sewing in april

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I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I received a sewing machine for Christmas (after about four years of not having one), and that I was looking forward to getting into sewing again. January and February went right by without a stitch sewn, but by March and April the home isolation period seemed to offer the opportunity to pull my machine out and finally try sewing some garment projects. And so after a couple of weekends of sewing, I have two projects to share with you!

Before April, I last sewed a garment in 2015. I’d also had a couple of sewing experiences that year that I’d felt slightly frustrated by – having become a very proficient and knowledgeable knitter, I started to feel totally lost at sea when I came back to sewing as an adult, because I wanted to be equally proficient and knowledgeable in that skill. I first learned to sew as a little kid, and I sewed a fair bit in high school, but I wasn’t very fussy about details or finishing at that point in my life (and at that time, I was only knitting really basic scarves, so sewing felt like the more developed skill between the two). But as an adult? I was definitely thinking about details and realizing how very much I didn’t know.

So coming back to sewing this year, I really had to psych myself up before getting going on my first project. But I sewed two things in April! And I have more sewing projects lined up. So that’s excellent. I also decided to purchase the Learn to Sew Clothing online class from Closet Case Patterns, and I can absolutely say that’s been a wonderful investment. At first I felt slightly overwhelmed by the number of hours of video content available through the course – did I really need all of this? – but even though I know enough to sew basic garments, the course walks you through so much foundational knowledge, and a lot of it is exactly the kind of stuff I’ve felt like I’ve been lacking. I learned loads in the first three video lessons alone. Sometimes it’s really worth going back to basics.

But at any rate, here are the two projects I sewed in April:

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First up is the Berlin Jacket by Tessuti Fabrics. Now, I’m gonna say up front that this pattern only goes up to an XL, which is not great. (Size inclusivity* is something I’ve thought about a lot in the past year and I’m in the middle of working on expanding the size range for my own back catalogue of knitting patterns.) I would love to see Tessuti Fabrics expand the size range on this, because I know there are sewists above an XL who’d love to make it if it came in their size. I chose this pattern because I had a few meters of a boiled wool knit I’d ordered from a local shop, originally thinking I would use it for a dress – but at the last minute I decided it was probably too thick for that, and I’d do better to find something that specifically recommended boiled wool. I also wanted something that suited my re-entry level skills (in other words, simple and approachable). This pattern seemed to fit the bill on both counts.

The Berlin Jacket is kind of a coatigan, in that it’s lightweight and unlined, so it’s somewhere between a coat and a cardigan. It’s been a really nice layer for Trondheim’s spring weather, though. I cut the size medium and didn’t make any modifications. The sleeves are designed to have the cuffs flipped up, and while I do wear it that way if I’m wearing it indoors, if I wear it out on a walk (as in the photo at the top of the post) I find I prefer to have the cuffs flipped down for the extra length. At 6′ / 172 cm my arms are on the long side so extra length is always appreciated.

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Most of the seams are overlapped, so there are a lot of visible raw edges, which is why boiled wool is one of the recommended fabrics for this pattern (since it won’t fray). That meant minimal finishing, in theory, but it also meant I went back along some of those raw edges and trimmed any raggedy spots, since when I cut the pieces out I didn’t do the neatest job (I used shears, since I don’t have a rotary cutter). The heather grey is very forgiving, however, so even the edges that still aren’t that neat don’t look too bad. I’m overall really pleased with this project and it proved a nice first project to get back into the swing of things.

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Next up, I went looking through my (small) pattern library for a simple top, and discovered that I had the Tiny Pocket Tank by Grainline Studio. This is actually a discontinued pattern (I believe it was Grainline Studio’s first ever pattern), and it was replaced by the Willow Tank in 2016 (although the Willow has a slightly different silhouette and fit than the Tiny Pocket Tank). Both patterns only go up to a finished 46 3/4″ bust (to fit a 44″ bust), as far as I can see, so again the sizing is pretty limited. But again – this was making use of a pattern I already owned which was at the right skill level for me, and I liked the silhouette, so I decided to make use of it.

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I chose a mid-weight quilting cotton for this project, even if something slightly lighter might have been a better match for the pattern. I knew it would be easy to sew (and there are so many beautiful prints available) so it felt like a good choice for me. I skipped the eponymous tiny pocket, so the basic construction was dead easy – shoulder seams, side seams, and the hem was pretty simple to execute too. It was the neckline and armholes that took the longest. This pattern and the Willow both make use of bias facings, which I had never used before. I’ll readily admit to being one of those people who’s totally intimidated by bias tape, but I followed Grainline’s photo tutorial for flat bias facings, taking my time to go through every step, and it was worth it in the end. I did the neck first, which felt like it took forever, but the armholes went quicker and by the second one I didn’t have to check the tutorial anymore. If this were a solid color fabric with a contrasting thread, you’d probably be able to see that not all my seam lines are quiiiite as tidy as they could be, but in this fabric it’s totally passable and I’m really pleased with how well I managed to execute the facings overall.

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I made two modifications kind of on the fly, since I was trying it on as I went, and the fit was feeling a little weird when I got the main construction finished. The bust darts felt too low for me, and the front neckline on this pattern is notoriously on the low side as well. I ended up taking in the shoulder seams by a half inch, so the shoulder straps were shortened by 1″ in total, and I took out my shears and lowered the underarms by about a half inch as well. To be honest, I totally eyeballed that and I was a little nervous about the length of the bias strips still being right, but it all seems to have worked out okay. And after wearing the tank for a full day, I’m really pretty happy with the fit, so those adjustments seemed like a good call for me. Between the silhouette and the print, this is a garment that’s got me looking forward to summer, although I can wear it already as a layering piece. At the top of this post you can see it paired with the Berlin Jacket.

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Next up, I’ll continue with the Closet Case course, and I’m planning a project that ties in with that. When you purchase access to the course you also receive the PDF versions of the patterns from their Rome Collection, so I’m planning to sew a Fiore skirt. It will add a few more skills to the table which are technically all things I have done in the past (working with interfacing, sewing buttonholes and buttons), but the course is there to guide you through the tricky bits, and I’m eager to have that kind of guidance right now.

*If you’re not familiar with the size inclusivity discussion, I highly recommend checking out this interview Pom Pom Quarterly did with Jacqueline Cieslak, which was originally published in the magazine earlier this year. Jacqueline is amazing. You can check out her knitting patterns on Ravelry while you’re at it.

one last bit of housekeeping + signs of spring

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First up: this will be the last post before I migrate the blog to my new hosting platform, and as I can’t guarantee that the RSS feed will transfer seamlessly, that means that if you use a blog reader to subscribe to the RSS feed for the blog, you may need to update that to be able to see future posts.

If you’re a current email subscriber: luckily, I should be able to update the feed through that service, so you should continue to receive email notifications when new posts go live. That means you won’t have to do a thing! So that’s good news.

Either way, thanks so much to all of you who follow the blog. This space is first and foremost a place for myself – I have been documenting and sharing snippets of my life online for a very long time, and I enjoy being able to look back at what I’ve written in the past – but I am so grateful my musings are interesting to so many of you as well. I’m only sorry the existing comments won’t move over to the new platform with the blog posts, because there have been some lovely and interesting exchanges there over the years.

With that bit of housekeeping out of the way, I thought I’d share just a few photos of the transition to spring here in Trondheim. Spring has well and truly arriving – while we had a couple of light snows in April, they melted away quickly, and over the past week blossoms have started appearing and tiny leaves have started to pop out of the tree branches. This time of year always makes me incredibly excited.

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I’ll be back very soon with more to share. I hope you’re all keeping well.

checking in

One piece of housekeeping before I get into this post: I was notified a few weeks ago that my web host will be shutting down by the end of May. I’ll need to migrate the entire Paper Tiger website to a new platform, which will take me some time. I’ll be moving to WordPress over the course of the next two months. If you’re an email subscriber of this blog (or if you use a blog reader), unfortunately I’ll have no way to transfer that email list, but I will give you some warning before I make the final transfer. The website will still be paper-tiger.net, but links to other pages will be changing. So I anticipate some hiccups, as I’ll need to update links to blog posts or tutorial pages in a whole long list of places: pattern PDFs, YouTube video descriptions, and so on. So I hope you’ll bear with me through that process and forgive any bumps in the road. Now, on to the post…

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Hello, all. I hope you’re as well as can be. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside down for us all, and it’s a strange time to… well, to do much of anything. The Norwegian prime minister held a press conference on Thursday, March 12, announcing a number of initial measures they were taking to try to slow the spread, including closing schools and universities and instituting the social distancing policy we’re all now familiar with. March 12 was the first day I decided to work from home, and the press conference came as a relief, to know the government was taking the threat seriously and once they decided to take action, it was swift. My physical university campus is effectively shut down now, and employees have been instructed to work from home if they can. Looking at the calendar, today’s day 11 of isolation/social distancing/shelter-in-place/whatever your terminology. I’ve been out for walks at least every other day, and to the grocery store once, but otherwise, my partner and I are just home. There have been ups and downs, as you might expect, but overall we feel very lucky – lucky to be where we are (in this house, in this country), to not be worried about our jobs or work for the moment, to be able to go outside. We’re incredibly fortunate. We’re also worried about friends who have already lost their jobs, whose livelihoods are threatened. We’ve only seen the beginning of what this whole thing will bring.

It’s hard to know what to do to help, but I’ve been doing my best to support small businesses, both local and further afield. Even though I’ve been eager to knit from my stash this year (and I still am), I’ve been buying yarn I had no plans on buying a month ago. Buying patterns. Buying music on Bandcamp. Buying books. And feeling grateful to be able to lend that kind of support in some small way.

I find it hard to work on my academic work at the moment, and those I work with have been very understanding. I am getting some work done, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself too. And when it  all becomes too much, I knit. Or bake. Keeping my hands busy helps with the anxiety.

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I hope you’re taking care of yourself and your loved ones as well as you can. I hope you’re taking social distancing seriously, but I also hope you’re able to get outside and take in some fresh air when you can. It’s difficult to try and find a balance right now, but do your best – connect with others using the means we have available, but take a step away and take some time for yourself when you need to. This is a really emotionally complex time. People lives are at stake. If you’re part of the high risk group, take extra care. We’re all in this together. xx

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a few snaps from january

January felt like it went by in the blink of an eye, but I was better about getting outside for midday daylight walks than I was in December. Here are a few snaps from my walks, all taken between about 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

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January was pretty mild, and we had a lot of rain, so the days with peeks of sunshine felt extra precious. I haven’t minded the weather too much, though – I think that getting outside regardless probably helps with that. Here’s to keeping that up as the days continue to grow brighter!

on seasons

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A bit related to my post on darkness: today I’m thinking about seasons.

For awhile now I’ve found it curious how so much our modern (western) society chooses to strictly adhere to the astronomical seasons as the only true definition of “season” (that is to say, the idea that each solstice or equinox marks the first day of a new season). As if seasons have borders. The winter solstice is December 22 this year, but does that mean that December 21 is “technically” still autumn? Plenty of people would say yes to that question, but for any of us who live in a climate where it’s been snowing already, that actually makes zero sense. Autumn one day, winter the next? (Maybe so, but that day came weeks ago here.) Perhaps printed calendars have something to do with it, but the older I get the more bizarre I find it, all the same.

In some ways I feel like social media has amplified this effect in my own life – many of the people I follow, and I myself, often post about the changing seasons at the solstices and equinox. (See a few of my old examples here and here) But the more I see posts about how it’s not “technically” some season yet but it sure feels like it is, the less relevant this strict adherence to astronomical seasons feels. So I guess I’ve been craving something different. Does it “sure feel like winter”? Cool, sounds like it’s winter to me.

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There are, both today and historically, different ways to define or conceptualize a season. Many places have or have had only two seasons: either a summer/winter dichotomy, or in more tropical regions, a wet season and a dry season. The Nordic countries are one of the regions that historically only distinguished between winter and summer – which makes the idea that Midsummer happens around the summer solstice make much more sense. I’m sure there must be others, but that’s the example I’m most familiar with.

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Even in four-season models, there are different boundaries for the four seasons. I’ve already mentioned the astronomical sense, where the seasons begin on the corresponding solstice or equinox. But do you know about meteorological seasons? Professional meteorologists in many regions use these definitions, and they correspond very neatly to three-month chunks: with winter beginning December 1, spring on March 1, summer on June 1, and autumn on September 1 (this is vindication for all you autumn-lovers out there who consider it autumn once the calendar hits September – remember this piece of information and you can use it next time someone tries to tell you “but it’s no technically autumn until September 21/22”).

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There are systems with six seasons, systems that pay no mind to the calendar at all but rather correspond to temperature or other natural or ecological cues, and other ways of marking seasons that you’ve probably never even considered. The “Season” Wikipedia page actually has a lot of interesting information about all of this, if you find all of this as fascinating or as liberating as I do to learn about.

It goes without saying that I speak from my own perspective as someone who grew up and has always lived in the northern hemisphere, so the dates here correspond to that. The photos in this post are all from 2015-2017, when we were living in Tromsø (which is probably the place where I started to disengage from the supremacy of astronomical seasons, because they made so little sense there beyond the summer/winter distinction).

darkness

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I saw an anecdote on Twitter this week about the words for December in Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic – in Irish Gaelic it’s Mí na Nollag (Month of Christmas) and in Scottish Gaelic it’s An Dubhlachd (The Blackness). There are historical and cultural reasons for this somewhat amusing difference, but nonetheless it’s quite striking. I’ve been having talks with friends in the past several days about this darkest time of year, as Norway is now gearing up for Christmas. Advent has begun, and the city streets are positively full of twinkling lights. There are multiple traditions that involve bringing light into the darkest month – one that comes to mind in the Germanic countries is the tradition of having four advent candles (often arranged in an adventskrans, or an advent wreath) which are lit on the four Sundays of advent. On the first Sunday, the first candle is lit. On the second Sunday, two candles. And so on. The tradition is strong here and for many, it’s largely secular, despite advent’s Christian ties. Viewers of Skeindeer’s Vlogmas videos will be familiar with the poem that many recite while lighting the candles. These days, Norway also celebrates Saint Lucia on the 13th. Other religious traditions and cultures have their own versions of bringing light into the darkness, and a common thread is that bringling light into the dark creates hope. I meditated on this theme a little bit on this blog back in 2016 (see the post “on darkness and light“).

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I continue to be drawn to these themes. When we lived in Montreal, one of the things I really missed in summer and winter were the extremes of light that came with the solstices in the north. We knew Montreal’s winter would be brutally cold, but we expected to cope better because the sun would rise every day. On the contrary, we found ourselves missing the darkness of the northern winter. For me, I felt so in tune with the cycle of the seasons and the movement of the earth when we lived in the north. So in many ways it’s a relief to come back, even if in Trondheim we’re not quite as far north as we were in Tromsø.

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The weather has been in flux here as the days get shorter – the snow has started, but then it’s followed by rain, which is followed by more snow, and then more rain. The rainy days are darker, because the snow forms a giant bright reflector on the ground. At the moment, though, I’m not minding the rainy days. I’m just happy to be back in the north.

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And while we’re on the subject of the days growing shorter, a few weeks ago a book I’d been looking forward to was released: The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis. I’ve been a big fan of Carson’s work for years and years, and I found out about this book because she was working on it. “The Shortest Day” is a poem by Susan Cooper, and here it’s been turned into a picture book for kids, accompanied by Carson’s beautiful illustrations. The poem is an ode to the winter solstice, a celebration of the fact that the shortest day is a turning point – once you finally reach it, the light starts to return again. It touches on the cyclical nature of it over time that I enjoy so much. “Welcome, Yule!”

peak fall

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I think Trondheim finally hit peak fall color in the past week (yes, I know, I am still talking about autumn, but I just can’t get over how long and slow it is here!). But on Tuesday a serious windstorm blew through and knocked down quite a few of the leaves. I have a few snaps from the weekend and the past few days, though, that show some of the beautiful golden color I’ve been surrounded by lately. Luckily, there are still a few leaves still hanging on even after the windstorm, though these photos are all from beforehand.

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I’ve also finished a few knitting projects lately. Both the No Frills I mentioned in my last post, as well as the Featherweight Cardigan you can see in this one, and I also finished up a new design. We got to take some pattern photos last weekend, pre-windstorm, and it was nice to take advantage of the fall colors both on the trees and blanketing the ground. These mitts are for a pattern that will be called Oak Hollow, about which more soon.

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If it’s fall in your part of the world, I hope you’re getting the chance to soak up some color. The autumn gold that’s ubiquitous in Norway always makes me feel like I’m in Lothlorien (especially if it’s a birch grove), and I love it so much.

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