Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not My Tova

I recently saw pre-release pictures of the Brome Dress & Top by Fancy Tiger Crafts in my Pinterest feed, and fell in love instantly (especially the maxi dress version). The button placket makes it suitable for nursing, which is a huge plus! 

But, I had two small problems -- the pattern hadn't been released yet (no instant gratification), and the price for the pattern (even in PDF) seemed a bit high... especially considering I already own a very similar pattern, Wiksten's Tova. In fact, the title of this post is a play on a post from 2014, when I sewed my very first Tova (Tova, My Tova). 

Truly, this is Not My Tova. And yet, it is... 




The patterns are so similar in design, that I opted to modify my Tova to look like the Brome! Front and back yokes, a placket (I've added a placket to the Tova before), a new collar, and done. The modification process was pretty simple, all things considered. But I was nervous enough that I didn't want to cut into the lovely brown linen I had, purchased with a gift card from my mum. So I pulled out some Charley Harper voile from the Nurture collection -- Feathers in Brown. I purchased it from Fabricworm ages ago and it was quite a steal for Birch fabric ($6.60 a yard instead of the normal $16.50!). I was a bit naughty because I didn't have a project planned for it, but I've been wanting to try voile for ages, and I've also loved that particular print for ages. The voile is lovely, though prone to wrinkling. I also decided to go with a tunic, because it's sheer enough that I was worried about "visibility."




I kind of suspected that I was making my yoke too short, but I also don't like yokes that come down too far on the chest. In the end, it totally works -- but I'll be lowering the neckline and the yokeline on the next one.




The placket mostly worked! The fabric wrinkles oddly at the bottom, but it's not very visible, especially with the self-fabric belt.




This summer I'm breaking out a pair of Kinos! Kino Sandals is a small, family owned company in Key West, FL. I remember visiting their tiny factory as a child while my dad was stationed on the Naval base there. I'd forgotten about them until a year or two ago, when my mom mentioned them in a conversation. My summer sandals wore out last year, so this spring I called Kinos and ordered a pair. Yes, they make them custom (it's only a few additional dollars, and their sandals are very reasonably priced), and I was able to get a pair in the color I wanted with no heel riser attached -- I like my shoes very flat. I have the Mercedes style, and Rosa has two pairs (different sizes) of the same style for children. Her pair from last year is holding up amazingly well, and she'll outgrow them before she wears them out (they are her only summer sandals, so she wears them a lot). If you love Saltwater sandals but don't love the price, Kinos might be worth a try! And I'm not an affiliate in any way, I just love their company and their shoes.




So there you have it -- A sorta kinda Brome? I'd been wanting a light, airy tunic or top for summer, and this project has checked that box! I'm eager to try this as a maxi, though I wonder if I would need to modify the skirt to provide enough leg room. If I do try it, you can be pretty sure it will end up here sooner... or later. *wink*




Monday, June 11, 2018

One of Those Days

Late-night-flights for my husband, plus earlier-than-usual wake ups (Scout has figured out how to stand up in his crib, but can't get himself back down. Cue frustrated baby...) has left me feeling a bit like this lately:




So I'm moving at this pace:




It's also entirely possible that I look like that. Yikes.


Trying to embrace the changing seasons of life (though "Sleep Deprived" season seems to be here to stay for a while... *wink*)

Happy Monday, friends!

Friday, June 08, 2018

Looking Back Cardigan

I'm almost sorry to be done with this sweater -- it was such a lovely pattern to knit! The pattern is Looking Back, by Joji Locatelli. I took advantage of a killer sale to get my hands on some Sugar Baby Alpaca from Wool and the Gang. Throw in a $15 off coupon, and I got ten skeins in "Quetzal Green" for $45 (normally that would be $120!). I still have 2 1/2 skeins left, too! It's an absolutely delicious yarn to knit. And with a larger gauge for this pattern, it knit up quite quickly. Granted, I was also in rather a kntting binge mood in April and May.




I am so pleased with this sweater! I love the button-up-the-back detail (though having to knit button bands was *almost* not worth it...), which enables it to serve as a cardigan in a pinch. I made a large-ish (for me) adjustment to the pattern by changing the shape of the back neckline. I noticed in the finished project photos that the neckline "cuts off" rather suddenly -- it's very high on the back of the neck. This makes it less practical as a forward facing cardigan (not that it's meant to be worn that way, but I wanted that feature). Through a little trial and error, I figured out how to scoop the neckline a bit more.




I absolutely love the lace pattern, which repeats in a narrower version on the sleeves: 









This is the sweater worn "backwards!"

The buttons were also a win -- friends of ours gifted a huge stash of vintage buttons, buckles, and lace years ago, and I had a vintage button card with 12 buttons (perfect for a cardigan called "Looking Back!").




Of course, I'd forgotten to account for the neckband button, but I still had a button shaped like a spoon handle in my stash.





This has been one of my most successful projects so far --

  • Much as I dislike picking-up-and-knitting, the process was much more manageable than it has been in the past. Which was good, considering that there was quite a bit of that technique! 
  • I found a tutorial on how to crochet a tiny knit-looking edge on the back neckband (it's hidden under the other side of the sweater) so it wouldn't look wonky if worn as an open cardigan -- a possibility if I ever need to use this for maternity wear in the future. It turned out great, and you can't tell it's an "add-on."
  • After a failed button band attempt, I took the time to block the unfinished sweater and figure out my perfect pick-up ratio. It turned out to be 1:1, instead of the 3:4 that I'd been attempting. 
  • I'm learning to be a bit more patient, as evidenced by how many times I re-worked my bottom edge cast-off...

 But, as always, there was room for improvement --

  • My buttonholes are a bit too far over on the button band
  • My pickup around the neck was a bit tighter than the pattern photos, though I like the end result and, happily, it didn't negate the scooped adjustment I made to the back neckline.
  • I made a mistake in the edge of the lace pattern RIGHT at the neckline -- of course, I didn't notice this until the rest of the sweater was done! Fortunately, it's not obvious.
  • I could have used an extra increase or two in the waist, as the sweater accentuates my 4-babies-later tummy (fortunately, it doesn't look stretched, it's just not very "forgiving"). 




I need to stop knitting sweaters in the winter/spring -- inevitably, they end up stashed away for months before I can wear them! Anyways, I'm hoping this number will be getting a lot of wear this winter (and many winters to come).

Raveled here.


Thursday, June 07, 2018

June Yarn Along: Profusion

I'm joining up with Ginny's monthly Yarn Along for June, and the only title I could think of for this month is "Profusion." A profusion of projects, books, and green-and-growing things. 

May was a good month for knitting, though it had some ups and downs. The "up" was finishing my Looking Back cardigan (pictures coming soon!), even though it was too warm to wear it. It's safely tucked away for the fall. The "down" was having to frog back 2 1/2 skeins of yarn for the Starboard pullover I'm knitting for Little Man. I realized when I got to the end of the body that my measurements were off -- I'd reduced my needle size because my gauge was too big, but apparently I reduced it too much. Additionally, I'd made a mistake in the increases at the neck, which I repaired rather than frogging back to the mistake. I thought it would be okay, but it bothered me every time I saw it -- and I became more and more convinced that blocking wouldn't make it look better. So I frogged all the way back and started again, which means I don't have that much to show for all of my May knitting! Boo. I haven't had to frog back that much of a project in a long time, and it is a bit disheartening. But I do feel better now that I've started again (bigger needle and bigger size, just for good measure!), and it's knitting up quickly. 




You can also see my Bubble Net cowl, which is my current "mindless" pattern. It does have a lace pattern, but it's a simple 2-row repeat (with a knit row in between), so it still qualifies as an easy project to pick up when I need something simple. I suppose two knitting projects is not really a "profusion," especially since I like to keep two projects on my needles whenever possible.

But I made up for it with my pile of books! I was excited to find Craeft in our library system -- I spotted it on Katherine's blog during the last Yarn Along, and knew I had to give it a go. I'm just getting into it, but it's intriguing so far. Comfort Detox was also in our library and had been on my list for a while, so I put it on hold. Ironically, it arrived at my local branch at the same time as my interlibrary loan request, Uncomfortable! Apparently I'm feeling too comfortable? Who Could That Be at This Hour? was a total impulse as I was browsing the juvenile section (supposedly looking for books for my children! Ha!) -- I can't resist Lemony Snicket, and had no idea there was a new series. My tablet is on the top of the stack, because I'm also part-way through An American Princess: the Many Lives of Allene Tew. I don't remember where I spotted it, but it piqued my interest -- and a few days later, it showed up as one of the free monthly ebook options from Amazon! It's certainly engaging, though not really a feel-good read -- so far, Allene's life seems far from enviable.

I try to be good about not reading too much at the same time (and technically I finished Who Could That Be and Uncomfortable before starting Comfort Detox), but between holds and interlibrary loans and my lack of self-control, I have a lot of reading to do!




June is always a bit of a surprise to me in Virginia. I suppose I sort of expect Spring's fervor to abate by June (in Florida everything was so hot that few plants looked great at this time of year!), but it's just the reverse. Hydrangeas and lilies are just coming into their own right now, and an exceedingly wet May has produced some lovely results!




Both the hydrangea above and the lilies below were gifts from a neighbor who was moving -- she's got two green thumbs, and wanted to pass along her plants to someone who cared (her house was bought by a flipper who wasn't planning to keep her beautiful garden). The day before closing, I trekked across the street with a wagon and a shovel, and tried not to look conspicuous as I made off with her best plants! I dug up the hydrangea and as many lilies as I could (at least 15 to 20, I think?), along with a colony of irises. Over the next few days, I tried to "install" them in our own yard -- only to discover that unlike my neighbor's rich, well-tilled soil, our back yard is a maze of roots. So. Many. Roots. I finally prevailed and got everything in the ground, but goodness! Now, several months later, all of the plants are flourishing and I'm basking in the free-to-me beauty as they start to bloom. 





What's growing on your needles, mind, and/or bit of earth? It's a breezy, balmy day here in Virginia, so excuse me while I go enjoy it!


Saturday, May 26, 2018

(Finding) Time to Get Crafty

I've had a few readers ask recently if I'd write about how to find time for crafty pursuits as a full-time mama. I posted about this late in 2013, but my circumstances have changed drastically since then -- we've added two children, moved twice, started "official" homeschooling, etc. So I think it's time for an update!

Just as I did a few years ago, I'll describe my current situation:
  • Four littles ages 7, 5, 3, and ten months
  • Homeschooling the older two children, which takes about 1-2 hours per day (though we're having a brief summer break right now!)
  • Living in a suburban area with plenty of available "extracurricular activities"




As I think about what has changed since I wrote my last post on this topic, several things come to mind. First of all, I think I spend less "dedicated" time sewing/crafting than I did a few years ago. This is not just due to added responsibilities, but also because sometimes my desire to sew waxes and wanes. So, here are a few thoughts:

Military: My husband's career as a Navy helicopter pilot involves frequent time away -- a week, a month, or (in the case of a deployment) six to seven months at a time. Even when he's home, it's not uncommon for him to have flights scheduled late at night. During these times, I'm often able to complete many projects because I have more time to myself in the evenings.

Friends: I feel like I have a wider social circle in Virginia, including a weekly Bible study that I attend. This is something that I welcome, and I'm happy to have a little less time for sewing if I'm enjoying fellowship with other mamas! I often struggled with loneliness in Florida (looking back, I should have overcome my introvert tendencies more, instead of waiting for others to make the first move), and that's one area that's been much easier here in Virginia.

Knitting: Since my last post, I've added knitting to my arsenal of crafting hobbies. I usually knit while I'm doing things that wouldn't be conducive to sewing (watching a movie, homeschooling, etc.), so it may not cut into my sewing time that much. It has certainly upped my productivity in a general crafting sense, because I'm now able to make use of much of the time that would otherwise be wasted. I like to keep at least one "mindless" project on my needles, something that's easy enough to multitask. 

Nature: If you've followed my blog for a while, you may have noticed that there are many more "nature" posts than there used to be (at least, it seems that way to me!). Virginia has been much more pleasant in terms of climate -- and there are many parks and gardens in our vicinity. Also, we've added six chickens and a seasonal garden. We spend more time outdoors, which equates to less time for sewing/crafting. But again, this is a trade-off I'm more than happy to make, because I always regretted how much the Florida heat kept us indoors.

Children/Education: More children require more care, even though the older kids are much more independent now than they were a few years ago. We do have a great back yard, though, so they are often able to amuse themselves for long periods of time. My baby still takes at least two naps a day (hurray!), but I've now added home schooling to the mix. My children are young enough that their school work is not very involved, but also young enough that they need a fair bit of direct supervision/involvement from me.

Technology: I have upgraded to a smart phone and even have a tablet (*gasp*), but overall I would say I spend less time "with" technology than I did in 2013 (not counting reading books on Kindle). I still don't do Facebook or Twitter, spend a few minutes on Instagram now and again, and carefully select which blogs I follow so that my feed is never too time-consuming. Usually there are one or two new posts for me to read every day, which takes a few minutes. I'm just as selective about Pinterest, so I only browse my personal feed -- even if I'm following another Pinner, I'm selective about which of their boards I follow to keep my feed pared down. This has allowed me to enjoy both blogs and Pinterest without them taking over my schedule (AKA, crafting time!). Though I do still end up down a rabbit hole of pinning all the fun projects, instead of actually doing them...

Just as I predicted in 2013, my life and my crafting habits have changed -- and they certainly will continue to do so throughout my life!







So what would my recommendation be for those looking to spend more time crafting? 

  • Prioritize.

It's the most important step, in my opinion, even though it may sound over-simplified and perhaps even rude ("Well, if you just prioritized, you'd have plenty of time to craft!"). It's not meant to be either of those, so hear me out!

Essentially, determine where sewing/crafting ranks in you life -- is it more important that your family? What about play dates? Or browsing Pinterest? Or posting on Facebook? Or taking a photography class? Or sleep? Or cleaning your house?

Hopefully it's obvious that I am not suggesting that it should be more or less important than any of those things! The point is that where any activity ranks will determine how much time it receives. Also, saying that "I will prioritize my family over crafting" is still a nebulous idea. Is postponing a diaper change for five minutes while I finish a step in my project elevating crafting above my family? I hope not, because I'm certain I've done that before!

But here's the thing -- if you've evaluated how you spend your time, and found that you really don't have time to sew because it's not high enough on your priority list right now, that's okay. Make your peace with it and wait until your priorities or your circumstances change. Sometimes I consciously choose reading over sewing, because I can't do both. Sometimes it's the other way around, and sometimes I just listen to an audiobook while I sew! Currently, I do not devote any time to writing outside of my blog, even though I've dreamed of being a published author since I was a child -- I still have the incomplete (and very unrealistic) drafts of novels I started when I was seven or eight. But writing is not a priority right now (maybe one day it will be!).

I often joke that sewing is cheaper than therapy. But it's really only partly a joke, because sewing is so therapeutic to me that I can't imagine giving it up voluntarily. Recently, as my skills have improved and I've been able to relax, I've found that the rhythmic repetition of knitting is even more cathartic! Creating is one of my passions, and that's why you see so much of it on my blog.

If sewing/crafting is something that is really important to you and you feel you don't have the time, look around to see where you can give up something else. Often I "don't have time to sew" because I've frittered away my day on this and that, or completed my tasks at a leisurely pace. Those are not necessarily conscious decisions, but they are decisions nonetheless. There are certainly ways to free up time -- the key is figuring out what you can or want to sacrifice for the sake of crafting.


  • Pick and Choose.
This is linked to prioritizing. If you have plenty of time (and money...) for crafting, you can probably follow your whims willy-nilly. However, if you have limited time for crafting you may want to focus only on the "best" projects, or projects that will advance your skills. If you're the meticulous type, you may be happy to take two months sewing a delicately pin-tucked batiste baby gown (complete with lace insertion). If you're more interested in quick, practical results, you may prefer to crank out four pairs of toddler leggings while the baby takes a nap.

You can pick and choose your crafts, too. I've pretty much limited myself to sewing and knitting, with some odds and ends for other types of crafts. I am about to add some crochet, because I want to teach my children a hand craft; fortunately the supplies overlap so much with knitting that all I'll have to do is a few crochet hooks to my "fiber" collection. But when it comes down to it, I'm a seamstress and knitter at heart, and I dedicate my valuable crafting time to those hobbies.

Within your chosen crafts, you can also choose projects that are the most enjoyable/useful to you and ignore the rest. Sometimes I put myself in a bind because I think "I could make that!"-- but I don't have time to make All The Things, so I'm either scrambling to put together an outfit (because I haven't made the top I need to match that skirt) or hoping my sunglasses don't get scratched because that-leather-sunglasses-case-I've-wanted-to-make-for-over-two-years-just-hasn't-happened-yet. The latter is in NO way a real-life example, by the way. *cough* Don't over-commit yourself (like I often do!). If you are new to a craft, remember that it will take more time at first, and you will probably make more mistakes. You may not be totally satisfied with the results, either. As your skills grow, your speed and accuracy will improve and you will probably be able to accomplish more in the same amount of time.


  • Place Yourself
And by that I mean, find a spot to pursue your crafts that works for you. With four young children underfoot, I would not be able to craft or sew and supervise if I had my sewing machine tucked away in a back room or a closet. While having my sewing machine in our family room presents some difficulties (why does sewing require so many sharp tools?!), I'd rather be careful about where I put my scissors and pincushion than not be able to sew altogether. My husband has been very tolerant of my crafty messes, though I'm trying to be better about taming the chaos. However, every situation is unique -- so the point is, find the best place for your lifestyle. Maybe you can only craft in peace and quiet, so it's better for you to have your things tucked away and only use them when you have time to yourself (if that's a thing -- I'm still not convinced... *wink*). Regardless, I would recommend making your supplies as accessible as possible. The more work required to get things out, the less likely you are to want to craft. Remember, you don't have to get out everything -- you don't need six skeins of spare yarn or every last sewing notion to work on your current project. Keep a stash of the essentials (for sewing this might be scissors, thread that matches your current project, and pins) that you can easily pull out when you're ready to work.

Also, a note on working with children around -- by all means, try to keep the crafty things out of reach (it's tricky when cutting out a large sewing project! I often save that for naptime/bedtime). But part of our family's overall parenting philosophy is that our children learn the word "No." I believe boundaries are important, and learning to respect someone else's space is a valuable life skill. So training my children not to interfere with my craft projects is just part of our larger parenting "strategy." And the less you have to worry about your child destroying something if they're out of sight, the more you'll be able to let them play independently while you're crafting -- dependent on their age, level of maturity, and all of that jazz.


************





I'm often embarrassed when people ask how I "do it all" because I do something that they don't (cloth diapering, sewing, homeschooling, baking bread, whatever it might be). The truth is, I don't "do it all," I do the things that are important to me. But that doesn't mean I'm always doing the best thing, or what I should be doing! Maybe I should have cleaned my bathroom instead of knitting a few extra rows... And the other truth is, I don't feel like a particularly productive person -- in fact, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy in this area. I suspect than many people, and especially stay-at-home moms, also struggle with this. It's difficult not to tie our identities to our output, especially in a society that values tangible productivity to a fault.

It doesn't help that the internet, while providing plenty of creative inspiration and instruction, has also given us unparalleled opportunities to compare ourselves to people far beyond the realm of our social circle. But it's an unfair comparison, because we get to see someone else's published successes without all (or many, or any) of their failures. No one's life is made up of perfect little Instagram scenes -- not all the time, anyway!


Hopefully that will be helpful to those of you who have wondered or asked! It's always a struggle to find balance in life's ever-changing seasons, but trying to stay conscious of how your time is spent (and evaluating what you want to prioritize versus what you are prioritizing) can go a long way toward finding the time to get crafty -- or being content to wait for a new season of life to roll around.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, and any tips you have for maximizing your crafty time!


Monday, May 21, 2018

Gifts for a Tiny Friend

When I discovered that a dear friend was having a baby girl, I knew there was some crafting in my future! After consulting with my friend, the hunt began for fabric to make a car seat canopy, and silicone beads for a teether/pacifier leash. I was given free reign on fabric selection, and I opted for a a print that I love from Birch organics. I was worried their jersey wouldn't be stretchy enough (and I did have to buy 2 yards because their knits are only 45" wide!), but it turned out to be perfectly fine. Of course, the first yardage I ordered turned out to be woven instead of knit, because I forgot to check the listing! But I'm sure I can easily find a use for that (and it was half the price it usually is!). 




I used the tutorial by Make it and Love It for the car seat canopy/cover. It worked perfectly! Though I think I could have gotten away with making it a little shorter -- still, better a bit too long than too short. And it's neatly folded in the picture, in case you're confused about how it's supposed to cover a car seat! I didn't think to take an "action" photo.

For the pacifier leash, I combined some of the wooden beads I already had with a few new beads via Etsy (soooooo many options). And my friend loves birds, so the wooden teether was perfect! There was no reason for the cover and the leash to coordinate, but they ended up looking just right together.




The canopy is already in use, and hopefully my new little friend will enjoy chomping down on her leash once those teeth start coming in. Scout is sporting several new teeth, and he has certainly enjoyed the textures of the leash I made for him! It's still going strong, and I've made a second for his pacifier.

Sewing and crafting are joy enough in themselves, but it's even better when I get to indulge my creative impulses to welcome a precious baby into the world!

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Precious




"Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls.... 
No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt.... 
But the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all.... 

In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out the mighty question, 
'How will this affect their souls?’"









J.C. Ryle, quoted in The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ, by Chap Bettis

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Looking Forward to Looking Back: May Yarn Along

I'm joining Ginny's Yarn Along for the second time, and hope to make this a more regular thing! Perhaps it will help keep me focused on my knitting (and reading!) projects, and that wouldn't be a bad thing.




I'm now well into my sweater with the Sugar Baby Alpaca. The pattern I'm using is Looking Back, and I'm eager to finish it -- even if I probably won't get to wear it until the fall. After the months and months I spent working on my White Pine cardigan, it feels good to be making quick progress on this sweater! I'm hoping to complete this knit within the next few days, which would be just about a month.




This will be quite a light knit (which works well with the lacy pattern). I do love that it buttons up the back -- though the neckline was so high that I can't imagine wearing it buttons-facing-front. I altered the back neckline to make it practical to wear as a forward-facing cardigan (i.e., maternity friendly, in case I need that in the future). I'm hoping this doesn't make it slip off the shoulders too easily -- it will require an undershirt regardless, so I'm not too worried about it. Still, I'm hoping the neck band will pull it all together (literally and figuratively).

So far, this has been a pretty painless knit! I've had a few hiccups here and there (figuring out the back neckline alteration, picking up stitches around the armholes, and binding off the bottom and sleeve edges), but overall it's been smooth sailing. Now all that remains are the button and neck bands, and I'm having a bit of difficulty there. I finished the buttonhole side, only to realize that it wasn't quite right. I took the whole thing off, blocked the sweater (I hate blocking before the project is finished!), and am now ready to start again after I do a little math to figure out the best pick-up ratio. I'd rather just charge ahead and finish, but I know I'll be happier with the result if I take a little time to do it right.

As for my current reading, I picked up Northanger Abbey on a whim -- it's been years since I last read it, and I still hadn't read any of my "upgraded" Jane Austen volumes (I'd wanted hardcover versions for several years, and I love the tiny Collector's Library editions. They were also quite economical). I'd forgotten just how much I love Jane Austen's writing! I'm thoroughly enjoying it!

That's what's on my needles and my mind this month; I'd love to hear what projects and reads you have underway!