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.

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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!

 

 

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.

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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.)

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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.

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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?

Assorted Thoughts and Plans

Knitting

My Apres Surf Hoodie is a bust. It’s just too snug and the snugness isn’t easily resolved. I think part of the problem is that it’s hard to measure gauge on an overall stitch pattern. But I suspect a bigger part of the problem is that I switched the way that I was working my SSKs about 2/3 of the way through the back. I also should have blocked my pieces as I finished them to make sure that they were knitting up to the appropriate size, but I didn’t. Oh well. I still really want this sweater, so I’m going to just put it aside for now until I’m emotionally ready to rip and reknit.

Grandpa Cardigan

On a more optimistic knitting note, I’ve finished my Grandpa cardigan. It just needs a bath and some buttons and it will be all ready for the dip in temperature that we’ve got coming up this weekend. More pictures and details to come shortly.

Gloomy Pullover in Progress

I also started a new pullover. I’m using some Cascade 220 Fingering in a heathered black. I had first planned to use the yarn to make Carpino, but that pattern was written for Brooklyn Tweed Loft which is apparently closer to a sport weight than an actual fingering weight. Cascade 220 Fingering is firmly a fingering weight, so the stitch pattern looked terrible at the recommended pattern gauge. So I switched gears and decided to try making Catkin, but the dark color of the yarn combined with the heathering effect meant that the stitch pattern wasn’t really visible. So now I’m improvising a simple light-weight pullover. So far, it’s all stockinette knit in the round, which feels wonderfully meditative at the moment.

Sewing

I managed a small bit of sewing over the last week and have been thinking a lot about what I want to make over the next few months. Here are some of the things I’ve got my eye on:

M6658

I’m planning some very basic t-shirts in very basic colors that will really just become shirts for layering. Boring, but useful. The black and gray fabrics are both cotton-spandex blends and the white is an organic cotton interlock. I’m planning to use the V-neck t-shirt pattern included in McCalls 6658, which is the same pattern I used to make my recent vine-print tank top.

Knit top plans

I’ve also got some more interesting knit tops planned. From left to right, I’ve got the Jalie scarf top that I’m planning to make up in a dark teal rayon-spandex blend, Vogue 8831 (a raglan pullover with a cowl neck) which I’m planning to make with a black rayon sweater knit, and McCalls 7018 (a jersey button-down), which I planning to to make in a heathered black cotton jersey.

Burda zipper raglan

I also have a gray cotton jersey that actually feels somewhere between a traditional jersey and a sweater knit, and I’m planning to use that fabric to make this zippered Burda raglan top.

McCalls button downs

These shirts are probably more aspirational than the other projects I’m planning, but I’ve got a white cotton broadcloth that I want to use to make a basic button down using McCalls 6649 (sans color blocking, thank you very much). I’ve also got this polka dot rayon challis that should work nicely with McCalls 6436.

I’ve been knitting long enough that starting a new project or picking up my knitting whenever I have a bit of time isn’t a challenge. But sewing isn’t as intuitive for me at this stage, and when I’ve stopped doing it for awhile, getting back into it starts to feel really daunting. So I’m going to aim to squeeze in 15 minutes of sewing everyday. I’m hoping this will help me work my way through the fabric and patterns I’ve been accumulating while also keeping me from feeling like I need hours of uninterrupted time to get any sewing done.

Baking

Apple Zucchini Muffins

I’ve been doing some simple baking lately—easy stuff like banana bread (I’ve been using this recipe from Simply Recipes and it’s great). I made these apple zucchini muffins two weeks ago and they were really, really good. Good enough that I’ll definitely be making these again soon. I substituted a pinch of allspice for the cardamom and used 1/2 a cup of vegetable oil instead of 1/4 cup because I didn’t have any applesauce on hand. The best part about these muffins is that, unlike a lot of muffins, they stay good for days.

TV

Aidan and I have been watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and are at the beginning of season 3. Kira Nerys has officially joined the ranks of my all-time favorite female TV characters. She’s pretty much on the level of Dana Scully in terms of the depth of my love for her. My favorite things about her include: her ongoing distrust of the Federation, her salty attitude, and her Bechdel-test approved friendship with Jadzia Dax.

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I also appreciate the fact that 90% of her smiles are sarcastic. She is a woman after my own heart.

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.

Pomander Cardigan

Right now, I have several knitting projects in the works at once, which is unusual for me since I generally prefer to focus on one thing at a time. It also means that I’ve been doing a lot of knitting but haven’t managed to finish much. My most recent finish is this little baby sweater I made for a friend in my doctoral program last month.

Pomander Cardigan

This is the Pomander Cardigan pattern, which I knit up in Valley Yarns Huntington in the Sea Gull colorway (you can find all the knitterly details on Ravelry). This is a light-weight circular-yoke cardigan with a cabled yoke and an i-cord finish at the neckline, and the pattern comes in sizes 3 mos – 18 mos.  You work the body of the sweater from the bottom up, using a provisional cast-on for the sleeves at the start of the yoke shaping. Then, once the body is complete, you undo the provisional cast-on and knit the sleeves from the top-down. I’ve never made a sweater with this construction method before, so it was an interesting knit.

Pomander Cardigan yoke closeup

Overall, I really like this pattern—I’m not a huge fan of the wide button band, but I love the way the cable detail works at the neckline. I made the 9 mos size and am crossing my fingers that it will be just the right size to see a late-summer baby through most of Central New York’s lengthy sweater season.  I didn’t make any significant changes aside from working one-row buttonholes instead of the yarn-over buttonholes called for in the pattern. I seriously dislike yarn-over buttonholes. Yes, they are easy to make. But I think they can also look kind of sloppy and can be difficult to locate when you’re actually trying to button a sweater up—especially in a fingering-weight baby sweater.

Pomander Cardigan back view

All in all, it was a fun little knit and a well-received gift. I know some people balk at the idea of knitting sweaters for babies and toddlers since they grow so quickly, ooze various kinds of bodily fluids, and are generally sort of messy. But in my experience, a simple sweater in an easy-care yarn gets a lot of love, especially given how quick they are to make.

Regia 4 Ply Terra in Silver and Denim

Sock in Regia 4 Ply Terra Anthracite

As for my other in-progress knitting projects, my Grandpa cardigan is still on hold while I do the finishing for my Apres Surf Hoodie (and there is basically a metric crap ton of finishing for this pattern). Thanks to all of that tedious finishing work in front of my and a particularly stressful week, I ended up impulse buying 3 balls of discontinued Regia 4-Ply at 50% from Webs. I’ve already cast on for a simple pair of socks for Aidan in the Anthracite colorway. I’m glad to have some mindless knitting at the ready, and I’m also seriously doubting that I will manage to finish the Apres Surf Hoodie while it’s still seasonally appropriate to wear. So it goes. Knitting adheres to it’s own timetable!

Catching Up

I went on vacation, had a great time, and came back with absolutely no desire to blog. So now I’ve got a lot of projects, both finished and in progress, to catch you all up on.

Things Recently Finished:

Before we left for our vacation, I made up two more Birgitte tees, including this black and white striped one. I used rayon blend jerseys for both, and while the fabric is stretchy enough for the pattern, it’s less stretchy than the spandex-rayon blend I used for my long-sleeved gray tee. The less stretchy fabric has revealed some fit issues at the shoulder and armscye. I think I’ve figured out how to fix the problem, and I’m planning to post about it more detail once I’ve made up a modified version.

As part of our vacation preparations, I also stopped at JoAnn’s and picked up some sock yarn for some basically brainless leisure knitting. I haven’t really felt like knitting, but once I got going on these, the urge to knit came rushing back—and just in time for the summer humidity. The yarn is Patons Kroy FX in the Celestial colorway. I didn’t use a pattern. These days, 95% of the socks I make are improvised based on lots of sock-knitting experience and what I can remember from the basic top-down sock recipe in Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s book Knitting Rules.

Horse Pajama Shorts

Post-vacation, I went on a little pajama bender, starting with two pairs of PJ shorts made for my youngest sisters, who are 12 and 14. The horse fabric was the inspiration for this project—when I saw it, I immediately thought of my 14 year old sister who is creative, artsy, goofy, and a die-hard horse lover. I knew I had to make her something with this fabric, and I decided that PJ shorts would be easy, economical in terms of fabric yardage, and easy to fit from afar (my sisters live in Wisconsin). The horse fabric is a light-weight cotton jersey I bought from Girl Charlee. This fabric would be fine for a t-shirt, but I thought it was too light for shorts so I sacrificed two of Aidan’s older undershirts to use as an underlining. With the underlining, they are a perfect weight and should be really comfortable.

Lightening Bolt Pajamas

For the 12 year old, I used a medium-weight cotton-lycra blend, also from Girl Charlee, with some hot pink lightening bolts that remind me of the new Ms. Marvel. For both pairs of shorts, I used this free pattern from Liesl Made. The pattern is intended for wovens (and includes a nice tutorial for making them up with french seams if that is of interest to you). But since some have complained that the sizes run a bit small, I figured it would probably work out all right with stretchy fabrics. Based purely on the size sweatpants they were wearing when I called my dad on Easter, I used the size L for the horse pjs and the size M for the lightening bolts. I added a fake drawstring to each, mostly so they can easily differentiate the front from the back.

I also made a pair of pajama shorts for Aidan, but I’ll probably write up a dedicated blog post on those. As a spoiler, I can tell you that they were made with this awesome fabric.

Chambray Izzy Top - Front View

Izzy Top - Back View

After making all those PJs, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to make next. When I saw the free pattern for the Izzy Top pop up on Pinterest, I decided on a complete dissertation-procrastinating whim to make one up in the fabric leftover from my failed chambray shirt project. The gathering is uneven, especially in the back—the pattern uses a 3/8” seam allowance, which wasn’t wide enough to sew two rows of gathering stitches, and it was hard to gather the fabric with a single line of gathering stitches given how light the fabric is. Regardless, it was a quick project that turned out to be really cute. I made up the 18 mos size, which is as small as the pattern goes. The only thing is that I don’t actually know any girl children who would fit into this little shirt. Luckily, kids have a way of continually appearing in the world, so I think it’s safe to that I’ll eventually find someone to gift this to.

Things Currently In Progress:

apres

When I read Amy Herzog’s blog post about the Custom Fit Summer Sweater Knit Along, I got inspired to knit up a lightweight sweater. So I ordered some Valley Yarns Charlemont in Dusk and started making up the Apres Surf Hoodie pattern from the 2008 Summer issue of Interweave Knits. I’m not actually participating in the CustomFit KAL—I thought about giving CustomFit a go, but instead decided to just do my own math. We’ll see how all of my modifications work out. So far I’ve finished the back and about 75% of the front.

McCalls 6035 and Soft White Cotton Couture Broadcloth

On the sewing front, I’m working on fitting McCall’s 6035. It’s going to be a multi-muslin affair, but I’m optimistic, and the time put into fitting makes sense to me given that this is a pattern I could see myself making several times. Once I’ve got the fitting worked out, I’m planning to sew up View C (with the rolled 3/4 sleeves) in some white Michael Miller Cotton Couture Broadcloth. Even though it’s the end of the month, I’m still claiming this as my June Make A Garment A Month project. I can’t imagine I’ll finish it by the end of the month, but I like to interpret the end of the month as more of a soft deadline.

So that’s my big project update. I hope your summer is off to a great start!

Long-Term Wearability Report

I haven’t been participating in Me-Made-May (my limited handmade wardrobe is as much a disincentive as the thought of taking pictures of myself everyday), but I have been following the various Me-Made-May hashtags on Instagram and was inspired to reflect a bit on the garments I’ve made so far this year. The enthusiasm that comes with having finished a new piece of clothing doesn’t always last beyond the first wear and blog photos can’t always capture how well a piece fits or how well it wears once you get into the business of daily life. So here are some brief thoughts about how well the things I’ve made in the first part of 2014 are working out for me. And since I was deep in grading mode when I started drafting this post, I’ve even given each item a score for overall wearability out of 5 points. Teachers know how to make everything fun!

Knitting:

Squared Cardigan – 3/5: I like this cardigan but it’s low neckline limits what I can wear with it. It looks best closed and I like it with a collared shirt, but that gives me few styling options so I only wear it every once in awhile.

Audrey Cardigan – 2/5: I’ve worn this a few times, but I don’t feel good wearing it. It’s just a smidge too big—not enough to make it unwearable, but big enough that I feel a little dowdy in it. I need to make a decision about what to do with this one. I either want to rip it out and make something new or try some sweater surgery to bring it in at the sides. Right now, I’m leaning towards the latter.

 

Blank Canvas – 4/5: I love the way this pullover fits, and I like having a basic pullover sweater in my closet. It’s very comfortable and easy to wear, and I would totally knit this pattern again. My only complaint about this particular sweater is the color. I think I like this shade of blue more in the world than I like it on me.

 

Sewing:

Kwik Sew T-Shirt – 1/5: I only wear this around the house, and even then I only wear it when all of my other lounge-type shirts are dirty. It has lots of problems ranging from a neckline that doesn’t lay flat to really crappy hems and I just don’t love the pattern. Plus, I hate the fabric. The silver lining with this project is that it’s made me a lot more discerning in my knit fabric choices–I’ve had much better luck since I started avoiding polyester-blend jerseys.

Gray M6844 Cardigan – 4/5: The sleeves on this were a bit too long and the hems were rather inelastic. I ended up cutting off the existing sleeve hem, turning the sleeves up by 5/8” and re-hemming the sleeves using a narrow zig-zag. This quick alteration has significantly improved the wearability of this cardigan since it feels a little less sloppy with the shortened sleeve length and since I can easily push the sleeves up (something I do a lot with my clothes). Overall, this is very comfortable and very easy to wear. The polyester content in the fabric makes it warmer than I expected from such a light-weight knit and the fabric is starting to pill, but I really like this style and will definitely be making this pattern again in the fall.

 

Day-to-Night Drape Top – 4/5: I ended up not liking the hem bands I used on this shirt, and I still think that the elastic across the back neckline is too short and the shoulders too narrow, so I feel a bit self-conscious about how the shirt lays across my shoulders.  But I still wear it quite a bit since I love the color of the fabric. I also like that this is basically just a T-shirt, but makes me feel more put-together.

 

Underwear – 5/5: I absolutely love these. I’d wear my handmade underwear everyday if I had enough to get me through from laundry day to laundry day, and I have plans for a few more pairs to help me reach that goal. I’m especially pleased with the way that the enclosed gusset is working out. Overall, I prefer the pairs that have some spandex content in them, since they have better recovery throughout the day. The ones without spandex are comfortable, but they do tend to stretch out as the day goes on.

 

Gray Birgitte Long-Sleeve Tee – 4.5/5: I love this shirt so much I have very little to say about it. I do wish that I had slimmed the sleeves a bit, but otherwise it’s nearly perfect. I’ve already finished a short-sleeve version of this pattern and have another in progress.

 

Black and White Chevron camisole – 3.5/5: I’m struck by how comfortable this is, probably because every other camisole I’ve owned in my life has felt a bit like a sausage casing. The next time around, I’ll use the plush side of the fold-over elastic since I’m finding the shiny side a little itchy. This is another piece that is limited by the fact that I have very little to wear with it. I’ll probably end up making a few more of these in more basic colors to wear with cardigans.

 

So that’s the run-down so far. All in all, I’m pleased with the things that I’ve managed to make so far this year, and I end up wearing something that I’ve made almost everyday. It’s a good feeling and a great motivator to keep sewing.

Outside of challenges like Me-Made-May, how often do you wear your handmade garments?

Chevron Camisole: A Birgitte Basic Tee Pattern Hack

Awhile ago, I ordered a small piece of fabric intending to make underwear but the seller contacted me after I placed the order to say they were actually out of stock. She asked me if I wanted to substitute something else, so I impulsively picked another jersey print, which I started to regret after it had been shipped because it didn’t really seem like me. But once I got the fabric, I actually liked it—just not for underwear. It’s a cotton/rayon/spandex blend that is very stretchy and drapey. Out of curiosity (and probably a bit of mid-day procrastination and general weirdness), I draped it around my body and started toying with the idea of turning it into a tank top for layering under cardigans.

Proof of my weirdness.

 The fabric was a half yard cut from Girl Charlee—they sell what are basically remnants that they promise are somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 a yard for ~$3. This particular piece was closer to 2/3 of a yard, which was not quite long enough for an actual tank top but more than enough for a camisole. Rather than seek out an actual camisole pattern, I decided to hack the Birgitte Tee pattern since I already knew from making my gray long-sleeved tee that I liked the fit through the body. For the back, I just traced the back Brigitte pattern piece and drew a straight line right across the back from armhole to armhole. For the front, I used a French curve to extend the lines of the armhole and neckline until the intersected at a slight, curved point. There was no real science to modifying the front. I just played around with the lines until I had a shape that pleased me. I also added 3/8” to the front neckline because I didn’t want the neckline to be too low and since there would’t be a neckband to add any height to the pattern.

Camisole pattern hack via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

The actual sewing was quick and easy. I’m not a fast sewist by any means and only use a standard machine (I don’t have a serger) and this took me about an hour and a half to sew up. I sewed up the side seams, attached the elastic to the top, and then turned the bottom up 1” and hemmed with a stretch twin needle. To apply the elastic, I followed the basic construction method outlined by Zoe in her free vest/singlet/camisole pattern, by attaching the elastic around the back and sides first and then attaching it to the front, with extra length for the straps. (The pattern itself doesn’t come in my size or I would have saved myself a bit of trouble and used it, but the instructions were still really useful.) However, I prefer to attach my fold-over elastic in two steps (as outlined here) rather than one step like Zoe does. It might mean a bit more time at the machine, but I feel like it gives me more control over the stretch and positioning of the elastic.

In her instructions, Zoe recommends gently stretching as you sew, but I wanted to be a bit more precise to make sure I was stretching the elastic evenly. So I measured the back and the sides and cut my elastic 10% shorter than the back measurement. I used a few pins to equally distribute the elastic around the back and sides and to give me a guideline for stretching the elastic as I sewed. After that, I tried the camisole on and threw a tape measure over my shoulder to get a sense of how long the straps would need to be. The tape measure told me I’d need 15” straps, and I added an inch of discretionary length, so I calculated each strap as 16” long. I then measured across the front of the camisole, and again subtracted 10% from this measurement to get the correct length of elastic needed across the front. I added this measurement to the 32” needed for the straps to figure out the total amount needed for the front and straps combined. I pinned the elastic to the front so that I had 16” of excess elastic hanging off of each side for the straps and then stretched the remaining elastic in the middle evenly across the front. I then pinned the straps to the back to double check the fit, and tacked them in place with a satin stitch so they are very secure. In the end, I used about 2.25 yards of 5/8″ fold-over elastic to make this camisole.

The resulting fit is just what I wanted. The body is fitted but comfortable, and the elastic keeps the back and neckline snug against my body without binding. Since I will only wear this under a cardigan, I didn’t bother trying to match the pattern at the side seams. The pattern would have been a major pain to match, and I didn’t have enough fabric to attempt it. However, I did make sure to balance/center the print at both the front and the back—obviously, I learned something from watching The Great British Sewing Bee.

I wasn’t going to post a picture of myself in this without a cardigan over it, largely because it would reveal so much of my shimmering vampire skin. But then I remembered that I’m a body-positive feminist teacher/researcher writing a dissertation that’s essentially about power and body shaming. So here you go—my non-academic exercise in body positivity and proof that I managed a good fit, all wrapped in one!

By the way, have you seen this interview with Dixie from Dixie DIY? Her answer to the last question about the way feminism influences her approach to sewing is brilliant, and made me proud to be a crafty feminist. If you haven’t checked the interview out yet, you should. And feel free to share your favorite body positive/feminist crafting resources in the comments!