I apologize for the picture quality. We are living in a rental townhome that has – quite literally – no natural light whatsoever. It stinks, especially in the winter. I tried taking photos without the flash, but you couldn’t see a darn detail, so flash it is, complete with nasty shadows from the mirror to my right.
I haven’t given up on sewing yet and made the skirt and the belt in this outfit. I know it doesn’t look like much, but it’s good enough to wear to work, which is saying something. This skirt is made of some mystery fabric that is probably at least partially polyester and rayon. It has an elastic waist (yay comfort) and is cut on the bias and even has a lining!
The skirt was drafted following the instructions at Angry Chicken. She calls it a “5-minute Skirt,” so shhh… don’t tell her it took me about 8 hours from taking my measurements to finishing the crocheted thread chains that hold the lining in place. I drafted the back to be about a half inch longer than the front, figuring it needed extra length to go over my rear, but the hemline actually is slightly slanted when you look from the side. Guess the curves of my belly and my rear cancel each other out?
My weight is kind of a moving target these days, so the fit currently is a little large (as evidenced by the puckers in the center back). Still, I’m pleased with how it turned out.
The belt (obi, sash, whatever you want to call it) was made using Mimi G’s free pattern and tutorial. I made this from 2 layers of lycra cotton jersey, doubled so it won’t curl. Great little tutorial, very easy to follow. The sash is very flattering (even for my rectangular figure), although Matt makes pirate jokes when he sees it.
I also sewed a cowl-neck top. I am a big fan of draped necklines, they seem indescribably elegant. The pattern I used is called Day-to-Night Drape Top. (Interestingly, when I was dictating notes into my Android phone, it recorded the pattern name as “Stay Tonight Grape Top.”) To make the shirt more Minnesota friendly, I put the sleeves from her Birgitte t shirt pattern on it per the designer’s suggestion. The fabric is an ITY jersey (poly-lycra stretchy knit).
Not bad, right? I wear this to work sometimes, too.
Again, the designer says something like it’ll take you an hour from cutting fabric to a wearable shirt, and it took me… Omg, a month or more, working a couple hours a week. I made mistake after mistake – first measured myself wrong and made the wrong size, cut the front piece so that there was a flower blossoming right at the apex of my bust, misread the instructions and had to sew the back neck about 3 times before it looked right…
The whole process of sewing continues to be part satisfying, part irritating. Measuring, cutting, sewing, pressing – the whole process still seems so alien to me. Nothing turns out quite as I imagined, but I’m nevertheless putting together clothes that can be seen in public. Call it a tentative win? I don’t know. I just keep plugging away and hoping I improve.
In other random thoughts, I took about 1244 pictures (with my tripod and remote) to get 4 that I felt were OK to post. I used to never hate being photographed, but now I feel kind of weird having my picture taken. I don’t have any real “body issues” – that is to say, I know how I look, and I’m OK with it – but what is with this middle-aged awkwardness? I deleted the forced smiles, stiff expressions, jazz hands – you can thank me later.
Play dress and leggings
Meredith’s favorite clothes are still the play dress and leggings. I made an outfit for her last year and thought I’d try my hand at a different pattern this winter. These are both “wearable muslins” made with fabric that I’d originally bought with the intention of sewing cloth diapers. Now that I know the patterns work (and how I’d like to tweak the top a little), I’m ready to use up some of the more expensive fabrics that I’ve been purchasing for the girls.
Striking her pose (click here for a back view)
The dress is the Hopscotch top by oliver+s. The pattern also includes a skirt, which I did not make this time. It is very similar to a t-shirt but with an extra style boost via the crossover neckline. There’s a little bit of gathering at the front center, too. To make the dress from the top, the pattern is simply extended (A-line) to dress length, with no changes to the bodice.
Sorry about the picture quality, I have no daylight hours for photography, and the wall color is a pretty awful background for a mostly-white dress. You might be able to see the crossover detail a little better in the photo below.
The pattern directions were nicely written and well illustrated, so the construction was pretty straightforward. The pattern was drafted well, all the pieces came together and seams matched up. I used Lastin (clear swimsuit elastic) instead of the recommended interfacing or twill tape to stabilize the shoulders and front seam. I added elastic to the sleeve cuffs at the last minute, but it was probably unnecessary. I deepened the hem to 1 inch because I dislike how narrow jersey hems curl and flip upward after a few washes, and I am not about to pull out an iron every time I wash a kid’s play dress. I constructed it using a sewing machine, serger, and coverstitch machine. (Hey, if I have the machines, I want to use them!)
Meredith prefers her tops and dresses to be very loose fitting, with the sleeves extra long (covering her wrists). Even though her measurements indicated she should be a size 5, I cut a size 7 to give her the extra ease. What’s a bit weird is that the neck opening is still somewhat tight and we have to force a little to pop her head through it every time (crowning, ha ha). I did double-check to make sure I had traced the right size. She may have her mama’s giant noggin. Next time I sew this, I will lengthen the upper bodice piece to give her more head room.
All in all, I’m not sure that I really like this as a dress – the crossover is very near the top, and the rest of the dress just hangs from that seam (sort of boring and reminds me of a nightgown). I guess that’s why the pattern is pictured as a shirt and separate skirt with an interesting pocket detail and a row of buttons!
The leggings are made using Jalie 2920. This is a very simple pattern – 1 piece. No side seams, just the inseam and center seam, and a foldover waistband. I had a sizing problem with this pattern, too. By her measurements, Meredith should be a size I, and that’s the size I dutifully traced out. It seemed short, but that was consistent with this review, so I just lengthened the legs substantially. I sewed the 2 seams and had her try it on. Uh oh, it was skin-tight (no pictures, it was positively indecent).
Attempt #2, I measured some of her favorite Hanna Andersson leggings at the high thigh (just under the crotch seam) and the inseam, and I picked a corresponding pattern size (now size M). I made the new pair with no changes, and these leggings were comfortable and the proper length. Go figure.
I do like this simple pattern, and given that it has a range that that goes from toddler to plus-size adults, I can see myself in a pair of these leggings someday, too. Just have to remember to measure the pattern and compare it against something that fits (not just blindly follow the size chart).
The fabric for the dress is a medium-weight cotton jersey without much stretch (which might explain why the neck seems small). The leggings are a thinner cotton-lycra jersey. Both are from Fresh Produce (but purchased via Girl Charlee). If you’re interested in technical details, the review of the dress is here and the review of the leggings is here.
I had a hat when I came in
When the sisters were born, Matt’s parents came to stay with us for 3 weeks. During that time, my FIL taught my oldest daughter a song that he learned as a boy. I think the tune will always remind me of that summer.
I had a hat when I came in
I hung it on the rack
And I’ll have a hat when I go out
Or I’ll break somebody’s back!
I’m a peaceful man, I am, I am
And I don’t like to shout
But I had a hat when I came in,
And I’ll have a hat when I go out!
(Sung in true Irish drinking song spirit here.)
I sewed myself a hat last week! I used a Betz White pattern from her “Make New or Make Do” series.
I think maybe I look a little geektastic in it, but truly, I love this hat. I like bucket hats a lot. Grey ones, especially, apparently. (OMG, 2004. I’ve been blogging for a long time.)
It is next to impossible to find a fun sun hat that fits my supersized noggin (srsly, 22.5″), so it was either go bareheaded or make a custom piece! I love how comfy it is. (Mine is a size L.)
The entire project was made, incredibly, from stashed materials. The outside is gray stretch denim, the inside is an Amy Butler quilting cotton. The felt is a wool blend. I had mostly matching thread already, plus the basement life-archive vomited up a glue gun from circa mid 1990s. I even found the pin backing for the flower in my odds-and-ends sewing bin!
Check out my badass edgestitching!
The outside layer was a little Plain Jane, and I wanted to hide a blatantly mismatched seam, LOL. I google-image searched for “felt flower tutorial” (or something like that) and used the tutorial here. The template for the flower pieces is here. These flowers are very quick to make up (10 minutes, if that). I even made a red one for Meredith and glued it to a ponytail holder. She loves it.
I like that it’s a 3-dimensional flower.
The pin backing allows it to be removed before laundering.
I did manage to match up all of the other seams in the hat. The pattern itself is pretty uncomplicated, only 3 pieces, but I was pretty psyched when it was finished.
It’s also completely reversible.
If you sew and want the gory construction details, the review is here.
Last picture is just for fun – I was messing around with my new camera remote, and I found that it would make the camera fire only if I were making faces at it. What’s up with that?
Many of my handknit socks are old enough to start junior high this fall. Thus, it is time to make new ones!
On blockers but not actually blocked
Monkey socks! According to Ravelry, more than fifteen thousand knitters have made these socks since the pattern was published in 2006. That’s pretty awesome.
This is Kraemer Sterling Silk and Silver yarn. It feels very nice, not prickly. The yarn is just slightly thick-and-thin, but not in an annoying way.
The dark green and the unblocked “scales” of the sock made me think of dragons. Wouldn’t this toy look so cool made up in green and silver yarn?
What is it about handknit socks that automatically gives one a serious case of the cankles?
Minor mods to the pattern:
1) I knit 5 repeats on the leg instead of 6 because I was starting to run into the daikon calf.
2) I did a slip-stitch reinforced heel because I think it helps withstand rubbing from the back of a shoe.
3) I used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast On (video link). Not only does it stretch like crazy, it also snaps back to shape immediately when the tension is released. Thumbs up for this slightly fiddly but eminently doable cast on!
Admire the sock… But does your keen eye prompt you to ask what’s that lurking in the corner?
Just wanted to give a happy shout-out to Carole W at Software4Knitting (home of Sweater Wizard, custom sweater design software) for excellent customer service. Last night, I tried to install my old CD (copyright 2004) on Win7 and the install failed. I popped off a note to the support contact, and she responded to my e-mail in <12 hrs and provided a fast solution. NAYY, but I highly recommend the software and the support!
In other knitterly news, Connie Chang Chinchio is having a 1-day, 20% off sale on all of her knitting patterns to celebrate her daughter's first birthday! See details here.
Have a great day!
Lookee, lookee, a real knitting FO!
(Hm. Sorry about the picture quality! I was using [thought I was using] a custom white balance setting. I tweaked it as much as I could to lighten, but they look a little odd still.)
This is the Vitamin D cardigan by Heidi Kirrmaier. Yarn is Frangipani authentic guernsey yarn from the UK, 100% wool. (Not the softest stuff out there [actually kinda prickly, to be honest], but I’m hoping it will wear really well.) It was marvelously hand-dyed by Kim of The Woolen Rabbit (oh, she is so talented, let me tell you!), colorway New England Red. Kim dyed this for me back in 2009.
A few more words about the yarn – it was Anne of Knitspot who turned me on to this particular colorway. She was developing her Maplewing shawl pattern at the time and had posted several in-progress shots. Swoon! It was SO my color, and I happily dreamed up a gorgeous textured sweater in that fantastic shade of orange. I ordered white yarn, had it shipped directly to Kim, she turned it around in a matter of days, and then… it sat. (Y’know, 2009 – I had a 1-year-old and was pregnant.) By the time I was ready to knit it up in Fall 2011, my brain had been battered too long by chronic sleep deprivation; thus, I gave up the original idea of a complex gansey with nary a whimper. The cardigan that it did turn into is hardly a consolation prize, though. I am extremely happy with the outcome.
The pattern is fantastic for those knitters who prefer “blind follower” directions. Stitch counts are provided at every major point in the pattern, no calculations required. Directions are very complete. I made no changes. I used the “surprisingly stretchy bind-off” to finish up the edge. I worried that the back length might not be long enough, given some of the photos on Ravelry, but it was just fine for me.
I was a little heavier when I cast on than when I cast off; in fact, with the recent weight loss and weaning of the youngers, I lost more than 4″ of bust circumference. But I had started the sweater to fit the size that I was when I cast on. In any case, you can see from the back view the the cardigan is a smidge too big (waves).
The drape in the front is actually totally fake on my cardigan. I picked a sturdy wool yarn, not a silky, drapey one (as recommended by the designer), and the front pieces splayed out in stiff panels after the initial wet-blocking. Undeterred, I placed the garment on a hanger, manually arranged the folds, and steamed the heck out of the front pieces to lock in some waves.
And here’s an “action shot” of the sweater! I’m holding a recently released physiology book that I edited last year.
A month-plus ago, I went shopping for maternity skirts, figuring I could grab a couple of elastic-waist numbers to wear for the remainder of the pregnancy. Well, color me surprised – many designers apparently expect you to wear a skirt with the waistband at the apex of the bump! Huh? I tried on 3 or 4 skirts and was dismayed by how uncomfortable they were.
I have a pair of maternity pants with a stretch panel that goes very high – it starts immediately under the bra, pulls over the bump, and merges with regular pants at the hip level. If you don’t mind multiple layers over the torso while experiencing the heat of pregnancy, I think these are acceptable. Still, I think the Japanese Weekend line of clothing really gets it right. Their elastic OK waistband goes *under* the belly, which is much more comfortable, imo.
In a fit of pique, I decided to – what the heck – make myself a custom-fit maternity skirt. I pulled out my copy of Sew What! Skirts and sort of followed directions for drafting an elastic-waist skirt. The instructions tell you to make a 2-gore skirt — essentially, a front piece and back piece, with the grainline going down the center front and back. This makes for an oddly unflattering garment because the resultant skirt lays like a flat bedsheet across the belly and then hikes into folds and drapes around the side seams. If you look at the Sew What! Skirts flickr pool, you will see what I mean.
Since I can’t seem to do anything without making it excessively complicated, I decided to make an 8-gore A-line skirt with 2″ of ease around the hips. The waistband is 3″-wide elastic, cut to a length that fit comfortably around my body, and I used a remnant from this t-shirt to cover it. I basted and checked the fit before serging the seams. To decide where to attach the elastic, I tucked the skirt under the waistband, pulled until the hemline seemed mostly even, and drew where I wanted the waistband to land. I gathered the skirt in 2 parts (front and back) to match the waistband, checked fit, and serged it all together. You can see how sloped the waistband had to be to go under the babies but still go over my rear.
I did have some problems hemming the skirt. I didn’t do so well with my new chalk hem marker – I probably was leaning in to make the fabric touch the dispenser, and I sure as hell couldn’t see what I was doing on the back half of the skirt – but I tried 3 times (the last with Matt’s help), and I couldn’t get a straight hem to save my life. I ended up just pinning by eyeball, trying it on and rotating in slow circles in front of Matt, and readjusting when he would say things like “Is it supposed to be higher in back than in front”? I serged the edge and hemmed it by machine (blind hemstitch). And here it is!
So… Does this outfit make me look pregnant?
I wish I could wave my hand in a carefree manner and tell you in lilting tones that I just knocked this out in a couple hours one afternoon, but truthfully, this little skirt probably took about 20 hours from start to finish. Matt questioned why I was investing so much time on a piece that I would not wear for very long, but I think it was a good experience. Or that I gained experience, anyway, handling fluid fabric, using my serger, drafting a pattern, fitting a waistband, etc.
Sewing has been a constant sore spot for me. I am lousy at fitting, and it doesn’t make sense to me to spend the time, effort, and money to make my own clothes if the fit is worse than RTW. But I felt encouraged by this mini-interview with Kenneth King. I felt better when he said that I should “expect to destroy several acres before you get good” and felt he was talking directly to me when he said, “If you are afraid to make a mistake, afraid to ruin some fabric, or afraid to waste some time, you won’t ever get really good at this craft. It’s the dues you pay for becoming proficient.” Thank you, KK. I expect I’m at least halfway toward destroying my first acre, anyway.
Thanks to everyone for their good wishes last week. Everything went smoothly, and we had no complications (that we know of! Ha ha ha!). I went back to work on Monday and am feeling OK these days.
So let’s talk about something more pleasant – I am knitting a sweater! For me!
Some months ago, I found myself in the hot teenage throes of an knitcrush on Seneca (by Jared Flood [heavens, do I even need to link to him? Is there anyone who doesn't know who he is by now?]).
In case you’re living under the proverbial knit rock –
I have this soft spot for yoke sweaters, can’t quite explain it. The only other really successful sweater that I knit myself and still wear a lot is also a yoke sweater (preblog, no photo). Aside – egads, I just realized that the sweater is NINE YEARS OLD. It’s the Ribbing is No Yoke sweater, designed by the brilliant Charlotte Quiggle, published in Knitters (before Knitters started to stink, bleh). Go look it up on Ravelry.
Back to Seneca. The recommended yarn is CE Lush. I have worked with Lush before and thought that it shed a lot, so I was loathe to try that line again. During my LYS‘s anniversary sale this summer, I picked up a sweater’s worth of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, a 50/50 blend of alpaca and wool. (Even Berroco has jumped on the Peruvian alpaca bandwagon, eh?) It turned out to be the proper grist for Seneca, I was all set.
It’s neither a soft nor harsh yarn, but I will definitely wear a long-sleeve tee under this sweater when all is said and done. For the first time in a long time, I skipped washing the yarn ahead of knitting, and I didn’t even swatch! (I know, right?!) I tried Claudia‘s oft-touted “sleeve-as-swatch” approach and was happy with the gauge that I got. I cranked through both sleeves in record time.
Aren’t those chain cables fun? I didn’t have any problems with the make-3-from-1 maneuver, but that’s because I have knit a couple AS Aran sweaters that use this technique. (Actually, her patterns often incorporate more increases in the back, so you can make a 5-from-1 increase in 2 rows.)
I’m a bit farther along now, the body is done, the sleeves and body are united, and I’m working on the short rows to lengthen the back slightly. Stockinette in the round sure goes quickly. And hoo boy, it would be nice to have a sweater this year. Still, I’m nervous about the fit. I think after I have the first chain of the yoke complete, I’m going to put everything on waste yarn and have a “moment of truth” fitting session and decide whether it needs some ripping.
Hands-free breast pumping
Catchy title, eh? Actually, I tried to come up with the most obvious search terms because I want every breastfeeding mom who is wondering how to combine working and pumping to find this little post.
When I went back to work full time, I knew I wanted to keep Meredith exclusively on breast milk until she was at least 6 months old. I am extremely fortunate to have a large personal office with a lockable door and the opportunity to pump whenever I want. But pumping itself is a drag – you have to hold the horns up to your breasts for 10 to 15 minutes while the machine milks you (see here [possibly NSFW?] for the visual – I call it the “chicken wing position”). During this time, you can DO NOTHING. Can’t dial a phone. Can’t type. Can’t read anything that requires you to turn pages. It is uncomfortable and lame.
Pumping generally has to occur every few hours to ensure that Baby will have enough milk for the next day – for me, that meant pumping 3 times during the course of the workday. You do not know the eternal hell of time ill spent until you have been tethered to 1 spot (the cord on the pump is only so long), holding your hands to your breasts for 45 minutes while staring dully into space. Yes, you can put down a bottle, but it is all too easy to spill a few drops of milk every time (sour milk office smell, anyone?), plus everything needs to be readjusted to get centered and vacuum sealed again. Generally, it’s a nuisance to stop and start pumping multiple times per session.
What to do? Teh Internets to the rescue! Check this out! The method worked with any hairband I had laying around the house, and it worked with any bra (with or without clips). I wiggled and waggled and was pleased to see that it all stayed put. However, in practice, when the bottles were nearing full, gravity intervened, and I couldn’t reliably maintain a good seal. Also, I worried about the bottles falling, so I was afraid to move, afraid to have a good laugh or cough.
Better solutions? This requires you to wear the same bra every day, day in, day out. Eh, no thanks. This is onto something… but it’s not adjustable (zipper closure). What about this velcro-and-elastic band? Hmm…
I already had 4″ wide waistband elastic (from my maternity pants of epic fail), purchased here. I had Aplix Touch Tape (like Velcro, only much softer, commonly used in cloth diapers), purchased here. I knew how to make buttonholes. Surely…?
I measured myself at the widest point, cut the elastic slightly longer, folded the edges, and covered them with zigzag stitches. I applied the Touch Tape to both ends, making a wide overlapping area in case I shrank over time (I was optimistic about getting skinny with breastfeeding! Ha ha ha – the rest of my body [except tummy] is smaller, but my chest only got bigger!). I clipped the corners of each piece of Touch Tape to avoid being jabbed by sharp points.
I put the band on and marked dots where the horns would be. I measured the size of the horn neck and added appropriately sized buttonholes.
Actually, I fudged the buttonhole size a little – my sewing machine has a mind of its own and appeared to independently program itself to make a certain-size buttonhole based on the size of the first one sewn. It does this even if your first buttonhole is a test one because you’ve never made buttonholes on this machine before. And it doesn’t know that you were just making the largest buttonhole ever because you were kind of reading the manual while the machine was running. Hm. Reboot! But I figured that as long as they were large enough for the neck to get through and small enough that the wide end of the horn would not get through, the size was fine.
And now – hands free, baby! I “strap on” and continue to work while I pump. It’s very secure (no neck strap needed), and I can read, move between my computer and writing desks, type freely, etc. It cost me next to nothing (or, more accurately, it cost me no new money) because I used supplies in the stash. Total project time – I think 30 minutes, not counting the time I spent investigating how to make buttonholes. If you are a breastfeeding, working mama who can sew even a little bit, I strongly recommend that you make yourself one of these.
For the past month and a half, I worked every weekend on sewing a pair of pants. I was revising a commercial pants pattern to make a pair of custom-fit pants with plenty of room for the baby. (My belly circumference – 38 inches right now!) I started with Vogue 8157 as the base.
I used a flexible ruler to copy my crotch curve. It’s wildly asymmetric because I stopped measuring where my belly started expanding (on the left side).
I traced the pants pattern onto butcher paper and adjusted the front and back pattern pieces to my curve.
See, it matched fairly well:
I made a mock-up garment out of cheap cotton muslin and pin-fit it following the directions in Pants for Real People. I narrowed the back width by at least an inch and shortened the leg under the knee by 2 inches. I lengthened the upper portion (the hip area) by 2 inches because I was raising the back side.
The pants still showed a lot of bagginess on the back thigh. I followed Ann Rowley’s genius instructions for a “flat seat adjustment” and made a fisheye dart. Here’s the flat pattern piece after I made all of the adjustments:
I cut out the pants from a stretch cotton woven fabric.
I pin-fit the fabric. Because it was stretchy material, I had to make the side seams deeper than what I had done for the muslin. After adjusting the crotch curve a little more, I was fairly pleased with how it seemed to fit.
Over the next few weeks, I slowly assembled the pants. I marked new seam lines, basted and double-checked the fit, trimmed the excess fabric, sewed the seams, established the waistline, added the waistband, and…
I tried the pants on today, and they are distressingly small. One might say that they fit… but every ripple and roll showed prominently through the too-tight areas. The look was, ummm, decidedly unattractive. I was embarrassed to even wear them around the house. I tried to salvage the pair this morning by narrowing the side seams, but it’s no good, a wadder. (“Wadder” = a project that you wad up and throw out.) I don’t know if it was because Baby and I have gotten considerably larger since I test-fit the pants, or if the stretchy material tricked me, or… I don’t know. I just don’t know where I went wrong.
Sewing humbles me like nothing else. It seems straightforward, easy to understand, and… I find it nearly impossible to do well. I’m not sure where to go next with this. I know sewing, like any other skill, gets easier with experience, probably every novice sewer has wadders, blah blah blah, but this is so frustrating. It’s been a long time since I ran into something that just seemed beyond my grasp (uh, food engineering problem sets, anyone?), and I’ve forgotten how to deal with total failure. What a waste of fabric, too. At least I didn’t pay a lot for it.
I guess I wanted to talk about this because, in a way, it seemed disingenuous to blog only about successful projects. I don’t pretend that I’m good at everything – I make mistakes, I try to learn from them, I move on. I’m not happy about how this has turned out, though. I’ve put the sewing machine away for now, at least while I ponder the next step.