Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Penny for Your Thoughts

Just over a year ago, I mentioned that I'd bought some new patterns -- well, so far the only one I've actually sewn up has been Sew Over It's Penny Dress! I'm eager to sink my claw (needles?) into the Eve Wrap dress, but I don't currently have the right fabric for it, and I'm committed to reducing my stash before I buy anything new (I know, I know -- you'll believe it when you see it... So will I!).  

But all of that is beside the point -- I've had the Penny sewn up for ages now, and just haven't gotten photographs of it! By "ages" I mean at least nine months. But I'm now in a good position to declare that I love this pattern, because I've worn it extensively in that time. It pairs beautifully with cardigans, and is a perfect summer dress.

I sewed this Penny up in a drapey rayon denim (from JoAnn's). It has a bit of a sheen, and I love it to death -- literally, I will probably wear this dress until it dies. The pattern was lovely, even though I made everything more complicated by misunderstanding the shoulder instructions twice. After a great deal of seam ripping, the rest of the pattern went together quite well. No darts, no fiddly bits (not even sleeves), and plenty of subdued feminine flair! As I was contemplating making another Penny, I thought about how to fix my one issue with the pattern -- the center front pulls "up." Then, as I searched to see if others had faced the same issue, I found that Sew Over It has updated the pattern to adjust for this issue; I suppose I was not the only one!

This dress is such a joy to wear! It worked quite well for nursing, as I'd hoped, and the fabric is holding up well. There's nothing worse than making something you like, only to have it wear out shortly after.

I'm already dreaming of future versions -- I think this cotton chambray (with a hint of linen and rayon) would be lovely, though I'm not sure what the stripes would do with the circle skirt. But it will have to wait until I've sewn up some more of my stash; for now I'm quite content to swirl about in the Penny I already have!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

From Whom All Blessings Grow

It's growing season here! I expect most things to be dead and dry by August, a carryover of my mostly-Floridian life (or maybe just my lack of skill as a gardener?). 

But at last, at long last, tomatoes are taking center stage.

I have a special love for homegrown tomatoes, and this year we planted seven varieties -- if you're going to plant tomatoes, why not have some fun? We planted Black Krim left over from last year, along with Roma, Chadwick Cherry, Green Zebra, Yellow Pear, Black Cherry, and Rainbow Cherry (not an actual variety, but a "mix" of various colorful cherry tomatoes -- it's a toss up as to what you'll actually get. Ours are pale yellow and red!). 

This is a green zebra, with a not-yet-ripe Black Krim behind it to the left

Our tomatoes are real survivors, having overcome the ravages of hornworms early in the season (they disgust me, but fortunately our chickens' delight in devouring them made it a little less terrible to pull them off the plants), various "predators" throughout the season, and my overly ambitious planting. I had every intention to thin the plants properly, but I underestimated how agonizing it would be to rip out completely healthy plants! And I definitely underestimated how large the plants would get. The straw bales are, apparently, extremely fertile -- despite their crowded spacing, our tomatoes are quite massive. Poor planning in the staking department has left us with plants trailing all over, pulled down by the weight of the fruit. It's honestly so bad that some of our tomato plants are trailing on the ground! Basically, everything that we could do wrong, we did.

And yet, tomatoes. So many, so beautiful, and so delicious. We are harvesting around a pound every day or two, and we have been eating, freezing, and giving away tomatoes at every opportunity. 

Our cucumbers and bean plants bit the dust early in the month. I'm not sure whether to blame "old age," voles, disease, bugs, or heat. Or maybe all of the above. Here's a photo from earlier in the summer, when they were at their peak:

Every year we learn more in the garden -- our zucchini and spaghetti squash fell prey to squash vine borers (ugly little things! They eat out the INSIDE of the plant stem. Ugh), all of our plants would have benefited from having trellises in place early (we were a bit rushed getting the garden planted, so we only did the immediately necessary things), etc. We've replanted the bales from the picture above (all that was left was the little lavender plant in the front corner, and an enormous basil plant in the back), so hopefully we'll get some more produce before the season is over. I want everything to thrive and produce, so I'm always disappointed by the failures -- but I'm realizing that gardening is a skill that takes time to hone, and even experienced gardeners have their setbacks. It's still a joy! It really is amazing to me how God has designed life to recreate itself. The curse (bugs, disease, weeds, etc.) battles hard and sometimes wins, but life is resilient. 

The littles have been growing like weeds all summer, too. This little fellow turned one, and I'm struggling to believe it (though he's very comfortable in 18-24 mths clothing, "little" chunk that he is!).

We've taken advantage of "pass swaps" to visit some new-to-us places -- this one was particularly magical, with the imminent threat of a summer thunderstorm preventing us from lingering too long. I do love our little adventures together!

And now, Summer is almost over. We've already started the school year (back in July, actually -- littles with too much time on their hands...), and I'm eager to see the season change. Goodbye, August!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Little Layette

With my first nephew on the way, I scanned my sister-in-law's Pinterest boards -- not that there was much need! We're both Anglophiles, and our tastes are very similar in everything from literature to children's clothing, so it wasn't too difficult to pick something I thought she'd like. In this case, something with strong European influences.

I recently discovered a blog called The upside? There are so, so many free, adorable (and did I mention FREE) patterns, many of them multi-sized. The downside? It's all in Spanish, because -- go figure -- the lady who creates the adorable European designs is from Spain. But with video tutorials to accompany the patterns, the language barrier is surmountable with a decent knowledge of sewing procedure (and a few Google searches for Spanish terms!). 

I used this pattern for the little top, though honestly it doesn't look much like the original! I added a pleat to the center front, changed the front to make it A-line instead of gathered, redrafted the collar (I used the pattern piece provided, but linen is a little tricky -- I got a better result by drafting a pattern once the shoulder seam was sewn), shortened the sleeves, etc. Nothing too complicated, although it's nerve-wracking making clothes for tiny babies. Everything seems too small, but then you don't want it to actually be too small... 

I wish I could capture how truly tiny those buttons are! They are minute! I've had a card of these vintage beauties
for years, and this is the first time I've used any of them.

I think the result is a bit Christopher-Robinesque, especially when finished off with vintage pearl buttons. It's a bit challenging with baby boy clothes to make them sweet, but not too sweet, if you know what I mean!

The back buttons are still vintage, but larger than the buttons on the front.

More linen for the overalls, in navy this time! I used this tutorial, with fewer changes. I did add a snapped crotch closure, because diaper changes with a newborn really ought to be as simple as possible. 

And last, a linen/cotton bandana bib (using this tutorial/pattern), with a wood and silicone teether/pacifier leash:


I am so excited to have Oh Mother Mine DIY in my arsenal of patterns now. I can't get over how sweet her patterns are, or how many there are! Here's the gallery of her tutorials, in case you want to try one yourself.

It was simple enough to figure out how to welcome this sweet new baby into the world (and sweet he most certainly is! I'm not biased, not even a little. No, really...). Now I just need to figure out how to cover the intervening miles so I can give him a snuggle in person. *wink*

Saturday, August 04, 2018

August Yarn Along: Cleaning Up, Cleaning Out

I'm a little late to Ginny's Yarn Along, but better late than never, right? In fact, it's probably not escaped your notice that I've been absent lately. But don't worry, between a hasty visit to Florida, starting up school again with the littles, and working on some sewing, I've been "gainfully employed."

And my latest escapade has been to dabble with crochet. I started mostly because I'd like to teach Little Man and Rosa as a handicraft, and it seemed simpler than knitting. We haven't got past a simple chain yet, so I'm not sure how that will work out! But I've been enjoying it, which surprises me more than a little. Here's my current project -- a much-needed washcloth for Rosa in KnitPicks Shine sport:

It's just a swatch of arcade stitch, which I'm now edging with a simple double crochet. Crochet is quite satisfying in how quickly it works up, and the interesting stitch possibilities. I think, like knitting, I had long dismissed it because most of the projects I saw just didn't appeal to me, and were often done up in acrylic yarns. My love for knitting really blossomed when I started seeing projects in natural fibers; it's just taken longer for me to find that with crochet.

Here are two other projects, also washcloths, for Laddie and Scout. I love how quickly crochet washcloths whip up! Video tutorials on Youtube have been invaluable, as I'm still inexperienced with written crochet patterns. These are definitely beginner attempts, but perfectly suitable washcloths. The green "starfish" is made in a cotton dishcloth yarn, and the waffle patterned cloth behind it is made in KnitPicks Cotlin that I've had in my stash for ages.

My reading is Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman, which I'm resuming after a "leave of absence." It's excellent! I'm not done yet, but I highly recommend this book to any woman, not just mothers -- Gloria makes the point that being a woman is about being a nurturer, whether she ever bears children or not. I love Gloria Furman's writing, and this book is really a challenge for me. A cleaning out, if you will, of many wrong and selfish perceptions I've unknowingly held about motherhood. Cleaning, it would seem, is the theme of this yarn along for me, since my fiber project also has a cleansing purpose!

I encourage you to go and join in the fun on Ginny's blog, or browse some of the other lovely creations in the link-up!

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!