Summer in Review

Since we’re approaching the Fall Equinox and since it’s been a long time since I updated my blog, I thought it might be a nice idea to do a quick review of all the things I made over the summer. I’ve been a bit overloaded with work since the beginning of the year, and that continued straight through the summer unfortunately. So I don’t feel like I got as much accomplished in the craft room, both because I was limited on time and feeling pretty burned out and uninspired. The fall semester is still loaded up with more work than I’d like and I don’t feel like I’ve been able to get the kind of break I really need yet this year. But towards the end of summer, I finally realized that I wasn’t managing my stress level well and have been making efforts to walk myself back from the point of burn out. And the result is that I am feeling more inspired, getting more knitting and sewing done, and probably just being generally more pleasant to be around. Lol.

Sewing

I started my summer sewing with a few projects for Jude—a beach robe, a cute banana print camp shirt, and a pair of shorts to go with the shirt. I even managed to blog all of those projects! Jude went through a growth spurt around his second birthday in August, so the banana shirt doesn’t fit anymore, but he got quite a few wears out of it before it was too small. The shorts are still in rotation, which is good since our daily temperatures are still regularly in the 80-90 degree range. And the beach robe has been super handy throughout the summer and should still fit next summer as well.

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I also managed to make a few things for myself, starting with a few pairs of pajama pants for myself. I’ve been wanting to find a tried-and-trued pj pant pattern for myself that fit fairly easily without needing a ton of adjustments. The patterns I’ve tried in the past have been those unisex patterns that the Big 4 pattern companies release regularly, but they never work well for my body. But then patterns that get rave reviews and have the kind of fit and details that I like (I’m thinking of the Closet Case Patterns Carolyn PJs here) often don’t come in my size. So I decided to try the Loungewear PJ Pant pattern from Style Arc and it’s a total winner. It’s fits great—no alterations needed at all for me. It has a single back pocket, which is perfect because I get annoyed by the bulk of inseam pockets but still want someplace to stash my phone. I didn’t take any pictures of the two pairs that I made, but I used a linen-cotton blend for the first and a cotton voile for the second. I ditched the pattern instructions for waistband for the second pair and made a classic waistband casing he second pair are basically my dream pair of summer pajama pants. I highly recommend this pattern, and I’m planning to use it to make myself a flannel pj set in the fall so I’ll make sure to get photos next time!

Chambray Kalle Shirt

I also made myself a Kalle shirt using some chambray I’ve had in my stash for a long time and finished it just in time to wear it for the first day of fall classes. This project felt like such a victory. I have felt so intimated by the idea of fitting and sewing a shirt like this, and my attempt at sewing the Willamette last summer didn’t work out so well. But I love this shirt, and I can’t wait to make another version or two next summer. I’m planning to get some better pictures of this so that I can write up a full post with all of my project details.

Knitting

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I’ve been in a massive knitting funk this year—I just haven’t had any inspiration or motivation at all and a lot of the things that I made in the first part of the year just didn’t turn out to my standards. But starting in July or August, I got motivated to pick my needles back up again. I finished a pair of socks using the Rye Light pattern from TinCan Knits. I know I bought this yarn in December from my LYS, but I didn’t record it on Ravelry and then promptly lost the ball band so I have no idea what it is. I also finished all of the knitting on the Chicane Sweater by Cookie A using a soft black yarn that has been in my stash for a long time. I still need to block it and sew in the zipper, but I’ll write up a full post about that project once it’s completely done. And finally, I knit up the Little Dino pattern from Susan B. Anderson. I’m not planning to create a separate post for that project, but I got the pattern and yarn as part of a kit from Barrett Wool Co and it was a delightful knitting experience. I have such a weakness for her toy kits—the temptation to buy every one she releases is intense!

Other Things

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Jude turned 2 this August, so of course I made him another birthday cake. He is absolutely fascinated by garbage and recycling—he loves to throw things away, to sort recycling, take the trash to the curb, watch the garbage collectors dump it in the trucks, pretend to be a garbage collector, find the trash and recycling containers at every place we visit, etc. So obviously his cake had to be trash-themed. Unfortunately, the confetti cake recipe I tried did not work out at all (it end up with a texture more like a cookie than a cake) so I ended up using a Funfetti box mix, which was perfectly delicious and Jude was very excited about his cake.

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I also finally finished up a cross-stitch project that I started before Jude was even born. My left wrist is prone to bouts of pain from certain repetitive activities. Regular knitting doesn’t bother it, but it shows up if I crochet or cross-stitch or do two-fisted colorwork knitting. So I don’t usually have a lot of motivation to do needlework but I decided to pick this up and risk the pain because I finally got moved into a private office on my campus and I wanted to be able to hang this on my office wall. Totally worth it! The pattern is from Satsuma Street.

So that’s the full review of my summer making. I’ve got a long list of fall projects I’d like to make, and I’ve even managed to cross a few items off the list already. I’m planning to start posting here more regularly—I just need to tackle the problem of getting photos. I was setting up a tripod and using a camera remote previously but it’s just too time-consuming and cumbersome to work anymore. I think I either need to rope Aidan into taking pictures for me or get a remote and tripod that will work with the camera on my phone so I can easily take pictures in my office where the lighting is better. We’ll see what happens!

Jude’s Beach Robe

Like the Montessori-Style Apron I recently posted about, this was another quick and easy project that was meant to be fun and bright to keep me excited about sewing after a long lull. This is the Beach Robe pattern from MADE Everyday. I’ve made this pattern three times before—I made two shortly after I started sewing for our godson and our oldest nephew, and then made a third a few years later when our twin nephews grew into the robe I’d made for their brother and needed a second so neither of them had to go naked.

Made Everyday Beach Robe

The pattern is meant to be a beach/swimming cover up, and I appreciate the wisdom of this approach even more now that I’ve tried in vain to convince a cold and shivering toddler to hold still long enough to get dried off and warmed up by a towel. Like the others I’ve made before, I used two of the thinnest bath towels I could get from Target, some basic packaged bias tape, and some quilting cotton from JoAnn’s for the hood lining. I made the 18 month – 3T size, which I’m hoping will fit Jude well for the next couple of summers, and I made the option with the half-ties and short sleeves.

Made Everyday Beach Robe

As I think I’ve said before when I’ve made this pattern, this pattern is very easy except for the bias binding, which is pretty tricky to manage around the robe ties. I’m happy to say that I got a really nice result with the robe ties this time, with no tucks or puckers around the curve of the ties. However, it’s taken me four rounds with the pattern and five years of sewing to get to that point. The pattern also recommends sewing the bias binding in a single step by just sandwiching the robe fabric between the binding and sewing it down, and I think this is a completely bananas recommendation and a recipe for infinite frustration. I have always sewn it in two steps like I would for any other project.

Made Everyday Beach Robe

I sewed the sleeves in flat, attached the sleeve binding after I’d sewed up the side seams, and finished all of the seams with my serger. I sewed the first two robes I made from this pattern before I owned a serger, and I have to say that this is a project where the serger really does produce a better finishing result. Serging the seams together is easiest, most efficient, and cleanest way to contain all of the towel fluff and to control the bulk of the seams.

Made Everyday Beach Robe

Unfortunately, the weather has been pretty terrible since I finished this, so Jude hasn’t actually had a chance to use it as a swimming cover up yet. But he did try it on for me after I finished it and danced around the living room in it, so I’d say it’s a win. 🙂

 

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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