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sewing
  • FO: simple gathered skirt

    The drought continues, and its friend Terrible Heat Wave has come to hang out as well. We've been hovering around 85F / 30C lately, and I can't deny that it has me daydreaming of autumn already. Fortunately, the weather cooled down a bit and we actually had cloud cover for an entire day today, so I was able to head outside and get some photos of a recent FO. 

    In the midst of a bunch of deadline knitting work, I've also been craving a simple sewing project - something to restore some of my confidence after the last few sewing experiences I've had. At this stage, I think I'm coming to terms with the fact that while I like my sewn FOs, generally, I don't necessarily enjoy the process of sewing a garment. What this means right now is that keeping it as simple as possible is the best way for me to go.

    SO. What's one of the simplest sewing projects there is? A gathered skirt. Done right, it can involve very little cutting out of pieces, you only have a few seams to deal with, and the end result can be super flattering. I happen to love high waisted skirts, which is part of why I've been focusing on cropped sweaters lately. While I really like the Chardon skirt (blogged here) I finished a few months ago, I wanted something even simpler to sew. I also wanted something a little longer (thinking ahead to autumn). Starting with the super basic gathered skirt, I opted to add a few details I felt comfortable executing, like pockets at the side seams and a hidden side zip (I don't love the look of an elastic waistband). A few hours later (four or five, probably), and I had a new skirt! (I realize it's a little wrinkled in these photos, but it's been folded, not hanging, as I've started pre-packing my clothes for Norway.)

    The plaid suiting really called out to me when I went to find fabric for this project. I love the neutral tones with that turquoise highlight running throughout. I've been gravitating toward plaids, lately. I think it's a big combination of many things: my growing love for Rowan and in particular this book from Marie Wallin, watching a lot of Outlander a few months ago, and Kate's recent post about Scottesque (and the midi kilt she paired with Buchanan). Between the neutral plaid and the gathered skirt, this thing almost counts as Outlander cosplay, hilariously. The theme song popped in my head when I tried it on to see where I wanted to hem it.

    I used three rectangles (front, back, and waistband) and traced the pocket pieces from the pattern for the Chardon skirt, and that was it. Simple and satisfying. I didn't trim away any of the skirt fabric, which is why the gathering is so dramatic (no Outlander pun intended). I'm very pleased with how the pockets turned out and I think I actually did a pretty decent job of horizontally matching the plaid at the side seams.

    I still need to find closure for the waistband to sit above the zipper - perhaps a heavy duty hook and eye? But that can wait for now. I've paired it with my Chuck in these photos, and I think it's a really lovely combo. I'm looking forward to pairing it with some of my blues as well to pick up on that blue in the plaid. I've logged the skirt on Kollabora and you can check out that page here.

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  • FO: hemlock tee

    I've been enjoying following Me Made May again this year, but with how busy it's been in my house - prepping for an international move, then a parental visit - trying to actively take part really hasn't been practical. There definitely haven't been many opportunities to actually create new items of clothing. I decided to set aside an afternoon while my parents were here, though, to sit down and sew something I've been meaning to sew for months: the Hemlock Tee. It's a free pattern from Grainline Studio, designed for knits. Ever since Me Made May rekindled my desire to sew last year, I've wanted to tackle knits.

    When I was in high school I did a lot of sewing, but I was never a technical sewer - I was very DIY make-it-up-as-I-go-along about it all. I think I wrote about this last year, but it's been so interesting to return to sewing after reaching such a professional level with my knitting. My knitting skills are pretty polished at this point and I know so much about technique, fit, and designing - so to come back to sewing means realizing I know next to nothing about the technical aspects of sewing garments. I was pretty sloppy in high school and I really didn't care, but now I want my hand sewn garments to reflect the level of polish I've come to expect from my knits. It's challenging, to feel like you're going back to being a beginner at something (and for that reason, it's probably a very good exercise for me, too).

    In any case, when I bought this grey and white striped fabric (from Drygoods Design in Seattle - I *think* it's this one), I had originally slated it to become a Linden. I even bought the pattern with it. But as it sat on the shelf, waiting for me to have time to make it, and as I looked into ribbing and trying to find a good ribbing to match the fabric, I started to think that perhaps I should start simpler. I'd still love to make a Linden, but the one-size oversized free Hemlock Tee felt like it might be less ambitious. (For those of you who sew regularly, the Linden might not seem that ambitious, but I really need baby steps here. I'm sloooow at sewing and it takes way more attention to complete simple tasks than it should because I so rarely do it.)

    This super simple tee still took me the better part of an entire afternoon. There are plenty of reasons for that - I used my regular machine with a walking foot put on, and I had to figure out how to install the walking foot before I could even test it out. I also started off using a triple stretch stitch (recommended for knits if you're not using a serger) but that was causing some serious issues with the shuttle in my machine and I broke a few needles before I exasperatedly gave up on that and switched to a normal straight stitch (since it's an oversized tee, I think it'll do okay). 

    I felt unsure about the length of the sleeves, so I didn't actually hem/finish the sleeve cuffs - since it's a fine gauge knit, the fabric won't really fray or do anything terrible, and I've just rolled up the sleeves for now so they're closer to elbow length. I also shortened the overall length of the tee, cutting off several inches of fabric before hemming it. I think it suits me better than the longer length did.

    While I wouldn't say I enjoyed the process of actually sewing it (I think it will take a lot more sewing practice before I can really enjoy sewing a garment) I'm fairly happy with the end result, even though I can spot all the flaws. At a glance, most people won't notice those, and this tee's definitely my style and is very at home in my wardrobe. I think it'll transition super well from a summer piece to a winter piece - it's very layerable, and I can already picture it with a huge scarf around my neck. 

    So this will very likely be my one make for the month of Me Made May. I'm still grateful for the excuse to think a little bit harder about what I'm putting on in the morning and where it came from, and I'm definitely grateful for the month of inspiration that comes with so many people sharing their handmade wardrobes day after day. I'll be doing a lot of culling of clothes before we fly to Tromsø, trying to pare down and really only bring essentials or things I really love, and this month has made it easier to think about what I want to keep and what I'd like to let go of.

    Are any of you participating in Me Made May this year?

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  • lately

    There's been a lot going on behind the scenes for me recently, and I'll share more about that soon, but in the meantime, here are some things I've been up to lately:

    I started a pair of socks with some of the new Arne & Carlos sock yarn from Regia. I've never been one for self-patterning yarns, but this line - and this colorway in particular - totally won me over. The colorways are all inspired by paintings by Edvard Munch with ties to the Norwegian landscape through the seasons. The colorway pictured above is called Summer Night, and I basically want to live in it.

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    I've been thinking about sewing quite a bit (after all, Me Made May is coming up). I'm so pleased with how this Chardon skirt I finished a month ago turned out, box pleats, pockets and all. I haven't had a chance to sew anything since, but I did buy a walking foot for my machine so that I can try out sewing with knits. I have a striped grey knit fabric I was originally planning to use for a Linden, but I've decided it's going to be a Hemlock tee instead, because that seems more beginner friendly and still totally fits with my wardrobe. If you have any advice for sewing knits without a serger, I'm all ears! 

    But back to the Chardon skirt (or Jupe Chardon, as Deer and Doe is a French company) for a moment. This is marketed as a beginner pattern but even so, it was kind of a big project for me. There's not a ton of guidance on how to deal with pressing the box pleats, and the belt loop instructions are literally just a sentence telling you to sew on the belt loops. I know in this modern age of internet tutorials and craft blogging we can expect a lot of hand holding, but if you're taking on these skills for the first time, expect to spend some time doing research on the best ways to go about it. Still - the box pleats and belt loops are acceptable, if not fantastic, and the skirt is super wearable!

    I used an amazing fabric I picked up at Drygoods Design - this Pickering International organic lightweight duck cloth in grey (which now appears to be sold out). It's a 45/55 blend of recycled hemp and organic cotton, so it's going to make a fabulous warmer weather skirt (and it's been doing great in the winter to spring transition with a pair of tights). I love this fabric and would definitely work with it again. Perhaps it's the hemp in it, but it manages to hold the pleats well it doesn't wrinkle anywhere near as easily as a plain cotton or cotton/linen blend would.

    If I make this skirt again (and I might, because it's so versatile) I may add a little bit of length. I have a high waist on a 6' (182cm) frame, so the hem falls a few inches higher above my knees than might be ideal, proportionally. But I'd love a version of this skirt in a darker color - maybe a charcoal or a navy? Or even black?

    You can check out the photos in more detail with some progress notes over on my project page on Kollabora.

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    And lastly, the main recent development in my world is that spring has come screaming into Seattle. It came early this year for us (sorry, east coasters - especially you Mainers who I know just got more snow) and the whole city has been in bloom for weeks. I can't deny I've been enjoying it; Seattle on a sunny day in spring or summer is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I hope spring is finding its way into your world, too!

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  • an FO!

    May has been a quiet month for the blog, as I haven't had much personal work to share. FOs have been thin on the ground lately, too, as I have about seven or more knitting projects going on at once (I really should finish something) and most everything else I'm working on is behind-the-scenes stuff, like pattern writing, illustrating (more on that later), and Nordic Knitting Conference prep. I'm also getting ready to head to Norway in a few weeks to take part in the International Summer School at the University of Oslo! While all of that is incredibly exciting, it doesn't make for the greatest blogging.

    However! I finally have an FO to share today. The last time I posted was the beginning of Me Made May, and I wrote about my plans to sew the Easy Short Sleeved Kimono Dress from Pattern Runway. I'm very pleased to say I got a chance to pull out the sewing machine over the holiday weekend, and now I have a new dress!

    This was my first time using a PDF print-at-home sewing pattern, and while it did take some extra prep work up front (aligning all of the pages that made up the pattern pieces), it was relatively easy to do. My finished dress isn't a perfect garment, but I think it is the neatest garment I've ever sewn, because I paid extra attention to the tiny details throughout.

    I have a few notes on the process:

    - I decided not to try and make any modifications to the pattern for this particular project (in length, for example) because it had been so long since I'd sewn a garment. I figured I could cut and sew exactly as written, and then based on the finished garment, I could decide whether or not to make modifications in the future. It was a little bit of a trial run.
    - I did end up making one small modification, because when it was time to cut out the pieces, my fabric (which I thought was 45" wide) turned out to be about 42" wide. This means my skirt came out a little bit narrower than it would have otherwise, but it ended up lining up and fitting well anyway. I fell between a size small and size medium, based on the size chart, so I had opted to sew the medium to have some wiggle room (literal and figurative).
    - On that note, while the top is designed to have a lot of positive ease, I think I'd be just fine working the size small next time (and perhaps shortening the bodice if I'm using a cotton fabric like this again. The waist of this dress wants to sit lower than my natural waist, which is quite high).
    - I'm quite happy with my understitching on the facings and my work on folding up and topstitching the hem! The geometric print definitely aided me in topstitching in a straight line, and consequently this is the best looking hem I've ever sewn. I'm not as happy with my seam "neatening" and I'll be working on improving that in the future. Has anyone tried this method? It looks pretty sharp, I might try it!
    - The fabric I ended up choosing was this midweight cotton from the Bee My Honey collection by Mary Jane Butters. The geometric effect from a distance is what initially drew me to it, but when you take a closer look, you realize the hexagon/honeycomb pattern is actually made up of honey dippers! It's kind of ridiculous, but hey, I'll celebrate bees. I love that it's more of a graphic print than a cutesy one.

    - Next time, I will definitely add pockets. Seems like it would be pretty straightforward with this pattern, and if I'm sewing my own everyday dress why wouldn't I add pockets?

    All in all, it was a totally positive experience (except for the part where I broke a needle, but that was easily replaced), and I think I ended up with a very wearable garment. I'll probably do the PDF print-at-home thing again, but I would spend more on a physical pattern where the option's available, I think. If you all have patterns you love, I'd love to hear about them!

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