Confidence Building: The Willamette Shirt

Many months ago during Me-Made May, I pledged to spend at least 20 minutes a day sewing things for myself with the goal of getting myself back into the habit of sewing after a long post-baby break. I mostly kept the pledge, only missing a few days, and it worked—I’ve been sewing pretty regularly since then, which feels awesome. Making that pledge prompted me to finish up the striped cardigan I’d started working on a year earlier. The other big project I finished in May was this shirt.

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This is the Willamette shirt pattern from Hey June patterns. I kind of started this project on a whim after seeing a couple of people on Instagram sew up the pattern. I’ve been preferring boxier, woven shirts to my usual t-shirt lately and I really liked the casual, easy style of the Willamette. And while I have been intending to get into shirt making for years at this point, the truth is that I find both the idea of fitting woven tops and the process of sewing a button-up shirt completely intimidating. The Willamette seemed like it would be forgiving on both points.

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I sewed View B up in some black cotton voile I had in my stash. Based on the sizing advice in the pattern, I made a size 16 with a 1” FBA. It has been a long time since I’ve done an FBA, and I managed to screw it up a bit and wound up with a dart that’s too low. I figured out where I went wrong so I won’t do it again, and I think the black fabric conceals the issue for the most part.

I do wish that I had spent a bit more time thinking about the relationship between sizing and fabric. After I finished my Willamette, I saw someone talk about deciding to make this pattern one size smaller than their measurements indicated to account for a fabric with more body—this is what I really should have done. I think I would love the ease in this pattern with a more fluid fabric like rayon challis, but the cotton voile is stiff enough that it kind of stands away from my body, which makes all of the extra ease feel very awkward.

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I was really excited about this shirt when I finished it, but I’ve actually only worn it once and even then I changed out of it after a couple of hours. I’ve really only recently started wearing woven shirts more recently, so I’m still learning what I like in terms of fit and fabric. I do like a boxy and slightly oversized fit, but I want it paired with a softer and more fluid fabric, which is not what this voile is.

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However, this project was a huge confidence builder for me. It kind of reminds me of when I made the Jalie Eleonore Jeans—the project itself was a complete failure, but it showed me that I was capable of doing all the basic sewing tasks required to make an actual pair of jeans, which I ultimately ended up doing. In the end, I don’t like the way this shirt looks or feels on me, but it has helped me get over the weird anxiety I’d built up around fitting and sewing a button-up or popover shirt. I can see now that I am competent enough to take a shirt project on, and I’m excited to do that soon.

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I’m also really looking forward to trying this pattern out again next summer with a rayon or linen fabric that I think will better suit my personal preferences. I’m becoming a big fan of Hey June patterns (I’ve made the Halifax Hoodie twice and have two versions of the Santa Fe top waiting to be blogged). The quality of the drafting and the instructions is great and the casual, laid-back style is right up my alley.

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Solitude, Screwed Up

Oh, knitting. So full of “adventures.”

In December, I came up with a plan to make an easy, quick-to-knit cardigan that I’d wear all the time. I decided to knit The Solitude Jacket from KnitScene using some Valley Yarns Northampton in Charcoal. Based on my measurements, I was going to start with the cast-on numbers for the largest size and then just work a few extra decrease rows to get to the numbers for the second-to-last size at the waist. I was hoping an easy pattern and easy fit would be a nice way to get back into sweater knitting after a long break. Alas…

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Solitude Jacket Pattern Photo from Interweave

A Stupid Pattern

Sadly, this pattern is kind of a tech-editing nightmare. The pattern has a schematic, but it’s basically useless because, as far as I can tell, the stitch numbers for the body of the sweater don’t actually match the schematic measurements. Some of the stitch numbers would produce a sweater an inch larger than the schematic, some would produce a sweater .25” smaller. There was no consistent relationship between the stitch numbers for the body and the schematic measurements. It’s also impossible to tell based on the schematic how to account for the width of the button band in the overall measurements of the cardigan.

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But even more egregious was the fact that the numbers for the largest size (the size I was going to start with for the body of my sweater) are completely off and would produce a sweater that would be several inches too big. So already this pattern was not turning out to be an easy knit—I had to frog it after knitting a few inches and then recalculate all of the numbers for the body of the sweater, trying to figure out how to get the bust measurement I needed while still winding up with the right stitch count for the yoke. I looked to see if there were any errata online (especially related to the largest size) and there is, but it only pertains to the instructions for the collar. I know magazine patterns can get a bad rep because they are so poorly edited, but this is the first really rough magazine pattern I’ve come across.

A Stupid Mistake

Doing that math should have netted me a sweater that fit well. But I tried the sweater on once I finished knitting the yoke, and it’s at least a size too small. The real pisser is that I should have known. When I knit my swatch, my gauge was more like 4.5-4.25 stitches per inch rather than the 4 stitches per inch called for in the pattern. And, despite knowing damn well that it doesn’t work this way, I basically manipulated my swatch enough to convince myself that everything would eventually block out to size. The completed body of my sweater begs to differ. I even thought several times while I was knitting the sleeves that they seemed too small, but I just kept plowing through them. It’s just so stupid, I can’t help but laugh at myself.

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Now what?

I’m not going to just knit the collar on this and hope for the best. (Although I briefly considered it.) I could block the body just to see if and how much it relaxes with a nice soak, but I really don’t think a soak is going to give me the fit I want. I could also rip the whole body out and reknit it to an appropriate gauge but I’m already salty with this pattern and my commitment to this sweater is being seriously tested. The other option is to rip it all out and use the yarn for something else. Maybe combine it with a light gray or cream to make a Sundottir or a Fern & Feather? Or try to find another basic cardigan pattern?

I have no idea. I’m just putting this baby in time out until I decide what I want to do. In the meantime, I promise to swatch more responsibly.

Blackwood Cardigan

I ended my post about my failed Jalie Dolman and failed Ottobre tee by making it sound as if my sewing life got infinitely more successful after those projects. But really, the next thing I sewed—a Blackwood cardigan—is likely destined for the thrift store. The difference between this project and the ones that feel like failures is that I embarked on this cardigan knowing there was a very good chance I would dislike the final product but I still enjoyed the process of making it.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

The thing is that while I wear my cardigans open the majority of the time, I really just don’t like the way that open-front cardigans look on me. My friend, Abby, and I have had many conversations about the problematic nature of the open-front cardigan. But while she has given them up entirely, I still keep stubbornly trying them out. The open-front cardigan is really just one of several things like ballet flats, pumpkin ales and crochet that I know are not for me, but that I still keep testing on the off chance that maybe I will finally like them.

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So when the Blackwood cardigan pattern was released, I immediately thought “open front cardigan—danger” and, at the same time, “that looks really lovely and I want to sew it up.” I happened to have 2 yards of this gray cotton/poly sweater knit that I had no plans for and decided to use it to try this pattern. I cut out View A, which is the long version with pockets. My bust measurement falls between the L and XL, but my waist and hip measurements are squarely in the XL range, so I just cut a straight XL.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

This was a lovely and satisfying pattern to sew. Everything goes together really easily and results in a really cozy, clean-looking finish. I particularly like the look of the fitted, but long and slouchy sleeves, and I love the detail of the pockets on the long version. To sew the pockets, I used stay-tape on the pocket edges and then used a fabric glue stick fix the pockets in place before top-stitching them. These steps made it very easy to sew the pockets and get a nice finish.

Blackwood Cardigan in Sweater Knit

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I have seen many, many versions of this cardigan on blogs and Instagram that look really effortless and comfortable on the people wearing them. My finished cardigan looks nicely sewn and very wearable. And yet, I will probably never wear this. It is still hanging in my closet but it’s very likely to end up in the next round of donated goods. I don’t really mind the way that it looks in these photos, but I don’t particularly like the feeling of wearing a long, open-front cardigan. (Oh yeah—in addition to disliking open-front cardigans, I also hate wearing any top layer that extends longer than my low hip, so this poor cardigan was doubly doomed.) Also, I finished this cardigan 6 or 7 weeks before I took these photos. At the time, I was still firmly in the “baby or burrito?” stage of pregnancy, and I had a really negative reaction to seeing this cardigan on my body–it just seemed to frame and highlight a part of my body I was feeling fairly self-conscious of. That doesn’t seem to bode well for this cardigan getting any more wear in the fall when I’m dealing with postpartum body fluctuations.

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However, I’m not disappointed by this project because I genuinely enjoyed the process of making it. After two frustrating projects, it was just nice to sew something that came together easily and looked nice at the end, even if I didn’t think that it actually looked nice on me. It reminded me that I am not terrible at sewing. Also, this fabric is not great, so I’m not broken up about having used it up. It has already started pilling and is one of those poly-blend sweater knits that wants to constantly stick to itself—very annoying.

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

Lest you think this has finally put me off of the open-front cardigan, just know that I purchased the Jalie Helene pattern around the same time I bought the Blackwood pattern and am still planning to sew it up. I am a bit more optimistic about the Helene working out for me—it’s a little shorter in the body and has more fabric at the fronts, which I’m hoping will mean that I’ll feel more comfortable wearing it. I like at least having the option of pulling an open cardigan closed around me. We’ll see what happens…

Sewing Fails: Jalie Dolman and Ottobre Statement Tee

Whenever I take a long break from either sewing or knitting, I experience a lot of stumbling and fumbling when I pick it back up again. It’s like I haven’t forgotten how to “ride the bike,” so to speak, but I’m pretty wobbly for a while. This wobbliness resulted in two failed projects (one of which didn’t even get finished) when I started sewing again mid-March.

The first failed project was a version of the Jalie Dolman Top (Jalie 3352) that I made with a really nice marled sweater knit—I’m fairly certain the fabric is a cotton/rayon/Spandex blend. It’s soft, lightweight but still opaque, has great drape, and washed and dried really well. I originally bought it with the intention of making a long-sleeved Concord Tee so that I would have just a basic, lightweight sweater in my closet. I’ve been kind of kicking myself for changing plans, but whatever.

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I don’t like this pullover. I’ve worn it a couple of times and it just feels sloppy to me. I think there are two primary issues at play: first, the fabric has substantially more stretch than the pattern calls for (~75% vs. 40%); and second, I made some ill-advised sizing choices in the hopes of getting something that would be more wearable during the spring as I moved into my second trimester and then again in the fall in the middle of unpredictable post-partum fluctuations. (This was also the logic that led to the pattern switch—I thought the looser style of the Jalie Dolman would be more wearable than the fitted style of the Concord. The overall lesson here has been that it really isn’t worth it to try to predict what my body will do or what I will want to wear in the future.)

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Given the stretch in my fabric, I think I would have been best off cutting a size down from my measurements. But what I actually did was cut a size larger than my measurements. The result is something that just doesn’t feel good on me and that I don’t enjoy wearing. The body feels completely shapeless and dowdy and the sleeves are too loose and long—it basically looks nothing like the pattern photos or other people’s finished projects suggest it should look like. To add to the frustration of this project, my twin needle gave me a hell of a time and kept skipping stitches and breaking threads, which really made me feel like I had no idea what I was doing at my sewing machine anymore.

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The twin needle issue was easily solved—I realized about a week later that I just needed a new needle. I ordered one and all my twin needle problems are magically gone. As far as the pullover goes, it’s still hanging in my closet, and I think at some point I will take apart the side and sleeve seams and either recut it as a smaller size or just take the whole thing in. But there’s no sense in even trying to do that right now. And who knows—maybe it will actually fit well in the fall and I’ll get a lot of wear out of it.

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My second failure was the Statement Tee pattern from the Spring 2017 issue of Ottobre Woman. I was drawn to this pattern for the relaxed fit and because it is drafted for more stable jersey fabrics. However, I didn’t even end up finishing the first tee I made because I hated the fit on me. I found that the neckline on this is really wide. I added a neckband instead of the binding called for to get a bit more coverage and still ended up with a neckline wide enough to allow for frequent peeking bra straps. The sleeves are also quite long (which, to be fair, is more or less indicated by the fact that the pattern photos show the tee worn with the sleeves rolled up) and I would have to cut off ~2″ to get the length I want. Plus, I think it is too short in the body for this style—something I found especially surprising since I have a long torso and Ottobre tops are still usually a bit on the long side for me.

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The unhemmed tee

There were enough issues and frustrations with the fit and style of this pattern that it just didn’t feel worth finishing right now. The failure of the project is mostly due to the pattern, which just wasn’t what I was expecting it to be. The real clumsiness on my part as a sewer was the fact that I cut out two of these tees before testing the fit of the pattern in any way. This gray fabric is no great loss at all since it is boring and inexpensive. But I cut the second tee from a really nice black and gray pinstripe cotton-rayon blend jersey from Mood that is super soft and lovely. So I’m really kicking myself for now having sacrificed two nice cuts of fabric to failed projects.

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The sadly cut up pinstripe jersey

Ultimately, I think I’ll have enough of the pinstripe jersey leftover to be able to get something out of the fabric, although I don’t know what that will be yet. And again, maybe I’ll pull this t-shirt out of my project basket at some point in the future and find that it’s totally wearable and worth finishing. Either way, I’m happy to report that this was basically the end of my sewing wobbliness and I’ve had a lot more success at the machine since.

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.

 

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.

Jalie 2568, Again

I don’t have anything particularly exciting to show off today. I was thwarted, once again, in an attempt to sew a woven garment. I tried making McCall’s 6711, view B, which is a loose fitting tank top with a gathered shoulder detail and back yoke. I did an FBA, but it wasn’t large enough, so the shirt wanted to ride up in the front, which, in combination with the gathering detail at the shoulder, resulted in tons of fabric weirdly pooling on top of my chest. Not attractive. Before I gave up the ghost, I did manage several new-to-me techniques, including French seams, narrow hems, and finishing edges with a bias facing, so at least it was a productive learning experience. I’m also thinking about salvaging some of the fabric from this failed project and using it as a contrast yoke for a Camas Blouse so all is not lost.

Failed McCall's 6711

After a brief period of disappointment, I’m also ready to rally my energies and move forward with trying to make a well-fitting woven garment. I like sewing and wearing knits, but I would also like to make pants and jackets and shirts that in no way resemble a swuit. I kept telling myself that I needed to slowly build up my skills using more simple styles, but now I’m thinking I’d be better off spending more time working to fit one style I know I’ll wear and then developing my construction skills by making it multiple times. With that in mind, I think I’m going to start working on McCall’s 6436 since I have some drapey fabrics on hand that will work nicely in this style. And thanks to the review of this pattern on Cashmerette, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of where to start with my pattern adjustments.

Jalie 2568

As a palette cleanser after my failed tank, I finished up a few pairs of underwear. This is the same pattern I’ve been using for awhile now, Jalie 2568, adjusted to include a fully enclosed gusset and finished with fold-over-elastic. I have now completely replaced all of my underwear with handmade stuff, and that feels pretty awesome. They are not the most exciting things I’ve made, but I wear them everyday and they fit exactly the way I want without costing $14 a pair or being made from super flimsy fabrics. (Also, the blue fabric with the black elastic reminds me of Star Trek Science Officer uniforms so I now think of them as my Beverly Crusher undies.)

Jalie 2568, front and back

These pairs are all made with cotton-spandex blends, which is my preferred fabric for underwear. The black and gray stripes were leftover from one of my Tonic Tees and the teal fabric was a half-yard cut from Girl Charlee. The half-yard cuts, which usually run around $3, always get me at least two, but sometimes three, pairs of underwear. I use 5/8” FOE to finish the waistband and legs, and I’ve been buying my elastic from an Etsy seller called Elastic By the Yard. I usually buy the 5 or 10 yard spools—5 yards is enough for two pairs and 10 yards is usually enough to finish five pairs.

Jalie 2568

I keep telling myself that I’m going to cool it on underwear making since I have enough to get me through a laundry cycle, but I have a remnant of charcoal jersey that I think would look awesome finished with some neon green FOE. Perhaps that can be my first project if I end up getting a serger this summer.

Twin Needle Grievances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

DS9-Stills-major-kira-nerys-12090311-500-641

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

A Failed Project and Other Crafting Woes

Sometimes trying to make things is a real drag. I haven’t really been knitting since I finished my Blank Canvas sweater back in March. I’ve picked up a couple of small projects trying to get back into the groove of things, but I’ve ended up giving up on all of them. And then this weekend, I threw in the towel with New Look 6104, which was supposed to be my April MAGAM project. After sewing the darts and the pintucks, I basted the fronts and back together to check the fit, and it’s kind of a mess. I mean, the fit isn’t the worst, but there are several fit issues that really bother me—the bust darts are too low and I suspect that the full-bust adjustment I made was actually a smidge too large. I tried to add darts to the front to add some waist shaping, but they didn’t turn out well, and I think in general I need more practice sewing and pressing darts. Plus, the interfacing I used (while the weight recommended by the pattern) is significantly stiffer than I’d like.

I could finish it and call it “wearable,” but that would only be in the sense that I could physically wear it on my body because I would never actually choose to wear it. And there are certainly some things I could do to try to fix some of the fit issues I’m experiencing, but I’ve reached a point where the number of things that bother me have far out-paced my interest in the project and my desire for the finished object. So I’m forfeiting this one and moving on to the next project. I’ll admit that I let the failure of this project get me down this weekend, so I’m trying to focus on the silver lining in this crafting cloud. So here are some of the good things that have come out of the work I put into this failed shirt:

  • I made my first muslin for this project, and my muslin was partially successful. While I’m not happy with how the front of the shirt was fitting, I did manage to get the fit of the back worked out nicely with a muslin. I ended up  doing a narrow back adjustment, a rolled back adjustment, and a sway back adjustment (all of which I did using the methods described in Fit For Real People), and I can apply this fit knowledge to future projects. Also, part of the reason that I was able to get a good fit in the back was because I actually re-cut the back for my muslin after making pattern changes based on my first muslin. I (stupidly) did not do the same for the front, and now I tangibly see the benefit of seeing the muslining process through to the very end.
  • I used a cheap piece of fabric that I bought awhile ago and have no real attachment to so I’m not broken up about it being used for a failed project.

  • I had to sew pin tucks for the first time and they turned out really well.
  • I had planned to bind the armhole seams, so I used some of my extra fabric to make some bias tape. So now I have about 3 yards of chambray double-fold bias tape that I’m sure will come in handy at some point in the future.

  • This project has helped me re-assess some of my sewing goals. For example, I’m not sure how committed I am to woven shirts in general. I want to work on fitting a pattern for a basic button-down shirt since this is really the only kind of woven shirt I’m drawn to in the first place. I had been planning to try a couple of different simple woven blouse patterns this summer, but I’m going to change my plan and focus on fitting McCall’s 6035. I like the princess seam detail and if I can get a good fit on this pattern, I can see myself making this pattern over and over again. I’m pretty minimalist in terms of what I like to wear so it makes sense to me to spend a good deal of time fitting some basic patterns for button-down shirts and pants, even if they are a bit complicated, rather than trying my hand at a bunch of different patterns that I feel iffy about.

With all of that in mind, I’m moving on to some of the projects I’ve planned to make for other people and I’m returning to some more basic knit patterns. This weekend, I got all of the notions and fabrics I need to get going on a project for my nephew and godson, and I’m getting ready to cut out the Birgitte Basic Tee. I’ve developed a bit of a knit inferiority complex and somehow convinced myself that I’ve been “cheating” by sewing so many knits rather than working out fit with woven patterns, but I realized how stupid this was this weekend. Knits are what I like to wear, so it makes sense that I work on developing my sewing skills with knits. But I’m also trying to be a little more gentle with myself in general—I get impatient with myself for being a beginner, but of course, the only way to get past being a beginner is to keep moving through the clumsy beginner stages.

I’ve also finally started knitting a new sweater with this heathered black yarn, and it only took me knitting through 2” of twisted rib last night to climb my way out of my knitting funk. I’m doing a variation of Kate Davie’s Catkin sweater, which is a fingering-weight sweater worked at a fine gauge. I don’t know what it is, but I find a fine-gauge ribbing intoxicating. Hopefully my craft life continues looking up!