Socks: Oracle and BFF

I have made so many pairs of socks at this point in my life that it’s hard to figure out what to say about them in a blog post.

I suppose the most significant thing about these socks is that I bought both of these skeins of yarn while visiting Montreal for a conference. It was, overall, a really lovely trip–I had a good conference experience, got to spend a lot of time knitting and talking with a close friend, and had fun getting out into the city a bit (largely in search of bagels, which I still think of frequently).

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The yarn is from La Maison Tricotee, which is a lovely yarn shop, and both skeins were totally new to me. The plain, stockinette socks are made with Hedgehog Fibers Sock in the Oracle colorway, which is fantastic. I love the flashes of neon color. This yarn seemed a bit on the thinner side to me so I knit these socks on a US size 0 (I typically us a US size 1 for socks).

Basic Socks in Hedgehog Fibers Oracle

I intended to make these socks for myself, but I swear that sock yarn has started actively choosing Aidan. This is the second time that I’ve started a pair of socks for myself, had Aidan ask optimistically if they were for him, felt guilty when I said no, and then had the finished socks turn out to be too big for me to wear (the first was this pair). Again, I have been knitting socks long enough and often enough that there’s really no excuse for these kinds of gauge/measurement screw ups, but what are you going to do? Clearly these were destined for Aidan’s sock drawer.

BFF Socks in Riverside MCN Salt & Pepper

The cabled socks are definitely for me. The yarn is Riverside Studio MCN Sock in Salt and Pepper and the pattern is Cookie A’s BFF Socks, which I’ve made once before. I feel like this is really a perfect combination of yarn and pattern. I love the simple, cozy cables of the BFF socks, and they pair really nicely with this super soft and squishy neutral, tweedy yarn. These socks just seem very classic to me–so much so that I almost feel like I should gift them to someone who is a bit classier than I am!

Mireille

This sweater was almost a year in the making—I started it on June 1st last year, and finally bound off the neckline on May 23rd. This was a project that I worked on in fits and starts, knitting steadily on it for a good bit and then laying it aside for long enough for me to forget where I was or what my plans were. I made the knitting unnecessarily confusing for myself by not taking any notes as I was progressing through the pattern. I at least had the sense to get this finished up before having a baby. If I had tried to pick this up in the fall or winter while balancing an infant, I knew the sweater would be a lost cause.

Mireille Pullover

This is the Mireille pullover from The Shetland Trader (Gudrun Johnston). This is the third Gudrun Johnston pattern I’ve made—I’ve previously made Audrey in Unst and Little Wave—and I really enjoy her work. Her sweater patterns have such great attention to detail and thoughtful construction methods that I really feel like I learn something new from each piece. With its loose fit and dropped shoulders, the design lines of this sweater are unusual for me. But I’ve had some success with a few boxier and oversized sewing patterns. Plus, I started knitting this at a point in time when my measurements were in flux and trying to knit something more fitted would have been kind of pointless.

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I ended up knitting the 48.5” bust size—my bust measurement was ~43” when I started and has more recently been ~41”, so I’m looking at wearing this piece with 5-7 inches of ease at the bust. The pattern calls for holding two different yarns together, which I didn’t want to mess around with. Instead, I substituted Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal, which worked well in terms of matching the pattern gauge and getting enough drape for the style.

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I pretty much followed the pattern instructions exactly. I swapped the cable called for in the pattern with a simple rope cable (when I was swatching, I just couldn’t get the charted cable to look neat enough for my liking) and changed the rate of decrease for the sleeves to get the right length, but I didn’t make any modifications otherwise. That makes it seem like knitting this piece was pretty straightforward, but it wasn’t. I actually attempted several different pattern modifications like adding width at the hip, adjusting the length of the body to account for the growth that my swatch showed, and widening the sleeves a bit based on my measurements. These are all pretty typical sweater alterations for me, and they all turned out to be completely unnecessary. Indeed, a big part of the reason that I kept picking this sweater up and then putting it down again was because I needed to rip out so much of the work that I had just completed and I kept getting frustrating.

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The failure of my attempted modifications had nothing to do with the pattern. A small part of it was simply that my gauge swatch lied to me—when I blocked the body to check the length, for instance, it turned out that the piece simply didn’t grow like my swatch had so my length adjustments were for naught. My changing measurements caused another set of issues since fit adjustments that I had planned out when beginning the piece ended up being unnecessary six months later. But I think the biggest factor was simply that this is the first time I’ve knit a loose-fitting sweater like this, and I was just at a loss for being able to visualize how the schematic measurement would or would not work for my body.

Mireille Pullover stitch detail

I really love the texture of this design, as well as the shaped shoulder, and I’m hoping this sees frequent wear in the winter. I’m going to have to wait until then to post modeled shots and really evaluate the fit, however. I can easily get the sweater on, but all I can see is how obviously wrong the fit is for my current (pregnant) body, which makes me feel frustrated with the sweater. Better to stash it away for a good bit, and evaluate the fit at a more appropriate time. Until then, I’m just glad this piece is no longer hogging space in my project basket.

Kid Sewing: Little Bathrobe and Bonus Shorts

In 2014, when I had been sewing for about a year, I made some hooded robes for our nephew and our godson. Both boys were 3 at the time and have definitely outgrown the robes now that they are getting ready for 1st grade in the fall. But our nephew has a pair of toddler twin brothers who are just growing into the robe, so my sisters-in-law requested a second robe so the twins can wear them together. It’s a simple pattern that offers the chance to sew with bright colors that I would never wear myself, so who could say no?

Beach Robes via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

The original robes made in 2014–the red robe went to my nephew

I used the Beach Robe pattern from Made Everyday by Dana (which was previously just MADE). I made the second size, which is meant to fit 18 mos – 3 years. Like the first robes, I opted for short sleeves, a partial tie, and a lined hood. Like the first robes, I also used the cheapest, thinnest towels available at Target for the fabric. You want to use a thin towel or the robe would end up way too bulky. I’m pretty sure the towels I got were labeled “quick dry” towels or something like that. I think they were ~$4 each?

Beach Robe from Made Everyday

I like this pattern enough to have made it three times now, and I like it enough to make it again in the future, but there are some things about it that annoy me. One of them is that the pattern doesn’t indicate how much fabric you need to line the hood. For the record, I bought ½ yard of lining fabric for the first two robes I made, but I easily got the hood lining pieces for this robe from a single fat quarter. My second big annoyance is that the pattern doesn’t include a pattern piece for the robe ties—it just gives you dimensions for cutting them. I realize that some people would prefer this to printing off more sheets for a pdf pattern, but I am lazy and would prefer the ease of a pattern piece.

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I made a couple of recommendations for anyone making this pattern the first time I posted about it, and I still stand by them. The pattern recommends attaching the bias binding in one pass, which is bananas to me and seems like it would be so sloppy and frustrating. I did the more traditional 2-step application method, sewing one side of the binding on at the fold line, folding the binding over the raw edge, and then top-stitching the binding in place.

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I’d also recommend ignoring the order of construction in the pattern and sewing the sleeves in flat. I actually set them in on this robe (because I was too lazy to go back and read my own post on this pattern) and felt it was unnecessarily fiddly. My final recommendation is that you really have to accept that the ends of the ties are never going to be perfect—you’re probably going to end up with a bit of wobbly stitching and a couple of puckers in the binding. The ties on this robe definitely benefitted from three more years of sewing experience, but still. It’s hard to get ½” wide double bias binding around that tight curve. (I think this last recommendation is mostly for me, because I have issues with perfectionism and those damn robe ties make my eye twitch.)

I’m equally horrified and fascinated by the possibility of seeing the new robe next to the original, given how much I think I’ve grown as a sewist in the last three years. Making this pattern definitely felt a lot easier and faster this time around, and I had the benefit of no longer being intimidated by bias binding. Plus, having a serger definitely helped—it was so much easier to finish the seams and helped keep the bulk under control.

Kid Shorts from Made Everyday

Since I had fun making a tiny thing in bright colors, I took another hour or so to whip up a little pair of shorts with some extra fabric that’s been hanging out in my stash for years. This is another Made Everyday pattern—the Kid Shorts Pattern. I sewed up the 12 mos size in the longer leg length with a simple elastic waistband and front pockets. I have a weakness for tiny, useless pockets. My hope is that our baby will be able to wear these next summer, and it should be pretty easy to adjust the elastic to fit better if necessary. If they don’t fit, I’ve got an easy gift on hand for someone else’s kid in the future. Either way, a quick and fun little project!

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Top

When I found out that I was pregnant, I had no interest in sewing maternity clothes. Then I remembered that making my own t-shirts has ruined RTW tees for me. And then I bought my first terrible pair of maternity jeans (which required 20 minutes worth of alterations to simply stay on my body while I walked), and I figured the time spent sewing a few maternity items might be well worth it.

The sewing world is not overflowing with maternity patterns, which makes sense given that you are sewing to suit a relatively short period of time and given the lack of energy a lot of pregnant people experience. A lot of the available options seem to be skirts or dresses, which I don’t wear. The most widely reviewed patterns seem to be those from Megan Nielsen’s maternity pattern collection. But her patterns are a bit too feminine for my tastes and, more importantly, the size range is pretty limited and I’d be busting out of the top end of it.

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In the end, I decided to try the Style Arc Maternity Bundle, which comes with the Mandy Maternity Top, the Andy Maternity Pants, and the Maternity Bandeau pattern. These patterns are very much basic wardrobe staples and are available in sizes 4-30. I’m in the process of trying out the Andy Pants pattern, but I’ve made several of the Mandy Tees and I’m really happy that I gave the Style Arc bundle a try. As far as I can tell, the only way that you can get these patterns is to order printed copies through the Style Arc site—they don’t appear to be available via Etsy or Amazon, unlike other Style Arc options. Despite paying for international shipping from Australia, I found that buying printed copies of the patterns was really affordable (especially since they throw in the free pattern of the month when you order directly from them). With the bundle price and the free pattern, I ended up getting four patterns for just over $30 USD and received the patterns in less than three weeks time.

 

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

The Mandy Tee comes with options for long or short sleeves. I need these for warm weather, so I only made the short-sleeved version. The length on the sleeves is perfect for me, and I’m pleased with the shape and depth of the scoop neckline. I made all of my shirts out of Telio bamboo/Spandex jersey I ordered from Fabric.com.

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Honestly, the fabric alone makes sewing my own maternity tees totally worth it. The bamboo jersey is thicker and more opaque than every rayon jersey I’ve encountered while still feeling light and cool to wear—much cooler than a cotton-Spandex blend. Plus, it’s super soft but isn’t prone to pilling in the wash, which is perfect for shirts that I’m going to wear all the time given my limited wardrobe options.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

These tees are really easy to sew, even with Style Arc’s sparse instructions. You are basically just making a really long t-shirt and then gathering a portion of the side seams by sewing in a short length of elastic. To do this last step, I sewed the side seam on my regular machine rather than the serger and pressed the seam open. Then, starting toward the bottom of the shirt, I anchored the end of the elastic in place, stretched a small bit of the elastic out along the seam and sewed it in place with a zigzag stitch, and then repeated the process until I got to the end of the elastic.

I used ¼” elastic rather than the 1/8” elastic called for in the pattern simply because it was what I had on hand, but I think the slightly wider elastic was easier to control. The gathered part of the shirt looks pretty lumpy and gnarly when you first pull it off the machine, but it relaxes nicely with a healthy shot of steam.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

I was worried that the exposed elastic on the inside of the shirt would be irritating and that the visible zigzag stitching at the side seams would be ugly, but neither is the case. I don’t feel the elastic at all and the zigzag stitching is hardly visible since it gets lost in the gathering of the fabric. I actually have a few maternity tanks from Old Navy that have a serged side seam and then have been gathered at the sides with clear elastic sewn to the serged seam allowance. There’s no visible stitching on the outside of those tops like there is on these, but the side seam is much bulkier and the elastic can feel a bit irritating. So that’s all to say that I much prefer the finish of these tees.

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The downside of the printed Style Arc patterns is that they only come in one size, so you don’t have the option of grading between sizes. I just went ahead and ordered the size 16 for the t-shirt pattern based on my measurements at the time (I was nearing the end of my first trimester). I am usually pretty diligent about doing flat pattern measurements to figure out if I need extra width at the hips or at the bicep, and I usually consider doing at least a small FBA. But I completely forgot about all that business when I went to make this pattern up and just cut out a straight 16. Luckily, I’m pleased with the fit. The shirts are comfortable, they look good, and I feel like I have enough room to continue wearing these throughout the more ungainly stages of late pregnancy.

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Here’s hoping I have a similarly positive experience with the Andy Pants!

Baby Knits, Part 1

I love baby knits. They are fast and cute and help use up those random skeins of yarn leftover from bigger projects. Knitting for my own baby is all the more fun since I know that I will be one of the primary beneficiaries of all the wooly baby snuggles. These are just my first few finished baby projects—there are more in the works.

Linus Security Blanket

This is the first baby knit I started. I ordered the yarn just after we moved into our new house in January and knit on the blanket slowly when I had the energy during my first trimester. The pattern (available here) works well for knitting while exhausted because it is a very simple repeat. The yarn is Berroco Weekend in Mallard, which is hard to photograph but is a deep blue-green color. The first picture is a truer representation of  the actual color than the second. I’ve previously used Berroco Weekend DK for some gifted baby sweaters I made a couple of years ago and am really impressed by how well the yarn has held up to washing and wearing, so I figured it would be a good choice for a blanket.

Linus Security Blanket

I sometimes have the idea that I should knit an afghan for our living room. But this project was an excellent reminder of why that is a terrible idea. Knitting a blanket is SO BORING. I think of myself as having a fairly high tolerance for boring knitting, which I demonstrate in my willingness to knit lots of basic, vanilla socks and sweaters that are primarily just stockinette stitch. But there’s no shape or variation in a blanket—it’s just a giant gauge swatch that feels like it goes on forever. Now that I think of it, I generally have a very low tolerance for square- and rectangle-shaped projects since I also hate knitting basic scarves and dishcloths.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m very glad that I knit this blanket, I love the finished product, and I am very much looking forward to wrapping my baby up in it. But unless I forget about what a slog this project felt like (a distinct possibility given the sleep deprivation I’m inviting into my life), I don’t see myself jumping to take on another blanket project unless I have a second baby. And even then, I think I’d be better off making something like a Pinwheel blanket in a variegated yarn to keep myself interested.

Wee Envelope

This little pullover pattern from Ysolda Teague is a fun knit because of its interesting construction. It’s a seamless knit that starts by knitting from the cuff of one sleeve, through the garter stitch yoke, down to the cuff of the second sleeve, and then you pick up and knit the stitches for the body. I knit the 3-6 mos size up using 2 skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in Moss that I received as a gift from Aidan’s sister and her wife a couple of years ago.

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This should have been a very quick knit, but I ran out of yarn about 1.5” short of the necessary length for the body and had to rip the entire thing out and make some adjustments. I realized in the process that my row gauge in stockinette was off, resulting in sleeves that were way too long. So I saved a bit of yarn by working the sleeve shaping rows more frequently. I then reduced the width of the yoke by cutting out a single garter ridge from both the front and the back, and then picked up 4 fewer stitches for the body. Although the body is a bit narrower than the schematic measurements, I still think it’s plenty wide for a 3-6 mos size garment, and making those adjustments gave me enough yarn to get a decent length in the body.

Wee Envelope Sweater

My real concern with the fit of this particular pattern is that the armscye doesn’t seem deep enough for this style. I’ve read before that with a basic drop sleeve (which is more or less what this style is replicating), you need a deeper armscye and wider sleeve to allow for greater movement. This, however, has a narrower sleeve that looks like it will be a lot more fitted. Of course, when this actually fits, it’s not like the baby is going to be mobile or engaging in active play that requires a large range of motion, so maybe it won’t be a problem at all? We’ll see.

Tokyo Hoodie

This little pullover was truly a fast knit (I think it only took me two days?), was completely drama free, and is possibly one of the cutest things I’ve made to date. I can’t wait to see this on a little squish. I knit the 6 mos size using ~1.5 balls of Encore Worsted leftover from the Wonderful Wallaby sweaters I made our nephews for Christmas last year.

Tokyo Hoodie

This pattern was designed by Carrie Bostick Hoge, who also did the super-cute Maddie Hoodie pattern I’ve made before. I think the Tokyo Hoodie would make a great project for a baby gift. It’s really simple, knits up fast, and doesn’t take much yarn. Plus, it’s a basic piece that you can throw on as a little jacket, which should result in lots of wear.

And now I have to focus my attention on some unfinished adult knits—I need to free up some needles so I can get going with even more baby projects.

Blackwood Cardigan

I ended my post about my failed Jalie Dolman and failed Ottobre tee by making it sound as if my sewing life got infinitely more successful after those projects. But really, the next thing I sewed—a Blackwood cardigan—is likely destined for the thrift store. The difference between this project and the ones that feel like failures is that I embarked on this cardigan knowing there was a very good chance I would dislike the final product but I still enjoyed the process of making it.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

The thing is that while I wear my cardigans open the majority of the time, I really just don’t like the way that open-front cardigans look on me. My friend, Abby, and I have had many conversations about the problematic nature of the open-front cardigan. But while she has given them up entirely, I still keep stubbornly trying them out. The open-front cardigan is really just one of several things like ballet flats, pumpkin ales and crochet that I know are not for me, but that I still keep testing on the off chance that maybe I will finally like them.

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So when the Blackwood cardigan pattern was released, I immediately thought “open front cardigan—danger” and, at the same time, “that looks really lovely and I want to sew it up.” I happened to have 2 yards of this gray cotton/poly sweater knit that I had no plans for and decided to use it to try this pattern. I cut out View A, which is the long version with pockets. My bust measurement falls between the L and XL, but my waist and hip measurements are squarely in the XL range, so I just cut a straight XL.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

This was a lovely and satisfying pattern to sew. Everything goes together really easily and results in a really cozy, clean-looking finish. I particularly like the look of the fitted, but long and slouchy sleeves, and I love the detail of the pockets on the long version. To sew the pockets, I used stay-tape on the pocket edges and then used a fabric glue stick fix the pockets in place before top-stitching them. These steps made it very easy to sew the pockets and get a nice finish.

Blackwood Cardigan in Sweater Knit

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I have seen many, many versions of this cardigan on blogs and Instagram that look really effortless and comfortable on the people wearing them. My finished cardigan looks nicely sewn and very wearable. And yet, I will probably never wear this. It is still hanging in my closet but it’s very likely to end up in the next round of donated goods. I don’t really mind the way that it looks in these photos, but I don’t particularly like the feeling of wearing a long, open-front cardigan. (Oh yeah—in addition to disliking open-front cardigans, I also hate wearing any top layer that extends longer than my low hip, so this poor cardigan was doubly doomed.) Also, I finished this cardigan 6 or 7 weeks before I took these photos. At the time, I was still firmly in the “baby or burrito?” stage of pregnancy, and I had a really negative reaction to seeing this cardigan on my body–it just seemed to frame and highlight a part of my body I was feeling fairly self-conscious of. That doesn’t seem to bode well for this cardigan getting any more wear in the fall when I’m dealing with postpartum body fluctuations.

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However, I’m not disappointed by this project because I genuinely enjoyed the process of making it. After two frustrating projects, it was just nice to sew something that came together easily and looked nice at the end, even if I didn’t think that it actually looked nice on me. It reminded me that I am not terrible at sewing. Also, this fabric is not great, so I’m not broken up about having used it up. It has already started pilling and is one of those poly-blend sweater knits that wants to constantly stick to itself—very annoying.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

Lest you think this has finally put me off of the open-front cardigan, just know that I purchased the Jalie Helene pattern around the same time I bought the Blackwood pattern and am still planning to sew it up. I am a bit more optimistic about the Helene working out for me—it’s a little shorter in the body and has more fabric at the fronts, which I’m hoping will mean that I’ll feel more comfortable wearing it. I like at least having the option of pulling an open cardigan closed around me. We’ll see what happens…

Sewing Fails: Jalie Dolman and Ottobre Statement Tee

Whenever I take a long break from either sewing or knitting, I experience a lot of stumbling and fumbling when I pick it back up again. It’s like I haven’t forgotten how to “ride the bike,” so to speak, but I’m pretty wobbly for a while. This wobbliness resulted in two failed projects (one of which didn’t even get finished) when I started sewing again mid-March.

The first failed project was a version of the Jalie Dolman Top (Jalie 3352) that I made with a really nice marled sweater knit—I’m fairly certain the fabric is a cotton/rayon/Spandex blend. It’s soft, lightweight but still opaque, has great drape, and washed and dried really well. I originally bought it with the intention of making a long-sleeved Concord Tee so that I would have just a basic, lightweight sweater in my closet. I’ve been kind of kicking myself for changing plans, but whatever.

Jalie Dolman

I don’t like this pullover. I’ve worn it a couple of times and it just feels sloppy to me. I think there are two primary issues at play: first, the fabric has substantially more stretch than the pattern calls for (~75% vs. 40%); and second, I made some ill-advised sizing choices in the hopes of getting something that would be more wearable during the spring as I moved into my second trimester and then again in the fall in the middle of unpredictable post-partum fluctuations. (This was also the logic that led to the pattern switch—I thought the looser style of the Jalie Dolman would be more wearable than the fitted style of the Concord. The overall lesson here has been that it really isn’t worth it to try to predict what my body will do or what I will want to wear in the future.)

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Given the stretch in my fabric, I think I would have been best off cutting a size down from my measurements. But what I actually did was cut a size larger than my measurements. The result is something that just doesn’t feel good on me and that I don’t enjoy wearing. The body feels completely shapeless and dowdy and the sleeves are too loose and long—it basically looks nothing like the pattern photos or other people’s finished projects suggest it should look like. To add to the frustration of this project, my twin needle gave me a hell of a time and kept skipping stitches and breaking threads, which really made me feel like I had no idea what I was doing at my sewing machine anymore.

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The twin needle issue was easily solved—I realized about a week later that I just needed a new needle. I ordered one and all my twin needle problems are magically gone. As far as the pullover goes, it’s still hanging in my closet, and I think at some point I will take apart the side and sleeve seams and either recut it as a smaller size or just take the whole thing in. But there’s no sense in even trying to do that right now. And who knows—maybe it will actually fit well in the fall and I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.

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My second failure was the Statement Tee pattern from the Spring 2017 issue of Ottobre Woman. I was drawn to this pattern for the relaxed fit and because it is drafted for more stable jersey fabrics. However, I didn’t even end up finishing the first tee I made because I hated the fit on me. I found that the neckline on this is really wide. I added a neckband instead of the binding called for to get a bit more coverage and still ended up with a neckline wide enough to allow for frequent peeking bra straps. The sleeves are also quite long (which, to be fair, is more or less indicated by the fact that the pattern photos show the tee worn with the sleeves rolled up) and I would have to cut off ~2″ to get the length I want. Plus, I think it is too short in the body for this style—something I found especially surprising since I have a long torso and Ottobre tops are still usually a bit on the long side for me.

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The unhemmed tee

There were enough issues and frustrations with the fit and style of this pattern that it just didn’t feel worth finishing right now. The failure of the project is mostly due to the pattern, which just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The real clumsiness on my part as a sewer was the fact that I cut out two of these tees before testing the fit of the pattern in any way. This gray fabric is no great loss at all since it is boring and inexpensive. But I cut the second tee from a really nice black and gray pinstripe cotton-rayon blend jersey from Mood that is super soft and lovely. So I’m really kicking myself for now having sacrificed two nice cuts of fabric to failed projects.

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The sadly cut up pinstripe jersey

Ultimately, I think I’ll have enough of the pinstripe jersey leftover to be able to get something out of the fabric, although I don’t know what that will be yet. And again, maybe I’ll pull this t-shirt out of my project basket at some point in the future and find that it’s totally wearable and worth finishing. Either way, I’m happy to report that this was basically the end of my sewing wobbliness and I’ve had a lot more success at the machine since.

Catching Up: Unblogged Winter Projects

Hello, 2017. I’ve been off the blog radar for a while, both because we moved into our new house at the beginning of the year and because I am pregnant. I’m currently baking a very active little monkey who is due at the beginning of September. Unfortunately, I spent the first part of the year laid out with morning sickness and exhaustion. But I’m feeling better and have put the Spring semester to bed, which has given me lots of sewing and knitting time again.

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Our house!

I’ve been sharing things on Instagram as I finish them, which briefly led me to consider giving up the blog altogether and just sharing things on IG. And then as I started to plan out some future projects, I was reminded of how often I consult my own blog for project notes and details. More than anything, this blog is a very handy, searchable project journal for me. Sometimes, it feels time-intensive and onerous to take blog pictures and write up all of my notes for a blog post, but remembering that I consult those posts often as a reference makes it feel more worth it—especially since I can’t easily replicate that kind of record-keeping on Instagram.

All of that is to say that I’m going to try to catch up on all of my unblogged projects because it bothers me to not have any concrete details recorded. So here’s a big dump of the projects I finished over the winter:

Stowe Bags

Small Stowe Bag in Quilting CottonLarge Stowe Bag in Linen Blend

I made myself two Stowe bags to use as knitting project bags. These are my second and third versions of this pattern–I made my first version about a year ago. I’ve only recently started using project bags for my knitting. Somehow, it took me 10+ years to see the benefit of keeping my projects protected from cats that want to ruin everything. I made a small bag out of some Cotton + Steele quilting cotton and a large bag out of a medium-weight cotton/linen blend I had in the stash. I used packaged bias binding for both.

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For the small bag, I flat-felled the side seams, finished the bottom seam with a zig-zag stitch, and boxed the bottom corners. I was worried that quilting cotton would feel too light for this bag, but I really like the finished result. For the large bag, I serged all the edges and pressed the seams open, which helped manage some of the bulk. I also did the last step in the instructions where you tack the bottom corners of the bag down to help stand on it’s own when it’s full. It’s kind of a bulky finish, but I appreciate the added structure it gives since the size and fabric make for an otherwise floppy bag.

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Halifax Hoodie the Second

Last September, I made a Halifax/Brooklyn hoodie mashup that I’ve been wearing all the time. Just before Christmas, I made a second Halifax Hoodie using some super-soft sweatshirt fleece I bought from Girl Charlee. This time, I made View D with the kangaroo pocket and the funnel neck. I sewed up a straight XL. It’s not worth modeling for you now that I have a belly that distorts the fit, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that the fit was spot-on and very comfortable. I wore this piece constantly this winter and can definitely see myself making this pattern again and again, especially since it has so many options.

Striped Hey June Halifax Hoodie

Leggings

Definitely not a very exciting project, but I’ve made a few pairs of leggings using the #9 Classic Black Leggings pattern from the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Ottobre Woman (Ottobre 05/2016). I’ve previously made the Sammalikko leggings pattern from an earlier issue of Ottobre and found that they were too long in the legs, had a bit more ease than I would like, and needed some adjustments to the crotch curve and rise. These leggings, however, fit perfectly right out of the gate—right length, great fit, and super simple to sew since there is only one pattern piece. My pre-pregnancy hip measurement was ~45.5”, so I sewed a straight size 48.

Ottobre Woman 05/2016 Classic Black Leggings

My only struggle was with figuring out the right length for the elastic. It turns out that the ideal, for me, is cutting the elastic so that it is the same length as the width of the waist (in other words, cutting it so that I don’t need to stretch the elastic at all while I’m sewing it to the waistband). I forgot about this when I made myself a third pair of leggings months after the first two pairs and ended up with a waistband that is tight enough that I think I’m going to need to rip out and redo the elastic. See—this is why I need project notes on my blog. One last note: I think the instructions recommend making a traditional waistband casing and then threading the elastic through. This is unnecessarily tedious for leggings. I used my serger to attach the elastic to the waist, then folded the elastic down and secured the waistband with a zig-zag stitch.

Zelda Pouch

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This was a super simple project that Aidan requested at the beginning of December and that I finally made up for him sometime in February. This little pouch also has the distinction of being the first item I made in my new sewing space. I drew on the zipper instructions from the Petal Pouch pattern (which I made several times over for Christmas gifts last year), but otherwise based the dimensions on the size of the pattern repeat in the fabric. Aidan keeps a bullet journal and uses this to hold his pen stash for journaling, so this has been in regular use since it was finished.

And that brings me up-to-date on everything I finished before Spring Break, so now I’m only two+ months behind on blogging. Progress!

Top 5 of 2016

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I know I’m a little late, but decided to write up a Top 5 of 2016 post at the last minute. This year, I think I managed to sew one pair of kid’s pajamas, six pairs of leggings, eight tops, two sweatshirts, one cardigan, three pairs of pants, three Stowe bags, and six zippered pouches. I also knit five pairs of socks, two pairs of fingerless mitts, one cowl, one scarf, two Christmas stockings, two toddler sweaters, and finished up one adult sweater that I started the previous year. Oh, and I crocheted a tiny cat. Here’s the year in review:

Top 5 Hits

Overall, I’m really happy with the things I made this year and ended up wearing nearly all of them regularly. But these are the five garments that I have enjoyed most–I wear them constantly and feel good in them.

top-5-2016-hits

  1. Black Ginger Jeans
  2. Striped Halifax Hoodie (I’ve actually made another version of this pattern that I may love even more)
  3. Vogue 8909 Lounge pants
  4. Purple Sweater Knit Muse Jenna Cardi
  5. Black bamboo Concord Tees

Top 5 Misses

I’m lucky in that I didn’t actually have five misses–just a few projects that didn’t work out.

2016-misses

  1. Thread Theory Camas Blouse: I was really happy with this when I finished it, but didn’t wear it much because it didn’t really feel like my style. I’ve realized that I just really hate gathers like this top has. They just feel too feminine for me.
  2. Ottobre Blue Fog Top: I’m really sad to call this one a miss since it is another shirt I was really happy with when I posted about it. But the zippers are kind of an awkward feature and it just didn’t fit into my life. It is too casual for me to wear to work but felt more fussy than I wanted to deal with on the weekend. Actually, neither this shirt nor the Camas blouse fit me anymore anyway, so they will be donated in the hopes that someone else enjoys them more than I did.
  3. Jalie Eleonore Jeans: Blech. Bad fabric. Pull on jeans. Weird Fit. I hate these and never wore them but I’m glad that they made me feel brave enough to tackle my Ginger Jeans.
  4. (Not Pictured) Butterick 6378, View C: This was my only wadder this year. The fabric that I was working with was really cheap and shifty, making it difficult for me to sew well and frustrating the hell out of me. And then when I tried it on before attaching the sleeves, I remembered how much I hate the way gathers look on me. Abandoned due to seething anger.

Top 5 Highlights

2016-highlights

Two of my 5 highlights: Our trip to San Francisco and officiating my friends’ wedding

  1. In May, we spent a week in San Francisco with our friends and godson. It was a great trip where our friends graciously played tour guides and took us EVERYWHERE.
  2. At the end of June, my youngest sisters (who are 14 and 16) came and spent a week with us in Cincinnati. It was a little challenging to entertain teenagers, but we had a lot of fun, and it was nice to get to know them better as young women.
  3. In October, I had the honor of officiating my friends’ wedding. I was so nervous I would screw it up, but everything went well and it was such a great way to be part of their special day.
  4. Immediately after the election, I was lucky enough to get to escape to Montreal for a few days to attend a feminist conference with my friend. We had a great conference, ate Montreal bagels, bought some yarn souvenirs, drank beer and knitted in the hotel lobby, and processed our post-election feelings together. It was a lovely little trip.
  5. And finally, Aidan and I found a house to buy! We close later this week and we’re moving in the week after. I can’t wait!

Reflections

honorable-mentions

Some honorable mention projects: My Dumpling Kitty, the Cotton + Steele Stowe Bag, and one of the Wonderful Wallaby Sweaters I made for my nephews for Christmas

  1. I spent almost the whole year in a weird knitting funk. I knit very sporadically and, frankly, didn’t enjoy the a whole lot of what I did manage. I’m not sure what was up–if I was picking the wrong projects or it just wasn’t my year as a knitter–but it all made me feel kind of twitchy and unsettled. Luckily, it seems to be over. I think playing around with some nicer yarns has brought me back to the joy of the process.
  2. At the beginning of the year, I bought myself a serger and I am completely in love with it. It’s made simple knit projects a lot more enjoyable and made more complex projects like jeans feel slightly more manageable. I held off buying a serger for a long time and I am so happy that I finally went for it.
  3. I feel like my sewing has gotten noticeably better this year. My projects are turning out better overall, my technical skills are more precise, the fit of my garments is better, and I feel like I’m finally developing stronger instincts about pairing fabric and pattern. Basically, sewing has started to feel a lot less clumsy and more natural for me, and I think that’s being reflected in the things I’ve been making.
  4. I benefitted a lot from sewing in smaller, more regular chunks of time. This was actually one of my goals from last year’s post. I didn’t always keep up with it–I had a couple of periods in the year when I really wasn’t sewing at all. But when I did regularly make time for ~30 minutes of sewing a day, I got a lot done and I feel like the quality of my work improved.
  5. A lot of my clothes don’t fit–nearly everything I made last year has been donated and about half of what I’ve made this year doesn’t fit either. The experience of having whole chunks of my handmade wardrobe out of commission because of fit has changed my project planning for the better. Before, I was concentrating on making basics and trying to make as much of my clothes as possible. The result was a lot of boring projects and an overwhelming to-do list. When I got to the point where I had to acknowledge that I was making something that might not fit in a few months, I started picking projects based on what seemed interesting (stylistically or technically) in the moment. It made for more enjoyable sewing and for garments that I really liked wearing, even if I don’t get to wear them for years.

Goals for 2017

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  1. Set up my new sewing space. In our new house, I get a dedicated studio space that is big enough for all of my sewing stuff and still have room for a desk for when I work from home. I’m looking forward to getting it all set up and organized.
  2. Make a sweater for Aidan. Aidan has been wearing the Ranger cardigan I made him a few years ago and has requested a second sweater. This time, he wants a cabled pullover in a softer yarn. I’m planning to make him Jared Flood’s Svenson sweater (pictured above) and intend to start swatching a couple of different yarn possibilities later this month.
  3. Try some new yarns. I used a lot of budget yarns when I was in grad school, and while they aren’t bad yarns, I think I’m burnt out on them a bit. Experimenting with some different yarns in the last couple of months has done a lot to get me inspired about knitting again, so I plan to keep it up.
  4. Do some cross stitching. Counted cross stitch was my first craft–my earliest memories of cross stitching are from when I was in kindergarten. It’s something I’ve done on and off since then. This year, I’ve got a couple of specific projects in mind that I’d like to make. I’ve bought the patterns and fabric and already made a good start on one of them.
  5. Make a quilt. It might be a small quilt, but I’m interested in trying some quilting this year. I kind of suspect that it’s not the kind of thing I’ll really love, but who knows?

Here’s to a new year of making!

Handmade Christmas Gifts 2016

I ended up making way more gifts this year than I have in a long time. It’s not because I have any desire to foist handmade stuff on everyone on my list or that I think a handmade gift is the best kind of gift. It’s really more that I hate Christmas shopping and I’m not particularly good at gift giving. Frankly, making gifts is kind of nice way to give someone something kind of generic like a hat or a scarf but in a way that feels highly personal. Yes, it’s just a hat, but it’s a hat I knit in my pajamas while I rewatched Battlestar Galactica and drank a beer. Also, that mark right there might be melted chocolate from the fistful of Reese’s Cups I was eating at the same time. How much more personal can we get? Anyway, here’s this year’s gift roundup:

Star Bellied Wallabies

Wonderful Wallaby with star pocket

Pattern: Wonderful Wallaby

Yarn: Plymouth Encore Worsted in Light Gray, Neon Orange, and Neon Blue

Recipients: Our twin toddler nephews

Notes: This is one of my favorite patterns–so cute and wearable. I made the size 2 but added an inch to the length of the body, sleeves, and hood. I also charted out a star to add to the kangaroo pouches, which I knit using intarsia. I love how they turned out!

Modern Classics Christmas Stockings #8 and #9

Modern Classics Stockings

Pattern: Modern Classics Christmas Stockings

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Cloud and Aurora Heather

Recipients: My in-laws

Notes: This is now the eighth and ninth time I’ve knit up this pattern. I mixed the charts from the “Modern” and “Classic” stockings like I’ve done every other time. This is, frankly, not one of my favorite patterns to make but they are at least quick to make. And that’s good, because I’m more or less locked into making these for all future family members on my husband’s side.

Ballydesmond Mitts

Ballydesmond Mitts

Pattern: Ballydesmond

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in Summer Sky Heather (for the blue pair) and Malabrigo Rios in Sandbank for the brown pair

Recipients: The blue pair went to one of Aidan’s co-workers and the Malabrigo mitts were for my sister, Kayla

Notes: This is a great pattern. It comes with instructions for making these in either a sport or a worsted weight yarn. I kind of prefer the way the sport version looks, but the worsted version knits up super fast. Either way–they’re easy and they look great.

Honey Cowl

Honey Cowl

Pattern: Honey Cowl

Yarn: Malabrigo Rios in Aguas

Recipient: My sister, Jenna

Notes: I’ve made this pattern once before for myself, and it’s a very soothing and meditative knit. Sadly, I got about 60% through the cowl before realizing that my skeins were noticeably different from one another so I ended up ripping back and alternating skeins. The final product is definitely worth the extra work, but it put me under a bit more time pressure than I would have liked.

Petal Pouches

petal-pouches

Pattern: Petal Pouch Pattern from Noodlehead

Fabric: various quilting cottons

Recipients: Three of my sisters–Sarah, Grace, and Kayla–and my dad’s girlfriend, Jess

Notes: I was inspired to make these after my youngest sisters visited us this summer. They are both big into sketching and drawing and carried all of their art supplies around in ziploc bags. Maybe that’s just their preference, but I thought these pouches were cute and practical. There are a thousand free zippered pouch patterns available online, but I’m glad I went ahead and bought this one. It’s not just the unique shape that makes it worth the purchase–as a novice bag maker, I feel like I learned some really useful techniques that will make any future pouch-making much easier and give me a nicer result. I really love how these pouches turned out. I even used some of the leftover skull print to make a small version of the pouch for myself.

So that’s Christmas 2016 wrapped and gifted. Now back to making things for me.