Getting Over My Fitting Hangups

I am trying to recommit to garment sewing right now. The combination of spring and the end of the semester always seem to give me some renewed sewing zeal. I don’t really participate in Me Made May, but seeing other people’s pledges and posts definitely gets me thinking about my closet and my handmade clothes. And the sun and the warmer weather and the relief of being done with grading makes me excited to spend more time in my sewing room.

Yanta Overalls I made last summer and have worn once. I also made a pair of black Arden pants which I have never worn. Just not my style.

It’s been a long time since I have been sewing seriously for myself. Or feels like a long time. I pretty much stopped when I was pregnant with Silas. Then tried to get back into the swing of things last summer and made a handful of garments but none of them ended up being things that I actually wore. The frustration with garment sewing was kind of what pushed me into engaging more seriously with quilting, which I’m grateful for. But I also don’t want to give up on garment sewing.

A Closet Core Tee that looks fine but has covert fit issues that make it very uncomfortable.

The biggest mental barrier for me is that I’ve just gotten really intimidated by the thought of fitting. Yes, I’ve successfully sewn a lot of things for myself in the past. But, my body has fluctuated a lot over the past five years, as you’d expect, through a combination of having babies and, you know, just living. So the feeling that my body is a bit of a moving target that I have to keep relearning is not helping. But I also have a clearer sense of the specific kinds of things that I would like to be making for myself (button up shirts, jeans, jackets), and those kinds of things seems especially intimidating to me on the fitting front. So intimidating that aside from a single pair of jeans and single dartless button up, I have really not attempted making these garments.

A Montrose Tee with screwy bust darts that I rarely wear because I don’t like this style of shirt and the fabric doesn’t feel great.

Part of it is pattern access. For a long time, there haven’t been the kinds of patterns I want to make in my size. I have very specifically been waiting for Grainline Patterns to release a version of the Archer shirt in their expanded size range for what feels like forever. And now Helen’s Closet Patterns has released the Cameron Button Up and Cashmerette has released the Vernon Shirt (they’ve had the Harrison for a while but a fitted princess seam shirt is not my preferred look). I have the Cashmerette Ames jeans pattern and an actual denim kit sitting in my stash, and there are a bunch of different jacket patterns that are in my size from a range of companies that I am excited to try.

Another Montrose I never wear for the same reason. The bust darts on this one are even worse.

I just haven’t been able to get past the mental block of fitting. So I’ve been trying to just work the problem. Seamwork released a class for members a few months ago called How to Fit with Confidence, which I worked my way through slowly. And then I used a gift card I got at Christmas to order a copy of Jenny Rushmore’s book Ahead of the Curve, which I just finished reading. Both resources work together nicely in that that present a shared process (measure, choose a size, make a muslin, address what you see) and a shared mindset (body stuff is hard but it will get easier over time to deal with your measurements, start small and aim for good enough, know that you will learn with each project and fitting will get faster and more intuitive over time).

Adjustments made!

So I’ve been trying to get out of my head about fitting by just leaning into the process. I avoided muslins for a long time because I started sewing in the era of sewing blogs where it seemed like everyone was posting muslins and making a million complex fitting adjustments and fixating on eliminating every possible wrinkle, and it all seemed very intimidating and also not at all fun. Both the Seamwork class and the book address that mindset and offer a more reasonable, low-key approach to making a muslin. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I made my first ever muslin (I think?) for the Cameron Shirt. I new I’d need an FBA and to add a dart, and instead of agonizing over how much to add or where to place the dart, I was able to figure both out really efficiently with the muslin. I’m even going to recut the fronts now that I’ve made an FBA to my pattern piece just to double-check the dart placement and the hip width and to ensure that the pocket markings will work for me, and then I think I’ll be ready to cut out my actual fabric. And I feel reasonably confident that I’ll end up with something that will fit me. And maybe leaning into the process will be the end of the mental block over fitting.

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.

Black Ginger Jeans

Hey, look — I made another pair of black pants. So novel! This time, I made what I think of as real pants with a real waist band that I can feel comfortable wearing outside of my house. (I do not give a shit about what other people wear in public, but I do not feel fully dressed without a non-elastic waistband.) This is my first pair of Ginger Jeans, which I had originally planned to make as part of the Outfit Along. I missed the deadline and the sweater I planned to make with these still isn’t done, but who really cares?

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans

To parrot what so many other sewing bloggers have said before: I was a little anxious about taking on this project, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The sewing was very manageable, and top-stitching is incredibly satisfying. I can see many more pairs of handmade jeans in my future. And yes, it kind of blows my mind that I was able to make a pair of jeans.

I had actually started to get a little bored with sewing because I was playing it safe and only choosing boring projects. It was nice to get that slightly obsessive “must get back to the machine!” feeling with this project, and it ended up being a bit of a breakthrough project. I’ve had lots of more complicated patterns that I’d like to try, but didn’t feel competent enough to take on. Sewing these jeans got me over that mental obstacle.

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I made the skinny leg version of the pattern, altering the high-waisted version to be a mid-rise per the instructions in this tutorial. I started with a size 18 (for reference, my current hip measurement is 46″ and my waist is 34″). I also added 1″ to the center back rise through a full seat adjustment (should have added a little less, I think) and removed 1″ of length from the legs above the knee. After my basted fitting, I ended up sewing the outseam with a 7/8″ seam allowance and slimmed the legs a bit more. I also moved the back pockets in by 1/2″ on either side, although I think I would have been better off moving them in a bit more.

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I used a black stretch denim I got from Fabric.com. It’s a cotton/poly blend with a little more poly content than I would like. The wrong side of the fabric definitely has a synthetic feel to it, but the right side has a really soft, brushed finish. The fabric has a lot of stretch, but it seems to have really nice recovery so I’m hoping these don’t bag out a lot with wear. I used quilting cotton for the pocket lining and added the pocket stay, which is a really nice feature.

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I used the denim for the waistband facing and didn’t use any interfacing at the waist. The waistband application is probably the thing I’m least satisfied with on this pair–I used my edge-stitching foot to try to ensure even top-stitching, but it just kind of dragged the fabric down and stretch it out a lot so I ended up with a rippling waistband. I was able to mostly steam it back into shape, but next time I’ll use my walking foot.

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I think the next time I make this pattern, I’ll also experiment with using the pocket lining fabric as the waistband facing since I could use a slightly more stable waistband. I’ve also seen people use elastic as a kind of interfacing at the back of the waistband to keep it from stretching out over time, which is something else I might try at some point.

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For my first pair of jeans and my first time using this pattern, I’m pretty happy with the fit I got–I’ve never had a pair of jeans that fit this well at the waist. And I feel like it will be fairly easy to keep tweaking this pattern to get an even better fit. I need to shorten the front rise next time–I think that’s why I’m getting wrinkles at the front. It’s a bit hard to see at first because of the stiffness of the interfaced fly front, but I can actually pinch out about 1″ of excess fabric from the front rise. I wouldn’t want to alter the shape of the skinny leg, but if I were making the straight leg version, I would probably also do a wide calf adjustment.

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I’m pretty sure that I also need a knock-knee adjustment. In a post on common jeans-fitting adjustments, Heather from Closet Case Files referred to the knock-knee adjustment as the cutest sounding fit adjustment. That is a sweet thought, but it does not feel very cute to me. These jeans and their knee wrinkles are bringing some latent knee insecurities to the surface. It’s weird–I make lots of different fit adjustments for many unglamorous reasons, but the idea of having knock knees kind of messes with my head.

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This picture shows the knee wrinkles in their truest form. I have now analyzed many pictures of myself in pants and found that I consistently have this cluster of wrinkles pointing at my inner knee. For the sake of comparison, I have also analyzed pictures of many other sewing bloggers in pants and found that their knees look quite different than mine. Even allowing that you may likely end up with some wrinkling at the knee in skinny jeans to allow for movement, most of the skinny jean knee wrinkles I’ve seen run horizontally and don’t come to a point like mine. I think the knock-knee thing is evident in my stance too. If I “zip my thighs together” like so many yoga instructors are fond of saying, my knees come together and I naturally end up with about 3″ of space between my feet. And if I try to force the inner soles of my feet to touch, it is physically painful because my kneecaps are essentially fighting one another for the same space. And yes, I see that this all makes very public the crazy amount of time and energy I’ve given to contemplating my knock knees.

Closet Case Files Ginger Jeans

Anyway. I respect my knees and acknowledge that I cannot change them, so I will just start making a knock knee adjustment part of my regular pants-fitting repertoire. In the meantime, I’m happy enough with how these pants turned out to keep wearing them, and I’m already excited about making the next pair.

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!

 

 

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.

Sweater Knitting: Bust Dart and Waist Shaping Placement

I had a request for images that show more clearly where I actually place darts in my sweaters. My sweater knitting posts get a fair bit of attention, so I’ve been meaning to write a couple of posts explaining my process for altering sweaters to fit and for calculating bust darts and waist shaping. Since those posts will probably be a bit more involved, they are on my list of post-dissertation projects. However, creating images that show the dart placement I use only took about 15 minutes with a free photo editor, so here they are. Please excuse the shaky lines–my digital drawing skills haven’t progressed much since my days of playing around with MS Paint as a kid. All of the images are of my Blank Canvas sweater, although the lines I’ve drawn in reflect the dart location I generally use on fitted sweaters.

Vertical Bust Darts/Front Waist Shaping

Vertical Bust Dart and Waist Shaping Placement

This line of shaping is just where I do a series of decreases and increases to add shape for my waist and bust. I use the bust dart and waist shaping placement recommended by Amy Herzog in her book Fit to Flatter, so I do my shaping about a quarter of the way in on the front. In other words, if I was working the front of the sweater over 100 stitches, I would knit 25 stitches, place a marker for the increase/decrease line, knit 50 stitches, place a market for the second increase/decrease line, and then knit the remaining 25 stitches. Because there is more than a 2″ difference between my full bust and my high bust measurement, I work a series of decreases after the bust apex in order to get to the appropriate stitch count for my shoulders and neckline.

Horizontal Bust Dart

Horizontal Bust Dart Placement

In addition to the vertical bust darts and waist shaping, I add a horizontal bust dart, which is basically a series of short rows that add length to the front to accommodate the depth of a larger bust. (I’ve written more about horizontal bust darts and how they work in this post.) I typically do ~3″ worth of short rows and insert the short rows an inch below my bust apex, or the highest/fullest part of my bust. My bust apex is about 3″ below the point where my armscye begins, so I work the short rows ~4″ below the armscye. When I work the short row wraps, I make sure that they don’t go past the vertical shaping lines I indicated in the first image.

Back Waist Shaping

Back Waist Sweater Shaping

For back waist shaping, I again follow Amy Herzog’s recommendation for shaping placement, which is ~1/3 of the way in on either side of the sweater. So for a sweater back worked over 100 stitches, I would knit 33 stitches, place a marker for the shaping line, knit 34 stitches, place a second marker for the shaping line, and then knit the remaining 33 stitches. The two longer lines in the picture indicate these primary shaping lines which are worked about of a third of the way in on either side of the sweater.

The two smaller lines indicate an additional set of waist darts that I started using because the typical pair of decreases weren’t sufficient. I have a serious back curve and to do all of the shaping I would need to do in a single set of darts would mean decreasing so frequently that the fabric would start to bias and distort. So I work decreases on the primary shaping lines (the longer lines) every 4 rows and incorporate any additional decreases I need beyond that into the two smaller darts. I place the smaller darts halfway between the primary shaping lines and the edge of the sweater.

So that’s the low-down on where I’m placing the darts and waist shaping in my fitted sweaters. I hope this is relatively clear and helpful. Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

In Progress: Little Wave

I cast on for a new sweater over the weekend–Gudrun Johnston’s Little Wave. I actually had the yarn for this sweater earmarked for a different pattern for almost a year, but never worked up the motivation to actually get started on it. Then, a few weeks ago, I was feeling overwhelmed trying to pick a new knitting project, and I made Aidan sit down and give me his thoughts on the patterns I had in my Ravelry queue. Since the beginning of our relationship, Aidan’s been responsible for picking out things that have become my favorite clothes, so I trust his judgment. Well, he nixed the cardigan pattern I had planned to make with this yarn because he didn’t like the stand up collar. I agreed that a stand up collar isn’t a look I’m a huge fan of and figured that if it had been a year, and I still hadn’t committed to that sweater project, then it wasn’t worth keeping on the docket. Aidan suggested I make something with a shawl collar instead, which brought me to Little Wave.

The yarn I’m using is Valley Yarns Northampton in Ocean Heather, which I’ve actually salvaged from a previous sweater project that I never wore. I’d used it previously to make Ravine. That sweater has a great cable pattern that was a lot of fun to knit, but in the end I just didn’t like the fit, the neckline, or the style of the sweater. This was one of my earlier attempts in trying to nail down a good sweater fit and while I learned a lot from this project, I think I only ended up wearing it once or twice.

 Anyway, I took an evening to take the sweater apart, unravel the pieces, and wind the yarn into hanks. I let the yarn soak in a tub of water for a good while, and now that all the kinks are gone, it’s ready to be reborn as a new sweater project.

Working out the fitting for this pattern has been the biggest challenge so far. The combination of the textured stitch pattern, the garter stitch panels at the sides of the sweater, and the bottom-up saddle-shoulder construction doesn’t give a lot of room for improvising and makes it a bit harder to move between sizes. Plus, there’s about a 5″ difference between each pattern size, which also makes it a bit trickier to pick the right size to work with. The pattern is actually written with separate instructions for men and women, so that there’s one set of finished chest measurements, but two sets of instructions for shaping the cardigan so that it fits more conventional feminine or masculine styling. (Basically, the women’s version includes some waist shaping, a higher armscye, and the length through the body and sleeves is also a bit shorter.) The trade off for a unisex pattern seems to be fewer overall size options, but so it goes.

Right now, my plan is to basically make up the 46” size through the body. However, I’ll be casting on for the number of stitches called for in the 51” size, and dividing the extra stitches between the garter panels at the sides and the cardigan fronts. I’ll get rid of the extra stitches in the garter panels by working additional waist decreases and then get rid of the extra stitches on the cardigan fronts by starting the v-shaping for the neckline sooner than called for in the pattern. This will give me more room at the hips, waist, and bust, while allowing me to work the shoulder and armscye shaping for a smaller size. The shoulders for the 46″ will be too wide for me, so I’m going to try to work some extra decreases in the yoke shaping in hopes that I can decrease down to the appropriate number of stitches for the 41.25″ size. Here’s hoping the plan works out!

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.

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!

Blank Canvas

This is kind of a boring, basic pullover, but this project was meant to be an experiment with a different sweater construction method. I’d say the experiment was a success.

I prefer to knit sweaters in pieces and then seam them together, and this is partly because I find knitting an entire adult-sized sweater in one piece rather tedious and partly because I’ve just had better luck getting a seamed sweater with set-in sleeves to fit me well. Raglan sweaters, in particular, have given me a lot of trouble in the past because they just don’t seem to agree with my body. Not only have I found it difficult to get a good fit with traditional raglan sweaters, but I don’t think they look particularly good on me either. I just don’t seem to have broad enough shoulders to pull a raglan sweater off without looking, well, frumpy. While a set-in sleeve helps to define my (relatively narrow) shoulders, traditional raglan lines have a way of making my shoulders disappear. Not good. Still, the lines of a raglan sweater offer some attractive design options (color blocked sleeves, textured sleeves, striped sleeves, lace sleeves, etc.) that just wouldn’t look quite as good with the set-in sleeves I typically prefer.

So I wanted to try Ysolda Teague’s Blank Canvas pattern, which claims that women who don’t typically look good in raglan sweaters might prefer the look of the modified raglan shaping used in her pattern. A traditional raglan yoke is shaped through a series of decreases or increases (depending on which direction you’re knitting) where the sleeves and the torso connect. These decreases/increases are worked at an equal rate across the sleeve and torso, and are usually worked at a consistent frequency, to basically create four straight lines that run diagonally from the underarm to the neckline. The yoke of Blank Canvas switches up the traditional raglan shaping and instead has you decrease across the sleeve and body at differing rates and also changes the frequency of decrease at different points in the yoke to create a raglan line that more closely follows the physical contours of the arm and shoulder. And I can now verify that this kind of shaping does, indeed, look a lot better on we narrow-shouldered-and-busty types who don’t look good in a traditional raglan.

I followed the instructions for the size that most closely matched my upper bust measurement and the fitting through the shoulders is spot-on. This method of shaping the yoke isn’t quite as simple and straight-forward as working a traditional raglan, but Ysolda’s pattern directions are very clear and easy to follow. Now that I’ve worked with the pattern, I feel like I could easily adjust the shaping to accommodate different weights of yarn. I’m looking forward to playing around with this raglan construction more in the future. While I followed the instructions for the yoke shaping and the sleeves, I determined my own cast-on numbers, worked out my own shaping through the body, and added my usual 3” of HBDs. I also swapped the pattern’s crew neck for a deep V-neck. The yarn I used is Berroco Vintage DK in Neptune—it’s a color that says “spring” even if the weather around here doesn’t agree.

The view from our front door last Wednesday. Taken during my “Spring” Break.

There are a couple of other things that I’ve learned from this project:

  • Because I modified the pattern to create a deep V-neck, I worked all of the raglan shaping back and forth rather than in-the-round as the pattern specifies, and this  meant having to work some of the decreases from the wrong side. This turned out to be pretty easy, and it’s a good reminder that I can decrease on wrong side rows whenever I’m knitting flat if I want to—something that opens up possibilities for figuring out rates of decrease in the future.
  • This pattern uses a different increase method than I’ve worked before. I usually work a M1R/M1L, while this pattern uses lifted increases (which are explained at the end of this Knitty article). I was a little worried about how these increases would look in the final product, but they create a very neat finish. The best part is that I think it’s a lot more intuitive to figure out how/when to work a left or right-leaning decrease than it is with the M1R/M1L business. I plan to continue using lifted increases in the future.
  • Finally, I wanted to tweak the fit at the back of the sweater since I don’t think I’ve been using quite enough back shaping. However, I couldn’t decrease on the back any faster than I’d been doing or the fabric would start to bias. So after looking at some other people’s projects on Ravelry (which is a nice way of saying that I spent a lot of time studying other people’s backsides), I decided to add a second dart halfway between my usual decrease line and the edge of the back of the sweater. I decreased an additional half inch on either side (removing an extra inch of fabric overall), and I’m really happy with the result. I’ll definitely be working that second set of darts in the future.

I want to keep expanding my familiarity with different sweater construction methods. I want to try making a circular yoked sweater (perhaps the Van Doesburg Pullover from the Spring issue of KnitScene?), and I’m also intrigued by the top-down method Andi Satterlund uses in her patterns. Do you have a favorite sweater construction method?