This weekend, I finished the knit summer top I cast on recently:
The pattern is ‘Anjou’ by the Berroco Design Team and is freely available. The yarn is Rowan’s Tetra cotton and was given to me by my mother. I used two skeins of the pink yarn and four and a half of the grey. I am very pleased with the yarn, which is easy to work with, comfortable to wear and had no snags or knots in any of the skeins. The pattern worked up really easily. I adapted it for working in the round. I started off making a medium size, but realized pretty quickly it would be too big. Being, shall we say, somewhat averse to unravelling and starting over, I simply decreased more often to the waist to reach size small and continued in that size from there. This does mean that below the waist, there is a bit of a bulge in the side seams, but not enough that it bothers me. The sleeves don’t have any ribbing: the natural curling of stocking stitch is used as a design element. I made sure the seam of the sleeves (only a short one, 10 rows) was visible only on the right side of the fabric, which is hidden by the curling.
I am quite happy with this top. What’s more, I have enough yarn left (four skeins of pink and 1.5 of grey) to make a second top. I am thinking of the notched hem tank top by Purl Soho. That pattern was written for a linen, ribbon-like yarn, which I think the tetra cotton would be a good substitute for. But first I must finish some other WIPs!
Yep, this post is a week late, but with good reason: this week, I submitted my doctoral thesis! This means that in a few months time, I will have to defend my work and hopefully move on to my next job with the title of Dr! Needless to say it has been quite a busy time and I have had very little mental space, or indeed time, for anything other than my work. But now: on to the quilts!
For some time now, there have been two quilts in my WIP-list: one a scrap quilt, and one a Japanese quilt. The scrap quilt took its sweet time because it is genuinely a scrap quilt, i.e. I had to make enough things to have suitable scraps for the quilt. The Japanese quilt was a social project which stagnated when the friend I was making it with decided to keep hers small and finishing it. However, over the past few weeks I made some good progress on both! Not enough that they’re actually finished, of course, but good enough that I wanted to show off the work in progress.
Now, I should say that prior to this, I had NO experience with quilting. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing – and in many ways still don’t. I just approached it from a ‘let’s piece together some bits of fabric to create a pretty thing’ angle and worked from there.
So, first up: the scrap quilt. After more than a year of collecting scraps and sewing up squares, this is where it is at today:
I had always planned on just making this quilt as big as it could get. The white fabric was the limiting factor: for each coloured square, I needed a white square. At some point in the last few weeks, I finally reached the end of the white fabric and thus, the limits of my quilt. You may recognise some of these fabrics from projects I have posted on the blog before.
You can see the blue flowery fabric used to make this hybrid dress, the bingata fabric used to make this summer dress, and the yellow fabric with white-pink flowers used to make my split skirt.
I sewed up 15x15 cm squares into larger squares of 3x3, with a coloured square on each corner, a pink one in the middle and white for the other four squares. Then, I cut through the middle of the white squares, rotated 3 of the ensuing patches and voilà, this quilt is the result.
Once I had all the squares, things suddenly moved really quickly. Determined to keep the momentum going, every morning before I went to work I would lay all the squares out on my bed, as above. That way, when I came home, I had a lot of incentive to sew up as many of them as possible: if I had to remove all the squares before going to bed, I might never find the correct order of colours again! Yes, I could have just taken a picture, but remember this was a trick designed to get me to keep working on it. As it happened, the first two times I had to replace the squares the next morning I could not remember the order in which I had placed them before. Those times I just made something up and came up with a new, probably equally reasonable design. By the third night enough squares had been attached that it was clear where the remaining ones should go. Which brings me to my next point…
Remember how I said I know nothing about quilting? Yeah, I really know nothing about quilting. When you google ‘quilting how to’ you mostly get info on the bit I already did: piecing fabric together in interesting patterns. But what happens afterwards is mostly kept a mystery, especially when you only have a regular sewing machine. I even found several tutorials (including a Craftsy class) that say that after you’ve made the top, you should just send the whole thing to a professional to quilt with a long-arm quilting machine. Uh, no. For starters, I’m pretty sure those don’t exist here, and second, that’s not how homemade works in this household. So I’m going to attempt the actual quilting on my regular sewing machine with very little guidance. To prevent me from mucking up my lovely scrap quilt, I made a little table runner with the scraps of the scrap quilt (i.e. leftover squares that I had cut when I was being a bit too enthusiastic):
This is going to be my practice piece for quilting techniques. Afterwards, I will move on to the big quilt. I know that with my regular sewing machine, it’s going to be impossible to quilt the middle of the big quilt by machine. I am still considering if I will do it by hand. I also have a cousin who quilts and I may ask her for advice (unfortunately, I live a long way from my family).
Apart from that, there is also the Japanese quilt! A friend of mine who is also into arts and crafts suggested this. We would do a 3x3 quilt of different Japanese-themed quilted motives. We got together several times to work on this, doing practically all sewing by hand. Later on, she decided to make hers into a 2x2 cushion cover rather than a 3x3 wall hanging, which of course meant she was finished more quickly than I was. After that, I didn’t really work on it anymore – until now!
As you can see, several squares are already finished, but some I haven’t even started on yet. I have my friend to thank for many of these fabrics, by the way! The white blob in the lower left is going to be a moon rabbit. The other three squares still left open will be a koi carp, an origami crane and... something else. I have a few ideas for the final one, but nothing clear. I may also redo the lantern - it was the first square I did and it's not as refined as the rest (and a bit oversized). But we will see how much puff I still have when I finish the rest.
So, that’s an update on how my quilts are progressing. It is starting to seem like maybe there will be an end to some of these long-term projects! I hope that now that a very hectic time in my professional life is behind me, I have more energy to tackle my craft projects.
Another summer vacation season has passed (well, for me, anyway). This year, I did much the same as last year… which is to say, not very much. Sometimes you just need downtime. But here is an overview of the (relevant) things I did do.
1. I bought fabric
Yes, yes, I know. I shouldn’t have. But I did. My mother and I made a little trip to a fabric store in a nearby village. Our reason (i.e. excuse) was that I needed fabric for a gift for yet another coworker’s baby, as well as fabric backing for the Star Wars blanket I made for my boyfriend to stop it curling so much. I bought both of those, which would be fine since they clearly fall under the ‘only buy supplies for gifts’ rule… and then I found the clearance section. So, apart from the fabric for gifts, I bought:
On the left are two remnants of a great cotton/linen mix. It's a quite firm fabric and I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet, but I loved the colours and the different patterns within each fabric. On the right is the lovely embroidered fabric I got for a snip. The fabric on the bottom has a beautiful edge which I would love to use as the hem on a dress. I'm going to try to combine the two, but if that gets too busy they will have to become two separate items, of course.
2. I was given yarn
My parents went on holiday and my mother brought me a souvenir! In the shape of two big bags of yarn. One of them I wasn't able to take home straight away (I don't drive), so you'll have to take my word for it that it was a purple cotton/wool blend from Rowan. The other bag was filled with Rowan tetra cotton:
The yarn is made of small individual threads that appear to be knitted in the round around a central, thicker thread. The pink one has some of the grey in it, and the grey one some of the pink, which means they combine really well. It's a nice, light cotton and perfect for a summer top. Thanks, mom!
3. I wanted to start a cardigan, but I didn’t…
For ages now, I have wanted to make a stranded cardigan using rainbow coloured yarn. I finally got the rainbow coloured yarn, I had my pattern all picked out - and then my gauge would not match the pattern. The pattern had no sizing options, and since the gauge at which the fabric looked nice was tighter than was called for in the pattern, knitting it at that gauge would have meant I would never have been able to wear it. So I'm shelving that project until I find a new pattern with a gauge that matches (or with sizing options so I can just cheat and knit a larger size at my tight gauge).
4. ... so I started a summer top instead
Remember how I said at nr. 2 that Rowan tetra cotton is perfect for a summer top? Well, after the failure of the stranded cardigan, I started that summer top! It's knitting up really quickly and I expect to be finished soon. The pattern is Anjou by Berroco and is freely available. I am knitting some pink stripes at the bottom, the rest of the body and the sleeves in grey, and the collar in pink again.
5. I made a wrap blouse
Being in a summery mood, I couldn't stop myself from making a nice summer top using another Lekala pattern sold by BootstrapFashion. This time, I used pattern SKU 57589. I will tell you all about it in a minute, but first, pictures:
I wanted to use up this fabric because I needed scraps for my quilt (although in the end I still have enough of this fabric to make something else). I also wanted to try another made-to-measure pattern after the two-colour dress I made. While I like the end result and am happily wearing it, I wouldn't consider this an unqualified success. As with the dress, I didn't understand all the instructions so I ended up muddling along a bit to get everything to fit. This did not work out as well for the blouse as it did for the dress. Let's just say there's a reason I'm not showing you the inside of the collar. In addition, I think this model is probably more suited for someone with boobs. I have very small breasts and even made-to-measure patterns can't fix everything: this model makes it look like my waist is the widest part of my torso. If I had a larger cup size (or indeed a cup size - yes, they're that small) the blouse would fall a bit better in front, it wouldn't bunch up at the waist quite as much and the whole thing would be a bit better balanced. But, the fabric is beautiful, it's very comfortable and summery and I'm happy I made it.
In the pictures, the right side of the blouse is pulled up a bit which is why it looks uneven in the back. That's not an issue with the pattern, that's just me not looking in the mirror properly.
6. I made good progress on my quilts
In fact, I made such good progress on my quilts, that I am making a blog post specifically about them! Check back at the weekend to see some pictures and me babbling about my first experiences with quilting.
I know, I know, I said the next update would be here on August 6 - but there is an issue with my camera. Replacement is being organized, so expect the update Monday the 8th. Sorry for the inconvenience!
It's the summer holidays! I'll be gone for a few weeks and will post a 'what I did on my summer holidays 2016' with an overview of what I made, bought and did on August 6. See you then!
In the meantime, check out these awesome blogs:
7 Pine Design: A blog by a professional seamstress about sewing techniques, apparel construction, pattern drafting and grading, and pattern reviews. A very educational, thoroughly written and enjoyable blog!
Lilacs & Lace/Laura Mae Designs: This lady sews beautiful items, mostly vintage-inspired dresses, and her pictures are a pleasure to see. Nice blog to browse through and enjoy the inspirational projects!
This weekend - and just in time for a party next week! - I finished my long-sleeved knit dress:
This pattern is pattern 45059 from Bootstrap fashion and made-to-measure. Overall, I am very happy with the fit. There are just a few adjustments I now know I have to make when ordering from Bootstrap fashion again. Notably, my bust apex is higher than their standard pattern, and my shoulders are slightly wider. Luckily both of these are options Bootstrap fashion offers!
The pattern instructions have you use bias tape around the neck edge and the edges of the faux bolero (as you can see in the pictures on the pattern page). This dress was my first time working with stretch fabrics and I felt it was a bit ambitious to combine that with bias tape, which I am not the biggest fan of at the best of time (I love the way it looks, but I always have difficulty getting it on nicely). In addition to this, I couldn't figure out how to use bias tape on the neck edge when there is also the fold of the faux bolero bow. So in the end, I cheated, omitted the bias tape and just sewed the neck edge my own way:
Being my first time working with stretch fabrics, it was also my first time working with twin needles. Unfortunately, this did not go great. Of course, I practiced on a bit of waste fabric first. And things went well! Nice, even stitches, no worries. So I moved on to the dress, hemming the sleeves and the bottom of the dress and stitching the neckline, aaaaaand... problems. Skipped stitches and tunnelling appeared frequently. Apparently, this is mostly due to me not having used stretch twin needles. I thought all twin needles were made for stretch fabrics! Let this be a warning to you all.
As you can see, there is a slight mismatch between the two colours along the zipper. It's a 1 mm difference and after a lot of thought I decided against redoing it. Unpicking stitches does not do this fabric any favours.
All in all, this dress may be my favourite homemade item yet! I am in love with Bootstrap fashion patterns (which I believe are Lekala patterns? I'm not sure how the system works), I am delighted that I chose the highest quality fabric the shop offered instead of going for the budget one, for a first project with stretch fabrics it's a great success and I learned a LOT. And, perhaps most importantly: I think it looks amazing on me.
Way back at the beginning of this blog, I said my goal was to never let the WIP-list get over eight again. A while back, I managed to get it down below eight - and now it has crept up again to nine.
The problem, or at least my problem, is that I had no knitting projects in progress. After I finished the Bauhaus sweater, I started two new sewing projects (the Burda dress and the long-sleeved knit dress from Bootstrap fashion), even though I already had a lot of sewing WIPs, instead of a new knitting project. Turns out I don't do well without a knitting project. Sewing projects are fun! But you can't do them while watching tv or Skyping with people, and they're not very portable.
So, to have a project I could take with me, I cast on for Julia Frank's Saxon the City stockings.
I have had these stockings in my queue since 2011. Back in January 2014, I got the yarn for it. I'm using DROPS Lima in red and black. And now, I've finally cast on!
Almost immediately, I ran into a problem. The other projects on Ravelry all have notes saying it's very important to make a size that's small enough to give you plenty of negative ease. Even though I intend to wear these with garters, that stuck in my mind. So for my 54 cm thighs, I cast on size small. And, having knit 3 Saxon braid pattern repeats so far, it fits... just. But it's stretched to the limit. It just doesn't look very nice, even though it does stay up reliably on its own like this. Before continueing, I'm going to cast on for a second stocking in the medium size and see how that fits. If that fits nicely, I will continue with that size. If I don't like the look or feel of that either... Then I guess the 5 year wait for this pattern was in vain.
In between the other projects I have going, I made a quick little hat:
I call it the copycat hat because it is made after the example of this NYfashion101 hat, which is no longer available for sale:
As you can see, there are some differences between that one and my version. The NYfashion101 version is apparently made with Aran weight yarn, whereas mine is made with a bulky yarn, needle sizes 5 mm and 6 mm. The original is also more slouchy, starting the decreases after the last reverse stocking stitch section, whereas I started the decreases in that section because I prefer a less slouchy hat. I also decreased more gradually, for the same reason, as the original looks like it did not decrease for a couple of centimeters and then suddenly decreased a lot to get that gathered look. The hat used exactly two skeins of yarn (100 meters) and was a quick knit to kill time during excessively long loading screens. Now, back to the sewing!
Today it is exactly one year ago that I started this blog.
When I started, I had 17 ongoing projects. Right now, I have 8. In total, I finished 25 projects in the past twelve months, including eight gifts. So that’s about two projects per month – pretty good, as far as I’m concerned. Here are some of the things I finished in that time (click on the picture to go to the relevant blog post):
I have also really limited my purchases of craft supplies. I bought supplies for those gifts I mentioned, and apart from that I only bought yarn on my summer holidays (cashmere from a local farm) and fabric for the two knit dresses I am working on at the moment. I gave away both yarn and fabric that I wasn’t enthusiastic about. For example, I had three (!) lengths of what was in theory a lovely plaid fabric perfect for a Chanel type two-piece suit… in salmon pink and light blue. Not only do I not wear Chanel type jackets or suits, I do not like salmon pink and especially not in combination with light blue. Where did it come from? Why did I have three pieces of it? We will never know.
I did not manage to clear many boxes (actually I think I only managed to empty one), but because there is less stuff just lying around, my flat does have a calmer appearance. I have been trying to also declutter other things, like books. Like everything else, this is a slow process, but it is working. It has also gotten me to read some books that had been in my bookcase for ages, to determine if they were good enough to keep. Most are, some aren’t. One thing I haven’t figured out how to declutter are my handmade gifts. I have a bunch of scarfs, mittens etcetera that would make lovely gifts for people – but I am never quite sure of other people’s tastes. So I either buy them something or make them something that is ‘safer’ than the fun projects that are in my gift drawer (because things that are in my gift drawer are made because I liked the pattern or the project, and I can’t expect everyone to share my tastes!). I have thought about donating them, but the items that are called for are never the ones I have, and I don’t want to donate handmade items if they’re just going to be thrown out with the textile recycling. If anyone has any ideas, let me know!
There have been some frustrations. My interests change, and so do my tastes. I want to experiment more with certain techniques, but can’t buy new fabric to try them with. I see new patterns pop up and want to make them, but don’t have the appropriate yarn for it. I am getting a better sense of my fashion style and what suits my body (only took me until my late twenties), but have to wait until I get further in my decluttering before I can explore that more. I lost weight and a lot of clothes I bought only a year ago are now far too big (trousers dropping off my ass big), so lately I am spending quite some time taking things in which is time I am not spending on making new things. I could of course buy more ready-to-wear, but there too I am trying to declutter (which, I admit, is helped by the weight loss: if you have to decide if something is worth the effort of taking in, you very quickly learn that you just don’t like some clothes that much).
That is not to say that I regret doing this or am thinking about stopping. All in all, I love this process. I don’t stick to “the rules” occasionally – like buying that knit fabric for the dress, then buying more when the first one didn’t work out – but I don’t beat myself up over it. After all, I’m trying and doing a pretty good job! Being on this self-imposed crafting diet meant that I had a sense of commitment, responsibility and urgency that was missing before. I treat my projects with more respect. What I mean is: before, projects were just something I did because it caught my interest and to be dropped when I lost interest. Now, I am more aware of the ‘costs’ of a project. Not the financial costs (I never really splurged or had a problem handling money), but the environmental costs of the materials and the ‘mental’ costs of keeping something in my house that is not making me feel better, but is making me feel more stressed. Finally, keeping track of things on this blog helped a lot. I would have no update for over a week and think ‘I really need to finish something or my blog will start gathering dust’. The mere fact that the blog exists makes me feel a sense of accountability.
I am planning to move later this year and want to move only the minimum. There will be no summer holidays for me this year, only a week or so at home, or possibly my parents’ home, with a bunch of projects. Regardless of the amount of WIP’s I have at that time, I will allow myself to start a weaving project. For the rest… we’ll see how long my stash can keep me going!
This week, for some time my bed looked like this:
No, I am not trying the Konmari method – I have heard good things about the book, but haven’t read it myself – but I was decluttering.
I take good care of my clothes, which is why they last quite a while. I still have several pieces of clothing from high school (which I left 10 years ago). However, not all of them actually get worn. There was a sizeable chunk of my wardrobe that I hadn’t worn in years. While I have thought a great deal about how I had to be more ruthless with my wardrobe, in reality this just translated to not buying stuff (which I’m good at) and not actually throwing stuff out (which I’m bad at). Then I decided to start getting a bit healthier. Over the past six months, I have lost some weight, and I am now working out so in addition to the weight loss my body composition is also changing. This means that a lot of my clothes just don’t fit very nicely anymore – which is exactly the motivation I needed to get rid of them. I don’t just want cute or comfortable clothes now: I want clothes I actually look good in. If it’s a beautiful dress but it makes me look frumpy, I don’t want it. That’s not what I’m putting in the work for.* So what better time to finally try on ALL my clothes and donate those that just don’t make me happy?
After a few hours of fitting, I ended up with three piles: Goes back in closet; needs altering; and donate. Contrary to popular belief no ‘discard’ pile is necessary if you just don’t put irreparably damaged or stained stuff back in your wardrobe.
I was pleasantly surprised that some of my clothes actually fit me better now! Particularly the vintage items I have. I didn’t lose that much weight – barely one ready-to-wear clothing size – so I guess I went from ‘slightly bigger than intended’ to ‘slightly smaller than intended’ for these pieces.
In the end, I donated three full trash bags of clothing. And, as with all my other decluttering efforts, what amazes me is that after getting rid of so much, I still have so much:
The only new things I have to buy are well-fitting trousers, and those I needed before this decluttering round anyway. Around 90% of what I discarded, I hadn’t worn in at least a year and won’t miss. The only thing I feel really sorry for is one lovely red and white retro “New Look” dress, but it was clearly far too big and too complicated to take in. I also felt a bit guilty about throwing out some items made by my mother, but, frankly, they wouldn't be worn anyway. Better they make someone else happy.
And now I really need to get myself some trousers that fit properly...
* Technically I am putting in the work to improve my overall health and invest in my future by decreasing my chances of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and various other ailments. Looking good is a very, very welcome side-effect.
Hi, I'm Mina and I have a stash problem. This is my way of trying to fix it.