Tag: reflections

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!

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#SewingTop5 2018: Reflections and Goals

I’m back with my second post for #SewingTop5 2018. (You can find the post recapping my highlights, hits, and misses here). Today, I’m sharing my reflections on 2018 and setting some goals for the coming year.

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Reflections

#1: As I said in my previous post, one of the big highlights of this year was getting back into sewing after eight months away from the sewing room while I was taking care of a new baby. It was exciting enough just to find time to sew again, but even more exciting is the fact that I managed to carve out a regular, daily sewing habit for myself. It took some time to figure out the best approach, but I finally realized that by just setting aside 20 minutes for myself after Jude went to bed, I was able to make consistent progress on my sewing projects and enjoy some quiet, alone time at the end of the day. I’ve wanted to establish a regular sewing practice for myself since I started sewing, and I’m so glad that I finally hit upon a sewing ritual that has made that goal a reality.

#2: I wasn’t sewing during the first part of the year, but I did spend a lot of time thinking about sewing (especially when I was stuck in the lactation room at work several times a day). While I daydreamed about what I wanted to sew and plotted how I would get back into the sewing room, I realized that I needed to rethink my sewing goals. I originally took up sewing specifically because I wanted to be able to make as much of my clothing as possible and avoid shopping, which I loathe. It was an exciting but daunting goal that, in retrospect, kept me from experimenting in ways that would have beneficial to my sewing. That original goal kept me focusing on simple, basic projects that were more likely to lead to wearable garments. And I still learned a lot and, indeed, ended up with a lot of wearable items. But I think it kept me from trying garments I really wanted to wear that would require more fitting or more technical skill. And I think it also sometimes discouraged me from sewing, just because the goal itself seemed so out of reach given the amount of sewing time I have and my skill level. So I’ve reoriented my goals, and I’m trying to really focus on sewing the kinds of things that seem interesting to sew and like the kinds of garments I really wish were in my closet. And I’m trying to hone my shopping skills to take care of the stuff I don’t really want to make.

#3: As part of rethinking my sewing goals, I also started thinking more seriously about what kinds of clothes I want to wear. I feel so overwhelmed by clothes shopping that I’ve typically just gone for whatever is easiest to buy, and that’s historically left me with a boring closet of solid basics that don’t fit either my body or my personality very well. In May, I read The Curated Closet—I loved it, and it’s helped me work out a clearer sense of my ideal style, which is helping me choose projects and making it easier to shop for the things I don’t have the time or the desire to make. You can even see the pin board I created while I was reading the book here.

#4: Between establishing a regular sewing practice and getting a clearer sense of the kinds of projects I want to make, I’ve finally struck a more pleasing (to me) balance with my stash. I would generally prefer to buy fabric for a project as I’m about to make it—this is what I already do for my knitting projects, which is why I have a very minimal yarn stash. But the combination of not sewing regularly and not having a firm sense of what I’d like to sew/wear, I’ve spent the last several years engaging in aspirational fabric buying. I’d buy fabric with a project in mind, but I’d either not get around to sewing it while the desire to make the project was fresh or I’d realize that the project really wasn’t something I wanted to make. Right now, I’m making most of my short-term sewing plans based on what is already in my stash and buying fabric for new projects only as I need it. I’ve also gotten rid of lots of fabric that I just don’t have any desire to use and now I have a stash that feels manageable and isn’t stressing me out.

#5: I found that I really love sewing kids clothes. I spent almost the entire fall sewing things for Jude, and while I wish I had struck a bit more of a balance with sewing for myself, it was really satisfying to make some quick projects that have gotten a lot of wear. It just affirms my change in sewing goals—better to sew what makes me happy than to feel like I have to make everything I wear. And I know that there is likely a hard limit on how long Jude will willingly wear mama-made clothes, so I’m going to keep taking advantage of the opportunity while I can.

Goals for 2019

  1. Knit myself at least one sweater that I love. I have a post or two coming up about this, but I’ve been struggling to figure out what kinds of sweater patterns work best for me. My last few attempts at sweater knitting have been flops, so I’ll be happy if I can add just one pullover that I love to my closet.
  2. Sew a button up shirt, finally. This is one of those garments that I would happily make part of my daily uniform, but that I’ve been too hesitant to sew for fear of getting it wrong. Time to tackle the button up shirt. Luckily, I’ve already got plenty of suitable fabric to work with.
  3. Sew myself another pair of jeans. I loved the process of making my Ginger Jeans and the toddler jeans I made for Jude only reignited the desire to sew some more jeans. I want to keep working on the fit of the Ginger pattern, but I’d also like to try the Morgan Jeans.
  4. Sew a couple of shirts for summer that I feel good wearing. In my Me-Made May reflection this year, I realized that I need to make more of a concerted effort to figure out a summer wardrobe that will work for me. So I’d like to start by making a couple of non-tshirt tops for myself that feel both summery and more representative of my style.
  5. Sew something for Aidan. After having fun sewing some garments for Jude, I’d like to try making a garment or two for Aidan. I have two issues of Ottobre Family, which contain many men’s patterns. And there are actually a couple of garments that Aidan has trouble finding in stores, so it would be great if I could help him fill those wardrobe gaps.

As always though, I’m just looking forward to more making in the new year. I’m proud of everything I accomplished in 2018 and excited to tackle some new things in 2019!

 

 

 

#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!

Slow Fashion October ’18: Week One

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

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

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

 

Anyway, here is my pin board.

 

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

Do you have a color palette?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you describe your style in five adjectives?

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

What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?

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

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

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

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

Better Late Than Never: MMMay18 Reflections

I know most people are probably well over Me Made May (how is it already July!?), but I never got around to summing up my thoughts and experience this year. We seem to have packed all of our summer excitement in the first part of the season so I’ve either been busy or just haven’t felt like blogging for the past several weeks.

Anyway, my pledge for this year was to wear one handmade garment at least five days a week and to spend at 20 minutes a day sewing. The second part of the pledge was, in my mind, the crux of the challenge I gave myself. Since I had Jude, I’ve really struggled to find time for sewing so I really wanted to prioritize carving out little spaces of time when I could get back to my machine and work on some projects for myself.

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I kept track of both parts of my pledge on paper. Wearing a handmade garment five times a week wasn’t a problem, and I managed more than five days most weeks, although my wardrobe is so small right now that I was doing laundry frequently. I also managed to squeeze in sewing time nearly every day—I think I only missed five days, and four of those were days were days when we had visitors. During that sewing time, I managed to complete two projects that I’m looking forward to blogging soon: a striped Jenna cardi that I cut out more than a year ago and a black voile Willamette shirt.

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Striped Muse Jenna Cardi
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Hey June Willamette

Aside from two finished garments, here is what I took away from my challenge this year:

  1. I really do like my handmade clothes best of all. I’m still firmly an advanced beginner sewist, I am not a master of fit, I make a lot of boring basics, and I am not the kind of person to invest in really high quality fabric. And yet—the things I’ve made myself seem to fit better, feel more comfortable, and make me feel better about myself than the stuff I purchase from stores. This was a worthwhile reminder for me because while I tend to keep a pretty spare closet, I am especially low on clothes right now. Having a baby didn’t just change my body size and shape—it has also changed which styles I find most practical, comfortable, and desirable. With so little in the closet, it’s tempting to go out and buy a bunch of new stuff, but Me Made May served as encouragement to invest my energy in making time to slowly make new stuff rather than going shopping. (And it assured me that I can get by with what I have.)
  2. Time spent on alterations is worth it. One afternoon I spent my sewing time hemming a pair of too-long jeans I’ve had since February. And after having worn them only rarely, I’ve now been wearing them nearly every day. Alterations are pretty tedious, but especially when my sewing time is so limited, it’s worth using my sewing skills to improve what I already have.
  3. I can get a significant amount done in small bursts of sewing. I think we all intellectually know that this is the case, but it’s hard to commit to the practice of working on things in small bursts until you actually see what you can get done. I kept track of what I accomplished each day in my sewing time, and it was just really nice to see everything I was able to get done in those little stretches of time laid out in front of me. It also helped me better visualize my sewing projects in very small, discrete steps.
  4. But getting in a good stretch of sewing helps. I only finished two sewing projects this month because I did manage to squeeze in a couple of longer sewing stretches of at least an hour. At the same time that it was helpful to see how much I could get done in short stretches, it also felt kind of frustrating at other moments—like I was just plodding along on a project that felt like it would never be finished. I think, at least for me, the only way to make sewing in short bursts successful is to balance it with occasional longer sessions so I can make a good bit of progress that renews and refreshes my interest in the project.
  5. I need to invest in my warm weather wardrobe. I spent so many years as a student and most of my life in northern states with fairly mild summers that I never really made an effort to make or buy summer clothes that I enjoyed. I did as much as I could to get by on the same clothes I wore the rest of the year, which usually just meant wearing jeans and t-shirts. But now I live somewhere with hot, humid summers that stretch at minimum from May through September and while I have some time off, I’m still teaching and going to meetings for a good deal of the summer. I need clothes that are more suited to the climate while also helping me look just a little more put together. A big part of the problem is that when I look at warm-weather clothes, I have a really hard time finding something that feels like me. It’s not entirely surprising—I mean, if my personality were a season, it would be deep winter. But it’s time for me to figure out a way to dress for the heat in a way that will allow me the ability to both step outside of the AC for more than 5 minutes and still feel like myself.

Unrelated, look at this child! It’s already time to start working on making him an outfit for his birthday!

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Make and Move On

It is teacher appreciation week, and they’re doing a bunch of different things for the teachers at Jude’s school but I also decided that it would be nice to make some Petal Pouches for the three teachers that work in his classroom on a daily basis. I’ve made this pattern before—it’s from Noodlehead and comes with really clear instructions, which makes it a breeze to put together.

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I wanted to go with something neutral, so I used a gray linen-rayon blend fabric I had in my stash and then picked up some more colorful quilting cotton prints from Joann’s to use as the lining. I liked the metal zip and leather cord combo on the pattern photos, so I aimed to replicate the look. The only metal zippers I could find were shorter than I needed, so these are all made with the pattern piece for the large size printed at 90%.

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I’m not particularly thrilled with these pouches. I had a very specific vision for them when I set out to make them and the final product just doesn’t live up to it. I mean, there’s nothing really wrong with them. I wish I had thought to order different zippers online when I still had the time to wait for shipping so that I didn’t have to use a jeans zipper. My sewing could be a bit neater. But there’s nothing here that could reasonably be classified as a problem or as a reason to toss the project in the trash.

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The project just didn’t cohere in the clean, perfect way that I had hoped. And that was enough for me to come very close to trashing the whole thing yesterday and coming up with a plan B. It’s irrational, I know. But it is also real. Perfectionism, as all of us who deal with it already know damn well, is not a cutesy way to talk about having high standards—it’s constantly staving off, and sometimes giving into, a need for things to be *just right* that is so intense it stops you from wanting to try at all.

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It is only rarely that I completely trash a project because it’s just not working out and I can’t find a way to either salvage it or live with the problems. Most of the time, my intense need to get things right manifests as a drive to learn as much as I can and to be careful with making. Even then, I get lots of projects like this where I just feel lukewarm about the end result. But I know if I cling to that feeling of dissatisfaction, everything falls apart. If I let myself dwell or act on the feeling that not quite right is not good enough, then I will never make anything and my creative drive—which is a huge part of who I am—will go unfed and I will just have a gnawing emptiness. I know that because it has happened before. And the only way out is to start making things again, giving myself permission to make them as imperfectly as they want to be.

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The permission to make things imperfectly isn’t comfortable or fun—it’s not like I suddenly find myself taking joy in a project that isn’t turning out the way I had hoped. It just means that I try to stay in the practice of walking away and disengaging when I start to hear the critical voice wondering why I bother at all.

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It just seems so easy to build up pressure around the process of making things. I want to make the perfect gift. I want to make clothes that are unique and practical and durable and beautifully finished. I need to define my personal style. I don’t want things to go to waste. I want to make things that I will get worn or used all the time. I want to make things that look professional. It is all trying to grasp at and hold onto something firm, and it’s all building in more ways to fail, more unrealistic expectations. I’m trying to hold things more lightly—to make a thing, let it be what it is, and move on.

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So I pushed past the strong urge to trash the project and I finished sewing the pouches. I shrugged at the feeling that they were a disappointment and took some quick pictures. I put them in a Target bag and dropped them off at Jude’s school without letting myself think too much about it. I’m still not happy with them, but I don’t feel mortified by the failure to manifest my original vision. It’s just a thing I made. And the more I keep pushing through and just making the next thing, the easier it is to avoid getting bogged down when things just refuse to cohere.

It doesn’t matter that much anyway. When we got to school, Jude immediately leaned out of my arms towards his teacher and gave her a big snuggle. She had been off for a few days and he had missed her. Apparently, he already had his teacher appreciation gift locked down. So sweet!

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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.

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Jude 8 months. Just a little bit bigger than he was when I blogged about his knitted monkey.

 

*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?

Top 5 of 2016

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I know I’m a little late, but decided to write up a Top 5 of 2016 post at the last minute. This year, I think I managed to sew one pair of kid’s pajamas, six pairs of leggings, eight tops, two sweatshirts, one cardigan, three pairs of pants, three Stowe bags, and six zippered pouches. I also knit five pairs of socks, two pairs of fingerless mitts, one cowl, one scarf, two Christmas stockings, two toddler sweaters, and finished up one adult sweater that I started the previous year. Oh, and I crocheted a tiny cat. Here’s the year in review:

Top 5 Hits

Overall, I’m really happy with the things I made this year and ended up wearing nearly all of them regularly. But these are the five garments that I have enjoyed most–I wear them constantly and feel good in them.

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  1. Black Ginger Jeans
  2. Striped Halifax Hoodie (I’ve actually made another version of this pattern that I may love even more)
  3. Vogue 8909 Lounge pants
  4. Purple Sweater Knit Muse Jenna Cardi
  5. Black bamboo Concord Tees

Top 5 Misses

I’m lucky in that I didn’t actually have five misses–just a few projects that didn’t work out.

2016-misses

  1. Thread Theory Camas Blouse: I was really happy with this when I finished it, but didn’t wear it much because it didn’t really feel like my style. I’ve realized that I just really hate gathers like this top has. They just feel too feminine for me.
  2. Ottobre Blue Fog Top: I’m really sad to call this one a miss since it is another shirt I was really happy with when I posted about it. But the zippers are kind of an awkward feature and it just didn’t fit into my life. It is too casual for me to wear to work but felt more fussy than I wanted to deal with on the weekend. Actually, neither this shirt nor the Camas blouse fit me anymore anyway, so they will be donated in the hopes that someone else enjoys them more than I did.
  3. Jalie Eleonore Jeans: Blech. Bad fabric. Pull on jeans. Weird Fit. I hate these and never wore them but I’m glad that they made me feel brave enough to tackle my Ginger Jeans.
  4. (Not Pictured) Butterick 6378, View C: This was my only wadder this year. The fabric that I was working with was really cheap and shifty, making it difficult for me to sew well and frustrating the hell out of me. And then when I tried it on before attaching the sleeves, I remembered how much I hate the way gathers look on me. Abandoned due to seething anger.

Top 5 Highlights

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Two of my 5 highlights: Our trip to San Francisco and officiating my friends’ wedding
  1. In May, we spent a week in San Francisco with our friends and godson. It was a great trip where our friends graciously played tour guides and took us EVERYWHERE.
  2. At the end of June, my youngest sisters (who are 14 and 16) came and spent a week with us in Cincinnati. It was a little challenging to entertain teenagers, but we had a lot of fun, and it was nice to get to know them better as young women.
  3. In October, I had the honor of officiating my friends’ wedding. I was so nervous I would screw it up, but everything went well and it was such a great way to be part of their special day.
  4. Immediately after the election, I was lucky enough to get to escape to Montreal for a few days to attend a feminist conference with my friend. We had a great conference, ate Montreal bagels, bought some yarn souvenirs, drank beer and knitted in the hotel lobby, and processed our post-election feelings together. It was a lovely little trip.
  5. And finally, Aidan and I found a house to buy! We close later this week and we’re moving in the week after. I can’t wait!

Reflections

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Some honorable mention projects: My Dumpling Kitty, the Cotton + Steele Stowe Bag, and one of the Wonderful Wallaby Sweaters I made for my nephews for Christmas
  1. I spent almost the whole year in a weird knitting funk. I knit very sporadically and, frankly, didn’t enjoy the a whole lot of what I did manage. I’m not sure what was up–if I was picking the wrong projects or it just wasn’t my year as a knitter–but it all made me feel kind of twitchy and unsettled. Luckily, it seems to be over. I think playing around with some nicer yarns has brought me back to the joy of the process.
  2. At the beginning of the year, I bought myself a serger and I am completely in love with it. It’s made simple knit projects a lot more enjoyable and made more complex projects like jeans feel slightly more manageable. I held off buying a serger for a long time and I am so happy that I finally went for it.
  3. I feel like my sewing has gotten noticeably better this year. My projects are turning out better overall, my technical skills are more precise, the fit of my garments is better, and I feel like I’m finally developing stronger instincts about pairing fabric and pattern. Basically, sewing has started to feel a lot less clumsy and more natural for me, and I think that’s being reflected in the things I’ve been making.
  4. I benefitted a lot from sewing in smaller, more regular chunks of time. This was actually one of my goals from last year’s post. I didn’t always keep up with it–I had a couple of periods in the year when I really wasn’t sewing at all. But when I did regularly make time for ~30 minutes of sewing a day, I got a lot done and I feel like the quality of my work improved.
  5. A lot of my clothes don’t fit–nearly everything I made last year has been donated and about half of what I’ve made this year doesn’t fit either. The experience of having whole chunks of my handmade wardrobe out of commission because of fit has changed my project planning for the better. Before, I was concentrating on making basics and trying to make as much of my clothes as possible. The result was a lot of boring projects and an overwhelming to-do list. When I got to the point where I had to acknowledge that I was making something that might not fit in a few months, I started picking projects based on what seemed interesting (stylistically or technically) in the moment. It made for more enjoyable sewing and for garments that I really liked wearing, even if I don’t get to wear them for years.

Goals for 2017

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  1. Set up my new sewing space. In our new house, I get a dedicated studio space that is big enough for all of my sewing stuff and still have room for a desk for when I work from home. I’m looking forward to getting it all set up and organized.
  2. Make a sweater for Aidan. Aidan has been wearing the Ranger cardigan I made him a few years ago and has requested a second sweater. This time, he wants a cabled pullover in a softer yarn. I’m planning to make him Jared Flood’s Svenson sweater (pictured above) and intend to start swatching a couple of different yarn possibilities later this month.
  3. Try some new yarns. I used a lot of budget yarns when I was in grad school, and while they aren’t bad yarns, I think I’m burnt out on them a bit. Experimenting with some different yarns in the last couple of months has done a lot to get me inspired about knitting again, so I plan to keep it up.
  4. Do some cross stitching. Counted cross stitch was my first craft–my earliest memories of cross stitching are from when I was in kindergarten. It’s something I’ve done on and off since then. This year, I’ve got a couple of specific projects in mind that I’d like to make. I’ve bought the patterns and fabric and already made a good start on one of them.
  5. Make a quilt. It might be a small quilt, but I’m interested in trying some quilting this year. I kind of suspect that it’s not the kind of thing I’ll really love, but who knows?

Here’s to a new year of making!

Top 5 of 2015

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I decided to participate in the Top 5 series hosted by Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow. It seemed like a good opportunity to reflect on what I managed to accomplish during a particularly stressful and busy year. All in all, I managed to knit 19 items (3 baby sweaters, 4 adult sweaters, 8 pairs of socks, 2 cowls, and 2 Christmas stockings), and I sewed 28 items (22 garments for me and 6 kid/gift items). I didn’t want to do this in several posts, so here is one long monster post with all of my thoughts on the year:

Top 5 Non-Sewing Highlights

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A post-dissertation defense pic with my committee, including a committee member who had to Skype in.

#1-3: In March, I accepted my first full-time teaching job. In June, we moved to Cincinnati. And in August, I finally graduated with my PhD. All of these things made for an incredibly stressful and exhausting year, but they have also all been exciting and positive changes.

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#4: Aidan’s sister and her wife had twin boys in August, so we have two new nephews. They are bald, adorable little Charlie Brown babies, and I could eat them up.

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My dad exploring the lemur bubble at the zoo.

#5: My dad and his girlfriend rode down to Cincinnati on his motorcycle at the end of July. We spent a week exploring the city with them, which was a lot of fun and a much-needed, reenergizing break for me.

Top 5 Sewing Hits:

Ottobre Faded Stripes Top

#1: Ottobre Fox Shirt–Still one of my favorite things in my closet.

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#2: Onyx Tee–When I started making this, I wasn’t at all sure I’d like it. But I ended up wearing this all the time until the weather turned colder.

Ottobre 05/2015 Get Moving Hoodie

#3: Get Moving Hoodie–A recent finish, but I love everything about this project. I’ve been wearing this almost daily since classes ended.

Simplicity 1062

#4: Simplicity 1062–This is the only thing in my closet that actually makes me feel kind of cool when I wear it, so it remains a winner.

Little Wave Cardigan

#5: Little Wave Cardigan–I haven’t had the chance to wear this a ton since I finished it so recently, but I’m just really proud of this piece. This is definitely the best thing I knit this year.

Top 5 Misses

Jalie 2921

#1: Jalie Tie Front Top–This shirt fits well and looks good in pictures, but it just isn’t my style. I think I’ve worn it once, maybe twice? I thought I’d be forced to wear it because I’m so short on work clothes, but I actually ended up getting more creative with work outfits in order to *avoid* wearing this shirt.

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#2: Featherweight cardigan–I’ve already thoroughly explored my disappointment with this one, and the fact that it made this list will be a surprise to no one.

#3: Style Arc Becky Yoga pants–I never blogged this project, but I made two pairs of these in an effort to replace my ratty lounge pants. I didn’t particularly like the fit of the pattern, and I used a fabric that was too thin so these are basically glorified leggings that I would never wear outside of my house. I’m still choosing my thread-bare, holey yoga pants over these and am actively looking for a better pattern so let me know if you have any recommendations.

SBCC Tonic Tee

#4: Tonic Tees— I hesitate to call this a “miss” because I have worn these a lot since finishing them, and I do really like the pattern. But, I’ve grown more dissatisfied with the fit (I think I made them a bit too small) and dissatisfied with my fabric choice (the cotton-spandex jerseys I used for these t-shirts is too firm for my tastes). I’m actually in the process of trying this pattern again in the next size up with a lighter weight cotton jersey to see if I can get something that is closer to my t-shirt ideal.

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#5: Solid Green Jersey Top from Ottobre Woman 02/2014–I haven’t and won’t blog this project, but it was a whole series of “what was I thinking?” moments. I tried to use up a length of jersey that was much different than pictured online and not a color I wear by using a pattern that is not at all my style and, not surprisingly, ended up with a shirt that makes me think “WTF!?” When I put this on, I feel like the scenes in Orphan Black when Helena wears Allison’s clothes. Good riddance.

Reflections:

  1. I feel like I did more knitting than sewing this year, or I at least knit more consistently than I sewed. I’ve been knitting for long enough and knitting is so much a part of my daily routine that it’s easy to keep up with even during stressful periods. So far, I sew more in bursts when I have big blocks of free time open up.
  2. This year, I sewed my first pair of pants (the HP Tailored Track Pants) and my first woven shirt (the Onyx Shirt), which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with sewing knits, so I’m glad I finally started to branch out a bit.
  3. I feel like I saw a noticeable increase in the quality of my sewing this year. The finish and the fit of my clothes is getting better, as is my matching of pattern with fabric, which has resulted in more items that I am happy to have in my closet and that are getting worn a lot.
  4. This is an ongoing process, but I also feel like I’ve made progress in figuring out what I really like and want to wear. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I feel like I finally have a good handle on what I like in a hand-knit sweater. But I’m also embracing my love of black and gray and being more discerning about the style of the sewing patterns I’m making (hot pink t-shirt disaster notwithstanding).
  5. I bought a lot of fabric this year–more than I feel comfortable with, especially given how little I sewed. I know that what I have wouldn’t seem like a lot to many people, but I am not a stasher and don’t really want to stay in the habit of stashing.

Top 5 Goals for 2016:

  1. Try to focus on sewing in smaller bursts of time so that I can make sewing a more consistent part of a my routine.
  2. Knit more sweaters. Now that I’ve figured out what styles I’m most likely to wear, I’m hoping to get more hand-knit sweaters in rotation. My working goal is to make 8 new sweaters this year.
  3. Focus on sewing pants. I wear pants everyday and have a horrendous time trying to find pants that I like and that fit in stores, so it just makes sense to focus my attention here.
  4. Make myself some button-down shirts. Right now, I’m planning to make McCall’s 6649, the BurdaStyle Button Up Blouse, and the Itch to Stitch Mila shirt.
  5. Whittle down the fabric stash. I think the question of whether to keep a big fabric/yarn stash comes down to personality and how you go about planning projects, and my personality does not mesh with the stashing lifestyle. Right now, I’ve got just under 80 yards of fabric stashed, and I’d like that to be a significantly smaller number by the end of next year.

I feel good about my goals for 2016 and am looking forward to a great year of making!

 

 

2014 in Review

What? You wanted to read a really long post about my year in review? Okay, okay. You got it.

Non-Sewing Highlights

From the outset, 2014 has been a bit of a rough year, and I will be glad to be on the other side of it in a couple of weeks. Still, there were some really wonderful parts that are definitely worth remembering. We especially had a lot of fun traveling this year. Aidan and I kicked off the year with a post-New Year’s stay in Chicago where we spent some time wandering around in a snow storm, exploring the Field Museum, seeing some improv at Second City, and ordering a lot of room service.

Chicago at Night

In May, we got to spend a week in California with our good friends and our Godson. We split our time between L.A., Morro Bay, and Fresno. It was a fantastic trip from beginning to end. Our friends are now living in San Francisco, so that will be our next California adventure.

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Aidan had a six-week work training in NYC and NJ that started at the end of July. I had to stay in Syracuse, but took a bus down to NYC almost every weekend while he was there. We had a great time exploring the city together and being touristy. Highlights included: visiting Ellis Island, touring Theodore Roosevelt’s childhood home, casually passing Samira Wiley (Poussey from Orange is the New Black) on the street, seeing both the Mets and the Yankees play, and seeing a truly epic performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Finally, last month, I spent three days at a conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I stayed with two friends in a lovely apartment in Old San Juan, which was really beautiful. I’m not much for sun and heat, but I loved San Juan. And the conference, which I was feeling really stressed out about, turned out to be energizing in exactly the way I needed.

Eating mofongo in San Juan

Between the conferences I attended this year and campus events, I also got to see Angela Davis, Laverne Cox, and bell hooks speak—each of them wonderful, inspiring and brilliant. Beyond that, this is a year that has made me especially thankful for good friends, good colleagues, and good students.

And for Aidan. Always.

Things Made

As far as crafting goes, I managed:

  • 15 sewn adult garments (4 pairs of PJ bottoms and 11 shirts, half of which were basic t-shirts)
  • 4 knitted adult sweaters (1 for Aidan, 3 for me)
  • 4 kids garments (2 beach robes and 2 baby sweaters)
  • A fair bit of crafty sewing (a few different home dec projects, some knitting project bags, and some needle and notions cases for my knitting stuff)
  • Some knitted accessories (3 pairs of socks, 3 hats, a scarf and a cowl)
  • Lots of underwear (It feels weird to be crowing about my underwear all the time, but the reality is that I spent a lot of time on this project this year. I think I probably made about 20 pairs in total? And my post on Jalie 2568 turned out to be my most popular blog post this year.)
  • 3 sewing projects that never got finished because they were terrible and one sweater that turned out too small

I’m pleased with the way that my sewing has progressed this year and, with the exception of the very first t-shirt I made, every garment I’ve sewn for myself has seen a decent amount of wear. Still, I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really reach for the garments I made for myself in the first half of the year—most of them suffer from cheap fabric and lacking technical skills. But I definitely learned a lot and still managed to produce some items that I genuinely like and that fit well into my wardrobe. My most-worn item is probably my black Vogue hoodie.

The undisputed star of this year’s makes is definitely my Grandpa cardigan, which I sadly still haven’t managed to get modeled pictures of. Once I get my course grades finalized for this semester, I’m hoping to find some time (and a slightly less gray day) to get some good pictures. It was a really fun pattern to knit, and I’m really happy with the way that my fit modifications turned out. I’ve been wearing it a couple of times a week since I finished it. I wore it to and end-of-the-semester lunch hosted by my department chair, and our support staff members went crazy when they found out I had made it myself. I have to say that I’m quite proud of it.

Grandpa Cardigan

Other Crafty Highlights

At the end of January, I got a new sewing machine—a Janome DC 2013. I really love this machine. I’ve owned a sewing machine consistently since I was 16, but they were always very cheap, lightweight mechanical machines with constant tension problems and not enough power to get through more than a few layers of quilting cotton. I spent over ten years sewing in fits and starts because of those crappy machines. With my new machine, I feel like I can tackle just about anything.

Janome DC 2013

I also got back to blogging this year. At this point, I’ve published 44 posts this year, which is kind of a surprising number given that I’ve found it hard to keep up with blogging for the last few months in particular. But even when I don’t have a lot of time for blogging, I’m still glad I have this blog going. It’s fun to write about and reflect on my projects, and even more fun to read your comments.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to 2015, I’ve got a lot of potential projects on the brain and some different things I’d like to try. I’m thinking about trying a small quilting project. I’d like to try making myself some pants I might actually wear outside of the house. I want to increase my sweater output and focus on making some lighter-weight sweaters. I’d like to make us some more holiday decorations and try making more gifts (I didn’t make any Christmas gifts this year). I’m thinking that I’ll likely have good reason to do some more home dec sewing this year as well. But my only real goal this year is to sew more. I want to build my sewing confidence and my skills, and the only way to do that is through practice.

Aidan and I are in search of some new adventures this year. We’ve spent 5.5 years in Syracuse, and the end of our time here is coming up pretty fast. We’re not sure where we’ll end up next, but we’re looking forward to whatever life has in store for us next. Onward!