2013 Roundup – An Abbreviated Version

Since I didn’t start sewing (or blogging) until halfway through 2013, I don’t have a lot to post before the clock winds down on this year, but I figured I ought to post a little something.

I’m trying to set goals for myself for 2014, but be realistic and not too demanding. (Working 2 jobs and being in a band means that any tight deadlines are bound to get missed, which will only create a cycle of frustration and disappointment, and those aren’t feelings I want to associate with sewing!) First up is to get organized! My stash is folded in a bin, which is not the worst, but I’d like to come up with a better way to map out which fabric is flagged for which pattern, etc. without ending up with shreds of paper everywhere. Spreadsheet, perhaps?? I’ve already made photocopies of my pattern envelopes so that I can store them safely without risking additional damage; next up is tracing off the patterns as I get to them, which will be tedious but worth it.

In a similar vein, I would like to plan projects more efficiently. Is it winter? Try sewing one piece that is appropriate for that season DURING THAT SEASON. Or better yet, sew one season ahead of schedule! Ideally, I’d like to complete one garment a month.

I’d like to shop my stash more this coming year as well. I did a decent enough job of that so far, but I’ve got lots to work with and since it’s already paid for, it’s more economical, too. (Although I have at least 3 different silks floating around in there, and they terrify me.) 

I’d like to make things for other people. I owe my bestie a copy of the blouse I made earlier this Fall, and Tom really wants some Thread Theory shirts (I’ve created a monster). 

I’d like to learn new skills, and improve on what I can already do. 

I’d like to get around to mending my vintage clothes that need it, that way they’ll last another 70 years! 

I’d like to blog more frequently, even if it’s just about my plans or inspiration. I love being part of such a great community online, and I want to participate as well as consume.

That’s all, I suppose! Have a Happy New Year, wherever you are; may you ring in 2014 surrounded by love, joy, and the promise of a fresh start.

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A (Day After) Christmas Cardigan

After weeks of struggling to find time to work on this project, I finally got the Newcastle cardigan done last night! Tom loves it, and I think I did a pretty good job. Photo dump commencing in 3…2…1…

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Happy husband!

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Collar and back contrast yoke

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Contrast cuff

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Not too bad! (Well, except for being on the hanger crooked…)

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Close-up of the contrast fabric and detail at the shoulder yoke

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Bound buttonholes!

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Enormous buttons!

I’m really pleased with the fabrics I chose for this project. They were easy to work with and, although they did have some stretch, were stable enough that I didn’t need to do anything special to try to control them. For my first time working with knits, that was hugely important! (If you’d like to see them up close, you can find links to both fabrics in this post.)

For the most part, the pattern was pretty straightforward. I would absolutely make this again if Tom wanted another one. I looked online to see what reviews were out there and what issues anybody else may have had before I got started. I didn’t find anything, so when I ran into difficulties, I just gonzo’d my way through them. The first problem I encountered was with the facings, specifically the neck facing. For some reason, the piece I cut (the correct size) did not fit the neckline of the sweater–it wasn’t even close. No amount of stretching or fiddling was going to make it cover the gap left between the placket facings. Even now, I have no clue what I could have done wrong to make it not fit! I almost re-drafted that piece, but was feeling lazy and decided not to do that. I just sewed the placket facings and collar in place per the instructions; I think I will get a pack of seam binding and hand-sew it to the seam allowance of the collar and the top part of the facings, that way things don’t look so unfinished.

The other issue I had was with the cuffs. I must have read the instructions at least a dozen times, and still could not figure out what to do. I also couldn’t decide which way the cuff pieces should be folded. I’ve chalked that up to my lack of experience, but nevertheless, it was frustrating. At that point in the process, you’re damn-near finished, and all I wanted was to get this thing done and onto my husband’s torso before Christmas was over! I ended up cutting new cuff pieces with different dimensions (long and not very tall, which creates a much shorter cuff than the original pieces) and sewing them on in a completely different way. In fact, somewhere in the 10 minutes that passed between me finishing the first cuff and pinning the second one in place, I forgot what I had just done. After trying to remember for the better part of 20 minutes, I just went ahead and did something else. The finished result was the same, so I’m not too bummed about it. The cuffs I drafted made the sleeves a perfect length for Tom, which was a huge relief!

I didn’t sew in the sleeves as instructed either, opting instead to set them. For some reason, that was just easier for me to figure out. I’m very happy with the result, but if I make this again I will try to do the sleeves as instructed, just to see if I can do it!

Overall, I’m really happy with my work on this cardigan. Tom has already said he might like another sweater in a different color scheme, so I may be making another one of these sooner than I expected!

Newcastle Cardigan – Phase 2

I’ve made a little progress with Tom’s sweater since last week. The front and back portions of the cardigan are now sewn together, and the seam allowances thereof have been topstitched and secured. I have to say that, having been scared of the “home-sewn” look of a zig-zag topstitch, I really love how that detail has turned out so far. I feel like the sweater looks very RTW, in a good way. (And of course I do not have a photo of the details at this time, but I will share one sometime soon!) The plackets are pinned in place, and I will be sewing them on tomorrow sometime, followed in short order by the facings. There is no way in hell this is getting done by xmas. =(

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Sweater front with plackets pinned in place (right sides together)

In other news, I’ve gotten a lot of great sewing-related gifts in the last week:

The Gift of Knowledge: I had a class last night at a local quilting shop (which came with my sewing machine as part of the prize), wherein I learned that I have been threading my machine incorrectly this entire time. I was embarrassed and mad (at myself AND the directions in the manual), but now I know what I’m doing. I’ll have to test on scraps to make sure the proper threading doesn’t impact my thread tension, which I lowered for the stretchy knit fabric I’m using for the sweater. I also learned a lot about all the stitches that come with my machine and how to clean it properly, and really felt like this trip was a valuable use of my time. Plus this shop has endless bolts of quilting cottons in just about any fashion you could want, so I’m sure I’ll be back for some shopping.

The Gift of Notions: My lovely friend/co-worker gave me an entire mason jar full of vintage buttons (still on the cards–OMG!!!) for Christmas, along with a dressmaking guide from the 30’s/40’s! Buttons are one thing I do not keep around–I buy only what I need for each project, which can be stressful and frustrating. I’ve always wanted to go button hunting at a flea market or antique mall, but just never find the time. I can’t wait to make use of all of these, and already have some favorites that will likely inspire a few garments!

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Just a few of the buttons I got, plus the dressmaking booklet!

The Gift of Storage: My dearest BFF got me a wonderful sewing kit for xmas, complete with several notions and tools hidden inside. I feel bad that she got me so much stuff! I’ve been using a tackle box (which works really well, actually) but I’ll be re-purposing that and moving all my sewing stuff into this case.

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Beauty AND function! (Featuring my very filthy ironing board cover–yikes!)

I have one mystery gift under the tree, and assuming that it isn’t a sewing machine cover, that’s something I really want to get soon. (I know, I know: I could just make one. Maybe. In some parallel universe where I have a shit-ton of spare time. Or if I can’t find one I don’t hate–that would be a good excuse to buy a cool quilting cotton!) Getting gifts is awesome, but more than anything, I’ve been reminded what wonderful people I count as friends, and I was astounded by their generosity and thoughtfulness on my account. (My co-worker had been acquiring those buttons for MONTHS, resisting the urge to give them to me early.) I’m lucky, and I hope I can be even half as wonderful to them in return.

Today is my 5-year wedding anniversary, so rather than spending my evening off (!!!!!) sewing, I’ll be spending it getting a nice steak dinner and enjoying some quality time with my husband. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday filled with love, laughter, and good food!

A Sewist’s Plea for Forgiveness

Dear Janome 7330 Magnolia,

Please forgive your lowly servant’s transgressions these last several months. It was not out of malice, but ignorance, that I threaded you incorrectly every. single. time. and I humbly throw myself upon your mercy. I have learned the error of my ways (with the help of a ghostly confessor at the quilt shop) and do hereby repent! 

Newcastle Cardigan – First Steps

Before I get into this post, I would like to point out that, technically speaking, moving at a snail’s pace is still moving. =)

Many weeks ago, I decided to make my husband a sweater for xmas. I knew going in what a stupid idea that was: I have never sewn with knits before, let alone STRETCH knits, and honestly have almost no spare time right now (a trend which will be continuing for the foreseeable future, since I can’t bear to stop working at the vintage shop on the side). On top of all of this, I also decided to keep this a complete secret from the hubs. That really wouldn’t have been difficult, since when I’m in my sewing area, he’s usually on his computer and doesn’t often venture into my lair to see what I’m up to (although he does ask, bless him).

Do you ever find the PERFECT fabric for something you’re making for someone else, and absolutely trust your instincts until you get it washed and cut? I love/loved the materials I picked for this sweater (both from Fabric.com, main fabric here and contrast fabric here), and although the buttons were so big that they kind of scared me (also from Fabric.com here; seriously, 1 1/2″ sounds like nothing much, but these are ENORMOUS in real life), I liked them as well. But once everything arrived and was ready for action, I lost my confidence. I became terrified that my poor husband–for whom I bought NOTHING ELSE for xmas, btw–was going to hate this sweater. So I asked him a question: if he were to receive a surprise gift, would he rather have known ahead of time what it was, or be completely surprised? He told me to go ahead and tell him, because he was excited. So I told him. Turns out he loves what I picked out, which is awesome, except that I really wanted to shock him this year! (Which reminds me: I must find time to build a time machine, so that I can go back in time and NOT tell him.)

Here are some photos of what I have accomplished so far which, admittedly, isn’t much at all. Seriously: it’s been a month, and I’m still on Page 1 of actual instructions. =/

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Sweater back and contrasting back yoke

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I’m a madwoman for opting for bound buttonholes on stretch knit, I know.

(Sorry, folks: I thought I had gotten a photo of the sweater fronts and shoulder yokes, but I guess not!)

As I mentioned in my original post, I do not own a serger, so I am sewing this entire project with a regular machine using a zig-zag stitch. (If I run into trouble, I might make food offerings to my cats, who may then feel inclined to intercede with their great ancestral deities on my behalf.) After testing a lot (A LOT) on scraps, I felt confident enough to sew on the actual pieces. So far, I haven’t had much trouble. Luckily my fabrics are both relatively stable for stretch knits, but I do not intend to move the speed bar above the first level at any point in this project. So far, I have sewn the shoulder yokes to the cardigan fronts and edgestitched them to secure the seam allowances (mostly because I like the extra detail it gives on the right side of the sweater). The back yoke is pinned to the sweater back piece, but I haven’t stitched it yet. I have been hand-basting all of my pieces together using rayon thread for added stability. I haven’t figured out if my machine can handle a twin needle (the busted Brother CS6000i can, naturally), so all of my topstitching has been done using the same zig-zag as everything else. At first I was disappointed to have to do it that way, but I actually don’t dislike how it looks. (Again, if I had gotten a photo of the front and shoulder yoke pieces, you could see it!) I made bound buttonholes because I am a special combination of out-of-my-mind and stupid, but they actually turned out okay. One is a little too small for the button, but since the hubs rarely buttons his sweaters, I’m hoping it’s not a big issue. Not bad for my first time ever making them, I think, and Tom really likes them a lot. I just LOVE the contrast fabric I’m using for this sweater, and may have to make myself a sweater out of it someday. It’s subtle enough that Tom can wear it for ANYTHING, but still gives a nice bit of extra detail and uniqueness to the cardigan.

I haven’t gotten any farther than this, but I’m still foolishly hoping to have it done in time for xmas. I may have to just stay up late a few nights and knock it out, but he is worth it!

Do any of you have holiday projects that you’re trying to finish (or start–hehe!)? Do you often make gifts for friends and family?

In Which The Blogger Retires The Phrase, “I Never Win Anything!”

“See? My ridiculous luck is starting to rub off on you!”

That was my husband’s response to my greatest raffle victory to date: this summer, I won a brand new Janome 7330 Magnolia sewing machine, having been one of dozens of people to enter a ticket in the grand prize drawing at the “Grand Opening” event held by a wonderful independent sewing boutique in our neighborhood. (It’s within walking distance of my house–how great is that?!?) In between high-pitched shrieks and screams, I reminded him that I don’t really believe in “luck.” Stuff happens. Some of it is good, some of it is awful, some of it is just…stuff. It can be caused by our own actions, the actions of others, the structure/faulty nature of our society, or blind chance and entropy, or any combination of these things (and more). Obviously, this rapturous news is one example of good stuff, and I got myself down to that shop the next day they were open and picked up my prize, smiling like a fool.

I almost never bother to enter drawings anymore, mostly because when I did enter them, I never won. Not a big deal. When I stopped by the sewing boutique that day, I fully intended to enter that drawing (which they advertised in advance, because DUH, PEOPLE WHO SEW LOVE FREE AWESOME SEWING MACHINES). I already had a sewing machine at home, but come on: few sewists could resist the chance to win a new sewing machine! Plus, this one was higher-end than the one I had gotten for myself (albeit with fewer extras), which made it even more appealing. Once I got the machine home, I set it up and played with it. I compared it to my Brother CS6000i, and decided that I preferred the Janome, even though the Brother had come with lots more feet and stitch options. Maybe it was the euphoria of winning something so significant that helped me decide, but I haven’t regretted it. The CS6000i is still sitting in my dining/sewing room (and is now in need of repairs, but that’s another story for another entry) and I’m hoping to get it fixed up and sell it for no more than I paid. BUT I DIGRESS.

You would think that, having won just about the best sewing-related prize possible, I would quit while I was ahead. But no. When the delightful and talented Kathy over at The Nerdy Seamstress announced she was having a giveaway featuring not one, but TWO lovely Colette patterns, I entered. Thinking I had surely exhausted all of my Universal Karma points with the sewing machine drawing, I certainly didn’t think I’d win this one. I was wrong. I was so shocked (and COMPLETELY EXCITED) about my win that I was inspired to write this post! So thank you once again, Kathy, for your generosity. Hopefully my finished garments turn out even half as nice as the things you have made!

In light of this utterly ridiculous “lucky” streak that I’ve been on this year, I really will have to stop complaining that I “never win anything,” because now it’s a lie. I’m okay with that. 🙂