When 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.
J 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.
Pattern: 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
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!”
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.
This 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.
Ah, 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.
This 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.
Not 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 🙂
I 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
When 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.
I 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.
Steve’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.
This 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…
Is 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.
It’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!
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.
The 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.
Next 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.
Last, 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.
I 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!
One 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.
I 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.
This 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.
Baby 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.
Once 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.
Unfortunately, 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!
The 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.
The 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.
The 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!
Despite 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.
I 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.
I 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.
This 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 🙂
A 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.
I 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.
As 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.
My last post was a detailed review of an involved project, and in this post I have a quick update on some patterns I’ve enjoyed and made up again. I liked my test versions of the Fehr Trade XYT top and Steeplechase leggings so much that I made some more of them to wear to my Zumba classes.
I made very few changes from my test version, but I did think of one. Since these clothes are meant to withstand lots of movement and washing rather than look super professional, I used a three step zig zag for my hems and waistband elastic. I’m sure that the twin needle works well on some machines, but on mine it just doesn’t stretch enough to work on tight fitting clothes like this.
The leggings are exactly the same as my first pair–same pattern with no adjustments and same fabric from Fabric.com–except that I added some gray flat piping. Adding this little accentuation of the design lines makes these capris feel even sportier, and it wasn’t all that difficult to do.
I thought I had purchased just enough fabric for two pairs of capris, but I had a fair amount left over (though not enough for a third pair of capris, or I totally would have done that). I was able to get another entire “Y” tank out of the leftovers as well as some pieces to mix and match. It’s not the most exciting top, but it will certainly come in handy.
I shook things up a bit by making some “X” tops, too. They would look sharper without my sports bra poking through the back, and there is an option to include a bra in the tank itself, but I’m not ready to give up the support and padding just yet! This top has a front and X made out of leftovers from a wrap dress that I’m hoping to photograph and share later this week, and the bottom back made from the leggings leftovers.
Finally, this one is made from leftovers from a top I made last fall. If you’re really eagle-eyed, you may even notice that I’ve used slightly different widths of elastic on the top above: I just couldn’t be bothered to go out and buy new elastic when what I had on hand was close enough. This whole set of workout gear–three tops and one bottom–didn’t require purchasing any materials at all, which makes me feel pretty good.
Have you heard? Itch to Stitch is celebrating its first birthday and ten fabulous patterns! I was thrilled when Kennis invited me to join her birthday party blog tour. I had admired her Marbella dress pattern before but hadn’t yet tried it. I’m bringing up the tail end of the tour with my version of Marbella, but the fun isn’t over just yet–scroll to the bottom of this post for a very generous giveaway!
In addition to providing me with the Marbella pattern, Kennis also hooked me up with some retailer discounts. I wanted a medium weight wool for my dress, so I shopped around Michael Levine until I found this black Italian stretch wool. It’s not especially stretchy, but it does have a bit of give to it. I was originally attached to the idea of a navy Marbella, but this black wool was not only less expensive, but also made the dress perfect for an upcoming concert with the wind ensemble I’ve recently joined.
It’s always a bit challenging to deal with fitting a new-to-me indie designer, but this pattern was an exception. Based on the pattern measurements and instructions, I graded between a size 4 bust, 2 waist, and 8 hip, which was made all the easier by the PDF pattern’s layer feature that allows you to hide unused sizes when printing. This pattern also features four different cup sizes, so I didn’t need to do a FBA: although my bra size is bigger than a D cup, this sizing worked well for me.
In a future version, I could stand to take in the waist a bit, do a small swayback adjustment, and bring up the waist seam, but this pattern fits me very well straight out of the virtual envelope. Keep in mind when looking at fit in these photos that I’m standing on a pretty steep incline–our weird driveway was the only place where we could find nice enough light to photograph black.
So, shortly after Kennis invited me to the blog tour, I was totally on board for the Marbella dress. But when she told me she wanted each of us to “hack” a pattern, I paused to think for a few days. This pattern already had pretty much everything I could want: there are instructions for both lined and unlined versions, it includes side seam pockets, and I loved the design lines. I honestly wasn’t sure how to improve upon it, especially since I tend to sew patterns as designed.
Then I thought about one of my favorite, completely out of my financial reach designers, Kate Spade. She has many beautiful dresses and other garments featuring scalloped hems, as does J.Crew, another brand I can’t afford. I decided to bring this beautiful design element to my Marbella dress and use better quality materials–their dresses are poly blends! Once again, it’s my stance on the incline, rather than the hem itself, that’s lopsided in the photo above–sorry!
I already owned a couple of patterns that incorporated scallops, but both of them used facings. I followed this tutorial to simplify the technique and perhaps also reduce bulk by using an extra hem allowance. The scallops featured on that tutorial are actually a bit uneven, which is partially because corduroy isn’t the best choice for the technique, but also possibly due to the manner of pressing. I cut my scallop out of cardstock to more easily trace a stitching line onto my fabric. Then, once I had stitched, trimmed, and turned out the scallops, I pushed the cardstock into each one before pressing it to make for a nice, smooth, and even curve. This scalloped hem certainly took more time than a standard hem would have, but I didn’t find it especially difficult or fiddly, and I think the result is absolutely worth the extra time I spent on it.
I’m not one to jump on every indie pattern bandwagon that rolls past, but I think this pattern is actually worth your money. Kennis’s excellent and thorough instructions guide you to a professionally finished garment–I typically consult outside resources at some point in a decent sized project like this one, but for this dress I only needed the scalloped hem tutorial. Thanks to Kennis for including me on this blog tour, and congratulations on a successful first year of Itch to Stitch!
To be clear, I received this pattern for free, as well as a discount on my fabric, as part of my participation in this blog tour. All opinions are my own and as unbiased as they can be when free stuff is involved.
Be sure to join in the fun:
(scroll to the bottom to enter to win!)
Follow these blogs to see their awesome creations from Itch to Stitch patterns:
Scruffy Badger Time | Call Ajaire | Wally and Grace | Sew Wrong | Bella Sunshine Designs
Seaside Notions | Made by Jaime | Sweet Little Chickadee | Inspinration | Friends Stitched Together
Stoney Sews | Just Keep Sewing | My Little Sewing Dreams | Allie J. | Creative Counselor
Love, Lucie | Girls in the Garden | FABulous Home Sewn | Goddess of Sewing | Rebel & Malice
The Telltale Tasha | House of Estrela | Made by Sara | Sew Shelly Sew | Red Knits
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UpCraft Club – $25 Gift certificate
Quarto Publishing Group USA – the SHIRTMAKING WORKBOOK by David Page Coffin
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