Yarn: Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Sockenwolle
Cold weather clothes are, generally, not as fun as their warm weather counterparts. Warmth, for me, is a priority above all else during this season, and very often I find myself in a uniform of grey and black, blending into the monochromatic background that winter in a concrete kingdom brings with it.
Still, even on the grayest days winter has to offer, slivers of sunlight can be found peeking between buildings, a reminder that spring will be back. In very much the same way, little pops of color on top of the black and the grey help to brighten my mood and give me a little boost. It's still perpetually dark outside, but we've made it to other side of January, and the sun sticks around a while longer each day. How do you cope with winter?
Pattern: White Stuff by Juliana Frychel, modified to eliminate patterning across the back of the leg and include a longer cuff.
Yarn: Rohrspatz & Wollmeise Sockenwolle
If you knit a sweater in 2014, but fail to weave in the ends, sew on buttons, and block it until 2015, does it add to the tally this year or last? Sounds a bit like splitting hairs to me. I had every intention of getting this sweater posted prior to 2015, but I'm lazy. And, I didn't get around to it.
If you've been reading these rambling for any amount of time, you know that there are several other pieces of unfinished business, in the form of sweaters and socks, sitting on a chair in the corner of my bedroom. The pile never gets smaller. It seems like it's one-in, one-out right now. Someday, I will catch-up with myself. *DREAMS*
It's a really stupid system I have going. I can't wear any of those sweaters, socks, etc.. until they're finished. Wearing those garments is the whole point of knitting them, right? For me, I think the wearing is only a portion of the equation.
I've often heard knitters toss around the idea of 'PROCESS' vs. 'PRODUCT'. I think members of the sewing community can relate, to a degree. There are those who like to plan more than they actually sew, for example, and, I think a lot of us associate a meditative element or stress release with sewing. Still, there is a level of instant gratification with sewing that cannot be achieved with knitting. If you knit sweaters, you know you're going to spend 40+ hours working on a single garment. You create Every. Single. Stitch. It's far more laborious and requires a different type of commitment.
For a lot of people, this act of creating, or the process of knitting is enough to fuel them through endless blankets and sweaters, socks, etc... The counting, the intricacy, the charts, these things are why they knit. There's ultimately an endpoint, but it's not the focus or purpose of knitting. The act of knitting, in and of itself is the whole point.
Then, there's the product knitter with her eye on the prize. Just. Keep. Knitting. The "I will suffer through miles of stockinette, because I get a sweater if I do" knitter. For this knitter, the high comes at the end of a project. The ultimate goal is an FO (finished object, for non-knitters).
I think I'm divided between these two camps. I love to have finished knitted garments and accessories to wear. I also really love knitting just to knit, because it does strange things to my brain. I'm sure my balance between these two camps shifts occasionally. Mostly, I think I'm down the middle. Where do you fall?
Pattern: Looking Back by Joji Locatelli
Joji doesn't disappoint. This is my third sweater from one of her patterns. They all stand on their own with unusual construction and techniques, interesting shapes, and beautiful stitch patterns. This is exactly the type of project that feeds both sides of my knitter brain.
After the success of my first Archer, I immediately started working on a second version. I was feeling really confident, so I decided to get a little fancy and use a cut of 14mm silk crepe from Thai Silks. Like Archer #1, this fabric is a bolder print than I'm used to wearing, but the colors are more familiar and I really love it. It was also a very easy piece of fabric for me to cut, because I bought 3 yards of it at an estate sale for $1.
You may be wondering how I know such specific information about this estate sale fabric. At this particular sale, Mike found a box full of silks in their original packaging with the sales receipt. The box had barely been opened. Dear Iris, the owner of the estate, has an internet shopping addiction and exquisite taste (this is the same sale where I bought a sofa full of yarn). Friends, I love estate sales. I say it all the time, because I love to share the things I love in hope that maybe you'll try your first estate sale and fall in love too. They're full of treasures. Sometimes, it's difficult to put a value on those treasures. In this case, I had the original receipt of purchase, and I knew I was walking away with over $400 worth of silk for $7/$8. It's been my experience that the people who run estate sales have very little concept of the value of sewing and knitting supplies. I came home from this sale with wool, linen and silk all priced at $1-$2 a piece. I've been to sales where I've been given a Rubbermaid bin to fill for $10. You never know what you'll find; that's part of the thrill! There are some busts, but I've not found many. Additionally, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you're keeping these perfectly good materials out of a landfill. Alright, you get the picture...
At any rate, it's a much easier mental exercise for me cut into and risk ruining a piece of fabric that cost $1 than it is for me to muster the courage/confidence to cut into pieces of fabric I dug deep into my pocket to pay for. I know it's silly and nonsensical. I'm unable to convince myself otherwise. I have one piece of silk in particular I bought at The Silk Society in London (they still stock it) that I don't feel qualified to use yet. I actually get nervous when I think about cutting it. I consider projects like this shirt practice for the day I get brave.
Speaking of brave, I think that's going to be my word for 2015. I don't know how the idea of certain projects became so daunting and scary for me. I'm not a chicken when it comes to knitting. I go out of my way to encourage new knitters to try and learn from projects with new skills. It's time I take my own advice and apply it to my sewing projects! It's not all going to be easy, and I expect some wadders, but I also expect to surprise myself.
One item at the top of my list of feared projects is pants. I am constantly reading other people's accounts of difficulties with pants and fitting. A lot of people don't sew them. Many who do report a lot frustration with the process while they work-out their best fitting pants. After a while, I convinced myself that pants sewing was a horrifying endeavor. This seemed to make perfect sense, because, even in RTW settings, pants are a beast. But how scary is pants sewing, really? Turns out, not nearly as scary as I thought.
The pants you see here are my first attempt at Butterick B5682, view A. This pattern produces pants that have a fly, front pockets, and a yoked back- all of which are features I want in a pair of pants. This pair of pants is a wearable muslin. I cut these straight out the envelope, no modifications, in a mid-weight, wool-poly blend fabric. They're not the perfect fitting pants I dream of, but I've gained some really valuable information from them. First, most importantly, I can sew pants! It wasn't even hard. I invested more hours in the construction of my Archer than I did in the sewing of these pants. There are two fit changes I would like to make on my next attempt: 1. I need to shorten the front crotch-length a good 1.5 inches 2. I need to grade between sizes from the waist to the hip on the back pieces only. I have read cautionary tales about making more than one modification to the fit of a pair of pants, so I'm considering trying these changes individually to see how they effect the overall fit. Additionally, I plan to make more versions of these pants as trousers, not jeans as the pattern intends, so I will swap the rear patch pockets for welt pockets in the future.
It's impossible for me to hide how excited I am about my latest sewing adventures. I chose a great time to get over my fear of blouse sewing. Sewaholic has recently released a really nice looking fitted blouse that I'm tempted to buy and start sewing immediately. I feel like I have a new found freedom since I started sewing separates. I can make outfits now. Mix-and-match. It's neat. And, I love how things are starting to come together in unexpected ways. I have a finished cardigan that is going to look superb with this blouse. I had hoped to complete it in time for this post, but I got stuck when it came time to choose buttons. So, soon.
Are you a risk taker with your sewing/knitting? Does it work-out more often than not? Do you surprise yourself?
Bright, bold floral prints are not familiar territory for me. Still, when I pulled this cotton print off the stash shelves, it didn't occur to me that it would be visible from space. I think the cold and the grey are taking a toll. And/or I need some better lighting in my hobbit hole.
My Grace cardigan tames things a bit. I still feel a little like the co-chair of a garden committee, but the sweater helps. Self-consciousness aside, this shirt served its purpose in being a wearable muslin for the Archer blouse pattern by Grainline Studio.
If you knit, but don't sew, think of a muslin as swatching, however, you sew the whole garment together rather than making a gauge square. The whole thing seems a bit preposterous. Could you imagine knitting a whole sweater before casting-on with your 'real' yarn? Except, it's not. Because, with sewing, once you cut you're stuck. There's no RIP and re-knit option; if you need to tweak a pattern, it's good to know that in advance, you know, to avoid tears.
In my case, I was just as eager to practice assembling this blouse as I was to check the fit. I've been promising myself that I would sew a stack of Archers since the day the pattern was released. It's the quintessential basic button-up blouse. My closet could use a dozen. I geared-up to sew it several times, but I held myself back. I was too afraid of failing to even try. Of course, now I feel silly for being intimidated. Talk about making mountains out of molehills. Jen's instructions for this pattern make sewing this blouse a completely manageable task.
I'm really pleased with the construction of my finished blouse. The inside is done in French seams and my topstitching is even throughout. I did make one dopey mistake; I folded my box pleat to the wrong side. It's difficult for me to see it as I sit here staring at the photo. I assure you, I fudged-it-up. I have a strong feeling this blouse will always be worn under a sweater, so I'm not overly concerned. Now, I know better for next time! And, the time after that, etc...
All things considered, this is a milestone project for me. I truly feel that I've crossed over into intermediate territory for the first time. Which projects took you to the next level? Which ones are holding you back?
Hello and Happy New Year!
It's that time of year again. Reflections. Resolutions. Gym memberships. All that. Personally, I'm not having it. This time last year, I declared 2014 the year of anti-resolutions; for the first time in my life, I made a New Year resolution that I was able to stick with! And, it was a great year! I sewed more and more successfully than I have ever done before. I knit. A lot- 10 sweaters that made it to the blog (and several more sitting on that damn chair in the bedroom), a few pairs of socks, and some wooly accessories. Not having a plan didn't hinder my productivity. Actually, I think I was more productive, because I always felt able to do exactly what I wanted to be doing at a given moment.
This year I'm hoping for more of the same. No rules. Just fun. In the spirit of sameness, behold the exact same outfit I showed you a couple weeks ago, another Hollyburn/Renfrew. The skirt fabric is the sister fabric to the silk shantung I pulled out of my first estate sale. It's every bit as beautiful as the black piece.
It was FREEZING and windy the afternoon we took these photos. We tried to take some inside shots, without a lot of luck, but I think the poor lighting shows off how lustrous this silk is. Pink is not a color I normally wear. But, I was willing to make an exception in this case. Admittedly, I am surprised by how 'not five years old' or 'Disney princess' it actually looks. That's a relief, because I still have a few yards of this pink silk left, and I'd love to sew with it again soon.
My Renfrew this time around is sewn with a cotton/poly knit fabric I bought at Joann. I could tell by handling it that it was going to be different than the cotton knit I used last. Still, I was surprised to see how enormously different this top came out compared to my first attempt. Where the first version I sewed is snug through the chest and closer fitting; this version is BIG. Everywhere. Maybe it's the weight of the fibers and gravity or the additional elasticity this fabric contains. I don't have a clue. I have a lot to learn about knit fabric. However, I think it's safe to say that I'm no longer afraid of knits! That's exciting. I have a dozen patterns that I've been putting-off, and I feel ready to give them a try.
The above picture is a little silly. I'm mid-shudder and it's crazy windy. But I think it shows off the movement of the skirt better than any still shot is capable. Unfortunately, winter is just getting started. I foresee a lot of indoor photos in the near future. My crystal ball is also showing a couple more Hollyburn/Renfrews; I already have two wool versions cut and waiting. I see pants and vintage dresses. Cabled sweaters. Colorwork. And Socks...
It's going to be a busy year! I'm really excited to share it with you! Thank you for taking time to drop by and say hello, sharing your projects with me, and inspiring me! I don't say it enough. Cheers to 2015! Let's make it great!
Today's project is another palate cleanser. I'm really loving sneaking a smaller project in between lengthy endeavors. I'm building my collection of woolen accessories in the process and completing projects that have been sitting in my queue and/or favorites for ages. AGES.
I have a confession to make. I, Michelle, am a chronic Ravelry favoriter. Not a week passes without my perusing the latest pattern additions. Every time I see something I like, my mouse hovers over that little love button. Currently, I have a couple thousand patterns curated in my favorites (only 125 in my queue, which, mind you provides no actual order to the manner I approach my projects). To be honest, I have no idea what I'm going to do with them. Is it possible to knit them all? Maybe, but it's not likely. According to Ravelry, I have created 139 projects since I started knitting in 2008...an average of 23 per year... so 92.4 years to knock-out my favorites list, so long as I don't add to it...
Oh, but doesn't it make searching for a pattern easier? I can use the filters to indicate I only want to see options from the things I've pre-selected. Having a favorites list and queue narrows things down quickly! But, there are the times when I can't seem to find what I'm looking for, and I wander down the rabbit hole choosing shiny new patterns that didn't catch my eye the first time around.
I've tried to edit my lists. I feel very much like a person featured on Hoarders while I'm trying to determine what stays and what goes. Thank goodness favorites lists are virtual and unable to destroy lives. Tell me I'm not alone. Do you collect favorites or create epic queues? At the very least, we can enable... I mean, support one another through our struggle.
I love it when an outfit comes together the way I imagine it. Lately, I feel like I've been able to hit the mark more with more accuracy than ever before. This is probably to be expected since I've been sewing for four years now, but I'm truly surprised each time it happens.
I get an incredible amount of satisfaction out of sewing my own garments. I love the level of customization I can put into things: fabric type, patterns, size. And, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE having access to types of garments that would, otherwise, be out of my reach.
I'm not the type of seamstress aiming to recreate fast fashion garments from Mod Cloth or H&M. I like fancy fabrics and quality construction. My dad has always teased that I have champagne taste and a beer budget; think Holly Golightly standing outside Tiffany's or Carrie Bradshaw's Manolo Blahnik addiction. Fortunately for my bank account, I've never been the sort to spend my mortgage payment or forego food for the sake of a purchase, but it doesn't stop me from looking. wishing. wanting. Sewing makes the things of dreams possible.
I sewed this skirt using a piece of black silk that I'd purchased from my very first estate sale. The estate was the home of two unmarried sister seamstresses. They lived in their Chicago 2-flat brownstone from birth; two generations occupied the space before them. They sewed their entire wardrobes through the 50s, 60s and 70s collecting fabrics, patterns and notions along the way. The home was filled with treasures. To be honest, I was too overwhelmed by my inaugural expedition to fully appreciate the fabrics they'd left behind. I left with an armful of fabrics purchased for a grand total of $3.
To test the content of this fabric, I did a burn test. I'm not an expert, but based on the burn pattern and the slight sheerness of this particular fabric, I think it's a shantung. It's got a gorgeous lustrous quality and it drapes really beautifully. It's been sitting in my stash for a couple years now waiting for me to improve my skills and decide what I wanted to make.
Right now, midi-skirts are at the top of my list for fall/winter wardrobe staples. And, that piece of silk I'd stashed was a perfect fabric for a staple skirt. I considered a few different skirt pattern options, but at the moment, I'm having a serious love affair with my Sewaholic Hollyburn and Renfrew patterns. Soon, I will have a little capsule wardrobe of Hollyburns and Revfrews (MUAHAhahaha). It's really easy to get caught-up sewing these, because both of these patterns are incredibly easy and fast to sew, and the end results are swell.
The fabric I used to sew my Renfrew is estate sale fabric too (<$1.00). It's from a different sale and a different decade, probably the 80s. I'm really uncertain about knits. I'm still in the early stages of sewing with them. I think this is a cotton blend. I also think it's what might be considered a stable knit. It doesn't have a lot of stretch. From my first experiment making the Renfrew, I knew that it wouldn't be a good candidate for the crew neck version of the pattern; I used a fabric with similar stretch on my first version and went MAD trying to get the neckband to lay flat against my body. So I chose the cowl option. And, the final result is pretty fantastic. I would love some pointers on the fit of the Renfrew, particularly through the chest and front shoulder area; otherwise I'm happy with the result. It pairs beautifully with my black Hollyburn, but it's got enough gusto to stand on it's own with a pair of jeans. Both these garments are versatile separates with lots of potential for outfit building.
I did a little looking around the internet. Turns out, silk midi skirts are difficult to come by. Burberry sells this one for $1,003, this Piazza Sempione skirt is $890, and this Honor skirt is still $600 at 50% clearance. I'm certainly not comparing my own sewing abilities with these professional, luxury design houses, but I do have a completely custom silk skirt for a couple dollars and I wouldn't if I didn't know how to sew. That's pretty cool.
I almost didn't make time to post this week. I've been in such a rhythm lately, it seemed a shame to allow the mayhem that comes along with the holiday season ruin my groove. The aforementioned mayhem has proved an easy scapegoat for many other things I ought to be doing, like blocking sweaters. But, if I know myself, which I like to think I do, I know, for me, that breaking any sort of established rhythm is a slippery slope towards inactivity. And, before I realize what's happened, I have a mountain of projects piled on the chair in the bedroom, unworn, waiting to be blogged. So. Since I haven't blocked any more sweaters or found enough daylight to photograph my most recent sewing projects, I thought I'd share my holiday knitting.
I almost never knit for other people. I'm very selfish that way. Historically, when I do knit for other people, I don't do it on a deadline. Deadlines=Stress, and sewing and knitting are the things I do to relax or unwind. Sometimes, though, a girl has to choose between the lesser of two evils. When the choices are deadline knitting or shopping retail... during holiday season, it's pretty clear cut.
There are additional obstacles to gift knitting when the persons you plan to knit for are, themselves, knitters. The challenge becomes finding projects that are 1. time effective and 2. something they haven't already knit.
A couple years ago, I bought a jewelry knitting kit at a fiber festival. It was my only flirtation with wire knitting, but the memory of it was my inspiration for holiday gifts. Surprisingly, or maybe not, there are VERY few wire knitting patterns and even less instruction on wire knitting techniques. I toyed around with a few different patterns, wire gauges, and needle sizes before I hit my sweet spot.
Ultimately, I used a modified version of Jana Huck's Platelets pattern. I typically prefer jewelry that is delicate, so I opted to cast-on 4 stitches instead of 6, I used 34 gauge wire on U.S. 1, and I added Swarovski crystals for a little bit of sparkle. The finished earring is approximately the size of a U.S. quarter. The 34 gauge wire is very, very delicate and not overly willing to hold its final form, so I weaved my tails around the perimeter of the discs to give them extra stability and structure. I played around with some larger wires, up to a 26 gauge, but I found that the thicker wire hurt my hands to work with. The best part of these earrings is that they are light. Very, very light! Once I overcame the experimentation process, I was able to knit each pair in roughly 45 minutes. If you've still got a few people on your holiday knit list, you have plenty of time to knit them some earrings!
Knitted socks. A favorite indulgence and true treat for the feet; they would have to be, or nobody would ever knit them. If you're not a sock knitter, you likely consider the entire endeavor absurd. You could buy a drawer-full of socks for a fraction of the cost and time it takes to knit a single pair by hand. You wear them inside shoes and under clothing, for crying out loud. Sock knitting (knitting in general, really) is not the sort of activity that can be explained with logic. You do it because it makes you stupidly happy.
If you blog about the things that you knit, you have the added pleasure of grinning ear to ear each time you see pictures of the things you've made. Seriously. Not long ago, those socks were a couple hanks of yarn hanging on a shelf in a shop downtown. String. Wound into a ball. Knit. I'll never get over it. Knitting is JUST. THAT. COOL. Each project has the exact same starting point, but there are hundreds, no, thousands of shapes a project could take (330,879 patterns (and counting) on Ravelry).
If there's a more forgiving craft than knitting, I'd be shocked. Made a mistake?-RIP it back and re-knit. Dropped a stitch?-Pick-it-up and work it back in. Sleeves a smidge short?-Block them out. Completely hate what you made?- Salvage the yarn and make something different. No project is a lost cause.
Every year when winter arrives, I find myself scrambling for wooly winter accessories. And, each year I promise myself that I'm going to knit a pile of scarves, mittens, hats, cowls, etc... for NEXT YEAR. I've really been caught in a loop on this since I started knitting. I'm not sure why. Compared to sweaters (or sock weight dresses *cough*) knitted accessories are simple, satisfying and QUICK.
My latest string of sweater knitting provided the perfect opportunity to break the cycle. If knitting was running, sweater knitting would be a half-marathon. You need to train for it- build-up to it. It's a big commitment and consumes large portions of your free-time. A cowl is much more like a 5k 'fun run'. It's relaxed and easy. It doesn't require much training- there are people walking the whole distance. You cross the finish line and you can still feel your legs. You finish the race and feel pretty ready to run again immediately.
When you're preparing for a half-marathon you do shorter runs leading up to the race as a way to condition yourself. That's exactly what this cowl is. For a while, I was knitting a half-marathon every time I started a new project. It was fine for a while, but the effects started taking a toll on me. For the first time in my knitting life, I was feeling a little burnt out.
I started working-in smaller projects between sweaters: cowls, mittens, baby gifts (lots of babies lately). And, I started to feel better. Strangely, I started working through projects even quicker than I had before. AND, I'm happy to report, I have a growing pile of winter woollies. Two birds. One stone. How do you combat creative burn-out?