Friday, November 16, 2018

The Only Constant

We're no strangers to change -- a growing family and military career will see to that! Change is almost always in the air for us, and next year will be no exception. We'll be heading out west (way out west, not to be trite) early in the year as my husband starts his next duty tour with the Navy. It was exactly the spot he wanted, and we're thrilled for that and for the new adventures we'll have -- neither of us have ever lived in that area of the country, and we're gloating over the plethora of state and national parks that will be available to us.

We recently explored a park on the banks of the James River -- finding a dead
fish carcass on the shore was a definite highlight for my children...

Once we've moved (almost) all the way across the country, we'll have a few months to settle in before we welcome a new member of our family, Lord willing in late spring! I'm on the brink of the second trimester, which has seemed to take an eternity. I'm not very patient when it comes to waiting for babies, though you'd think by now I'd have learned! Once again, I'm grateful to God for the way He works -- due to some "abnormalities" with my body's timing, I really didn't think I could get pregnant. But, of course, God loves to work past the limits we impose with our human reasoning. Our older children are so excited (about a week ago Little Man told me at bed time to "take care of the baby in your womb"), though they are hoping for a girl so that Rosa will have a sister.

I'm so grateful for good health thus far, and also the easiest pregnancy I've had to date. I've had virtually no nausea and my energy levels have been manageable -- both of which I'm attributing to a quality probiotic and more consistent use of spray-on magnesium oil (magnesium chloride flakes mixed equal parts with boiling distilled water is quite cost effective), since that's the only change I've made since my last pregnancy. Once in a while I'll feel a tinge of nausea, but it's usually short-lived and my stash of Glee gum seems to help. In fact, I often find myself forgetting that I'm pregnant at all. Although my already-visible baby bump quickly reminds me... *wink*

I'm trying to savor these last weeks in Virginia -- we've been exploring some places that we'd put off seeing. One such spot was Bacon's Castle, which is the oldest surviving brick house in the United States (the left side was built in 1665), among other notable things. Interestingly, the house is known as "Bacon's Castle" because it was overtaken by rebels led by Nathaniel Bacon in 1676 -- even though it's likely he never even came to the house! I had no idea that he and his men were responsible for burning down Jamestown, which is why it's now really just a ruin/archaeological site. Bacon died from dysentery just over a month later, and the rebellion fizzled out. And that's your history lesson for today. It's a chapter in America's past that I'd never even heard of!

We were only slightly disappointed that Bacon's Castle is not really a
castle -- and not made out of bacon, either! We checked...

Of course, I'm now wringing my hands as I consider all the places we didn't go -- but I have to remind myself that we may very well end up here again, and in that case our children will be older and better able to enjoy and remember the places we visit. And we still have time for a few more adventures!

It's easy to become overwhelmed with all that has to be done before we move, and the uncertainty of our housing situation once we arrive. But I remind myself that God's mercies are new every morning, and that He will give us the strength to make this transition -- even if it's not as effortless and simple as I'd like it to be.

But until then, there's life to live -- schooling for the littles, sweaters that won't knit themselves, and all the ordinary day-to-day. These are the moments that won't change, regardless of our location on a map. We're holding on to the familiar, but looking forward to what next year has in store!

Thursday, November 08, 2018

November Yarn Along: Fast and Slow

Somehow, October is already over. Between a downed desktop computer, a much-anticipated visit from dear family, and as many outdoor adventures as we can fit in before winter arrives, the month has slipped away. 

But I was knitting! I cast on a Master Charles sweater early in October, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm knitting it up in a size four for Laddie (who really doesn't need another sweater this year, but I've had plans for this since last year), and it's lovely to make something in a smallish size. It knits up so quickly! The basketweave cables in the center front are such a beautiful feature, and so far the only real change I've made has been to omit the back details -- I don't think the sweater needs it. I love the tweedy yarn and the color. A perfect fall knit.

I love it when I have the perfect bookmark -- I got this one through Zazzle, and had it printed with my own design
(though obviously not my own words!)

I just have a few more rows of the second sleeve and the sleeve cap to finish, and then I can sew in the sleeves and block it! Of course, as soon as I finish I'll be casting on the same sweater in size 2 for Scout (matching sweaters!) -- but that will presumably knit up even faster, since it's smaller? I think I have enough momentum to get a second sweater done. Though this pattern requires more yarn joining (with weaving it to follow) than any pattern I've yet encountered.

I had to smile when I opened up Ginny's Yarn Along post for November -- I'm also reading The Fellowship of the Ring. It's been years since I read The Lord of the Rings, though I read it often as a teenager. I found beautiful editions of the books at Barnes and Noble for $21 (for all three!), but have never read them. While my sweater may be knitting up fast, this book is reading slow. Intentionally. I used to devour books as quickly as possible, partly because I had the time before marriage and children became part of my life! While I still go through reading spurts occasionally, I find myself savoring books more than I used to. I expect it to take quite a bit of time to get through The Lord of the Rings, and I'm quite content with that. I'm reading other books alongside, quicker reads (libraries have due dates!), but this is my comfort read. I always forget how much I love Tolkien's writing when I'm not actually reading it.

Fast and slow. Perhaps that's balance? In any case, both my knitting and Tolkien's words bring calm to my often flurried mind, and that's welcome, indeed. The close of the year is approaching, and next year will bring some significant changes for our family -- in a good way, but change always brings challenges and adjustment. Right now, I'm holding on to familiar.  

Linking up to Ginny's Yarn Along

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Merry and Bright

No, it's not Christmas yet, despite my choice of title for this post -- but it has felt a little like Christmas in my closet lately, as I've finally gotten around to sewing up some new garments and cleared out a few tired pieces.

But "merry" is more than just the mood of my revamped wardrobe! Because as soon as I found Merryweather in Floral multi knit by Arleen Hillyer, I was in love. I'm not kidding, I immediately searched for the best price online and placed an order. That is really quite rare for me, as I usually hem and haw over a fabric for some time before (possibly) taking the plunge. I didn't even have a pattern picked out yet! I just knew I wanted a dress. The fabric pattern was so cheerful and bright without being gaudy; feminine without being girly. I didn't try to resist, but I'm pretty certain it would have been futile...

You've heard the story of my trial run for Butterick 5242. I loved the mock-up so much that I wasted no time in cutting out another in my Merryweather knit. 

The Merryweather line is produced by none other than Birch organic fabrics, which is probably my favorite fabric company (not a sponsor, just a fan!). Which was probably another reason for my impulsive purchase. Impulse paid off, though, because this is one of my favorite dresses I've ever made.

I happened to have some Birch solid knit in "Mineral," and it was the perfect accent for the waistband, ties, and the demi-camisole I made to wear underneath. I followed the same plan for my last version of this dress: cut out a size smaller, graded to my usual size at the hips, an inch added to the hem, ties added to the sides, sleeves omitted, armholes and neckline finished with a self-drafted facing. I didn't need to make a single change from my mock-up, so this dress went together even faster than the last one. It was quite gratifying to see it come together so quickly!

I've already worn this dress several times, and it's a fast favorite. Just like the last one, the style is perfect for transitional wear -- early maternity, postpartum, and nursing. And I'm glad that's the case, because I'd hate to have to stop wearing it for any reason, however good! Though I don't know that I can pass this off as a winter dress, even with layering... Still, I can wear it a bit longer now, and pull it out again in the spring.

As I was sewing this dress up, Rosa was observing. She finally asked, "Do you have any more of that fabric?" Why yes, I do. "Do you think you could make me a dress with it?" Why yes, I think I could. And that is precisely what I did -- when your daughter asks for a matching dress, you don't say "no," now do you? Hers is a bit different in style, but you can see that for yourself... as soon as I get any decent pictures of it!

Thursday, October 04, 2018

October Yarn Along: Finishing

It's time to join in Ginny's Yarn Along for October!

I can't actually show you what I'm currently knitting, because I've just finished both of my WIPs! I'm itching to get something new on my needles (which, of course, means buying new patterns...), and hope to cast on a project or two soon.

One of my recently finished projects was my "Bubble net cowl," made with Knit Picks Alpaca cloud lace in colorway "Emma" (purchased on clearance -- it's out of stock now). I do love the names of the Alpaca cloud colorways! They're all heroes and heroines from beloved stories. I kind of wanted to do a Jane Austen themed knit (how perfect would that be!), but Bubble net was calling to me, and the blue seemed a perfect fit for a "whale" cowl -- if you've never seen whales make a bubble net, look it up on YouTube! It's fascinating. 

My current read is A Passion for the Impossible: the Life of Lilias Trotter, by Miriam Huffman Rockness. It is a remarkable and inspiring read, detailing the life of a woman who ministered as a missionary to Algeria in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you've never heard of Lilias Trotter, I highly recommend looking her up! Her devotion to Christ, compassion for unreached peoples, and tenacity in the face of opposition is truly remarkable. She gave up so much -- including the promise of fame as a brilliant artist, studying under the famous John Ruskin. Her drawings and paintings are truly beautiful! My interlibrary loan due date is looming, but with a few other books complete, I'm now devouring this volume. 

And, a few more obligatory shots of my new cowl! I'd been working on it since March, as a "mindless" project to pull out during movies and such. Of course, now I'll need a new easy project to replace it with! But this is probably the perfect time of year to wear this cowl, so I'm pleased with the timing.

This was my first time knitting with lace yarn, and it was a bit tricky! It's like knitting with thread. But I love the delicate, cobwebby result.

Now that it's October, I'm in quite the mood to knit, and I'm hoping to make a dent in my yarn stash and project queue while that mood lasts! Happy yarning to you all, and I hope you're having a lovely Fall season so far!

Raveled here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

On Trial

Sometimes, a fabric is just too good to risk on an untried pattern. The fabric that was too good to risk (more on that later) was Merryweather knit, and the pattern is Butterick 5242, which looked promising -- but also had the potential to be decidedly maternity and too high-waisted.

Enter, the mock-up! I really don't like the idea of a mock-up that you can't wear afterwards, so I scoured my stash for something I'd want to wear if the pattern worked. Fortuitously, I had a small piece of a blue heathered knit -- I'd purchased it to make a maxi skirt, but realized when it arrived in the mail that I'd probably never have any tops that would match it. So there it was, waiting for me -- and it had been waiting quite a while. I was just, just able to fit my pieces on the fabric! 

As usual for me with "Big 4" knit patterns, I cut out a size smaller than my measurements (though I did grade it to the next size up in the skirt). I opted to omit the sleeves (I couldn't have fit them on my fabric, anyway!), which should give me more layering options for the fall and winter. Plus, I disliked both sleeve options in the pattern. I finished both the neck and armholes with facings, and added ties at the sides -- I thought I'd want to be able to cinch in the back, and I was right. I think I added maybe an inch to the length, and it's perfect for me. Long enough that I'm not worried about accidental "reveals," and short enough to be comfortable and easy to move in.

I'd added about an inch to the shoulders because I was so worried about the bodice length (even the pattern piece looked short!), but I think the weight and stretchiness of the knit helped. In fact, I had to unpick part of my topstitching and neckline facing so I could take that inch out of the shoulders! A bit annoying, but worth it to get a better fit.

Speaking of fit, I love it! It is one of the most comfortable dresses I own, and in a light-ish knit the pleats don't seem to be too "maternity." But, also a plus, the pleats in the skirt and the low-cut v neckline make this a perfect early maternity, post-partum, and nursing dress. Such versatility will be very useful, assuming I don't wear it out by frequent use before I need it for those purposes. *wink*

I'd planned to wear a demi-camisole with this dress, anyway, and it certainly needs one! And on the subject of demi-camisoles, this one's made with the bottom of a camisole; I'd cut off the bottom half ages ago so I could use the top half as a demi-cami, but it seemed a shame to waste the lace at the hem -- so here it is, "upside down." Waste not!

Fueled by my success, I was ready to cut into the fabric that started all of this in the first place -- but that's a story for next time! This is a story of second chances. Leftovers and rejects stuffed away, pulled out for such a time as this, and given a new lease on life. Wearable mock-ups are always a bonus, especially when they lead to greater things...

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Taking Flight

I may have a slight addiction to Birch Organic fabrics. This time it's "Flight" in the colorway Peachy. It's close to coral (on the "orange side")  

This project was a bit terrifying for a while. I used McCalls 7350, and I made a few changes even before I sewed the pattern up -- I wanted a high-low hem in the front instead of a wrap, so I folded the pattern piece on the "center front" mark and placed it on the fold. I also reduced the size of the waistband and opted not to ruche it; my fabric was thick enough that I thought this would be frumpy rather than flattering. And I'm pretty sure I reduced the amount of gathering in the back skirt, but I can't quite remember!

Construction was not difficult, though the rather unusual bodice construction required a bit of extra attention. The real tragedy was when I had it all together and tried it on. Perhaps my cotton jersey was just too much for it, but I think even in a thinner knit it would be too much. Even cutting it out a size smaller than my measurements (which I've found I always need to do with "Big 4" patterns made for knits), there was just so much fabric. I ought to have known by the hefty fabric requirements and the size of the pieces. Reluctantly, I began disassembling it and trying to figure out how to save it -- I didn't have enough fabric to remake the bodice entirely.

Hack off the unique yoke assembly, a seam pinched in here, a neckline binding added there, and pretty soon I had a "new" dress. Even then, I ended up taking the back apart a bit after I'd worn it one time so that I could reduce the length of the back bodice. The dress was dragging on the floor, anyway! 

In the end, I'm quite happy with this dress! I'd been wanting a maxi dress for a while, and this fit the bill. It's also maternity and nursing friendly, so it will be versatile. It's still quite "ample," but I think it's more flattering than it was, and it's certainly comfortable.

For this project, I also stitched up a quick "demi cami" -- it's a tank top that cuts off at the midriff, and it's the perfect accessory for low-cut v-necks. Together they make a great nursing-friendly combo (v-neck goes down, cami comes up), and they're less bulky than a full tank top even when I'm not nursing. In the past, I've just cut the bottoms off of existing tank tops, but I traced a tank to make this one:

Nothing fancy, as you can see! The neck and armhole hems are turned down once and the bottom is not even hemmed (knit doesn't ravel!). The center front neckline is really all that will ever be seen, anyway. I've discovered that I like homemade demi-camis better than modified tanks, because to get the neckline to a level I consider modest, I usually have the tank armholes riding up too high under my arms. Not particularly comfortable! And now that I have a "pattern" that works and goes together easily, I'll probably make more of my own in the future.

By the way, to see pictures of how this pattern actually looks, check out Becky's version on her blog. She managed to pull it off beautifully in a fabric better suited to the pattern. I made mine just days before she posted hers (I'm a bit late putting it on my blog!), and I was nodding along as I read every frustration she mentioned. Honestly, I'd stay away from this pattern unless you're willing to put in some serious fitting work.

But all's well that ends well! Another dress for the wardrobe (which is more and more "me-made" these days), and a successful "rescue" to boost sewing confidence and motivation. At the end of the day, I can't ask for more than that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

We Meet Again

I've made another Tova. I know, surprise, surprise! This is my 4th, though I've only made one exactly according to the pattern. I decided to try again on an angled placket -- I tried on my chambray Tova last year, but it was a decided failure (fortunately, one I was able to rescue!). I still love that chambray Tova, and wear it regularly, by the way. I can't say enough good things about the fabric, which has worn beautifully (in other words, it doesn't look "worn" at all!), hides stains well, and is as soft and comfy as ever.

But on to the present! I'd been drooling over the Birch Organics Chambray in Coral for a while. After all, Birch Organics is probably my favorite fabric company, chambray is one of my favorite fabrics, and coral is one of my favorite clothing colors! When it finally went on sale, I bought enough for a Tova.

In order for a garment to be truly wearable for me in this stage of life, it must be two of the following three: maternity friendly, postpartum friendly, or nursing friendly (hence the placket). And easy to layer is always a plus! Making note of what went wrong with the placket last time, I made my modifications. Then, with fingers crossed, I cut into my fabric. Do you have any idea how hard it is to cut out a pattern with your fingers crossed? I don't recommend it. *wink* 

The placket worked! It was very, very fiddly at the bottom (I always hate figuring out that bit), but in the end I gritted my teeth and made it through. 

I finished the armholes with self-drafted facings (drafting your own armhole facing is super easy!), which is how I finish all of my Tovas these days. I do love the sleeve, but it makes layering harder.

I do love this tunic! It is lightweight and airy, and has been perfect for summer. The chambray is gorgeously soft, and I love the color -- it's more on the pink side of coral, for those who might be wondering. The perfect summer staple!

We meet again, Tova. And not for the last time, if history repeats intself...

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!