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Pardon My Absence

November 28, 2014

Field Exam BooksIn less than two weeks, I’m taking the first of the three most important exams of my career. That’s right, it’s time for comps! Combine my final exam prep with the difficulty of scheduling photo shoots around my husband’s work schedule and the limited hours of daylight, and I’ve decided it’s best to take a little break from blogging. I’ll still be knitting and doing some nice, easy sewing, but I think I’ll put the blog on pause for the next two weeks.

I’m not posting this because I imagine all of you are on the edge of your seats waiting eagerly from my next post. Even though I know no one will mind or maybe even notice this break, I’ll feel less pressure knowing that this post is up.

Happy knitting, sewing, and, of course, reading!

Tiny Gramps

November 26, 2014

It’s been a while since I introduced a new knitting project, hasn’t it? I’ve been hitting the sewing pretty hard to both finish some UFOs and add some items I’d like to my wardrobe, and my knitting has mostly been focused on some long-term sweater projects. When a new baby comes along, though, it’s time to cast on something tiny and cute.
Gramps Cardigan WIPI’m casting on this stinkin’ cute Gramps Cardigan for our friends’ fairly new baby. He’s a little peanut, so I’m knitting up the smallest size in some ultra washable Berroco Vintage. I’m also planning to knit up one of my favorite little flap caps for a sort of woodsman theme because both of his parents love to explore the outdoors.

I’d love to get this gift in the mail in time for it to arrive by Christmas, but we’ll see how quickly it knits up. Even though it’s a small sweater in worsted weight yarn, those cables could add some knitting time.

Dolores Batwing Tunic

November 15, 2014

I was so thrilled to receive an email from Zoe a while back letting me know that I had won a review copy of her new Dolores Batwing pattern. I enter blog giveaways all the time and never win (I know; poor me), so I certainly didn’t expect my comment to be pulled at random from all the others on that post.
Red Knits Dolores Batwing TunicMy primary goal in making new garments right now (UFOs are a whole different ball o’ wax) is to create versatile clothing that works for the different facets of my life. I would much rather have a closet made up of garments I can wear for many occasions rather than having “teaching” clothes and “work from home” clothes. With this in mind, I chose the long sleeve tunic view and picked out a “performance” knit at JoAnn that I thought was slinky enough for this pattern and could be dressed up or down.
Red Knits Dolores Batwing TunicI’m pretty happy with the fit through the body. If I wanted a closer fit, I could do a swayback adjustment (which I’ve had to do on other knit tops), but this style is meant to be looser through the waist and fitted at the hips. I’m also pleased with the neckline, which I don’t think cuts so high as to be constricting and isn’t so wide as to reveal bra straps.
Red Knits Dolores Batwing TunicThe one area where I will certainly tweak the fit if I make another long sleeve version is the arms. As you can see in this photo, the sleeves are pretty tight until they get to the wrist and, while I’m no longer as stick thin as I once was, I’m also not overly muscular.

This isn’t a complex top, but it’s still worth mentioning that the instructions were great. I especially appreciated Zoe’s insistence that knits can be sewn without a serger. I’m not sure where that myth originated in the sewing blogosphere, but it’s certainly not true! I own a serger, and I almost always use it for seam finishes on my knits, preferring the sturdiness of a lightening stitch for the seams themselves.
Red Knits Dolores Batwing TunicTo be crystal clear: I received a free copy of this pattern in exchange for an honest review. I don’t have any affiliation with Zoe beyond reading her blog, and I was not a pattern tester; I was simply chosen at random after leaving a comment on her blog.

Sewing with Lace: V1393

November 13, 2014

I had a chance to get some solid sewing time in this evening, so my fluted skirt is nearly finished. That means it’s time to get serious about my dress for PittStop Lindy Hop, the huge annual swing dance event in Pittsburgh.
V1393This year, I’m going with Vogue 1393, a pattern designed for  lace by Kay Unger. I’m hoping this will make for an easier sewing experience, as this is my first time working with lace. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing, but my mom, a seasoned bridal seamstress, assures me this will be a reasonable first project. In looking at the instructions, the construction shouldn’t be too difficult, although the many pieces will take some time to assemble.

I chose a navy lace and a lighter gray satin, and the dress will be visibly lined–you can see it through the lace on parts of the skirt–with a slightly darker gray bemberg rayon. I didn’t mean to choose colors so near to the original;  these were what jumped out at us at the fabric store. Whoops.

Originally, I thought I’d stick with my PittStop dress tradition and go with a vintage style, but I’m excited to make this elegant dress that should serve me well for formal occasions in years to come. It’s modest (ugh–I hate how that word is used these days, but it’s accurate here) enough to work for a formal professional dinner and pretty enough for a show or evening wedding.

Now, if I can just forget about the looming deadline and take my time with construction, I should be in good shape.

Covet Wednesdays: Knit Dress Decisions

November 13, 2014

One garment I’ve been meaning to add to my handmade wardrobe for at least two years now is a knit dress. Actually, a bunch of knit dresses from a pattern that fits me well and comes together easily. My current lifestyle involves a lot of working from home with regular runs out for meetings, errands, and swing dancing. Aside from teaching, for which I like to dress up a bit, a knit dress fits most of my sartorial needs while being super comfy. Now it’s just a matter of which pattern to choose as I aim for tried-and-true.


My first thought was to go with Lady Skater since it’s gotten such love from the sewing blog community (though I have little trust in online reviews these days). I love the silhouette, and it looks great on just about everyone who’s made it. I also like that this dress has a stabilized waist seam, which I would think prevents excessive stretching. Both of my reasons for hesitating on this pattern have to do with the skirt: I’m worried that it may read as a little young on me, and I don’t like how it looks done up in striped fabric.
Knit dress patternsI then found McCall’s 6886 and 6957 while flipping through a book during a pattern sale. Between the two I have some neckline and skirt variations, and I imagine the basic block of the pattern is similar. I haven’t compared the actual pattern pieces yet, but I’m hoping it would make for easy mixing and matching. These patterns don’t have that waist seam, which may mean less stability but also means less pattern matching and consistently horizontal stripes.

I’m being way too indecisive when it comes to a little knit dress. Anyone have any opinions they’re willing to share? Any great patterns out there I’ve missed?

Covet Wednesdays: Knocking Off the J. Crew Fluted Skirt

November 5, 2014

Lately, I have really been loving the fashion/lifestyle blog History in High Heels. I have a fair amount in common with Ashley–we’re both in the exam year of our PhDs in the Humanities–but our clothing budgets could not be further apart! I love her style, but I’ll have to admire her Kate Spade from afar. One garment she has raved about time and time again is the fluted skirt from J.Crew. I love the silhouette and want to try it for myself, but the skirt was originally $98 (out of my price range) and is now only available in a few sizes (not mine) on clearance. I’m determined to have one of these skirts in my closet, so I took a look in the sale pattern books last time I was at the fabric store to see if there was anything remotely close.
M6842Enter McCall’s 6842, a skirt with style lines almost identical to my J.Crew inspiration. In fact, I prefer the fully seamed front yoke extension of the pattern to the weird darts going on in the original.

For the first iteration, I’m going to sew up view A in this textured gray fabric from JoAnn. I don’t know enough about fabric to know what it’s called, but I couldn’t get this texture out of my mind after I saw it, so I nabbed it on sale on my next trip.

I have high hopes for this pattern. If it works out, I’d like to make it up in a few different colors and perhaps add a lining to make it more friendly for tights in the winter.


Chambray Alder Shirtdress for All Seasons

October 31, 2014

Red Knits Chambray Alder ShirtdressThis latest project is one of those garments that truly fills a gap in my wardrobe. Specifically, it fills the gap left by an old, cheap RTW dress that I wore to death, spilled coffee down the front of (and hid what remained of the stain with a handknit shawl), and ultimately grew out of. The old dress fabric was a very narrow blue and white stripe, which perhaps looked a bit dingy and drab from afar. This new iteration, however, has better construction, better fit, and a bright chambray that’s versatile and vibrant.
Red Knits Chambray Alder Shirtdress front placketMy dress is the infamous Grainline Alder, hacked for a popover style. I really thought I had this placket thing figured out from the beginning, and I took pictures along the way so I could share a tutorial since I can’t find one elsewhere. But man, I really messed this placket up! I think I’ve saved it from the outside, but the inside doesn’t have the clean finish I’ve come to love on my sleeve plackets. I’m hoping to make up another Alder in an olive green, also popover style. Does anyone have a favorite popover shirt or dress pattern? I’d love to pick one up and have a look to figure out where I’ve gone wrong.
Red Knits Chambray Alder Shirtdress back viewSo sorry about the wrinkles in these photos! We had to take them after I had been in back-to-back meetings all day and before my husband dashed off to his night job.

I’m pretty pleased with the fit of this pattern, which I didn’t adjust at all out of the envelope. Part of that may come from not wanting to over-fit a casual, loose dress like this one, although I may pull in the sweep of the A-line skirt in the next version I make. Other than the placket, the construction was pretty straightforward: I used the burrito method for the yoke, french seamed the two seams that are exposed on the interior, and finished both armholes and hem with bias binding. The pattern calls for self binding on the armholes, but I was short on fabric and opted for the prepackaged stuff.

I desperately wanted to wear sweats to campus on the day I wore this outfit, but since my undergraduate days are long gone, I settled for wearing this dress with a navy Mossimo cardigan, burgundy tights, Madden Girl lace boots, elephant necklace from Charming Charlie, and a skinny belt.

Open Wide Pouch: The Perfect Gift

October 29, 2014

Red Knits Open Wide PouchOne thing I’ve learned living half a country away from everyone I ever knew is that there are several types of long-distance friends. Some friends drift away, only to be seen at the occasional reunion. Others I might not hear from much when I’m away, but we pick up right where we left off when I come back for a visit. Finally, there are a few close friends that remain close despite the distance. Friends like K, who I text and gchat with week in and week out. We might not get to sit down for coffee and knitting as much as we used to, but she’s still one of my closest friends.

Since K also works at an LYS, she’s not so easy to shop for–she’s got a nice discount to get all the yarn she could ever want (and I’m pretty sure her designated yarn trunk is overflowing…). But she does need some cute bags to haul all that yarn around with her. I poked around on Pinterest and came up with this Open Wide Pouch from Noodlehead, which I’m now deeming the Perfect Gift for Knitters.
Red Knits Open Wide Pouch insideThis little bag lives up to its name: it opens up nice and wide so you can see into every corner, and it has a nice, clean finish inside and out. Overall, this project was quite easy–the only tricky part involved those zipper corners. Luckily, those parts are hardly visible in the finished bag, making the project essentially foolproof!
Red Knits Open Wide Pouch zipper tabIt’s kind of silly, but I just love the tab on the end of the zipper. K is a big fan of circles, so I positioned this tab in order to showcase them. I was so pleased when it worked out!
Red Knits Open Wide PouchNext time you need a gift for a knitter, give this pouch a try. All it takes is a little fabric (mine is quilter’s cotton from JoAnn), a zipper, some thread, and less time than you might think. And, since no knitter has ever claimed to have too many bags, this is my new go-to gift.

UFO Mondays: Wee Wonderful Wallaby

October 13, 2014

Red Knits Wonderful WallabyThis is quite the odd little UFO. It all started back in 2008, when my husband’s friends found out they were expecting. Since I can’t help but knit for any babies in my vicinity, I cast on for a newborn sized Wonderful Wallaby sweater that I planned to embroider with “Lil’ Beast” across the chest in honor of the name of the new father’s radio show.

The knitting went crazy fast. This pattern is sized from kids all the way up to adults, and I adjusted it further to be a DK weight newborn size knit on smaller needles. Even so, this little hoodie was off my needles after a long weekend. Then it was time to embroider. I got a couple letters in, and then it sat. For years.

This fall, now that the original recipient is far too big for the sweater, I pulled it out to finish. All that remained was to rip out the embroidery and give it a good bath to remove the markings I had used. Now it’s all dry and tucked away for another baby to come along. Much as I love giving personalized gifts, it’s good to have a stash on hand.

Pattern: Wonderful Wallaby by Carol Anderson
Yarn: 2.5 skeins Sublime Yarns Organic Cotton DK
Needles: US 2 & 4
Made for: a future baby
Timeline: 17 July 2008 – September 2014
Modifications: adjusted for newborn sizing by using DK and size 4 needles and following the smallest size directions. Lengths were estimated by assuming that the pattern calls for a row gauge of 3 rows per inch and going by rows rather than inches.
Worst Part: letting this one sit too long–the original parents would have loved it
Best Part: having another sweet baby gift on hand

Swish! The Linda Circle Skirt

October 10, 2014

Red Knits Linda SkirtHooray! My plaid Linda Circle Skirt is finished! It’s made out of one of those mysterious “suiting” fabrics from a big box store. The fiber must be mostly manmade, because this thing hardly wrinkles. Unfortunately, the plaid isn’t balanced, so I wasn’t able to match plaids on the side seams, but the skirt is so full that it’s hardly noticeable.
Red Knits Linda Skirt Lining and HemThe innards of this skirt are mostly pretty basic, with two exceptions.  First, I’ve lined my skirt with this happy, bright green lining fabric. It picks up on the green in the plaid and is a nice surprise when the lining peeks out. Second, I hemmed the outer skirt with a horsehair braid per Gertie’s recommendation. I’m a little disappointed with how this turned out, to be honest. In reading about the horsehair braid, I was under the impression that it would work for most fabric weights, but my fabric is a bit too light to support my braid, which is not so wide as the tutorial recommended. At any rate, adding the braid did make hemming this circle skirt a bit easier.
Red Knits Linda SkirtToday, I styled the skirt for a teaching observation with an embellished Old Navy tank, thrifted Gap cardigan, brown sweater tights, and hand me down oxford style booties.
Red Knits Linda Skirt SwishBut, most importantly of all: this skirt has a serious swish factor. I’ll have to save this one for the less crowded dance floors.


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