Assorted Finished Things

Silver Socks

When I was working on my MA, sock knitting was kind of THE thing in knitting at the time. (Then it seems like shawls/shawlettes were the big thing and now it’s . . .  Cowls? I’m not sure. Maybe the online presence of knitters has become big enough that there isn’t really a single thing anymore.) Of course, sock knitting is still a thing, and people knit and design lots of sock patterns. But at the time, the knitting world was kind of in the throes of sock mania. At the height of this, I tried a lot of complex, interesting sock patterns. And then, a few years into my PhD, I realized that I most enjoyed knitting and wearing very plain, very boring socks. I make all of Aidan’s socks in 2×2 rib, and all of my socks in stockinette with a simple ribbed cuff. It makes it very easy to start and finish a pair of socks since I don’t need to refer to any patterns or instructions while I’m knitting.

But lately, I’ve been feeling like the cuffs and insteps of my socks are just a bit too tight. So on this pair, I made the heel flap a bit longer to address the tightness around the instep and used a provisional cast-on for the cuff, which I finished with a more stretchy sewn bind off. The fit is definitely better and keeps me from having to cast on extra stitches at the cuff and decrease through the leg, which I don’t want to have to do. But the tubular bind off I used doesn’t look the greatest after it’s worked on the provisional stitches. I used the exact same bind off on my Grandpa Cardigan and it looks great there. I’m wondering if this is because, having used a provisional cast-on, the stitches for the cuff and the bind off are oriented in the opposite direction? I think next time I might try using an Italian Cast On. Actually, next time I might give this basic toe-up pattern a try. We’ll see. These socks are made with Regia 4-Ply Terra in the Silver colorway.

Dog Sweater

Back in November, my sister was having trouble finding a sweater to fit her dog, Mini, and asked me to try making something that might fit better. She sent me a few basic measurements and I used two different tutorials from Sew It Love It to make this–this tutorial helps you draft the pattern for the sweater and this one guides you through actually sewing the sweater up. It took me awhile to find the time to sit down and do the drafting and sewing (or really, it took me awhile to summon up the courage to try drafting something to fit a dog that lives hundreds of miles from me), but once I started working on it, I was able to finish it all up quickly. Sewing the sweater requires a single seam down the center front of the body, and then you attach bands to the neck, legs, and around the torso. I sewed all the seams with a medium zig-zag stitch, and then top stitched around the bands with a wider zigzag to keep them from flipping up. The fabric is just anti-pill fleece from JoAnn’s. I’m pleased with how it turned out and my sister said it fits well. She also said Mini found it unnerving to be photographed from the side, so that’s why she looks a bit unhappy in the first photo.


I’ve been making a lot of bread the past two months, and this week I tried Julia Child’s White Sandwich Loaf recipe (found here, via Dinner With Julie) for the first time. This recipe produced the most beautiful loaves of bread I’ve ever made before. It’s a pretty simple recipe—no crazy ingredients and I was able to start it at around 11 am and have the bread finished before dinner. It’s especially simple in comparison to the white sandwich bread recipe that I’ve used previously from The Bread Bible. It rose up nicely and the texture is great—very soft and perfect for sandwiches. It isn’t as flavorful as the recipe from The Bread Bible, which is as delicious as it is involved, but Julia Child’s recipe contains less dairy and less sugar, which in addition to being very straight-foward, makes it a nice everyday bread recipe. I’m definitely going to make this again, but I might try using honey rather than white sugar to see if that makes any difference.

A couple of weeks ago, I also tried this Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour website. (This is a cell phone picture taken at night in my tiny kitchen, so sorry for the poor quality.) This is a sweet bread, with a hint of cinnamon, and the oatmeal gives it a soft but chewy texture. It’s wonderfully fragrant when you bake and toast it. I ate this bread, toasted and smeared with butter, every morning for breakfast until it was gone. The next time I make it, I want to try using some of it for French Toast. This is sweet enough that it’s not the kind of bread I’d use for a sandwich at lunch, but it is very, very good. Plus, it’s a nice way to use up the bag of White Whole Wheat flour that I have in the cupboard but never know what to do with!

In other news, I’ve started reading Willa Cather’s My Antonia, and last night I got to the part where Jim kills a massive rattle snake with a spade and then drags the thing home to show off to everyone. Just in case you wondering what was keeping me awake at night lately, there you go. It is a truly beautiful book with 1000% too many snakes.

Portrait of a Crafter in the Gray Days of February

I’ve been sewing steadily through my stack of cut  and prepped projects. This past weekend, I finished up another version of McCalls 6844. Since then, I’ve been slowly working on a version of the Jalie Scarf Top and am nearly finished—I just need to figure out how I want to hem the sleeves and the bottom. The next few weeks are exceptionally busy for me, so I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to take pictures, but I’ll post about both eventually.

Asymmetrical Hoodie from Ottobre Woman 5/2014

Asymmetrical Hoodie from Ottobre Woman 5/2014

The other projects I’ve got cut and ready to go are pretty simple and, actually, most of what remains in the pile is gift sewing. I’m already looking ahead and planning what I’ll work on when I get through those projects, and I’ve got two particular patterns on the brain. First, I’m planning to make up the asymmetrical hoodie pattern from the 2014 Fall/Winter issue of Ottobre Woman. I’m going to keep it pretty basic and use some black sweatshirt fleece I bought from Girl Charlee recently. Then I’m going to try the Camas Blouse from Thread Theory in a lightweight gray cotton blend jersey. I tried making McCall’s 7018 last fall, but I ended up not liking the style or the fit of that pattern so I didn’t bother finishing it. I think the style of the Camas Blouse (especially the v-neck) will suit me better.

Thread Theory Camas Blouse

While sewing has been going pretty well for me, my knitting has felt like a bit of a drag lately. I have a gift in progress that was actually quite fun to knit, but I’m now in the throes of some tedious finishing work that I just don’t have the energy to push through at the moment. But the biggest thing that has me feeling stalled on my knitting is an unfortunate sleeve problem with the basic gray pullover I’ve been working on for a few months. I knit the first sleeve, which felt like it took forever, only to discover that it was way too long and that I didn’t have enough yarn to knit a second full sleeve, even if the sleeves were shortened to a reasonable length.

Jet Pullover in Progress

I came up with a plan to do some sweater surgery on the first sleeve so I could turn it into a 3/4 sleeve without re-knitting the whole thing. And then I did nothing. And since then, I’ve just felt kind of haunted by that crappy sleeve. I recently realized that while my sweater surgery plan is workable, it won’t yield the result I really want and the only way to get satisfying sleeves with the yarn I have left is to redo the first sleeve completely. I actually feel better about the sweater since realizing this, but I’m also not currently up to ripping out a sleeve that took a million years to knit. In short, knitting and I are on the outs because it keeps demanding more focus and emotional energy than I have to give right now. It’s okay. I am sure we will make up later.

On a more upbeat note, I’m really excited that the Great British Sewing Bee is back. You have to do a bit of digging to find a way to watch it if you’re in the U.S., but there are a couple of different extensions/programs that will allow you to stream it on the BBC iPlayer. (I use this one. There’s a small monthly fee after you stream a certain amount of data, but I think it’s worth it.) I love this show—it’s fun to watch and I find it very inspiring. Plus, the show challenges are helping me keep my own current stressors in perspective. Watching a group of people struggle to transform a denim shirt into an entirely different garment in 90 minutes while being filmed and then publicly judged on their work? I figure, if they can make it out of the sewing room alive and in tact, I’ll be okay too.

How is February going for you so far?

McCalls 6992

I finally have a finished sewing project to show off. I think the last time I posted about a finished garment was sometime in October? I’ve been sewing since then and have finished several things, but nothing that feels worth posting about—just super simple things like pajama pants and t-shirts.


I can’t say that this project is terribly exciting either, but it’s at least a new (to me) pattern. This is McCalls 6992, which is just a basic raglan sweatshirt pattern, not unlike the basic sweatshirt patterns that just about every pattern company seems to have released in the past year. I’m pleased with this McCalls version and would definitely make it again.

There’s not much to say about it given that it’s such a simple silhouette that’s easy to put together. I made View D, which has a shaped hem with a slight hi-low effect, rather than a traditional sweatshirt band at the bottom. This pattern uses a shoulder dart to help shape the sleeves and neckline, and I like the fit through the shoulders that you get with the darts. They not only keep the neckline lying flat at the shoulder, but I feel like they also help to define the shape of my shoulders and thus mitigate some of the shoulder-rounding effect of the raglan sleeve that usually makes a raglan sweater look kind of crappy on my body. (Of course, I might just be imagining this shoulder-defining effect, but I do feel like this shirt looks better on me than many raglan shirts I’ve had in the past.)


I made a lot of my usual changes—I started with the size 18, blended to the 22 at the underarm, and then blended to the 24 at the hip. I also made a 1″ FBA (by which I mean I added 1″ to the pattern piece and thus 2″ overall to the front–do you call this a 1″ FBA or a 2″ FBA? I have no idea.) I pinned a dart out at the side when I did a basted fitting. I also lowered the neckline by about 1.5″ just because I don’t like the way a high neckline feels. If/when I make this again, I’ll probably only blend out to the 20 at the underarm and then add in a bit more waist shaping at the sides. But as it is, I’m pleased with the fit on this as a first version.


The fabric I used is a double-faced cotton jersey blend from Girl Charlee. One side is solid black and the other side has black and charcoal stripes. My favorite part of this fabric is that by using the black side for the sleeves, I saved myself a lot of stripe-matching pain. This fabric is super-soft and also very warm. The only downside is that it attracts a crazy amount of hair, which is not an ideal state of affairs for someone with long hair and multiple cats.

Before sewing this, I spent a week or so just prepping and cutting out a stack of projects. I don’t really mind altering patterns or cutting out fabric, but it does require some different tools and a different organization of my small sewing space. I’m finding that it helps if I just seize the cutting momentum and get a bunch of projects ready rather then cutting and sewing one project at a time. So, barring a series of sewing disasters, I should have some more sewing projects to share in the near future—or at least before another four months has passed!

Grandpa Cardigan

Finally! Finished pics of the Grandpa cardigan. I started knitting this in August as part of a knit-along with my friend, Abby. I’m pretty worn out on lightweight, fitted cardigans, but I’m really liking heavier-weight cardigans that almost more like jackets. I made the Girl Friday cardigan a few years ago, which is pretty similar in style, and I’ve been wearing it a lot over the last year. So I think the Grandpa cardigan will fit into my closet nicely. I used Cascade 220 in Atlantic. The pattern calls for a DK weight yarn, but I like the way this knit up in a worsted weight. The fabric isn’t too dense and the cables have great definition.

Before I get into detailing all of my fit modifications, I just want to say that this is a really excellent pattern. This sweater can be a bit challenging–there are a lot of different details to manage at once–but I think the pattern in written in such a way that makes tackling everything that you need to do as clear and as manageable as possible. As long as you’re keeping track of the numbers and charts that are relevant to your size, I think it’s pretty easy to stay on top of where you need to be.

I think this pattern also has some really great design details. I like that the cable pattern is specific to each size and that the ribbing on the collar, sleeves, and hem is all finished with a tubular bind-off. I don’t think I’ve used a tubular bind-off before, and even though it’s a bit to work around the length of the collar, the result is really nice. (I found this tutorial from Interweave especially helpful when I was working the bind off.) I’ve also previously tried a pattern with a seamless, set-in sleeve like this pattern uses and ended up with a sleeve that looked really weird and baggy. I’ve seen other people get similar results with this construction method so I was a bit hesitant, but I think the sleeves on this cardigan look really good and have yet to see another project where someone had something funky going on with their sleeves.

My upper torso, full bust, and hip measurements all fall into three different sizes, which I usually manage with bust darts and a lot of waist shaping using methods that wouldn’t work with this particular pattern. To work around this, I started with the 42-44” size for the upper torso, and then added extra stitches for the bust by following the neckline instructions for the largest size. This made the sweater ~46” around the fullest part of my bust. Then I added more room at the hip by working 4 extra sets of increases at the waist shaping.

The armscye seemed a bit shallow to me, so I added 1/2” before starting the armhole shaping. I made the sleeves 2” shorter than the pattern called for and added a couple of extra buttons. After I finished the sweater at the end of the September, I realized it was looking a bit short and hitting me at kind of a weird place. So I ripped out the collar and button band and ripped out the ribbing at the bottom so that I could add another 2” of length in the body. I’m much happier with the longer length—I think it works well with the style of the sweater.

Adding the extra length used up the extra ball of “just in case” yarn I ordered for this project. If I hadn’t used it to lengthen the body, I probably would have gone back and made the button band significantly wider. The shawl collar is a bit shallow and sometimes wants to flip up, but I could also use a little bit of extra width on the body. The cables pull in enough that make this feel pretty snug even though it’s knit to the measurements I typically knit to. The pattern recommends 1-2” of ease, which I ignored because I typically knit sweaters with zero ease or just a bit of negative ease, but I wish I had added more ease through the body to counteract the behavior of the cables. If I were to knit this again, I’d also lower the back neckline by about an inch.

Making this pattern was the most fun I’ve had knitting in quite awhile. I highly recommend it, and I’m looking forward to trying more Joji Locatelli patterns in the future. There’s really a glut of knitting patterns available right now, but I Joji is one of the designers that always stands out to me (Ysolda Teague and all of the regular contributors to Brooklyn Tweed tend to be my other favorites). Not everything she designs is something I would wear, but I really appreciate the originality of her work and the fact that she’s coming up with more challenging designs that make use of a variety of construction methods and techniques. Maybe I’ll have to try Even Flow next?

2014 in Review

What? You wanted to read a really long post about my year in review? Okay, okay. You got it.

Non-Sewing Highlights

From the outset, 2014 has been a bit of a rough year, and I will be glad to be on the other side of it in a couple of weeks. Still, there were some really wonderful parts that are definitely worth remembering. We especially had a lot of fun traveling this year. Aidan and I kicked off the year with a post-New Year’s stay in Chicago where we spent some time wandering around in a snow storm, exploring the Field Museum, seeing some improv at Second City, and ordering a lot of room service.

Chicago at Night

In May, we got to spend a week in California with our good friends and our Godson. We split our time between L.A., Morro Bay, and Fresno. It was a fantastic trip from beginning to end. Our friends are now living in San Francisco, so that will be our next California adventure.


Aidan had a six-week work training in NYC and NJ that started at the end of July. I had to stay in Syracuse, but took a bus down to NYC almost every weekend while he was there. We had a great time exploring the city together and being touristy. Highlights included: visiting Ellis Island, touring Theodore Roosevelt’s childhood home, casually passing Samira Wiley (Poussey from Orange is the New Black) on the street, seeing both the Mets and the Yankees play, and seeing a truly epic performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Finally, last month, I spent three days at a conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I stayed with two friends in a lovely apartment in Old San Juan, which was really beautiful. I’m not much for sun and heat, but I loved San Juan. And the conference, which I was feeling really stressed out about, turned out to be energizing in exactly the way I needed.

Eating mofongo in San Juan

Between the conferences I attended this year and campus events, I also got to see Angela Davis, Laverne Cox, and bell hooks speak—each of them wonderful, inspiring and brilliant. Beyond that, this is a year that has made me especially thankful for good friends, good colleagues, and good students.

And for Aidan. Always.

Things Made

As far as crafting goes, I managed:

  • 15 sewn adult garments (4 pairs of PJ bottoms and 11 shirts, half of which were basic t-shirts)
  • 4 knitted adult sweaters (1 for Aidan, 3 for me)
  • 4 kids garments (2 beach robes and 2 baby sweaters)
  • A fair bit of crafty sewing (a few different home dec projects, some knitting project bags, and some needle and notions cases for my knitting stuff)
  • Some knitted accessories (3 pairs of socks, 3 hats, a scarf and a cowl)
  • Lots of underwear (It feels weird to be crowing about my underwear all the time, but the reality is that I spent a lot of time on this project this year. I think I probably made about 20 pairs in total? And my post on Jalie 2568 turned out to be my most popular blog post this year.)
  • 3 sewing projects that never got finished because they were terrible and one sweater that turned out too small

I’m pleased with the way that my sewing has progressed this year and, with the exception of the very first t-shirt I made, every garment I’ve sewn for myself has seen a decent amount of wear. Still, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really reach for the garments I made for myself in the first half of the year—most of them suffer from cheap fabric and lacking technical skills. But I definitely learned a lot and still managed to produce some items that I genuinely like and that fit well into my wardrobe. My most-worn item is probably my black Vogue hoodie.

The undisputed star of this year’s makes is definitely my Grandpa cardigan, which I sadly still haven’t managed to get modeled pictures of. Once I get my course grades finalized for this semester, I’m hoping to find some time (and a slightly less gray day) to get some good pictures. It was a really fun pattern to knit, and I’m really happy with the way that my fit modifications turned out. I’ve been wearing it a couple of times a week since I finished it. I wore it to and end-of-the-semester lunch hosted by my department chair, and our support staff members went crazy when they found out I had made it myself. I have to say that I’m quite proud of it.

Grandpa Cardigan

Other Crafty Highlights

At the end of January, I got a new sewing machine—a Janome DC 2013. I really love this machine. I’ve owned a sewing machine consistently since I was 16, but they were always very cheap, lightweight mechanical machines with constant tension problems and not enough power to get through more than a few layers of quilting cotton. I spent over ten years sewing in fits and starts because of those crappy machines. With my new machine, I feel like I can tackle just about anything.

Janome DC 2013

I also got back to blogging this year. At this point, I’ve published 44 posts this year, which is kind of a surprising number given that I’ve found it hard to keep up with blogging for the last few months in particular. But even when I don’t have a lot of time for blogging, I’m still glad I have this blog going. It’s fun to write about and reflect on my projects, and even more fun to read your comments.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to 2015, I’ve got a lot of potential projects on the brain and some different things I’d like to try. I’m thinking about trying a small quilting project. I’d like to try making myself some pants I might actually wear outside of the house. I want to increase my sweater output and focus on making some lighter-weight sweaters. I’d like to make us some more holiday decorations and try making more gifts (I didn’t make any Christmas gifts this year). I’m thinking that I’ll likely have good reason to do some more home dec sewing this year as well. But my only real goal this year is to sew more. I want to build my sewing confidence and my skills, and the only way to do that is through practice.

Aidan and I are in search of some new adventures this year. We’ve spent 5.5 years in Syracuse, and the end of our time here is coming up pretty fast. We’re not sure where we’ll end up next, but we’re looking forward to whatever life has in store for us next. Onward!

Basic Socks and a Wee Liesl

After I finished my Grandpa cardigan (which I still haven’t photographed yet, but which has been blocked and now has buttons and has been on my back every couple of days since then), I was feeling the need for some quick and mindless knitting. I started by finishing up two small projects that I’d had laying around for awhile. The first finished project was another pair of socks for Aidan. There isn’t much to say about these since they are pretty much the same as every other pair of socks I make for him—top down in 2×2 rib worked over 72 sts on US size 1 needles. This yarn is Regia 4 Ply Terra in the Anthracite colorway. I think this is something like the 12th or 13th pair of socks I’ve made for Aidan over the last seven years, and only one pair has bit the dust so far.

Anthracite Socks

The second finished project was a little cardigan that I started making at some point last spring when I was in the middle of a knitting funk. I had just finished up my Blank Canvas sweater, and I didn’t have a project that I felt inspired to work on but my hands felt restless. When I saw the pattern pop up on Ravelry, I thought: that purple yarn that I never know what to do with would be perfect for this. And so , even though I didn’t have a recipient in mind and didn’t even know anyone with an infant- to toddler-sized girl, I cast on. I managed to get about 3/4 of the way through the body of the sweater before I finally thought, “What the hell am I going to do with this sweater?”, shoved it in the back of my knitting bin, forgot about it, and settled back into my knitting funk.

Wee Liesl Cardigan

The pattern is Ysolda Teague’s Wee Liesl and the yarn is Serenity Sock in violet. The pink buttons were the only appropriate button choice I had on hand, so I decided to just embrace the super-princess look. I knit the 18-24 months size to use up the maximum amount of yarn. This was a fun and frivolous knitting project and the result is pretty cute. If I were a toddler, I would probably style this cardigan with rainbow striped leggings and heart-shaped sunglasses. In the time between me setting this cardigan aside and then finally finishing it, a friend actually had a little girl, and so this cardigan will now be going to my new little friend Yusra (who was also the recipient of the Pomander cardigan). She probably won’t fit into it for another year, but I’m sure she will look very cute in it when she does.

After finishing up the socks and cardigan, I was on a roll and managed to knit up a cowl and two hats in the span of a week. Now I’m in the middle of a fingering-weight pullover that I’m knitting. For a mostly sweater knit almost entirely in stockinette at about 8 stitches per inch, it’s going surprisingly fast. I’m still trying to plug along with sewing, but honestly, I have a lot on my plate right now and knitting is my comfort craft. So if I post a lot more about knitting than I do about sewing, it’s just because my hands and my brain are going with what they know best!

Twin Needle Grievances

I’m pretty sure Aidan doesn’t want to listen to my reflections of the twin needle as a method for hemming knits, so I figured I’d take it to the blog.

I said not so long ago that I was giving up on using a twin needle to hem my knits because I just wasn’t satisfied with the results. But I wound up giving the twin needle another go. My thanks for this effort was an irresolvable struggle with skipped stitches and hems inelastic enough that I popped the hem on one of the sleeves of my new t-shirt the first day that I wore it. And this isn’t the first time I’ve had a twin needle hem pop early into it’s life.

I have read and tried all of the twin needle advice I can find. I’ve tried multiple sizes of needles. I’m using stretch-specific twin needles. I have played around with stitch length and tension. I’ve used wooly nylon in the bobbin. I’ve used knit stay tape at the hem. I’ve tugged on the fabric to loosen the bobbin thread before tying the ends off. None of them actually alleviated my problems with the twin needle, and some of these suggestions actually made things worse. If only you could hear my machine complain about wooly nylon!

At this point, I’m not looking for anymore suggestions because I’m feeling even more done with the twin needle than I was a few weeks ago. I don’t have problems actually managing a twin needle hem—I can do that. My problem is with the performance of the twin needle hem. In blogs, I constantly see people praising the twin needle for producing a stretchy hem, but when it comes to sewing with knits, “stretchy” is a term that needs to be pretty roundly contextualized. A twin needle may produce a hem that stretches more than a straight stitch, but it certainly doesn’t compare to the flexibility of a cover-stitch hem and, in my experience, doesn’t even approach the level of stretch you get with a medium-width zigzag. A lot of the jerseys I’ve been using have a bit of Spandex in them, but even on the more stable knits I’ve used, I’ve found that the twin needle hem feels overly firm.

(I’ve also noticed a number of blog tutorials that demonstrate the stretchiness of a twin needle hem on a flat swatch of fabric. The problem with this is that the hem actually has more stretch than it would, say, as the hem of a sleeve because the bobbin thread is loose and can expand more than it would ever be able to once you’ve tied those threads off.)

The plus of the twin needle is that it gives the look of a cover stitched hem that can only be achieved in ready-to-wear or with a special machine, so it lacks the handmade look of a zigzagged hem. But it seems to me that short of actually using a cover stitch machine, I’m in the position of having to privilege mimicking either the look of the commercial cover stitch hem with a twin needle or the performance (that is, the significant stretch) of a cover stitch hem by using some other kind of stitch or technique for hemming with my standard sewing machine. I think what I’m realizing is that stretch matters more to me than looks. My preference for stretch probably has something to do with the kinds of clothes that I wear and the way that I treat my clothes—I want them to move with me without having to conscious of a hem that feels too firm. I’m not 100% sold on the look of a zigzag hem, but I’ve found that I’m less self-conscious of my zigzagged hems than I am of my twin-needled hems.

Plus, if I’m being honest, I think that a twin needle hem doesn’t always do the greatest job of mimicking the look of a cover stitched hem—it can look kind of sloppy. And the more you try to do to keep the hem looking really nice from the outside (tightening up the tension to keep the stitches looking clean, using stay tape to prevent tunneling), the more you limit the amount the hem will stretch. It’s a real win-some-lose-some situation.

Maybe I’m getting it all wrong and the twin needle really is the magical solution to hemming knits that the blog world says it is. But more and more, the idea of using a twin needle to hem my knits feels like not being able to eat bacon and having someone feed me turkey bacon while saying, “You can hardly tell the difference!” But I can definitely tell the difference. And the alternative isn’t terrible, but it still pales in comparison to the real thing. Some day, I’ll be able to save up for a cover stitch machine. Until then, I’m giving up the twin needle ghost, and I’ll focus my attention on learning to love the practicality of my zigzag stitch and experimenting with hem bands.