Slow Fashion October ’18: Week One

I know that I was just being a little salty about the concept of slow sewing because it’s all I can manage, but I am still interested in the concept of slow fashion. I’ve particularly enjoyed following along with Karen Templer’s Slow Fashion October on Fringe Association. But I’ve never felt like I was ready to respond to her thought-provoking prompts until this year when she announced that SFO this year would focus on (slowly) building a closet of clothes that you truly love. Because if you love what you wear, you will care for it and wear it for a good long time. In other words, clothes that we love to wear and feel connected to are the antidote to the dissatisfaction and longing that so often fuel unreflective participation in fast fashion.

I think this is a really intriguing idea, and it intersects nicely with lots of things that I’ve already been thinking about, so I decided that I’d make this the year that I finally participate in Slow Fashion October. Karen plans to present a new action item each Monday of the month, and this week’s action item was to create a mood board or pin board that reflects your ideal style.

I’ve had various style boards on Pinterest for years, but only recently created one that I feel really happy with—and by that, I mean a pin board that feels like it really reflects me and is therefore actually useful for things like project planning. I’ve read lots of style advice and followed along with things like the Collette’s Wardrobe Architect series, but nothing really clicked for me until I read Anushka Rees’s The Curated Closet in May. The way that she explained and framed the process of creating a pin board was so helpful for me. She not only had practical advice that helped focus the process, but her perspective allowed me to finally stop limiting my sense of what I could or should wear. In reading her book, I realized that I had been telling myself for years that the styles I was drawn to were no good because they were too boring or not right for my body or that I wasn’t the right person to be wearing them. It was weird to finally recognize, and then let go of, a huge limiting belief I didn’t even know I had.

 

Anyway, here is my pin board.

 

Karen also included a number of different discussion prompts at the end of the post, so I thought I’d answer the ones that jump out at me.

Do you have a color palette?

Definitely. It’s all black, gray, burgundy, olive, and dark denim (weird to consider that a color, but it is in my closet.) At this point, I think I only have few items of clothing that don’t fall in that palette. I often go through phases of telling myself that I should wear more or different colors, but the truth is that these are the colors that I feel at ease in.

Palette

What shapes and styles of garments work best for you, your life and your body? What are your clothing pet peeves? (lengths, necklines, sleeve types …)

I want my clothes to be comfortable in the sense that they should not be restrictive in any way, they shouldn’t require any fussing (rearranging anything, pulling a hem back in place, adjusting a collar, etc.), and they should be in fairly soft fabrics. Lately, I’m finding that I prefer things shirts with a slightly looser or boxier cut and that I prefer a slightly higher neckline than I used to wear, and I think both of those things are a response to how my life has changed now that I’m chasing a little monkey around.

What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?

Right now, my favorite outfit is black or dark cuffed skinny jeans, a blouse, black blazer, and oxfords. I feel physically comfortable in this but I also feel solid and present.

Tilly and the Buttons Stevie

Not an example of what I’m wearing to work lately, but this is a project I’ll be sharing soon that was one of my favorite makes this summer. I love the way I feel in this shirt.

What is the image you would like to project with your clothing?

I don’t know if it’s an image that I try to project specifically with my clothing, but in general I aim to project an image of myself as unshakeable. It’s funny to think about this question, because as a person I think I am warm, good-humored, caring, empathetic, and very relaxed but those aren’t necessarily the parts of myself that I want to publicly project. Instead, I seem to work hard to present myself as, more than anything else, a cool head, a steady hand and as fairly reserved. I don’t want to change that image—in fact, I think I’m so satisfied with my pin board because it feels like it reflects that image. I just find it interesting that it seems so substantially different from who I am on a more intimate level.

Can you describe your style in five adjectives?

No. I can’t seem to find a good way to describe it and was never able to describe my style in the model that Rees sets forward in The Curated Closet either. Maybe that’s because I think about the things that I want to wear more in terms of the way they make me feel and less in terms of how they might be characterized by others? But I would be fascinated to know how other people might describe it after looking at my pin board.

What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?

  • All the jeans! I shouldn’t be surprised, because it’s really just proof of a truth that I already embody in my day-to-day dressing. But I guess I’ve always had the idea that I only wear jeans because I struggle to find different kinds of pants. I think it’s time to fully embrace that I just really love jeans.
  • I’m also surprised by how coherent my mood board is. I think that because I spent so much time unconsciously limiting my idea of what I could wear that I always just thought I didn’t have a coherent style, but it turns out my style is just all the stuff I used to exclude.
  • There were lots of things that I think I like in abstract (moto jackets, more traditional trousers, certain fabrics, etc.) that just don’t show up on the pin board at all. And that just helps me clarify that I may like them on other people but they aren’t for me, so maybe I don’t actually need to have five different moto jacket patterns.

What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?

I recently got a pair of straight-legged, chino-style olive pants from Stitch Fix. And I kept them because I liked the fit and it seemed like they would be perfect since they were in my color palette and would offer me a non-jeans option. But I’ve only worn them once so far, because when it comes down to it, I would much rather just wear jeans. Even though my olive pants are just as comfortable as jeans, they just don’t feel quite right to me.

I’m already thinking differently about project planning after revisiting my pin board and thinking through some of Karen’s questions, so I’m excited to see what the action items and discussion prompts for the next few weeks will be.

Blogging: Do I Still Care About This Thing?

It’s been several months since I last blogged. This isn’t one of those posts where I intend to apologize for disappearing for a while. I don’t have the kind of blog readership that I think warrants that kind of post, and I knew well before Jude was born that the blog was one of the things that would end up on the back burner when my free time was radically condensed by the demands of an infant.

I’ve had other long blogging breaks before and there’s always a point during the break where I wonder whether it’s worth keeping a blog at all. It takes a fair bit of effort and can seem a little silly and self-serving in the abstract. Obviously, in the past I’ve gotten over this moment of doubt and just started posting again. This time, I found myself spending more time thinking about why I blog, whether or not I’m happy with how I’ve been approaching my blog over the last couple of years, and what I might want to do with my blog if I decide to keep going with it. (All those late night nursing sessions leave you with a lot of quiet time to think. Better to spend my time thinking about fairly light things like blogging and knitting and sewing than, say, indulge all my anxieties around mass shootings.)

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Brief updates in pictures: I knit a sweater and it’s a major fail. More details to come.

I think the challenge in blogging for me at this moment is fairly obvious: writing posts and taking blog photos just takes time and I’m short on time. But the bigger question I’ve been mulling over in terms of deciding whether or not to continue blogging is whether blogging still feels relevant. Is it relevant to me and my craft life? Is it relevant to potential readers?

I feel like I’ve been seeing a trend of craft bloggers asking: are blogs still a thing people care about or have we all just rerouted our attention to Instagram? And the typical answer seems to be that people still really like the depth of information that they get with a blog post versus the more limited snapshot you get on Instagram. But a lot of what I seem to read on blogs, and nearly all that I’ve written on my blog over the past few years, seems to have a pretty limited focus on just sharing finished projects. I like seeing what other people have made and I like sharing the things that I have made, and it’s nice to get and give reviews of patterns. But I find myself wanting more, both as a reader and a writer.

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I got an Amish-style swift, and I totally love it.

I’ve started watching a lot of knitting podcasts* over the past few months. I reached maximum tv burnout while spending a lot of time on the couch nursing and ended up turning to YouTube as an alternative. There is a good bit of time spent sharing finished projects on knitting podcasts (and a lot of sharing “things I bought,” which I feel kind of complicated about) but there’s also a lot more talk about process. People share the things that they are working on and talk about how things are going, in addition to more informal moments of sharing feelings and reflections about their knitting or how they choose projects or decide when to trash a project or talk about why they still like or never wear something they made a long time ago. I think it’s those conversational, reflective bits—people talking in a fuller way about their crafting lives and all their crafty thoughts—that really have me hooked on podcasts.

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I wore my Drachenfels Shawl constantly this winter (and am still wearing it thanks to this year’s “spring” weather).

I actually started wondering if I should trade text for video, but doing so involves a whole set of new logistical concerns (set up, time, editing, etc.) that I don’t have the mental bandwidth for. Plus, I have zero desire to actually be on camera in that way. There are also limits to the podcasting format—there’s a lot of great information being shared, but it’s harder to search or pinpoint the little tips, tricks, and ideas that come up and you have to actually have the time in your life to sit down and watch an (on average) hour long video to get the information in the first place. I have that time in my life because I’m stuck pumping at work three times a day, but I can imagine it being much harder to keep up with when this particular phase of my life is over. I like Instagram stories, but this is also why I don’t get much out of stories where people are talking about their craft struggles or reflecting on their projects—not only are they time-sensitive, but a lot of the time I’m not in a position to have the audio turned up on my phone.

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Swatch for a future sweater. More details to come.

I still have a desire to blog because I like having a searchable record of the things that I’ve made. I basically use my blog posts on my finished projects as a notebook for recording all of the adjustments and tricks I used to make the thing, and I reference those posts all the time when I make a pattern again or attempt a similar project. I’m also drawn to blogging because I enjoy writing but I feel a lot of pressure around the writing I have to do in my professional life—the blog is a no-pressure space where I can basically write for fun. But the other big reason that I like blogging is because it’s a space to reflect on my knitting and sewing, and reflection is a key component of learning and improving. Reflecting on what I’ve done and how well it worked is a useful exercise for me, but I also hope that sharing those reflections might occasionally prove useful to other people.

All of this is to say that after many months of trying to figure out what I want to do with my blog, I’ve landed on trying a slower approach of focusing less on just sharing finished projects and working more to share the larger process around making things—sharing my crafty thoughts, the decisions I’m mulling over, my plans, the stumbling blocks I come across, the new techniques I’m trying, my reflections on things as they progress and not just once they’re finished. The added benefit of this approach is that it will give me more opportunities to blog at a moment in my life when I’m not in a position to crank out finished projects at a regular pace.

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A modeled shot of my Mireille Pullover. Maybe I should just start taking all my blog photos in the mirrors at Kohls?

I know this isn’t a new approach to blogging—the knitting and sewing blogs I most enjoy are ones that, I’ve realized, do exactly this kind of thing. I also know that no one really cares what I decide to do or not do with my blog. But I’ve been finding other people’s reflections on blogging helpful as I think through this, so I thought I’d share mine as well.

The post-baby fog has cleared and my semester is wrapping up, so I’m excited to knit something other than socks, get back into sewing, and write about all of it.

 

*Aidan is an avid podcast listener and this phrase (“watching a podcast”) drives him crazy. Lol. To be clear, these knitting podcasts are videos where knitters talk about and show the stuff they’ve been working on, so it’s an idiosyncratic use of the term “podcast,” but what is language if not plastic and occasionally irritating?

Jude

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

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

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

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Handmade Christmas Gifts 2016

I ended up making way more gifts this year than I have in a long time. It’s not because I have any desire to foist handmade stuff on everyone on my list or that I think a handmade gift is the best kind of gift. It’s really more that I hate Christmas shopping and I’m not particularly good at gift giving. Frankly, making gifts is kind of nice way to give someone something kind of generic like a hat or a scarf but in a way that feels highly personal. Yes, it’s just a hat, but it’s a hat I knit in my pajamas while I rewatched Battlestar Galactica and drank a beer. Also, that mark right there might be melted chocolate from the fistful of Reese’s Cups I was eating at the same time. How much more personal can we get? Anyway, here’s this year’s gift roundup:

Star Bellied Wallabies

Wonderful Wallaby with star pocket

Pattern: Wonderful Wallaby

Yarn: Plymouth Encore Worsted in Light Gray, Neon Orange, and Neon Blue

Recipients: Our twin toddler nephews

Notes: This is one of my favorite patterns–so cute and wearable. I made the size 2 but added an inch to the length of the body, sleeves, and hood. I also charted out a star to add to the kangaroo pouches, which I knit using intarsia. I love how they turned out!

Modern Classics Christmas Stockings #8 and #9

Modern Classics Stockings

Pattern: Modern Classics Christmas Stockings

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Cloud and Aurora Heather

Recipients: My in-laws

Notes: This is now the eighth and ninth time I’ve knit up this pattern. I mixed the charts from the “Modern” and “Classic” stockings like I’ve done every other time. This is, frankly, not one of my favorite patterns to make but they are at least quick to make. And that’s good, because I’m more or less locked into making these for all future family members on my husband’s side.

Ballydesmond Mitts

Ballydesmond Mitts

Pattern: Ballydesmond

Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in Summer Sky Heather (for the blue pair) and Malabrigo Rios in Sandbank for the brown pair

Recipients: The blue pair went to one of Aidan’s co-workers and the Malabrigo mitts were for my sister, Kayla

Notes: This is a great pattern. It comes with instructions for making these in either a sport or a worsted weight yarn. I kind of prefer the way the sport version looks, but the worsted version knits up super fast. Either way–they’re easy and they look great.

Honey Cowl

Honey Cowl

Pattern: Honey Cowl

Yarn: Malabrigo Rios in Aguas

Recipient: My sister, Jenna

Notes: I’ve made this pattern once before for myself, and it’s a very soothing and meditative knit. Sadly, I got about 60% through the cowl before realizing that my skeins were noticeably different from one another so I ended up ripping back and alternating skeins. The final product is definitely worth the extra work, but it put me under a bit more time pressure than I would have liked.

Petal Pouches

petal-pouches

Pattern: Petal Pouch Pattern from Noodlehead

Fabric: various quilting cottons

Recipients: Three of my sisters–Sarah, Grace, and Kayla–and my dad’s girlfriend, Jess

Notes: I was inspired to make these after my youngest sisters visited us this summer. They are both big into sketching and drawing and carried all of their art supplies around in ziploc bags. Maybe that’s just their preference, but I thought these pouches were cute and practical. There are a thousand free zippered pouch patterns available online, but I’m glad I went ahead and bought this one. It’s not just the unique shape that makes it worth the purchase–as a novice bag maker, I feel like I learned some really useful techniques that will make any future pouch-making much easier and give me a nicer result. I really love how these pouches turned out. I even used some of the leftover skull print to make a small version of the pouch for myself.

So that’s Christmas 2016 wrapped and gifted. Now back to making things for me.

Get Moving Hoodie

The name of this pattern taunts me. So bossy! Despite its imperative, this hoodie has not gotten me moving in the way intended. Instead, I have been wearing this while engaging in low-octane activities like grading, lounging, and grocery shopping. Still, it’s really comfortable and I’m very happy with the way this project turned out.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

This is my third Ottobre pattern–it comes from the 05/2015 issue of Ottobre Woman. Like the other two patterns I’ve made, I like this piece because it is a comfortable basic but has enough details to make it interesting to sew and interesting to wear. This hoodie has a saddle shoulder and pockets that are hard to describe—they aren’t really welt pockets, but the concept is kind of the same. I guess they are kind of a more casual, informal version of a welt pocket? The sleeve and hood seams are all topstitched, which make them look professional and kind of sporty. Like my Gym and Sport Sweat Shorts, I used a honeycomb stitch for the top-stitching. The fabric is a cotton blend sweatshirt fleece from Girl Charlee.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

The most difficult part of this pattern was actually the tracing. Ottobre using the crazy pattern sheets with the overlapping lines that you have to trace off. I’ve traced five other Ottobre patterns that were very easy, but this one was a pain. The pattern pieces for this hoodie are the same basic pieces used for three or four other views in the issue. However, the other views involve different pattern markings and have different cutting lines for length and necklines. All the different markings made it quite a chore to distinguish what, exactly, I needed to trace for this view from what was irrelevant. Of course, the upside of all this is that I can use the fit adjustments that I made with this pattern as a starting point for any of the other views I might be interested in.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

As far as fit adjustments go, I started with the size 46 at the upper torso, blended to a 48 at the armscye, to a 50 at the waist, and then to a 52 at the hip. I also did a 1.5” FBA and eased the resulting dart into the side seam at bust level. I removed 1” of length from the sleeves.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

When I first finished this piece, I was worried that there was too much ease through the hips, although after sending it through the washer and dryer once, I’m more satisfied with the fit. I’m also glad I made this piece in black because my work with the pockets is kind of sloppy—sewing around the sharp turns for the pocket bag was tricky. But the dark color hides most of the issues.

This was my first time installing grommets, which was pretty fun. I used a Dritz eyelet kit from JoAnn’s that was pretty inexpensive and easy to manage. Now I just need one of these mini anvils.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

I have a weakness for hoods and shawl collars. I’m glad to have this sweatshirt, especially because I like the fit through the shoulders. But I also have more sweatshirt fleece coming to me so that I can make the SBCC Brooklyn Hoodie. And then, maybe, I’ll consider sewing something I can actually wear to work. We’ll see.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

Featherweight: The Sweater of Nope

Let us discuss disappointment.

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Because that’s what this cardigan is: a disappointment. It doesn’t necessarily look disappointing in the photos, but I won’t wear it. I shoved it in a closet after I took these photos and it will stay there until it gets shoved in the next donation box.

Featherweight Cardigan

This is Hannah Fettig’s Featherweight pattern, but it’s the version of the pattern made using CustomFit. I made the original version of Featherweight several years ago but didn’t like the end result—it was too short in the body, it slipped off my shoulders, and I didn’t really like the fabric that resulted from knitting a lace-weight yarn at a really open gauge. I thought that a version of the cardigan with set-in sleeves and knit at a tighter gauge might work out better for me. Plus, I figured it was a good opportunity to try out CustomFit.

Featherweight Cardigan

You can see some of the problems with the sweater in these photos. The neckband ripples and doesn’t want to lay correctly. The sleeves grew too long during blocking. And there is a strange bubble at the front of both sleeves at the armscye. I’m frankly not sure what’s causing the bubble, although I’m pretty confident that it has nothing to do with seaming (especially since it occurs at the same point on both sleeves). It could be that the shape of the sleeve cap in the pattern doesn’t work for me. Or it could also be related to the yarn growing during blocking (I used a wool/silk blend). I’m thinking this last one is the most likely explanation.

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Those issues probably wouldn’t be enough to stop me from wearing this if I really liked it, but I’ve decided I’m just not that big a fan of the open cardigan. I always wear my cardigans open, but I don’t like these cardigans where the fronts aren’t designed to meet. Plus, I feel like the shoulders on this cardigan have been made so narrow (to accommodate the ribbed neckband) that there isn’t enough to anchor the cardigan to the body, even with a seamed shoulder. And this is really the biggest reason that I won’t be wearing this cardigan—because this is what it looked like after I put it on and walked down the stairs and out the door of my apartment:

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NOPE.

As far as using CustomFit for the first time goes, I’m pretty pleased with the results. Particularly since I’m leaning towards yarn growth as the culprit for the sleeve bubble, I think the things I dislike about this cardigan come down to the design and the style and not to the fit of the actual pattern produced by CustomFit.

Featherweight Cardigan

I entered all of measurements that I typically use when planning and making my own sweater adjustments, and the fit at the back is really nice. I don’t mind making adjustments to existing patterns—in fact, it’s become one of my favorite things about sweater knitting. Plus, I’m pretty happy with the results I get and appreciate the flexibility that comes with being able to alter any pattern, regardless of construction style, by myself. But if I were going to attempt another project like my Jet Pullover, I’d definitely use CustomFit to generate a pattern.

So to sum up: CustomFit seems all right, but I do not like Featherweight and probably should have been more judicious in my pattern choice. Luckily, the next sweater I have to share turned out much better, so look forward to less disappointing projects.

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!

McCall’s 6844, The Second

Aidan and I have been watching The Good Wife, which I think we can all agree is an amazing show. At one point in Season 4, the firm hires a new investigator—Robyn. Robyn finds out about the interview at the last minute and shows up in jeans, a stained t-shirt, and a hoodie. She starts the interview off by saying something like, “I usually dress much nicer than this . . . Like a college student.”

There’s a part of me that wants to be like Alicia with her million designer suits. There’s a much bigger part of me that wants to be like Kalinda with her boots and her killer collection of jackets. But, basically, I’m Robyn. I’m not really bothered by this. I like being comfortable, and I like my jeans. I hate having to dress up—it makes me feel like a fool. Still, I’m pretty low on clothes at the moment so I’m trying to make some stuff that is ever so slightly nicer than “college student.” Nicer item the first is this black sweater knit version of McCall’s 6844. This is my second time making this pattern. Like my first version, this is View A again (shorter length, no peplum), but unlike my first version, I went ahead and interfaced the collar per the pattern instructions.

McCall's 6844

I honestly wasn’t thrilled with this one at first. I wasn’t thrilled with the fit and started to question whether I wanted to be wearing this kind of style in the first place. But after wearing it to campus (and finding a couple of different shirts I like layering with it), I’m pleased and I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.

McCall's 6844

Interfacing the collar makes a big difference. I rarely wear my first version anymore because the collar always wants to wrinkle and twist. I didn’t interface the first version because I was totally green and didn’t know there were fusibles specifically made for knits. Based on some crappy ready-to-wear I’ve encountered in the past, I thought interfacing a knit fabric would make it feel stiff or papery. But, of course, using the right stuff makes all the difference (more specifically, I used Pellon Easy Knit Fusible Tricot in black). The interfaced collar on this sweater behaves, stays in place and stays smooth, which makes it more comfortable to wear because I don’t feel like I need to keep screwing with it.

McCall's 6844

But, I am a little disappointed with myself because there are some small alterations that I should have made but was feeling lazy about. The first time I made this, I made a straight XL and only shaved a little width off of the shoulder. Since then, I’ve made enough McCalls patterns to figure out a couple of simple fitting strategies that work out well for me. Specifically, I’ve been making a 1/2” forward shoulder adjustment and start with an 18 or a Large at the shoulder and then blending out to a 20 or XL at the armscye. I knew the retracing the pieces for this cardigan and making those easy adjustments wouldn’t take long, but I still fell victim to my own laziness and just used the same, unaltered pieces I used last time.

McCall's 6844

It doesn’t make or break the cardigan. It’s not like it’s unwearable or looks like it fits really poorly. But I can tell that the shoulder is still too wide and not sitting as nicely as it should be. Mostly, I’m just kicking myself for not doing the minimal amount of work it would have taken to get a slightly better fit, especially on such a basic, workhorse piece. Oh well. Life lessons and such.

I ended up wearing this to two dinners I had before interviews, and it did a nice job of keeping me from looking a mess. Good show, cardigan.

McCalls 6658 and another Birgitte Basic Tee

With the start of the semester and some ongoing thing about how I need to find a job and finish my dissertation or something like that, I haven’t done any sewing for about a month now. But I still have  a couple of projects from this summer that I haven’t got around to posting yet.

McCalls 6658

The first project is a simple tank top I made using McCalls 6658, view A. The fabric I used is a medium-weight printed cotton-spandex blend from Girl Charlee. I started with L for the straps and neckline, blending out to the XL under the arm, and the blending to the XXL between the underarm and the waist. I ended up pinching out a 1” dart at each armscye, as well as taking each side seam in a bit under the arm to get a close fit around the arm.

M6658 Back View

My blending method wasn’t the best fit approach, and the next time I make this view, I’ll start with the L and do a full bust adjustment. (I need a full-bust adjustment anyway. It might not be apparent in the pictures, but I do have some pull lines across the bust.)  Next time, I’ll also experiment with binding the neckline and armholes rather than using a band to finish them. I think a binding will result in a better finish, especially around the top of the shoulder.

McCalls 6658 with cardigan

I haven’t been happy with the results of my twin needle hems. They look okay, but they really don’t have much give at all and seem very prone to snapping and unraveling. So I’ve been experimenting with alternate hemming methods. I hemmed the tank using a narrow zig-zag and a triple zig-zag for the t-shirt shown below. The narrow zig-zag seems to be working out the best since the triple zig-zag has started to pucker with wear. I’ve read all the standard advice about how to get a twin needle hem looking good (no tunneling, no skipped stitches, etc.), but it’s more the strength and stretchiness of the twin needle, or rather the lack thereof, that I’m struggling with. I’ve tried wooly nylon in the bobbin–my machine wasn’t having it. I might try stretch thread in the future, but for now, I’ll probably just keep exploring my relationship with the zig-zag stitch.

The second piece is another Birgitte Basic Tee from MariaDenmark, which I’ve made four times now. I can tell you that this pattern works best with more fluid, drapey knits with some spandex content for recovery. I’ve had the best luck with cotton, rayon, spandex blends like the one I used here (also from Girl Charlee), but I can’t imagine using something like the heavier cotton spandex blend I used for the tank top. I’ve found that unless the fabric is pretty eager to stretch and drape, the shirt fits too tight across the shoulders.

black and magenta birgitte tee

Based on the fit of my first three versions, I ended up doing a substantial forward shoulder adjustment on this version. I also added a bit of width to the armscye on the front pattern piece since I was finding that the sleeve cap was having to stretch too much to fit and wanted to ride up my shoulder. You can see some of the adjustments I made to the pattern below. I based the adjustment on the fit of my first gray version of this shirt, and although I started to doubt myself in the process, worrying that I had adjusted too much on the pattern, the adjustments worked out well. The forward shoulder adjustment helps the shirt sit nicely and has prevented the back neckline from bunching like some of my previous versions do. And the extra width at the armscye keeps the sleeve from riding up my shoulder.

Altered Birgitte Tee pieces

If I make this pattern again, there are still some more adjustments I’ll make, like adding some width to the shoulder at the neck opening and raising the neckline a bit. But honestly, I don’t know how much I enjoy wearing the kinds of fabrics that are best suited for this pattern, especially as a casual t-shirt. I prefer the heavier weight and slightly firmer body of a cotton interlock or a cotton-spandex blend. Since my tank top worked out so well, I’m planning try out the t-shirt pattern included with McCalls 6658.

I’ve got lots of other big sewing plans. Now I just have to find the time and the willpower to step away from my knitting for a bit to get myself in front of the sewing machine again.

Basic Applesauce (Unsweetened)

Recently, our friends went apple picking and asked me if I would be willing to turn some of their apples into pie. I, of course, was willing, and used several of the apples they gave me to make my standard apple pie recipe. But I also ended up with several apples leftover and decided to go ahead and turn them into some unsweetened applesauce for their toddler, my godson.

This is the first time I’ve made applesauce, and I have three thoughts. First, I really had no idea it would be so damn easy. Second, I had no idea it would be so much better than the bland stuff you buy in a jar. And third, I have no idea why you would want to add sugar to it in the first place.

See, I tend to err on the side of decadence, and if I hadn’t been planning for this to be eaten by my godson, knowing his parents wouldn’t want him scarfing down something laced with sugar, I would have just defaulted to a run of the mill, sweetened recipe. As it turns out, if you start out with some good fruit, let it simmer for about an hour, and spice it up just right, it will taste perfectly tart and sweet on its on. And it also won’t taste watery and weak like every commercial variety I’ve ever tried.

Apples ready to simmer

So while it’s true that this applesauce is unsweetened, I struggle with calling it “unsweetened applesauce” because that makes it sound like it’s a bland punishment or like it’s second best to a sweetened variety. It’s neither of those things. It’s just a really good, really simple applesauce. My godson scarfed down two bowls the night I brought this over (while refusing the bite of pie he was offered!), so I think he agrees.

Applesauce, finished

The flavor depends in large part on the apples that you are using, so you definitely want to use ripe, in-season apples. I also think a sweet-tart apple will give you a nice balance of flavor in the resulting apple sauce. The apples I used were primarily MacIntosh and Gala apples, but I remember seeing an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they argued that Pink Lady apples yielded the best applesauce. Since I’m giving this batch of applesauce to my friends, I think I’m going to have to go get some Pink Lady apples and make another batch for myself.

Basic Applesauce

Notes: First, I didn’t peel my apples and pureed the skins with the rest of the sauce. This resulted in a slightly chunkier sauce, but neither my godson nor myself had any textural aversions to the skin.  For a smoother product, just peel the apples before you core and quarter them. Second, the ingredients I’ve listed below just indicate the way that I spiced this batch. I erred on the side of more lightly spiced since this was going to be eaten by a toddler. As is, I think the recipe amount of cinnamon and cloves provide enough flavor without overpowering the fruit, but you could easily create a more heavily spiced version by adding whole cloves or even by adding a bit of allspice or ginger.

  • 10-12 small or medium apples (more if your apples are on the smaller side, less if they’re bigger)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  1. Peel your apples, if desired (see the note above). Core the apples and cut them into quarters. Or, if you don’t have a corer, cut the apples into quarters and then cut the cores out. Whatever.
  2. Add 2-3 cups of water to the pot. The water should reach the half point of where the apples are in the pot. In other words, if your apples are about 4″ deep in the pot, you want to fill the pot with about 2 inches of water. You can always add more water if you need it, but you don’t want your applesauce to be too watery.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, and boil the apples on high for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, the apples should begin breaking down.
  4. Turn the heat down to low and add the cinnamon sticks and ground cloves. Give the apples a little stir to incorporate the spices, and then let the apples simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, stirring the mix occasionally. At this point, there will still be some chunks of apple, but the mixture should be starting to look a lot like applesauce.
  5. Take the pot off the heat, remove the cinnamon sticks, and put the applesauce into a food processor or blender. Puree the mix until smooth. Or, if you like a chunkier applesauce, just give the apples a couple of quick pulses.

This recipe makes about 4 cups of applesauce. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week in an airtight container, but can also be frozen for several months.