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.


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.)

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.


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.

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!

Another use for my sewing machine

At the beginning of the year I decided to stop buying clothes.* I’ve given in to the flurry of “30% off today only!” and “[obscure holiday] weekend sale!” emails from way too many retailers, and my closet is full of clothes I bought because they were seemingly affordable, not because I actually liked or needed them. (Pro tip: if you never wear it, that sweater you found for 60% off was not actually a good deal.)

A month or so ago I signed up for Unroll.me to hide all of those emails, which has gone a surprisingly long way in cutting down on my unnecessary shopping. I also started sewing (um…in case you hadn’t noticed), which has opened up a pretty sweet world of custom-made clothing.

My first attempt dress making felt like I had conjured magic out of thin air. That’s not to say the end result was perfect—if you look closely at the neckline or the sleeve hems, you can see how I accidentally stretched the fabric out when I was pressing it, so everything is a little bit crooked. And the color is…vibrant? I’m proud of it (I MADE A DRESS), but I haven’t yet mustered up the courage to wear it to work (some day! soon. I promise).

I’m not ready to give up, though. I’ve been wandering around the blogosphere, stumbling upon patterns that make me want to permanently abandon buying new clothes in favor of sewing everything myself (dresses? obviously. but also workout clothes and a bright yellow hoodie and fancy tailored shirts!). Behold the amazingness:

1. Albion Jacket, Colette Patterns
2. Coffee Date Dress, Pattern Runway
3. McCall M6657: Misses’ Unlined Coat, View B, modified and sewn by Nikki Brooks-Revis of Beaute’ J’adore
4. Nicola Dress, Victory Patterns
5. Sorbetto Top, Colette Patterns, modified and sewn by Lizz of A Good Wardrobe
Victoria Blazer, By Hand London, sewn by Leila of Where the Orchids Grow

*Err…mostly. This year has a few obvious exceptions (exhibit A: a wedding dress, which I feel neither confident nor qualified enough to attempt), but the gist is to only buy the things I need, as opposed to the things I think I want when I’m bored.