Outfit Along 2016: Mireille and Ginger

Despite my terrible track record for actually finishing knit- or sew-alongs, I decided to participate in this year’s Outfit Along, which is co-hosted by Andi at Untangling Knots and Lauren at Lladybird. The idea behind the Outfit Along is that you make two garments–one knit and one sewn–that can be worn together as an outfit.  It’s a fun, and kind of rare, place where the online knitting and sewing worlds come together.

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I’ve followed the OAL for the past two summers and have really enjoyed seeing the combos that people come up with, but I hadn’t ever really planned to participate myself. Like I said, I’m terrible at seeing things like this through so I’ve kind of given up on them. Also, the OALtends to lean towards a particular aesthetic that, while lovely on other people, is not really my thing.But when this year’s OAL was announced, I immediately had an idea pop into my head, and I just decided to go for it.

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My plan is knit the Mireille pullover from The Shetland Trader and sew a pair of Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans. For the sweater, I’m using Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal. For the jeans, I have some black stretch denim that I think will work really nicely for a pair of skinny jeans.

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In my last blog post, I talked about how a lifelong emphasis on practicality and lack of interest in style has led to me having an aggressively boring wardrobe. As soon as I envisioned both of these patterns together, my inner censor started hounding me: It’s not seasonal. Why would I make an oversized pullover when all advice suggests I will look best in something fitted? I’ll always be too hot in an alpaca-blend pullover. I’m not competent enough to sew jeans. I’ve only owned one pair of skinny jeans before–shouldn’t I pick a “safer” style if I’m going to go to the trouble of making jeans? This is just going to be a waste of good fabric. That censor voice (which is discernibly different from the quieter moments of intuition that tell me when something in a project isn’t working out quite right) is fucked up, so I’m ignoring it and forging ahead with the original plan. Basically, I’m using the OAL as a way to push myself to pay closer attention to my impulses and my intuition, like I talked about in my previous post.

Anyway. I haven’t done anything on the jeans, beyond buying the pattern. I also bought the Sewing Your Own Jeans e-book that Closet Case Files put out–I’ve read through most of it at this point, and it seems really helpful. The OAL goes through the end of July, so I’m hoping to gather my jeans-making supplies, get the pattern assembled, and maybe get a muslin started by the end of June, which will give me plenty of time to actually finish my jeans in July.

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Mireille, on the other hand, is off to a very strong start. The OAL started on June 1st, and I cast on for my sweater at about 12:05 a.m. In about a week’s worth of knitting time, I’ve made it entirely through the yoke and am now into the body of the sweater. The construction of this sweater is interesting and entirely new to me. Mireille has a drop shoulder. But unlike the the uber-boxy drop shoulder of the 1980s, this sweater is knit from the top-down, working from the shoulder seam and using short rows to create a carefully shaped, sloped shoulder that looks more modern. It’s meant to be loose-fitting, but the body still has some shaping and the sleeves are slim fitting, so I think it’s going to look really good once it’s done.

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I’m making the 48.5″ size, which puts me right around the lower end of the recommended 5-10″ of ease. I’ve swapped out the cables written in the pattern for a more traditional rope cable and I’m altering the waist shaping a bit to give me a bit more room at the hips, but otherwise the knitting should be pretty straightforward. I’m just keeping keeping my fingers crossed that the Ultra Alpaca doesn’t grow more than expected during blocking. I’m watching my row gauge carefully, but alpaca is always a bit of a gamble. I’m going to try to finish this sweater sooner rather than later so I have time to go back and shorten the sleeves or the body if necessary before the end of July.

My Clothes Are So F****** Boring: Me Made May 2016 Recap

At the beginning of Me-Made May, I pledged to wear one piece of handmade clothing each day and to alter five pieces of clothing to make them more wearable. I didn’t take pictures everyday, but I did keep track of what I wore in one of my journals. I easily managed wearing at least one handmade garment everyday. However, I only got around to altering one garment—I took my Ottobre “Get Moving” hoodie in at the sides and shaved some of the depth off of the pocket bags since they tended to poke out of the bottom when I put anything in them. We took a week-long trip to San Francisco in the middle of the month (where I wore my altered hoodie almost everyday), and when we got back I was tired and busy and needed time to recover the energy to sew, so ….no more alterations. I at least made a list of alterations I want to make and actually intend to take them on, so there’s that.

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S1062, which I still really like

The biggest thing I learned during Me-Made May is that I find my clothes very boring. There are, of course, some exceptions (I got a lot of joy out of wearing my Simplicity 1062 shirt and my newest Onyx shirt this month). It would have also been different if I had done this during colder weather, since I have a lot of hand knits that definitely do not feel boring. But for the most part, my closet—store bought and hand-made alike—is lean, utilitarian, and uninspiring.

So I’ve spent a lot of time this month thinking about my history and experience with clothing. I grew up in kind of a big family, living in very small Midwestern farming towns. My father is also a pastor (as was his father). I don’t ever describe myself as coming from a religious family or as having been “raised in the church” since people in the U.S. tend to have very specific associations with these ideas that don’t at all reflect my experience growing up in a very liberal, progressive church environment. But, looking back on my childhood and my family, I feel like there was always a distinctly Protestant moralism to the way my family looked at clothing.

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Love this Onyx Shirt, although I need to more permanently secure the sleeve cuffs

The basic goals for clothing in my family were that we had enough (and not much more), that our clothes were practical, and that they were economical. My family did not shop for clothing for fun—we got things as needed (and my dad is a no bullshit kind of guy so the need had to be real and demonstrable). My dad was also really suspicious of trends and a lot of the more ornamental aspects of fashion, which he saw as frivolous, irrational, and as a distraction from inner, personal growth. I remember having several conversations with my dad in which he basically argued for the value of intentionally eschewing trends and changes in fashion as a way of demonstrating humility, challenging the cultural value placed on material things, and developing a sense of self that does not depend on external validation. I think my dad has actually relaxed his view a bit as he’s gotten older, but I’ve really internalized a lot of his ideals and I can see now how much my attitudes toward clothing are tied to a very specific set of ethical principles that have shaped who I am.

 

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I really like my Madigan pullover (although it was too warm to wear it this month), but it’s actually too big now

But before I was thinking enough about my clothes to see how they are tied to a set of ethical principles, I just thought about myself as a person who didn’t care about clothes. This attitude was bolstered by my deep, deep hatred of shopping for clothes. Shopping for clothes feels like such a massive waste of time and just an ongoing exercise in disappointment. For basically all of my adult life, I’ve waited until I was at the point where I didn’t have enough clothes to get through a laundry cycle and then I would do one big shopping trip where I would fill in the holes with new clothing that was just minimally acceptable to my tastes. I go through cycles of being deeply dissatisfied with my clothes and then just deciding not to care about what I wear until the angst surfaces again. In Overdressed, Elizabeth Cline argues at one point that if we all think about it enough, we are actually very particular about the style and fit of our clothes, although the conditions of fast fashion tend to force us to settle for things that are just okay. I’ve done a lot of settling and had basically given up on finding things to suit my particular desires because they just didn’t exist.

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Wore this a lot after I altered it to fit better. This falls in the category of boring but very useful

Even when I started sewing, I didn’t really focus on sewing things that would suit my particular tastes. I started sewing so that I could quit shopping for clothes, so my concern was being able to produce enough and on producing things that were practical enough to get a lot of wear out of. So I’ve made a lot of basic things like t-shirts, underwear, leggings, pajama pants, etc.—basically things that are fairly easy to make and easy to wear. I’m happy with what I’ve learned about sewing in the process and happy enough with the things I’ve made to keep wearing them, but a lot of what I’ve made still leaves me feeling a little cold. I think my closet still says, “I don’t care about clothes,” which seems like the wrong message for someone who cares enough to take a lot of time and effort to actually make my own clothes.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I’m gearing up for some kind of radical shift in style. I lean towards minimal, casual, and monochrome so the garments I really love and find joy in (all three or four of them) are things other people would find very boring. I don’t see that changing. I guess I’d just like to have more clothes that I actually enjoy wearing and that I care enough about to really want to preserve and take care of (unlike a lot of my handmade t-shirts, which frankly feel about as disposable as the ones I’ve bought from Old Navy).

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I wore my Tonic Tees a lot this month. They fit better now than they did when I finished them, but I don’t actually like them anymore than my t-shirts from Old Navy.

 

Me-Made May was helpful in terms of helping me see that I have enough clothes, so I can shift the way I make my sewing and knitting plans. I don’t have a specific project list in mind. Instead, I guess I’m just trying to focus on slowing down and paying more attention to my internal sense of what I’d like to make, what I’d like to wear, and on the details that will make things all the more enjoyable. I’d like to move away from super easy projects, take some more risks, and try to learn some more things. I want to become more confident in altering patterns (not just in terms of fit but also in terms of changing details) and more proactive in terms of caring for and altering my clothes. Basically, I don’t want to keep replicating the generic and dissatisfying results of fast fashion in my own sewing. If my closet is even 25% less mind numbing next May, I’ll be very happy.

Plaza Tiles Stowe Bag

I’ve been interested in the Grainline Stowe Bag pattern since it was released–it’s got a nice minimalist aesthetic paired with great details like the interior pockets and the bound edges. I finally decided to give the pattern a try and make a knitting project bag as a birthday gift for my friend Abby.

Grainline Stowe Bag

The fabric is the Cotton + Steel Clover Canvas in the Plaza Tiles print. It’s a 6 oz canvas, which is a perfect weight for this project. I used some packaged off-white bias binding to finish the edges. I know some people like to make their own bias binding, but I’ve tried it before and found it enough of a pain in the ass that it’s become one of those “life is too short” activities for me.

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This is the small size bag, which is actually pretty roomy. In the first picture where the bag is filled, it’s holding my tailor’s ham and four skeins of yarn. The pockets can also hold a lot of stuff, which is a bonus for people like me who like to keep all kinds of crap like calculators and pens and post-its and extra needles with my projects.

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The bag is unlined, which I don’t mind, except that it leaves you with the question of how to finish your seams. If this bag were for me, I might have just serged the seams and called it good enough. But since it was a gift, I wanted a clean finish on all of the seams. I read a bunch of reviews looking for tips on how other people managed their seams and came across one review from Fancy Tiger Crafts where someone used flat-felled seams to finish the sides and a french seam for the bottom. I decided to try the same. The flat-felled seams on the sides look really nice and the french seam at the bottom is, of course, very bulky. I think there’s probably a better way to clean finish the bottom, and I’ll experiment with something different on my next version. I wasn’t a huge fan of the pattern’s recommendation for forming the gusset on the bag since it seemed to exacerbate the bulk at the bottom, so I just boxed the corners and finished those edges with some bias binding.

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The bag is easy to put together, although I was nervous about all of the bias binding. I’ve applied double-fold bias binding before, but not well. However, this time, I’m really pleased with the way the binding turned out. I think it’s partly a result of my increased sewing skill and partly a result of going slowly, but the pattern instructions were also helpful in getting a nice finish. The pattern suggests steaming the binding into the shape of the curve for the side of the handles before applying it, which really did make it easier to apply. To do this, I just laid the sides of the handles flat on my ironing board, sandwiched the binding around the fabric and pressed it flat before taking it to my sewing machine.

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I used some of the leftover fabric to make Abby a bonus zippered notions pouch, using this tutorial from Flossie Teacakes. All of the pockets on the Stowe bag are great, but sometimes you have those little things like stitch markers and tapestry needles that you don’t want rolling around loose in your bag.

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The zippered pouch isn’t quite as fancy as the Stowe bag but it does feature some cute kitten faces on the inside. I bought this Cotton + Steel quilting cotton print from their Cat Lady collection to make myself a Stowe bag, and I used a bit of it to line the pouch. It’s hard to tell in this picture, but the cats are all piled up with little balls of yarn, so the print is thematically on point.

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This was a really fun project and I’m so pleased with the way that it turned out. It’s a bit more work than the super minimalist, quick and dirty project bags I’ve made for myself before, but the extra work is definitely worth it–especially as a gift. I’ve already got fabric cut out to make one for myself, and I’m thinking this might be useful for my very crafty, artsy sisters who are always toting around sketch books and pencils and markers. I know when this pattern was released, there were people who balked at it’s apparent simplicity and it’s price. If the pattern doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t interest you. But I think it’s a thoughtfully put-together pattern with great details that results in a beautiful and very useful product.

Grainline Stowe Bag

Another T-Shirt Post: The Concord

I’ve tried 4 or 5 different patterns for a basic t-shirt, but I haven’t found one that I really like yet. Either I can’t get the fit that I like with a reasonable amount of adjustments or the fit is close but the pattern doesn’t really offer the kinds of sleeve and neckline options that I’d like. I’ve also had issues with patterns being drafted for a kind of fabric/stretch percentage that I’m just not likely to use. I’ve frequently considered buying the Renfrew pattern, but I know I’d have to make adjustments to get it to fit my bust and I know it’s meant to have more ease than I would like. I also considered buying the Lark pattern when it was released, but I knew it would present similar bust (and probably shoulder) fit issues. I also didn’t totally love the versions I was seeing pop up on blogs. So I ordered the Concord pattern as soon as I got the email about it’s release—the multi-cup sizing system plus all of the style options seemed promising and very worth the price for a new pattern.

Cashmerette Concord T-shirt

I’ve made three versions so far. I had some slightly spendy bamboo jersey I bought myself for my birthday, and I was a little hesitant to just cut into it. So I used some olive/drab rayon jersey that I wasn’t really in love with to test the fit of the pattern. For my olive tee, I made View C, which is the long length with the curved, split hem. I used the scoop neckline and the mid-length sleeves with sleeve tabs. This fabric sucks—it is very light-weight (I have to wear a layer underneath this or you’d be able to see my bra), super shifty, and very clingy. That’s all to say that this probably wasn’t the best fabric to use for details like the sleeve tabs and the hem facings.

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It took me a minute to figure out what size to start with. The pattern instructions recommend choosing a size by starting with your full bust measurement and then picking the size that is the closest match to your waist measurement. My full bust measurement is 44” and my waist is 36”, which means that my recommended size would be the size 16 with the C/D cup pieces. My pattern cup size (the difference between my high and full bust measurements) is bigger than a D, and I was seeing a few different reviews saying they were planning to go up a cup size on future versions, so I cut the size 16 E/F cup pieces and graded out to an 18 for the hip. I removed an inch from the length of the body at the lengthen/shorten line and did a full bicep adjustment to add .75” to the width of the sleeve.

Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt

I’m very happy with the fit on the upper body. (You can see what look to be pull lines at the bust on my olive tee, but the pull lines are actually from the Old Navy tank top I’m wearing underneath.) For my olive test version, I wish I had added more width through the hip to account for the fact that the long length would be skimming over my jeans. I don’t usually wear shirts this long, but I am surprised at how much I like the length on me. I also really like the shape of the curved, split hem. I was worried about the width of the neckline, so I sewed the neckband on the olive version with a ¼” seam allowance. I went back to the recommended 3/8” seam allowance for my two later versions.

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For my two black bamboo versions, I kept the sizing and adjustments from the olive tee, but went with the mid length and did one with short sleeves and one with mid-length sleeves and cuffs. I had originally planned to try the V-neck on the short-sleeved tee, but I really love the shape of the scoop neck—not too wide, not too deep, not aggressively U-shaped. (I also suspect that I will want to narrow the V-neck, so I figured I would wait and experiment with that later.) I sewed the side seams for both black tees with a ¼” seam allowance to give myself slightly more room through the waist and hips in particular. They are still very fitted through the hips—I’ll have to spend more time wearing these to decide whether the current width is comfortable or if I’ll want to add more ease in future versions.

Cashmerette Concord T-Shirt

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At this point, I know better than to proclaim that this is my one, true, best t-shirt pattern. I’ve done that with several patterns before and then my feelings change over time as I see how the garment wears and/or become more particular about fit. (Plus, I clearly love t-shirts and so the likelihood that I will try other t-shirt patterns in the future is very high.) But, I can say that this is probably the happiest I’ve been with a basic t-shirt pattern out of the envelope. I can also say that I really love this bamboo jersey—it’s heavier and more substantial than the rayon jerseys I’ve used but not as stiff and firm as cotton-spandex blends tend to be. Plus, it is super soft. I hope it wears well because these black t-shirts are going to get a workout.

Cashmerette Concord T-shirt

Socks, Scarves, and Kitties

A busy end of the semester meant lots of stress knitting and now a backlog of yarn-related projects.

Estuary Scarf

First up is Estuary, which I knit up in Knit Picks Gloss Fingering in Blackberry. Estuary is a free lace scarf pattern from the Fall 2012 issue of Knitty. The pattern makes use of two different lace patterns that run alongside one another, which makes for interesting knitting–neither pattern is easy to memorize, especially since you are often increasing or decreasing the size of the scarf through the pattern. The pattern has something like 8 different lace charts, and I definitely had to pay close attention to the charts almost the whole time I was knitting. But I’ve been looking for more challenging patterns, so I enjoyed working on this project.

Estuary Scarf

There is some errata for this pattern. Most of the corrections have been made on the version of the pattern that appears on Knitty, but there was still a point or two where I was confused. The designer actually provides a clearer explanation of the errata in the comments on the Ravelry pattern page.

Estuary Scarf

I ended up doing an extra repeat of Chart E to make the scarf a bit longer and deeper. My finished scarf is about 82″ long and about 16.5″ wide. I didn’t block this very aggressively (primarily because I was feeling too lazy to pin out the lace). If I had pinned it out, I’m sure it would have ended up a few inches deeper. I’m really pleased with the shape and the size of the scarf, and very happy to have this in my closet.

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After I knit up Estuary, I went ahead and finished up a pair of socks that I started at the beginning of this year. This is Glenna C’s A Nice Ribbed Sock Pattern, which is another free pattern for a top-down 3×1 ribbed sock. The yarn is Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in Raven.

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I love these socks. Purple is clearly my color right now. Not only are these socks and my Estuary scarf purple, but my Onyx Shirt and Camas Blouse are both in a sort of reddish-purple.

Dumpling Kitty

My last project is probably one of the cutest things I’ve made. This is the Dumpling Kitty pattern, which is a free crochet pattern that was posted on Ravelry recently. It’s so cute and requires such a small amount of yarn that I had to make it when I saw the pattern. The gray yarn is leftover from my Madigan pullover and the white is leftover from the stockings I made my nephews for Christmas.

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I’ve been able to manage the basics of crochet for about the same amount of time that I’ve been knitting, but I crochet so rarely that I’m definitely still a crochet beginner. But I found this pattern very easy to follow, and I’m really happy with the finished project. I have no idea what I’m actually going to do with it–maybe use it as a pin cushion? Or maybe it will just continue to live on the bookshelf.

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I enjoyed my Dumpling Kitty crochet experience so much that I actually pulled some yarn out of the stash and started crocheting a blanket just for fun. I like the experience and process of crocheting, but I never really know what to make. So I figured I would just match some yarn to a pattern and then find someone to give it to when it’s done. This is Vickie Howell’s Chevy Baby Blanket, which is yet another free pattern. (I swear I usually pay for patterns.) The yarn is Lion Brand Heartland in Glacier Bay. This pattern is very easy for a crochet novice like me, and I feel like working on a larger project like this is really helping me work on getting a more even tension. I’ve been on the lookout for other crochet projects to take on when this is done, so who knows where this new interest in crochet might lead.

Eleonore Jeans, or, What the Hell Was I Thinking?

I hate these pants. I hate them so much that I wasn’t even going to blog this project, but in the interest of showing the good, the bad, and the ugly, I decided to take some pictures of them. (Although I didn’t put that much energy into getting pictures. These are wrinkled from being balled up in the closet because I could not be bothered to iron them.)

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Anyway. These are the Jalie Eleonore jeans, which are pull-on jeans with a fake fly front and elastic waist. This particular pattern has been well-received and well-reviewed by a lot of bloggers and Pattern Review members. The Style Arc Misty jeans, which is a very similar pattern, has been likewise celebrated, and I’ve seen a few people modify the Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans pattern to make them pull-on jeans. That’s all to say that many people enjoy wearing and look very good in pull-on jeans. As it turns out, I do not.

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My rational mind knew that I would not like wearing pull-on jeans. I had originally planned to make the Style Arc Misty pattern, but my serious doubts about whether I would like them meant that I kept putting the pattern off until, eventually, the size range that I had didn’t fit me anymore. At that point, I should have just washed my hands of the idea. But I kept seeing more positive reviews of pull-on jean patterns and they seemed like a really nice way to ease myself into making jeans. So I went ahead and ordered the Jalie Eleonore pattern, since I liked its wider size range and the fact that the elastic for the waistband is enclosed.

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The pattern itself is okay—they are easy to construct and the instructions are very clear. The front pockets are fake, which I found more annoying than I anticipated, but this would be relatively easy to alter if I wanted to make another pair in the future. I do feel like there was something a bit off about the sizing. My fabric, which is a gray stretch denim from Girl Charlee, has the 20% stretch specified by the pattern. My current hip measurement is ~1.5″ smaller than the measurement listed for the size I chose, and these pants still feel and look uncomfortably tight. Based on other reviews I’ve read, I wonder if this is more of an issue in the larger sizes? (I made the size DD.)

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I ended up hemming these a smidge too short, and I think I need a full calf adjustment. Again, if I liked these pants at all, these would be relatively easy things to fix or modify. But I don’t. Instead, I feel kind of like I’m wearing toddler jeans. (In fact, I’m happy that this pattern goes all the way down to a girl’s size 2 because I would make this pattern for a child in a heartbeat. They address so many of the objections little kids tend to have to wearing jeans.)

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The thing is that I really love wearing jeans. I wear jeans or pants that basically fit and look a lot like jeans every day. I don’t find them uncomfortable. I like a traditional waistband with belt loops. I love a good fly front. I always want to have 5 fully functional pockets.  So these pants just aren’t doing it for me. Even if they are physically comfortable, I feel psychologically uncomfortable wearing them—like I’m wearing fake pants. I just can’t do it.

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The upside to this project is that I got a chance to practice the part of jeans-making that I find most intimidating: top-stitching. I found out that my machine has no objection to top-stitching thread, and I practiced even top-stitching using several different machine feet. I discovered that top-stitching jeans is really satisfying and not that hard to do evenly so long as you are careful. So now that I’m confident enough to take on all the top-stitching that goes into jeans, I feel ready to just devote my time to fitting an actual jeans pattern. I’m planning to start working on the Ginger Jeans pattern sometime this summer. Until then, I lucked out and found two surprisingly nice pairs of jeans at Target, which means that this pair of pants can go straight to Goodwill. Buh bye.

 

Another Onyx Shirt and Me-Made May

The last time I posted was during my Spring Break. I finished three sewing projects that week–my Black Fog shirt, this Paprika Onyx Shirt, and a disappointing pair of pants that I’ll blog about next. It’s taken me a month to get around to blogging the second two projects because I got hit with end-of-the-semester panic as soon as Spring Break ended. But now my classes are over, my grading is nearly done, and I am very close to being able to say that I survived my first year as an assistant professor.

Paprika Onyx Shirt

I’ve made this pattern once before last summer. I wore my black version a lot last summer and it’s been back in rotation this spring, at least on our warmer days. I decided before cutting out my second version that the fit on the original was good enough to go ahead and use the same pattern pieces, unaltered. While that version was a good enough base for cutting, I stupidly skipped a basted fitting. I constructed the whole thing, using french seams at the sides and even hemming the bottom, before trying it on and realizing that the bust darts were a bit too low and the body was too loose. I left the darts as is but ended up serging off those time-consuming french seams so that I could remove ~1.5″ of width from the body. It’s still a bit looser than I’d like, but it’s comfortable and wearable so I’m calling it good enough.

Paprika Onyx Shirt

The fabric was listed as a cotton voile online, although it’s heavier and has more body than I think is typical of voile. Honestly, it reminds me more of chambray, especially since it gets it’s color from black and hot pink threads that have been woven together with a bit of a slub texture. I really like this fabric and decided to keep this shirt a bit more minimalist by omitting the sleeve tabs. To hold the sleeve cuffs in place, I just tacked them down with a few hand stitches. We’ll see how they hold up in the wash.

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I’ve decided I’m going to participate in Me-Made May this year. I’ve been kind of waffling about whether to make a pledge or not since I already wear my handmade stuff pretty consistently and make things that fit well into my life so I’m not sure what I might gain. But, for the sake of fun and curiosity, I’d figure I’d give it a go and see what happens. Here’s my pledge:

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I, Anna of sweetalchemy.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me Made May ’16. I will wear at least one item of handmade clothing a day during the month of May. I will also make time to mend and/or alter at least 5 of my existing handmade garments in an effort to make them more wearable.

Paprika Onyx Shirt

We’re going to California for a week in the middle of the month, so that will add a bit of challenge to the plan of wearing at least one handmade garment a day. I’ll keep track of what I wear on a daily basis for myself, but I won’t be taking daily photos. I might take the occasional pic, but my plan right now is just to post one or two overview posts to reflect on how my pledge goes and what I learn/gain from the experience. I’m glad to have this Onyx Shirt done before the beginning of May–it’s sure to get worn this coming month.

Black Fog

My current sewing project selection process is to simply sew whatever seems interesting to me at the moment. I’ve given up on making sewing plans since I never stick to them. I think when I’m in the process of planning, I tend to be very practical, privileging whatever projects I would most benefit from having in my (very lean) closet. But then when it comes time to actually sew, I find myself completely bored by the practical. The other thing that kills my plans is that my style is changing a bit. When I’m making plans, I end up talking myself out of some of the different cuts and style lines that I find myself drawn to right now and instead come up with lists of projects that reflect the kinds of things that I’ve been safely wearing for years but am now bored with.

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Anyway. When I got the newest issue of Ottobre Woman, I was a little put off because it was pretty much full of things that I cannot ever imagine wearing. Skirts and dresses are always a hard pass for me, but I also hate jumpsuits, anything with a peplum, and especially any kind of cold-shoulder shirt. There are a couple of basic designs in this issue that I might make at some point if I come across the right fabric, but the only thing that immediately jumped out at me was design #5—the Fog Jersey Blouse.

Ottobre Woman 02/2016 Fog Jersey Blouse

This shirt is an A-line tee with a shaped hemline that is basically cropped length at the front. It also has invisible zippers at the side seams, so you can open the side seams up for a deep split. I’m not really sure what drew me to this design, except that I liked the way it hung with the zippers open and that it seemed to strike a nice balance of minimalist with a bit of interest. Regardless, it was what I was interested in sewing, so I didn’t think too hard about the practicality of zippers at the side seams or the fact that I would probably never try on a shirt like this in the store or about whether the neckline was deep enough to be “flattering” for me. I just traced the pattern off and sewed it up in some black cotton jersey I had on hand.

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As far as sizing goes, I traced a size 46 for the shoulders and blended out to a 48 under the arm. The only adjustment I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves by 2” to get a true ¾ sleeve length. The magazine describes the sleeves as “cropped,” which I think means that they are sort of bracelet length? It’s hard to tell because the sleeves are pushed up on the model.

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Neckline detail, complete with all the fuzzies black fabric inevitably attracts

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Invisible zipper, partially undone

The neckline is faced with a strip of binding, which results in a nice, clean look. (And it turns out that I really like the shape of the neckline, even if it is higher than I normally wear.) Constructing most of the shirt was a no-brainer. The most time-consuming step was, of course, installing the zippers at the side. I’ve never actually sewn an invisible zipper before. It turns out that what everyone says is true—if you have an invisible zipper foot, it pretty much does all of the work for you. When the zippers are done up, they are actually invisible (although there is some reinforcing stitching at the tops of the zippers, per the pattern instructions, so that definitely makes them less invisible). Of course, I intend to wear the shirt with the zippers open, so no one will really appreciate my work, but that doesn’t make me any less pleased with the outcome on my first two invisible zips.

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This is how the shirt hangs when the sides are zipped up

The shirt is fairly short at the front—all the shorter on me than on the model in the magazine because I didn’t do an FBA to add any length for the bust. But I always planned to wear a tank top or something underneath this, so it’s not a big problem. This isn’t the kind of pattern that I see myself making over and over again, but I do like the shape of it, and I’m glad I gave it a try. Plus, now I can mark “invisible zipper” off my sewing-skills-to-learn list!

Ottobre Woman 02/2016 Fog Jersey Blouse

Camas Blouse

I loved this pattern as soon as I saw it, and bought it immediately–well over a year ago, according to my email records. I even printed it out and put the pdf together right away. But I lost momentum and sort of forgot about the pattern for two reasons: first, I wasn’t sure what would be the best way to adjust the pattern to fit me, and second, I wasn’t confident enough in my sewing and was pretty sure I’d screw up the placket.

Thread Theory Camas Blouse

I pulled the pattern out again last month when Thread Theory hosted a Camas Sew-Along. I didn’t actually manage the “sew-along” part, but I read all of the tutorials and found they addressed all of my concerns with the pattern. And now that I’ve finally finished this shirt, I love it. It’s definitely not perfect, but I still think this is probably the nicest thing I’ve sewn for myself so far.

Thread Theory Camas Blouse

(By the way, the tank top I’m wearing under my Camas in these picks is super “grabby” so the shirt doesn’t look as sleek as it can. I have a much nicer cami that I’ve worn under this when I’ve worn it to work that results in a much smoother look, but it was in the laundry due to an unfortunate Moroccan Stew dribbling incident. Regardless, the neckline of this shirt is pretty low, although the sew-along has instructions for raising the neckline if desired.)

For this shirt, I started with the size 16 and blended out to an 18 for the hips. Then I added an inch of length to both the body and the sleeves.  I also did an FBA following the method described in the sew-along, adding an inch of width to the fronts in the middle of the section that would be gathered into the yokes. This adjustment was really easy to make and works nicely to maintain the silhouette of the shirt. I think 1″ is about the upper limit of what I would add to this pattern–the fronts were pretty densely gathered for me, and I suspect that adding much more width through this method might result in some unflattering “poofing” under the yokes. Also, be careful not to keep the gathering outside of the placket seam allowance. My gathering got caught in the placket seamline on one side and that side doesn’t lay as nicely (although that’s not going to keep me from wearing this).

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The actual pattern instructions are very clear, but the nice thing about the sew-along is that it gives a couple of different options for constructing different part of the shirt. I constructed the placket following the steps in the pattern instructions, but next time, I think I’ll try the second, more streamlined method described in the sew-along. The construction of the shirt is quick and straight-forward up to the placket. I was worried that the placket would be difficult, but it really just takes a bit of time and care.

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The fabric I used is Dakota Stretch Rayon in Plum. I bought it from Fabric.com, but I don’t think this particular color is available any more. It’s a fluid, drapey fabric so it works well for the gathering details. I used knit interfacing for the yokes and placket, but only interfaced the top layer. My button placket is also fake–I just sewed the buttons through both layers of the placket. The fabric is more than stretchy enough for me to just pull this on, so it didn’t seem worth it to mess around with buttonholes.

Thread Theory Camas Blouse

I’ve got more of this fabric in black and am already planning to use it to make another Camas before the fall semester starts. I love that pattern combines the comfort of knits with some interesting design and construction details. I wish there were more patterns like this.

Leggings: Aires and Sammalikko

All of my comfortable lounge/light exercise/work-at-home pants have given up the ghost. They are threadbare, tattered at the hems, riddled with tiny cat-claw snags and holes, stretched out, poorly fitting, and just generally sad-looking. I decided I would make a couple of pairs of simple leggings to replace them and bought a few yards of a medium-weight black cotton-spandex jersey blend at the beginning of the year. I finally got around to my leggings experiment last week and ended up with 3 pairs of leggings from 2 different patterns.

Seamwork Aires Leggings

The first pattern I tried was the Aires Leggings pattern from the January issue of Seamwork. This pattern caught my attention because it has a wide yoke-style waistband (which tends to fit me much better than the simple elastic-casing-style waistband you see on a lot of basic leggings patterns). It also has a crotch gusset for greater movement and the contrast leg bands offer a bit of visual interest without being as complicated as some of the other athletic leggings patterns around.

However, after seeing a couple of finished pairs online and knowing a bit about the fit issues people have had with Seamwork/Colette patterns, I was skeptical that this pattern would fit me well. Rather than cut right into my new fabric, I decided to make a wearable muslin out of a bunch of knit remnants I had on hand–hence the seriously questionable camo color-blocking.

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Sizing and Fit:

I fall right between an XL and a 2X on the Colette size chart and decided to cut a 2X based on the finished measurements. I added about 5″ to the length of the legs and an inch of width at the calf. While sewing, I also removed about .5″ from the front rise before attaching the waistband.

While the fit at the hips indicates that the 2X was the right choice, the waist band is too big for me. (It looks all right in pictures, but doesn’t feel secure enough when I’m wearing these.) Meanwhile, despite adding extra width, the lower legs are still too tight. If I was going to make this pattern again, I would need to take in the waistband and add at least another inch to the lower leg. It’s hard to see in these pictures, but there is some extra fabric at the front crotch so I’d also need to make some adjustments there.

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What I like:

The gusset piece is a nice detail and was very easy to construct. The waistband construction also results in something pretty professional-looking. It is a fully-faced, double-layer waistband with 1/4″ elastic sewn into the outer and inner yoke seam. I actually have a pair of yoga pants with a waistband almost exactly like this. If I made this pattern again, I’d probably cut a smaller size for the waist band, but I think the general shape of the waist band conforms nicely to my body.

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What I don’t like:

  • I think the contrast leg bands on these is too low for me, and I would be happier if it hit higher on my thigh.
  • The way these are constructed makes it difficult to adjust the fit. The legs only have one seam, which means that it’s harder to customize the fit by taking them in a bit here or there. You also can’t really gauge the fit of the waistband until it’s fully constructed.
  • Frankly, these require more work than I find I’m willing to put into a simple garment like this. I’m not opposed to a more involved pattern, but apparently I’m lazy when it comes to leggings. Making these made me wish I had just bought a pair from Old Navy.
  • This was probably the most inefficient PDF pattern I’ve encountered. So much white space that just got cut off and thrown in the recycling bin. Also, 26 pages of instructions? Excessive.

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Ottobre Sammalikko Leggings

So rather than continue to mess around with the Aires pattern, I decided to try the Sammalikko Leggings from the Fall 2014 issue of Ottobre Woman. I cut a straight size 52, using the black jersey I had purchased, and adjusted the fit as I went. I didn’t actually photograph that first pair because, well, they were in the laundry. But, they fit pretty well and once I made the necessary alterations to the flat pattern, my second pair turned out even better.

Ottobre 05/2015 Sammalikko Leggings

(I know this set of photos is cropped weirdly, but my tripod was acting up and there were some landscaping guys lurking around so I settled for weird, crooked pics.)

Sizing and Fit:

Like I said, I cut a straight size 52. I ended up shortening the front rise by 1.25″ and scooped out the front crotch curve. I also shaved about 3/8″ off in the front inseam. I shortened the legs by 3″ (I’m actually taller than the height given on the Ottobre size chart, but their patterns are always too long for me.) The legs on these are cut fairly straight from the knee down, so I ended up tapering the legs more. Finally, when I was sewing this pair, I took them in a bit at the waist by sewing the outseam with a 5/8″ seam allowance through the yoke and tapering back to a 3/8″ seam allowance at the low hip.

 

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What I Like:

I know that seems like I had to make a lot of fit adjustments for a simple pair of leggings, but the pattern is easy to adjust and the initial fit was pretty good–much better than the Aires pattern. That, combined with the straight-forward construction, meant that I was able to fit and sew this pattern in significantly less time than it took me to make the Aires leggings. So this pattern meets my personal requirements for a minimalist, un-fussy leggings pattern.

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I also really like the waistband/yoke. It’s a single-layer yoke with 1″ elastic sewn into a fold-down casing at the top. It may not look as polished as the Aires waistband, but the construction is more streamlined, it’s easier to adjust the fit, and the wider elastic feels more secure. This pattern also has a slightly higher rise, which I find more comfortable and less likely to migrate.

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What I Don’t Like:

Nothing! In future versions, I might shave off just a little more length from the leg or taper them just a bit more. But overall, I’m really happy with the fit. They are, of course, very comfortable and I’m pleased to once again have a pair of lounge bottoms that don’t make me feel gross.

I started doing yoga again, so at some point, I might make a pair of these in a different fabric with even better recovery (a bamboo jersey would be really nice) and actually try inserting the the gusset piece from the Aires pattern–if it works, it would be the best of both worlds!