3.26.2015

30!

Mood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL Holly

Hi Guys! As you can see, the sun has decided to come out and play, and I've basically been walking around like this in a sun-drunk haze. It gets very awkward when you're constantly running into things, but Igottasoakupdatsun!

But, hey! Yesterday was my birthday! I haven't done a proper birthday post in... gosh... years. Not since I turned 27 (I still love that dress, btw. So pretty). But seeing as I turned 30, some fanfare seemed in order. 

Mood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL Holly

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be feeling existential or what, but I'm actually quite happy to see the back of my 20's! Don't get me wrong, a lot of wonderful things happened in my 20's - I got my BFA and MFA in Painting, I met Nick, got married, taught myself how to sew, started this here blog, and got to know all of you wonderful people. But it was also a decade of a lot of uncertainty and, well, growing up. I'd be perfectly fine if my 30's were a little less momentous! I know a lot of people have anxiety about getting older, but I think with each passing year I get closer to my internal age. You know how some people are 'young at heart'? Well, I'm the opposite of that.  I'm not joking when I say my true age is, oh, somewhere between 65 and 85, but firmly planted in the senior citizen zone. Which is good! I've got awhile before I peak!

Mood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL HollyMood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL Holly

But enough navel-gazing! I don't care how old you are, birthdays should always be at least a little bit about having fun and feeling great, and nothing makes me feel better than a new dress. After the sewing extravaganza that was my jacket I needed a palate cleanser.  So for my March contribution to the Mood Sewing Network I turned to some of my sewing favorites - my comfort food of sewing.  In this case it was a combination of gorgeous silk crepe de chine, a tried-and-tested pattern for the bodice, a circle skirt, and straightforward construction. From start to finish this dress took me two days, which is about as instant gratification as my sewing gets!

Mood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL HollyMood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL Holly

A few months ago I snatched up this Ralph Lauren Dark Blue Polka Dotted Silk Crepe from Mood Fabrics online with the intention of turning it into a sundress as soon as the weather warmed up.  As any fabric enthusiast knows, a good polka dot is hard to find! So when I spot one, I jump! And this is a good one.  The blue is one of my favorite shades to wear – a brilliant deep cobalt – and the scale of the polka dot is perfect.  Plus, silk crepe is one of my all-time favorite fabrics to sew with.  If you’ve ever been intimidated by silk, do yourself a favor and pick up some silk crepe de chine.  It has all the luxuriousness of silk with none of the finicky handling.

This silk is pretty lightweight, but still very opaque, which might mean it's, like, the unicorn of silk fabric. It also meant that I decided to skip the lining on this one, making this the simplest, slinkiest little slip of a dress in the history of dresses. I did use a one-inch strip of fusible interfacing to reinforce the opening for the invisible zipper, which makes inserting a zip into lightweight fabric like this much more manageable. But other than that, when I'm wearing this dress, there's nothing between me and the world besides a little shimmy of brilliant blue, polka-dotted silk! Just the way I like it!

Mood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL HollyMood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL Holly

I wanted to pair this fabric with a pattern that would be simple, timeless, feminine, and flirty.  For the bodice I used By Hand London’s Holly jumpsuit bodice, variation 2, which I made once before. I love the disco-vibe of the cowl neck paired with the skinny strap. For the skirt I just used a half-circle skirt, my favorite of all the circle skirts.  I think it has the perfect balance of volume and swish and   also body-skimming sensualness (can skirts be sensual? I think half-circle skirts can). After letting the skirt hang overnight I hemmed this skirt at my preferred midi-length using a narrow folded hem.  Overall I think the look is classic, and slightly retro without being overt.

Mood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL HollyMood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL Holly

For such a fast sew, I actually did a surprising amount of hand stitching on this dress.  The entire neckline and all the bias-binding was slipstitched in place (just ignore that bit of staystitching that you can see peeking out near the straps... Ignore it I say!). I happen to really hate sewing bias-binding by machine, I can never get it to look neat! So this time I didn’t even attempt it, I just stitched the binding to the bodice right sides together, then folded over and slipstitched to the wrong side, including the straps.  It was way more time-consuming than tackling it by machine, but it was also much less of a headache. And I don't know, there's something about hand stitching that always feels very zen to me.  And in the end I actually really love how it turned out! So much neater than my awkward attempts at the machine.
And speaking of those straps – the original Holly bodice has a regular spaghetti strap, attached at the back bodice.  I had intended to do this, but when I put the dress on mid-construction to do a test fit I just quickly tied them around my neck to keep them out of the way.  I ended up really loving the way the neckline looked as a halter so I decided to keep it like that. I can always tack them down later if I change my mind.  For now though I just folded over the raw ends of the bias binding and stitched them in place.
Mood Fabrics | RL Blue Polka Dot Silk Crepe | BHL Holly

I wore my new dress all day yesterday on my birthday and it really helped me feel great, like a modern day Sophia Loren. And really, what more can a girl ask for on her 30th birthday? Of course I also ended up enjoying so many sweets and drinks and decadent meals that by the end of the day I was more than ready to unzip and give up all pretense of any sort of ladylike or sensual airs. And my birthday ended as all good birthdays should - by washing my face, dotting myself with zit cream, putting on my ratty robe, popping a couple of ibuprofen and heading to bed!

So here's to new decades, new dresses, and sewing something that makes you feel great! Hope you're all having a great March! And if you're not, try sewing yourself something you love. 

I'll be back in the next couple of weeks with a tutorial for the Minoru pattern, so stay tuned!

xx

3.19.2015

oh snap!

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Hey Guys! So... do you ever have those projects that once you finish it's like you've unclogged the pipes? All of a sudden everything starts flowing again, you just had to push through that one last barrier? And, no, I'm not talking about my digestive track (or maybe I am??) I'm talking about sewing, and sewjo (or a lack thereof) and feeling stuck, and getting going again. I think we've all been there.

Well. This jacket was that project for me.

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Meet my new, much needed, rain jacket. This project was born out of desperate desperate need. And I fought it every step of the way. It's no news that I live in Texas and that, while we do get a stretch of legitimately cold weather we like to call "winter" the majority of the months that make up a North American winter are spent in that weird, not-quite-cold-not-quite-warm, drizzly, damp, miserable, in-between state. There are days that I'm very grateful I own a winter coat and some handmade wooly goodness to keep me warm, but there are even more days when I step outside and think "what the hell am I supposed to do with this??!?" 

And, lo, it became clear that what was missing from my life was a nice, mid-weight jacket that could withstand some precipitation. Something that I could wear on my bike commute. Something I could throw on with leggings and sneakers and not look like a clown. And above all, something classic that would never go out of style so I never ever have to make one again!

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I think I've known for at least two years that I've needed such a practical garment, but I just couldn't ever quite find a pattern that had everything I wanted. They were either too anorak, or too duffle coat, or too military, or they didn't have a hood... Where was that perfect in-between pattern to match my in-between weather? 

Then, a little over a year ago my blog feed delivered up this gem from none other than Kelly from Cut Cut Sew and I became obsessed. Kelly's jacket had so many of the elements I had been looking for! And it was a Minoru!! Of course I had seen Sewaholic's Minoru Jacket pop up on blogs many many times (it is a well loved pattern) and I always thought that it was very cute, but not quite me. It wasn't until seeing Kelly's riff on the Minoru that I saw this patterns potential: it has good bones

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What I mean is, this is a pattern that lends itself to customization. You can add to it, subtract from it, but what it is at it's core, it's bones, is good stuff.

I made a lot of changes to this pattern. Many were stolen inspired by Kelly's Military Style Minoru, and some were my own.  The biggest change I made was to get rid of the gathers at the neck. I feel like this is one of the cute details that makes a Minoru a Minoru, but it also just wasn't for me. I wanted a much more streamlined look for my jacket.  As far as I can tell (at least according to my endless google searching) I think I'm the only person to make a Minoru without the neck gathers. I was really hoping someone else had done it before me so they could tell me what to do, but no joy.

I think I might do a separate tutorial on this since it might come in handy for future sewists, so I won't go into super detail here. But basically I treated the gathers like darts and rotated them into the waistline, blending into the hip, and essentially making them disappear. For the sleeves I ended up converting the gathers into a dart which ends just past my shoulder tip.

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It took me two muslins to get this right. This was definitely the low point of this whole jacket making business. Guys, I'm not a pattern maker. I hate having to use the maths. I hate even more sewing things up in stupid, boring, white muslin only to have it end all balled up in the corner of my sewing room. I kid you not that I spent months trudging my way through this part of the process. And every time I went into my sewing room to work on it I felt like our friend, Paul Rudd here:

You can ask Nick, there was real, honest-to-god whining going on. It wasn't pretty, and I'm not proud, but... you know... everyone has their process (wink). But after every weekend of me procrastinating (with knitting) and whining, and deep sighing I'd inevitably start my week by going outside, taking stock of the weather, and thinking "damn I need that jacket!" So I persevered. I know. I should get a freaking medal or something...
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But let's get list-y here! All in all these were the changes/additions I made to the Minoru pattern (as I said, many of these are the same as Kelly's changes, because her version is magnificent):

  • Removed gathers from neck at front and back and converted shoulder gathers to dart
  • Graded between sizes based on my measurements - an 8 at the shoulders/bust, 6 at the waist, and 4 at the hips. This was because I'm not the 'pear shape' that Sewaholic patterns are sized for, and it also helped remove some of the flare of the overall shape.
  • Narrowed the zipper placket by 5/8" and added that onto the center front of the jacket pieces.
  • Added bands for snaps.
  • Added bellows pockets and pocket flaps. 
  • Changed the wide elastic at the waist to a draw string.
  • Shortened the sleeves and drafted my own cuffs.
  • Drafted a facing for the hood and inserted a draw string.

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I had actually been collecting all the fabrics and bits and bobs for this project since November. All the fabrics were sourced using my monthly Mood fabric allowance. The navy outer shell is a nice, heavy weight cotton twill.  The lining for the body is a very soft brushed cotton twill (in a very classic plaid) and the sleeves are lined with navy acetate. Nothing too fancy. I actually had originally intended on interlining the jacket with cotton flannel for extra warmth, but the longer I waited to make the jacket, the more the weather began to warm up, and the less need I saw for an extra layer of warmth. In the end I think this was a good decision. Any more and this would be less of a mid-weight jacket, and more of a winter-weight jacket.

(Update: I just wanted to add a quick note here - none of these fabrics are technically waterproof in any way.  However I already own a lightweight waterproof shell that I wear on extremely rainy days, which, incidentally, most often occur here during the warmer months.  This jacket is really particular to my climate and the kind of cool, damp, foggy, humid, and drizzly winters we have here. I debated waxing this jacket after I finished it, but that would change the texture and can sometimes create splotchy colors, and I was too in love with the finished product to risk doing something I might regret.  If you think you'd like to make something similar, but with more water resistant capabilities, you'd be better off using a pre-waxed canvas, or doing some research into waterproof fabrics.)

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My favorite thing about this jacket, by far, is all the details: the topstitching, snaps, grommets, cord stops, zippers... sigh. I can get pretty swoony over hardware! I decided to go with gold-tone brass for all my hardware because I think navy and bright, shiny gold is always a classic, slightly nautical look. Also, gold-tone brass is much easier to find and match than, say, antiqued brass. The snaps and grommets/eyelets are both Dritz that I picked up at the nearest JoAnn's.  The grommets were pretty easy to install. I backed the area with interfacing and a little scrap of self fabric so it was three layers thick, then cut a little hole in the fabric (be still my heart!). The grommets came with a little hammer-setting tool so all I had to do was position the grommet over the hole then pound away! I love breaking out the hammer for sewing projects.  The snaps were a bit trickier. They were the very last step.  I had to buy one of those Dritz snap-setting pliers, but when I tested it out on a single layer scrap of fabric I had a really hard time getting them in. It ended up being a two-person job with me positioning the snaps and Nick using his brute strength to pop them into place.  Thank goodness one of us has muscles!

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I'm perhaps most excited about these zippers! Finding the right length, color and type of zipper for this jacket proved to be no joke. I made two separate trips to Houston specifically for zippers, only to come back empty handed each time. Eventually I turned to the internet. I was able to find a long, open ended zipper for the front from a zipper supplier, but they didn't have the same zipper as a closed ended option, and when the long zipper came it just didn't thrill me.  It wasn't until I was shopping for some of the other doo-dads (cording and cord stoppers) that I discovered Pacific Trimming has an online store and all the RiRi zippers you could dream of!! I ended up buying two M8 RiRi zippers for this coat, cut to size, which were not cheap (for zippers) at $24 a pop, but I do not regret this purchase.  These zippers are so wonderfully hefty, and weighty, and the zipper tape is a sturdy but flexible, and soft, cotton twill instead of that weird plasticky polyester.  And the slightly fancy zipper pull doesn't hurt things either.  I wouldn't normally spring for fancy zippers, but this is a garment that I want to last and love for as long as it fits me, and splurging on a high quality zipper seemed like the right move. I might be a little delusional, but I kind of feel like the zippers make this jacket, ya know?

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The cording was another adventure.  I ended up buying some from Pacific Trimming and I thought I bought navy, however when it arrived it was a lovely shade of pale aquamarine. Lovely, but not gonna work. However I was very impressed with the quality, it didn't seem to have that stiff center that I find a lot of the cording I can find locally has. This stuff was completely pliable, washed well, and seemed soft but strong. It was just the wrong color. I decided the easiest solution was to dye it. It took two dye baths to get a perfect color match (straight 'navy' ended up too blue so I overdyed it with 'hot black' and just a dash of 'navy' to keep it in the blue realm) but in the end I'm so pleased with it! I don't think I could have gotten such a great color match from a store bought navy. 

My little gold cord stoppers are also from Pacific Trimming. I ordered a few types to see which ones I liked best and these little elongated bells were the winners.

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I drafted my own cuffs for the jacket. They're nothing fancy, but I did accidentally make them too narrow to fit around my free arm on my sewing machine.  I'm not even going to try to describe the crazy maneuvering I did to not only get these sewn in place, but then topstitched to boot! But trust me, it took all my clever sewing manhandling to finagle these things!

The bellows pockets were also a little bit questionable in terms of construction. I'd never made this type of pocket before, and the internet wasn't coughing up the most thorough of tutorials, so I went into my bellows pockets a bit blind. Overall I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, although Self-Critical-Sallie thinks they could be more precise, but she's never happy with anything I do, so we won't listen to her!

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As I mentioned, a hood was a necessity on this jacket. I get caught in the rain far too often for my liking! Equally as important was a hood that could be drawn tight about my face because I'm not sure how useful a hood that keeps getting blown off really is. And it is constantly windy here! My big goof up here was that I never included the hood on any of my muslins, so I didn't really have a clear idea of how it attached until I went to sew the whole thing on.  So when I initially placed my grommets for the draw string I just measured about 1.5" up from the seam allowance, forgetting that a good portion of the bottom of the hood sits inside the collar! This didn't end up being a huge disaster, I just installed a second set of grommets about 3 inches higher, but if you peek inside my hood you can still see the first pair of grommets. Shhh, don't tell anyone! No one knows they're there...

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I love my new jacket. It was a true pain in my arse from beginning to end, but I'm so happy to finally have it a reality - if for no other reason than now I can move on with my sewing life! And having a practical, but stylish, lighter-weight jacket like this is just going to come in so so handy. Sadly, it probably won't come in handy until next fall because, no joke, it's already too warm for jackets around here! Somehow I knew it was going to decide it was summer spring as soon as I finished my rain jacket! And, lo and behold, it did! I took these photos across the street from a playground and I was getting some serious side-eye from all the kids and parents frolicking about in their shorts and t-shirts! However I've still been dragging it out with me every day this week on the off chance it decides to sprinkle, or, you know, there's a cool breeze...

And with that, my friends, ends another year of winter sewing in the life of Sallie! From here on out it's nothing but all sundresses all the time. Just kidding. I have no idea what I'm going to sew next, but it's not going to be outerwear, that's for sure!

What are you working on? Anyone trying to sneak some cold weather sewing in before we blink and it's summer? Or does that only happen where I live?

xx

3.08.2015

the first sweater i ever knit but never blogged about

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Hey pals! While I'm on a knitting streak here I thought I'd finally do a proper post for this sweater so I can stop referring to it as "the first sweater I ever knit but never blogged about" because that is a long title for such a humble sweater! So since I wore this outfit to work today, and felt pretty good about it, and there was still a considerable amount of daylight left when I got home, I decided to go for a walk and take some outfit shots along the way.

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Behold! The First Sweater I Ever Knit but Heretofore Never Blogged About! This was actually the third knitted item I ever made, and therefore, despite it's myriad of quirks, I'm intensely proud of it. I started it early February 2014 (I think...?) after learning how to knit over my Christmas break. It reached completion, I believe, around May - sped along by a rather tenacious upper respiratory infection that had me couch ridden for much of March and some of April.  Which is why it never got photographed or properly blogged about. By May it is already much to warm to even pretend to wear wool for the sake of the camera here in Texas! Just the thought of donning this sweater made me break out in a heat rash! So it got carefully folded and stowed away until the cooler temperatures decided to make an appearance again. And let me tell you, what a lifesaver it has been this winter! Anytime our fickle winter temperatures thought about nearing freezing (or really anything below 50F because I'm a thin-blooded southerner)(yes, I know, cue the tiny violins from all you northerners dealing with real winter!) I pulled on this jumper and immediately felt swaddled in warm, loving, hand-made, coziness.

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So the deets. This is the Bedford Pullover by Michelle Wang for Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2011. I knit it up in BT Shelter, a worsted weight yarn, in the color 'Cast Iron'.  This sweater was knit from the bottom up, completely in the round.  It doesn't have any shaping, so the finished look is quite boxy. I think I knit the second to smallest size, although it's been such a long time I don't totally remember.  I do remember that I learned a lot. There was a lot of YouTube-ing various stitches and techniques and knitting jargon! And a lot of visible improvement was made on the sweater as I went.

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One of the biggest things I think I finally got the hang of was finding a uniform way to tension my yarn as I knit (of course this is also something that I want to experiment with a bit on my next make to see if it makes a difference in efficiency - constantly learning...).  Sadly this means that the 1x1 ribbing at the bottom of the sweater isn't the prettiest, but you can kinda see in this picture that I sort of got the hang of it by the time I was doing the arm cuffs.  In the end, the fact that this sweater isn't the most uniform really doesn't bother me as much as I thought it would. I think it's a lovely memento of my growing proficiency with this new skill, and a humbling reminder that I'm never too old to learn a new craft.

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The sweater used a twisted stitch to create this lovely textured pattern, that almost looks like a small scale cable.  There is about a 1 inch 'racing stripe' of purl stitch that runs up the side, a bit hard to see in these photos, but a nice little detail all the same.  And the sleeves are all reverse stockinette - or purl stitch. I got very good at purling...

One issue I've had with both of the sweaters I've knitted is that the neck opening always seems much higher and tighter on me than it ever seems to be on the models.  I think this must have something to do with my wider shoulders, but I'm not sure. It might just be an adjustment that I have to make with all knits, like adding length.

And speaking of length! That was one thing I was pretty disappointed about with this sweater.  It ended up much shorter than I would have liked. Of course it's still 100% wearable, it's more of a wearing preference than anything else. At least in the body. The sleeves really are too short, there's just no denying it! It was for this reason that I was very conscious to add length to my Carpino sweater, despite the fact that I was itching to speed up the knitting process. I knew I would regret not having that additional length in the long run.

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While I'm blogging about old(er) knitting makes I thought I would give y'all a two-for-one here and throw in this little hat! I knitted this up in January of this year when I was starting to feel some serious Carpino burnout! I thought maybe taking a bit of a break and focusing on something else, but still knitting, might help me push through the last couple of steps. And I guess that technique worked...? I mean, I did end up finishing my Carpino, but I think this hat was less the result of some fancy scheme to increase my productivity and more the result of me being unable to resist the siren song of a shiny new ball of yarn!

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This is the Purl Bee's Traveling Cable Hat (a FREE pattern!) knit up using one skein of Manos del Uruguay's Maxima in the color 'Oxygen' (which I'm not seeing on Purl Soho's site anymore, but trust me, it existed).  I wanted to knit this hat to brush up on my cabeling. Last year I made Purl Bee's Chunky Cable hat, which was a great introduction to cables, but this year I wanted to try a more complicated design, and this seemed like the perfect next step. Plus, I love wearing knit hats in the winter. They are an essential during my chilly bike rides to work, and it's nice to have options.

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Nick found me this lovely pink barnacle (note: that is not it's scientific name!) while I was shooting photos, so I had to show it off! 

My one pet peeve about this hat is that it's a little snug - and I have a small head! According to Revelry, this is a pretty common complaint about this pattern.  I could have added another pattern repeat, but I think then it would have been too big. If I make it again I might experiment with sizing up my needles and seeing if that makes a difference. Other than that, I think it's a really pretty hat! I love the way the Manos hand-dyed yarn creates this very subtle shift in blues throughout the hat.

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And here I am with the ultimate accessory, lovely Lucille. She's not great at posing for the camera, so this photo was the best of the bunch. It looks like I'm giving her the Blessing... 

Well, I think that about brings me up to date with my knitting, save for a hat I made for Nick as a Christmas present, but I think it just might be asking for a miracle to get that photographed! Just imagine it - it's a very straightforward men's sailor cap in a tweedy navy blue. Exciting, no? So there we go! All up to date! Whew that feels good!

Alright guys, that's all from me! I hope you all are having a great March! Stay warm! Spring will come!

xx

3.01.2015

we got there in the end

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A sweater!! You guys! I knit a sweater! I'm realizing that I'm actually pretty terrible at blogging about my hand knit items, so I'm trying to change this. For some reason knitting just seems better suited to Instagram than my blog (for me, I love reading about other people's knitting on their blogs). I'm not totally sure why this is, because knitting is so. SLOW. Seriously. You wanna talk about a labor of love, just talk to a knitter! I mean, I can slap together an entirely new, hand sewn outfit in the amount of time it takes me to knit a hat! So you'd think after all that hard work I'd be ready to crow about it from the rooftops, right? And instead my hand knits tend to only get a fraction of the hoopla that my sewn garments get. Well no more! This is me, climbing onto the neighbors roof (because it's more fun if it's trespassing) and crowing: I MADE A SWEATER! 

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And it's purple! This is the Carpino pullover designed by Carol Feller for Brooklyn Tweed's Wool People 6. I had my eye on this design since I learned how to knit (*cough* last year *cough*). I love the honeycomb lacework design of the front. It felt like a less girly version of lace, which is good for me, because as much as I love the way lacework looks, I get really uncomfortable in anything too girlish (... I mean, there's an exception to every rule, but in general...) I also really wanted to learn lacework, and this is a nice, repetitive, not-to-complicated pattern. Perfect for learning.

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This sweater was knit from the top down, in the round. I followed all the instructions as is for a size 39 - which should have given me plenty of ease, since my chest measurement is closer to 34 inches. I did test my gauge, but I think I tend to be a tight knitter, even when I'm trying to relax. So the finished sweater is a bit narrower, after blocking, than the size 39 specs. I'm actually okay with this. I think the fit is pretty cute, and pretty close to what I had imagined. The only place that I would have appreciated a bit more width is through the shoulders, however I actually think my sweater fits me through the shoulders pretty similarly to how it looks on the model, and I can comfortably wear a long sleeve shirt underneath it, so I'm just gonna go with it! It'll probably relax with time and wear anyway.

I added an extra inch or so to the overall length of the sweater, leaving the arms the original 3/4 length. I did this because 1) I thought it looked short on the model and 2) my first sweater that I knit (never blogged... but maybe I'll get around to that...) always feels a bit short and it bugs me. I think that after all the work and time you put into knitting, you really don't want to have any regrets at the end. While you're knitting it can seem like a pain to spend more time and yarn on one section, when all you want to do is get to the next part of the instructions, but it's worth it in the end. Knitting, I've found, is a practice in the art of patience.

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The yarn is Brooklyn Tweed's Loft in the color Thistle.  I love that on BT's updated site they give the color stories for their yarns. I've spent a fair few lazy Sundays just reading each one, they're like little love notes to color! I had to give a hoot when I read that, according to BT, "Playful Thistle is perhaps rather intense for adult-sized garments"... whoops! Um... definitely didn't get that memo! In truth, I actually don't think this color is nearly as intense as it shows up in photos. In reality it's more of a red-purple, and the flecks of navy, bright red and white are so much fun. Brooklyn Tweed's yarns are really interesting. They are 100% wool and have a very 'heritage' feel to them. When you're knitting them up they're kind of scratchy and stiff, but after wet blocking them they really soften up and come alive. I haven't knitted with a ton of different yarns, but I really am partial to this stuff. They're insanely warm. The other sweater I knit is with Shelter and it is the absolute warmest thing I own.  I'll admit that I don't like wearing these sweaters directly next to my skin, but I don't really like wearing any wool right next to my skin.  

Loft is BT's fingering weight yarn, so it's much lighter weight and makes for a thinner, slightly drapey-er material. You guys. I will give pause before I knit another sweater with fingering weight yarn. This sucker took me FOR . EV . ER! I think I cast on in the beginning of September? It's so long ago now I can't really remember! But let's go with September. And when I knit, I get pretty obsessive, so I was devoting a good amount of my free time to this baby. So six month. SIX MONTHS!! Egads! I blame it on the fingering weight yarn and size 4 needles. The fact that I'm a painfully slow knitter didn't help.

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Sorry this photo is a bit out of focus. It was getting dark while I was shooting these, so my shutter speed was very slow. But anyway, The sleeves and hem are finished with a 1x1 twisted knit ribbing.  I learned a thing or two while knitting this sweater - I mean, you're bound to learn a thing or two about anything if you do it for a straight six months! But one thing I learned is that I really prefer knitting in the round with 5 DPNs (double pointed needles). I had always used 4 (3 holding the stitches in a triangle shape, one used for knitting) in the past and could never figure out why I got such ugly laddering on the stitches where the needles joined, but then I read somewhere that if you switch to 5 DPNs those joining stitches have much less strain placed on them. It made sense to me, and it definitely made a difference in my sleeves! 

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The neckline is finished with an i-cord bind off. This was also new to me! For the first couple of stitches I kept thinking that I was just making a big messy knot, and then slowly it started to reveal itself and I got pretty psyched! It's a really pretty way to finish a neckline, and a nice alternative to ribbing.

As I was nearing the finish line with this sweater I began to suspect that I would run out of yarn. I guess that extra length I added really ate up a lot of my yarn! I just had 1 inch left of cuff ribbing and the i-cord bind off to go and I was down to a marble sized blob of yarn. I started to freak out a bit because the thought of buying a whole new skein just for that little bit of knitting seemed insane.  When I lamented about this on Instagram (see, IG gets all the good knitting stuff) Samantha, of A Gathering of Stitches, suggested I try Ravelry to see if anyone was selling a leftover skein, which was a brilliant idea! Unfortunately I didn't have much luck - it seems that Thistle is not a very popular color! Who'd a thunk...? But I'm passing that little nugget of wisdom on to you guys, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation. Anyway I eventually had the thunderclap realization that I still had my two gauge squares stashed away somewhere. So I unraveled those and ended up with more than enough yarn to finish my sweater! I ran out of my original ball of yarn while I was binding off the cuff edge, which was super inconvenient, but it did force me to learn how to do a spit join (or spit splice), which is magic! Why have I not been doing that all along?!? I could have been saving myself from so much tedious tail weaving-in! Again... the things you learn...

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Well, I absolutely adore my new sweater! And I better after all the time it took away from other projects! Nick isn't too keen for me to jump into a new knitting project too quickly. He thinks I love my knitting more than him, but I think a bit of jealousy is healthy for a relationship. Keeps the sparks alive, ya know? So on that note, what do you think I should knit next?? 

Since I tend to really love Brooklyn Tweed's (and company's) aesthetic I had originally planned on moving on to Seacoast from Wool People 7. I love the elegant, wide, neckline and the clean lines, but after all the stockinette on this sweater started to bore me I thought maybe I should try something more challenging and Jared Flood's Backbay from the Fall 14 collection caught my eye.  I definitely think Ondawa is the star of that collection, but the cute little bobbles, moss stitch, and overall classic look of Backbay really won me over. But then the Winter 15 collection came out and I became intrigued by Kusama! Although I can't tell yet if it's the pattern, or the styling of the model that I'm really into here... Obviously I need your help! 

What are you guys knitting? And can someone please tell me if six months is an insane amount of time to spend knitting this sweater?

xx

2.22.2015

scorched

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdress

Hey everyone! I am currently sitting, staring at my computer at 9:30 pm on a Saturday night (because my social life is off the hook). I think I've written these first couple of sentences a dozen of times, only to delete each one. I told myself that I wasn't allowed to write about the weather, or the fact that February seems to have gone by very very  fast, and as a result I'm finding myself with absolutely nothing to say. It's at times like this that I wonder if we're given a finite quantity of creativity in our lives, and if I've squandered all mine on dramatic readings of Us Weekly performed for my cat...

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdress

To be fair, those readings have been some of my finest work, but don't expect Mister Muscles to back me up on that because he's a tough critic!

Well, since it seems like the insides of my brain currently consists of one, long, obnoxious, fart sound, I'm gonna take the liberty of skipping the niceties and jumping right into the sewing talk. Trust me, it's better for everyone this way. Besides, I have a lot to say about this silly, flowy, voluminous dress!

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdress

This was my February make for the Mood Sewing Network (you can read that post here, which is probably way more informative than this post is going to be).  I had initially planned on making a spring jacket, which is much needed in my wardrobe, however our crazy 'winter' turned unexpectedly balmy for a week or two there and I just couldn't muster the enthusiasm to sew outer wear.  So instead I made what is essentially my ideal spring dress. Of course, it has since returned to being cold and drizzly, and now I'm really wishing I had that jacket - so back to the front of the queue it goes!

This dress was made using this White and Gray Striped Linen-Blended Woven from Mood online.  I'm not totally sure why this fabric caught my eye, as it certainly isn't the sort of rambunctious print I usually gravitate towards when I'm buying fabric with my Mood allowance. But I do know that when I saw it I thought of light and airy spring dresses with a sort of folksy, bohemian, Ladies of the Canyon kind of vibe.  The kind of thing you wear with minimal sandals and lots of jewelry (bonus points if you're lucky enough to own some genuine turquoise...) and long, flowing locks. The finished look might veer more towards 'a man's sleep shirt from the 19th century' or faintly Laura Ingles Wilder, but I'm actually pretty cool with that too! 

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdress

I'm going to reveal something incredibly nerdy about myself right about now - when I was a kid (and probably a little older than would have been considered 'cool'... like, oh, say 15) I was in love with American Girl dolls. My favorite doll was/is Kirsten (R.I.P. Kirsten, as you are no longer available) who was the 'pioneer doll.'  I mean, pioneers are pretty badass! I even had matching dresses so I could dress up like my doll and pretend that I, too, was a pioneer girl. Well. I would be lying if I said that this dress doesn't make me feel a bit like my 8 year old self, playing dress-ups with my Kirsten doll. And after doing that google image search I'm realizing just how much it resembles Kirsten's nightgown (which I also had in my size). Sigh. I mean, aren't we all just trying to satisfy our inner 8 year old? 

Another fun fact - my nieces are just getting to the age where they are getting into American Girl dolls, and I swear, this past Christmas I was almost as excited as they were to receive their first doll! I literally had to stop myself from being like, "here, let me show you how to brush their hair..."

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdressDSC_0094

But I was trying to write about sewing here (see above, re: brain = fart sound). So I saw this fabric, I decided I wanted to make a folksy, springy dress, and I chose a pattern, like you do.  This is Burda 10/2010 #122, the same pattern I used to make my green dress. I love that green dress so hard that it only made sense to add another version to my closet.  However there were a few changes I wanted to make. For clarity sake, I'm gonna go with the list format:

  •  Lengthen the entire dress by about 3 inches. The curved hem makes for some scandalous thigh moments on my green dress, so this length is much more modest.
  • Narrow the shoulders by 1/2 inch (using this method). My green dress actually fits very comfortably through my shoulders, but optically I feel like it makes my shoulders look wide(er). Since this is such a roomy dress I felt like I could get away with narrowing the shoulder so the shoulder seam sits in a bit more, which I find visually more flattering on me.
  • Used a different method to sew the front placket because when I followed the instructions from Burda on my first version of this dress I felt like the placket got really gross. I don't remember now exactly what I did, I just kind of made it up as I went along. I'm sure if you were to have watched me sewing the placket it would have been like watching a chimp perform brain surgery. No offense to any primate surgeons out there - but it was definitely touch and go there for awhile! But we got there in the end. I'm actually really pleased with my placket on this version.
  • I used the same wide, gathered sleeve pattern that I made for my first version, but this time I added 1/2 inch to the overall length, and changed the sleeve to an exaggerated bishops sleeve, so it's a little bit longer in length at the back of the arm than it is at the front.
  • I omitted a lot of the topstitching and interfacing on this version because I wanted a very soft, rumply look.
  • And finally, I left off the pockets. I'm generally a fan of pockets in dresses when they fit into the overall design of the dress, but I often think in-seam pockets seem like an afterthought, and they always flap around uncomfortably when you wear the dress. So out they go!

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdress

Perhaps the change I'm most pleased with is the sleeve adjustment I made.  The bishop sleeve really does fall in a very lovely way around the arm, which I think is really key for making this kind of poet sleeve work.  And it's just really fun to wear! I'm actually already imagining other patterns I can slip some bishop sleeves onto, and next time they're going to be even more exaggerated! Puffy sleeves for all!

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdressDSC_0096

Perhaps after all this rambling you're wondering why I would title this post 'scorched' (or maybe you've just caught on that my post titles are only tenuously related to what I'm talking about and you've just learned to ignore them, in which case, who can blame you?) Well! That has to do with a little lesson I learned about my new iron. Oh, I never told you I got a new iron? Well I did! For Christmas I got a Sapporo gravity feed iron and it makes me feel legit. I also love knowing that I will never have to buy another iron - or at least not for many many years (fingers crossed anyway, appliances are always susceptible to giving up the ghost, but from what I can tell, these things are lifetime companions). Although it hasn't been all sunshine and roses with my new iron. There's definitely been an... adjustment period (we're still getting to know one another). This thing is just way more serious than any other sewing appliance I own! Take, for instance, the sewing of this dress. While working I decided I needed a cup of tea, which of course turned into a snack, and then I sat down to check my email, and read some blogs... Anyway! An indeterminate amount of time later I returned to my sewing room only to find that in my negligence I had flung my work-in-progress across my ironing board, leaving the corner of the dress to rest against the iron! Now, as I've said, this iron ain't your mama's Rowenta! This sucker gets hot. And the whole base gets hot, not just the underside. Also, there's no auto shut-off like there was on my old conventional iron, which means the entire time I was lolly-gagging about, my dress (which I had just painstakingly manhandled a beautiful front placket for with all the precision of a chimp surgeon) was being scorched. I've never had an iron burn anything I was working on before! While I did want to cry when I saw the ugly, brown scorch mark on the front of my new dress, in retrospect I actually feel really lucky that I didn't start a fire! 

So! I would like to offer myself up as lesson to the sewing community! Do as I say, not as I Do! Learn from my mistakes, dear ones! Take care with your works in progress, and beware hot, powerful, irons!

Mood Fabrics Gray Stripe Linen | Burda shirtdress

And this picture is for Nick, who really liked the scale of me in amongst all these palmettos and tropical greenery. 

Until next time friends!

xx