Post-Blogging Break Updates

Hello! I decided to take January off from blogging—just because I thought it would be nice to have a little break. I meant to start up again at the beginning of February, but I’ve been sick, busy with work, tired from being up at night with a sick baby (I mean, toddler) etc., etc., etc. All the usual stuff.

I also decided to take a break from Instagram about half way through January and, unlike blogging, I’m not interested in going back. Instagram had started to feel a lot like Facebook before I quit that. It felt like I was investing a lot of time and energy into something that didn’t really feel like it was adding any value to my life. It had started to feel less like something I genuinely enjoyed and more like something that I couldn’t opt out of, which is ultimately what made me feel like it was time to get out.

It was weird to listen to the recent episode of Love to Sew, “Sewcializing 2.0” that was basically all about Instagram—it had the effect of underlining for me all the reasons that Instagram doesn’t resonate with me anymore. So I’m just going to continue to focus on my blog as my way of participating in some small way in online knitting and sewing circles. Even though I’ve taken breaks from blogging and have often questioned why I keep up with it, I continue to enjoy writing about and reflecting on what I’ve made. I enjoy having an easily searchable record of my projects, and I enjoy making this record available for other makers who might benefit from it.

Anyway. I’ve still been sewing consistently during my blog break and managed to finish a second weighted blanket, although I failed to take any pictures of it. Lol. This blanket was for my 8-year-old godson, so significantly bigger than my first toddler-sized blanket, but it really didn’t take much longer to make. I followed the same procedure for the first blanket (which I now realize I archived on Instagram, so maybe I should reproduce it in a separate blog post), but invested in a 6×18” clear gridded quilting ruler this time, which was totally worth the $20.

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No finished photos, no in-progress photos, but at least I thought to take a picture of the fabric I used for the top of the blanket? (It’s a Minecraft print from JoAnn’s and I used a coordinating Kona solid for the back and binding.)

I’ve also finished sewing a few garments that I’ll blog about shortly, but I haven’t been doing much knitting at all. I’ve been in a major knitting slump since mid-December that has largely related to a failed project. I finished my Carbeth cardigan and found that I just didn’t like it at all and that I had no idea what to do with it, which was really disappointing. But it also felt like yet another sweater failure in a long line of sweater projects that just haven’t worked out for me at all.

So instead of knitting, I’ve been been spending a lot of time trying to determine what makes a sweater work for me—and those key factors have been surprisingly difficult to identify. I think I have a good idea of what I want and need from a sweater, and plan to write a post about those ideas and another post about my Carbeth cardigan (which is still in limbo because I’m still not sure what I want to do about it). In the meantime, I’ve ordered some new yarn to get me back to my knitting needles, although I’m keeping things safe by working on a baby sweater that will be a gift for someone else.

I think those are all of my craft-relevant updates since the last time I posted. I’ll have some finished project posts up soon and will be trying to find some time to get modeled photos of some of the garments I’ve finished recently so I can get caught up blogging all of the things I’ve been making. Yay for blogging!

#SewingTop5 for 2018: Highlights, Hits, and Misses

I always like participating in the #SewingTop5 Series hosted by Gillian at Crafting A Rainbow. It’s a fun way to reflect on the year, and I feel like I have a lot to celebrate and reflect on from 2018. 2018 has felt like a very long year, and I’m also kind of shocked to find myself at the end of it.

Top 5 Highlights

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  1. In January, I went back to work full-time after having Jude, which means that he also started daycare. The constant flood of kid germs aside, it has been a great experience. We love his teachers, he seems to love being at school, and I feel like parenting has given me a sharpened focus in my work life so I actually feel like I’ve gotten more efficient at work despite the fact that I’ve got more going on.
  2. At the end of April, my brother got married, and I got to officiate the ceremony. But Jude, of course, stole the show by being incredibly cute. Lol.
  3. In May, after I got my spring grades turned in, I actually started sewing again–basically for the first time in eight months since Jude was born! And I’ve actually maintained a regular sewing practice for the first time since I started sewing. I’m actually shocked by how much I managed to get sewn this year. (I actually started reading for pleasure again at about the same time and am likewise shocked by how many books I managed to read.)
  4. Jude turned one in August! We had a party for him with all of our family in Wisconsin, and I had a blast making his first birthday cake. It is so fun to watch his little personality develop. He is silly and sweet and sensitive, and I love watching him learn more and more everyday. (He also got tubes shortly after his birthday, which finally took care of the monthly ear infections we were experiencing–such a relief!)
  5. And finally, in October, I decided to make Jude a Halloween costume. It didn’t feel right to put this project on my “Hits” list since it only got worn a couple of times, but making it was definitely a highlight of my year. I didn’t think I’d enjoy costume sewing as much as I did, and it turned out so freaking cute I can hardly stand it.

Top 5 Hits (listed in the order that I finished them)

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  1. Black striped Muse Jenna Cardigan. I wasn’t sure I’d wear this much when I finished it over the summer, but I’ve been wearing it all the time.
  2. Pinstripe jersey Stevie Top. Aidan complements this shirt every time I wear it.
  3. High-waisted Avery leggings. So comfortable!
  4. Jude’s Mukava Jeans from Ottobre 01/2018
  5. My Picking Daisies shawl–easily my favorite knitting project from this year.

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Top 5 Misses

  1. My Willamette Shirt. I didn’t like the fabric I used, but also think I would have preferred a smaller size.
  2. My mid-waist Avery leggings, which basically look like my high waisted pair, but roll down my hips when I move around.
  3. My Carbeth Cardigan. I haven’t blogged about or taken pictures of the finished cardigan yet, but this knitting project turned out to be a bust. It fits, and it’s a great pattern. But it’s not my style, and I know I’ll never wear it.
  4. (and 5) Both views of the Santa Fe top that I tried. This swingy shape just doesn’t work for me–it doesn’t look good, and I don’t like the way it feels either. I haven’t really worn these, even as pajamas.

I at least feel like I learned something valuable from each of my “misses,” and I’m looking forward to putting those lessons to use in 2019. But more on that in my next post when I’ll talk about my Top 5 Reflections and Goals!

Blogging: Do I Still Care About This Thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Swatch for a future sweater. More details to come.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Ogden Cami

I officiated a friend’s wedding at the very beginning of the month. It ended up being a fun experience, but the lead up was kind of nerve-wracking. I was worried that I would either 1) ruin my friend’s day by putting together a shoddy, awkward ceremony or 2) end up looking like a fool because I don’t really go to weddings and thus have no sense of what people wear to them.

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Proof that I did the thing.

The question of what to wear was complicated by the fact that I do not wear dresses or skirts, which seem to be the wedding guest outfit of choice for 97% of women. And if you try to seek out pants-based wedding outfit ideas for women, you mostly get pictures of tragic mother-of-the-bride pantsuits, which was definitely not the look I was going for. In general, anything more formal than, say, a Friday night dinner at Olive Garden is a little outside my comfort zone. My life is 100% casual so occasion dressing as a concept is more or less a mystery to me. For awhile, I figured it would be easiest to make myself something to wear but I gave up on that idea a couple of months ago when I realized that it’s kind of impossible to make sewing plans when you have no sense of where to even begin.

So I ended up doing the shopping thing, which remains one of my least favorite activities in life. But after trying on anything that seemed remotely appropriate, I ended up finding something I liked a lot. And, of course, multiple people asked me if I made my outfit, which is a thing that never happens in my day-to-day life when the chances that I’ve actually made what I’m wearing are significantly higher.

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A rare photo of Aidan and I dressed up.

The only handmade item I wore to the wedding was this Ogden Cami. I didn’t make it specifically for the wedding—I’ve had this project planned since the pattern was released—but I did move it up to the top of the queue once I’d purchased my wedding clothes and recognized the danger of potential movement-related button gape with the shirt. I finished it the night before we left and was thus safe from flashing any bra peeks at any point during the event.

True Bias Ogden Cami

I’ve been looking for a camisole pattern that is not cut on the bias for a long time, and that’s primarily why I bought this pattern. But I also appreciate that it’s finished with a partial lining, which I found easier and cleaner than something like a bias facing. Overall, the pattern was really straightforward and makes it very easy to get a nice-looking garment.

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A shot of the inside–this is the back partial lining

The most challenging aspect of this project was simply dealing with my fabric, which is a very light, very soft rayon. It was described online as a “viscose rayon challis” but feels more like a rayon voile to me. It’s the first time I’ve sewn with something so light and so shifty, so it took some experimenting to figure out how to get the best stitch results on my machine (65/9 universal needle/straight stitch foot/1.8mm stitches, in case you were curious). Because the fabric was so light, I used French seams on the sides, so the inside all looks quite nice.

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I didn’t do much to adjust the fit. My bust and waist measurements put me right between a 14 and a 16, so I just cut between the lines for those two sizes. True Bias drafts for a C cup, and my current pattern cup size is between a C and D, so I didn’t bother with an FBA, but I was still a little concerned that there might not be sufficient length at the front and on the front lining to cover my bust. So I added an additional ½” to the center front of both pieces, blending to nothing at the sides. The cami looked a bit on the short side to me, so I also added 1” of length to the body.

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All in all, this is one of those boring-to-look-at and impossible-to-photograph projects that I’m really glad to have in my closet. It’s useful, it feels and fits much nicer than the cotton layering tanks I’ve been wearing, and I don’t have anything else like it right now. This isn’t the kind of garment I’m likely to wear on it’s own, but I could probably use another one in a lighter color for layering.

True Bias Ogden Cami

Let me know if you want me to officiate your wedding. I have a fancy outfit from Kohl’s and have been ordained by the internet—only the best for your special day.

Cincinnati-Bound

In March, I was offered a position as an Assistant Professor at a 2-year college just north of Cincinnati. When I started my job search in October (because academic job searches take forever), my goal was to get a tenure-track job at a small, teaching-focused college in or very near a Midwestern city, and that’s exactly what I ended up with. It’s a great job, and I’m excited for the all of the professor perks like finally having my own office.

I was actually born in southwestern Ohio and lived there until my family moved to Wisconsin when I was ten. Graduate school took me back to southwestern Ohio for two years before we moved to New York, and now we’re headed back to southwestern Ohio once again. It’s starting to feel like the universe is sending me a very pointed message about where I’m supposed to be.

Aidan managed to get a job in Cincinnati pretty quickly, which is great but also means he’s going to be moving down there in less than two weeks. Meanwhile, I’ll be staying behind to finish up the semester and pack our stuff up. Oh, and I have to actually finish my dissertation so that I can graduate. NBD.

So my life right now revolves around writing and moving logistics. It is all equal parts exciting and terrifying. There have been good parts about being in New York, but I am so done with living in Syracuse and even more done with grad school. I think there are good things on the horizon for us in Ohio, but I can’t think too long about all the work I have to do over the next two months in order to get there or I start to feel a little ill.

Anyway, I had been keeping my sewing machine on my desk and would just push it to the side when I needed to work. But I decided to pack all of my sewing stuff away a few weeks ago to clear my workspace and my head. (No regrets–it worked.) I’ve even asked Aidan to take my sewing machine down to Ohio with him when he goes rather than risk it to the not-so-gentle hands of movers. That means that I probably won’t be doing any sewing until July. In my non-writing time, I’ve reverted back to my early grad school knitting habits and have been exclusively knitting socks for the last five weeks. I’ve finished one full pair, have two pairs in progress, and just got another three skeins of sock yarn in the mail today.

At this point in my knitting life, socks require next to no mental exertion on my part, so I’ve basically cut out as many crafty distractions as possible without totally giving it up. I just keep reminding myself that this state of affairs is temporary. Plus, Aidan promised to buy me a serger once I defend my diss. I think that should be enough motivation to keep me limping along. Back to work!