Flax sweater, bit by bit

I can’t believe we’re already a third of the way through September. I went to see my family and flew home to a new apartment, a new academic year, and a to-do list—technically, at least four competing simultaneous to-do lists—miles and miles long. (Relatedly: Mr. Jones and I went to Home Depot four times this weekend. Four times. FOUR. TIMES.) I still haven’t caught my breath, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be 2015 before I know it.

Still: I managed to carve out a tiny bit of time for myself—in the Detroit airport, of all places—last week to make a thing: the ribbed collar of the Flax sweater.

Flax sweater: collar

I bought the recommending knitting needles, but there was no way my cast on stitches were making it all the way around the cable I was using, so I ended up teaching myself how to make a Magic Loop. Bonus skill acquisition!

Once all the boxes are unpacked and the art is hung on the walls and the apartment feels a bit more like home (fingers crossed!), I’m hoping to find a few more minutes here and there to keep working on this. So far it feels like it will be the perfect thing to wear in New England in the fall—neat, warm, a bit scratchy, but good for the soul.

Biting off more than I can chew

Mr. Jones and I have packed up our belongings and are currently surrounded by boxes as we wait for next weekend’s move—one he’ll be gallantly undertaking solo, as I have a prior commitment/am skipping town to go hang out with my family.

My sewing machine and knitting needles went into boxes earlier this week, along with the mostly finished wedding shawl I’ve been working on. Turns out this “making things” thing is quite the addiction: today I broke down and headed to Gather Here to buy yarn for a sweater.

A SWEATER.

Because what I need right now, on top of the move and the trip to Kansas and wedding planning and the 85 DIY projects that come along with that, is to try my hand at a brand new, gigantic knitting project. (Though honestly, it is sort of what I need—I’m finding myself antsy at the end of the day, my hands empty (everything is packed!) and my brain spinning. Turns out knitting is great for keeping me just occupied enough that I can relax. You, too?)

Around noon today I looked around and realized that everything that can be packed was packed, and I had nothing to do. Solution: get on Ravelry and find something to add to my to-do list. Clearly.

I stumbled across Flax, one of eight free patterns in The Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits. Flax is a pullover sweater, knitted from the top down, mostly in stockinette. Assuming I can figure out how to separate out the sleeves, this should be an easy, mostly mindless project to keep my hands busy when my brain has short circuited from responsibility overload.

Did I mention it’s pretty? It’s very pretty.

gauge swatch

(Please ignore the safety pins; proper pins are already in moving boxes.)

Overwhelmed by life, and fuzziness

This blog has fallen casualty to wedding preparations, an unexpected last-minute move, and the fact that most of my crafting lately has been for gifting purposes, and therefore isn’t yet publicly shareable.

But: I have been making headway on something lovely.

Since I decided to get married in a strapless dress in November in New England (brrr), I’ve been looking for something to wear over my wedding dress to keep me warm. The options feel infinite:

After waffling between rose gold sequin explosions, bright pea coats, and a slew of wool shrugs/scarves/cowls/shawls, I finally decided on Jami Brynildson’s Braided Cable Hug, which I stumbled across on Ravelry.

Thick, soft cables: check. Maximum fuzziness: check. Warm enough to withstand whatever Maine’s winter might throw at me: check.

I picked up some extra soft ivory yarn at a Gather Here crafters’ brunch last month and got a couple of inches in before I accidentally skipped a row and hard to start over. I frogged it (NEW KNITTING LINGO!) and started over the next day, then promptly did the same thing again. In the meantime, I fell in love with a photograph of a similar knitted piece that had three large cables and one smaller cable, so I decided to rewrite the pattern a bit to see if I could adjust it. Verdict: success! I can’t get over how easy this has been to knit, or how soft and chunky and fuzzy it is.

Once the cables are done, which should happen this weekend, comes the hard part (for me): grafting together and picking up stitches, neither of which I’ve done before. I’m looking forward to learning some new skills, and also a bit sad that I’m almost done with this project. I’ve loved working with this yarn, learning how to cable, and watching my work grow. Can’t wait to wet block it and see how the end product looks.

Zippy Top #2: Scrubs Edition

My first Zippy Top was actually what I think fancy fashion seamsters would call a “wearable muslin”—a test run that turned out to be something I could actually wear outside of the house. My second attempt was…the opposite of that.

Zippy Top 2: Front

Check it out, guys: I MADE SCRUBS.

scrubs

In the other versions I’ve seen, the Zippy Top (a See Kate Sew pattern) looks modern and cute. On me, it looks…plain. (A friend’s comment about my first version: “very nice! but could use a little more decolletage.”) I mentioned last time that I might add a pocket for visual interest, but as we can clearly see here, no dice.

Part of this awkwardness can definitely be attributed to my fear of working with prints (hello, “natural” colored muslin! hello, timid green cotton lawn that in retrospect was definitely not a good choice for this pattern!). Another part of it can be chalked up to my still-in-their-infancy sewing skills, which mean my neckline isn’t as crisp as it good be. Yet another part is probably how I’m shaped: this top doesn’t seem to sit well on my narrow shoulders.

More evidence of the awkwardness:

Zippy Top: Side and Back

Aside from the general “I’m designed to camouflage puke” appearance, a couple of specific oddities:

Moment of truth: I have no idea which way is the “right” way to line up the side seams, as all the pattern says is to “match front and back side seams with right sides together.” Experienced seamsters, HALP. Notice all the wrinkling/pooling around the armscye*, both front and back? I had a little less of this last time, when I matched the side seams from the bottom up (meaning the hemmed edge of the arm opening overlapped quite a bit from front to back) before sewing them together. I suspected that the fact that I had hem overlap in the armpit area meant I did it wrong last time, so this time, I matched the side seams up starting at the front and back end of each arm opening, meaning the bottom hem was uneven but the ends of the arm opening matched up. Given the extra wrinkling around the arms in this version, though, I’m now wondering if I did things correctly last time, and maybe the front and back pattern pieces aren’t correctly drafted to match. Or, more likely, I am awkwardly shaped (see above).

Second: there is a lot (a lot a lot) of extra fabric hanging out in the back. Again, an open call to experienced garment makers: should I be blaming this on some weirdness of my own spine? And if so, how do I fix it?

Finally: what a horrible, horrible fabric choice for this top. Lawn is among the recommended fabrics, but this green isn’t doing me any favors. On top of the iffy color, it’s also completely see-through, meaning the facing creates a weird racerback effect. Also: SO MANY WRINKLES. I finished ironing this literally five minutes before taking pictures.

I suspect all issues (barring the fabric-related ones) are the fault of either my inability to correctly interpret patterns or my inability to correctly adjust patterns to fit my body (which is the whole point of sewing one’s own clothing, so this is something I’ll eventually learn how to do. Any and all pointers to good resources welcome). But to sum up: I won’t be wearing this in public, unless I’m attending in costume as a surgeon.

* Fancy seamster word for “armhole,” which, upon reading out loud to myself, I realize needs a fancy synonym. Way to go, seamsters.


Zippy Top #2: Scrubs Edition

PATTERN: The Zippy Top from See Kate Sew

FABRIC: “Pale Jade Green Lawn” from Denver Fabrics, which appears no longer to be available. This pale green lawn is similar.

NOTIONS: 8″ avocado green YKK zipper from Zipit, 100% cotton thread purchased at Gather Here

TIME: Somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours on Friday morning to cut out and do everything but hem; 20 minutes tonight to hem.

A Covey of (Fuzzy) Partridges

I’d be delighted if everything I made came with a specialized term of venery, but I think these partridges might be my last animal-themed project for a while. That said: check out these adorable birds.

Birds

The fabric is “Bird Basket” in teal from the Meet the Gang collection by Marisa and Creative Thursday for Andover Fabrics. I found it (and fell in love with it) at the Fabric Corner in Arlington a few months ago, and picked it up with the Heirloom Cut Chenille Baby Blanket from Aesthetic Nest in mind. A yard and a quarter each of this and three different colors of flannel (yellow, white, and baby blue) later, and I was in business.

When I first bought my sewing machine, a friend recommended the chenille blanket as “a nice quilt-like project but without all of the piecing.” You prewash and iron your fabric, stack it up, and mark a starting line down the center, and you’re ready to “quilt,” which in this case involves sewing parallel lines on the diagonal, half an inch apart, across the entire shebang. Like so:

A Covey of Partridges

Once all of the lines are sewn, you flip the blanket over and cut through the layers of flannel. I enlisted Mr. Jones to help with this, and we took care of business while watching Game of Thrones.

A Covey of Partridges

Square up the edges (leaving a lovely pile of trimmings for the cats), round the corners (I used a plate, as per the original tutorial), and bind with satin binding (the best kind for a baby blanket):

A Covey of Partridges

The final step is to wash the blanket so the cut flannel edges fuzz up and turn into chenille. Proud to report excellent success on this front:

A Covey of Partridges

This is a fairly quick make, though the sewing does take some time—I knocked out part of it at a work sewing night, and the rest with the company of Netflix. I found the cutting part to be ridiculously satisfying for no good reason, and I managed not to slice a big hole in the cotton (my biggest fear going into the project). Happiness all around!

2014-05-17 12.07.23

A Covey of Partridges


A Covey of Partridges

FINISHED SIZE: Around 40″ x 40″

PATTERN: Heirloom Cut Chenille Baby Blanket from Aesthetic Nest

FABRIC: “Bird Basket” in teal from the Meet the Gang collection by Marisa and Creative Thursday for Andover Fabrics for the front; white, yellow, and baby blue flannel for the chenille

NOTIONS: 2 spools of Mettler Cotton All-Purpose Thread in Cactus for the quilting; Aurifil in Light Beige for the binding; 2″ satin blanket binding in cream

A Parliament of Owls

I ran across this hilarious owl-print flannel earlier this spring and fell in love with how half of the owls look exceedingly skeptical of life while the other half look startled and…kind of dopey?

Owls

When I added it to my cart with a bunch of Kona solids and one grassy print, I swear I had a concrete plan in mind, but then the fabric arrived and got shoved under the craft table, still in its box, while I worked on other things, and when I opened up I had completely forgotten what I was going to make with it.

Luckily a little Googling turned up this “mod chevron” pattern by Rashida Coleman-Hale in Generation Q Magazine, which was perfect for using the random assortment of quarter-yard bits I had for some reason decided I needed:

owl quilt fabric

The pattern has you cut out a bunch of squares, sew them together with twin lines across the diagonal, cut them in half (between the sewn lines), then press them open so that you end up with a bunch of half-square triangles. When you line them up, you get chevrons. It’s quite lovely:

half-square triangles

After you cut your pieces apart, you’re supposed to trim everything down to end up with neat 6.5″ squares. I tried this on one square and immediately abandoned the idea. Word to the wise: the pattern still works sans trimming, though the backing will be a tight fit. Save yourself the trouble.

I spent one afternoon washing, ironing, and cutting; one evening (“large project” craft night at work) sewing the squares together and cutting them apart; one morning assembling the top; and one Saturday quilting, making bias tape, and binding. All in all, this came together quite fast:

owl quilt: front

owl quilt: back


A Parliament of Owls

FINISHED SIZE: 40″ by 54″

PATTERN: “Mod Chevron Baby Quilt” by Rashida Coleman-Hale in Generation Q Magazine

FABRIC: Urban Zoologie Flannel Owls in Marine for the back and a few triangles on the front; Quilter’s Linen Print in Leaf for the binding; Kona cotton solids in sage (the darker turquoise), aqua (the lighter blue), navy, sunflower, and grass green for the front. Note: the second photo above shows Kona cotton in chartreuse, which I didn’t end up using.

BATTING: a little less than one fourth of a package of Warm & Natural Cotton Batting in king size

NOTIONS: Pieced and quilted using Aurifil in Light Beige.

Hand Stamped Tea Towels

I’ve been experimenting lately with hand stamping fabric, the end goal being to jazz up quilts or even something like the top I made a couple of weekends ago. I’m not (yet?) a superb stamp carver, but I’m fond of simple geometric patterns, including the tiny, bright triangles I stamped on a set of tea towels for a friend’s wedding (part of my pledge to give five handmade gifts this year).

fabric paint
hand stamping
hand stamped towels
hand stamped towels

Weekend project: Zippy Top

I’ve had See Kate Sew’s Zippy Top printed and ready to go for at least a month now, but I’ve been too busy to tape it together, cut it out, and actually make the thing. I also had some concerns about the overall shape and length, and wanted to do a test run before I cut into the navy lawn I’ve been saving for this.

I had some time yesterday morning, so I went for it. The pattern is quick to tape up—the pages don’t overlap by much, so I didn’t bother cutting off the margins (I did this for the Date Night Dress, and it was easily the most time consuming part of the whole project).

Kate includes a shorten/lengthen line, so I took the liberty of adding four inches. I’ve seen quite a few versions of the top online, and depending on the person, the hemline falls anywhere between “jeans waistband” and “just north of the hips.” I like my tops a little longer, so I wanted to create some room to play.

Speaking of playing: I took this opportunity to experiment with “pattern weights.” (Mr. Jones came home midway through and very gently asked why all of our beans and tomatoes were in the bedroom.)

Zippy Top

The top, as promised, is incredibly quick to put together, even if you (like me) use French seams (for fun!). It’s also forgiving if, say, you (like me) read the 3/8″ seam allowance as 5/8″ and end up making everything a tiny bit smaller on accident (oops). I started taping the pattern together at around 9:30 and had a top in hand and ready to wear to the SoWa Open Market by 12:15, where I bravely wore it into Grey’s Fabric & Notions and ended up evangelizing the pattern to the very friendly proprietor.

Zippy Top

I used a speckled cream natural muslin I had laying around and a red-orange zipper from Zipit—the goal was only to test out the fit, but I ended up liking the combination enough to add this to my closet. Overall, it’s a fairly simple top—I think I like the print versions I’ve seen better, and I might add a pocket or something to perk this up a bit. Lengthwise, adding 4″ put it at perfect tunic length for me, but the muslin felt a little too Little House on the Prairie for me at that length, so I decided at the last minute to cut around 3″ off. It hits me a tiny bit below my hip bones, which I like, so I’m planning to add an inch to future versions. I think adding this tiny bit of length reduces the potentially boxiness a bit (though the super lightweight fabric also helped), which for me is a bonus.

Verdict: wrinkly, but otherwise quite lovely!

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition 2014

I’m pretty sure I screwed up my time zone conversions and am submitting this a few hours late, but OH WELL. I had fun.

The Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition was a surprisingly interesting challenge. The total amount of fabric you receive is pretty slim, so it takes some creativity to figure out how to make the most of it. My goals were:

  1. Do something I hadn’t done before: namely, improv piecing.
  2. Make something I’ll use (almost) every day: a bag for my yoga mat, with pockets so I’m not awkwardly stuffing my jacket pockets full of keys, wallet, phone, and a water bottle.
  3. Showcase the Umbrella Prints fabric as well as I can.

My approach to showing off the (awesome) fabric was to combine the bright yellows and oranges and firey crimsons of the “Earth” packet I chose with a muted blue canvas, so they would really pop. My approach to improv piecing was to just run with it. My approach to making a yoga mat bag was also to just run with it, which turned out to be the hardest part of this whole thing.

So first: the fabric.

Gorgeous, right? The second I saw the Earth packet I knew that’s the one I’d be using.

Once I opened up the packet and ironed out the few wrinkly bits, the improv piecing bit came easily. I found this post by Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation to be helpful in bolstering my courage, and then I pretty much went for it. My goal was to end up with two long strips of randomly assembled bits of fabric.

Next step: throw caution to the wind, ignore the many excellent patterns and tutorials out there, and decide you want to a) use a zipper; b) have that zipper be shorter than the length of your bag; c) draft a pattern entirely from scratch.

The pocket and strap bits went well, as did inserting the strips.

I even managed to insert the zipper without too much fuss!

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition 2014

And then I crashed hard into the brick wall of “yoga mats, once rolled up, aren’t actually that bendy” and “cotton canvas, especially when lined, isn’t actually that stretchy.” In other words: see how the zipper is centered along the length of the bag? I could slide my mat into one end, but in order to slip the other end of the bag up over the mat and zip up the bag, I needed to bend the rules of matter.

Fail. I almost gave up at this point, but Mr. Jones convinced me to spend some quality time on our porch this weekend with my seam ripper and a helpful beverage.

After ripping out the zipper, cutting and sewing in two new additional panels (one for the exterior and one for the lining) to make up for the lost circumference, and resigning myself to the use of a drawstring instead of a zipper, I was back on track.

Bonus: using a drawstring meant I needed sturdy openings for said drawstring, which means I got to sew buttonholes for the very first time! After that, all I had to do was turn down one edge to make the channel for the drawstring and attach the bottom panel and strap.

Voila: bag.