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. ❤

FAIL February! (Feat. M7591)

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Hey, everybody!

I have been working on the subject(s) of my next post for a couple of weeks now, but thought this might be a fun feature to hold you all over (LOLOL as if you’re eagerly waiting for the next post–I know better!) until I get that done. Behold: my just-in-time contribution to FAIL February 2018!

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It’s a dress! An ugly, ugly dress.

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From the back

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Too Cool to Care I’m Being Photographed: A Blogger’s Story

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My feels about how low-cut this thing is!

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Look Ma, no nip-slip!

I literally started writing a post about this dress almost A YEAR AGO. But I never really liked the dress once it was done, and lost any motivation to blog about it. Until Sew RED-y mentioned “Fail February” and a lightbulb went off, anyway. 😉 For my purposes, this dress is an absolute FAIL.

The pattern is M7591. I initially planned to make View C, but decided to live dangerously (and bra-lessly) and go for the other bodice. It looks kinda like the envelope…if the envelope illustration was a lot sloppier, frumpier, and day-drunk-er. 😦 I usually have pretty good luck with McCall’s patterns, but this one is a lesson in not assuming “fitted” means “fitted on MY body.”

I’d seen other, more accomplished sewers make this pattern and look smokin’ hot in it, so I wasn’t worried about it. But between the ease, the extra length I added to the skirt, and the fabric, it is BAD. So bad. This pattern is not a number-sizes one, it’s one of the “XS, S, M, etc.” ones. I suspect the ease is a little bit fudgier to account for the limited number of sizes, but that’s just one idiot’s hunch. This could have been avoided, of course, by measuring the pieces to see how big the dress really was. Which I totally didn’t do, because how big could an XS really be? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Joke’s on me.

I added extra bodice length–2″, per my notes–which was definitely needed. I also gambled by adding 1″ to the skirt hem, and using that as my hem allowance. So the skirt is only longer by whatever the original hem allowance was, which escapes me. (I recycled this pattern–clearly it isn’t for me.) The finished length is AWFUL on me. It hits me at about the most awkward place possible on my legs, and the split in the skirt is not dramatic enough to counteract the dumpy illusion created by the hem length. Another mistake? I only cut the elastic to 2″ shorter than my waist measurement; I probably needed more negative ease there to help gather up the volume of the dress.

My original mistake, though, was picking this fabric. It’s a super cute splatter print on rayon challis, but the colors are just not good on me at all. (Kicking myself for not saving it for summer pajamas…) I really need high contrast prints and bold colors, and I have also realized that small-scale prints are not something I enjoy wearing in practice. (Gillian has written a really helpful post about analyzing your own print preferences and needs–definitely check it out! It will almost certainly make you think twice about a print you’ve bought!) The colors and print scale compound the dumpy and deeply unflattering effect of the shape of the dress. Double bonus FAIL points! 😉

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Literally the most flattering photo of this dress.

 

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Supa-low neckline

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I mean, it’s practically a standing invitation to Look At My T*ts

 

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The rare–and less dumpy–Side View

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Wiggling

Conclusion

Believe it or not, I tried really hard to like this dress. I wore it to work one day (with a cardigan over it–I’m not a complete idiot) and out to a friend’s gig one night. I even made Tom take 2 sessions worth of photos of it, convinced that we just needed to find the right angle to make the dress look more flattering. But ultimately, I knew it wasn’t right for me and I have since recycled it. RIP, M7591.

While this wasn’t a fun post to write because sewing fails are bummers, it WAS a lot of fun to use it to participate in something tongue-in-cheek like Fail February. Thanks to Sew RED-y for making it a “Thing,” although hopefully I won’t be able to participate next year, LOL. 😀

As a palate cleanser, here’s a photo of World’s Best Dog for the road (because he is not a FAIL and is very good-looking, unlike this dress):

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He’s definitely sitting on my foot.

Do you share your “meh” sewing results on your blog or social media? Why or why not? What happens to your sewing disappointments: do you wear them anyway, or banish them from your sight immediately?

 

Operation Lady Tux, Part 2: Jacket

Hello, and welcome to Part 2 of this year’s Holiday Outfit saga! This post will focus on the jacket, and Part 3 will cover the camisole and trousers. (Part 1 is here!)

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Gosh, if only this jacket had pockets for my #awkwardhands …oh wait.

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Back view! (Yes, my hem needs re-pressed and clapper’d)

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Kinda side view?

The Making Of: Jacket

I worked on this jacket–from cutting out to sewing on the button–for about 2-3 weeks. (By which I mean weeknights after work and weekends, in between engagements and stuff.) For the most part, it was a pleasant experience; the rough parts were pretty brutal, though!

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Basically-done jacket; the dressform is lopsided, so the jacket looks a little wonky.

My jacket is made mostly of a double weave wool/nylon/lycra suiting, but features wool sateen suiting accents (both originally for designer Maiyet, bought from Fabric Mart). The lycra content provides some pretty significant stretch, although it wasn’t really necessary for this jacket. The lining is a bemberg rayon. I had all of this fabric (and the hair canvas) already in stash, and didn’t have to buy a single thing except for the buttons (more of which later) and shoulder pads! In hindsight, the main fabric is a bit thick for this jacket, I think.

I didn’t do any tailoring on the jacket apart from making a back stay and using shoulder pads (1/4″, since my shoulders are square and support garments well on their own) and good quality interfacing (hair canvas and weft). I do wish I had made a sleeve head, though–that totally slipped my mind in the moment.

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Lapel in-progress

The pattern, Burda #127B 11/2012, is one I found about a month before the event. It wasn’t exactly what I originally wanted–I was picturing something between a boyfriend fit and this–but I’ve come to appreciate the shape of it. As to the draft, it’s Burda: they’re tough to beat for consistently well-drafted patterns. 😀 The jacket fits okay, but I didn’t change anything there–a mistake in hindsight, as I think it looks a bit like I made the wrong size. I made the smallest size, the 36. The only change I made was to eliminate the sleeve vents (there is no back vent); those aren’t something I would ever use, and I knew that finding that many buttons I was 100% happy with (and which matched whatever I used for the front button) in my time frame would be a huge pain in my ass for no purpose at all. But the pattern does include them, if you’re wanting that feature!

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Lapel dart

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My shitty attempt to show you how nicely a 2-piece sleeve hangs…

Construction

The jacket was not horrid to sew EXCEPT for the collar assembly. Chr*st on a Cracker, that was horrendous!!! I think part of my issue was that the stand isn’t integrated into the collar–it’s a separate piece. This created more bulk and attachment seams, and if I made this pattern again, I’d fuse those two pieces into one. It didn’t help that my wool/nylon/lycra suiting is quite thick and bouncy: it’s a double weave, and it requires very aggressive pressing/clapper application and tends to bounce back anyway. So all those layers of my material together in such a tight area was tough to cope with and shape effectively. I also foolishly didn’t remember to change the undercollar to 2 (slightly smaller) pieces. 😦

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Jacket, laid down flat (from back)

I honestly thought this jacket was doomed because of the collar area after I initially got it installed, but some encouragement from sewing peeps and a couple of days away from the project gave me the grit to Make It Work. In the end, I tacked/sewed some stuff down to get the collar to sit better. It’s not perfect–FAR from it–but it’s good enough for now. (This kills me, by the way–I am a perfectionist, for better or worse, and I cannot endure what I consider sub-par work on my own part. You know that adage, “Perfect is the enemy of good”? It is definitely NOT my motto…)

I ran into trouble with my lining, too. Somehow, it ended up being too small for the jacket–obviously I made an error someplace! I had enough lining left to cut a sizable strip and “patch” the lining between the back princess seams and the center back; this added more than enough ease for comfortable wearing. Luckily, my sleeve linings didn’t need any adjustments. But it turned out okay in the end: I bagged the entire lining, which I have only ever done on a skirt previously. It felt like sorcery!! The one thing that always confused me was how to sew the sleeves together; most photos I’ve seen create the illusion that you’re sewing them together flat, since it’s a really hard thing to photograph clearly. But I finally understood the mechanics and got the whole lining inserted successfully on the first try–sleeves and all! That was a happy moment. Grainline’s tutorial is probably the best one I’ve found online, by the way: definitely check it out if you’re looking for good, clear directions.

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Lining, before insertion (and emergency surgery!)

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Yeah, I picked a boring lining…

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Hard to see, but here’s my mega-huge ease pleat!

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Sleeve hem

For me, the biggest highlights of this jacket are the pockets. I’ve never made a welt pocket of any kind before, but the tutorial by Kennis at Itch to Stitch is SO FREAKING AMAZING. Seriously, it is superb. Her method made so much sense to me, and was so clear that I didn’t bother doing a practice pocket. She has me motivated to make ALL THE JETTED POCKETSES, people.

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Welt flap

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Flap lining

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Insides!

One final problem? Finding a button. I have a lovely little collection of vintage glass buttons, some of which are jacket-sized. Unfortunately, all the ones I had were too big in proportion to the jacket, so I needed another option.  I decided to cover a button in my wool sateen, but the shoddy kit I bought let me down DURING my party. It was a Dritz kit, and despite the package saying you can make the button by hand, I not only bent the first button with my tiny, pathetic hands (I should have taken that as a bad sign and quit right then), but Tom had to use a mallet to get the damn thing to lock in place in the end. My sateen isn’t very heavy, guys–it’s certainly lighter than some home dec fabrics, which this kit said it was good for. But hey, if it works it’s all worth it, right? Yeah, except that this button didn’t work. It fell apart as I unbuttoned the jacket to take some of the outfit photos in Part 1. I had unbuttoned/buttoned it maybe 10 or 11 times, all told. I was totally gutted. 😦

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What was left of my beautifully-covered button. >=( (Sorry about the cat hair–*somebody* knocked this down and was sitting on it, LOL.)

I fired off a very stern email to Dritz, demanding a refund and complaining about the poor quality of the kit. I actually heard back from them, too. They claim that I essentially bought the “wrong” version of this kit (the craft grade one) and that the “correct” version for my use is better (I’m soooooo sure it is…/sarcasm), but they’re refunding my money anyway. Gee, thanks. #not Seriously, how am I supposed to know that this version is total crap?? I certainly didn’t care that it said “craft” on the package, I just assumed I had the right thing. And don’t crafters deserve sturdy covered buttons just as much as garment sewers? I do love that Dritz basically admitted that one version of the kit is shit though…Fellow sewers, beware of Dritz button kits, unless you plan to frame that button and never use it!!

In the end, I ordered another vintage glass button in the right size (since I’ve made the buttonhole, there’s only 1 right size now!) that’s identical to the one I most wanted to use in the first place. It isn’t here yet, so you’re seeing this with no button–sorry!

So that’s the jacket–what a mess, huh? =/ But fortunately for me, most people won’t see the flaws, even though I certainly do. That said, I learned a lot and will approach my next jacket (or a coat) with a more confident attitude. And really, with a wearable (and not totally awful) jacket AND valuable lesson to show for it, this project was worthwhile.

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Much like the jacket, this photo didn’t turn out quite right! 😉

Stay tuned for the final installment, which covers the simpler two pieces: the camisole and the trousers!