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.

IMG_0608

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.

 

IMG_0613

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.

IMG_0451

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″.

IMG_0610

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.

 

IMG_9167

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.

IMG_9166

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.

IMG_0611

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.

IMG_0609

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!

img_9150_medium2

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.

img_9151_medium2

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.

img_9154_medium2

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.

img_9153_medium2

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.

img_9152_medium2

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).

IMG_9023

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.

27509778185_dda1a24587_z

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.

27410838272_fb1f53ebe1_z

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.

IMG_9008

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.

IMG_0326

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.

IMG_0324

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.

IMG_0246

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.

IMG_9098

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.

IMG_9083

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.

IMG_9137

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.

IMG_0336

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.

IMG_0261

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.

IMG_8966

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

IMG_8998

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.

IMG_8991

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.)

IMG_0287

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.

IMG_0282

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.

IMG_0397

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.

IMG_0395

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.

IMG_0394

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.