Category Archives: What We Wore

creative-hours

the cutest winter coat

Every now and then* I get a little over-ambitious.

*all the freaking time

Last month my ambition led me to think that I should absolutely, completely, whole-heartedly sew a coat for my son for the winter. I had about a yard of dark gray wool in stash, and I pictured an adorable little double-breasted dress overcoat. Instead, after about half an hour of Googling, I settled on this Little Goodall pattern.

foxcoat2

Can I tell you the saga of this coat? Let me tell you the saga, please please, please.  There are a few useful tips at the end, but if you want the full feeling of living through punchline after punchline of sewing mishap, read happily onward.

First of all, I impulse-bought the pattern.* I called Joann’s, and yes, they had it in stock, and they set it aside for me. I swung by on the way home from work, and also picked up the contrasting colors for the fox’s face, and a flannel lining fabric (not pictured above for reasons that will become obvious), and buttons and thread based around the gray wool. I also picked up some wool batting, because I thought it would be smart** to quilt some extra layers in there for extra warmth.

*I know, I know. Never impulse buy!
**trying to be smart results in more crafting-related deaths*** than any other single reason
***project deaths, that is

Then I got home, put the new fabric in the wash, laid out the pattern, and realized that I didn’t have enough gray wool.  Like, not nearly enough gray wool. I also realized that the smallest size of the pattern is 3T, and, as you may or may not know, my kiddo isn’t even 2 yet.

OK, well, we’ll roll up the sleeves and he can wear it for more than one winter, I thought. That’s smart, it’s going to take a lot of effort to sew a coat. And he can layer sweaters underneath. It’ll be fine. Right? It’ll be fine?

Lack of outer fabric was a problem, though, a true-blue serious roadblock. I know our Joann’s doesn’t carry any 100% wool that I could use for the outer layer (and my knitter’s snobbery was kicking in. Wool is the warmest. I wanted all wool, not 10% wool felt). I hopped online. And realized that it would cost another $40 to buy and ship the kind of fabric I wanted. I love my son, but an $80 coat? Even spread over a couple years’ use and counting in the fun I would have making it? It seemed like a little much.

So I put the project in timeout (this happens a lot in my studio). And then I had a brainwave – I got the gray wool from Lancaster Creative Reuse a few years ago. Maybe I could get some more wool there!

Lo and behold, LCR came through for me. They had several options, in fact, all under $5. I settled on the thicker, camel-colored, herringbone weave you see in these photos.

Now I had gray thread, gray buttons, and lining fabric that didn’t match my camel-colored wool.

Back to Joann’s. Return the buttons. Return the thread. Buy the right buttons. Buy new thread. Buy three times as much thread as you will need, because you think the quilting will use a lot (spoiler alert, it doesn’t). Excavate a new lining from stash (super cute doggies, no?).

foxcoat3

Then let’s line up all the layers (outer wool, thick felt interfacing, batting, and lining fabric) and realize oh cuss, just quilting these layers together will max out the height of the foot. What am I going to do when it’s seam-time?

Well, I’ll figure it out, I thought. And started to quilt. This turned out to be a secret stroke of genius for keeping my edges roughly even. There’s actual useful piece of information #1: quilt your layers! It’s good!

quilted

Let’s skip ahead a few days to the actual seaming: yes, the many layers are a bit of a problem. I get the body constructed, though. I even get the hood put together, the eyes and nose appliqued on, and the hood attached to the body. Tip #2: go ahead and use the longest stitch length your machine has. There’s no other way to go when you’re dealing with this much stuff. 

Setting in tiny sleeves, though? Not gonna happen on the machine. I sewed them in by hand. This took days. But it is sturdier than you might think. I doubled my thread and used a back-stitch, put on pretty music and took my time.

The lining is added separately, at the very end, and I decided there was simply no way I could manage that on the machine, either. Plus, I always meant to learn how to do more than whip-stitch things. Here before me, I had the perfect opportunity to improve my slip stitch.

Are you sure you can't speed this story up, Mom?
Are you sure you can’t speed this story up, Mom?

OK, OK. Let’s get to the very last punchline. I did finish the coat, over the course of a month. It is super cute. It is also super big. And last year’s down winter coat, the one I was sure would be too small? The one I was in such a rush to replace? I decided to put it on S, you know, to make myself feel better about all that work.

It still. freaking. fits. 

creative-hours

slow fashion: think small

Isn’t it ironic that the topic this week for #slowfashionoctober – SMALL – strikes me as one of the biggest? I could talk about sustainability, sewing for my son (sewing small things is so cute), how I deal with fabric/yarn stashes (or not)… but let’s start with one of the small, everyday reasons I love the idea of having a small, intentional wardrobe.

I don’t have any closets.

This is a slight exaggeration. My husband just built an upstairs hallway closet for coats and things (in a nook created by old, defunct chimney – it’s brilliant).

The end result of this is that I constantly feel that my drawers are very full. As you can imagine, this helps me question whether I really need this or that, and to clear out items I do not wear regularly, and ensure that everything matches very, very well.

I have to give massive credit, again, to Sarai’s wardrobe-planning blog series for helping me to think about colors, shapes, and my style in a very focused way. Turns out it’s basically gray, brown, pockets, and hand-knitted pops of fall color. I wear dresses with leggings, and short-sleeve blouses for work that I can layer with my handknit sweaters.

My husband is also very intentional about his wardrobe – he basically has a uniform: khakis, button-down white shirts, a few flannel shirts, a few heavier sweaters always made from the same vintage pattern. He always matches, he always looks classy, and he never has to think about what to wear.

He’s been holding on to one old, holey pair of jeans for several years, though – his favorite pair to date. They’re not made any more. We kept thinking, we could turn them into a pattern and re-make them, but until recently, neither of us had those sewing skills.

This year, since I’m feeling cocky about my first pair of jeans actually fitting, I decided to pull those holey jeans apart and use them as a pattern for a new pair, for his birthday. I ordered some khaki/jeans material from Mood Fabrics (how genius is their order-a-swatch-for-a-dollar thing?). Unfortunately, because of my insane schedule, I had to package them up unfinished – without hems or button-hole (and I won’t be able to finish them until late in October).

He was still happy. And he now has a bespoke jeans pattern, all his own, for as many more pairs as he would like.

photo

greg-jeans-1

P.S. Seamwork Radio launched a few weeks ago – and I really enjoyed the first episode! Put some sewing in your ears!

DSC_8749

The projects just kept flowing (pun intended)

Artesian: relating to or denoting a well, drilled perpendicularly into water-bearing strata lying at an angle, so that natural pressure produces a constant supply of water with little or no pumping.

Synonym: flowing  (Google search)

Artesian1

Yes, Romi Hill’s Artesian shawl is just that:  flowing asymmetrically off the shoulders to points.  What a brilliant pattern and yet so simple and quick to knit – just knits, yarn overs, and short rows.  Time from start to finish?  A neat 10 days of evening knitting.

So much fun… I knit three in a row. A knitting record!

The first creation, intended for my sister Diane, was knit from Madelinetosh lace weight, color Spectrum (the blue above).   I tried it on, wore it to a dinner …. I LIKED it a lot!!!  I never considered myself a shawl-bearing person but its beauty and simple elegance captured me.

The shawl insisted on staying with me.  We had multiple discussions – it was supposed to be a gift! – but the shawl would not relent.

No sweat. I had purchased 2 skeins of Spectrum and used only one.  I could just knit a replica for my sister.  But where is that other skein you ask?  Hmmm…. if only I could find it.  BUT… 2 partial skeins of Madelinetosh Wicked (the deep purple above) peaked out from my stash so…  a second Artesian was born.

Then the missing Spectrum reappeared on the floor behind my knitting chair while vacuuming (yes, cleaning does have some benefits).  The first Spectrum shawl was so lovely and I knew my sister would love one just like it.  I checked in with the original and indeed, it was adamant about remaining with me.  So a third Artesian shawl was born.

artesian3

New technique learned:  Russian splicing.

When I first started knitting with lace,  I joined new yarn by knotting it to the last of the old yarn.  I couldn’t figure out how to hide the join – with heavier weight knits I would knit the 2 yarns simultaneously for a while, then weave in the ends. Hiding the ends in an open lace pattern is much more difficult.

Then I came upon Russian splicing.  This method looked a little unnerving at first, but I bought  a sewing needle with a sharp end and a large eye and found that if you slightly untwist the yarn as you thread the needle through the strand, you end up with a fabulous, strong join that is imperceptible.  Nice! You also have to make sure you thread a long piece of strand through.  If it’s too short, then it is not strong and gives way. Give it a try!

For visual learners:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=0103qC6GH8I

For written instructions:

Increases- Techniques with Theresa: Knitty Spring+Summer 2010

http://knitty.com/ISSUEss10/FEATss10TT.php

creative-hours

jeans jamboree

finished jeans
Yes – that’s my Little in the background. “Photos, mama? I can haz?”

Momentous News: these things actually fit me pretty well. You may have seen the first selfie snap a few weeks ago if you follow me in Instagram – but, well, daylight hours and spare photographers are a little hard to come by around these parts. And I didn’t want to leave you with just one grainy selfie. I wanted you to bask in the glory that is a second pair of jeans.

Sorry I’m not sorry.

And y’all, I have learned so much. With the help of a few fake-o darts hidden at the pocket seams, some creative cussing, and a whole mess o’ naptimes, they fit. Did I say that already? They fit.

photo-(3)

Are you curious about lessons learned? Me, too. Allow me a quick recap:

  • What on earth kind of home sewing machine can actually make it through 12 layers of denim at a go? There were several areas – final top-stitching of the waistband and the belt loops in particular – that were just simply too thick to fit under the presser foot. There must be some smart ways to thin things down. Drop me a link or comment if you have a suggestion!
  • Flat-felled seams sound awesome. They’re no doubt durable. But they are just too thick for this material.
  • I need a little additional shaping around the waist area built into my pattern so I don’t have to fake darts at the 11th hour.
  • It’s more of a relaxed-fit pattern than a skinny-jeans pattern, despite my re-drafting the leg lines. Probably just as well, since this denim doesn’t have as much stretch as my store-bought pair.
  • I averaged a 1/2″ seam allowance ’round the whole thing, for those of you who were following my saga of annoyance. In a couple places, I might have slipped out to 5/8″, but I neglected to note exactly where. So for future pairs, 1/2″ it is.
  • You should always, always, ALWAYS double-check which side the button belongs on and which side the hole belongs on BEFORE you take a seam ripper to your pants. Or else you’ll end up with a hidden patch on your otherwise lovely jeans. Not going to lie, it took me a week or two to recover my courage and put on the finishing touches after that mistake.
  • And on the note of buttonholes – my automatic buttonhole stitches didn’t work for jeans. Thread and fabric too thick for those tiny little stitches. So I set a straight stitch at 2.4 mm and created a slightly sloppy square of stitching instead. This worked, once I figured out which side the hole belonged on.

You know what comes next, right? I get cocky and royally mess up a pair of jeans for my husband. I can practically smell reality knocking.

photo-(4)

And when it does, you’ll know where to find updates!

creative-hours

when your wardrobe staple is the pocket

The Wardrobe Architect series has been super-helpful in my quest to create a tiny, usable wardrobe that fits my needs to a T. In a home with only one closet (true story!), it’s important to prune your stuff on the regular.

photo
Remember when I emptied out all this stuff last week? Me, too. I’m still proud.

Thanks to those probing worksheets, I also now know that my sense of style can be summed up like this: Does it have pockets? I’m in. Presenting to the Board? I need some pockets to keep my pen in, please. A bridesmaid’s dress with pockets? You know we need to keep some tissues on hand, you brilliant designer, youTaking the kids to the park? I sure as heck need some pockets for band-aids, keys, and my phone. I’m not hauling along an extra bag to keep an eye on.

Is there such a thing as professional-yet-casual-pocket-chic?

I’m going to pretend like there is, at least in my house.

pocket_edited

 

 

creative-hours

have you seen my knitting mojo?

It’s about this tall, 8 years old and usually helps me complete those oh-so-useful sweaters? Anyone?

Despite a number of in-theory fascinating & useful knits on the needles, I cannot seem to find my knitting mojo. Is it summer? Is it the crazy-nutso-s*** of a month I’m having? (yes, it gets worse – I can’t shake this cough and my baby had a crazy allergic rash from the medicine he was taking for his double ear infection. I took yesterday off to panic over his every breath. June, are you here yet? Please be kind to me.)

What usually knocks you off stride? Any secrets for digging out of the rut?

So, what is languishing on the needles, you ask?

I did at least manage to finish the sleeve on Sylvan’s sweater. It’s way. big. photo (1)

I guess that’s good. He’ll be able to wear it until he’s 4 – and it might take me that long to finish.

creative-hours

Me-Made May Update

My May Challenge: Clean out my wardrobe so that I’m only left with things I love and will regularly wear. Ideally, this will leave my handmade clothing easier to find and in the rotation more often. As a secondary task, I also intend to identify holes that I’d like to fill, and create a master plan to sew/knit to fill them.

photo

I started the process! This feels like a huge victory, given that the first half of May has been some crazy-nutso-s***.  (And actually, the rest of it will probably continue in the same vein. We kicked off our first craft fair of the year at work, immediately afterwards I got super sick,  and Toddler and I completed the weaning process. Now we’re gearing up for hosting MakersFest, and the very next day I start teaching my first-ever fiber camp for kiddos, together with supervising my first-ever employee!).

In other words, it feels so good to bring a little order and space to my life through my Me-Made May challenge. I’m feeling more ruthless than usual, so this whole box? This whole box is going. I am purging  more than 20 articles of clothing. Some of it doesn’t fit (thanks, motherhood!), and much of it just doesn’t fit my emerging sense of self (thanks, motherhood!). I’m not that college kid who needed a drawer full of witty t-shirts anymore. I’m into the professional-work-blouses and leggings-are-the-best* stage of my life.

It’s a stage I’m loving as much as, if not more than, I enjoyed the t-shirt stage of my life. And do you know what? I have worn something handmade almost every single day this month. I’m kind of basking in the accomplishment of having created a good core of handmade items that genuinely fit my life, my sense of style, and my drawers.

So  we also tackled the task of thinning our book collection, rearranging the living room, and pruning our possessions in every room of the house.

Nothing like a little bit of overkill to keep the momentum rolling, am I right?

*This seems to be a stage with a really broad demographic, actually – teen hipsters & moms alike. For me, the only really practical way to dress up is to make sure that I am ready to hang out on the floor at a moment’s notice. Thanks, leggings!

creative-hours

Madelinetosh Madness

Madelinetosh Madness – in my head, it’s the knitterly version of March Madness, except with yarn, and in May. This color, or that color? You practically need a tournament to decide.

You know where this is going, right? Pictures of beautiful yarn.

Tosh DK in Cousteau
Tosh Vintage in Cousteau

DSC_8751

Tosh Vintage in Tart, edging in Tosh DK Charcoal
Tosh Vintage in Tart, edging in Tosh DK Charcoal

Both yarns are becoming/have become Garter Stitch Cardigans. The Cousteau is destined for my Little Dude, and the Tart was finished just in time for a good friend’s super-new Little Dude.

DSC_8774_cropped
My Little Dude did the work of modeling the gift cardigan in color Tart.
Don't you love having the perfect buttons? I found these at a thrift store for $1.00, and they were so stinking perfect.
Don’t you love having the perfect buttons? I found these at a thrift store for $1.00, and they were so stinking perfect.

This is a super-serviceable sweater pattern. Mom made one when S was born, and he’s been wearing it for at least six months. It started as a long-sleeved sweater, and as Little Dude has grown, it’s become a great short-sleeve sweater when layered over a long-sleeved onesie.

A word of caution, though! This sweater’s sizing runs large. Particularly around the chest. The six month size started to fit really well at a year, and the 12-month size is still pretty darn big at 14 months. Mom and I both made it extra-long so that it could be worn for longer, and omitted some of the directed shaping (see my ravelry project for all the notes).

Your turn to dish! If you’re making something with Madelinetosh this month, post a link to your rav project page or blog. Make me jealous that my knitting time is so limited.

Me-Made May

I’m all abuzz with current events. MadMay (post coming up on that one!)? Me-Made May? I’m about to drop from the excitement of being relevant for once in my life.

But really, Me-Made May is awesome. The 1-2-3s go like this:

1. Create a personal challenge around your handmade clothing items. The most common one is, wear something you made each day in May.

2. Do the challenge, all month long!

3. Participate in the community. There’s a shared Pinterest board, a shared Flickr group, and a hashtag (#mmmay15). Be inspired by lots of other makers.

I am working my way through Colette Patterns’ Wardrobe Architect series (I went through 2014, but am following along more slowly as the 2015 series is released). So I structured my personal challenge around the most difficult task I’m faced with:

Clean out my wardrobe so that I’m only left with things I love and will regularly wear. Ideally, this will leave my handmade clothing easier to find and in the rotation more often. As a secondary task, I also intend to identify holes that I’d like to fill, and create a master plan to sew/knit to fill them.

But let’s not get crazy. This little guy may have something to say about how much time I’ve got to devote this month!

baby plays with yarn winder
Teach ‘em to love the yarn-winder while they’re young! Also, hats. Hats are kind of his jam right now, even though it’s starting to get warm. The hat pattern is the Pebble | Cliff Hat, and the sweater is the Gramps Cardigan by Tin Can Knits.
purlsoho fair isle hat in progress

Baby Knitting Extravaganza

There has been a recent bumper crop of babies in my social circle. And of course my own cuddly little guy needs a few new things – legwarmers, hats, things that I can work on here and there without a huge amount of time or brainpower.

It’s been enormous fun, though, to see things trickle off the needles at twice their usual speed.

ballew baby hat 3
Used Purl Bee’s heirloom newborn hat pattern with Interlacement’s Sweet Feet in Canyon
schoppelwolle leggings
Baby leggings in Schoppel Wolle in color magic – just a basic 2×2 rib cast on over 44 st.
Wilkie baby hat 2
Purl Bee’s heirloom newborn hat pattern again, in some leftover Yarn Hollow wool/bamboo blend. I think the color is called Garnet.
purlsoho fair isle hat in progress
Leftover Schoppel Wolle from the leggings, and some random white sock yarn. Destined to be a Purl Bee fair isle hat for S.