Jalie 2921

I finished this project a few months ago—either at the end of February or the beginning of March—but it’s clearly taken me a long time to actually get pictures of it. I think part of the reason it took me so long to take photos was because I wasn’t sure how I felt about the style. Honestly, I’m still not completely convinced that this is a style I like on me.

Jalie 2921

(Clearly I have given up on smiling in blog pictures. It’s awkward enough to take modeled shots of the stuff I make. I’m not going to make things more complicated by fighting my resting bitch face.)

The pattern is Jalie 2921, which was very easy to make. I like working with Jalie patterns because so far I’ve found that they are relatively simple to fit to my body. I made this up using some Dakota Stretch Rayon Jersey from Fabric.com that is very soft and drapey, but that has nice recovery so it doesn’t bag out like some rayon jerseys. It’s actually the same base as the fabric I used for my Faded Stripes top, and I just ordered another length of this fabric in a different color.

Jalie 2921 As far as size goes, I started with the size appropriate for my high bust—AA—then blended out two sizes at the armscye to size CC and then blended out to size DD for the hip. I also experimented with doing a length-only FBA, where you add length just to the front piece and then ease the excess length into the back at bust level. It worked okay for this top, and definitely gave me the extra fabric that I need at the front, but I don’t know that I would do it again. I found the easing a bit tricky and I feel like I have to sort of “arrange” the shirt when I first put it on or I end up with weird wrinkles from the bust up.

Jalie 2921

Like I said, I’m still not completely sold on this style. It’s a style that I like in general and like when I see it on other people, but I’m just not sure how I feel about it on me. I know that I definitely will not be tying the scarf part into a bow—I hated the way that it looked on me. I guess I feel like maybe the scarf front is a bit girly or a bit too retro for me? When I first finished it, I thought: okay, maybe this will grow on me. And overtime, that feeling transformed into: ugh, what was I thinking? Why did I make this? But then I tried it on for Aidan and he liked it, and that’s brought me back to feeling like it might grow on me. To be fair, I haven’t really worn this out and about since I finished teaching in April and I default to ultra-casual in my day-to-day. So this won’t get the full test run until I start teaching again in the fall, when I’ll actually need to wear it because my professional wardrobe is shamefully small.

feminist scholar

Maybe if I just try to channel Kathleen Hanna as feminist scholar, then I’ll really start to love it. We’ll see.

Ottobre Faded Stripes/Foxes Shirt

It turns out I was just kidding when I suggested that I wouldn’t sew again until my dissertation was done. I had thought about having Aidan take my sewing machine with him when he left for Cincinnati, but I decided against it at the last minute. And then as soon as he was gone and I had no one around to entertain me, I started sewing in little bits of time while taking a break from work. This is first thing I managed to finish—the Faded Stripes Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2015. The main fabric is a rayon/Spandex jersey from Fabric.com and the bindings are a rayon/Spandex ribbing from Girl Charlee. I rarely find prints that that I’m interested in wearing–I don’t want anything that is too bright, too busy, or too feminine. So even though this fox print is verging on hipster nonsense, I liked it enough to spring for a yard’s worth. I think this shirt is now the coolest piece of clothing I own. (Although, to be fair, I am extremely thin on clothing at the moment, so the bar isn’t very high.)

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

I started subscribing to Ottobre Woman last summer and have three issues, but this is the first Ottobre project I’ve actually made. The two things people always note as a word of caution about Ottobre patterns is that 1) they come with the crazy, color-coded pull-out sheets that you have trace your pattern pieces from and 2) the instructions are on the spare side. I didn’t find either of these things a problem, but this is also a really simple pattern with only 3 pattern pieces plus bindings. I mean, you could easily figure out how to put this shirt together just by looking at the line drawing.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My one quibble with the instructions has to do with the binding around the sleeves and neckline. The instructions tell you that for binding fabric with 40-50% stretch, you should cut the binding strips at 70% of the length of the opening you are binding. Now, when I read that, I thought it seemed way too short for binding. But my ribbing has ~60% stretch, so I followed the instructions anyway and sewed the first strip of binding to the first sleeve and it was, indeed, way too short—the entire sleeve opening was gathered. I went back and recut binding strips at 85% of the length of the opening (Ottobre’s recommended length for binding fabrics with 20-30% stretch) and that worked much better. But it also makes me think that if you had a fabric with significantly less stretch, you’d probably want to cut the bindings just a tiny bit smaller than the opening. Anyway. Lesson learned.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

My high bust measurement puts me in a size 46 on the Ottobre chart, but since the style of this shirt is more relaxed through the shoulders, I just traced a straight 48 to give me a bit more room at the bust to start with. I did a 1” FBA, and rotated most of the dart to the hem to give me a bit more room at the hips. I eased the rest of the dart into the side seam at the bust level. I’m relatively happy with the fit, although I did have an issue with the back neckline drooping and collapsing on itself. I remember seeing a tip from Debbie at Stitches and Seams for dealing with drooping knit necklines by running some elastic thread through the stitching line at the back of the neck to tighten it up. It took me about 5 minutes to do, and it worked out perfectly. When the shirt is laid flat, you can see some rippling at the back of the neck from where the elastic is, but it lays flat when I wear it.

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

And finally, not to belabor a post about a very simple t-shirt, but I did end up using a twin needle to top-stitch the binding and sew the hem. It’s the first time I pulled out the twin needle since I swore them off a few months ago, and it wasn’t so painful this time, primarily because I saw this post from Pandora Sews Plus Size Clothes. I was already doing most of what she recommended, but she had one tip in particular about threading a twin needle where she explained that you aren’t supposed to hook the thread going into the right needle over the bar in front of the needle. This one little trick—not catching the second thread through the bar above the needle—made a huge difference and resolved almost all of the problems I was having with thread tension and skipped stitches. So, I have tentatively invited the twin needle back into my life, although I still maintain that people tend to oversell its virtues and ease of use. The twin needling around the binding worked out much better than the twin needling at the hem—it’s almost like the twin needle responded better to sewing through a more substantial thickness of fabric? I’m going to see how it wears, but I might actually end up redoing the hem using a narrower twin needle. We’ll see. At the very least, I’m glad to have stumbled across the first tip that has made a serious difference for using a twin needle on my current machine.

Baby Gift x3: Snugglers and Maddie Hoodies

I was already in the process of planning a baby gift for a friend when we found out that we’re going to have twin nieces or nephews (or some combination of the two—why is there not a gender-neutral word to express that relationship in English?) coming into our family at the end of the summer. For some reason, the idea of picking a couple of patterns and making them in triplicate seemed like great fun to me. And, indeed, it was a lot of fun to see all three items lined up at the end and feel like I was the master of the pattern, which I think is mostly a reflection of the way the meaning of “fun” shifts when it’s deep winter in central New York and you’re at the height of a job search. Anyway…

Lotta Jansdotter Snuggler

First up, I made some baby swaddlers. The pattern I used is originally from Lotta Jansdotter’s book Simple Sewing for Baby, but it’s also available for free on MAKE. I used quilting cotton for the outside layer and flannel for the lining. These are generally pretty easy to make, except for two little hiccups. First, if you use the free pdf version of the pattern, there aren’t any reference points for assembling the pages and there is a substantial amount of (unmarked) overlap between the pages, making this the least intuitive/most unnecessarily frustrating pdf pattern I’ve encountered. I didn’t come across it until after I had managed to put the pattern together, but there is a picture of the assembled pattern on Zaaberry, which would definitely would have been helpful.

Lotta Jansdotter Snuggler

The other tricky bit is the step where you have to sew the lining to the outer shell. At that point, you have to find a way to sew around both the inner part of the pouch and the swaddle flaps (for lack of a better term), and if you’re not careful as you pivot around that corner, the fabric can easily get twisted up at the seam where the two connect. Rather than trying to sew the seam in one pass, I started at the top of the inner part of the pouch and sewed to the side seam, repeated for the other side, and then sewed from side seam to side seam (leaving an opening to turn the swaddler inside out) around the swaddler flaps. Does that make any sense?

Blood Orange Maddie Hoodie

The hooded cardigans are Carrie Bostick Hodge’s Maddie Hoodie pattern. I knit up the 12 mos size and followed the pattern almost to the letter, except that my row gauge was off just enough to require some minor adjustments to the sleeve increases and to the row counts for the hood. I used Berroco Weekend DK in Blood Orange, Seedling, and Swimming Hole for the main colors and Daisy for the stripes. I really liked this yarn and would definitely use it again for kid stuff.

Maddie Hoodie pocket

This pattern is very easy to follow, but there is a fair bit of finishing work for such a small cardigan—seaming the pockets, seaming the sleeves, extra ends to weave in from the stripes, and a bunch of buttons to sew on. If you aren’t knitting three of these cardigans in a row, I suspect the finishing is less of an ordeal. The little green sweater sat around for two months before I could stomach another round of buttons. Anyway, I like that it’s a basic style with some more distinct details. Like those little pockets! So useless, but so cute. They will be great for storing things like runaway Cheerios and partially smashed blueberries.

Maddie Hoodie in Berroco Weekend DK

My own style tends enough toward “somber” and “boring” that the best part of making things for small people is using color and bright prints. Now that we’re moving closer to our families, I’m going to make a habit of regularly measuring our smaller family members so I can make fun, bright things when the mood strikes. I’m sure it won’t be weird at all when I try to wrangle them with a measuring tape.

Lotta Snugglers and Maddie Hoodies

Sweater Knitting: Bust Dart and Waist Shaping Placement

I had a request for images that show more clearly where I actually place darts in my sweaters. My sweater knitting posts get a fair bit of attention, so I’ve been meaning to write a couple of posts explaining my process for altering sweaters to fit and for calculating bust darts and waist shaping. Since those posts will probably be a bit more involved, they are on my list of post-dissertation projects. However, creating images that show the dart placement I use only took about 15 minutes with a free photo editor, so here they are. Please excuse the shaky lines–my digital drawing skills haven’t progressed much since my days of playing around with MS Paint as a kid. All of the images are of my Blank Canvas sweater, although the lines I’ve drawn in reflect the dart location I generally use on fitted sweaters.

Vertical Bust Darts/Front Waist Shaping

Vertical Bust Dart and Waist Shaping Placement

This line of shaping is just where I do a series of decreases and increases to add shape for my waist and bust. I use the bust dart and waist shaping placement recommended by Amy Herzog in her book Fit to Flatter, so I do my shaping about a quarter of the way in on the front. In other words, if I was working the front of the sweater over 100 stitches, I would knit 25 stitches, place a marker for the increase/decrease line, knit 50 stitches, place a market for the second increase/decrease line, and then knit the remaining 25 stitches. Because there is more than a 2″ difference between my full bust and my high bust measurement, I work a series of decreases after the bust apex in order to get to the appropriate stitch count for my shoulders and neckline.

Horizontal Bust Dart

Horizontal Bust Dart Placement

In addition to the vertical bust darts and waist shaping, I add a horizontal bust dart, which is basically a series of short rows that add length to the front to accommodate the depth of a larger bust. (I’ve written more about horizontal bust darts and how they work in this post.) I typically do ~3″ worth of short rows and insert the short rows an inch below my bust apex, or the highest/fullest part of my bust. My bust apex is about 3″ below the point where my armscye begins, so I work the short rows ~4″ below the armscye. When I work the short row wraps, I make sure that they don’t go past the vertical shaping lines I indicated in the first image.

Back Waist Shaping

Back Waist Sweater Shaping

For back waist shaping, I again follow Amy Herzog’s recommendation for shaping placement, which is ~1/3 of the way in on either side of the sweater. So for a sweater back worked over 100 stitches, I would knit 33 stitches, place a marker for the shaping line, knit 34 stitches, place a second marker for the shaping line, and then knit the remaining 33 stitches. The two longer lines in the picture indicate these primary shaping lines which are worked about of a third of the way in on either side of the sweater.

The two smaller lines indicate an additional set of waist darts that I started using because the typical pair of decreases weren’t sufficient. I have a serious back curve and to do all of the shaping I would need to do in a single set of darts would mean decreasing so frequently that the fabric would start to bias and distort. So I work decreases on the primary shaping lines (the longer lines) every 4 rows and incorporate any additional decreases I need beyond that into the two smaller darts. I place the smaller darts halfway between the primary shaping lines and the edge of the sweater.

So that’s the low-down on where I’m placing the darts and waist shaping in my fitted sweaters. I hope this is relatively clear and helpful. Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

New Pattern Thoughts

There have been a lot of summer pattern releases recently, both sewing- and knitting-related. Neither the Vogue nor McCall’s summer patterns are of any interest to me. It’s not entirely surprising since summer sewing patterns tend to be dress-heavy, and I don’t wear dresses. (Nor do I wear culottes, which are apparently a thing right now. And I especially do not wear culotte jumpsuits, of which there are not one, but two, patterns included in the McCall’s release. But I’m not the person anyone should be consulting about fashion so, you know, follow your culotte bliss.) The McCall’s release has a number of kid’s patterns that would be useful if I had a 5-year-old daughter with a moderate interest in ruffles but, alas, I just have three crabby old cats.

The one new pattern that I’ll definitely be buying is the Grainline Morris blazer. I’ve wanted to wear more jackets, so I’ve bought a couple of jacket patterns but they all seem out of my depth right now. The Morris Blazer looks like something I could reasonably manage at my current skill level.

The new Twist Collective is a bunch of patterns that make me think, “nice, but not for me.” This issue also had a significant number of kid’s patterns, although none that really grabbed me. I like the color work pattern on Elephanteau, but I don’t particularly like the neckline.

I do, however, really like the Minthe cardigan. I love all of the details on this pattern—the fit, the neckline, the pockets, the zippered front, the textured bands. But it also seems like the pattern uses some interesting construction methods, which will make it more fun to knit. Minthe has already line-jumped a couple of other sweater patterns in my queue.

BT Men's Collection

By far, my favorite recent pattern release is the new Brooklyn Tweed Men’s Collection. There isn’t a piece that I dislike, but I do have a few favorites. The two cabled hats (Crag and Snare) are great, and I can see myself making Sawyer for Aidan.

 The stand out for me is Carbon, which I want to alter to fit (curvy, narrow-shouldered, not-a-man) me. I love the monochrome color work, and there’s a very good chance I’d buy the exact yarn used for the sample. I’ve wanted to make a stranded sweater for myself for a long time but have never found a pattern that I liked enough to commit to. Apparently, they all just weren’t gray or masculine enough for me.

So those are my new pattern picks. It’s probably better not to have a ton of new patterns that I want to make, especially since if I actually made Morris, Minthe, and Carbon before the year was up, it would be a crafting miracle.

Cincinnati-Bound

In March, I was offered a position as an Assistant Professor at a 2-year college just north of Cincinnati. When I started my job search in October (because academic job searches take forever), my goal was to get a tenure-track job at a small, teaching-focused college in or very near a Midwestern city, and that’s exactly what I ended up with. It’s a great job, and I’m excited for the all of the professor perks like finally having my own office.

I was actually born in southwestern Ohio and lived there until my family moved to Wisconsin when I was ten. Graduate school took me back to southwestern Ohio for two years before we moved to New York, and now we’re headed back to southwestern Ohio once again. It’s starting to feel like the universe is sending me a very pointed message about where I’m supposed to be.

Aidan managed to get a job in Cincinnati pretty quickly, which is great but also means he’s going to be moving down there in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, I’ll be staying behind to finish up the semester and pack our stuff up. Oh, and I have to actually finish my dissertation so that I can graduate. NBD.

So my life right now revolves around writing and moving logistics. It is all equal parts exciting and terrifying. There have been good parts about being in New York, but I am so done with living in Syracuse and even more done with grad school. I think there are good things on the horizon for us in Ohio, but I can’t think too long about all the work I have to do over the next two months in order to get there or I start to feel a little ill.

Anyway, I had been keeping my sewing machine on my desk and would just push it to the side when I needed to work. But I decided to pack all of my sewing stuff away a few weeks ago to clear my workspace and my head. (No regrets–it worked.) I’ve even asked Aidan to take my sewing machine down to Ohio with him when he goes rather than risk it to the not-so-gentle hands of movers. That means that I probably won’t be doing any sewing until July. In my non-writing time, I’ve reverted back to my early grad school knitting habits and have been exclusively knitting socks for the last five weeks. I’ve finished one full pair, have two pairs in progress, and just got another three skeins of sock yarn in the mail today.

At this point in my knitting life, socks require next to no mental exertion on my part, so I’ve basically cut out as many crafty distractions as possible without totally giving it up. I just keep reminding myself that this state of affairs is temporary. Plus, Aidan promised to buy me a serger once I defend my diss. I think that should be enough motivation to keep me limping along. Back to work!

In Progress: Little Wave

I cast on for a new sweater over the weekend–Gudrun Johnston’s Little Wave. I actually had the yarn for this sweater earmarked for a different pattern for almost a year, but never worked up the motivation to actually get started on it. Then, a few weeks ago, I was feeling overwhelmed trying to pick a new knitting project, and I made Aidan sit down and give me his thoughts on the patterns I had in my Ravelry queue. Since the beginning of our relationship, Aidan’s been responsible for picking out things that have become my favorite clothes, so I trust his judgment. Well, he nixed the cardigan pattern I had planned to make with this yarn because he didn’t like the stand up collar. I agreed that a stand up collar isn’t a look I’m a huge fan of and figured that if it had been a year, and I still hadn’t committed to that sweater project, then it wasn’t worth keeping on the docket. Aidan suggested I make something with a shawl collar instead, which brought me to Little Wave.

The yarn I’m using is Valley Yarns Northampton in Ocean Heather, which I’ve actually salvaged from a previous sweater project that I never wore. I’d used it previously to make Ravine. That sweater has a great cable pattern that was a lot of fun to knit, but in the end I just didn’t like the fit, the neckline, or the style of the sweater. This was one of my earlier attempts in trying to nail down a good sweater fit and while I learned a lot from this project, I think I only ended up wearing it once or twice.

 Anyway, I took an evening to take the sweater apart, unravel the pieces, and wind the yarn into hanks. I let the yarn soak in a tub of water for a good while, and now that all the kinks are gone, it’s ready to be reborn as a new sweater project.

Working out the fitting for this pattern has been the biggest challenge so far. The combination of the textured stitch pattern, the garter stitch panels at the sides of the sweater, and the bottom-up saddle-shoulder construction doesn’t give a lot of room for improvising and makes it a bit harder to move between sizes. Plus, there’s about a 5″ difference between each pattern size, which also makes it a bit trickier to pick the right size to work with. The pattern is actually written with separate instructions for men and women, so that there’s one set of finished chest measurements, but two sets of instructions for shaping the cardigan so that it fits more conventional feminine or masculine styling. (Basically, the women’s version includes some waist shaping, a higher armscye, and the length through the body and sleeves is also a bit shorter.) The trade off for a unisex pattern seems to be fewer overall size options, but so it goes.

Right now, my plan is to basically make up the 46” size through the body. However, I’ll be casting on for the number of stitches called for in the 51” size, and dividing the extra stitches between the garter panels at the sides and the cardigan fronts. I’ll get rid of the extra stitches in the garter panels by working additional waist decreases and then get rid of the extra stitches on the cardigan fronts by starting the v-shaping for the neckline sooner than called for in the pattern. This will give me more room at the hips, waist, and bust, while allowing me to work the shoulder and armscye shaping for a smaller size. The shoulders for the 46″ will be too wide for me, so I’m going to try to work some extra decreases in the yoke shaping in hopes that I can decrease down to the appropriate number of stitches for the 41.25″ size. Here’s hoping the plan works out!