Sweater fail

I knit a box.


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.


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.


The ‘existential crisis tunic’

Wait… where did May go?!

I started off this month in San Francisco at a conference. I wore me-made on the plane home and did a solid job of wearing me-made items twice a week (I didn’t do a good job of taking photos). I even managed to make four new garments this month: gingham bow blouse, a yoga-style maxi skirt (unblogged), a red sleeveless knit top (unblogged), and the existential crisis tunic (below). I also finished knitting a scarf for my boyfriend

Scarf for my guy

Scarf for my guy (Man Scarf on Ravelry)

and made three little crochet baskets.

crochet basket (Pattern on Raverly)

crochet basket (Pattern on Raverly)

I haven’t blogged much because I have been prepping for my qualifying exams (the super terrifying mutli-day test I have to survive before I can start on my dissertation). By the time I finish studying each day, I need a crafty break, but I have no desire to read or write. As a result, I’ve been ignoring the blog a bit this month. My test is the last week in June and I can’t wait for life to get back to normal. My brain is starting to hurt…

Sewing, knitting, and crocheting have provided me with a respite from all the studying. My latest sewing project was made from this fabric:

wild tribal challis from JoAnn's

wild tribal challis from JoAnn’s

Nope, there is nothing wrong with your computer… it is bright and wild! This is not normally something that would catch my eye. (I’m blaming this purchase on exam stress.) It has a lovely drape, was 50% off the sale price, and is unapologetically loud.

I decided immediately it wanted to be a tunic, so I attempted Simplicity 4149 again.


I made this pattern once before in a gorgeous shimmery linen, but the garment was a flop.


The linen was too stiff. It was uncomfortable and made me look like a box. Making matters worse, the first time I washed it, the seam at the ‘V’ in the front of the tunic started to pull away and fray.


You can’t really tell in this photo, but the bottom of the ‘V’ is fraying on the left side. Gah!


So, this was a second attempt. I worked on it for a little bit each night for about a week. It’s an easy make, but this was my first time working with challis. It’s slippery and has a bit of stretch. I’m sure with some practice this will be no big deal; however, my first few seams were wavy. My seam ripper got a workout. I ended up with this:


topstitching around the neck in turquoise. It looks wavy here, but really is straight.

Topstitching around the neck in turquoise thread. It looks wavy here, but really is straight.

It’s super comfy. I was bummed that the ‘V’ is a bit too low to wear out in public without a cami underneath, but otherwise, I like the fit- flowing and comfortable. I think it will make a nice cover-up poolside as well as a top for running around on weekends.

I’m particularly proud of the detail I managed at the ‘V.’ I just wish it didn’t get lost in the print:


I’m calling this my ‘existential crisis tunic’ because I finished it on a day when I was not coping well with exam stress. After throwing myself a pity-party, I decided to channel my freaking out into something productive and finished this tunic.

I’m not sure what I’ll work on next. My sewing production has ground to a halt since finishing this tunic- too much studying to do. After the exams, I have a few days of nothing but sewing and mindless television watching planned. I’m soooo looking forward to it!

Gingham wrap blouse


I love a bow.

My boyfriend has hidden things with bows from me when we go shopping. He thinks I am irrationally drawn to items adorned with bows. He’s right! I don’t think my style is super girly, but I love a bow.


The above is McCalls M6564.



I used a cotton blend I picked up on sale at my local Hancock Fabric store. The word “easy” is missing from the pattern envelope, so initially I was worried the make might be too complicated for my current skill level. It wasn’t. The directions were clear and uncomplicated. The pattern fit perfectly as written, so no fitting adjustments were made. I did add a snap to the front neckline. While trying it on during sewing, I noticed it gaped a bit across the chest when I moved around. I also gathered the tops of the sleeves to create a little poof. This wasn’t my original plan. I couldn’t get the sleeves to ease in without puckers, so I decided to gather the tops in order to make them fit. Luckily, I like the result.

During the make, I made two rookie sewing blunders. First, I sewed a dart inside out.


Then, I basted in a sleeve inside out.


Oh well… I’m still learning and I like the end result.



Stalking Mathilde

I’ve been stalking the Mathilde blouse.


If you haven’t yet seen it (or it’s many versions), go ogle it right now- adorable, right?! It reminds me of other blouses I’ve been crushing on:

Polka dot top from Loft

Polka dot top from Loft

Hippie Haute Back-button blouse at Bergdorf Goodman

Hippie Haute back-button blouse at Bergdorf Goodman

A summery version from Ann Taylor

A summery version from Ann Taylor

These tops are lovely, but a little on the pricey side. That Hippie Haute beauty is over $200! My starving grad student budget can’t take that kind of hit, so I really want to make my own version. In the past month or so, I must have directed my browser to Tilly’s webpage a thousand times trying to work up the nerve to purchase the pattern. It’s so cute, and I want to make one so badly, but…

…button holes terrify me.

Despite my fear, I’ve decided to take the plunge. I purchased the pattern this weekend and am working on a muslin. I’m still a mess when it comes to gauging fit.  Ease and “finished pattern measurements” are still concepts I’m grappling with. By making a muslin, I hope to figure out the correct sizing and save myself angst when working with my nice fabric.


I’m a bit short on patience, so the muslin is sloppy. I managed to sew a side seam wrong side out. You can see it in the photo above. And, I just ironed and pinned one set of pleats. Lazy, I know, but it seemed like too much work to do a second set after I figured out the first. Of course that set didn’t go perfectly. One pleat is inside-out!

Although the pattern directions recommend I cut a size 4 based on my body measurements, I thought the finished garment would be a bit big on me. I cut the 3 instead and I really like the fit. Not too snug, but not “Oh! When are you due?” loose. That’s not something about which I want people to have to speculate.

Slightly less puffy sleeve

Slightly less puffy sleeve

I have also de-poofed the sleeves a little. I’m petite and I found the sleeves a bit overpowering. I followed the lead of Shivani at Pins and Needles and decreased the width of my sleeves by four inches. Much better. Shivani’s Mathilde is my favorite non-Tilly version of the blouse. I love the print. I love the fit. I love those wooden buttons. General love for her make!

I think I’m ready to cut into my nice fabric (I’ll post pics of that later). Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll finish the blouse until this weekend. Instead of blogging, I should be working on a manuscript… sewing time is tight this week. I hope to wrap up my Mathilde by Sunday. I’d really like to wear it to my parents’ for Easter dinner. I have a crafty Saturday morning planned with a friend who is a button hole sewing pro. She is aware of my fear of button holes and has offered her expert assistance. I’m hoping for success.

Hemming knits… GAH!

Today, I tried to create a second item from the Sewing with Knits class on Craftsy.com: the scoop necked t-shirt with 3/4 sleeves in a roaring leopard print knit. It’s still a work in progress…

This photos is incredibly unflattering. The shirt is actually super cute.

This photos is incredibly unflattering. The shirt is actually super cute.

After making up the hoodie in an afternoon, I was optimistic about how easily and quickly the t-shirt would come together. It wasn’t quite as simple as I’d expected. The sleeves and sides sewed up quickly, but the neckline was a nightmare. I sewed it up and ripped it out six times. It sagged and went in unevenly. I’m not sure if it was due to the type of knit fabric I used or if having such problems is typical when working with knits. Either way, I was really hating that neckline.

The finished neckline isn’t perfect. There are some spots where it is stretched out a bit, but overall, I think it looks okay. The fit of the shirt is fabulous. I cut the extra small due to the fact the small hoodie was a bit big. It was a good call on my part and I love the way it fits.

I’m done except for hemming the bottom and the sleeves. I tried to hem the bottom and this happened:

Uneven hem disaster

Uneven hem disaster

More seam ripping ensued.

Meg, the course instructor, suggests using a knit stay tape to stabilize hems. I thought I could get away without buying any. Obviously, the hem is not a place to cut corners. I ordered the tape she recommends, fine fusible knit stay tape from SewKeysE. Now I have to wait for it to arrive. (sigh) I am not known for my vast quantities of patience.

Even if I had the stay tape in hand, I wouldn’t be able to finish this project. I’m nearly out of black thread! A trip to the fabric store has been added to the errand list for tomorrow.



I was hoping to dazzle in my new shirt this week, so I’m disappointed it isn’t finished. I am, however,optimistic the stay tape will solve my hem problem and I will have a lovely new shirt to add to my wardrobe.

Well, at least the cat likes it…

My sparkly brown herringbone skirt (New Look 0119) did not go well. It’s too short, too tight, the side seam under the zipper is crooked, the hem is wavy, and the interfacing at the waistband is crooked. In other words, if it could be wrong, it is.

It doesn't look so bad when it's not on me.

It doesn’t look so bad when it’s not on me.

My cat, however, approves.

Millie enjoyed rolling around on the disastrous skirt.

Millie enjoyed rolling around on the disastrous skirt.

I realized I was in trouble with this skirt when the size I cut out and sewed turned out to be about two sizes too big on me. I tried to slim it down, but I’m curvy and the waist/hip ratio adjustments needed were too complicated for my current sewing skills. You don’t want to know how many seams I ripped out…

Despite the ultimate fail of this skirt, I am not counting it as a complete loss. I practiced some important sewing skills:

  1. Darts. -Sewing a straight vertical line is way harder than I thought.
  2. Installing a zipper. -This was by far, the most frustrating and time consuming part of the skirt. I learned there is no compatible invisible zipper foot for my machine (not even the generic Coats and Clark foot works), so I ended up having to install a visible zipper.
  3. Working with thin synthetic fabric. -Nightmare! It shows off lumps I didn’t know I possess. I have a bit more of this, but I’m not using it again without a lining or something underneath to make it a bit less clingy in all the wrong places.
  4. Applying interfacing- This is not as complicated as I had anticipated. I’m pretty sure my difficulties in application were due to the slinkiness of the fabric. I think the interfacing would have worked really well on something less temperamental.

Due to the multitude of problems, I will not be wearing the skirt in public or private… um… ever. And, no photos of me in the skirt will be posted. It makes my bum look bumpy and my waist look huge. I don’t need that sort of image floating around the web for posterity. 

When I placed the skirt on the rug to snap a picture, Millie was instantly enamored. Despite its flaws, she thought the skirt was great. There was much rolling around on the skirt and purring. A brief nap on the skirt followed.

Millie cleaned her paws and then dozed off on the skirt immediately after it's completion.

Millie cleaned her paws and then dozed off on the skirt immediately after it’s completion.

Not one to dwell on my failings, I got right back on that sewing machine and successfully finished a knit project this weekend. More to come about that later…

Puffy skirt update

I am happy to report the brown corduroy skirt survived the washing machine! There were, however, a few problems…

First, the unfinished inside seams were, as I feared, problematic.


The elastic casing on the inside of the waistband started to unravel on one side.


A knotted thread mess.

It wasn’t a complete disaster, but I needed to do some damage control. I pulled out my sewing machine and read through the manual to figure out how to do a zigzag stitch. I made the adjustments the manual said I needed to in order to create the zigzag.


Attempting a zigzag stitch for the first time.

A few minutes later… a finished seam!


I think I did this right…

The unraveling at the waist was a bit more problematic. I fixed it, but the stitching arches up where it became unraveled. As long as I wear the skirt with a mid-width belt, the wonky stitching should be covered up and no one will know it’s not perfect.


Sorry for this blown out picture- snapping photos at night is tricky. You can see where the waistband curves up in order to fix the fraying edge.

This definitely taught me the importance of taking the time to finish my inside seams. Making this skirt made me aware that fraying on future projects may be an issue, so I picked up pinking shears last weekend. Going forward I will always finish inside seams in clothing, but for small non-apparel projects that I don’t want to unravel, I think pinking shears will do the job.

My new pinking shears!

My new pinking shears!

Despite the mending the skirt required post-washing machine, I’m still pretty thrilled with it. I fully expected to pull pieces out of the machine rather than a still-complete skirt with a few fraying seams. I continue to consider the brown puffy skirt a success.

Obviously, this project has taught me that I have sooo much more to learn about sewing. Today, in an effort to continue figuring it all out, I signed up for an online sewing course. Home Ec Online is an online sewing course that includes a multitude of tutorials and tips for people like me who are just starting out. I found it via a Google search and am hoping that it will be as good as it looks. It appears to offer a lot of content for the $50 I plunked down via PayPal today. Hopefully, I will have access to the course soon. I really can’t get involved in any big sewing projects for another week- I’m eyeball deep in end-of-the-semester craziness. Once my final papers and grades are turned in, my course registration should be complete and I’ll be able to get started. I’m excited to continue learning!

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