A Fall Sweater Made On Summer Vacation

Right after my summer quarter ended we headed out of town for the most wonderful and needed vacation.  Part of it was camping up in the San Juan Islands and part of it was hanging around Tofino over on Vancouver Island.  Both parts were breathtakingly beautiful and fun but I also knew that the trip would involve a fair amount of driving, ferry rides, and hopefully some leisurely mornings and evenings which, of course, meant that I needed a knitting project to keep me busy.

Now, I should probably point out that the last sweater I made was back in 2013 and I really haven't  given much thought to knitting since that time, so I started the whole process by digging through Ravelry patterns to see what piqued my interest.  I knew that I wanted top-down construction and something with some interest, but nothing that would be too difficult.  In the end I settled on the Maya Swater pattern by Svetlana Volkova and I have to say that it was a great choice.  Yes, there was a point that I had to pick back four rows (Grrrr!) but other than that it was smooth knitting.

But even more than the actual knitting, I just love how the sweater came out.  The fit is right on (I added some length in the sleeves and body - really easy to do with a top-down sweater) and the yarn is incredibly soft.  The yarn is a merino/cashmere blend from Knit Picks and I'm really happy with it. We don't have a yarn store near our house and with finals I didn't have time to go find one, so this was a great option and I'm really happy with the product.  O's pretty impressed with it too because as soon as she put it on she exclaimed "it's not even scratchy!"

Also exciting is the fact that the pattern includes adult sizes and about two days after finishing O's sweater, I casted on for one in my size.  If it turns out half as nice as hers, I'll be thrilled.

What can I say - knitting may have found its way back into my heart.


New School Year...New Undies

Well, it's that time of a year when the kids head back to school and we all show off the handmade outfits that we've made for them for their first day back.  This is also the time of year when I hang my head in shame because I never got around to making a first day of school dress for either of my kids.  In my defense, things have been crazy around here.  Good and fun and lovely and I wouldn't change a thing, but crazy nonetheless.

I did, however, manage to make one back-to-school item - underwear!  No where near as glamorous as a back-to-school dress, but I can guarantee you that they'll get more wear.  O was still wearing the same undies that I made for her over two years ago and they were looking pretty ratty.  And who wants to wear ratty underwear, right?

Even though the underwear were falling apart they still fit her so I sewed up a new bunch of size six undies using the That Darn Kat pattern (again!).  Amazingly, I'm still using some of the fabric I bought for the first time that I made underwear using this pattern.  And I was also able to use some scraps leftover from other knit projects.  In fact, I didn't buy one new piece of fabric to make all these undies.  That is possibly the best part of making children's underwear.  Stash busting at its best!


A Perfectly Imperfect Bowline Sweater

I'm generally a pretty practical person when it comes to deciding what to sew, but every once in a while I see something that I just know that I need want to make.  That's exactly how I felt when I first saw the Bowline Sweater from Papercut Patterns.  It was such a unique design, but it also seemed to be something that I would actually wear a lot.  After deciding that this pattern was next up in my queue I went on a search for the perfect jersey and ended up finding this one at Drygoods Design (with juuuust enough left on the roll to make this top).

I'd forgotten, however, how much I hate laying out jersey fabric so I ended up having to cut out some pieces more than once since I couldn't get the grain right.  Then, once I sewed up 90% of the shirt, I had a minor freak out moment thinking that I had totally screwed up the grainline when I saw that half of the stripes on the front of the shirt were running diagonal  Fortunately, I was able to look at other folk's finished products to see that this is because of the design and not because of my utter impatience when laying out jersey.

I was actually pretty pleased with how everything came together...until the very last step of sewing down the front pleat.  For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what they were telling me to do and I'm 99 percent sure that I ended up doing it wrong, but I like to tell myself that it's such an abstract top that it doesn't matter all that much.

It's perfectly imperfect.


A Whole Lotta Fabric Around My Bottom Half

We've had some beautiful weather around here lately which means that it was time to put away the long pants and break out something a little more warm-weather appropriate.  Unformately, this summer I discovered that most of my lighter and shorter cropped pants are, well, way too small on me now.  I like to think of it like a little kid who outgrew their summer wardrobe.  Except that I'm not a little kid and I'm pretty sure that I didn't outgrow my clothes through some sort of vertical growth spurt.

In any case, this was the motivation that I needed to go looking for some new patterns that might fill this new hole in my wardrobe.  I loved my Vogue 9075 jumpsuit so much that I thought that some culottes might be a great addition and I ended up deciding on making Vogue 9091 (view B).

The mustard fabric is a linen/rayon blend from Joann Fabrics and, honestly, it feels a bit scratchier than I would prefer, but I'm hoping that it will soften with up time and more washings (I've only washed the fabric once so far).  As for sizing, I cut out a size 14 since that's what I had graded the jumpsuit pattern out to and it seemed to fit well.  I'm always worried about fit when making bottoms though, so I sewed up the world's shoddiest muslin just to make sure that the culottes would fit and that the crotch wasn't too low or too high.  The muslin  turned out fine so I went ahead in making the culottes without making any alterations to the pattern.

The pattern sewed up fairly easily although I struggled moving around so much fabric since linen/rayon fabric tends to be on the heavier side.  I remember having this same issue when sewing up the jumpsuit as well.  On a happier note, I had no problems putting in the zipper this time so that was a pleasant surprise.  It was also a pleasant surprise to finish the waistband and find that the fit was right on.  It was a less pleasant surprise, though, when I put the almost finished product on, stood in front of a mirror, and said to myself, "Wow.  Those are pretty ugly."

It was just so much fabric and the length hit at some weird spot between my ankle and my calf.  In an attempt to salvage them, I cut several inches off of the bottom and that seems to have been a good fix although I'm still getting used to the massive amount of fabric involved in these culottes.  I'm hoping that I can learn to love them because they're incredibly comfortable and the color is pretty fun to wear (and like nothing else that I own).  I haven't totally given up on the idea of culottes, though, because I just bought Kelli's new Emerson cropped pants pattern which is kind of culotte-ish and I'm excited to try a pattern that has a slimmer leg.

On a totally unrelated side note, if there is some weird horizontal wrinkle in front of the dart in these pictures, it's only because I tried to be a good blogger and do a quick ironing job before taking these pictures and I think I accidentally ironed that wrinkle into the fabric.  I guess I could have re-ironed them and then re-taken the photos, but the likelihood of that actually happening was approximately 0.01 percent, so take what you can get, people.


Shorts On The Line. Shorts On My Kids.

In honor of this week's Shorts On The Line, let's talk about one of my all-favorites shorts patterns - the City Gym Shorts pattern from Purl Soho.

What is there not to love?  It's free.  It comes in both kid's and adult sizes.  It uses the tiniest bit of fabric imaginable.  It's super-wearable and pretty adorable (if I don't say so myself).  The only issue I see with this pattern is that without a modification to lengthen the pattern, it does make a pretty short pair of shorts, which may be an issue for some people (although there is a lengthen line on the pattern so you could easily lengthen it if you wanted).

Because this pattern only requires small amounts of fabric, I love using it as the perfect opportunity to dig through my leftovers and see what I can make with them.  In this case, the main fabric is leftover from this top and the binding fabric is leftover from this dress.  Win-win!

The shorts came together incredibly easily (as they always do) and there is in fact a bonus to them being this short because O is really into wearing shorts under her dresses nowadays, and she often reaches for these ones since they can't be seen under dresses.  It's not exactly what I had in mind when I made these shorts, but I'll just be happy with the fact that she's wearing them.

Which brings me to this other pair of shorts that I made.  Once again, they're made from leftovers (from this dress).  I sewed them up a couple months ago and was so darn pleased with how they came out.  I mean - they're gold shorts!  What kid wouldn't want gold shorts?  As it turns out, C doesn't want gold shorts and she has refused to wear them.  I managed to bribe her to get this one picture taken, but I don't think these shorts will ever get worn by this child again.

She's a stubborn little thing and in those moments when I think that her strong-willed nature will be the death of me, I just repeat under my breath "Future CEO.  Future CEO."


The One In Which I Take The Advice Of Some Very Wise Women

As I was stuffing dresses into C's closet the other day, I came to the realization that that kid has enough dresses to last her a lifetime and I should really focus more on sewing for O, who has grown out of nearly half of her clothes lately.  I haven't been paying much attention to kid's patterns lately because I've been wholly absorbed with my selfish sewing, but when I saw Rachel's post the other day, I knew that I was going to make a Hummingbird Dress for O.

First though, I just have to say how amazing the sewing community is because without the tips that Erin first passed on to Rachel and Rachel passed on to us, and without the added tips in this post, this dress would not have been as much of a success as it turned out to be.  Thanks to everyone who has ever taken the time to post tips and tricks to make all of our end-products that much better!

So, as for the modifications, I followed the advice of the wise women who went before me and cut out the bodice according to O's chest measurement and then added about two inches to the back bodice piece so that there was a bit more flexibility with the sizing.  I also raised the neckline a bit since several people mentioned that it seemed to hit low on the chest.  Lastly, I followed these instructions for finishing the inside in order to have a dress as pretty on the inside as it is on the outside.

As for the fabric, I picked up some lovely gray Japanese double-gauze the other day at Stiches.  Ben tried to convince me that the fabric was boring and that the kids wouldn't like it, but I had a vision of what I wanted to make and nobody was going to come between me and my vision!  My vision, of course, involved making a gorgeous, flowing summer dress with a lace over-lined bodice and I just so happened to have this lace begging to be made into something since it's been sitting on my shelf for over a year.

Now, I don't want to say "I told you so" or anything, but Ben was definitely wrong when he said that the kids would't be interested in a gray dress because this was C's face when she found out that the dress wasn't for her.

I suppose I'll be making another Hummingbird Dress sometime soon.


Pants. Yet Another Thing I Told Myself That I Would Never Sew.

So, given that this post is about what I did during my spring break and it's now almost the middle of July, this post may be just a tad bit overdue.  But, I made pants (!) so we're just going to ignore the three month delay and celebrate this accomplishment.  

In any case, want to know what spring break looks like when you're a thirty-something mother of two?  It involved the following very exciting to-do list.

1.  Do taxes.
2.  Stop drinking caffeine.
3.  Learn how to sew a pair of pants.

I know - you're super-jealous of my exciting life.  There is in fact good news, however.

1.  We got a tax refund.
2.  I stopped drinking caffeine and I'm still somewhat functioning.
3.  I sewed a pair of pants!

Part of me can't believe that I've gone this long without sewing a real pair of pants.  The other part of me, however, can believe it because the idea of dealing with fit issues was enough to make me go "oh, forget it!"  But then I bought a pair of high waisted flare jeans at an after Christmas sale, fell in love with them, and knew that I needed to reproduce them.  Lucky for me, the Birkin flare pattern matches up almost perfectly to my beloved jeans.  In fact, being able to match up the measurements between the pants and the Birkin pattern was one of the things that convinced me to take the plunge into pants making.

Okay, on to the actual making.  Before cutting out the pants, I shortened the inseam by 1 inch and I slimmed out of the flare by about 1 inch, which perhaps makes these patterns more of a bootcut now.   In any case, from there I simply followed the instructions which were pretty self-explanatory until it came to the fly insertion which made me scratch me head a bit, although it ended up being just fine in the end (that is - after I sewed the fly shut during my first attempt.  Doh!).  I used a combo of the pattern instructions and the Ginger jeans sewalong for a little extra hand holding during the sewing process and both were really helpful.  I debated whether to add rivets, but in the end I added them since the pants are  fairly tight and can probably use every little bit of added strength in the seams.  I used the instructions from Ginger jeans sewalong and this tutorial to address the issue of the rivets being slightly too long.  Also, I bought my button and rivets from TaylorTailor and they arrived super-fast (way faster than the original place that I ordered from that never actually sent what I ordered).

As for the fabric, I opted for a black cotton twill with 2% spandex.  The fabric is actually a sateen, but I didn't want such a shiny fabric so I used the wrong side as my right side.  The only downside to this is that I'm concerned that lint (and everything else) sticks to this fabric a little too easily.  I suppose it's time to find where my lint roller is.  They also tend to show off every little wrinkle throughout the day (as evidenced by these photos that show off every little wrinkle).

Oh, and I just have to say that these pants were sewn on the simplest of simple sewing machines and it survived to live another day.  Yes, there were some times when I found myself talking to it and saying "You can do it.  I believe in you" but it was all very doable.

And that's about it folks.  I made pants!  Oh, and I also made this shirt which is yet another Archer made from some lovely organic cotton that I bought at Bolt many moons ago.  I was so excited to make it, but a little underwhelmed with the end-product as I thought it came out, well, a little boring.  As it turns out, though, I'm apparently a super-boring person because this is now one of my favorite shirts to wear.  It's funny how things work out sometimes.

Also, that's not our cat.  Much to my kids' chagrin, I'm allergic and we won't be getting a cat, which makes them that much more excited when the neighbor's cat hops our fence and pays us a visit.


Pretty Little Things

I know what you're thinking?  Another bra?  Really, Carolyn?

I know, I know.  I have a sickness, although I'd like to justify this obsession by saying that I'm  going to be spending many days a week in scrubs this next quarter and I figured that a couple nice, comfy soft bras would be perfect for those long days.  But comfy bras don't have to be ugly, right?  In fact, they can be covered with lace and just as lovely as can be.

Like this one.

The bra is the longline version of the Watson bra pattern.  This is my second attempt at this version because me first one ended up huuuge, because I printed out the PDF pattern wrong and didn't realize it until it was all sewn up.  Not one of my finest moments.  This bra fortunately has a happier ending.

The lace is from the Arte Craft etsy store and the entire bra is lined in nude stretch mesh from JoAnn Fabrics.  On a side note, I've also purchased white stretch mesh from JoAnn Fabrics and it dyes beautifully, making me really excited about all the future color possibilities.  The trims and bra straps are dyed with ecru Jacquard Acid dye and while beige may not be the most exciting color to dye things, I'm happy with how they came out.  I used a 3/8" plush back picot elastic for the underarms and 3/4" plush back elastic for the band.  I didn't realize how huge it would be when I ordered it and I was pretty hesitant to use it, but it actually feels really nice on the band.  Also, I added some clear elastic to help support the lace front of the cup.  It was a bit of a pain to sew on, but lining it with Wonder Tape first made sewing it on, well, wonderful.  All the lace and mesh pieces were basted together with a basting spray before being sewn together and the sewing process was easy peasy.

As for the undies, I finally got around to trying out the Watson undies pattern and I'm really glad that I did.  The pattern makes it really easy to incorporate lace into the pattern which I think makes the final product extra pretty.  The rest of the undies are made with the same stretch mesh as the bra and the crotch is lined with a scrap of pink cotton which I think looks really lovely behind the nude mesh.  I used the same 3/8" plus back picot elastic for the waist and this picot elastic for the legs.  On a side note, I'm in love with this picot elastic.  It's held up great on every project that I've used it on and it takes dye fabulously.   It is definitely my picot elastic of choice!


Quilted Vest

Sometimes it takes me a ridiculously long time to start a project.

Intertia, man.  It's a real thing.

But once I finally get going, I'm usually so happy that I did.

Take this project for example.  I had it in my mind for weeks - ever since making my first Women's Hero Vest and seeing this gorgeous quilted version.  I knew that I had a significant amount of fabric left over from these shorts, but I didn't know if it was enough and I couldn't muster up the effort to actually go downstairs and find out.  Eventually I forced myself to lay out the pattern and I found out that with some creative pattern placement (and lining the hood in a different fabric), I would have juuuust enough to make it.  Did you know that I get extra pleasure when I finish a project and there's nothing but teeny-tiny scraps of fabric left?

In any case, I made a size extra-small graded out to a small at the hips once again, although as I was quilting up each piece I worried that I should have made one size larger in case the quilting made the pieces shrink a bit.  I think it ended up being okay, although I took the vest out of the dryer when it was still damp in case it was prone to shrinking up.  Speaking of the quilting, I quilted each piece with a diagonal pattern, 2 inches apart.  Quilting garments, by the way, is the perfect way to use up odds and ends of batting leftover from quilting projects.

The only modification that I made was to raise the armholes about 1/2-3/4 of an inch (I can't remember the exact amount).  The armholes were pretty deep on the first vest, most likely to accommodate whatever you wear under the vest, but I tend to wear pretty thin shirts and didn't feel that I needed that much room.  I also bound all the edges with the woven fabric rather than knit fabric and I love the way it looks.  I cut out all the bias binding the same length as was recommended for knit fabric under the crazy assumption that it would work just fine.  Turns out that bias binding does not stretch as much as ribbed jersey.  Duh!  So I had to add length to all my bias pieces.  No big deal.  I also now realize that I should have backed the pocket part of the front because as it is right now, the batting is left exposed on part of the inside of the pocket.  It's not visible and doesn't cause any problems, but I wish I had the forethought to address the issue.

Once again, I used the instructions on the Make It Perfect website to enclose the zipper in order to have a nice clean finish on the vest.  And I used a metal zipper this time rather than a plastic one.  All I have to say is "metal zipper for the win!"

Interestingly, despite my proud Pacific Northwest residence, before sewing up these vests for myself I had never actually bought myself a vest and really didn't think of myself as a vest person.  But now I find myself reaching to wear this vest all the time.  It's funny how things work out sometimes.

Also, thanks to the Pacific Northwest for starting to rain on me after I finally mustered up the energy to take pictures.  The slightly blurry photos will just have to suffice.


Marlborough Bra - Round Three - The Knock Out Round

Sometimes things don't work out so well in sewing-land.  I have more than one project to demonstrate that outcome..

But sometimes the stars align and things work out pretty darn well.  This project falls firmly into the latter category because despite being pretty new to sewing underwire bras and despite having made several untested modifications to the pattern before sewing this version up, this bra is a hit.

Once again, the bra is the Marlborough bra, but I built upon the modifications that I made last time around.  For one, I increased the total length of the band by another 1/2 inch (it's now increased 1 inch total) because I came to realize that not only was my second version too tight, it was actually way too tight.  The added length is much appreciated by my ribcage and my breastbone.  

Thanks to this tutorial I also took some time to lower the bridge by 1/2" and lower the upper cup by the same amount.  All things considered, it's a pretty small change, but I'm a big fan of the difference that it makes.  

And while this is not a modification, I also changed up the pattern by lining all pattern pieces (except the band) with lace (purchased from this shop).  I used a basting spray to baste the lace to the fabric pattern pieces and it worked...okay.  In general,  it held the pieces together but every once in a while they would come apart which was a bit of a pain.  The rest of the fabric is from a kit purchased from Sweet Cups Bra Supply.  I got two kits for Christmas back in 2014 (!) and I can now officially say that I've used both of them (I used the other kit to make this bra).  Once again, though, I used bra strapping from my stash since the amount that they supply isn't sufficient for this pattern (why, oh why, don't they increase it?).  

But you know who gives this bra the official seal of approval?  O.

She saw it hanging in the bathroom and asked, "did you make this bra?"  I told her "yes" and with stars in her eyes she replied, "It's beautiful.  It looks like a wedding bra."

Which, when you're a six year old girl, is apparently a really big compliment.  
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