Slithering in late to the party…

I love  Jungle January! I stalk Pretty Grievances all January to see the jungle-inspired creations of other sewing bloggers. Last year I was a tad late. This year, I’m even later…

Everything about this make is late. I purchased the fabric at Joann’s last January and intended to make a top out of it.

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Life got in the way and I changed my mind about the top. I went with a classic wrap dress instead. There are a lot of wrap dress patterns out there and I have become obsessed with trying to score one of the original 1970s Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress patterns. For now, Butterick 5454 does the job.

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It’s tough to tell on the pattern envelope, but the dress has some tuck detailing at the shoulders and the hips on both the front and back of the dress. I really like the hip tucks because they provide some ease for those of us with curves. The only modification I made was to the sleeve length. I made up view B and extended the sleeves to make long sleeves rather than elbow length.

Here it is…

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I was home visiting my parents this weekend and my mom snapped these before my fiance and I headed out to dinner with some friends. She’s not the best with the iPhone camera and I’m not the best model, so this is as good as it gets.

Side view:

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Back view:

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The knit was really easy to sew. I LOVE sewing with knits. They are so forgiving. I used my walking foot and fusible knit tape on all the hems.

Based on my measurements, I should have made up the 14. It looked about right on my cutting mat, but once I basted everything together, it was massive- we’re talking tent-like ginormous proportions. I ended up cutting the entire dress down to about a size 10. Maybe a less stretchy knit would require a bigger size, but in this material, my suggested size was really off.

After a night of decadent food and drinks, the dress was still comfortable. It passed the out-on-the-town test. Now, I’m debating it’s work appropriateness. I was just offered a job (very excited!) and I’d love to wear it to work in the near future. The fabric has a bit of sparkle to it, but maybe with black tights I can pull it off.

I will definitely make another. There is some black jersey in my stash and a blue and white knit that I think will end up as wrap dresses. Next time, I’ll cut the smaller size. I think I may try different sleeve variations, too. I’m not a fan of the bell sleeves, but the flutter sleeves might be nice. I also think I’ll add an extra inch or two at the neck so I don’t have to wear a cami under the dress. It’s fine for winter, but in warmer months, the less layers, the better.

Sweater fail

I knit a box.

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A box with weird bell-like sleeves.

As my first sweater, this is technically a success. I finished it in about a week and I can wear it. I just don’t want to…

It is the Nati sweater, a paid download through Ravelry.com. After some hunting on Ravelry, I settled on this pattern because it looked like a simple make and I felt comfortable taking it on as my first attempt at a sweater. The yarn is Cascade Yarns Lana Grande, a thick and slightly scratchy wool. It was purchased at a yarn store down in Florida.

Most of this sweater was knit in the hospital during my fiance’s brief stay a few months ago. Unpleasant memories of knitting it probably aren’t helping my distaste for the finished product.

I tried to wear it a few nights ago for drinks with girl friends, but I stopped  cold as I passed by a mirror in my apartment. Eek! I looked like a box with overgrown sleeves. Needless to say, a sweater change ensued.

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Since I don’t think I’ll ever wear this sweater and the yarn wasn’t cheap, I plan to frog it. Maybe I’ll knit a scarf and hat combo instead. I could use those and fit won’t be an issue.

I haven’t given up on knitting a sweater and recently started another. I’m working through a Craftsy.com class, My First Knit Sweater by Lion Brand Yarn. It’s a simple moss green cardigan- a wardrobe stable. So far, so good. Hopefully, my  current efforts will yield a wearable garment.

Life in the frozen north

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I miss Florida. Palm trees…. the ocean…. herons…. alligators… I miss it all. I also miss being warm.

The only upside to dealing with cold weather is snow. DC has experienced some snow in the last few weeks and I love snow! I really love snow when I’m nestled warmly into my sofa with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

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Snowy DC rooftops

Unfortunately, I sometimes have to leave my warm apartment while it is snowing or has just finished snowing. At these times, I am very glad I’ve learned to knit. The ensemble above has been worn a lot this winter. I admit, I look sinister. I’m writing it off as the price of warmth. I bought the puffy black coat from NY and Company on sale before the holidays and made the hat and cowl. The cowl was knit first. I purchased the yarn and pattern from Craftsy.com. It was the November 2013 Mystery Knit-Along.

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The yarn is from Sweet Georgia Yarns and the color is called  terracotta.  Acacia Cowl is the name of the pattern. This was my first attempt using cables in a knitting project. I took a cable class this summer at a yarn store back in Florida, but hadn’t used my new skills in a project. These cables were very easy to create and didn’t require a cable needle.

After I finished the cowl, I decided to make a matching hat. I ordered another skein of the terrocatta yarn and found a cabled hat pattern through Ravelry.com.

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The cables are different, so I think of the two pieces as coordinating rather than matching. The pattern did require a cable needle, but I enjoyed the fancy-shmancy stitching. I’m putting this FO down as a success.

If you haven’t tried knitting cables yet, I encourage you to go for it! It wasn’t hard and who doesn’t like the look of a classic cable?

Happy creating in 2014!

Some knitting and my first Zinnia

Eek! It’s been over a month since my last post! I’ve been busy getting into the groove of life in my new city. I’ve also been focusing on my dissertation.

I spend lots of time staring at my computer screen while drinking coffee.

Soy latte in Chinatown Coffee Company

Soy latte at the Chinatown Coffee Company. I’m in love with the milk foam heart.

As it gets colder in D.C. (it’s supposed to snow this weekend!), my knitting needles have been clicking away. I made a turquoise hat to wear in the cold at home and to a conference last month in Minnesota. Minn is freezing! My bones were cold… I found a sample of this hat at Looped Yarn Works in Dupont Circle. It was cute and looked easy. The pattern is called 201 Hat found on jessibean’s Ravelry page. It worked up very fast and is comfy to wear.

Freezing with fellow students in Minneapolis.

Freezing with fellow graduate students in Minneapolis.

Then, I made a cowl from some lovely textured yarn a former co-worker gifted to me. I think it was hand-dyed and I suspect it’s rather old. I used the free bulky mobius cowl pattern. I wasn’t able to pull off the mobius cast on this this yarn, but hope to give it a try soon.

Super warm cowl made from gifted yarn.

Super warm cowl made from gifted yarn.

In addition to knitting, I made a Zinnia!

When Colette Patterns came out with this versatile skirt, I knew I wanted to give it a go.

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The fabric cost about $6 a yard on the sale table at Joann’s. It’s synthetic, but I like the colors and the print.

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skirt fabric

I used a non-static liner also purchased at Joann’s. It’s stiff and doesn’t drape well. I was worried about bulking up the hem, so I just did a zig-zag cut on the lining. I’m now in the market for nicer lining fabrics. If you have a good source, please share!

Lining and lazy hem

Lining and lazy hem

I am pretty proud of the button and my invisible zip isn’t too bad, either.

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Can’t even see the zip!

Here’s the finished product. I wore it with a chambray shirt and what my fiance refers to as my “cowgirl boots.” It is a bit western worn like this. For its next wearing, I think I’ll go with a simple brown or white top and brown heels.

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Selfie in my kitchen.

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Here it is from head-to-toe!

This was my first Colette pattern and I will be making others. The directions were very clear and the pattern only required one minor adjustment. I cut a 6 and ended up having to recut the waistband. I think I spaced out my pleats a bit too far apart which caused the waistband to be too short. Luckily, I had extra fabric, so cutting a bigger waistband was no big deal. I sprayed the fabric down with Sullivan’s Fabric Stabilizer which helped with the slippery factor. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

Now, the time is ticking for holiday sewing. I have two projects on the docket and limited time. Anyone else engaging in holiday sewing?

When teachers get together, we just can’t help ourselves…

… we teach! So, when my favorite partner-in-crime and fellow teacher, M, enjoyed a visit from her younger sister this summer, we decided to teach her how to sew. We pulled out the shears and threads and had a girly day of garment making.

M mugging for the camera

M mugging for the camera

Her sister, A,  is a high school student, but holds her own really well with us… err… mature ladies. While we sewed, we drank lots of tea and took a pizza break.

A has some sewing experience. As a drama student at her high school involved with the school’s theatrical productions, A was familiar with using sewing machines for costumes and props, but had never attempted to make something she could wear off of the stage. M took her to our local JoAnn’s before heading to my place to select a pattern and some fabric. Here’s what they purchased:

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A wanted to try view E and selected some sparkly knit fabric.

M helping with some seam ripping

M helping with some seam ripping

A took to the sewing machine like a fish to water. We were impressed- no need to practice sewing straight lines. She worked that knit like a pro!

A showing off her inherent sewing skills

A showing off her inherent sewing skills

While A learned how to read a pattern and construct a garment, I learned something new, too. The pattern calls for a bias tape finish at the hems. I usually just turn my knit hems with stay tape, but M showed us both how to do a knit hem with regular old bias tape. It wouldn’t work on a hem that needs to stretch, but for the top part of this shirt, it was perfect.

IMG_1254I think the process took a lot longer than A expected, but she stuck with it. Here’s the final result:

A in her finished top

A in her finished top

Fabulous, right?! The darker spots on the top are due to my apartment’s bad evening lighting. The differences in tone are very gradual in person.

I was reminded of why I love to sew when she put on the top and it fit perfectly. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the thrill of making (or in this case helping to make) something that is a perfect fit. A did a neat job. No one would know it’s not ready-to-wear. She seemed very pleased and started wearing it immediately (obviously).

M and I both agree the pattern isn’t really written for beginners. I’m not sure A could have pulled this off on her own. I’m certain I couldn’t have done it a year ago when I started sewing. It’s not terribly complicated, but there were a few bits of the construction we had to stop and wrap our heads around.  Overall, it is a great summer pattern and comes together pretty quickly if you have a little experience under your belt.

I would love to repeat this next summer, but now that I’ve moved, it won’t be happening unless I head back south for a vacation, too. Actually, that doesn’t sound like a bad excuse for a visit…

 

Sewing amid chaos

Things have been quiet around the blog because life is happening in a big way.

First, this occurred..

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Then I moved here…

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The move was immediately followed by a brief hospital stay for my fiance. (Luckily, he’s fine now.)

Then, my soon-to-be sister-in-law broke her ankle. I stayed with her for a few days post-surgery.

Now, that everyone is on the mend, I am trying to plan our wedding. It is not going well…

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If eloping wouldn’t cause massive family drama, I would do it in a heart-beat.

In the midst of all of this, I am supposed to be writing my dissertation. Ummm… yeah

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Sewing and knitting  are the only activities keeping me sort-of sane.

Right before I moved, I finished my first vintage pattern!

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I went with view 3 and omitted the pocket.

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The pattern was straight-forward and I loved the little check boxes on the direction sheets. Although the pattern claimed to be a teaching pattern, it assumes the sewer has some basic garment construction skills. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who’s never sewn before.

I used a cotton poplin I purchased recently on sale at Joann’s. I like the crispness of the cotton and the summery pattern, but I wish I had tried to match up the diamonds at the zipper. If I make it again, I’ll attempt back pattern matching and I’ll probably lower the neck by a few inches. It’s a little bit too high to be really comfortable. I also took in the side seams by an inch or so and raised the bust darts (I usually have to make this alteration). Maybe a size smaller would have been a better place to start?

I’ve worn it a few times, but it’s getting too cold in DC for such a summery top. It was in the 50s today! Gah! How is this Florida girl going to survive?!

While my fiance was in the recouping in the hospital, I knit a sweater. I’ll post photos later when it’s light out. I’m not thrilled with the result, but it’ll work. Obviously, I’m going to need it and many more. I need to get the knitting needles clicking!

My current sewing project is on hold while I wait for the knit interfacing I ordered to arrive. I’m working on my first fall wardrobe item, a knit sweater:

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It’s another Big 4 pattern that I picked up for a $1 at Joann’s. I’m working on view E. My version will not have contrast trim or pockets. I want something simple and need some more cardigans for fall weather. Seasonal sewing… a new concept for me!

Ooo la la!

I love pretty lingerie. Maybe it’s my French heritage or my penchant for the girly- a bit of satin and some lace makes me a very happy lady.

So, when Vogue 8888 came out a few months ago, I had to give it a try. Although it’s labeled “easy,” I was a bit worried. It all looked complicated and impossibly delicate.
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I attempted view D. I recently picked up a ton of fabulous fabric on sale at JoAnn’s- 50% off red tag fabrics! One of my purchases was three yards of a printed satiny blend for $2.75 a yard. I decided to forgo lace and just let the print do the talking.

IMG_1245Eat your heart out, Victoria’s Secret! What would have cost me about $50 was less than $6 worth of fabric.

I will not be modeling this one because it is cut low. It looks great (I think my boyfriend will love it), but I don’t want my cleavage splashed all over the internet…

The “easy” label was legitimate. I was most worried about the fit of the bodice, but the pattern fit perfectly without any adjustments (I’m a solid B-cup).

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I used French seams throughout, so the inside is pretty, too. Overall, it was a fast make. I started it Sunday after lunch and was able to wear it to bed Sunday night. How great is that?!

I will be making up this pattern again. I’m debating sewing up a version in jersey for a different look. I also think I’ll give the other views a try. Maybe I’ll even incorporate some lace next time.

Au revoir! Bonne nuit!

Baja Hoodies & a summer chevron tote

Wahoo! This is my first blog post as a doctoral candidate. Things have been quiet around this blog because I’ve been studying (and seriously stressing) over my doctoral qualifying exams and exam defense. After several panic attacks, nonsensical threats to my boyfriend that I was going to quit the program, and HOURS of studying, I passed my exams and defense. Now I just have to write my dissertation…

Although I haven’t been blogging, I have found some time to sew. Below are my latest projects: two Baja Hoodies and a summer chevron tote.

Baja Hoodies

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My niece and nephew turned three this month and I wanted to make them something cute for summer. After a bit of searching, I discovered many adorable little girl patterns both from indi designers and the big 4. Unfortunately, little boy patterns are not so plentiful and not nearly as cute. I was getting really discouraged when I discovered Blank Slate Patterns. Yay! Cuteness for little boys!

I purchased the Baja Hoodie pattern. A unisex pattern with simple construction, I envision the kiddos heading home from swim class in their coordinating hoodies.

The pattern is a downloadable pdf and has really clear instructions with photos to help you out along the way. This was my first time using bias tape and the photo instructions demystified the process. The pattern is considered intermediate due to the use of terrycloth. I agree this is not a good beginner project (unless you substitute cotton for terrycloth). Terrycloth fuzz covered my apartment (and my cat!) while I worked on these. In addition to making a mess, terrycloth is bulky and was tricky to work with. The fabric was too thick for me to use my walking foot, so sewing layers together was more difficult than it might otherwise have been. Many of my stitches across the bias tape aren’t as straight as I would like due to terrycloth misbehavior. Luckily, I doubt the kiddos will mind.

Front view- For the little man.

Front view- For the little man.

Back view

Back view

Front view- For the little lady.

Front view- For the little lady.

My favorite part of these hoodies is the label. I found these in a local knitting shop and couldn’t help myself. How cute are they?!

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Overall, I’m pleased with how they turned out. I don’t, however, think I will use terrycloth again for quite a while.

Chevron Tote bag

I’ve been using my monogram tote bag a lot this summer. It’s the perfect size for all my stuff (laptop, power cord, wallet, book or two, etc.). It has taken the wear in stride and still looks great, so I’ve been toying with making a second one in a more summery fabric.

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The pattern for the bag- New Look 0126

I found a great bold black and white chevron canvas print at Michael’s last week and couldn’t resist making the purchase. It appears Michael’s is stocking a very limited selection of sewing notions now. My local store has a wall of quilting rulers and rotary cutters in addition to a very limited selection of precut fabric. The canvas I purchased is sold in bundles precut to a yard for about $10. This isn’t a bad price for canvas and, with a 40% off coupon, was a pretty good deal. I then picked up some red ribbon, webbing, and lining fabric at JoAnn’s.

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The finished bag

Lining- red polka dot quilting cotton

Lining- red polka dot quilting cotton

This was a quick and satisfying make. I can’t wait to load it up with my stuff and head off to my “office” (aka. Starbucks around the corner) to work on my dissertation proposal!

Summer bag and little sailboats

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As my exams loom closer (ohmygodohmygodohmygod..) I haven’t been sleeping well, so I’ve been crocheting in the wee hours of the morning. These sleepless nights have resulted in a new summer purse. The terrible photo above was taken on a rare day when I stopped studying, got out of yoga pants, and ventured into public.

The bag pattern is a free Ravelry download, Summer Sling Tote. It worked up bigger than I thought it would, which is good. I was worried it would be too small. There is enough room in it for all my essentials plus a book and my laptop’s power cord- perfect!

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The bag took me about a week and a half to crochet and line. According to Ravelry, more experienced crocheters get it done in just a few days. It’s a great first pattern, just double crochet after double crochet with some slip stitches to attach the handle. I had a tough time with gauge on the handle. I kept making my initial chain too tight and it took me three tries before I was happy with the result.

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The completed bag before the lining was inserted

 

Fellow Ravelry-ers (is that a word?) reported having a tough time with the lining, but I didn’t have any problems.

I used some cotton poplin I had left over from a disastrous skirt attempt (I’ll blog about that later…).  I think it’s so cute with the waves and pink sailboats!

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First, I fused the fabric with a mid-weight interfacing. I didn’t want the bag to flop and sag when I wore it. I like the stitch pattern and I want to show it off. I sewed in the lining by hand and was semi-successful matching up the waves at sides of the lining.

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The interfacing did the trick. The bag stays nice and round even with all my stuff in it. Here’s a side view:

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I am pleased as punch with my new summer tote and reactions to it are keeping me entertained. My mother was impressed and is claiming my crochet skills are hereditary (Mom hasn’t crocheted anything in 30 years…). My friends are giving me incredulous looks when I tell them I didn’t buy my bag- I made it. I think a few don’t believe me!

I have a little less than two weeks until my test, so I guess I’ll need another insomnia project… hmmm… What should I make next?