Sometimes The Sequel Isn't As Good As The Original

2.17.2018

So, as it happens, not all knitting projects turn out to be raging success stories.  In fact, some turn out to be sad disappointments.  Like this sweater.  I had high hopes for my second Tegna.  Mostly, those hopes had a lot to do with fixing some of the issues that I had in making my first Tegna - namely fixing the neckline that came out far wider than anticipated.  Instead of fixing the problem, however, it seems to be even worse in this one.  I realize that it looks okay from the front, but the view from the back shows just how ridiculously large it is (Bonus - it gives people a nice view of my big back mole which fortunately you can't see in these pics!).  And there's a good chance that this sweater could go into some 1980's off the shoulder territory with just a bit of movement.
There are few things as disappointing in knitting than finishing a sweater that took weeks to make only to realize that the size is totally off.  Especially since I was a good little knitter and even made a gauge swatch to make sure that the sizing was right.
On the upside, the yarn, Madeline Tosh Light, was lovely to work with and I love the bright green color - even if I am slightly camouflaged amongst the trees.  Also, the lace bottom is as lovely as ever, so at least there's that.  Fortunately, while resiliency may be more of a struggle in other parts of my life, I'm a resilient little knitter and already have my next project on the needles.  You can't keep a good woman down, right?

Brown Birkin Flares

2.11.2018

There's a part of me that feels like "For the love of God,  Carolyn, stop making pants!" but there's another part of me that says "Make all pants, all the time!"  To be fair, there was a real gap in my wardrobe when it came to pants.  I grew out of many pairs over the last couple years and while I had some cropped pairs that I could wear in the spring and summer, I didn't have a whole lot of options for colder weather.  That may partly explain my pants making spree but you know what else explains my pants making spree?  I just really like making pants.  The most intimidating part is definitely the fitting aspect but once you have a pair that fits, the actual sewing isn't bad.  Yes, it's a bit time consuming, but it's definitely worth it in the end.
And with that diatribe, allow me to introduce my latest pair of pants - dyed brown Birkin Flares.  The fabric was once white stretch Cone Mills denim that I purchased with the idea to dye it another color. I originally used some Dylon dye but it came out more of a clay color so I dyed it again with Rit, using significantly less water in my washer, and it came out much closer to the color that I was looking for.  To be honest, it's still a little a lighter than I was originally hoping for and I may just end up throwing it in the dye pot (otherwise known as my washing machine) once again.  The good news is that this is my second pair of jeans that I've dyed and I'm happy to report that the dye seems to be holding up well in the first pair so I'm hoping that it will in this pair too.
This certainly isn't my greatest sewing job. The top stitching ain't perfect, the rivets gave me a super-hard time for the first time ever (don't look to closely at them!), and the waistband is not as tidy as I would like it, but the pants are still super-wearable and I imagine that they'll get a lot of use.  I made a size 30 once again and took some width out of the leg below the hip all the way down the leg to reduce the size of the flare.  Some of my past pairs seemed to have shrunk a bit in length after repeated washings (despite pre-washing the fabric) so I left this pair a little on the longer side in case they decided to shrink up a bit as well.
And that may be a wrap on my pants making for a while, especially since I want to spend February stash busting through some scraps and that generally means sewing for the kids, since tiny people allow for the use of tiny scraps of fabric.

The Lander Pant - Round 2

1.28.2018

It's been a couple weeks since I finished my first Lander Pant and those weeks gave me some much needed time to think about what modifications I wanted to make to future pairs.  Most of my fit concerns were with the crotch, button fly, and waistband areas.  I found the waistband a bit tight and restrictive for my taste and I was concerned about some pulling at the fly making it look like I was about to bust out of the pants.  After trying my first pair on a couple times, I also became concerned that the the crotch was a tad too short for me so I delved into the world of of YouTube videos dealing with measuring crotch length and making needed adjustments and I found this one particularly helpful.  As it turns out, based on my measurements the crotch was an inch too short for me, but to be on the safe side I ended up only adding 1/2 an inch total to the crotch (1/4 to the front and a 1/4 to the back).  I also figured that some of the pulling could be address by adding an extra button to the fly and that actually seems to have worked really well.
Well, not at first since I accidentally added 2 extra button holes initially because I wasn't paying attention and then I had to unpick 3 buttons holes to fix the spacing issue.  Let's just say that there's some unintentional denim distressing around the fly.  Another change that addressed some of my concerns is that I made this version out of some stretch Cone Mills denim, (purchased from here) which is far more forgiving than non-stretch twill when it comes to fit issues.
In an effort to keep some of that stretch around the waistband I cut the waistband with the stretch going around my body, but then I chickened out and interfaced the waistband (as recommended by the pattern), essentially negating the stretch.  I was worried that without the interfacing on the waistband it may not hold up well with wear, but now that I think about it, I probably should have just left it off because I've made several Birkin Flares without an interfaced waistband and they've held up great.
Lastly, I opted to leave out the pocket lining in an attempt to reduce some bulk and instead just finished the top portion of the pock with bias binding that I then folded over and sewed down.  It worked out great and this is probably a modification that I'll continue with on any future pairs that I make.
As for the fit, the pattern is well-thought out in that it includes a larger seam allowance on the outside of the pants so that you can try the pants on and adjust the fit as needed.  I hemmed and hawed about how fitted to make these pants and in the end opted for a fit that's not super fitted.  I slimmed out the hips a little bit but left the larger seam allowance on the leg to preserve the wide leg look.  I'm still trying to decide whether I should have gone with a more fitted hip but I can definitely say that these are incredibly comfortable to wear - something that I couldn't say about my first pair.  And I may officially be an old lady, but I do like my pants comfortable.

Safari Duffle

1.21.2018

Sometimes I can track how my latest obsession came into being and sometimes I have no idea where it originated from.  This project falls distinctly in the latter category because I can't quite remember when I became smitten with the idea of sewing up a duffle bag.  I'd like to think that it has a little something to do with all the childhood associations I have with duffle bags.   You see, we moved a lot when I was a kid and every move meant packing up my duffle bag and heading off to the next place.  This continued well into the teenage years and, in fact, when heading off to college, that's all that I took with me - 2 duffle bags of belongings.  Even as an adult, duffle bags continue to hold a special place in my heart and being the stubborn person that I am, I've refused to purchase a suitcase with wheels and instead continue to lug duffle bags and backpacks around airports.  The only problem is that our last remaining duffle bag is humongous and not particularly practical for all occasions so I knew that a smaller duffle bag would end up getting a lot of use.
In determining what pattern to use, I considered the Grainline Studio Portside Duffle but in my googling spree I cam across this free Safari Duffle Pattern offered by Sew4Home and it jumped to the top of my list because:

1) It's free and free is my favorite price
2) Look how fantastic it is!

I'm not the most experienced bag maker so I was a little leery of using a pattern and tutorial from a website that I wasn't familiar with but I'm happy to say that this one was fantastic.  I would say that my biggest feedback on this pattern is that it should include some instructions on reinforcing vital seams - something that I learned from making the Desmond Backpack.  I ended up sewing all the bag seams twice and reinforced the straps with 5 rows of stitching on top of each other since they'll be under a considerable amount of stress and I don't want them to come off.
As for the fabrics, I spent a lot of time debating what to use.  In the end I used an incredibly heavy canvas from Seattle Outdoor Fabrics for the main exterior fabric.  It's seriously heavy - something like 16 oz, so I opted to leave out the interfacing called for in the pattern.  On a side note, I love that store but bringing two rambunctious kids there is a bit of a nightmare.  At one point they almost knocked over a 6 foot tower of packages to be sent out and I kept thinking that they were going to knock over and be buried under giant bolts of fabric (Spoiler alert - we all survived).  The inner lining is Canvas Jungle by Cotton + Steel, allowing me to give into my deep love of fabric with animals on it. I'm kind of kicking myself for not paying close attention when cutting out the lining and ending up with sideways tigers but in the words of Alanis - you live, you learn.
The duffle has 2 exterior pockets but I felt the need for interior pockets as well so I added two elasticized interior pockets.  The zippers were just purchased from Joann Fabrics (of note, the pattern called for a separating zipper but that's not really necessary) and the hardware is all from the Bag Maker Supply shop on Etsy.  It's probably not the cheapest place to get them from, but they have an amazing selection and I'm so happy with my purchases.  It's not easy to find brass hardware in the wild and I love the way that it coordinates with the brass teeth on the zippers.
As for the bottom fabric, my original idea was to make it out of Moda black duck cloth and to use quilting to add stabilization rather than interfacing.  Once it was all sewn up though, I quickly realized that the difference in stiffness between the sides and the bottom was just too great and I ended up sewing in a layer of the exterior fabric to the back of the bottom to add some more structure.  It wasn't the most well thought out solution but it seems to have worked out okay.
Oh, and if you have an eye for detail you'll notice that I made a typical Carolyn mistake in sewing up this bag in that I reversed the placement of the D-rings and swivel clasps.  I felt like a complete and total idiot for making that mistake, but as it turns out it doesn't affect the functionality of the bag at all and I'm guessing that most people wouldn't even notice (except that I just pointed it out to you).
And that, folks, is a wrap on my new favorite project.

2017 Superlatives

1.14.2018

It's that time of the year again - or at least it was 2 weeks ago.  Time for 2017 Superlatives!  Or as I shall call it this year, "all the things I made and never blogged about in 2017."

Most Worn




This year was probably more about practicality than anything else and what could be more practical than a comfy knit cardigan with giant pockets?  (Nothing.  The correct answer is nothing.)  That may explain why I love the Jalie Drop Pocket Cardigan so much.  My first version was made without any alterations in a light jersey knit and came out around hip level.  I wore it a ton this summer since I tend to run cold and almost always have a coverup with me.  This is a shortened version in a much thicker knit which makes it look a bit more structured.  I wear this version at least once a week to work because it fits all my work clothes requirements - mainly that it's machine washable and has giant pockets to hold all the stuff I tend to carry around.  I've made two of these cardigans so far and have another one already cut out and ready to sew.  And because it's a Jalie pattern and comes with something like 20 different sizes, I can basically make one for everyone in my family.  Gotta love Jalie!

Least Worn




It almost feels unfair to put these pants here since this is more a wearable muslin than a finished product, but one of my least worn items this year was my Lander Pants.  Now I have to say that I love this pattern and will certainly make it again, but I learned a little something about myself in making this pair - I do not like restrictive waistlines and, after having 2 kids, restrictive waistlines don't like me (first piece of evidence: all the stretching around the button fly).


Now I could probably solve this problem with some alterations, but for my next pair I'm going to go for the lazy (wo)man's solution and make a pair in a woven fabric with a bit of stretch.  I'm hoping that the ease in the fabric will solve my tight pant woes because these are definitely supposed to be fitted for stylistic purposes, but I also like a little give in my pants. Also, if I opt to make the pant length Landers again, I'll definitely need to add some length to the leg because even with a deep hem built into the pattern, the length was a tad shorter than I would have preferred.  Oh, and the fabric is Ventana Twill in the plum color way that I purchased from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I was initially going to go with something a little more, well, traditional, but then I thought "what's the point of sewing if you can't make yourself pink pants?"

Favorite Pattern




Hands down - the Burnside Bibs!  It's unique!  It's fun to make!  It's washable and has giant pockets!  (See I told you there was a theme this year).  I made three pairs in a month and I wear them all the time - at home, out and about, and at work (I told you I didn't work anywhere fancy).  I'd love to make more - next time with a bit more length in the leg - but I'm wondering how many pairs can I have before I become a crazy woman who only wears overalls.


Oh, and all my versions were version 1 with no alterations made (this is a very forgiving pattern in terms of fit!).  My first version was a cropped pair in a light denim and my 2nd and 3rd versions were in a linen/rayon blend that I purchased from Joann Fabrics.  All three fabrics worked fantastic with the pattern and were super easy to sew with.

Favorite Knit




Without a doubt - this pink Bloomsbury.  I've made this pattern so many times and each time I love it just a little bit more.  In this case, that extra love was probably the result of working with delicious single ply Manos de Uruguay yarn.  It's like wearing a little hug every time I put it on.

Overall Favorite Project



That award would have to go to my jeans, because I always figured that if I ever got around to making jeans I wouldn't enjoy the process and my handmade jeans would always end up second best to my store bought ones.  As it turns out, I was wrong - so, so wrong because I have loved my journey into jeans making and my homemade jeans are my first choice every time I reach for a pair to wear.  As someone a bit on the hippy side, having jeans that don't restrict and constrict around my hips is amazing.  I can't wait to make some more pairs in 2018!

As for resolutions, honestly I felt too tired by the end of 2017 to reflect much on the year that's passed and to contemplate hopes for the year to come.  So, rather than create my own motto for the year, I've decided to borrow one from the great Ms. Frizzle - "Take chances.  Make mistakes.  Get messy."  Let's do this 2018!

And for old time's sake, superlatives from years past:

2016 Superlatives

2015 Superlatives

2014 Superlatives

2013 Superlatives

2012 Superlatives

2017

1.08.2018


If you had asked me one year ago what will be most remarkable about 2017, I would have told you that, without a doubt, it will be finally finishing grad school.  And while I did graduate in August, saying farewell (and good riddance) to weekends of studying and out-of-town clinical rotations, this is not what I'll remember most about this year, because in October Ben was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

With a little bit of distance from that chaotic, and frankly, terrifying time, I can recognize that we have so much to be thankful for.  Thankful that he ended up being diagnosed with stage 1 cancer.  Thankful for family and friends for their support.  And thankful for dark, early morning drives to work where I could cry in my car in peace.  So now we wait and hope for the best, but in the meantime we also return to glorious everyday life with kids, because in the wisdom of Robert Frost:

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."

Comox Trunks

12.29.2017


Before 2017 comes to a close, here's the only other Christmas present that I made this year - undies for Ben!  Now, you know I love sewing undies for the kids and for myself, so Ben's been complaining for years that he doesn't have any.  Fortunately, Thread Theory filled a gap in the sewing community by introducing great men's patterns and a couple years ago they released the Comox Trunks.  They also created a sew-a-long with some extra tips and tricks, like how to remove the front "hole" if your partner doesn't use that "exit."

I did some secretive/not-so-secretive measuring of Ben and opted to sew a straight size 30.  It would have been nice to sew one version, seek feedback, and then make necessary alterations to subsequent pairs, but these were a surprise gift so I  had to take a leap of faith in hoping that these were going to fit okay.


Fortunately, the fit seems to be pretty good, although after wearing them for a couple days he did mention that he would prefer the inseam to be about an inch or so longer.  For the record, these are pretty short so that may be something to consider when making them for that special person in your life (or for yourself).

Most of the fabrics are Pickering International knits that I purchased from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  They're definitely not the most affordable knits, but I have loved every Pickering Knit that I've ever used and they're perfect for some undies.  The elastic is from a random Etsy store based out of China.  It's a bit of a crap shoot when buying elastics without being able to  handle them, but fortunately 3/4 of them were perfect for the project (one ended up too stiff to use and the rainbow elastic had some issues when I sewed it on).  I particularly love the black and white striped elastic and I wish I had bought a couple more yards of it.


As for the construction, I made the first version with the "exit" hole, but removed it for the following 3 pairs (which makes the undies even faster to construct).  Using what I learned from making the kid's undies, I also opted to add zig-zag stitching over every sewn seam.  This has made the kid's undies hold up really well over the years and I'm hoping that it'll work wonders for Ben's undies as well.  I also used this tutorial to hide the seams when inserting the bottom gusset and it makes for a more professional (and probably more comfortable) finish.

Now we'll all be wearing homemade undies in 2018!

Desmond Backpack

12.27.2017



Over the past couple of years I've made exactly *zero* Christmas presents for family and friends and during that time I felt exactly *zero* guilt for choosing to do so.  More than anything, it's the pressure associated with holiday sewing that turns me off.  The idea that everything must be perfect (which is NOT how I usually sew) and that it has to be done by a certain time makes it more trouble than it's often worth.  I mean, life has enough actual deadlines.  Why add arbitrary ones on top of that?

But this year I got an early start on sewing presents, which is a good thing because I had to make this one twice in order to get it perfect (or as perfect as my sewing will ever be).  I present to you the Desmond Backpack - a pattern by TaylorTailor.  

Now, let's talk about my first version and what I learned from that little foray into sewing mistakes (full disclosure: the only bag I ended up photographing is my second version).


First, I learned that the sew-a-long on TaylorTailor is amazing so if you're thinking of making this pattern, definitely use that as a resource (in fact, I never actually used the instructions - just the sew-a-long).

Second, I learned to pay attention, because in finishing my first bag I realized that I sewed the straps on upside down so that the pretty webbing design feature on the straps ended up on the underside, leaving some not-so-pretty visible stitching on the outside.  And with all the heavy duty extra stitching that you do in making this backpack, there was no way that I was ripping anything out.  In the end I sewed a cute little square that covered the ugly stitching, but I was still pretty annoyed with myself.

Third, my first version was also in waxed canvas and I learned how finicky this fabric can be when it comes to ironing.  There were times when even with a low-heat iron and a pressing cloth, the iron still left permanent marks on the fabric so for round number 2 I mostly just finger pressed seams.

And lastly, I learned function over beauty because for version number one I used cotton webbing simply because I liked the look of it better but it really doesn't feel as substantial as a backpack should and I wish I would have used the nylon stuff the first time around (plus, burning the edges is really fun).


Okay, now on to version number two - with the exterior made from a beautiful waxed canvas and the  lining made from Monstera Canvas by Cotton + Steel.  The waxed canvas is the green color way but to say that the color is subtle would be an understatement.  It's really quite hard to see any green in it.  It probably looks more gray than anything.  Both were purchased from Fancy Tiger Crafts, which may or may not be my new on-line guilty pleasure.


Both times around I bought the entire hardware set from Taylor Tailor.  The quality is great and it's  nice not to have to hunt around for all the odds and ends you need to make the bag.  I opted to add padding in the form of quilt batting to the straps which made turning them a complete and total pain in the butt, but was well worth it in the end for a little extra comfort.  I also paid attention and actually sewed the straps on right side up the second time around.  Gold star for me.


Now for the controversial part - to roll the top forward or backward.  As a biker and a lover of roll top bags, Ben swears that you're supposed to roll them backward for maximum effectiveness but I say roll whichever way suits your fancy.  In fact, that's my general life philosophy for the most part.

You do you.

(Also, an extra-special thank you to Ben who was not actually the recipient of the bag.  He just so happens to be the most willing, available model.  Thanks, Ben!)

De-flared Birkin Flares and a Tegna Sweater

12.19.2017


Many moons ago (otherwise known as 17 months ago), I made my first pair of Birkin Flares.  They were the first pair of "real pants" that I had made and I was so pleased with the results.  But sadly I quickly outgrew that pair of pants and they haven't been worn all that much over the past year because too tight pants = really uncomfortable.

So when it came time to re-enter the workforce this fall I turned back to the Birkin Flares pattern because I was in desperate need of new pants.  Now 2 things that you should know about my work place:

1. It ain't fancy
2. It ain't clean - so anything I wear to work needs to be machine washable

Now truth be told, this is actually the third pair of Birkins that I made after re-discovering the pattern this fall.  I hope to talk about the other 2 at some point, but let's just focus on this pair of pants for now because they're my favorite pair (shhhh - don't tell the other pairs).


For this go around, I ended up tracing up 2 sizes up from my first pair to a size 30.  I also ended up slimming out a bit of the lower thigh and taking away a lot of the flare.  The pattern is great because once most of the pant is sewn together you can baste the outer legs and loosen or tighten as necessary for a perfect fit since denims can vary in how much give they have.  In this case, I ended up taking in a bit more than the recommended seam allowance.  Oh, and the fabric is Pacific Blue Stretch denim, a made in the US denim that I purchased from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  It was great to work with and I love the deep indigo color.



As for finishing touches on these jeans, I used navy topstitching thread and opted to leave off the rivets, which I think gives it a bit more of a "trouser" feel than a "jeans" feel.  Perhaps that makes them more appropriate for work - or so I'll just keep telling myself.


Now on to the sweater because - surprise - I made that too!  The pattern is the Tegna Sweater pattern by Caitlin Hunter.  Now I should confess that me and this sweater did not get along for the first 2 weeks that I worked on it.  In fact, I may  have cursed everybody's name who raved about how amazing this sweater was to knit.  First off, you have to cast on 300 stitches and then knit a lace pattern and I ended up twisting my knitting when I joined it in the round, which required me to rip out hours of knitting.


Needless to say, I was not a happy camper at that point and was a bit bitter.  But once you get through the first couple of rows of lace (I hate knit 4 togethers!), the knitting was much more enjoyable and I really do love the finished product.  The fitted sleeves with the loose flowy top is unlike anything else I've made.  And the fact that it's made out of ONE silky by Fiberstory, a beautiful wool/silk combo yarn makes it sort of dreamy.  It also made it stretch out in length when I blocked it, so it's longer than I originally planned but we just roll with the punches around here.  I really do love wearing it, which is perhaps one of the highest compliments that you can pay to a handmade item.


The other highest compliment?  That as soon as I finished this Tegna I went in search of yarn to make another.

Hello. It's me. (*To be read in Adele's voice*)

10.29.2017


So, how do you start a blog post after 8 months of radio silence?  By ignoring most of what has happened over the past 8 months, because it's been full of ups and downs and twists and turns - as most life paths are - and if I waited until I had the words to speak reflectively about it, you'd probably never hear from me again.  So for now, we'll just focus on a sweater that I finished recently.

Now looking over my past couple of posts you might think "does she even sew anymore?" and I can assure you that I do.  Yes, sewing definitely slowed down during my time in grad school - especially during those out-of-town clinical rotations - but it never completely dried up.  As always, I'm just pretty terrible about getting around to taking pictures.  It's good to know that in a world of constant change, some things stay the same.


Perhaps I feel more motivated to take pictures of knitted items because they're a much greater investment in time and I feel that I owe it to myself to at least get some photographic evidence of all the hours I spent knitting away.  And this case, all the hours I spent cabling away, because look at all those cables!  Fortunately, it was a super-basic cable pattern that didn't require a whole lot of brain power - just staying power.

The pattern is the Coastal Pullover by Hannah Fettig and the yarn is Valley Yarns Northampton in the gold color way.  I'm kind of smitten with this color lately, which seems very timely for fall, but truth be told, I also found myself making may items in this color in the height of spring and summer.  Given my coloring, I'm not convinced that this is a color that I actually look good in, but sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants.


The pattern was good, although personally I was a bit confused as to how to continue the cable pattern with the raglan increases and sleeve decreases.  I felt that I could have used a bit more guidance at that point but it all turned out just fine in the end.  The neck is a little more of a funnel neck than I would have preferred and I should have followed the darn directions and bound off in pattern, but I'm also learning to not be so darn nitpicky about the things that I make.  Are they perfect?  Far from it.  But as it turns out, that neither am I, so I'll just take them as a reflection of who I am.


As for the yarn, I have always been happy with the Valley Yarns that I've ordered.  They seem to be a good product at a good price.  The only issue I ever have is guilt at buying something on-line rather than supporting local yarn sstores, but sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

And this girl's gotta get some motivation to document some of my favorite makes over the past year because 2017 is quickly coming to an end and how can I have an end of the year wrap up post if I've posted a whopping 3 finished items?