So A Sundress and A Sweater Walk Into A Blog…

Hi! It’s been a little while, huh? You know, I naively thought that my summer would calm the f*ck down after Memorial Day, but I still had too much going on for my liking! (Some of this is stuff I do to myself, like agreeing to participate in an event.) Fall didn’t slow down much either, especially since we WENT ON VACATION ABROAD!!! What?!? I know. Don’t worry, I’ll share that soon. 😀

I haven’t had quite as much time for sewing lately; between stress from work (my role was assigned to a new manager and I feel ways about that…), stress from life, and continuing to struggle with my mental health, it’s been hard to feel creative. And as far as blogging goes, it’s been hard to get motivated to take photos of things once I did finish them. O_o On top of that, I started selling out writing blog posts for my company’s website this year: you’d be surprised how fast that can steal the fun of blogging about a hobby, but here we are.

That said, I did sign up for a block of the month quilt project in August and have been keeping up with it. And it’s easy to take photos of quilt blocks: they just lie there as I loom over them with my phone! 😀 I am definitely not a quilter, but when I saw this pattern–an exclusive at my around-the-corner sewing shop–I had to make it. As you might expect, this project is very EXTRA considering that it’s my first quilt:

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Koala cuteness!

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Flamingo and Turtle butts!

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Blocks 1 and 2 joined

The entire top design! (Photo property of Dabble & Stitch/Cassandra Ireland Beaver)

Here is a link to a photo of the actual quilt top sample–I can’t wait to have mine finished and on our bed…in a year! I’m planning on paying for the designer to quilt mine just like the sample. Personally, I think I will get more out of spending money on that service than I would out of doing the work myself. O_o #notaquilter

But let’s rewind, because I have made quite a few other things since my last summer post. Two of those projects were accessories I made to take on vacation, which I will share soon; two others are the garments you’ll see below! (The other others were costume shirts for the vintage and costume shop–8 in total.)

First up, my 3rd Style Arc Ariana dress!

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Cute dress, shame about the face!

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Back view

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Buttons!

I want you all to know that it was barely 55 degrees when we took these photos the other day: I suffered for you!! 😉

I can’t say enough good things about this pattern. I made two last year, and I would actually like to make at least a 4th one–it’s that good. This rayon crepe fabric was destined to be an Ariana the minute I bought it. It’s perfect, if a bit lightweight. For my bodice lining, I chose to use leftovers from my last Blaire shirt. This was kind of a bad choice, in that the fabrics behave quite differently to each other; but it worked out okay in the end, and there’s no risk of print (or nip!) show-through here.

There are a few dumb mistakes on display with this new dress, namely on the skirt buttons. Originally, I made this dress because I wanted to wear it to an out-of-town family thing this past July. I was actually ahead of schedule–yay!–which meant I was thisclose to having my dress done in time for a last-minute dinner I was invited to in June. I won’t get into it, but it was a (casual) dinner full of strangers who were Important People at an event I was helping with that month. While eating meals in front of other people is one of my actual worst nightmares, I wanted to attend to make a good impression and meet everyone ahead of the event. I don’t know about you all, but I always feel much more confident in a self-made garment when interacting with Important People and/or New People and/or People Who Stress Me Out. So anyway, buttons and buttonholes were all that stood between me and feeling my best at this dinner. The day of the dinner (yep…) I pulled out the front bodice pattern piece to see how far apart my buttons were supposed to be, marked the dress, and got to work. Unfortunately, I forgot that the skirt buttons are spaced farther apart than the bodice ones for Very Good Reasons. I used the correct number of buttons, but the skirt opened far higher than it should because the buttons were too close together! D’oh. Before my next event–the one I was originally making this dress for–I went back and added 2 more skirt buttons. The buttons, by the way, are from Bennos and are made of coconut shell. I love them and will for sure have to buy more when I run out.

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Twirling

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Derp

I also neglected to stay stitch my necklines, which I should have done at least on the shell; there’s some slight gaping around the curves. (It doesn’t help that I put my top buttonhole too close to the edge, so now I actually need to move the button over a bit to compensate.) The pockets aren’t my best work either, namely because I decided to try flat-lining them in the bodice lining fabric. They’re pretty sloppy at the bottom hems. 😦 My hope is that they pass the “3-foot” rule and nobody else will really notice. I mean, in the above photos you can’t even really see the pockets, so I think we’re good!

And now for something totally different: a knitted sweater!

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Bear and Dog

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Half-brioche faux seams

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Back view–love those triangle details!

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Weeeeee!

This is the Ursa sweater by Jacqueline Cieslak. Jacquie is a fairly new knitwear designer but she definitely has a talent for it! Her instructions are really good, and I especially appreciate the way she breaks down your total stitch count between the front, back, and raglans here. It makes counting them up so much more intuitive!

I did modify this sweater a bit by lengthening it: it’s quite a cropped sweater and is even shorter on long torsos! I didn’t want to have to wear a shirt under it, or be limited to wearing it over dresses. In all I think I added about 4″ to the length before starting the triangle insets. Sadly I need to properly block it in order for that extra length to really “count”: it’s still in over-dresses-only territory. While knitting this I had to pay attention to my mechanics on the half-brioche parts: my method of knitting actually positioned the YOs on top of their companion stitch, so I had to re-orient those stitches when it came time to knit them. My first start on this sweater revealed the issue, so I frogged it back and started again. After that, it was looking exactly like the pattern (albeit a bit more open)!

My gauge is off on this sweater. My stitch gauge tends to work up tighter than a pattern’s specifications, and this is no exception: my sweater doesn’t have the same boxy fit that the samples have. Plus, with my broad shoulders and upper back, the raglan shoulders on the size I made are getting stretched to the max! My fabric also seems a bit looser/more open than Jacquie’s samples, probably because my yarn is kind of in between Aran and Bulky and probably needed a smaller needle than what I used (the US10.5 listed in the pattern); this is moreso on the row gauge but does show up on the half-brioche areas too.  So for future versions, I will probably need to go up at least one if not two sweater sizes for my shoulders and maybe drop my needle size (which may necessitate going up yet another sweater size). I’ll play with things and see, but I would love another Ursa or two in my life!

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Still handsome

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Admiring glance

Ironically, the sweater itself was out of season when I made it–in fact, Ohio was in the middle of a news-making heat wave about the time I finished–and now the temps are cool enough that I need to figure out how to style my pink (Ariana!) dress with tights and boots if I want to wear it. D’oh!

As far as current projects go, I have my Halloween costume underway (one piece is done!) and a non-costume Halloween-y dress cut out. I also have another sweater project going, so I’ve got plenty to keep me occupied for now. I’m excited for “proper” fall sewing though: I want to make SO MANY trousers!!

What are you sewing (or knitting!) right now? Do you have any tried-and-true tricks for deciding what to make next?

An Unseasonable Sweater

Hi!

First, I want to thank everyone who left supportive and understanding comments on my last post. It was hard to write that intro–I’ve been very private about my mental health on the blog (and everywhere else!) and generally dislike being vulnerable–but in a way I’m glad it’s finally out there. Fortunately things have continued to improve on that front in the weeks since I posted last!

Today I’m sharing a recent FO with you, which is definitely an indication of ongoing improvement in the Fort Kickass Psych Ward*. Fair word of warning to those of you here for sewing content: this is a post about a knitting project! If that sounds horribly boring, I won’t mind if you close this post–really! 😀 I will have sewing things to share very soon; they just need to be photographed!

*Fort Kickass is our affectionate nickname for our house, and I can joke about my mental health if I want to.

Believe it or not, I managed to knit a second sweater! (Thereby proving that my first one was not a fluke. 😉 ) While I found this one more enjoyable in some respects–no seaming, top-down construction–I now understand why people gripe about fingering weight sweaters taking forever. O_o I made it harder for myself with the all-over garter stitch too. But honestly, I’m not at all put off of lightweight sweaters after this. (But you best believe my next one or two will be in something thicker!!)

Without further ado, here is my take on Wool & Honey:

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Casual post-hair flip stance

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Honeycombs!

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Artful application of pet hair and thread bits. xD

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I immediately bought the Wool & Honey sweater pattern when it came out last June, and bought the yarn for it shortly thereafter. Even so, I didn’t get around to starting it until I’d finished my Harlowe. (I cannot endure the thought of having multiple sweaters going at once. Socks sure, but sweaters?? Nope.) I promptly lost steam upon realizing that my gauge was, once again, working up smaller width-wise than the pattern. I had started the smallest size and the neck was coming out so small that I didn’t see how my globe-like head was going to fit through it. I grudgingly ripped out my work and it took me a few months to start over in the next size up; now that I have finished this project, I see I could have probably gotten away with my original size but I didn’t want to risk it. I also could have fiddled with needle sizes instead of going up a sweater size, but that didn’t occur to me until I’d already made progress on the new one. Whatever, everything worked out!

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Part 1 of the yoke, complete!

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Body complete!

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Hot blocking action. 😉

(BTW, here’s my project page on Ravelry.)

Candidly, I do not like how closely my yarn matches my hair. 😦 I love my yarn and sweater and I LOVE my hair, but I avoid burgundy and oxblood clothing precisely because those shades tend to make my hair look dull by comparison. But when I first saw this colorway, I had to have it, and it had to be this sweater. Don’t expect this to become a habit though, folks!

This was my first pattern from indie darling designer Andrea Mowry, and it was a really great project. The honeycomb pattern was much simpler than I had imagined, and the directions were good enough for a beginner to follow and understand. I like the proportions of this design, especially in the sleeves with the tall ribbed cuffs. I have a couple of her other sweater patterns too, so I’m glad my first was a success! I definitely recommend this sweater pattern if you’re looking for this type of style, just mind that neckhole!

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Flappy sweater

I added a bit of length before the ribbing, something like 1-2″. (Ugh that’s what I get for not recording my measurements!) It’s a cropped sweater, but my torso is long and I didn’t want to get stuck wearing a stupid cami underneath my beautiful new sweater after all that work. It’s just long enough to wear with my mid-rise jeans that don’t come up to my waist, so I’m happy. I didn’t change the sleeve length though, as my limbs are proportionally short for my height.

You may notice a subtle difference between my sweater and the pattern sample: my honeycomb flow to the front left rather than the front right. That’s because I am left-handed, and knit from left to right. I didn’t care about having my hexies on the “correct” orientation, so I just followed the directions as-written and embraced the mirror image aspect. Apart from cables or colorwork (which I haven’t tried yet), I don’t have trouble knitting as a leftie, and even then it’s just a matter of either switching the cable orientation or reading a chart from left to right. But it’s something I do have to think about sometimes!

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Close-up honeycomb action!

There you have it: another successful sweater project! I finished this back in April and thanks to Ohio’s notoriously changeable spring weather, I’ve gotten to wear it twice. I have to go out of town in July, and will definitely be packing one of my knitted sweaters to wear on my flight–which one will all depend on my outfit of choice on departure day. 😉

How about some outtakes, .gifs, and Mulder cameos for reading this far? You’ve earned them!

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“Bright idea: knit a fingering weight garter stitch sweater!”

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I have a good feeling about this jump…

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…nevermind.

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Apathetic windmill

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Come on, you know this is funny.

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“Mom, this is boring. I’m bored.”

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“Get that f@cking camera out of my face!!!!!!!!” (Just kidding, although he was being a dork that day.)

That’ll do it for me today, but watch this space for sewing projects SOON! ❤

 

 

 

In Which The Blogger Gets Sweater Fever

Hello, friends!

Today I will be sharing a knitting project–my first sweater!–and no sewing, so feel free to skip this one if knitting isn’t your jam.

There are two reasons I decided to learn to knit: socks and sweaters. I have been rather obsessively crushing it in the sock department–in the 2 years since I learned to knit, I have made 20 pairs of socks! After just over a year of knitting, I decided I was ready to tackle sweaters. That was last October, and I started this project at that time. (PS: If any of you are on Ravelry, feel free to share your Rav name in the comments, or add me as a friend over there–I’d love more knitting buddies! My Rav name is wronghandmads because I am so creative.)

Fair warning, these photos were all taken before blocking the sweater. Doing that improved the shape of the hems quite a lot…

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Big ugly sweater!!

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Big sweater + baggy jeans = Frumptastic

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Close-up of the yarn. ❤

Theoretically, I could have easily completed this sweater long before now; unfortunately, I messed up my sleeves (the first parts of the sweater I made) and had to unravel them back to the cuffs, which happened over our rather unpleasant Christmas last year. All of that stuff ended up souring me on the project for a while, and I consoled myself with more socks. #sockmonster But this summer I decided that Fall 2018 was going to see the debut of this sweater–I couldn’t stomach the possibility of a WIP passing an entire year without being finished–and buckled down to finish it. As luck would have it, I got it done days before needing to travel out of state and had it handy to keep warm on my flights!

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Well this is certainly a photo…

The pattern I chose is called Harlowe, by Melissa Wehrle. Technically it’s a pattern for Brooklyn Tweed, a company whose design collections initially made me want to knit sweaters but toward whom I now have less-pleasant feelings. Ultimately the other patterns from their collections that I like and want to make are by non-employees of the company, so I will probably make them anyway; buying their yarn, on the other hand, is firmly in the “never” category. (It doesn’t hurt that I’m basically a Madelinetosh fanatic at this point…send help and storage solutions, stat!!)

The pattern itself was just fine and I was able to knit it totally by myself apart from the initial tubular cast-on, which was done under the supervision of an experienced knitter. 😀 I liked the results of this cast-on so much that I have used it on every other project that requires a stretchy cast-on. It really isn’t much extra work for the results you get! Apart from my original PDF download not working fully (the last few pages were missing!) and misunderstanding the sleeve increases the first time, the only trouble I had was with my actual knitting mechanics.

Since my first-ever sock heel, I have known that something about my knitting isn’t quite “right.” Sure, my stitches form and hold together and look nice and whatever, but when working flat or doing short rows my stitches always end up twisted. I actually like the effect on my sock heels and since that’s all I had knit that involved working flat, I didn’t bother to un-learn what I was doing. Well, this sweater’s split hem requires working flat and I was hoping to avoid a large twisted section at the bottom! Unfortunately I wasn’t totally able to do this, simply because I was too stubborn to look up a solution. (I also had no idea where to start looking, as I’m still new and didn’t know what to call this quirk. “F*cky knitting” isn’t really in the knitting dictionary…)

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Rather f*cky hem.

I got it almost-kinda-sorta right on my own, but not completely: you can definitely see the line that denotes where I began working in the round versus flat. (That said, my hem sections are less twisted than my usual flat efforts.) But thanks to Siobhan at Chronically Siobhan (a truly excellent knitter as well as sewer and all-around human being), I was able to successfully work out what to do to fix this. She helpfully suggested that I look up “combination knitting.” It turns out that all I needed to do to fix this issue was purl through the same stitch leg that I knit into (the back one, as it happens) and voila, beautiful flat knitting is now mine! I always assumed that the root cause of the twists was how I wrapped my working yarn around, but fussing with changing that still resulted in the f*cky twisty sections on the hems of this sweater. I couldn’t face ripping out all my work and starting over, but honestly I am just thrilled that my upper sweater doesn’t have the same line that my lower pieces have! So in truth, this sweater is brought to you by my friend Betsy, who taught me to knit and supervised my cast-on, and Siobhan, who knew exactly what to suggest that would help me un-twist my shit. 😉 Ladies, I am in your debt!!

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Blocking!

In a way, the drop shoulder and oversized style made it a great choice for a first-timer, as there was less to worry about in terms of fit. My stitch gauge was a bit off (on the side of more stitches than the pattern’s gauge specified), but my vertical gauge was dead-on; I made no changes to stitch counts or anything like that and am really happy with the size of the finished sweater. Well, except for the sleeves, which are ridiculously over-long as written. :-/

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I mean, come on.

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I don’t know what I was doing here, but it still makes more sense than the length of these sleeves…

All told, my first sweater was quite a success! I am now looking forward to knitting ALL THE SWEATERS.

And never fear, the sweater is Mulder-approved:

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Handsomeness personified…

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He’s eating lipstick in this one…

And you guys know I wouldn’t leave you .gif-less:

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Gotta have a .gif!

 

Thanks for sticking with me while I took a detour into knitting! I hope to return soon with sewing, as I have a costume-ish project in the works that I’d love to share once it’s done. ❤

In Which The Blogger Is A Magpie

Happy Thursday, friends!

Thank you to all those who have commented about Tom’s jeans! Being able to share things (successes and failures alike!) with such a great and varied community of people makes sewing that much more rewarding as a hobby: you guys rock!

Since my last post, I have finished and delivered the two L’il Sharks to their new home. All that’s left now is for their tiny humans to arrive, which should happen in the next several weeks. Yay! I forgot to take photographs of them (#sosorrysostupid) but I used the free pattern provided by Cation Designs here. It is SO CUTE and makes very adorable little hammerheads for the shark enthusiast or baby in your life. (Or your softie-loving dog, if you care to put this much effort into something they can trash in 10 seconds.) The little sharks were very easy to make, and the tutorial linked above is very helpful if you aren’t sure where to start putting everything together. I am certainly grateful to Cation Designs for making her pattern available to the rest of us, and promise to only use my shark-producing powers for good (i.e., I will never make them for profit, per her request). I ask that you please do the same, if you decide to try her pattern. (In other words: Don’t be an asshole.)

The giant shark (using M7103) for the same couple’s toddler is now finished; it will be a birthday gift for her. (Welcome to Toddlerhood: have a shark.) Isn’t it cute?!?!?

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Sherk MkII (Mulder added for scale)

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View from above

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Squishy underbelly!

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‘Sup

I can’t get over how amazing this pattern is–I love it so much! Someday, I shall have a Sherk of my very own. 🙂 I had briefly considered using View B–the Hammerhead version–to coordinate with the baby sharks I made for the gift recipient’s future brothers, but ultimately opted to make the Great White again. (It is the biggest one, and therefore the best.) #noragrets

The plaid fleece I used for MkII (who I am affectionately referring to as sHERk) was a pain: unbalanced and not really on-grain (as far as fleece goes, that is). I realized these things AFTER painstakingly matching large intersections with pins, naturally. Since that part took 2 hours, I decided to just cut it out as-is and not worry about it. I decided to put the fins on the bias for effect, since I couldn’t really match them properly with the body. Had I bought double the recommended yardage, I could have matched everything. But this is a fleece object, and I don’t need extra fleece flopping around my house. I have plenty of scraps left from all this Sharking as it is! (And if I’m honest, this was part of my bias fin motive: do a wasteful layout to use up that fleece!!) And really, this is for a little kid to beat up on and drag around the house: it didn’t seem worth beating myself up over the plaid as long as she enjoys playing with it. I’ll save my sewing stress for clothes! 🙂

So apart from Sharking and summer wardrobe planning/starting (hopefully I’ll be back soon to share some results!), there has been one other BIG, HUGE time-suck happening at the “Mads” House: knitting. Let me repeat that: KNITTING. That’s right folks, this dimwit has learned to knit!!! Aaaaaahhhhh!!!!

Although knitting prowess runs in the family (my grandmother–the same one who quilted proficiently–and my oldest sister were/are both very talented knitters), I never had the desire to learn until very recently. There are two reasons for my sudden interest: Sock People and fucking Brooklyn Tweed.

I follow tons of sewing folks online, and have noticed that many of them also knit; plenty of those who knit like to knit socks, and they waggle those beautiful, toasty tubes of wooly goodness in my face seemingly every day. And as someone who wears socks to bed and inside my boots in the Fall and Winter, I quickly began to covet the pretty socks that everyone was making. When Ginger Makes posted about her foray into sock knitting, I realized that the only way to resolve my bitter jealousy toward these Sock People would be to learn to knit them myself; I even made a declaration of intent in the comments on that post! But somehow, that still didn’t motivate me to start learning immediately. That took the release of Wool People 10, which set alight a dormant lust for big, almost-certainly-frumpy, intricately cabled sweaters that I could no longer suppress. I sent a text to my sewing friend (who is an accomplished knitter as well) stating my intention to learn, starting with socks, on circulars, two-at-a-time. (Hey, I learned to sew on vintage patterns: I would rather jump right in with knitting, too!) And because she is a saint, she volunteered to teach me.

That very weekend, we set out for our local yarn store and got me a set of circulars and 100g of sock yarn. Saint Friend kindly did the cast-on and toe increases for me (stating that it would be too frustrating for my first try) and set me up for two-at-a-time socks; she does them that way too, so it took her all of 5 minutes. Here are a few in-progress shots up to this point:

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Week 1 (aka “Toe Warmer Stage”)

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Week 2

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SO big!!

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Happy feet + pet hair

Aren’t they too cute?!?!? UGH sock yarn is so awesome. I want ALL OF IT. Already, I have 4 pairs worth of sock yarn stashed in addition to the pair I’m working on now. This week, Saint Friend will be showing me how to do the heel turns; hopefully I remember the immortal words of RuPaul as I work! While my saintly friend worked on the cast-on and toe, she handed me some (already cast-on) thick yarn and straight needles and let me just knit back and forth to get the idea. Since, you know, I had literally NEVER KNIT A STITCH before then. O_O I still have that rig in my possession, and plan to use it to practice new stitch patterns…provided that I can tear myself away from my socks! (This first pair is all stockinette, but the self-striping and overall “new-ness” of the experience has been enough to keep me ALL CAPS EXCITED about them.)

Here are some things I have learned so far:

  1. I am a tight knitter. Very tight.
  2. Also, very slow with moderately clumsy mechanics.
  3. Righties teaching Lefties to knit gets complicated.
  4. I need to figure out tension for the first and last stitches in each row on socks, because they turned out loose as hell despite Thing #1.
  5. Knitting makes a great lunch hour activity.
  6. Always keep a crochet hook in the knitting bag in case of dropped stitches.
  7. Saoirse is as good at “helping” with knitting as she is with sewing.
  8. RAVELRY, THO.
  9. 2-at-a-time forever.
  10. Self-patterning yarn forever.

I am desperately excited about this new hobby of mine, you guys. I sleep in socks damn near every night of the year, and can’t wait to have a whole drawer full of adorable hand-made foot cozies to wear. And the craft itself is interesting and complex, which makes it more exciting. Having said that, I don’t know how much of my knitting I will share here apart from occasional pics of the finished things; it’s hard to stop what I’m doing and take a picture, you know? But I’m determined to make a go of knitting, so watch out, Sock People: I’m one of you now! 😀

Do you knit? Any advice for a newbie? Have you ever picked up a whole new hobby because there was One Thing you really, really wanted to make?