Divided Baskets

I’m finally getting around to blogging one of my last pre-Jude projects: two Divided Baskets (pattern by Noodlehead). I made two of these baskets—one for Jude’s room and one to keep on the first floor in our living room. We use both baskets to hold diapers, burp cloths, and things like diaper rash cream. I love these baskets. They are cute and practical and were pretty fun to sew.

Noodlehead Divided Baskets

The one for his room is made using the same space-themed fabric I used when I made some simple valences for the windows. All of the other fabrics are just quilting cottons that I picked up from Joann’s. I used some white cotton webbing for the basket handles. The pattern has an option where you add some accent fabric to the handles, but I didn’t feel like bothering.

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The baskets are really easy to put together. You’re really just sewing a bunch of straight lines and the instructions are clear and thorough. I was also surprised by how quickly the sewing went. For some reason, I was thinking that constructing the baskets would be a fairly involved process, but it’s not at all.

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Hands down, the most tedious part of making these baskets (and I won’t lie—it is definitely tedious) is cutting out and applying all of the interfacing. Obviously, I made this worse for myself by making two at once so I had to deal with twice the interfacing. But I also followed the recommendation to use two kinds of interfacing, both the heavy craft interfacing and the fusible fleece, to get a more structured basket. The process of applying all that interfacing felt endless, but it was totally worth it. The baskets are structured enough to hold all of the things we need without collapsing, and we’ve been using them every day for nearly four months without any issues.

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These seem like a really popular handmade baby shower gift, and I can see why. But I’m also thinking about making one of these baskets for my sewing room to organize pattern pieces and notions for the projects I have on the go. There are so many potential uses for these baskets, I’m glad I bought this pattern—I’ll definitely be sewing it again.

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Cosmic Baby Blanket

One of the last knits I finished before Jude was born was a second blanket. I was so bored with the process of knitting his first blanket, that I swore I wouldn’t knit another blanket until I had another baby. But that thought didn’t last long and I ended up buying 3 skeins of Malabrigo Arroyo and knitting up a quick pinwheel blanket when I was about seven months pregnant.

Pinwheel Baby Blanket

This is made up in the Prussia Blue colorway, which is a really lovely tonal navy. I alternated skeins throughout the blanket to avoid visible changes between skeins. The pattern starts from the center and moves outward, and I used the magic loop method for the first several rounds until I was ready to transfer the blanket to a 24″ circular needle. I increased until I had about 61 stitches in each wedge. Then I improvised a border based on a few different projects I saw on Ravelry. For the border, I worked four rows in garter stitch, one row of k2tog and YO to the end, and then another four rows in garter.

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The finished blanket is about 40″ in diameter, which has been a really useful size. It’s hard to get a sense of how big the final blanket is going to be, so I went back to junior high math and used the formulas for figuring the diameter and circumference of a circle to determine how many times I would increase. There are 10 wedges in the pattern, so you multiple your stitch count by ten and then divide that by your stitch gauge (number of stitches per inch) to get a sense of the circumference of the blanket. You can then divide this number by pi (3.14) to estimate the diameter. That process will give you an estimate of how big your blanket it as you work on it. To get a sense of how many times you will need to increase to get to the diameter you want, you just do the reverse–multiply your desired diameter by pi and then multiply again by your stitch gauge and that will tell you roughly the overall number of stitches you will need to increase to. To make your life easier, just divide that number by 10 to determine how many stitches should be in each wedge.

Pinwheel Baby Blanket

This blanket has been a family favorite. We took it to the hospital when Jude was born, we use it frequently to keep him cozy in his carseat, and it is the perfect weight for snuggles on the couch. This pattern, combined with a nice yarn, made for such soothing and enjoyable knitting that I have completely revised my stance on knitting baby blankets and can’t wait to make another one.

 

A Monkey for My Monkey

I have a backlog of projects that I finished before Jude was born that still need to be blogged. The oldest is probably this little knit monkey, which I made using Rebecca Danger’s Jerry the Musical Monkey pattern.

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I’ve knit this pattern twice before—I made our nephew and our godson both monkeys for their first birthdays, which are only four days apart. It turned out that when I finished the first two monkeys, I had enough yarn left over to make a third. And that yarn has been sitting around in my stash for several years (our nephew and godson both started first grade this fall), waiting for the right recipient.

It turned out that the right recipient was my own little monkey.

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The yarn is Knit Picks Comfy Worsted in Bison and Doe. Again, I bought this yarn several years ago so it doesn’t look like the Bison color is available anymore—I think their current Coffee color is probably the closest match. But I think Comfy works nicely for a toy like this since it is soft but very sturdy.

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I don’t knit a lot of toys because I find them a little tedious and trying. The knitting itself isn’t hard, and this pattern in particular knits up pretty fast. You end up with a whole series of body parts that you have to sew together. And while I am not opposed to stitching together my knitting (I actually kind of love seaming sweaters), I struggle with getting all the parts of a knitted toy together just so to avoid a wonky looking finished product. Basically, the part where you put the toy together and do any embroidery triggers my perfectionism and makes the enterprise kind of stressful.

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The upside of Rebecca Danger patterns is that her design aesthetic is such that a little wonkiness adds to the character of the toy. I mean, I was still a bit particular about how this came together (I’m fairly certain I sewed both the mouth and the legs on twice to get them to a point I could live with), but I was ultimately able to get a cute finish without driving myself completely crazy.

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Anyway. Aidan incorporated the monkey into some of the 1 month shots he took of Jude. Totally worth all the picky assembly!

Jude

Our little monkey was born two weeks ago today. His name is Jude Walter. He was 6 lbs 6 oz (2.9 kg) and 21″ long, and is extremely sweet.

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I was really nervous about being induced at 37 weeks, but everything went smoothly . And aside from having to spend an exciting Saturday night under bili lights to treat some exaggerated newborn jaundice, Jude has been doing well. 

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We’ve been spending lots of time taking cat naps, snuggling, and getting to know our sweet boy. It’s still hard to believe he’s all ours!

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Rainbow Baby Quilt

All the knitting and sewing I was doing during the first half of the summer came to a screeching halt in July when I started teaching two summer classes and when my two teen sisters came to stay with us for two weeks. (Although I did teach both of my sisters to knit and crochet while they were visiting. My 17-year-old sister loved knitting and is now deep in the process of making a Doctor Who scarf, while my 15-year-old sister took immediately to crochet and has been pumping out projects at a break-neck pace since she picked up a crochet hook. It’s pretty awesome.) Unfortunately, at the end of the month, I found out that I’ve developed some health issues that mean that our baby is getting an early eviction notice. Everything should be fine, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking or anxiety-producing, so I cast aside the Andy Maternity pants that I was in the middle of and started work on a baby quilt in hopes that some color and simple, straight-line sewing would be soothing.

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Luckily, it worked. This is the first time that I’ve ever made a quilt, and I ended up really enjoying the process. I find that knitting and garment sewing tap into different parts of my brain, so that I tend to want to work on them at different times depending on how stressed I am. But working on this quilt produced the same kind of calming effect that a really good knitting project produces for me—it’s methodical and repetitive and very easy to get completely lost in. It was immensely satisfying to watch the whole thing come together, and it helped me work through many worries.

 

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Since this was my first-ever quilt, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible. I’d been planning this quilt since I found out I was pregnant, and I’m glad I had the foresight to go with something fairly easy since I ended up making this in a bit of a time crunch. The quilt design is based on pictures I found online of the Rainbow Jelly Roll Quilt that is the basis of Creativebug class taught by Heather Jones.

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I confess that I didn’t buy the class, which only focuses on assembling the quilt top. The quilt top is made by simply sewing together strips from a Kona Cotton Solids Roll-Up in the New Brights Palette, and I already knew enough about quilt piecing to feel pretty confident about sewing the strips together. So I just bought the Kona Brights roll-up and winged the top, cutting out almost all of the pink shades in the roll and eliminating a few other shades that looked a bit ugly or repetitive. I found a really cute blue and gray cloud print for the backing (I know it’s a Dear Stella design, but I’m not sure of the specific name or line—it doesn’t look like it’s available from Fabric.com anymore, which is where I bought it.) For the batting, I bought some Warm & Natural cotton batting in a pre-cut baby quilt size from Joann’s. The final quilt ended up being roughly 40″ x 53″.

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Since I really had no idea how to approach any of the quilt-making process beyond piecing the top together, I looked at the class offerings on Craftsy and ended up buying Maria Capp’s Mastering in Minutes: Finishing Quilts. I think this might be one of my best Craftsy class purchases so far. It’s actually categorized as a tutorial rather than a class, and is only about 17 minutes long. I loved this since my biggest issue with Craftsy classes has always been experiencing burn out—so many of the classes are so long and detailed, I end up losing interest. This class efficiently and clearly explained the process of prepping the quilt top, assembling the quilt sandwich, doing the actual quilting, and then doing a machine binding. The machine binding technique was especially easy and gave me a really nice finish.

 

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Because I wanted to keep things ultra simple, I just did straight line quilting 3/8” on either side of the quilt top seam lines. All in all, this is probably the easiest first quilt project I could have taken on. I’m glad I went with something so simple because it let me get the feel for the quilting process without needing to invest in quilting equipment I don’t have (like a rotary cutter, cutting mat, quilting rulers, etc.) or getting frustrated and bogged down by more complicated piecing or quilting. Plus, the end product is freaking delightful. I think this may be one of the most beautiful things I’ve made to date, and I’m really proud of how it turned out.

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While I really enjoyed this project, I don’t think I’m ready to launch into more serious quilting yet. Mixing colors and prints and patterns for more complicated quilt designs isn’t something that really appeals to me at this point—in fact, it seems pretty overwhelming and like it requires a skill set I haven’t really developed. But I definitely think there are some more simple quilt projects in my future. Craftsy actually has some really gorgeous modern quilt kits available for sale that look like they’re the right level of challenge for me. I’m thinking that once the infant fog starts to lift in a few (or many) months, and I’m feeling ready to get back to some simple-ish sewing I can tackle in short bursts, a quilt kit might be a fun and easy project to work on.

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Regardless, I’m glad I got this project done before the baby arrives. I’m looking forward to enjoying some sweet snuggles underneath all these bright colors.

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Drachenfels

I really like a lot of Melanie Berg’s work, but her Drachenfels pattern wasn’t on my radar until my friend Abby sent me a link to the kits Craftsy was offering for this pattern. I got completely sucked in by monochromatic color scheme of the “Ice” kit and the super affordable sale price, and ended up making an impulse buy. That’s pretty unusual for me—I tend to do a lot of advanced project planning and spend a lot of time pouring over patterns and trying to figure out exactly what kind of materials I want to use. But maybe I’m developing a new weakness for kits, because Siobhan has me very close to buying this Saudade kit from Ysolda Teague. Regardless, the kit purchase was a good one. I’m so happy with this finished shawl!

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It’s a bit difficult to photograph since it’s pretty big. After blocking, the shawl is ~80” long and 24” deep. I like wearing these larger-sized shawls as scarves during the winter. My campus has some fairly significant climate control issues. They’ve actually just started a major renovation on our largest building that will take about five years to complete and involve special attention to the HVAC system because, as our Dean put it, “buildings shouldn’t have seasons.” Anyway, it’s hard to dress for work when you can be in one classroom that is easily 80 degrees all year long and then have to sit through a meeting in a 55 degree conference room. (I wish this scenario were an exaggeration. It is not.) A generously sized scarf like this lets me wear lighter layers in the rooms that are overheated while providing genuine warmth in the icier corners of the buildings.

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I cast on for this project on my birthday as a fun little treat for myself and have been picking it up over the last few months when I needed some simple garter knitting. All in all, this was a pretty straightforward pattern to knit. The most difficult part of the pattern was actually the first section, which contains the larger bits of black garter stitch with the white patterned sections. The white patterned sections were really easy to work—it was the longer plain garter sections that were a pain.

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I think the big issue was just that the increase pattern in this section didn’t feel very intuitive and the black garter stitch made it pretty difficult to keep track of the various increases and decreases I was working. I had to rip back a couple of times while working the first part of the pattern because my stitch counts were off. Thankfully, things felt much more intuitive and got a lot easier once I got into the striped section in the middle.

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This was the first time that I’ve used one of Craftsy’s exclusive yarns. This kit specifically uses Cloudborn Fibers Highland Sport, which is a basic, workhorse highland wool. It’s a nice yarn—it feels sturdy and springy while knitting and it relaxes and softens a bit during blocking. I’m glad I went with the black, white, and charcoal kit. It should be very wearable with my black- and gray-dominant wardrobe.

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Baby Knits, Part II: Hats

I don’t typically knit a lot of hats–they aren’t one of my favorite projects, I don’t really like wearing them, and where we currently live, I can get away without needing one for almost the entire winter anyway. But a baby needs hats and so I went on a little hat-knitting bender recently. Making these turned out to be really fun, likely because they were so fast. I think I made each one of these in about an evening’s worth of knitting time.

Newborn Hat

Magic Coffee Baby Hat

This one is just a simple, newborn-sized hat for the hospital. I used some of the leftovers from the Maddie Hoodies I made my twin nephews before they were born, so the yarn is Berroco Weekend DK in Swimming Hole, Seedling, and Daisy. I used the Magic Coffee Baby Hat as a guideline for making the hat, although I had to make adjustments since the pattern is written for a worsted weight yarn and Weekend DK knits up more like a sport-weight. I ended up casting on for the number of stitches called for the in the 2-9 months size, knitting to the length recommended for the newborn size, and then switching back to the 2-9 mos size instructions once again for the crown decreases. I also just tied my i-cord into a little umbilical knot rather than create the loop shown in the original pattern.

Good Sport Hat

Good Sport Hat

This little hat is hard to photograph. If you look at the project pages for this pattern on Ravelry, you can see that it’s really cute when it’s being worn, but it looks a little dumb and floppy when it’s just laying flat.

Good Sport Hat

Anyway, this is a simple striped, rectangular hat with columns of slipped stitches at the sides. I think the slipped stitches are a really nice detail that make this hat distinctive while cleverly hiding the jog in the stripes. This one is also knit in Berroco Weekend DK leftovers, using Swimming Hole and Daisy once again. I knit the “small baby” size or the 0-6 months size, and I’m thinking this will be a nice lighter-weight hat for fall.

Purl Soho Garter Ear Flap Hat

Purl Soho Garter Ear Flap Hat

I’ve been wanting to knit this pattern since it was released, mostly because I’m a sucker for trying out new construction techniques. With this hat, rather than picking up stitches for the earflaps, which seems to be the most common ear flap approach, you form the earflaps with some simple short rows before knitting the body of the hat. I love the visible decreases on this hat and the little attached tassel is the cutest.  I’ll definitely be knitting this pattern again–it’s fun to knit and would make a really great gift. I’m already planning to knit the next size up when our monkey outgrows this one. This hat is the infant size, knit up in Encore Worsted in Light Gray–the same yarn I used to make the Tokyo Hoodie, which was leftover from yet a different sweater project for my twin nephews.

Serendipity Hat

Serendipity Hat

I got a single skein of super bulky yarn as a gift several years ago–the yarn was Berroco Sundae in Isle of Skye. I’m pretty sure this yarn has been discontinued now, but it’s a wool/acrylic blend spun up in one fat single with lots of color variation throughout the strand. It is a really pretty yarn and I was at a complete loss with what to do with it, so it sat in my stash until I came across the Serendipity pattern. I love the chunky garter brim on this hat and the giant pom pom. You’d think that this would be the fastest of all the hats, but knitting with a super bulky yarn is so awkward and slow (at least for me–I don’t think I’ve knit with anything heavier than a worsted weight in years). This hat seems to run a bit on the small side, and this yarn doesn’t have a lot of give, so I knit up the toddler size. If it doesn’t fit until next winter, oh well–clearly this kid is good on hats for awhile.

That’s it for baby hats (at least for the moment). So far, everything I’ve knit except the baby blanket has been made using yarn from my stash. But I just ordered a few skeins of yarn for some more baby sweater knitting. It feels like I’m knitting a crazy amount of stuff for this baby, but at least I’m trying to be practical and cover a range of sizes? Or I’m just crazy.

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!