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May 25, 2015

Red Knits_SkaterfrewThis spring, I made one last cool weather outfit for myself before it started warming up: a Skaterfrew. If you haven’t heard of this now very popular mashup, it’s a Sewaholic Renfrew frankenpatterned with a KitschyCoo Lady Skater dress.

Red Knits_Skaterfrew backAfter several previous iterations of both patterns, I’ve got the fit to a point where I’m happy with it. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than RTW. I added a little length to this version to make it work appropriate, and I’ll probably do the same for future Lady Skaters.

This dress is made of a nice thick knit I got for a steal at JoAnn’s. It’s perfect for cooler and transitional weather, but now that I’ve photographed it it’s getting tucked away until fall.
Red Knits_SkaterfrewThe whole point of this pattern mashup is, of course, the beautiful Renfrew cowl neck. If I had it my way, all of my tops would have either cowl necks or bow collars. And polka dots. Given the way I’m sewing, that dream may very well become a reality.

They All Wanted Gray Knits

May 22, 2015

When you don’t make it home for the holidays (because you were lucky enough to spend New Year’s in DisneyWorld with your family…boohoo), those holidays can really stretch out. So please forgive me for posting about these gifts at the end of May.
Red Knits_Totoro MittensMy sister-in-law requested a new pair of mittens this year and suggested that gray would work well with her coats. She also wanted a string to keep them together–apparently a responsible young woman in her late twenties can still manage to lose her mittens with some frequency–but we sort of forgot about that part once we got caught up in these cute Totoro mittens. The next pair will have it.

Pattern: Norwegian Totoro Mittens by brella (free ravelry download)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Superwash, about 1/2 skein each color
Needles: bamboo dpns
Made for: my SIL
Timeline: 20 January 2015 – 6 March 2015
Modifications: none, but next time I’d add at least an inch to the cuff
Worst Part: there were some long floats that were hard to get looking nice, especially in the thumb area. I had to block the heck out of these.
Best Part: the sweet design that my SIL loves
Red Knits_Outlanderish cowlMy sister was the first to request a holiday knit. She sent me a link to an Outlander inspired cowl on Etsy that she liked despite knowing nothing about Outlander. I knit this one in December while recovering from my field exam and briefly being trapped in an elevator on campus.

I took a look at some patterns on ravelry but didn’t really follow one. This is just garter stitch in Cascade Magnum on size 35 needles until my skein ran out. Then I put a twist in it and stitched it together to make a mobius. I hear that my sister wears it a lot, so she must be happy with it.
Red Knits_Spoke HatThis last gray knit wasn’t a gift so much as the result of an urge. I just felt the need to knit a hat in February, and Steve never turns down a new hat. Pardon the weird pose here–we were in a hurry, and Steve was too tall for his background.

Pattern: Spoke Hat by Tanja Fleischer (free ravelry download)
Yarn: Bemidji wool–leftovers from the stash
Needles: US 4, 6, and 7
Made for: Steve
Timeline: 4-8 Febrary 2015
Modifications: none, but I should have knit at a smaller gauge because it’s a little big.
Worst Part: nothing.
Best Part: I love the braid at the top of the hemmed cuff.

Despite all of these gray knits, I’m actually in the mood to knit some gray things for myself. Let’s just hope the family wants some color next year.

Covet Wednesdays: Casual Summer Style

May 20, 2015

I’ve said it before: I’m pretty much clueless when it comes to dressing myself in the summer time. I blame it on twenty-some years of living in Minnesota where it only got really hot for a couple of weeks each year.

Out here in PA, my summer wardrobe needed a boost. When I heard about the Pattern Review Wardrobe Contest, I jumped at the opportunity to put some thought into my summer clothes even though there was very little time left in the contest.
PR Wardrobe Contest mood board

Since I’m mostly working from home this summer as I prepare my dissertation proposal and fall class, I themed my wardrobe “Casual Coffee Dates” for those few times a week that I get out of the house and meet up with a friend–oftentimes to keep writing, just in the company of a fellow grad student. I took a good look at my stash and planned projects while putting together this wardrobe, so most of what you see on the mood board is patterns and supplies that I already owned and planned to make anyway. This was just a nice little push to get some new garments into my closet before the heat of summer really set in.

In the end, I didn’t finish sewing by the (ridiculous, absolutely unattainable) deadline, but I do have six more summer garments than I had before I set out on this challenge. The other three are in progress, and I’m looking forward to finishing them and sharing everything here on the blog in the coming weeks.

UFO Mondays: Lady Grey update, or, We Have Thin Lips in This Family

April 27, 2015

I have the teeny tiniest update on my Lady Grey coat today.

By the time I felt like working on this coat, there was no way I was going to finish it in time to wear this year. It’s starting to warm up around here (though not this weekend!), and I have my eye on some warm weather sewing to spruce up my wardrobe before I dig into the tailoring. However, with my recent trip home I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work through the bound buttonholes on this coat with my Make It With Wool Contest national champion sash-wearing mother.
Lady Grey buttonhole placementI didn’t think this would be too difficult of a task, but the very first step, marking the buttonhole placement, proved quite the challenge. The image above is my front pattern piece, and the vertical dashed line is my seamline. As you can see, it cuts off 1/4-3/8″ of the buttonhole, which is miraculously drafted to be in the exact same spot for every size. Had I not already purchased a gorgeous wool that I love and cut out the entire coat, I would have stepped away from this project right then: I’ve been burned by Colette too many times. Luckily, Mom was there to pull me off the ledge and re-mark the buttonhole. It begins at the end of the original buttonhole placement.
Lady Grey bound buttonholesFrom there, things were fiddly but went fairly smoothly. We always use the bound buttonhole method outlined in The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ve seen a lot of handmade bound buttonholes with bulky, thick lips that aren’t very attractive. This method gives us beautiful results with thin lips every time.

Now that this first step is finished, I’m ready to tackle this coat just as soon as I finish up my birthday outfit.

Spring Travel Knitting

April 18, 2015

I can’t help but over-pack knitting projects when I travel. What if there’s a problem with the project I packed? What if it isn’t suitable for the activity I’m taking part in on a given day? What if I want to keep knitting, but my hands need to work with a different size needles?

For my recent trip to Minnesota, I decided that I didn’t want to pack one of the two sweaters I have on the needles because they would have taken up too much space in my suitcase. Since I didn’t have any small projects going, I hit my ravelry queue for a project that I already had stash yarn earmarked for. And ended up with three.
Beret WIPThe first is La Parisienne Beret [rav link] in Noro Silk Garden Sock, which I’m working from both ends of the skein. I cast on the ribbing during my first flight of the trip, and the beret would be finished by now if I had been paying attention–I managed to knit an extra inch before beginning the crown decreases, so it’ll be a little slouchier. I’ve been recovering from comprehensive exams by spending a fair amount of time lounging on the couch, and this has been a nice, easy knit to accompany me.

I chose this project back when I was working at the yarn shop and Missoni was a big deal because of the Target collaboration. I had originally thought this hat was for me, but once I began knitting I realized it was actually meant for someone else. I have a few friends in mind–we’ll see who ultimately gets it.
Kernel WIPThe second project, which I cast on while watching TV with my parents, is a lace scarf called Kernel [rav link] from an old issue of Knitty. I’m knitting mine out of a Three Irish Girls fingering weight yarn, but I’ll have to report back on the exact yarn and colorway in another post. This scarf is supposed to have beads in the garter band between the edging and main lace pattern, but I omitted them to make this project more travel friendly (and because I was leaving the next morning). I had a great time knitting on this project while chatting with my grandma and aunt after Easter dinner.

The third project needs some sorting out, perhaps due to pattern errata, thereby definitively proving that it is, in fact, necessary to bring three knitting projects with you on a week-long, jam-packed trip.

Birthday Sewing Plans 2015

April 13, 2015

The week before last, I was really confused when I received several retailer emails with special offers for my birthday. “It isn’t anywhere near my birthday,” I thought. Until I realized it had snuck up on me, hidden behind the excitement of exams and a trip home.

I doubt we’ll do much this year, although we may spend some time with Pittsburgh friends to celebrate both my birthday and becoming ABD since I ran off to MN the day after my oral. One thing I do think I’ll do to celebrate both my birthday and the arrival of warmer weather is sew up these fabrics:
Birthday fabricsI saw them during one of those massive JoAnn sales a while back. They were a great price, and I thought they would make the perfect addition to my warm weather wardrobe.


The bicycle fabric will become a button down shirt, likely Sewaholic Granville and likely with short sleeves. I say likely because I haven’t yet mocked up the Granville, and I want to make sure the fit will work without extensive alterations. If it needs more tweaking than I’d like, I may go back to Vogue 8772, which fit me nicely right out of the envelope. I have a few more versions of that one planned, though, so I hope trying a new pattern will work out.

S1202The blue and white fabric is a jacquard, and I wanted a very simple skirt pattern to show off the bold print and take advantage of its full body. I chose the skirt pattern from Simplicity 1202, which I think will work well. I also like the top in this pattern, and I’ll have to make up a few of them for work.

Last year, it was really important to me that I finish my birthday dress in time to wear it on my birthday. This year, I’m not so concerned about dates but just want to give myself the time to enjoy the process. I have some larger, more challenging projects going on, and I think these separates will be a nice break. As long as I finish the pieces while it’s still bare-leg season, I’ll be happy.

Minnesota Fabric Haul

April 11, 2015

I have had a very busy and exciting month or so since my last post! Our graduate organization put on an academic conference and a graduate writing retreat. I sprained my ankle and was a terrible patient. And, best of all, I passed my final comprehensive exams, advancing to candidacy in my Ph.D. program! Exam year has been a beast, and I am so happy to have it behind me.

Next up is the dissertation proposal, but before I jump into that I’m taking a break to catch up with some important housekeeping and quality of life stuff that’s lapsed over these months. I was so incredibly lucky to celebrate passing my oral exam by seeing a Decemberists concert with Steve that night and heading to Minnesota for a week with family and friends the next morning. This trip was exactly what I needed. It was full of lots of time with the people I love, and some of that time was spent acquiring so much fabric that it barely fit into my suitcase for the return trip.
Fabric haulIt’s a good thing that I plan to purge and spring clean the entire apartment, because there definitely isn’t room for all of this in my overstuffed sewing area!
Fabric shoppingThere wasn’t much I wanted to do in Minnesota, just people I wanted to spend time with, but a trip S.R. Harris was a necessity. I’ve been to the NY Garment District, but this Minnesota fabric warehouse is still my favorite place to shop. Their prices are just so low!

This time, my mom and I shopped with my aunt and my cousin, who were in town from Chicago and hadn’t been to this massive store before. My cousin is such a talented knitter and seamstress, and she picked up just about everything she needs to make a beautiful military style coat in time for 4-H judging next month (hopefully…get cracking, M!).
Steve fabric haulI find that I do my best shopping here if I go in with a flexible plan, so I brought along the yardages for a bunch of garments I’m thinking about making in the next few months. As it turned out, most of what I bought is to sew for my husband rather than myself. He needs a new red buffalo plaid shirt so I can pry his beyond-worn one out of his hands, and I’m hoping he’ll come around to this plaid even though it’s an acrylic. On the right is a wool to make him a vest. He loves wearing vests when he needs to be a little dressier, but the ones in stores aren’t long enough for him.
Lingerie fabric haulI did find a few things for myself, though. This fabric is a Nike lycra that will become a Watson bra after I make up the kit I have. All of these elastics were so incredibly cheap–we’re talking 40c/yd–that I grabbed a bunch of yardage of everything I liked. I am still in the planning and accumulation stages of my lingerie journey (need to get a few other projects out of the way first), but it’s small and I’ll find a way to use it eventually. Now that I’m back in Pittsburgh, I wish I had picked up some more lycra to make workout clothes because Steve and I are looking for more ways to be active together after a fairly lumpy year.
Wool fabric haulNot to worry though, I still brought home plenty of fabric for myself. My mom has a massive wool stash from her many years in Make It With Wool contest, which often gives out yardages of Pendleton to its participants and winners. I pulled these two mid-weight pieces out of the closet because I’d like to make some sheath dresses for an upcoming conference. I hear Montreal is a very European city, so hopefully black and gray won’t be too dark for a summer conference.
Mom fabric haulFinally, Mom had some mystery fabrics waiting for me. She had told me about the navy polka dot, and I was prepared to take it by force if necessary. She was smart to give it up peacefully. The stripe is an odd fabric that I’m not sure what to do with. It’s a knit, but it has very little stretch, and it’s fairly thin. I may end up using a pattern designed for wovens so I don’t have to count on the minimal stretch.

My stash is now thoroughly enhanced, just in time to catch up with sewing after those exams.

Secret Blanket: M6996

March 19, 2015

Red Knits_M6996When a new generation of seamstresses discovered sewing with knits, the sewing blogosphere was filled with thrilled bloggers wearing knit dresses as “secret pajamas.”

Secret pajamas are just fine, but I was more interested in finding a secret blanket that I could wear in public. I do a fair amount of my work from home, and I’m always walking around the apartment with a blanket wrapped around me. Since we’ve had a fairly cold winter and I sometimes have to leave my house, I wanted to take a little bit of cozy with me while still looking like I got dressed. McCall’s M6996 in an anti-pill fleece was my answer.
Red Knits_M6996 backMy inspiration was this fleece wrap on the fashion blog Extra Petite. I actually looked at the wrap when it was on sale at Nordstrom, but I didn’t like the quality or the color in person enough to buy it. I went with this pattern based on some online reviews, and I picked up the fleece from JoAnn during one of their huge sales.
Red Knits_M6996The fit isn’t quite perfect, but it will serve its purpose of keeping me cozy while I write and study. Really, it seems like anyone with any sort of hips is going to need the belted version of this cardigan if they don’t want the back waist to look oversized.

In terms of construction, everything was pretty straightforward. The pattern called for some seam binding to use at the center back collar gathers, but it’s totally unnecessary–you can use whatever is lying around. I put this together in an afternoon, so it was a nice, instant gratification project when I was sick of being cold.

Casting On for Sundottir

March 16, 2015

I’m running a little late on PhD sweater #3, likely because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to knit next. Last month, I narrowed it down to a few possibilities, all of them pullovers because I realized how heavily skewed my closet is towards cardigans: a basic marled gray, a classic cable, or a wildcard:
SundottirI ended up with the one sweater on my list that wasn’t like the others. This will be Sundottir from Wool People No. 6 out of Imperial Yarn Erin, and it was just too lovely not to knit. The main color of yarn reads a little more gray in real life than in the photo on my monitor, so I think it should be a nice, versatile pullover.

I went back on my “no more worsted weight sweaters” plan for this one, and I’m trying to compensate for that by making every effort to ensure the finished fit is just what I want. I’m using Ysolda’s Little Red in the City as my guide to add some additional shaping that will blend sizes just as I would if I were sewing a top. I’m a little nervous about this since it’s my first time making these alterations, so I really hope it turns out as I’m envisioning.

So far, I’m one skein in and well into the bust increases. Before long, I’ll be ready to cast on for a sleeve.


PhD Sweater #2: Emelie

March 9, 2015

Red Knits_EmelieMeet Emelie, my second year PhD sweater. If you’re new around these parts, I’m knitting a sweater in each year of my PhD to commemorate the process and maintain my sanity. Never mind that I’m 3/4 of the way through the third year of the program and just swatching for my third year sweater…
Red Knits_Emelie lace detailEmelie’s nicest feature is the center front lace panels. They add a bit of interest to both the knitting and the finished sweater without making the knitting too difficult for on-the-go or the finished sweater too busy. If you looked closely, you can see where I was knitting while distracted by a talk and messed up the pattern!
Red Knits_Emelie backThe rest of the cardigan is nice, easy stockinette stitch. I bought three skeins of Madelinetosh Tosh Sock for this sweater, and one of the skeins was visibly much brighter than the others. Not wanting the colors to pool, I knit four rows of a dull skein followed by two of the bright one throughout the project. This made it a little less portable, but I’m so happy with the fabric in the finished cardigan.
Red Knits_Emelie buttonbandI wanted to do the finishing right, and it took me months to get around to attaching grosgrain ribbon to the buttonbands. I think the resulting stability of the buttonband is well worth it, and I’ll be finishing my cardigans this way from now on. I may even go back and stabilize some of my older handknits this way.

I had the hardest time choosing buttons for this sweater. None of the colors seemed right! I hope these gray ones work and don’t look overly casual.
Red Knits_EmelieA great cardigan for a great second year in the program. Later this week, I’ll share my plans for PhD Sweater #3.

PatternEmelie by Elin Berglund
Yarn: 2 3/4 skeins Madelinetosh Tosh Sock in Plaid Blanket
Needles: US 2 & 3 bamboo circulars
Made for: Me
Timeline: 24 January 2014 – 3 March 2015
Modifications: only the finishing techniques
Worst Part: my stitch count for picking up the sleeves must have been off, so I had to do some fudging. I don’t love how they look.
Best Part: the close fit of the finished sweater. I’m getting better at this the more sweaters I knit!


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