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Two Wedding Dresses

February 6, 2016
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In the past several months, we’ve had the pleasure of traveling back to Minnesota for the weddings of two dear friends. We’ve missed all too many weddings and life events during our time out East, so we were very happy to celebrate with our friends.

I was all the more pleased to wear handmade dresses to each wedding. I don’t get a ton of opportunities to dress up these days, and both weddings were in the same city with the potential for overlapping guest lists, so I wore two different dresses. I haven’t blogged about either one of them, and I don’t have a ton to say about either, so I thought I’d share them both at once.

UntitledPardon the overexposed photo. Our first wedding took place at a resort overlooking the lake on a beautiful fall day, and we had to sneak in a few photos between my husband’s groomsman duties.

I wore Vogue 1393, a pattern by Kay Unger. I had intended to wear this dress to a dance event but didn’t finish it in time because it was so labor intensive–there’s a lot of basting to get that lace to stay put–so this was actually its debut. As it turns out, I’m happy I didn’t wear this dress dancing because the non-stretch lace is a little limiting in the shoulder region.
UntitledThis dress was the reason I finally caved and bought an invisible zipper foot for my sewing machine. I’ve used it several times since, and I think that it makes invisible zippers so much easier that it’s a good investment. There’s not a whole lot more to say about the construction of this dress except to point out those scallops on the hem, which I attached by hand because of the A-line sweep of the skirt. Tedious, but worth it.
UntitledOur second wedding took place in northern Minnesota in January, so it posed quite the challenge. I ultimately decided to finish long-time UFO Vogue 1174 by Cynthia Steffe and wear it with tights and a pashmina. I wish I had more detailed shots to share, but to be honest, this dress doesn’t fit well. I started it long enough ago that I’m now cutting a larger size, and the bodice really flattens me out. Since I had already done a lot of work on the dress, it seemed a shame not to finish it, but I may not wear this one again.

It used to be that I loved making a new dress for a special occasion, but I’ve found that I much prefer to focus my sewing time on garments that I’ll wear every day. I doubt that will keep me from the occasional fancy garment, but I’ll certainly take a second look at my existing closet before starting another cocktail dress.

Hey There, 2016

January 16, 2016

We really got the year off to a good start with a trip to see family and friends in Minnesota immediately followed by the beginning of a new semester. I spent plenty of time during my winter break sewing and knitting, but I was having way too much fun making stuff to stop, photograph, and blog about it. Needless to say, I have a whole list of things to share around here.

2015  was pretty darn good. We traveled to DisneyWorld, Minnesota (x3), Montreal, and Indiana, and I presented my work at some more exciting conferences. I passed my comprehensive exams, advancing to candidacy, and selected a committee of dissertation readers who will really push me to do my best work. We celebrated our friends’ weddings and babies. We had visits from some of our favorite people. We went to some awesome concerts.

It was a great year for knitting and sewing, too. I was selected to be a contestant on the Super Online Sewing Match, and I’ve continued to build my handmade wardrobe. In total, I completed 65 projects including 4 adult sweaters. Those numbers are up, and they’ll likely continue to rise as I play along in the Harry Potter Knitting & Crochet House Cup for fake internet points.
GeorgetownSpeaking of the House Cup, my first OWL has been approved (a 2-3 month project for extra fake internet points), and it’s also my 4th year PhD sweater. I’ve got a whole dissertation to write, so this year I wanted to knit a cozy cardigan that would go with just about anything. It had to be easy to toss on and cuddle up in but also look presentable when writing at a coffee shop or meeting profs on campus. It had to be warm enough for a Minnesota winter (lest we move back to the homeland this year) but not so warm that it couldn’t be worn in fall or spring.

I found myself completely torn between four beautiful cardigans but ultimately went with my original choice. I’m knitting Georgetown by Hannah Fettig in heathered gray Cascade 220. I just cast on the back today after doing a bunch of simple math to determine my fit alterations, and I’m enjoying it so far.

Here’s to a new year of happy hands and beautiful makes!

Damask for Dr. J

December 6, 2015
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Red Knits_DamaskWhen I first met my friend J (not the J I knit a sweater for. and not the J I knit socks for, either. there are lots of “J” friends in my life), I had just moved to Pittsburgh and started orientation at my new university. J was so incredibly nice that I actually asked someone else if she was really that nice–certainly no one could really be that nice, right? Wrong. J may actually be the kindest person I have ever known, and I am so lucky to have her as a friend.

J has been completing her dissertation from a distance, so I don’t get to see her as often as I used to, though I know she’s always just a text or email away. She recently returned to defend her dissertation and is now officially a PhD! In my world, that means a celebratory knitted gift.
Red Knits_DamaskJ can pull off fancier accessories and is a knitter herself, so I thought she would be the perfect recipient for Damask, a shawl pattern I had been itching to knit but wasn’t sure I would wear. I knit the smallest size so that I wouldn’t have to break into a second skein of yarn, and I think it’s still plenty big. This shawl is one of the few that I’ve knit with a bottom-up construction, meaning that you have to cast on a whole bunch of stitches at the beginning of the project, but each row gets a little bit shorter from there.

I felt like treating myself a bit when I shopped for this yarn, so I also bought a pair of ChiaoGoo Red Lace needles that I absolutely loved working with. Hopefully you can see from the image above that there are plenty of nupps in this pattern, and the pointy tips of the ChiaoGoos made them easy.
Red Knits_DamaskPattern: Damask by Kitman Figueroa
Yarn: 1 skein Lorna’s Laces Solemate in #1213 Rippey
Needles: US 6 ChiaoGoo Red Lace
Made for: J
Timeline: 25 September – 24 October 2015
Modifications: none
Worst Part: wrangling the many pages of this pattern
Best Part: this was a really enjoyable knit, especially on a late but empty flight to MN in October

Since I know J will read this, “hello from Pittsburgh! we miss you!”

Wool Party (Winter Break Sewing, pt. 1)

December 1, 2015

My sense of how much sewing and knitting time I have over my upcoming winter break from teaching is entirely delusional, and I have a huge list of things I’d like to get through. It’s easy for me to spin my wheels when faced with a long list (even when that list is for a hobby!) and get absolutely nothing done, so I’ve split up my projects by type to give myself a sense of focus. First up: the wool.
S1499This knockoff J.Crew vest using Simplicity 1499 is a UFO that I’ve picked up and put down a few times since spring. I chose to quilt the vest myself rather than using a pre-quilted fabric like the pattern recommends. That seemed like a good idea, but my machine was just not equipped to do the quilting, and I was super frustrated. The vest went into time out until I could use my mom’s sewing machine and walking foot to do the quilting in August. Now it just needs a whole bunch of fiddly bias tape. I’m part way through this step now, and it’s one of those sewing tasks that needs to be done a little bit at a time to avoid pitching the whole project in the corner.
Lady GreyAh, Lady Grey. This coat project has traveled with me through more household moves than I would like to count. I need this project out of my sewing area and in my closet. It’s all cut out, and the bound buttonholes are done. The tailoring really doesn’t look too challenging, so my hope is that it will be smooth sailing from here on out.
UntitledThis should be the quickest and simplest of my wool projects. It’s a beautiful wool plaid in pink, red, yellow, and black that will be a nice addition to my wardrobe. I’m using Butterick 5619, a pattern I dug out of my stash and that I’m hoping will be simple enough to showcase the plaid and allow me to match them.
UntitledNot all the wool around here is for me. Steve asked for a vest he can wear to job interviews and other fancy events, and I picked out this brown wool with a crepe texture for him. We’ll match it up with Vogue 8987. I haven’t even begun the fitting project on this one, and his torso was a challenge when we fit his button-down shirt: wish us luck!

Well, that sounds like a good month’s worth of sewing in itself, and there’s still plenty more on my list! Luckily, working from home means much less time making myself look presentable, packing up my stuff, and hauling myself into campus. More time to sew :)

Warm Vertebrae for Mama and Baby

November 29, 2015

UntitledI know I’m not the only one saying or thinking this, but where the heck has November gone?! It seems to have flown by, and all of the sudden it’s practically December. November was an exciting month around here, not least because that lovely lady in the picture above is no longer pregnant: she welcomed her sweet little girl into the world before Thanksgiving.

I finished her Mama Vertebrae cardigan and gave it to her just a few days before she delivered, and she seems to like it. If those sleeves look crazy long, that’s because they are. J had never had a handmade or customized garment before, so I tried my best to give her exactly what she wanted, extra-long sleeves and all.

Pattern: Mama Vertebrae by Kelly Brooker
Yarn: 6 skeins Berroco Vintage in 5154 Maroon
Needles: US 6 & 7 bamboo
Made for: J
Timeline: 1 October – 10 November 2015
Modifications: significantly lengthened torso and sleeves
Worst Part: the endless stockinette that sometimes refused to grow
Best Part: giving J something just for her
UntitledWhen I stopped by to visit four-day-old Baby C, I also dropped off a matching sweater for her. Since she was supposed to be a big baby, I knit the 3-6 month size, but I don’t think it will fit her for a while yet. I picked up this Hikoo Simplicity yarn on the recommendation of a friend who happens to work at my old LYS, and I just love it. This may be my new go-to baby yarn. It has a great hand, is very washable, and I like that it still has significant merino content.

Pattern: Baby Vertebrae by Kelly Brooker
Yarn: 2 skeins Hikoo Simplicity #042
Needles: US 4 & 5 bamboo
Made for: Baby C
Timeline: 12-16 November 2015
Modifications: shortened sleeves because I ran out of yarn
Worst Part: running out of yarn–I had hoped to make long sleeves for this one
Best Part: itty bitty baby knits. they’re always the best.

Last time I mentioned these two sweaters, I also talked about my Mom’s Dale of Norway sweater. I’m happy to report that I’m chugging away on it after a slight sleeve mishap earlier this month, and I think I’m on track to finish in time for Christmas.

Special thanks to J for agreeing to model her cardigan near the end of her pregnancy when she had a million other things to do.

Shirtmaking in Shades of Blue

November 7, 2015

Red Knits_ShirtmakingI have a couple more shirts to share today that were actually finished back in August. Since I’ve already talked about these patterns a few times, we decided to go light on the detailed photos this time and have some fun taking pictures with a nearby park’s fall colors as our backdrop.
Red Knits_ShirtmakingSteve’s shirt is yet another version of McCall’s 6613 with his customized fit using a shirting from JoAnn. The only difference from the last version is that we skipped the pockets all together.
Red Knits_ShirtmakingThis is the first time I’ve been brave enough to make him a plaid shirt even though the bulk of his RTW wardrobe is plaid. It certainly caused me some anxiety as I was working, and it did take a bit longer, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought. For the most part I matched the plaids and only resorted to a bias cut on the sleeve plackets. See that front button band? It’s not cut on: I matched that shit!

I have to say a special thanks to my mom, who let me take over her sewing machine one afternoon to stitch all of these buttonholes. My much-loved machine has 3-step buttonholes that don’t produce a great result, while hers is fully automated and stitches a beautiful buttonhole. I was literally scrolling through Instagram while stitching these buttonholes: that’s how little work I had to do. I may have to save up some more nearly-finished shirts for my next visit…
Red Knits_ShirtmakingIs there such thing as too many chambray shirts? If there is, I haven’t found it yet. My latest is once again Vogue 8772, this time with long sleeves in a Robert Kaufman polka dot chambray from fabric.com. Unfortunately, the fit isn’t as good as it could be. I cut out this shirt last spring, thinking I could whip it up before the weather became too warm for long sleeves. Life got in the way, and in between cutting it out and stitching it up, I did some pattern alterations to improve the fit, which obviously didn’t make it into this version. All that being said, the fit is good enough, and the polka dot chambray makes up for any faults.
Red Knits_ShirtmakingIt’s just barely visible here, but you may be able to see that I’ve done a continuous lap sleeve placket on these sleeves. Never again. I’ve tried it at least three times in recent memory, and every time the corner pulls out before I’ve even finished making the shirt. Threads has a tower sleeve placket sized for women, so I will use that on future long-sleeved shirts. The origami of tower plackets is more fun anyway.

I hope you’re not growing tired of my many shirtmaking posts. Steve just got rid of a lot of RTW shirts that no longer fit him, and he wears collared shirts just about every day. I have some more fabric tucked away from him in my sewing area: it looks like I need to pull it out soon!

NaKniSweMo 2015

November 2, 2015

What is it about November that makes us want to take on personal challenges? There’s National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo), which I think started the trend, Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo), which I’m participating in this year, and, of course National Knit-a-Sweater-in-a-Month (#NaKniSweMo). I’ve participated in the past, and I’m sorely tempted by the beautiful swatches and sweaters cropping up on Instagram, but I’ve decided to do something a little different this month: I have a few sweaters underway, and I want to finish and/or make significant progress on them rather than starting something new.
UntitledThe most urgent of these is my Mama Vertebrae for J, who could deliver any day now. She’s got some big changes ahead, and I bet she could use a cozy new sweater for a bit of comfort. I’ve finished the body as well as the neckband, which I chose to knit before working the sleeves because I’m a little worried about yardage. Now it’s full speed ahead on those sleeves. J wanted both the torso and the sleeves pretty long, so I’m not sure how long these will take me to knit, but it’s nice, easy knitting for when I’m watching TV or chatting on the phone.
UntitledNext up is a Baby Vertebrae for Baby C. What? You didn’t think I’d leave it at a single baby sweater, did you? What if she gets cold?? This is a tiny version of the sweater J wanted to have, except we couldn’t find the right shade of yellow for her. It’s such a difficult color, but babies can pull of anything! I’d love to have this done in time for Baby C’s arrival, but she could show up any day now, and I haven’t cast on yet. We’ll see who wins.
UntitledLast, but certainly not least, is my long-term WIP: a Dale of Norway Whistler for Mom. And Mom, since I know you’re going to read this post: 1) it looks lumpy because it hasn’t been blocked yet–nothing to worry about once I beat it with a spoon, and 2) I promise that maple leaf isn’t going to be two-toned; I’m duplicate stitching the darker shade.
UntitledI actually had thought I was finished with the body of this sweater, but it turns out I had just set it aside to work on the more portable sleeve. Whoops! This one is destined to make it under the Christmas tree this year, so it’s time to get back to work now that the temperatures are a little cooler and my thoughts have turned to colorwork. The finishing work on ski sweaters is no joke, so I may not finish this one in November, but I’d like to make a solid dent.

Happy sweater season!

Layette

October 31, 2015

Red Knits_LayetteOne of my closest friends here in Pittsburgh is expecting her first baby, a little, girl, and I couldn’t be more excited! I worked together with another of her friends to throw a baby shower last weekend, so of course I had to make some handknits for the occasion. I tried to combine the adorable with the practical by knitting this layette and pairing it with some cotton long sleeved onesies and leggings.
Red Knits_LayetteI found myself a bit paralyzed with indecision when it came to choosing patterns for this layette. I knew I wanted to make a sweater, hat, and booties, but there are just so many cute baby patterns out there, and I’m so excited for my friend, that I wanted to knit all of them. Luckily, the planning stage of this project coincided with a trip to the LYS I used to work at, so I was able to get help from J, a current LYS worker and mom of three. She recommended In Threes, a short sleeved cardigan that won’t get gunked up quite so easily and should fit for a long time.
Red Knits_LayetteThis sweater was a quick and pleasant knit, especially since there were no sleeves to get bogged down in. The buttons were a bit problematic because the pattern doesn’t list a recommended size and I managed to forget to bring along the nearly-finished sweater to the store, but these silver 5/8″ buttons worked well.
Red Knits_LayetteBaby C will be born around the end of November, so I made the 0-6 month size with minimal modifications. I cast on an extra stitch on each side for a slipped stitch edging, and I worked an extra pattern repeat of garter stitch at the bottom for symmetry and so that this cardigan will fit longer. This pattern goes up to a size 5, so it’s a good buy if you have growing or multiple kiddos to knit for.
Red Knits_LayetteOnce I had settled on a cardigan pattern, the rest of the layette came together fairly easily. I love the look of the Amanda hat, and I had knit the adult size before, so I decided to work up the baby version.
Red Knits_LayetteUnfortunately, in the years since I knit the last one, I had forgotten that, while I love the look of the stitch pattern, I don’t really like knitting it. At least it was baby sized–I had it done in an evening!
Red Knits_LayetteThe last piece of the layette was the pair of baby booties. As I was choosing all of these patterns, it was really important to me that they were not only cute, but also very functional and easy for new, exhausted parents to use. I chose the Dreamy Baby Booties pattern because they look like they have a chance of staying on.
Red Knits_LayetteThe construction of these booties is interesting, and part of that is a double-thick cuff. I was a little worried I would run out of yarn, but I managed to finish them off.
Red Knits_LayetteThe entire layette was knit in two skeins of Plymouth Encore Colorspun #7767, using nearly all of it. Obviously, washability was the most important factor when I chose yarn, and Encore holds up beautifully in the washer and dryer. But when Mama-to-be J was at the LYS choosing her Mama Vertebrae yarn, she was interested in vareigated yarns, so I thought this would be a fun way to show her how they work.

Both Mama and Baby are doing well so far, though Mama can’t wait to consume some carbs after Baby C makes her arrival. I can’t wait to meet this little one!

M6884 ITY Wrap Dress

October 22, 2015

Red Knits_M6884Despite all of the time I spend at the ironing board when making garments and the fact that I don’t really mind ironing my clothes, I do get a certain sense of satisfaction when I can toss something on without having to iron it. I’ve been keeping my eyes open for nice ITY knits for just that kind of garment, and I was happy to find this black and gray one in the clearance section of JoAnn a while back.
Red Knits_M6884I made the ruched version of M6884 with short sleeves, and it seems I wasn’t thinking clearly when selecting a size. I always work off of finished garment measurements, but I think I completely spaced on the fact that I was using a knit which would stretch rather than a woven that would not. Next time, I’ll go down a size on this pattern, but the tie around the back sucks things in, and I did pull in the hips substantially, so it’s quite wearable.
Red Knits_M6884I didn’t make a muslin for this pattern, which would have revealed these fit issues, but I did take a preemptive 1″ swayback adjustment, which was probably a good idea. I also used some of my go-to knitwear products. I reinforced my shoulder seams with clear elastic and used it on the neckline to keep it from gaping, and I used Wonder Tape at the hem.
Red Knits_M6884This is one of those projects that’s an imperfect make but still a very welcome addition to my wardrobe. I wore it to work earlier this semester and got lots of compliments :)

Breeze Ankle Socks

October 21, 2015

Red Knits_Breeze socksA few years ago, my husband and I were invited to some secret-ish Smart Wool sale with limited selection and super low prices. We didn’t find a whole lot, but I did get several pairs of shortie wool ankle socks. At the time, I wasn’t sure how much wear I’d get out of them, but I’ve found that they’re perfect to wear with tights and boots when it’s cold but not freezing out and I just need an extra layer to keep my toes warm.
Red Knits_Breeze socksI also bought this Plymouth Happy Feet yarn several years ago on a yarn shopping spree, earmarking it for Breeze socks. I wanted a shiny new project to cast on when I visited Minnesota last spring, and these were the perfect small project to bring along.
Red Knits_Breeze socksAs long as you check the errata, these are a pretty straightforward and satisfying knit. However, I’m really not sure why the pattern calls for you to break the yarn and reattach before working the heel flap. It seems totally unnecessary to me, so I skipped it. I also cut it really close on yarn but managed to get the pair out of one skein.

I’m looking forward to getting lots of wear out of these this winter, and I think I’ll have to look around for some more ankle sock patterns.

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