Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wood Hyacinth



Little bits of beauty in a quiet nook in our yard -- I wonder who planted these lovelies!





Friday, April 07, 2017

White Pine (& Prejudice)

Complete -- what an exquisite word! Especially when it refers to a project that has caused considerable distress over the past eight month. Eight months. Because apparently I can grow a baby in about the same time it takes me to knit a single sweater...

But let's focus on the positive! My White Pine Cardigan is finished and blocked, and I am absolutely in love with it! My plan was to have this finished in time for the cold weather... oops.




The White Pine pattern by Amy Christoffers has been in my favorites for about 2 1/2 years! I was finally ready to tackle it last July, and chose Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (worsted weight), in the colorway "Conch." You probably know by now that I love the color coral, and this yarn is the perfect shade! I used the smallest size even though I was between sizes, because I generally wear my cardigans open and am not a fan of excessively bulky sweaters. Wool of the Andes is a very economical yarn (the price has actually gone down since I purchased it!), especially for an adult sweater. I ended up using 10 skeins almost exactly!




I learned a great deal from this pattern -- primarily twisted rib. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of twisted rib! I tend to dislike ribbing in general, but you'll not find me complaining about "regular" rib in the near future. I also became quite expert at fixing small errors made several rows back. In the past, such a discovery would have resulted in my tearing out every row until I reached the mistake, but now I know how to undo a few stitches (and put them back once the mistake is rectified!). I also know that this technique only works a few stitches "wide," a discovery which cost me several hours of work and re-work.






Sadly, I also learned that I did not like the way the pattern was written! After looking around a bit on Ravelry, I soon discovered that I was not the only knitter to have serious issues with the pattern. I ended up "rewriting" the pattern for myself, dividing up the steps clearly and using only the stitch counts for my size (not that there were many, which is one of my issues with the pattern). I still don't know how you are supposed to decrease in seed stitch without ending up with really wonky patches. Perhaps I need to consult a living, breathing knitter to find that out, but my solution was to simply omit the decreases (except in the sleeves, which fortunately are relatively hidden!). I am so very glad this was not my first sweater, because otherwise I think I would have been totally lost! Coupled with some errors on my part, it made the going very tedious. In fact, five months into the project and part-way through the first sleeve, I put the sweater aside.





I was eventually roused to finish it because I had other projects to start (notably a blanket for the baby-on-the-way!), and didn't want to leave this project in limbo. The last thing I need is an unfinished project cluttering my craft space or my mind. With renewed vigor, I finished the first sleeve and attacked the second. Fortunately, it didn't take long to pick up the pattern again, and I was soon humming along nicely. After bravely tackling the shoulder decreases, I was ready for the button band. That complete, all that remained were buttons and blocking.

I finished it off with the pewter buttons from Colonial Williamsburg that I mentioned recently. I'm so pleased that they're out of my stash and back in my closet! 




So that's the White Pine -- but what about the Prejudice? I'm so glad you asked! Quite simply, it was listening to the audio book of Pride and Prejudice that helped me persevere through those last steps. I have the version read by Rosamund Pike from Audible.com, and I highly recommend it! Rosamund has the most amazing voice, and reads with what I'd describe as "sedate variety" -- far from monotone, but also not distractingly dramatic. Apparently I'm on a kick of listening to books read by actors who have featured in Jane Austen film adaptations, because I immediately started Agnes Grey read by Emilia Fox once I'd finished Pride and Prejudice!

White Pine -- so many emotions knitted up in a single sweater... *wink* I will probably not be making another White Pine in the future; I am too scarred to voluntarily subject myself to the experience a second time (even though I'd doubtless have more success a second time around). But I'm glad I made the one, because I really do love the way this sweater looks! It's one of the patterns that prompted me to finally take up knitting, after all.




I must say, my manifold frustrations were nearly forgotten when my husband (who has patiently listened to me winge about this pattern many a time) observed it drying and commented on how nice it looked. I think he is still a bit surprised -- as I am myself -- when something I knit turns out looking... well, real! Fortuitously, our warm Spring weather gave way the very day after blocking, and it was dry in time to wear on one of the (presumably) last cold days this year. It may have missed most of the action this year, but it will be primed and ready to serve as a wardrobe staple next winter!




I still have three skeins of yarn left over, so at some point I'll be making myself a winter hat for next year. I realized this past winter that I need something to keep my ears warm on windy days! I can't remember the last time I had a winter hat/cap; I never really needed one in Florida. But in the meantime, I've already cast on a Blue Blanket by LondonLeo...


Friday, March 31, 2017

Fresh

After a few false starts, Spring is here! After being taunted by early-blooming daffodils and several spurts of ridiculously warm weather (only to bundle up again as another cold front swept through), I think Spring has finally settled in to stay. Granted, it's nippy outside right now -- but my sense of proportion has been a little distorted by over a decade of Florida's habit of "Winter, winter, SUMMER!" I can't put away the sweaters and jackets yet (it is only March, after all!), but the dogwood outside my kitchen window is blooming and the birds are trilling all of winter's pent-up songs.

And these girls -- well, I told a friend that all of my wildest chicken dreams are coming true, wondering at the same time if it's quite, quite normal to have wild chicken dreams... 





They are laying so well now -- last week we had eggs from all of them two days in a row, and four to five seems to be our average! After a very slow winter, I'd begun to wonder if even my "three per day" hope would be granted. My fears have been squelched, and we've even been able to gift a few eggs to friends (not many, because we consume them so voraciously!). And they're such entertaining biddies, too! Next winter we'll be putting a light in the coop, because I am convinced that longer days have contributed to better laying.

I feel like the world around us is just waiting to burst into bloom -- at least, the copious amounts of pollen that are accumulating on every outdoor surface would seem to indicate that!







With all of the freshness out-of-doors, I've been in the mood for a little refreshing within, too. My cleaning schedule has worked wonders for my housekeeping! February ended with almost every block checked -- even better than January. Improving rather than tapering off is probably a first for my housekeeping efforts, and it looks like March will be following suit! Having the housekeeping on auto-pilot, as it were, has freed me up to attend to other tasks -- declutterings, deeper cleans, that sort of thing. 

Another refresh? A simple polo shirt, purchased on clearance about four or five years ago for Little Man -- but never worn, because the embroidered skull design proved stubborn. Why, oh why, do they put skulls on toddler clothes? Fed up with the futility of a brand-new shirt cluttering my sewing supplies, I cut a simple leather patch and embroidered it with an anchor. I suppose I could say bought this shirt for Laddie, little though I knew it at the time!  






Fresh and new, everywhere I look. And if the sense of freshness fades from my consciousness, a few kicks and rolls from the little one inside my ever-expanding belly are a timely reminder!


Friday, March 24, 2017

Spontaneous

A beautiful Spring day called for lunch out-of-doors -- after some unseasonably warm days in February, March has been mostly chilly (and often rainy!), so the opportunity was too much to pass up.

Of the many, many things you don't find out about parenting until you're actually a parent, one of the more pleasant surprises has been the frequent consignments of wildflowers I receive! Handfuls of dandelions seem to come my way almost every day:




For our picnic lunch, we headed to the nearby airport. There's an overlooking hill shaded by pine trees that's the perfect vantage point for take-offs, landings, taxi-ings, luggage unloadings -- all of the exciting events surrounding air travel. There's even a speaker that broadcasts the interchange between the airplanes and air traffic control. I find it rather soothing, actually, perhaps because I hear so much about it from my husband, or perhaps because it all sounds so orderly and well-managed. 

Several crows were perched in the pines, watching us with evident curiosity. Well, watching our food, that is! I tossed a few bits over, which were snatched up after the appropriate interval of cautious approach-and-retreat.





We made short work of our food, too! I find myself buying exorbitant quantities of clementines to keep us "stocked" these days. The new quilt made its debut, too, providing the perfect spot to spread out (though I was the only one sitting long enough to really enjoy it!).







I stationed myself at the top of the hill, while the littles raced up and down, stopping now and then for a nibble, or to share some amazing tidbit about the airport (the airport firetruck drove by! Now it's testing its hoses!). The perfect opportunity to indulge in a little knitting. After a long period of inactivity, I am feeling strongly motivated to finish my White Pine Cardigan, which I started back in July of last year. It was going to be finished for Fall, but I ended up becoming so frustrated with it that I put it aside half-way through the first sleeve. Now, with a baby on the way and growing littles, I desperately want to start some other projects -- but I know if I don't finish this cardigan first, it will irk me no end. So, finish it I shall! I'm already into the pattern work of the second sleeve, so I'm hoping that I can stay motivated long enough to finish. Who knows, maybe I'll even get to wear it once or twice before I put it away for the summer...


Almost done the twisted rib cuff for the second sleeve...

Of course, the very next day was bitterly cold -- it may be Spring, but Winter hasn't quite done with us yet. But as the weather warms up, we might be spontaneous again!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

For the Birds

I have been diligently working away at my fabric stash, as you may have noticed from recent posts! Quilts, aprons, maternity tops and skirts, pinafores -- even fabrics that I'm no longer enthusiastic about have been turned into pajama tops and bottoms for littles and mama alike, or used for mock-ups. I feel like I am always talking about cutting down on my stash, though -- and perhaps you would agree! It's not that I mind having a bit of a stash; on the contrary, having a stock of fabrics available is quite a boon as a seamstress. But I do feel that there is too much of a good thing, and it does seem that fabrics consigned to the stash have a tendency to stick around. Some of the yardage I have is at least a decade old, by my calculations! When I started sewing as a teen, limited funding led to a bit of a hoarding tendency with fabric. Circumstances and mindset have changed since then, and now I'd prefer to have minimal stock on hand (I'll always have my linen scraps, though!), and choose both projects and fabrics very purposefully.

So, with these ideas floating around in my mind, and with renewed purpose and determination to reduce my fabric "holdings," does it make any sense whatsoever to buy more fabric? Certainly not! Apparently, however, reason is not always the determining factor in my decision-making, because a yard of Doodles Birds Interlock came home with me on a recent trip to JoAnn's -- along with the fabric for the Climbing Roses dress! "But it was such a very Boden-ish fabric," I plead. If there is a technique to leaving Boden-ish fabric at the fabric store, I have not mastered it yet.

If the fabric had a Boden flair to it, I thought the garment ought to, as well. After browsing for ideas, I realized that I already had the perfect pattern: Teri's Izzy top from Climbing the Willow. Yes, I'm that predictable! Really, though, are you surprised? By my count, I've made nine versions of the Izzy in the past three years (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). I suppose you could say the Izzy has been a defining feature of Rosa's childhood!




Just as predictably, I made a few slight alterations to the pattern to suit the design (this also prevents the resulting "Izzies" from looking too similar, I hope). I drafted a Peter Pan collar from the same knit fabric I used to line the bodice (a grey gingham jersey from Girl Charlee, left over from Izzy #8), lining one set of collar pieces with a knit interfacing and adding a stretchy cotton lace trim for the edge. The stretch in the trim wasn't necessary, but it was the perfect size, color, and style -- plus, it was in my stash! I sewed the trim to one side of the collar, then followed those stitching lines when I sewed the collar pieces right-sides-together. The collar was incredibly simple, both to draft and to incorporate. I simply sewed it to the bodice pieces before attaching the bodice to the bodice lining. I was surprised just how well it draped.








I used a Kam snap for the closure in the back, but hid it inside the button tab so that all you see is a bird (not that you really see that, because it's under the collar!




I added a little contrast trim at the waist (a folded piece of the gingham, cut on the bias), and exchanged gathers for pleats in the skirt -- which I lengthened considerably and also widened by about three or four inches. I knew this would be a longer dress so that it will last Rosa a long time, so I though some extra wiggle room would help!

As a last nod to Boden, I added a simple robin applique with a pale pink jersey and a bit more of my grey gingham. Wonder-Under for the appliques and an iron-on tear-away backing made quick work of that step. My recent practice made this process much easier this go around! I hand embroidered a few details and machine zig-zagged the legs. I was worried I might be gilding the lily with the applique (the print is so busy already!), but I really like the result. It's subtle, but such a sweet detail.




It was a bit of a jolt cutting this pattern out -- I'm using the size 5 now, the biggest size in the first of the two Izzy patterns. Rosa is still in the first "half" of 4, but she's a little larger than average and I wanted this dress to last (and it's a bit large on her, so it should!). Even though I used a knit, I treated it like a woven. Well, I did use a slight zig-zag on the seams because they'll hold up better that way, but in every way I treated this as a "normal" dress -- lined bodice, back closure, etc. It was a bit of a gamble, especially since I'm more used to cotton spandex than I am to interlock. However, the results exceeded my expectations! The fabric was a bear to cut out because the birds are in "stripes" but the fabric was not perfectly in grain. I also nearly stymied myself by cutting out the skirt first and having to fudge a bit when cutting out the bodice, but as the dress came together, my fears and frustrations dwindled.




I sewed up a quick pair of leggings in the grey gingham, drafted from a pair that currently fits Rosa (again, the same as the pair for the Climbing Roses dress). Not an ideal fabric choice, because the gingham jersey has almost no stretch! But trimmed with some of the same white trim I used on the collar, they're just right (and they do fit, happily). Plus, with her current track record, the lack of stretch won't matter for long because they'll have holes in the knees in no time...






I'm not always in the mood to go the "extra mile" with details and finishes when sewing (especially children's clothing that will be worn out or outgrown relatively quickly!), but sometimes it's nice to slow down a bit. And in this case, I ended up with one of my favorite projects to date! I just wish all of my impulses had endings this happy... *wink*


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stashing the Bump

As my waistline has expanded with this pregnancy (pretty much as soon as I got a positive pregnancy test, it seemed! *wink* ), I've ended up wearing the same few skirts over and over again -- mostly my black and charcoal grey maxi skirts, with a few other "stretchy" options thrown in! I had one denim maternity skirt from my last pregnancy, but pickings were slim. And while I do wear my maxi skirts to church, I really wanted a dressier winter option. 

The Stash provided -- yards of a mystery grey fabric, purchased ten years ago (I'm embarrassed to admit!) at Colorado Fabrics. It was a steal of a deal, if I remember correctly! For years I had plans to make a tailored jacket and a skirt (with godets or a flare at the bottom). But marriage and babies followed shortly, and the fabric has been sitting in my stash ever since.

Now most of it is in my closet!





This is the easiest skirt in the world -- Simplicity 2655, cut to the longer length (without pockets or the waistband yoke). Six seams and a hem, plus a stretchy waistband. No closures needed, because it's just big enough to go over my hips. 

Speaking of which, my pregnant hips are a bit wider than Yvonne's, so the fabric actually lays flatter on my torso than on hers (you can thank me now for taking the picture on her instead of me! Ha!). I used my favorite maternity technique, the "harvested" stretch panel from a pair of thrifted maternity pants. Seriously, I love these panels. They are seamless, "hemless" (at the top, I mean -- less bulky, and less visible under shirts), and fit from early pregnancy through the third trimester. And beyond! In fact, I use these on all of my maxi skirts now, because they hold up well and make a truly transitional garment. This "natural" color is my favorite, because it doesn't show under light-colored tops, but they come in black, navy, and even brown. I frequent the mark-downs at local charity shops to score them for under $2. They're usually longer in the front than in the back, but I cut them "even" for simplicity's sake -- and it helps with that transitional aspect, because you can just wear it a little higher on the waist for post-partum use.




This has served me well this winter; I'll be sad to put it away with Spring fast approaching! I still have a bit of my grey fabric left, and I'm thinking it will be perfect as a little skirt or pinafore for Rosa -- next winter...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Climbing Roses

I must confess a recent spontaneous purchase at JoAnn's -- But considering the results, I can't say that I'm feeling much remorse! And I used up an entire piece of fabric from my stash on both this and another soon-to-be-blogged "Boden-ish" dress, so I may actually be feeling a bit smug. No fabric is going into the stash, and some actually came out. Two steps back, three steps forward, right? Or am I just trying to justify myself...

I drafted a pattern for this based on one of Rosa's existing shirts -- first translating it to a tee, and then to a raglan tee (there are many tutorials for this, but I'm pretty sure I used It's Always Autumn's version!). I've actually made two nightgowns for Rosa using this pattern -- perfect way to "stashbust" knit fabric -- so I was already sure that it would fit.




I did add a scalloped Peter pan collar this time. And I totally cheated by leaving the binding exposed, but I thought it worked with the somewhat casual feel of the dress.




A simple pocket for the front:





The gingham fabric doesn't have much stretch, and I didn't want to worry about the neckline being big enough to slip over Rosa's head -- so I opted for a little keyhole opening in the back with a simple ribbon tie:





Of course, matching leggings are a must! I cut out this dress at the same time that I made the afore-mentioned "Boden-ish dress," so I could be sure I'd be able to fit all of the pieces. The leggings are the same pattern, so it was super simple!





I really like the gingham with the floral print -- and while I'd purchased extra of that gingham knit specifically for another Izzy once Rosa grew out of hers, I'm glad I was able to change things up a bit!




Of course, I realized after I bought my fabrics that Rosa has quite a full summer wardrobe -- oops! But there's always room for a good play dress, right? Now, back to the stash! *wink*

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Little Pinny

When I saw the adorable Ayla Toddler Pinafore Dress by Blythe and Reese, I was charmed! So charmed, in fact, that I shortly set out to make one for Rosa.  After rummaging in my stash, I came up with the perfect fabric candidate -- a thrifted linen skirt in navy blue. I had just enough to eke out this little pinny:




With such a blank canvas, a little embellishment was the order of the day. In this case, a little bird in scrap cotton and linen (both left over from this Izzy -- and I lined the bib/straps with the polka dot cotton, too) :




I decided to make a few changes to the overall design -- I made the pinafore "bib" taper at the bottom, because I thought it was more suited to a small child. Also, I put all of the buttons that secure the bib to the skirt on the inside (the buttons are on the skirt, with corresponding buttonholes on the bib/straps). Oh, and this makes the bib reversible! If I make more using the same pattern, they could even be interchangeable.




This was a simple project to draft -- rectangles for the skirt, rectangles for the straps, and an (almost) rectangle for the bib! There was a bit of pondering to do to figure out the construction, but this was a relatively quick and gratifying sew. 





Most importantly, Rosa loves it (the bird was a big hit!) and generally wants to wear it as soon as it's clean again. And that's good enough for me!