Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Jasper Tunic: Or, "Can Sweatshirts be Chic?"

 When I came across the Jasper sweater/dress pattern by Paprika Patterns, I was intrigued. Was it possible to make a feminine "sweatshirt" tunic? Drawn in by the neckline details, the welt pockets, and the princess seams, I decided to give it a go. I scored some clearance cotton/bamboo sweatshirt fleece from -- the khaki color doesn't have much "pop," but for $13.50 I would have a wearable mock-up (since, I'll admit, I had serious doubts about how this would turn out and didn't want to invest too much). Plus, all the other colors had a bit too much "pop" for my taste!

Those are my Tea and Scandal socks, peeking out from my Dalias

I had about a yard of fabric left over, so this really only required about 1 1/2 yds of my 60" fabric. Which was a good thing, because I ended up having to entirely re-cut the front piece because of the welt pockets. 

Honestly, I was so pleased with this pattern, EXCEPT for the welt pocket instructions. The pattern included a tutorial (which I didn't consult, because it wasn't convenient at the time), but the instructions did not say how far from the fabric edge to place the welt strip. I guessed, and guessed wrong. After finishing the entire pocket area, I realized that it wouldn't work and unpicked it. Peering closely at the pattern illustration, I could see that the welt strip wasn't right on the edge of the fabric, and guessed it belonged on the 5/8" seam allowance line. That worked, but I managed to put the pocket in upside down on my second try. Grr. In the end, I'm glad I ended up just cutting out a new front, because things don't look quite as crisp when you're using pieces that have already been clipped/graded. I just looked at the tutorial to see if it was any clearer, but nope -- no measurements for the welt strip (though it's easier to guesstimate from actual pictures). The rest of the pocket instructions were clear, and I'm pleased with how my welt pockets turned out. But I firmly believe a pattern should be clear enough to follow without having to guess where to put things.

Other than the "welt incident," the dress went together smoothly. I liked the unique construction (no "side seams," just princess seams), though it did make it harder to adjust the fit. It's a pretty forgiving silhouette, so not a big deal in the end.

I'll always be wearing this with thicker leggings, so I ended up shortening the tunic by about 2 inches before adding the hem band (I'm 5'5"). I'd always been concerned that this dress would end up looking like a fabric tube, and the extra length did make it lean in that direction. I think I also shortened the sleeves by about an inch? It's been a few weeks since I made this, but I was thwarted in my picture attempts on its first "airing," and then managed to get grease spots all over the front while making dinner than night. *facepalm* My very favorite thing is grease on a solid color fabric that should be laundered somewhat delicately... At any rate, I had to launder it before I could take photos, and here we are.

In the end, this is quite a cozy tunic. The cotton/rayon blend is kitten soft on the inside and quite breathable, unlike most poly "sweatshirts." A little bit of shaping makes it more feminine (though it's not really designed to show off the female figure!), and it's lovely to wear. I'll definitely make another in the future, now that I have the welt pocket figured out -- maybe the hooded shirt version? Now to figure out which of my littles needs something cozy made from the remaining scraps...

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Cozy January Socks

In need of a short-term project, I pulled out my skein of O-Wool O-Wash fingering in "Devil's Pool" and browsed my Ravelry favorites for a sock pattern. At first I started Maria Naslund's gorgeous "Lingerie" pattern, but it didn't take long to realize that without ribbing at the top of the socks, they were going to be too large -- even though I was using 2.0 mm needles! I didn't want this beautiful wool to end up as a pair of socks I couldn't wear, so I regretfully ripped out a few inches of lace work and went back to the drawing board. 

I finally settled on This Handmade Life's Cozy Autumn Socks, which is actually a free pattern. It has a bit of a lace pattern, but looked simple enough to be a relaxing knit. I used 2.0 mm needles again, because Medium sized socks seem to end up a bit big for me. 

And relaxing they were! I started these while recovering from pneumonia and (consequently) spending most of my time on the couch. I worked them two-at-a-time (two sets of DPNs), and they were finished in four days. Probably a record for me for adult socks!

This wool is absolutely delightful -- it felt wonderful to knit, and it feels wonderful to wear (I'm wearing these socks right now!). I can't wait to see how it holds up, too. I've always avoided superwash yarns, because of the chemicals and the negative effect on wool's natural properties. But I have noticed that the socks I've knit in "regular" wool do felt after a while. They're all still usable, but I'm eager to see if O-Wash's more natural superwash process is the answer to my dilemma.

This was just the pick-me-up project that I needed, and considering that I only used 60g of the 100g skein, they turned out to be a little more economical than I'd anticipated. 40g is enough for a small project -- in fact, I've already cast on a little pair of stay-on baby booties, because I just don't want to stop knitting this yarn...

I used a wrap-and-turn heel instead of a heel flap. I don't really like wrap-and-turn (it's a pain to keep track of, because I haven't done it much), but I much prefer the result! Oh, and I didn't decrease the toes as much (14 st instead of the 10 called for), to accommodate my wide toe box. This is a pretty standard adjustment for me, now that I've tried a few sock patterns.

I'm feeling much more comfortable with sock knitting -- I feel like I'm understanding the basic building blocks, rather than just blindly following a pattern. And keeping my toes cozy with hand-knit goodness is a highly satisfactory sensation!

Raveled here

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Handmade Christmas, 2019

I thought I should probably post these before January ended! While we didn't do much in the handmade department for Christmas this year, I did continue our tradition of new pajamas on Christmas Eve.

All of the patterns I used were free -- I so appreciate how many crafters have posted free patterns to the Interwebs, and many are multi-sized!

First up, the boys. I bought a yard of Dear Stella Supernova knit, thinking I could cut all of the shirt fronts and backs out of that. Well, I was a bit short! But by adding a yoke detail to the back in the same indigo rayon jersey that I'd bought for the sleeves/pants/neck trim, I was able to make it work. 

These went together assembly style, so it was really a pretty quick process! Ironically, both patterns I used are intended for girls... The shirts are made from the Girl's t-shirt pattern from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom, and I don't recall making any changes. For the pants, I used the Made by Mermaids Bonny Leggings pattern. I did add some room to the leg/seat area, so that they wouldn't be quite as snug as leggings! It worked perfectly, and the stretchy rayon is quite comfy (so I hear).

 After finishing up the boys' pajamas far ahead of schedule in late November, I procrastinated with Rosa's and only finished a few days before Christmas! For her nightgown, I used Birch Organics Tree Stripes in "Sun," which I had in my stash (I'd mistakenly purchased it thinking it was a knit!). I was glad I could use something from the stash, not only to clear it out a bit, but also because I didn't need to spend more on fabric.

I used another pattern from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom, the Peasant Dress pattern. It went together super quickly (obviously I couldn't be bothered to iron it, though!), and Rosa was thrilled. I didn't make leggings this time, since she already has plenty in her pajama collection.

It's been a whirlwind of a month, between celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary, visiting with family, and then dealing with various health issues over the past week and a half. But I'm finally on the mend, and I have a new project in the works (still in the taping/cutting out pattern stage) -- oh, I finished my Jasper sweatshirt dress, but haven't had a chance to wear it yet because I've not been feeling well! Hopefully I can give it a whirl and post some details soon.

Hope you're having a lovely New Year!

Friday, December 06, 2019

Fringe Hack in Check

I didn't waste much time making up another Fringe top, this time in a buffalo check rayon. I was tempted to pick the black-and-red colorway, but decided in the end that black and white would be much more practical with my hand-knit cardigan collection -- I have three or four cardigans that go with this, instead of just one. 

I made a few extra changes this time around. I raised the waistline about an inch, and also made it a bit straighter to keep the check from looking "wavy." Not sure if I like the higher waistline yet. I also altered the neckline so I wouldn't need a camisole underneath. That was definitely a success  -- but I may have made it too high! I think it works with the higher waistline, and the overall "lumberjack" feel, but I'll be fiddling with it again the next time I make this pattern. 

I shortened the skirt again, but not as much as my last Fringe since I was shortening the bodice. I found some sweet little black fabric-covered buttons in my stash, which worked perfectly! I also tried to be super careful with my pattern matching in places where it mattered -- like the center front. Fortunately, the pattern had a clear CF marking, so it wasn't too tricky to cut it properly. I'm so pleased with how precise it turned out! The shoulders weren't quite a good, but they did match up better than I expected.

It was really cold and windy when I snapped some photos (hello, crazy hair!), but it was a bit cozier in my White Pine cardigan and Lake Reed hat:

Monday, November 25, 2019

All Bundled Up

When I undertook to outfit my children with much-needed winter gear, I suspected I might be a bit weary of knitting hats, scarfs, and mittens by the end. I wasn't wrong! But it was well worth a bit of tedium to keep them toasty in hand-knits this winter (and hopefully several winters to come).

I posted the almost-finished hats back in October, and happily the mittens proved to be quick knits. I've always been afraid of trying mittens for some reason, but the Tin Can Knits pattern was so easy. In fact, I'm considering trying a pair of gloves for myself! I kept it simple for the scarves, using a seed stitch for Rosa's to mimic her hat, and  mistake rib or no purl rib for the boys. They did take a bit longer, or perhaps it just seemed that way after knitting the same row or two repeatedly for several feet...

I've posted details of each project on my Ravelry page, so I wan't wax eloquent on the blog, but here are photos of each finished set -- just in time, too, because we had our first snow flurry today!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Fringe Benefits

I've had my eye on the Chalk and Notch Fringe pattern for a while now. I worried it might be too baggy, but I just kept coming back. Perhaps, I reasoned, if I made it in a smaller size with a drapey fabric, I could pull it off. I found an inexpensive rayon challis on, and bought the pattern. It's still hard for me to drop $14 on a single pattern, but this pattern was so well designed and written that it was well worth the cost. I don't enjoy printing off patterns and assembling them, but this pattern not only had a layers feature that allowed me to print just the size(s) I wanted, it also had a guide that told you which pages you'd need to print based on your size/view. Brilliant!

I picked the size that would give me three inches of ease on my bust measurement, and it fits beautifully. I think I'd prefer the waistline to be a bit higher, so I'll probably adjust that on my next one (I bought this rayon, too!). I made the dress length, but shortened it by 4 1/2" so that it would be tunic length. My one complaint on this pattern is the neckline. It's not too low but it gaps horribly, so I may try to adjust that (hoping it won't change the look too much). I don't really mind wearing it with a camisole, but it would be nice not to need one. I did ties in the side seams, and that made all the difference in fit. I think I would have found it too baggy otherwise.

Fortunately my fabric required only rudimentary pattern matching, so I didn't have to spend too much time on my least favorite stage (pinning and cutting!). Actually, I ended up tracing most of my pattern pieces onto the fabric with a disappearing fabric pen, because pinning rayon challis is a bit of a nightmare. It sewed and pressed beautifully, though! You just can't beat that rayon drape.

One little issue I had was the interfacing. The interfacing pieces are designed to be smaller than their corresponding pattern pieces, to reduce bulk in the seams. It's a great idea, but with no stitching holding it down, I had problems with my fusible interfacing pulling away from the fabric during construction. Most of it ends up stitched down, but I had to re-fuse a few pieces along the way.

This tunic is everything I hoped it would be, and it works perfectly with my Goldilocks sweater (especially now that the turmeric dye has faded to a goldenrod hue). I'm hoping the fabric holds up, because this has all the hallmarks of a wardrobe staple.

I have some other projects coming up (including another Fringe tunic), and I've been finding sewing to be therapeutic of late. Most of the fabric I ordered recently included rayon (in everything from challis to jersey to sweatshirt fleece), so that's my fiber theme for the foreseeable future!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

We lost another baby last week.

One day, we were finding out that our rainbow baby was on the way and sending pictures to family of our littles holding a colorful spectrum of balloons. The very next day, it was clear that our baby was already gone. Our third loss in a year; our fourth in six years (1 2 3). We've never lost a baby so early, and it's left us with more questions than answers. There are still half-deflated balloons floating through my house, painful reminders of our brief moment of joyful expectation. Helium balloons are such a rarity in our household that I couldn't bear to take them away from my eager children, and it's not as though my grief would disappear if they did. We now have two "due dates" in 2020, and neither of them will bring the rainbow babies we'd prayed for and rejoiced over.

I want to understand God's plan through this season of loss. But God doesn't promise to explain His ways. He has promised that He has everything in hand, and that all things work for good for His people.

I want to believe that we'll have another healthy baby. But God hasn't promised me that every earthly desire will be granted, even if it's a "good" desire. He has promised that He has a specific plan for my life, and He will richly provide for every true need.

I want the hurt to stop. But God doesn't promise us a pain-free life on this earth -- on the contrary, He tells us to expect and even embrace suffering. In fact, my suffering isn't "all about me." He has promised that suffering is not wasted, that He will use my suffering to encourage others, and that one day all pain will cease. I won't grieve for eternity.

The pain of losing half of my children to miscarriage has driven me to Jesus in ways I never could have understood when life was "easy," and I know that He holds me close as I wrestle with grief and surrender. As Thomas Case wrote, "In the Word we do but hear of God—in affliction we see Him."

I think of the Old Testament saints, who "all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland...But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city." (Heb. 11:13-14, 16) These believers recognized that there was more to look forward to than comfort and happiness in this life. They may have stumbled along the way, but by God's grace they fixed their eyes on the goal and finished the race set before them (Heb. 12:1-2).

One day, grief will give way to glory. For now, it's a day by day (and even moment by moment) challenge to focus on that finish line, looking to a Savior who endured more than I can imagine to save me from the fate I deserved. By His grace we mourn, and by His grace we carry on.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Selfish Sewing: The "Medieval" Maxi

When I came across Wren and Ivory's Reese dress, I was in love! I'd been wanting a maxi dress or two for fall -- in fact, I purchased a Mother Bee maxi dress from Amazon a few months ago (while it's advertised as maternity it works as a "regular" dress, too). I am trying to purchase as little new clothing as possible because I am troubled by the ethics of most ready-to-wear garments, but happily both Mother Bee and Wren and Ivory make their clothes in the USA. Still, I knew I could make a dress for about half the cost of the Reese dress (and I wanted a higher neckline, anyway), so I decided to give it a go.

I picked up some wine-colored brushed polyester jersey, and set to work with great trepidation -- I drafted the pattern myself based on measurements from my Mother Bee maxi dress (a bit challenging, as it's a wrap-front dress). I was truly amazed by how well it went together. I had to make very few adjustments, and the whole process of pattern drafting, cutting, and construction took about a day. Admittedly, I had more time for sewing that day than I usually do...

This dress is incredibly comfortable to wear, and feels so feminine. My husband has dubbed it my "medieval" dress, probably because of the sleeves! I didn't vary much from my inspiration dress, though I did add ties to the back (I like being able to customize the fit) and changed the neckline construction to make it easier to sew. I think I raised the neckline a tad too high, but at least I won't be worrying about wardrobe malfunctions.

I'm a bit torn, because I feel like I've betrayed my love for natural fibers (linen is easily my favorite fiber for fabric, and wool for knits) -- but I must say, the brushed poly is dreamy, easy to care for, and feels like I'm wearing pajamas! Maybe I'll try a rayon or bamboo jersey in future.

It was lovely to sew something for myself, as I've been mostly knitting and my sewing has been limited to very practical things (such as mending) lately. It's giving me all of the cozy Fall vibes, too! I hope you're enjoying a taste of this lovely season in your corner of the globe.