when I started sewing, I didn’t really focus on sewing things that would suit my particular tastes. I started sewing so that I could quit shopping for clothes, so my concern was being able to produce enough and on producing things that were practical enough to get a lot of wear out of. So I’ve made a lot of basic things like t-shirts, underwear, leggings, pajama pants, etc.—basically things that are fairly easy to make and easy to wear. I’m happy with what I’ve learned about sewing in the process and happy enough with the things I’ve made to keep wearing them, but a lot of what I’ve made still leaves me feeling a little cold. I think my closet still says, “I don’t care about clothes,” which seems like the wrong message for someone who cares enough to take a lot of time and effort to actually make my own clothes.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m gearing up for some kind of radical shift in style. I lean towards minimal, casual, and monochrome so the garments I really love and find joy in (all three or four of them) are things other people would find very boring. I don’t see that changing. I guess I’d just like to have more clothes that I actually enjoy wearing and that I care enough about to really want to preserve and take care of (unlike a lot of my handmade t-shirts, which frankly feel about as disposable as the ones I’ve bought from Old Navy).

SBCC Tonic Tee

I wore my Tonic Tees a lot this month. They fit better now than they did when I finished them, but I don’t actually like them anymore than my t-shirts from Old Navy.

 

Me-Made May was helpful in terms of helping me see that I have enough clothes, so I can shift the way I make my sewing and knitting plans. I don’t have a specific project list in mind. Instead, I guess I’m just trying to focus on slowing down and paying more attention to my internal sense of what I’d like to make, what I’d like to wear, and on the details that will make things all the more enjoyable. I’d like to move away from super easy projects, take some more risks, and try to learn some more things. I want to become more confident in altering patterns (not just in terms of fit but also in terms of changing details) and more proactive in terms of caring for and altering my clothes. Basically, I don’t want to keep replicating the generic and dissatisfying results of fast fashion in my own sewing. If my closet is even 25% less mind numbing next May, I’ll be very happy.

Plaza Tiles Stowe Bag

I’ve been interested in the Grainline Stowe Bag pattern since it was released–it’s got a nice minimalist aesthetic paired with great details like the interior pockets and the bound edges. I finally decided to give the pattern a try and make a knitting project bag as a birthday gift for my friend Abby.

Grainline Stowe Bag

The fabric is the Cotton + Steel Clover Canvas in the Plaza Tiles print. It’s a 6 oz canvas, which is a perfect weight for this project. I used some packaged off-white bias binding to finish the edges. I know some people like to make their own bias binding, but I’ve tried it before and found it enough of a pain in the ass that it’s become one of those “life is too short” activities for me.

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This is the small size bag, which is actually pretty roomy. In the first picture where the bag is filled, it’s holding my tailor’s ham and four skeins of yarn. The pockets can also hold a lot of stuff, which is a bonus for people like me who like to keep all kinds of crap like calculators and pens and post-its and extra needles with my projects.

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The bag is unlined, which I don’t mind, except that it leaves you with the question of how to finish your seams. If this bag were for me, I might have just serged the seams and called it good enough. But since it was a gift, I wanted a clean finish on all of the seams. I read a bunch of reviews looking for tips on how other people managed their seams and came across one review from Fancy Tiger Crafts where someone used flat-felled seams to finish the sides and a french seam for the bottom. I decided to try the same. The flat-felled seams on the sides look really nice and the french seam at the bottom is, of course, very bulky. I think there’s probably a better way to clean finish the bottom, and I’ll experiment with something different on my next version. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pattern’s recommendation for forming the gusset on the bag since it seemed to exacerbate the bulk at the bottom, so I just boxed the corners and finished those edges with some bias binding.

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The bag is easy to put together, although I was nervous about all of the bias binding. I’ve applied double-fold bias binding before, but not well. However, this time, I’m really pleased with the way the binding turned out. I think it’s partly a result of my increased sewing skill and partly a result of going slowly, but the pattern instructions were also helpful in getting a nice finish. The pattern suggests steaming the binding into the shape of the curve for the side of the handles before applying it, which really did make it easier to apply. To do this, I just laid the sides of the handles flat on my ironing board, sandwiched the binding around the fabric and pressed it flat before taking it to my sewing machine.

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I used some of the leftover fabric to make Abby a bonus zippered notions pouch, using this tutorial from Flossie Teacakes. All of the pockets on the Stowe bag are great, but sometimes you have those little things like stitch markers and tapestry needles that you don’t want rolling around loose in your bag.

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The zippered pouch isn’t quite as fancy as the Stowe bag but it does feature some cute kitten faces on the inside. I bought this Cotton + Steel quilting cotton print from their Cat Lady collection to make myself a Stowe bag, and I used a bit of it to line the pouch. It’s hard to tell in this picture, but the cats are all piled up with little balls of yarn, so the print is thematically on point.

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This was a really fun project and I’m so pleased with the way that it turned out. It’s a bit more work than the super minimalist, quick and dirty project bags I’ve made for myself before, but the extra work is definitely worth it–especially as a gift. I’ve already got fabric cut out to make one for myself, and I’m thinking this might be useful for my very crafty, artsy sisters who are always toting around sketch books and pencils and markers. I know when this pattern was released, there were people who balked at it’s apparent simplicity and it’s price. If the pattern doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t interest you. But I think it’s a thoughtfully put-together pattern with great details that results in a beautiful and very useful product.

Grainline Stowe Bag

Another T-Shirt Post: The Concord

I’ve tried 4 or 5 different patterns for a basic t-shirt, but I haven’t found one that I really like yet. Either I can’t get the fit that I like with a reasonable amount of adjustments or the fit is close but the pattern doesn’t really offer the kinds of sleeve and neckline options that I’d like. I’ve also had issues with patterns being drafted for a kind of fabric/stretch percentage that I’m just not likely to use. I’ve frequently considered buying the Renfrew pattern, but I know I’d have to make adjustments to get it to fit my bust and I know it’s meant to have more ease than I would like. I also considered buying the Lark pattern when it was released, but I knew it would present similar bust (and probably shoulder) fit issues. I also didn’t totally love the versions I was seeing pop up on blogs. So I ordered the Concord pattern as soon as I got the email about it’s release—the multi-cup sizing system plus all of the style options seemed promising and very worth the price for a new pattern.

Cashmerette Concord T-shirt

I’ve made three versions so far. I had some slightly spendy bamboo jersey I bought myself for my birthday, and I was a little hesitant to just cut into it. So I used some olive/drab rayon jersey that I wasn’t really in love with to test the fit of the pattern. For my olive tee, I made View C, which is the long length with the curved, split hem. I used the scoop neckline and the mid-length sleeves with sleeve tabs. This fabric sucks—it is very light-weight (I have to wear a layer underneath this or you’d be able to see my bra), super shifty, and very clingy. That’s all to say that this probably wasn’t the best fabric to use for details like the sleeve tabs and the hem facings.

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It took me a minute to figure out what size to start with. The pattern instructions recommend choosing a size by starting with your full bust measurement and then picking the size that is the closest match to your waist measurement. My full bust measurement is 44” and my waist is 36”, which means that my recommended size would be the size 16 with the C/D cup pieces. My pattern cup size (the difference between my high and full bust measurements) is bigger than a D, and I was seeing a few different reviews saying they were planning to go up a cup size on future versions, so I cut the size 16 E/F cup pieces and graded out to an 18 for the hip. I removed an inch from the length of the body at the lengthen/shorten line and did a full bicep adjustment to add .75” to the width of the sleeve.

Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt

I’m very happy with the fit on the upper body. (You can see what look to be pull lines at the bust on my olive tee, but the pull lines are actually from the Old Navy tank top I’m wearing underneath.) For my olive test version, I wish I had added more width through the hip to account for the fact that the long length would be skimming over my jeans. I don’t usually wear shirts this long, but I am surprised at how much I like the length on me. I also really like the shape of the curved, split hem. I was worried about the width of the neckline, so I sewed the neckband on the olive version with a ¼” seam allowance. I went back to the recommended 3/8” seam allowance for my two later versions.

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For my two black bamboo versions, I kept the sizing and adjustments from the olive tee, but went with the mid length and did one with short sleeves and one with mid-length sleeves and cuffs. I had originally planned to try the V-neck on the short-sleeved tee, but I really love the shape of the scoop neck—not too wide, not too deep, not aggressively U-shaped. (I also suspect that I will want to narrow the V-neck, so I figured I would wait and experiment with that later.) I sewed the side seams for both black tees with a ¼” seam allowance to give myself slightly more room through the waist and hips in particular. They are still very fitted through the hips—I’ll have to spend more time wearing these to decide whether the current width is comfortable or if I’ll want to add more ease in future versions.

Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt

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At this point, I know better than to proclaim that this is my one, true, best t-shirt pattern. I’ve done that with several patterns before and then my feelings change over time as I see how the garment wears and/or become more particular about fit. (Plus, I clearly love t-shirts and so the likelihood that I will try other t-shirt patterns in the future is very high.) But, I can say that this is probably the happiest I’ve been with a basic t-shirt pattern out of the envelope. I can also say that I really love this bamboo jersey—it’s heavier and more substantial than the rayon jerseys I’ve used but not as stiff and firm as cotton-spandex blends tend to be. Plus, it is super soft. I hope it wears well because these black t-shirts are going to get a workout.

Cashmerette Concord T-shirt

Socks, Scarves, and Kitties

A busy end of the semester meant lots of stress knitting and now a backlog of yarn-related projects.

Estuary Scarf

First up is Estuary, which I knit up in Knit Picks Gloss Fingering in Blackberry. Estuary is a free lace scarf pattern from the Fall 2012 issue of Knitty. The pattern makes use of two different lace patterns that run alongside one another, which makes for interesting knitting–neither pattern is easy to memorize, especially since you are often increasing or decreasing the size of the scarf through the pattern. The pattern has something like 8 different lace charts, and I definitely had to pay close attention to the charts almost the whole time I was knitting. But I’ve been looking for more challenging patterns, so I enjoyed working on this project.

Estuary Scarf

There is some errata for this pattern. Most of the corrections have been made on the version of the pattern that appears on Knitty, but there was still a point or two where I was confused. The designer actually provides a clearer explanation of the errata in the comments on the Ravelry pattern page.

Estuary Scarf

I ended up doing an extra repeat of Chart E to make the scarf a bit longer and deeper. My finished scarf is about 82″ long and about 16.5″ wide. I didn’t block this very aggressively (primarily because I was feeling too lazy to pin out the lace). If I had pinned it out, I’m sure it would have ended up a few inches deeper. I’m really pleased with the shape and the size of the scarf, and very happy to have this in my closet.

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After I knit up Estuary, I went ahead and finished up a pair of socks that I started at the beginning of this year. This is Glenna C’s A Nice Ribbed Sock Pattern, which is another free pattern for a top-down 3×1 ribbed sock. The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Raven.

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I love these socks. Purple is clearly my color right now. Not only are these socks and my Estuary scarf purple, but my Onyx Shirt and Camas Blouse are both in a sort of reddish-purple.

Dumpling Kitty

My last project is probably one of the cutest things I’ve made. This is the Dumpling Kitty pattern, which is a free crochet pattern that was posted on Ravelry recently. It’s so cute and requires such a small amount of yarn that I had to make it when I saw the pattern. The gray yarn is leftover from my Madigan pullover and the white is leftover from the stockings I made my nephews for Christmas.

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I’ve been able to manage the basics of crochet for about the same amount of time that I’ve been knitting, but I crochet so rarely that I’m definitely still a crochet beginner. But I found this pattern very easy to follow, and I’m really happy with the finished project. I have no idea what I’m actually going to do with it–maybe use it as a pin cushion? Or maybe it will just continue to live on the bookshelf.

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I enjoyed my Dumpling Kitty crochet experience so much that I actually pulled some yarn out of the stash and started crocheting a blanket just for fun. I like the experience and process of crocheting, but I never really know what to make. So I figured I would just match some yarn to a pattern and then find someone to give it to when it’s done. This is Vickie Howell’s Chevy Baby Blanket, which is yet another free pattern. (I swear I usually pay for patterns.) The yarn is Lion Brand Heartland in Glacier Bay. This pattern is very easy for a crochet novice like me, and I feel like working on a larger project like this is really helping me work on getting a more even tension. I’ve been on the lookout for other crochet projects to take on when this is done, so who knows where this new interest in crochet might lead.

Eleonore Jeans, or, What the Hell Was I Thinking?

I hate these pants. I hate them so much that I wasn’t even going to blog this project, but in the interest of showing the good, the bad, and the ugly, I decided to take some pictures of them. (Although I didn’t put that much energy into getting pictures. These are wrinkled from being balled up in the closet because I could not be bothered to iron them.)

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Anyway. These are the Jalie Eleonore jeans, which are pull-on jeans with a fake fly front and elastic waist. This particular pattern has been well-received and well-reviewed by a lot of bloggers and Pattern Review members. The Style Arc Misty jeans, which is a very similar pattern, has been likewise celebrated, and I’ve seen a few people modify the Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans pattern to make them pull-on jeans. That’s all to say that many people enjoy wearing and look very good in pull-on jeans. As it turns out, I do not.

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My rational mind knew that I would not like wearing pull-on jeans. I had originally planned to make the Style Arc Misty pattern, but my serious doubts about whether I would like them meant that I kept putting the pattern off until, eventually, the size range that I had didn’t fit me anymore. At that point, I should have just washed my hands of the idea. But I kept seeing more positive reviews of pull-on jean patterns and they seemed like a really nice way to ease myself into making jeans. So I went ahead and ordered the Jalie Eleonore pattern, since I liked its wider size range and the fact that the elastic for the waistband is enclosed.

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The pattern itself is okay—they are easy to construct and the instructions are very clear. The front pockets are fake, which I found more annoying than I anticipated, but this would be relatively easy to alter if I wanted to make another pair in the future. I do feel like there was something a bit off about the sizing. My fabric, which is a gray stretch denim from Girl Charlee, has the 20% stretch specified by the pattern. My current hip measurement is ~1.5″ smaller than the measurement listed for the size I chose, and these pants still feel and look uncomfortably tight. Based on other reviews I’ve read, I wonder if this is more of an issue in the larger sizes? (I made the size DD.)

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I ended up hemming these a smidge too short, and I think I need a full calf adjustment. Again, if I liked these pants at all, these would be relatively easy things to fix or modify. But I don’t. Instead, I feel kind of like I’m wearing toddler jeans. (In fact, I’m happy that this pattern goes all the way down to a girl’s size 2 because I would make this pattern for a child in a heartbeat. They address so many of the objections little kids tend to have to wearing jeans.)

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The thing is that I really love wearing jeans. I wear jeans or pants that basically fit and look a lot like jeans every day. I don’t find them uncomfortable. I like a traditional waistband with belt loops. I love a good fly front. I always want to have 5 fully functional pockets.  So these pants just aren’t doing it for me. Even if they are physically comfortable, I feel psychologically uncomfortable wearing them—like I’m wearing fake pants. I just can’t do it.

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The upside to this project is that I got a chance to practice the part of jeans-making that I find most intimidating: top-stitching. I found out that my machine has no objection to top-stitching thread, and I practiced even top-stitching using several different machine feet. I discovered that top-stitching jeans is really satisfying and not that hard to do evenly so long as you are careful. So now that I’m confident enough to take on all the top-stitching that goes into jeans, I feel ready to just devote my time to fitting an actual jeans pattern. I’m planning to start working on the Ginger Jeans pattern sometime this summer. Until then, I lucked out and found two surprisingly nice pairs of jeans at Target, which means that this pair of pants can go straight to Goodwill. Buh bye.