Stevie the Second: Jersey Edition

A long while ago, I attempted two different projects with two beloved pieces of fabric and I managed to screw them both up. It was so incredibly disappointing to look at those failed projects and think about all the things I wish I would have done differently. But the fact that I loved the fabrics also made me hold onto them for much longer than I probably would have otherwise while I puzzled through a possible salvage operation.

 

Tilly and the Buttons Stevie

 

It took about 15 months, but I finally figured out how to get a wearable garment from both projects, starting with this shirt. While I was still working on my tulip-print Stevie Top, I ended up moving my fabric stash into a new storage cabinet and, in the process, found myself puzzling over the remnants of this gray and black pinstripe jersey and wondering how I might get some kind of top out of the pieces.

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This jersey is from Mood and it feels lovely—it’s a cotton, rayon blend that is soft and completely opaque while still being lightweight. It also has very little stretch—maybe 15% at most—which makes it a poor candidate for a lot of the knit top patterns I have. I didn’t really have enough fabric to make something with sleeves but also didn’t think I would get much wear out of a tank top. I started wishing I had a knit pattern in a style similar to the Stevie top when I realized that the Stevie pattern would probably easily work with a fairly stable jersey.

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The only significant change I made to the pattern was to eliminate the back closure, cut the seam allowance off the center back yoke, cut the yoke on the fold, and then redraw the back facing piece to match the new yoke. I kept the top-stitched facing because I thought the detail of the stitching would complement the fabric and the style. I wanted to keep the back yoke because it made it easier for me to work with the fabric scraps I had on hand, but I also wanted to play around with the direction of the stripes, so I cut the lower back with the stripes going vertical. I had just enough fabric to cut out the pocket piece, so I added that to the front for just a bit more detail.

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I love the resulting shirt. It’s not perfect—the floppiness of the fabric means I had to tack the sleeve cuffs down in a few places, sometimes the facing and necklines wrinkles a bit at the neckline, and the pocket has a tendency to sag. But there’s something about the whole look of the shirt, including its imperfections, that just looks cool and casual and modern. It’s really just a t-shirt, but it makes me feel fancier than any other t-shirt I own.

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I’m so happy that I’m getting to enjoy this fabric now, and even happier that I’ve turned a failed project into a big win.

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Tulip Print Stevie Top

Just a couple of weeks after Jude was born, while I was still fully immersed in the post-partum haze, I did some ill-advised online fabric shopping. The history of this blog shows that I primarily sew knits. It furthermore shows that I primarily sew solids, mostly in neutral colors. And yet, despite these clear preferences, I order several lightweight woven fabrics in prints—some florals, some novelty prints, some bright colors. Why? I have absolutely no idea. But I do know that I now have 2 yards of a blue flamingo print rayon voile that I have no plan for.

Tilly and the Buttons Stevie Top

Maybe my post-partum brain could see something my rational, rested brain could not. Because I used this tulip-print rayon challis from Cotton + Steel to make the Stevie Top from Tilly and the Buttons and it’s become one of my favorite garment projects to date.

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I made the largest size in the pattern, which is labeled a size 8 and fits a 44” bust. I skipped the bust pocket and used a button loop closure rather than the back ties. I lengthened the body by 1″ but otherwise made the pattern as is.  This was simple, straight-forward, pure pleasure sewing. I love that the facing is stitched down—it means the facing isn’t flopping around but I also like the way the top-stitching looks. The boxy fit with the cuffed, cut-on sleeve is probably my favorite warm-weather style right now, and I wish I had a whole closet full of shirts like this for summer.

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The Cotton + Steel rayon was really easy to work with and the weight and drape is perfect for this top. The simple style lines of the Stevie make it a perfect pattern for a larger scale print. I honestly did not think I would ever enjoy wearing a floral top this much, but I feel very comfortable and very much like myself when I wear this. I’m so pleased with this shirt, I wore it to Convocation, which kind of made it my back-to-school outfit for this year.

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What will become of the other prints in my stash? I have no idea. I know that a lot of sewists find prints super inspiring to work with, but anything more adventurous than a minimalist, monochrome motif seems to really stress me out. And yet, I can’t seem to just get rid of these fabrics. So I’ll keep staring at them and keep looking for the right pattern and maybe in another 10 months, I’ll hit the project jackpot again.

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Slow Fashion October ’18: Week One

I know that I was just being a little salty about the concept of slow sewing because it’s all I can manage, but I am still interested in the concept of slow fashion. I’ve particularly enjoyed following along with Karen Templer’s Slow Fashion October on Fringe Association. But I’ve never felt like I was ready to respond to her thought-provoking prompts until this year when she announced that SFO this year would focus on (slowly) building a closet of clothes that you truly love. Because if you love what you wear, you will care for it and wear it for a good long time. In other words, clothes that we love to wear and feel connected to are the antidote to the dissatisfaction and longing that so often fuel unreflective participation in fast fashion.

I think this is a really intriguing idea, and it intersects nicely with lots of things that I’ve already been thinking about, so I decided that I’d make this the year that I finally participate in Slow Fashion October. Karen plans to present a new action item each Monday of the month, and this week’s action item was to create a mood board or pin board that reflects your ideal style.

I’ve had various style boards on Pinterest for years, but only recently created one that I feel really happy with—and by that, I mean a pin board that feels like it really reflects me and is therefore actually useful for things like project planning. I’ve read lots of style advice and followed along with things like the Collette’s Wardrobe Architect series, but nothing really clicked for me until I read Anushka Rees’s The Curated Closet in May. The way that she explained and framed the process of creating a pin board was so helpful for me. She not only had practical advice that helped focus the process, but her perspective allowed me to finally stop limiting my sense of what I could or should wear. In reading her book, I realized that I had been telling myself for years that the styles I was drawn to were no good because they were too boring or not right for my body or that I wasn’t the right person to be wearing them. It was weird to finally recognize, and then let go of, a huge limiting belief I didn’t even know I had.

 

Anyway, here is my pin board.

 

Karen also included a number of different discussion prompts at the end of the post, so I thought I’d answer the ones that jump out at me.

Do you have a color palette?

Definitely. It’s all black, gray, burgundy, olive, and dark denim (weird to consider that a color, but it is in my closet.) At this point, I think I only have few items of clothing that don’t fall in that palette. I often go through phases of telling myself that I should wear more or different colors, but the truth is that these are the colors that I feel at ease in.

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What shapes and styles of garments work best for you, your life and your body? What are your clothing pet peeves? (lengths, necklines, sleeve types …)

I want my clothes to be comfortable in the sense that they should not be restrictive in any way, they shouldn’t require any fussing (rearranging anything, pulling a hem back in place, adjusting a collar, etc.), and they should be in fairly soft fabrics. Lately, I’m finding that I prefer things shirts with a slightly looser or boxier cut and that I prefer a slightly higher neckline than I used to wear, and I think both of those things are a response to how my life has changed now that I’m chasing a little monkey around.

What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?

Right now, my favorite outfit is black or dark cuffed skinny jeans, a blouse, black blazer, and oxfords. I feel physically comfortable in this but I also feel solid and present.

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Not an example of what I’m wearing to work lately, but this is a project I’ll be sharing soon that was one of my favorite makes this summer. I love the way I feel in this shirt.

What is the image you would like to project with your clothing?

I don’t know if it’s an image that I try to project specifically with my clothing, but in general I aim to project an image of myself as unshakeable. It’s funny to think about this question, because as a person I think I am warm, good-humored, caring, empathetic, and very relaxed but those aren’t necessarily the parts of myself that I want to publicly project. Instead, I seem to work hard to present myself as, more than anything else, a cool head, a steady hand and as fairly reserved. I don’t want to change that image—in fact, I think I’m so satisfied with my pin board because it feels like it reflects that image. I just find it interesting that it seems so substantially different from who I am on a more intimate level.

Can you describe your style in five adjectives?

No. I can’t seem to find a good way to describe it and was never able to describe my style in the model that Rees sets forward in The Curated Closet either. Maybe that’s because I think about the things that I want to wear more in terms of the way they make me feel and less in terms of how they might be characterized by others? But I would be fascinated to know how other people might describe it after looking at my pin board.

What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?

  • All the jeans! I shouldn’t be surprised, because it’s really just proof of a truth that I already embody in my day-to-day dressing. But I guess I’ve always had the idea that I only wear jeans because I struggle to find different kinds of pants. I think it’s time to fully embrace that I just really love jeans.
  • I’m also surprised by how coherent my mood board is. I think that because I spent so much time unconsciously limiting my idea of what I could wear that I always just thought I didn’t have a coherent style, but it turns out my style is just all the stuff I used to exclude.
  • There were lots of things that I think I like in abstract (moto jackets, more traditional trousers, certain fabrics, etc.) that just don’t show up on the pin board at all. And that just helps me clarify that I may like them on other people but they aren’t for me, so maybe I don’t actually need to have five different moto jacket patterns.

What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?

I recently got a pair of straight-legged, chino-style olive pants from Stitch Fix. And I kept them because I liked the fit and it seemed like they would be perfect since they were in my color palette and would offer me a non-jeans option. But I’ve only worn them once so far, because when it comes down to it, I would much rather just wear jeans. Even though my olive pants are just as comfortable as jeans, they just don’t feel quite right to me.

I’m already thinking differently about project planning after revisiting my pin board and thinking through some of Karen’s questions, so I’m excited to see what the action items and discussion prompts for the next few weeks will be.

The Situational Sock Knitter

I’ve knit a lot of socks but don’t think of myself as being a sock knitter. I am not, for instance, the kind of person who tends to have multiple sock projects on the go at any moment or who collects sock yarn. I think I usually manage to make a few pairs of socks a year, but sock knitting is not my bread and butter, go-to project. The key word here is “usually.” It might actually be more accurate to say that I am a situational sock knitter.

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2×2 Rib Socks with a Fish Lips Kiss Heel, knit up in Zauberball Crazy in Indisch Rosa. My first project started and completed post-baby.

I actually started to knit socks seriously when I was in my MA program and was feeling overwhelmed by the combined stress of school and being far away from home for the first time. I knit lots of other things during that time as well—hats, mittens, even a couple of sweaters—but my Ravelry notebook during that era of my life is dominated by socks.

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Vanilla socks in Regia 4-Ply in Snowsuit

The summer that I was intensively working on my dissertation before moving to Ohio to start my current job also temporarily turned me into a sock knitter. I think I ended up making about a pair a week, which is not necessarily fast for many sock knitters but is definitely fast for me. When my dissertation draft was turned into my committee, I immediately cast on a cowl project with a more complex stitch pattern and then started working on sweaters again.

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Vanilla socks knit in Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Lightweight in Bet You Thought This Skein Was About You

I thought that having a baby would push me into kid-knit overdrive, but it actually brought me back to sock knitting. I managed to finish up two little sweaters that I had already mostly knit before Jude was born. And I tried, but spectacularly failed, to knit a cardigan for myself in the months after he came along. But I ultimately just accepted that I only had the energy and the focus for very simple sock knitting.

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2×2 Ribbed Socks for Aidan knit in Meilenweit Chalet in Blue

I worked my way through seven pairs of socks before I felt like I was ready to take on a different project, which was when I started my Carbeth Cardigan. I still have two pairs that are on the needles—started during my sock knitting binge, but not finished before I started to get tired of socks. I’m sure I will finish them eventually, but I am enjoying have the mental capacity for different kinds of projects.

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Vanilla Socks knit in Meilenweit Chalet in Purple

But I’m also glad that I have one kind of project that functions as nearly mindless knitting and that produces something that is comforting and useful. Those seven pairs of socks made for good, meditative, restful knitting.

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3×1 Ribbed Socks in Regia 4-Ply Tweed in Zuckerbacker

But they also helped me feel like I was still capable of making nice things at a time when I otherwise felt like kind of a mess. And I stocked up on sock yarn, so I’ve got a little stash ready and waiting for the next sock knitting situation.

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Vanilla socks with contrast Fish Lips Kiss Heel knit in Opal Sunrise in Morgenr Te Dawn

Confidence Building: The Willamette Shirt

Many months ago during Me-Made May, I pledged to spend at least 20 minutes a day sewing things for myself with the goal of getting myself back into the habit of sewing after a long post-baby break. I mostly kept the pledge, only missing a few days, and it worked—I’ve been sewing pretty regularly since then, which feels awesome. Making that pledge prompted me to finish up the striped cardigan I’d started working on a year earlier. The other big project I finished in May was this shirt.

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This is the Willamette shirt pattern from Hey June patterns. I kind of started this project on a whim after seeing a couple of people on Instagram sew up the pattern. I’ve been preferring boxier, woven shirts to my usual t-shirt lately and I really liked the casual, easy style of the Willamette. And while I have been intending to get into shirt making for years at this point, the truth is that I find both the idea of fitting woven tops and the process of sewing a button-up shirt completely intimidating. The Willamette seemed like it would be forgiving on both points.

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I sewed View B up in some black cotton voile I had in my stash. Based on the sizing advice in the pattern, I made a size 16 with a 1” FBA. It has been a long time since I’ve done an FBA, and I managed to screw it up a bit and wound up with a dart that’s too low. I figured out where I went wrong so I won’t do it again, and I think the black fabric conceals the issue for the most part.

I do wish that I had spent a bit more time thinking about the relationship between sizing and fabric. After I finished my Willamette, I saw someone talk about deciding to make this pattern one size smaller than their measurements indicated to account for a fabric with more body—this is what I really should have done. I think I would love the ease in this pattern with a more fluid fabric like rayon challis, but the cotton voile is stiff enough that it kind of stands away from my body, which makes all of the extra ease feel very awkward.

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I was really excited about this shirt when I finished it, but I’ve actually only worn it once and even then I changed out of it after a couple of hours. I’ve really only recently started wearing woven shirts more recently, so I’m still learning what I like in terms of fit and fabric. I do like a boxy and slightly oversized fit, but I want it paired with a softer and more fluid fabric, which is not what this voile is.

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However, this project was a huge confidence builder for me. It kind of reminds me of when I made the Jalie Eleonore Jeans—the project itself was a complete failure, but it showed me that I was capable of doing all the basic sewing tasks required to make an actual pair of jeans, which I ultimately ended up doing. In the end, I don’t like the way this shirt looks or feels on me, but it has helped me get over the weird anxiety I’d built up around fitting and sewing a button-up or popover shirt. I can see now that I am competent enough to take a shirt project on, and I’m excited to do that soon.

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I’m also really looking forward to trying this pattern out again next summer with a rayon or linen fabric that I think will better suit my personal preferences. I’m becoming a big fan of Hey June patterns (I’ve made the Halifax Hoodie twice and have two versions of the Santa Fe top waiting to be blogged). The quality of the drafting and the instructions is great and the casual, laid-back style is right up my alley.

Striped Jenna Cardi

I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot of praise in the sewing community for the idea of “slow sewing”—of pulling back on the rush to make all the things and instead investing more time in the process of each project and finding joy in more time-intensive finishing techniques with the hope of creating more thoughtful, longer lasting finished garments. But like a lot of things that get a bit romanticized (minimalism, tiny houses, eating locally, etc.), there just isn’t quite as much shine to the idea when you’re forced into it by circumstance rather than consciously choosing it. Or, at least, that’s how I’ve been feeling as someone who is doing a lot of “slow sewing” just because that is all I am capable of accomplishing right now.

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Take this cardigan, for instance. I cut the pattern out in March 2017. I put it aside because I was pregnant and simultaneously wanted to work on some maternity projects and felt too overwhelmed to deal with stripe matching. I had the baby in August, and I managed to put some fusible knit stay tape on the shoulders around Christmas that year. I think I serged the shoulder seams over Spring Break in 2018. And then once my classes had wrapped up in May and I had a few days where I was able to send Jude to daycare while I stayed at home doing whatever I pleased/trying to recover a bit from the most exhausting period in my life, I was able to sew up the rest of the cardigan.

Obviously, this is not what people have in mind when they talk about slow sewing. And I actually do completely understand wanting to get outside of the feeling that we’re supposed to be constantly producing more. I’m just a tiny bit salty right now because sometimes trying to get something sewn up feels like slogging through a mud pit while dragging a bunch of bricks behind me.

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It doesn’t really matter though—getting something done is better than nothing. And thankfully getting this project finished and off my sewing table set off a steadier (although still slow) stream of sewing activity.

This is the Jenna Cardi from Muse Patterns, made using the expansion pack that includes a v-neck. I’ve made this pattern once before (when I said that sewing a cardigan felt like cheating to me as a knitter since it’s such a fast process—Ha!), and I made zero changes to the pattern from the last time I made it. That turned out to be a little bit of an issue, since I experienced the same problems I encountered the last time I sewed it, especially with the ease in the sleeves. I did a basted fit on the sides after attaching the sleeves and ended up taking about 2” of width out of the sleeve and sleeve cuff. Based on my experience with this project last time, I also used one less button than called for in the pattern, which I think works better.

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Since I cut this out pre-baby, it is made to my pre-baby measurements, which I can’t actually remember but are about a size smaller than I currently wear. The result is totally wearable—I don’t think it looks like it’s too small or like the buttons are about to bust open. It just means that it has a tendency to ride up a bit at the front if I wear it closed. That’s not a huge deal since I almost always wear cardigans open anyway. The fabric is a cotton-spandex blend that I bought from Fabric.com. It was listed as a sweater knit but it’s actually a really nice and soft French terry.

The big surprise with this project was finding that I don’t actually have much in my closet to layer underneath this cardigan. I’ve mostly been wearing it with a black t-shirt underneath. I should spend some time playing around with some of the shirts I have to see if there is an unexpected combo that might work and allow me to get a bit more mileage out of this combo. Maybe I’ll get around to that next May. Lol.

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Stowe Bags for My Sisters

After I taught my youngest sisters to knit and crochet, I decided I wanted to give them each a crafty Christmas gift full of notions, needles, yarns, and patterns that would keep them making things. And as part of the gift, I wanted to make them each a Stowe bag to hold their projects as they worked on them.

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Unfortunately, with a non-napping baby on my hands, I wasn’t able to get enough time in the sewing room to finish the bags up as Christmas gifts. But I did finish them and gave them their bags this summer. My sister Sarah started using hers immediately.

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I used some quilting cotton from Joann’s—these prints are part of some of their newer, more modern quilt fabric lines. The bias binding is just the packaged stuff, which I find much easier to work with than any bias tape I’ve ever made myself.

I’ve made the Stowe Bag before and it’s a very satisfying pattern to sew up. Both of these bags are the smaller size, which actually holds an impressive amount of stuff. I’d say I can easily fit up to 3 or 4 skeins of yarn into the bag, which makes it a really versatile project bag size.

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I’ve made two Stowe bags for myself previously—one small and one large. My small bag is easily my favorite and most-used project bag. I’ve been using the large bag pretty consistently to hold whatever sweater project I have in progress, but I don’t find it nearly as useful as the small size. It might be because I used a fabric that doesn’t have a lot of body, but I find that my projects are more likely to spill out of the large bag, the pockets don’t seem as useful to me, and for a sweater-sized bag, I’d rather have a closure than handles. I know there are a ton of project bag makers on Etsy and I should just save my time and buy something. But I am stubborn and I’ve already bought some fabric so that I can improvise a zip-top, sweater-size project bag. Now I just have to find the time (and the desire) to actually sew it up.

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Playdate Cardigan

I’m making an effort to get caught up on blogging past projects, which means going way back to a project that I finished nearly a year ago and that Jude has already outgrown. I’m certainly glad I didn’t wait to put it on him before it got blogged.

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I started this little cardigan the week before Jude was born and finished it up around the time that he turned a month old. The pattern is the Playdate Cardigan from Tin Can Knits, which is part of their Max & Bodhi’s Wardrobe Collection. It’s a basic little v-neck cardigan with drop sleeves and pockets that is available in their full “baby to big” size range—so from 0-3 months all the way up to a 59” chest. I made the 6-12 months size, which I knit using a single skein of Madeline Tosh Twist Light in the Artic colorway.

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I don’t recall making any significant changes to the pattern. I’m pretty sure that I knit it according to the instructions for the size without making any changes to the sleeve or body length. I do recall being very skeptical that I would like putting this cardigan on Jude and feeling pretty certain that he wasn’t going to get much wear out of it. My primary reservation was related to the pattern gauge.

It might just be an effect of being a frequent sock knitter who is used to knitting fingering weight yarn at a gauge of 8-9 stitches per inch, but knitting a fingering weight yarn at 6 stitches per inch (the gauge called for by the pattern) just feels overly loose and airy to me. And because of this, I didn’t feel like the sweater would be warm enough for Jude during fall and winter. And I was also worried that the loose gauge would make the resulting sweater look sloppy.

Of course, once it was blocked it DID NOT look sloppy at all—it turned really well. And Jude actually did get a lot of wear out of it. I started putting him in it with the sleeves cuffed when he was just a few months old and he was wearing it until he was stretching out the buttons this spring. So I’m glad I was wrong. This lightweight cardigan turned out to be very versatile through fall, winter, and spring and, of course, he looked very cute in it.

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I still don’t really like knitting a fingering weight yarn at fewer than ~7 stitches per inch. I think I really just prefer the feeling of creating a denser fabric. If I made this again, I might seriously consider subbing in a sport weight yarn for a more comfortable knitting experience, but I think that might just be an idiosyncratic preference.

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To really highlight how behind I am on getting projects posted to the blog, Jude turned one a couple of weeks ago, which means I got to bake and decorate his first birthday cake! I made the Monkey Cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I filled the cake with the fudgy buttercream from the recipe and used a standard vanilla buttercream for frosting and decorating the rest of the cake. I also ordered a whole pound of banana candies in the name of fulfilling my creative vision for this cake, because I am nothing if not ridiculous. Of course, the only thing that matters is that he liked it. And he did. 🙂

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Weighted Blanket

I finished making a weighted blanket for my nephew at the beginning of June and then immediately started dreading the process of blogging it. So ridiculous. I think I just got completely bogged down by the idea of having to describe the whole process, step-by-step—especially since it was kind of an involved process. And then, I remembered that I don’t actually have to do that if I don’t want to. What a novel idea!

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Here’s what I have the energy to offer in terms of describing what I did:

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I was frankly worried that the process of making this blanket would just feel tedious and unending, but I actually really enjoyed working on this project. I think there were a couple of factors that made this a fairly fun project to work on. First, I’d never made a blanket like this before and didn’t have a specific pattern that I was working with, so planning the project and piecing together tips and tricks to get this made was a refreshing challenge. (I think I really enjoyed working on the baby quilt I made for Jude for the same reason.) Second, I was wise enough to tell my sister-in-law that I wouldn’t be able to work on this project at all until summer when my classes were all finished, so I was able to wait to start making the blanket until I was able to really delve into the project and enjoy the longer sewing sessions. And third, I was making a blanket for a very small child—my nephew is only thirty pounds right now and the finished blanket ended up being about five pounds. A bigger blanket definitely would have been more of a pain.

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Weighted blankets (which can have therapeutic benefits for people with anxiety, insomnia, sensory processing disorders, ADD/ADHD, and Autism) are getting more and more popular, but they are pretty expensive. The sticker shock is a lot to take in, especially if you are already in the position of paying for other therapies and treatments. And it’s all the more shocking if you are thinking of it as “just a blanket.” But it’s really not just a blanket. Filing the blanket is time intensive, and the materials required definitely cost more than your average throw. And the guidelines for how heavy the blanket should be can mean that you need something that is custom made.

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But the feeling of the blanket once it’s completely filled and finished is really unique—it has a heavy drape that puts just a light, even pressure all over your body that is really calming. I found myself kind of wishing I had an adult-sized blanket, but I definitely do not have the patience or desire to make one for myself. My nephew loves the blanket. And I love him, so I will happily make him another when he outgrows this one.

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Right after I finished the blanket, my 16-year-old sister came to stay with us for a week. I took her to Joann’s, bought her some fabric, printed off some PDF patterns for her, and she spent nearly the whole week working away in my sewing room. Nearly every day, I’d give her the option of going out somewhere or spending more time sewing, and she always chose sewing. I gave her very light guidance—she primarily worked through the instructions on her own, made mistakes, found ways to fix them herself, and learned a lot in the process. In the end, she made a Plantain tee, two Halifax hoodies, and a few pairs of underwear. I’m so proud of her!

Better Late Than Never: MMMay18 Reflections

I know most people are probably well over Me Made May (how is it already July!?), but I never got around to summing up my thoughts and experience this year. We seem to have packed all of our summer excitement in the first part of the season so I’ve either been busy or just haven’t felt like blogging for the past several weeks.

Anyway, my pledge for this year was to wear one handmade garment at least five days a week and to spend at 20 minutes a day sewing. The second part of the pledge was, in my mind, the crux of the challenge I gave myself. Since I had Jude, I’ve really struggled to find time for sewing so I really wanted to prioritize carving out little spaces of time when I could get back to my machine and work on some projects for myself.

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I kept track of both parts of my pledge on paper. Wearing a handmade garment five times a week wasn’t a problem, and I managed more than five days most weeks, although my wardrobe is so small right now that I was doing laundry frequently. I also managed to squeeze in sewing time nearly every day—I think I only missed five days, and four of those were days were days when we had visitors. During that sewing time, I managed to complete two projects that I’m looking forward to blogging soon: a striped Jenna cardi that I cut out more than a year ago and a black voile Willamette shirt.

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Striped Muse Jenna Cardi

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Hey June Willamette

Aside from two finished garments, here is what I took away from my challenge this year:

  1. I really do like my handmade clothes best of all. I’m still firmly an advanced beginner sewist, I am not a master of fit, I make a lot of boring basics, and I am not the kind of person to invest in really high quality fabric. And yet—the things I’ve made myself seem to fit better, feel more comfortable, and make me feel better about myself than the stuff I purchase from stores. This was a worthwhile reminder for me because while I tend to keep a pretty spare closet, I am especially low on clothes right now. Having a baby didn’t just change my body size and shape—it has also changed which styles I find most practical, comfortable, and desirable. With so little in the closet, it’s tempting to go out and buy a bunch of new stuff, but Me Made May served as encouragement to invest my energy in making time to slowly make new stuff rather than going shopping. (And it assured me that I can get by with what I have.)
  2. Time spent on alterations is worth it. One afternoon I spent my sewing time hemming a pair of too-long jeans I’ve had since February. And after having worn them only rarely, I’ve now been wearing them nearly every day. Alterations are pretty tedious, but especially when my sewing time is so limited, it’s worth using my sewing skills to improve what I already have.
  3. I can get a significant amount done in small bursts of sewing. I think we all intellectually know that this is the case, but it’s hard to commit to the practice of working on things in small bursts until you actually see what you can get done. I kept track of what I accomplished each day in my sewing time, and it was just really nice to see everything I was able to get done in those little stretches of time laid out in front of me. It also helped me better visualize my sewing projects in very small, discrete steps.
  4. But getting in a good stretch of sewing helps. I only finished two sewing projects this month because I did manage to squeeze in a couple of longer sewing stretches of at least an hour. At the same time that it was helpful to see how much I could get done in short stretches, it also felt kind of frustrating at other moments—like I was just plodding along on a project that felt like it would never be finished. I think, at least for me, the only way to make sewing in short bursts successful is to balance it with occasional longer sessions so I can make a good bit of progress that renews and refreshes my interest in the project.
  5. I need to invest in my warm weather wardrobe. I spent so many years as a student and most of my life in northern states with fairly mild summers that I never really made an effort to make or buy summer clothes that I enjoyed. I did as much as I could to get by on the same clothes I wore the rest of the year, which usually just meant wearing jeans and t-shirts. But now I live somewhere with hot, humid summers that stretch at minimum from May through September and while I have some time off, I’m still teaching and going to meetings for a good deal of the summer. I need clothes that are more suited to the climate while also helping me look just a little more put together. A big part of the problem is that when I look at warm-weather clothes, I have a really hard time finding something that feels like me. It’s not entirely surprising—I mean, if my personality were a season, it would be deep winter. But it’s time for me to figure out a way to dress for the heat in a way that will allow me the ability to both step outside of the AC for more than 5 minutes and still feel like myself.

Unrelated, look at this child! It’s already time to start working on making him an outfit for his birthday!

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