Alex & Anna Winter PJs

Back in the beginning of October, I decided I would take a month to sew up a few things for Jude. He had just received a bunch of new clothes for his birthday, but only had a couple of pairs of pajamas in his current size so I pulled some fabrics from my stash and cut out five pairs of pjs.

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I ended up putting the pajamas aside for a while when we realized that Jude didn’t have quite enough pants to get him through the week. And then we got some hand-me-downs from my office mate that made the need for new pajamas less urgent so I got deep into Halloween sewing. But after a bit of a detour, I’m happy to say that all the pajamas are done and frequent rotation.

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This is the Alex and Anna Winter PJs from Peek-a-boo Patterns, which I’ve used in the past to make pajamas for my nephews and my godson. I cut the 2T for Jude, which fits well with a bit of room to grow. The red dog print, the cat print, and the bug print fabric are all cotton interlock from Cloud 9 Fabrics. The ninjas are a Kaufman Laguna jersey print leftover from my nephews’ pajamas, and the airplanes are a cotton-Spandex blend from Riley Blake. All of the cuffs and neckbands are cut from Kaufman Laguna solids.

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I’m pretty happy with the finished pajamas. The fabrics are all soft and more substantial than the jersey used to make most store-bought pajamas. And store-bought pajamas are cut so slim that it is a struggle to get Jude’s arms sleeves, while these are much easier to get on. But I’m definitely less in love with this pattern than I was when I used it a couple of years ago.

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The pattern doesn’t have the grainline marked on any of the pieces (which is especially a problem for the pattern piece for the pants since it isn’t cut on the fold) and it also doesn’t have any notches to help with construction. It’s not as though it’s impossible to get the pattern cut out and put together without these things, but having them there would definitely make the construction that much easier.

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But the thing I found really off-putting this time was the shape of the sleeve cap. I feel like I have enough familiarity with knit patterns that the shape looks off to me, but I don’t have enough knowledge to articulate exactly what seems wrong with it. What I do know is that it’s much harder to set in evenly than I think it should be—I actually found it impossible to sew the sleeves in with my serger and had to use my regular machine. The sleeve cap shape also results in a bit of a weird bump at the armscye—it’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t be noticeable to anyone else, but I notice it and it bugs me.

The next time I make Jude some pajamas, I think I might pair the pants from this pattern with the Flashback Skinny Tee from Made by Rae and see if that works out better. Still, I’m happy to have these done, happy to have used up a good bit of stash fabric, and happy to see Jude in his mama-made pajamas.

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Ottobre Kids: Tiny Fan Pants (4/2016 #4) and Hippa Sweatpants (1/2018 #19)

I didn’t sew anything for Jude during his first year, partly because I just wasn’t really finding any sewing time but also because I just didn’t have the desire. He got a ton of cute clothes as gifts and hand-me-downs, he outgrew everything in a matter of months (as babies do), and most practical baby clothing requires snaps and I had no desire to invest in a snap setter.

After we took stock of all the cute outfits he received for his birthday, we realized he could use a few more pairs of pants and some pajamas for colder nights, and I thought, “That’s easy enough to make.” And now, in the course of a couple of months, I’ve gone from not having sewn him anything to having made him three pairs of pants, five sets of pajamas, and a Halloween costume. At some point, I wondered if I would ever feel compelled to sew clothes for him, but now I feel like I could happily keep cranking out tiny clothes and I have to stop myself from buying up a bunch of cute fabric.

 

 

My stint of kid sewing started with two pairs of basic pants, both made with stashed fabrics and patterns from Ottobre Design. The first pair were these little navy joggers, which are made using the Tiny Fan Jersey Pants pattern (#4) from Ottobre 4/2016, and sewn up in Kaufman Laguna jersey (a cotton-Spandex blend). I wanted pants that would fit him right now, so I sewed a straight size 80, which is the size that most closely matches his current height, and the fit is perfect.

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The pattern is really just a basic jersey pant with a folded elastic casing waist and cuffed legs. But nearly every seam is top-stitched, adding a bit more visual detail and making them feel like more than a basic pair of pajama pants. The directions suggest using either a cover stitch machine or decorative stitch for the topstitching—I have a decorative stitch on my machine that, to my eye, looks a bit like the cover stitching often done on athletic wear.

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Doing all of the top-stitching takes more time than just zipping every seam through the serger, and it also required a slightly unconventional construction order. That was only a problem when I accidentally attached one of the leg cuffs to the waist. I didn’t recognize the problem until I had completely sewn the seam using a lightening stitch AND topstitched the seam. There was no way I was ripping that stitching out (it was unlikely the fabric would have survived it anyway), so I had to recut and resew one of the legs. But that’s not a big deal when the pieces are so small.

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I’ve been sewing little pieces of red cotton twill tape into the waistband to easily distinguish front from back. So far, he hasn’t come home from daycare with his pants on backwards, so it seems to be working.

After the Tiny Fan pants, I used the leftover sweatshirt fleece from the Ottobre Woman hoodie I made myself a couple of years ago to make Jude an adorable pair of hipster sweatpants. This is the Hippa Sweatpants pattern (#19) from the Spring 1/2018 issue. They are slim-cut sweat pants with front slash pockets and little cargo pockets on the legs. These again are a size 80, and I love the fit on Jude.

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The directions were easy to follow overall, and these came together pretty quickly despite the extra details. There are sew-in snaps on the cargo pocket flaps to keep them in place. My only quibble with the directions were with the waistband. They advise you to sew your elastic in a circle, quarter it, and then baste the elastic to the waist of the pants at the quarter points. Then you fold the waistband over and you are supposed to stretch the elastic as you top-stitch the waistband in place.

Ottobre 1/2018 #19 Hippa Sweatpants

This didn’t work at all for me. I had to stretch the elastic a lot and felt like I had very little control over the fabric as I was sewing, and the result was a waistband that was just a massive eyesore. I ended up ripping out my initial attempt at sewing the waist, which took forever because the stitches were so tiny due to all the tension from trying to stretch the elastic as I sewed.

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On my second try, I stretched and basted the entire length of the elastic to the top of the waist with a regular zigzag stitch. Then I folded the waistband over and used a lot of pins to help more evenly stretch the elastic and distribute the fabric for the waistband. The result isn’t perfect, but I felt like I had a lot more control and ended up with a much more even (and less hideous) waist. I skipped the fake drawstring because I didn’t have any twill tape on hand that would work and was feeling pretty done with the pants at that point.

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But the result is totally adorable—comfortable and cute. He looks like he’s ready to go play soccer with his friends. I love these so much that I would eagerly make him another pair in a larger size. But next time, I think I’ll just create a fold-over waist casing and thread the elastic through.

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I get the Ottobre Woman and Family issues, but I haven’t actually subscribed to Ottobre Kids yet—I’ve just bought a few random back issues. Upgrading to the full subscription is on my to-do list for the beginning of 2019 though. I just love these patterns. They are basic enough that they are comfortable and easy to wear, but they also have such great details. And they are one of the few places where you can find a great balance of boys, girls, and unisex designs.  Every issue I look at makes me want to fall down another kid sewing rabbit hole.

Santa Fe Tops

I’ve had a three-yard cut of black rayon-spandex jersey in my stash that has been taunting me for years. I hate sewing rayon-spandex jersey. It is shifty and floppy and impossible to cut out and fidgety to sew together, even with a serger. So I stopped buying it a long time ago, and had rooted all of it from my stash except this one remaining piece. I wear so much black jersey that a big cut of the stuff seemed too practical to get rid of, even if it was in a substrate that I didn’t like working with.

Hey June Santa Fe Top View C

When I was making my Avery leggings, I was finally inspired to just use the fabric up—I realized that I didn’t have great options for shirts to wear with my leggings and that some loose fitting black tees would make for a perfect combo. I decided to use the Hey June Santa Fe top. I thought the loose fit would be a good match for the rayon-spandex, given its ultra-clingy nature, and I liked that the pattern had several different views so I could make two different shirts without needing to pull out two different patterns.

In the end I decided to make View B, which is the tank top with the higher cut neckline, and View C which has cuffed, cut-on sleeves. I powered through cutting the pattern pieces out and, from there, the sewing was pretty straight-forward. I decided to press the center front and center back seams on both tops flat and then top-stitch on either side of the seam. It was more time-consuming and the top-stitching isn’t very visible but I prefer the way this approach helps control the seam allowance at these points.

Hey June Santa Fe Top View B

The necklines of both tops and the armholes of the tank top are all finished with a knit binding, which I actually prefer to a band finish. I just find that binding wears a bit better over time and actually seems a bit less tricky to sew. The pattern even calls for my preferred binding method, which made things that much easier.

My current bust measurement is 43”, so I made a straight 1X in both tops and sewed both views as is. I’m happy with the fit and feel of both tops and I know that I’ll get a ton of wear out of them. I’m also really happy to finally have that fabric out of my stash. Good riddance!

Jalie Dolman Top, Salvaged

This is the second saved project I alluded to when I blogged about my knit Stevie Top. The pattern is the Jalie Dolman top, which I originally made using the view with ¾ sleeves. It’s sewn in a really lovely marled sweater knit. I love this fabric so much—it washed up beautifully and it is lightweight, super-stretchy and very soft. I had grand visions of turning it into a basic pullover that I would wear all the time.

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My Jalie Dolman top originally

But the reality of my first version of this top was something that I just didn’t like at all. There was too much ease in the sleeves. I felt like the drop-shoulder style looked weirdly sloppy on me, despite the fact that it’s a style I typically like a lot. And the neckline was so wide that I was flashing bra straps every time I put it on. I was incredibly disappointed to have wasted such nice fabric on another flop.

Jalie Dolman Top

But like the pinstripe jersey I used from my second Stevie Top, my love for this fabric led me to hold onto the failed project and the scrap fabric much longer than I otherwise would have. And I would pull the pieces out from time to time to puzzle over how I might salvage the project or recut the fabric to get some kind of wearable garment. It was a tough puzzle to solve—I pinned out the excess in the sleeves in the hope that I would like the result better, but it didn’t make a substantive difference. I tried cut another pattern out of the scraps and the larger pieces of the top, but I could never seem to make it work. I considered finding a complimentary sweater knit that I could use to create a color-blocked project, but couldn’t seem to find either a second fabric or a good pattern that would result in something I’d like.

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I very nearly gave up when I was reading a blog post by Meg at Cookin’ and Craftin’ about a t-shirt she’d made for her sister and was shocked to see that she’d made it using a sweater knit. It had simply never occurred to me to use a sweater knit for a short-sleeved, warm-weather garment. Apparently, in my mind, sweater knits could only be used for traditional sweater-like garments with longer sleeves that are meant to be worn in cold weather. Talk about a ridiculous limiting belief. I thought about this lovely marled, gray sweater knit—which is a lightweight rayon blend that would be very nice in warmer temps—and wondered if I could get a tee out of the scraps I had left.

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I couldn’t. But at some point in the middle of trying unsuccessfully to get all the pieces of my favorite tee pattern out of the little bits of fabric available to me, I finally recognized the very clear and obvious solution: just cut the damn sleeves off. All other attempts to salvage the fabric had failed, so I recklessly cut of the sleeves about an inch from the seam. (Trying to unpick the sleeves would have taken forever and would have seriously marred the fabric.) Then I treated the remaining bit of former-sleeve fabric as a find of facing, turned it to the wrong side of the garment, and top-stitched it in place. Voila. It took me more than a year to basically just make the easier view of the pattern. So it goes.

My original thought in cutting the sleeves off was that even though the neckline was too wide, I’d be fine to wear this as a shell under a jacket. But without the weight of the sleeves, the neckline doesn’t pull in the same way so I’m no longer flashing my bra straps. So now I have a multi-season top that I can wear as is or under a jacket, and I finally get to enjoy the soft sweater knit that has just been languishing in my stash for way too long. Another win.

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Avery Leggings: View A vs. View B

I wasn’t initially taken with the Avery Leggings pattern from Helen’s Closet. I don’t really need or sew activewear, and if I did decide that I wanted to, I already have the Pacific Leggings and the Aires Leggings patterns. But, as often happens when you’re digging around on blogs and Instagram, I found myself swayed to try the pattern by other people. Megan’s versions really sold me on the pattern, and I went out and bought some space-dyed activewear knit from Joann’s just a few days later.

 

Thanks to a combination of overestimating how much fabric I would need and getting offered the rest of the bolt as a remnant, I ended up with enough fabric to make both views A and B. I thought it would be good for me to try both views—I figured I’d likely get two wearable pairs of leggings and a chance to assess my feelings about high waisted bottoms. For a while now, I’ve been feeling like the general shape of my body might be better suited to high-waisted pants. I have that high-hip shelf (a broad high hip and then a sharp slant towards my waist) that is good for carrying small children around but means that mid- and low-rise pants just ride straight down my body.

 

I’ve been getting very tired of yanking my pants up all the time but I also have some 90s-induced high-waisted pants trauma. Like, the very idea of a tight, rigid waist band that gives way to a poofy-fit through the hips makes my skin crawl.

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Anyway, after trying the mid-rise waist (which I probably would have gravitated towards if I were only making one pair) and the high waist, I am a total convert to Team High Waist. Why have I stubbornly waited so long!?

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A view of the gusset before sewing the inseams.

In general, this is a great pattern that is very easy to sew up. I love the fit and process of sewing the triangle gusset. The construction of the waistband is very straight-forward. The resulting leggings in both views are streamlined but look much more professional than the ultra-simple lounging leggings I’ve made from my favorite Ottobre pattern.

 

Ultimately, I prefer the shorter leg of view A and (obviously) the high waist of View B. Unlike every other leggings or elastic-waist lounge pants I have, the high waist stays in place with zero tugging and feels completely comfortable. I have done zero activities in these pants beyond lounging around at home, but I would definitely feel comfortable wearing these hiking or for yoga. The activewear knit from Joann’s is nice and dense, which makes these leggings perfect for moving out and about in the world (it turns out that I just don’t do that very much).

 

I so strongly prefer the high-waist to the mid-rise that I haven’t worn the mid-rise at all. Knowing I could wear a pair that doesn’t ride down means that I no longer have any tolerance for a slipping waistband. I’d like to have a pair of Avery leggings in black, so my plan is to eventually buy enough black activewear jersey to make a third pair *and* to replace the current waistband on my mid-rise leggings with a contrasting black waistband that will make them high-waisted. After I made these leggings, I also ended up buying two pairs of high-waisted skinny jeans and can report that my quality of life has significantly improved. Yay!

Helen's Closet Avery Leggings

Stevie the Second: Jersey Edition

A long while ago, I attempted two different projects with two beloved pieces of fabric and I managed to screw them both up. It was so incredibly disappointing to look at those failed projects and think about all the things I wish I would have done differently. But the fact that I loved the fabrics also made me hold onto them for much longer than I probably would have otherwise while I puzzled through a possible salvage operation.

 

Tilly and the Buttons Stevie

 

It took about 15 months, but I finally figured out how to get a wearable garment from both projects, starting with this shirt. While I was still working on my tulip-print Stevie Top, I ended up moving my fabric stash into a new storage cabinet and, in the process, found myself puzzling over the remnants of this gray and black pinstripe jersey and wondering how I might get some kind of top out of the pieces.

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This jersey is from Mood and it feels lovely—it’s a cotton, rayon blend that is soft and completely opaque while still being lightweight. It also has very little stretch—maybe 15% at most—which makes it a poor candidate for a lot of the knit top patterns I have. I didn’t really have enough fabric to make something with sleeves but also didn’t think I would get much wear out of a tank top. I started wishing I had a knit pattern in a style similar to the Stevie top when I realized that the Stevie pattern would probably easily work with a fairly stable jersey.

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The only significant change I made to the pattern was to eliminate the back closure, cut the seam allowance off the center back yoke, cut the yoke on the fold, and then redraw the back facing piece to match the new yoke. I kept the top-stitched facing because I thought the detail of the stitching would complement the fabric and the style. I wanted to keep the back yoke because it made it easier for me to work with the fabric scraps I had on hand, but I also wanted to play around with the direction of the stripes, so I cut the lower back with the stripes going vertical. I had just enough fabric to cut out the pocket piece, so I added that to the front for just a bit more detail.

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I love the resulting shirt. It’s not perfect—the floppiness of the fabric means I had to tack the sleeve cuffs down in a few places, sometimes the facing and necklines wrinkles a bit at the neckline, and the pocket has a tendency to sag. But there’s something about the whole look of the shirt, including its imperfections, that just looks cool and casual and modern. It’s really just a t-shirt, but it makes me feel fancier than any other t-shirt I own.

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I’m so happy that I’m getting to enjoy this fabric now, and even happier that I’ve turned a failed project into a big win.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Top

When I found out that I was pregnant, I had no interest in sewing maternity clothes. Then I remembered that making my own t-shirts has ruined RTW tees for me. And then I bought my first terrible pair of maternity jeans (which required 20 minutes worth of alterations to simply stay on my body while I walked), and I figured the time spent sewing a few maternity items might be well worth it.

The sewing world is not overflowing with maternity patterns, which makes sense given that you are sewing to suit a relatively short period of time and given the lack of energy a lot of pregnant people experience. A lot of the available options seem to be skirts or dresses, which I don’t wear. The most widely reviewed patterns seem to be those from Megan Nielsen’s maternity pattern collection. But her patterns are a bit too feminine for my tastes and, more importantly, the size range is pretty limited and I’d be busting out of the top end of it.

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In the end, I decided to try the Style Arc Maternity Bundle, which comes with the Mandy Maternity Top, the Andy Maternity Pants, and the Maternity Bandeau pattern. These patterns are very much basic wardrobe staples and are available in sizes 4-30. I’m in the process of trying out the Andy Pants pattern, but I’ve made several of the Mandy Tees and I’m really happy that I gave the Style Arc bundle a try. As far as I can tell, the only way that you can get these patterns is to order printed copies through the Style Arc site—they don’t appear to be available via Etsy or Amazon, unlike other Style Arc options. Despite paying for international shipping from Australia, I found that buying printed copies of the patterns was really affordable (especially since they throw in the free pattern of the month when you order directly from them). With the bundle price and the free pattern, I ended up getting four patterns for just over $30 USD and received the patterns in less than three weeks time.

 

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

The Mandy Tee comes with options for long or short sleeves. I need these for warm weather, so I only made the short-sleeved version. The length on the sleeves is perfect for me, and I’m pleased with the shape and depth of the scoop neckline. I made all of my shirts out of Telio bamboo/Spandex jersey I ordered from Fabric.com.

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Honestly, the fabric alone makes sewing my own maternity tees totally worth it. The bamboo jersey is thicker and more opaque than every rayon jersey I’ve encountered while still feeling light and cool to wear—much cooler than a cotton-Spandex blend. Plus, it’s super soft but isn’t prone to pilling in the wash, which is perfect for shirts that I’m going to wear all the time given my limited wardrobe options.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

These tees are really easy to sew, even with Style Arc’s sparse instructions. You are basically just making a really long t-shirt and then gathering a portion of the side seams by sewing in a short length of elastic. To do this last step, I sewed the side seam on my regular machine rather than the serger and pressed the seam open. Then, starting toward the bottom of the shirt, I anchored the end of the elastic in place, stretched a small bit of the elastic out along the seam and sewed it in place with a zigzag stitch, and then repeated the process until I got to the end of the elastic.

I used ¼” elastic rather than the 1/8” elastic called for in the pattern simply because it was what I had on hand, but I think the slightly wider elastic was easier to control. The gathered part of the shirt looks pretty lumpy and gnarly when you first pull it off the machine, but it relaxes nicely with a healthy shot of steam.

Style Arc Mandy Maternity Tee

I was worried that the exposed elastic on the inside of the shirt would be irritating and that the visible zigzag stitching at the side seams would be ugly, but neither is the case. I don’t feel the elastic at all and the zigzag stitching is hardly visible since it gets lost in the gathering of the fabric. I actually have a few maternity tanks from Old Navy that have a serged side seam and then have been gathered at the sides with clear elastic sewn to the serged seam allowance. There’s no visible stitching on the outside of those tops like there is on these, but the side seam is much bulkier and the elastic can feel a bit irritating. So that’s all to say that I much prefer the finish of these tees.

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The downside of the printed Style Arc patterns is that they only come in one size, so you don’t have the option of grading between sizes. I just went ahead and ordered the size 16 for the t-shirt pattern based on my measurements at the time (I was nearing the end of my first trimester). I am usually pretty diligent about doing flat pattern measurements to figure out if I need extra width at the hips or at the bicep, and I usually consider doing at least a small FBA. But I completely forgot about all that business when I went to make this pattern up and just cut out a straight 16. Luckily, I’m pleased with the fit. The shirts are comfortable, they look good, and I feel like I have enough room to continue wearing these throughout the more ungainly stages of late pregnancy.

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Here’s hoping I have a similarly positive experience with the Andy Pants!

Blackwood Cardigan

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

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

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

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

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

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

Blackwood Cardigan in Sweater Knit

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

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

Helen's Closet Blackwood Cardigan

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

Sewing Fails: Jalie Dolman and Ottobre Statement Tee

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

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

Jalie Dolman

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

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

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

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

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The unhemmed tee

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

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The sadly cut up pinstripe jersey

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

Catching Up: Unblogged Winter Projects

Hello, 2017. I’ve been off the blog radar for a while, both because we moved into our new house at the beginning of the year and because I am pregnant. I’m currently baking a very active little monkey who is due at the beginning of September. Unfortunately, I spent the first part of the year laid out with morning sickness and exhaustion. But I’m feeling better and have put the Spring semester to bed, which has given me lots of sewing and knitting time again.

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Our house!

I’ve been sharing things on Instagram as I finish them, which briefly led me to consider giving up the blog altogether and just sharing things on IG. And then as I started to plan out some future projects, I was reminded of how often I consult my own blog for project notes and details. More than anything, this blog is a very handy, searchable project journal for me. Sometimes, it feels time-intensive and onerous to take blog pictures and write up all of my notes for a blog post, but remembering that I consult those posts often as a reference makes it feel more worth it—especially since I can’t easily replicate that kind of record-keeping on Instagram.

All of that is to say that I’m going to try to catch up on all of my unblogged projects because it bothers me to not have any concrete details recorded. So here’s a big dump of the projects I finished over the winter:

Stowe Bags

Small Stowe Bag in Quilting CottonLarge Stowe Bag in Linen Blend

I made myself two Stowe bags to use as knitting project bags. These are my second and third versions of this pattern–I made my first version about a year ago. I’ve only recently started using project bags for my knitting. Somehow, it took me 10+ years to see the benefit of keeping my projects protected from cats that want to ruin everything. I made a small bag out of some Cotton + Steele quilting cotton and a large bag out of a medium-weight cotton/linen blend I had in the stash. I used packaged bias binding for both.

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For the small bag, I flat-felled the side seams, finished the bottom seam with a zig-zag stitch, and boxed the bottom corners. I was worried that quilting cotton would feel too light for this bag, but I really like the finished result. For the large bag, I serged all the edges and pressed the seams open, which helped manage some of the bulk. I also did the last step in the instructions where you tack the bottom corners of the bag down to help stand on it’s own when it’s full. It’s kind of a bulky finish, but I appreciate the added structure it gives since the size and fabric make for an otherwise floppy bag.

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Halifax Hoodie the Second

Last September, I made a Halifax/Brooklyn hoodie mashup that I’ve been wearing all the time. Just before Christmas, I made a second Halifax Hoodie using some super-soft sweatshirt fleece I bought from Girl Charlee. This time, I made View D with the kangaroo pocket and the funnel neck. I sewed up a straight XL. It’s not worth modeling for you now that I have a belly that distorts the fit, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say that the fit was spot-on and very comfortable. I wore this piece constantly this winter and can definitely see myself making this pattern again and again, especially since it has so many options.

Striped Hey June Halifax Hoodie

Leggings

Definitely not a very exciting project, but I’ve made a few pairs of leggings using the #9 Classic Black Leggings pattern from the Fall/Winter 2016 issue of Ottobre Woman (Ottobre 05/2016). I’ve previously made the Sammalikko leggings pattern from an earlier issue of Ottobre and found that they were too long in the legs, had a bit more ease than I would like, and needed some adjustments to the crotch curve and rise. These leggings, however, fit perfectly right out of the gate—right length, great fit, and super simple to sew since there is only one pattern piece. My pre-pregnancy hip measurement was ~45.5”, so I sewed a straight size 48.

Ottobre Woman 05/2016 Classic Black Leggings

My only struggle was with figuring out the right length for the elastic. It turns out that the ideal, for me, is cutting the elastic so that it is the same length as the width of the waist (in other words, cutting it so that I don’t need to stretch the elastic at all while I’m sewing it to the waistband). I forgot about this when I made myself a third pair of leggings months after the first two pairs and ended up with a waistband that is tight enough that I think I’m going to need to rip out and redo the elastic. See—this is why I need project notes on my blog. One last note: I think the instructions recommend making a traditional waistband casing and then threading the elastic through. This is unnecessarily tedious for leggings. I used my serger to attach the elastic to the waist, then folded the elastic down and secured the waistband with a zig-zag stitch.

Zelda Pouch

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This was a super simple project that Aidan requested at the beginning of December and that I finally made up for him sometime in February. This little pouch also has the distinction of being the first item I made in my new sewing space. I drew on the zipper instructions from the Petal Pouch pattern (which I made several times over for Christmas gifts last year), but otherwise based the dimensions on the size of the pattern repeat in the fabric. Aidan keeps a bullet journal and uses this to hold his pen stash for journaling, so this has been in regular use since it was finished.

And that brings me up-to-date on everything I finished before Spring Break, so now I’m only two+ months behind on blogging. Progress!