Wednesday, 29 March 2017


So, I guess that whizzing sound was March flying past. I didn't really leave much of an impression on the month. It actually started out reasonably well (I sewed some easy knits and finished up the lace sweater I was knitting) but since the middle of the month my crafty endeavours have been more or less a series of false starts, with intervening periods of being sick and miserable (again, with more of the same old same old.) I'm disappointed not to have managed to get my March Wishlist and Magazine Challenge garments done, or even started really, but I'm going to try to catch up in April. I'm really excited for the things I wanted to make in March but the Wishlist thing in particular is just a little bit more complicated than I could manage while I didn't feel well.

Stalled out on Burda 08-2016-134
One thing I did make a start on, but then stalled on completely, was this ponte knit jacket from Burda 08/2016, pictured here in its current state: one sleeve basted in and the main part of the bodice done. I've stalled because, well, (a) sick and miserable, but also (b) I got to this point, which is a degree of done at which I could try it on and have some reasonable idea about fit and how it will look on me and went: meh. All my enthusiasm promptly drained away. I'm sure I'll get back to this eventually, but if I'm honest, the prospect of working on it is not inspiring me to get back into my sewing room. (Although, not to blow my own trumpet, but I DID do a really good job on the lapel/collar!)

In a less sick and miserable interval, I also moved my clothes around for the start of spring and did a bit of a clear out at the same time. The majority of my discards in this most recent wardrobe purge fell into the "worn to death" category, which is exactly what I hoped would happen this year.  Because I'm a dork who keeps track of what I wear, I do know I got what I consider to be a good amount of wear out of most things. There were a couple of exceptions on how well things wore but they were mainly down to the fabric degrading more quickly than I thought it should. I have definitely developed an aversion to cheap viscose knits, which start to look jaded much too quickly.

However, in my continuing efforts to perfect my wardrobe I also discarded a pile of things that I just really don't like. I'm not particularly into the whole Maria Kondo 'does it spark joy' thing but lately I've been feeling exasperated by the fact that sewing for myself hadn't prevented me accumulating clothes that I actively dislike. I don't think I have to capital-letters-LOVE everything I own and wear, but I'd like to be feel at least moderately positive about everything. This time, I culled a dozen things that are probably perfectly serviceable, but that I just haven't been able to make myself like. I did spend a little time thinking about WHY I disliked each of them, particularly the things I made myself, so I could avoid the same mistakes in the future. I concluded there were two problems that I can do something about:

1. Fabric choice. Some of my fabric choices were, for me, inherently poor, e.g. this polycotton shirt I made a couple of years ago. The fabric was definitely more poly than cotton, which made it easy to iron but unpleasantly hot and sticky to wear. There were also a couple of cases of "wrong fabric for this pattern", e.g. this shirt I made last spring. That gathered neckline really needed a softly draping fabric rather than the crisp shirting I used. I feel like the latter is something you really learn from experience, so I guess that was my opportunity to learn!

2. Poor pattern choice for my body shape/figure and/or fit problems. Basically, I either need to embrace the muslin/fitting process or I have to learn to live with the idea that some things are just not going to work out and that I'll have sacrificed "good" fabric to an experiment. The saddest example here is the New Look 6303 top I made in December. It was just all wrong on me and I never wore it, and I couldn't see I would ever wear it, so I have abandoned it. There were also two things I'd made that had fit problems that I thought I could live with and that I'd wear the garments anyway. However, completely predictably, in reality I almost always choose to wear something that fits better. Go figure.

This purge shook up my wardrobe a little so I really need to spend some quality time thinking about what I want to sew next (apart from my Challenge garments) and also whether I want to just move on to filling in my most urgent Summer wardrobe gaps rather than try to fill any remaining Spring gaps, which are mostly just nice-to-haves rather than real essentials.

My forward planning is made a bit complicated by the fact that I am FINALLY on the new drug that I have mentioned several times! \o/ \o/ \o/ I've been taking it for a week, and I won't know if it's working for at least another week, and even then not conclusively. This doesn't stop me agonizing endlessly over whether or not I feel any different/better/worse of course!

Looking ahead, though, one of the downsides is that if this treatment does work I will spend most of the next 8-12 weeks struggling through the worst part of a drug regime change. I mean, it will be worth it, but at the same time I wish it were over already, ugh. I guess I'm just thinking that I do have to be realistic about what time I'll have to sew and what kind of projects I'm going to want to work on in that time (from past experience: nothing too complicated or frustrating).

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Finished knitting: The Lichen sweater

Increasingly, I feel like I enjoy the process of knitting much more than I like the things I knit. I absolutely loved the making of this sweater. I am more or less meh on the sweater itself.

The Lichen sweater, in blue linen/viscose yarn
This was an ambitious knitting project for me. My only previous experience of knitting a pattern with a lace component was the partial lace patterned scarf I made a couple of years ago, and the actual lace sections in that went very wonky indeed. Also, my last sweater did not turn out well enough that I was filled with enormous knitting confidence. I jokingly said, when I mentioned this sweater in my Spring planning post, that I suspected I would deeply regret this project, but in fact, it all went remarkably well! In fact, it went so well, and I enjoyed the knitting part so much, that I finished it in under a month and completely screwed up my knitting plan for the spring/summer!

Lichen, image from Ravelry
The pattern I used was the Lichen sweater, by Yumiko Alexander (Ravelry link), a DK weight short-sleeved lace patterned sweater. You also get a second version of the pattern in the instructions, "Smoke", which is essentially the same sweater but in 3-ply and without sleeves.

As far as the pattern itself is concerned, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The actual text of the pattern is lamentable. The author's first language is not English and the pattern doesn't seem to have been edited by a native English speaker. The instructions are all over the place. The way the lace pattern is described is not what you might call crystal clear, and although it wasn't hard to figure out what the author meant I ended up writing out the pattern again myself just so I had it available to me laid out in a way that was clear and easy to follow.

It was probably an advantage that I am a pretty novice knitter, because I just do what I'm told in the pattern. It is obvious from some of the comments about the pattern I read on Ravelry that more experienced knitters considered parts of the pattern to be very unorthodox and found themselves overthinking what they were doing. The flip side of this is that at times the text assumes you pretty much know what you are doing with statements like "for the neckline decrease 3 stitches every other row for 8 rows". This is really not enough information for me with my level of experience and I had to ask a more experienced knitter friend to walk me through which decrease stitches to use and where to put them in the lace pattern and then write it all out.

In spite of all of these pitfalls, I think this sweater has the least errors in it of anything I've made so far. It's not error-free, but the one place it went really wonky was in the uppermost corner of one edge of a sleeve, meaning that you would literally have to be staring at my armpit to see it.

 I have said a couple of times I really enjoyed knitting this already, but I really did! For me personally, because I'm not very experienced at knitting, I couldn't do my usual read & knit thing, or watch TV and knit. Pretty much every time I made a mistake it was because I took my attention off what I was doing. I also counted my stitches about four bazillion times in the process of making this, which was how I was able to do the two biggest pieces -- front and back -- without any significant errors. A couple of times I was in danger of going completely wrong but because I counted my work back so often I caught my mistakes before they became big mistakes. So, this was really hard work for me, as knitting goes, but I had a great sense of accomplishment as the lace pattern took shape on my needles.
The lace pattern, post blocking
This pattern -- and my purpose, a summer sweater -- is really suited to a linen blend. Linen yarn turns out to be harder to source than I expected -- it seems to be either cheap and have very mixed reviews, or very expensive. I also think this sweater would look gorgeous in a silk yarn with a shine to it, but, not at all unexpectedly, there was nothing of that type in my price range.

I ended up buying a bundle of the discontinued yarn Rowan Lenpur Linen from someone de-stashing. It is a linen/viscose blend DK weight, in a sort of inky blue colour called Creek. (I am sure that is a very poetic name but it's totally misleading. Every creek I've ever seen has been a murky brown/green.) It's a little fuzzier in texture than I expected for a linen yarn-- presumably because of the high viscose content -- but it was very nice to knit, and only went splitty if I really poked at it.

With the arm held out to the side to show the (immense) amounts of ease this sweater has

So why am I a bit indifferent to this sweater overall? Mainly, because it ended up much too long. I chose to make the longer version of the sweater but it ended up MUCH longer than advertised even though my gauge swatch was dead on for length after blocking. Actually, I was worried it would be too short! I think either my yarn "grew" or the swatch just wasn't reliable. On the width, I knew I was out by a certain fraction from gauge and simple math told me how big it would end up being -- and it ended up exactly that bit. I am fine with the width. It is an intentionally draped/over-sized sweater and honestly with so much ease built in the odd inch over barely registers. The length, I don't know, it's just not quite a good length on me.

Don't be deceived by the apparent shape of the side seams, it really is just a rectangle.
About halfway through making this I was absolutely certain I was going to make another straight away and was eagerly looking for a yarn fibre content/colour combination that I liked. Now I'm not so sure. I've moved on to a temporary, quick project while I think about whether I really want another sweater like this (although I would definitely make the next one shorter, and also possibly narrower.

In conclusion: a great knitting experience, but not the greatest actual garment from it. I am feeling a bit disillusioned with knitting as a whole, and for now I've decided not to buy anything at all and just whittle down my (already very small) stash and work on my WIPs for a little while.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Easy finished things

My sewing week was divided between (a) sewing really easy things; and (b) getting ready to sew one of the jackets I picked out for Spring.

Simplicity 1733 cover and line drawings

First, on the easy side of things, a cardigan. In my Spring plan I said I'd picked out a pattern from Burda 10-2014 for this. Alas, it turned out I'd made a mistake writing down how much fabric I had and I was 40cm short of the (serious fabric hog) requirements of that Burda pattern. After a brief dive into the pattern stash, I came up with the alternative of View D of Simplicity 1733, an older (OOP) Khaliah Ali pattern that I originally bought for the twist front top/dress view.

Simplicity 1733 view D in grey, front view on Flossie
I made a straight size 16 with no adjustments. Construction was extremely quick and straightforward, although I must admit I deviated substantially from the instructions. I pretty much never want to set in sleeves with a knit, much preferring to sew them in flat, and I am even less likely to set in sleeves if it's a raglan pattern.

Simplicity 1733 View D in grey, side view on Flossie
I am particularly pleased with my fabric/pattern combination. My knit is quite slinky and the cardigan therefore drapes rather nicely. It's probably more of a decorative layer than a warmth-imparting functional piece, insofar as the knit is almost sheer and not exactly warming. I think that suits the pattern though -- I wouldn't want to make it up in a bulkier knit because it's really quite voluminous. On the other hand, it was the work of the devil to hem the thing because the fabric will NOT take a crease at all, in any way, and there were what felt like miles and miles of hems to do. 

Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" sweater, appropriately in grey. (Technical drawing from Ottobre magazine)
Due the pattern change, I had an unexpected excess of fabric. In the interests of efficiency and my overlocker being threaded in the right colour already, I decided to see what else I could sew immediately. After some pattern Tetris false starts, I settled on a repeat of Ottobre 02-2016-05, a simple layering top with a hi-lo hem that I have made once before. I again left off the side zips because when I am ever going to unzip the sides of a knit top? Never, is when. This is one of those "I didn't know I wanted this until I made it" garments, I think, so I'm pleased I came up with the idea.
A green tote bag for spring (pattern is Daphne by artsycraftsybabe)
And finally, my last easy project of the week was this tote bag in spring-like shades of green, which I made more or less on a whim on Saturday.

The rest of my sewing time this week was taken up with working through the early stages of the first of my outerwear projects of this year, Burda 08-2016-134. As of this morning I've got all the pieces cut out and I just have to summon up some enthusiasm for applying a ton of interfacing before I can get started sewing next week. More on this soon, no doubt, and probably a lot of progress shots on my Instagram this week as well. :D

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

February round-up

In February I made and blogged about a gigantic tote and this month's 2017 Challenge garments. Here are the other things I've been working on this month that didn't really merit a whole blog post to themselves and/or are works in progress:

Spring PJs: Burda 8271 capri length PJ bottoms
1. Pyjamas: These two pairs of PJs, being easy repeats of a pattern I have used several times before, Burda 8271, were the first items I ticked off my Spring Plan. The only interesting thing about these is that the version on the left is made from a fabric with an embroidered border, which I rather like.

Lichen sweater back piece -- not yet blocked

2. My spring plan also included starting to knit a lace patterned sweater, and I accordingly cast on the pattern I'd chosen on the 15th. I fully anticipated that I'd struggle with this pattern because I've only ever finished one knitting project with a lace pattern before and I found that very hard going. However, this sweater has been going absolutely swimmingly, much faster than I expected, and I love the fabric that the pattern produces. I know there is one small mistake in the lace pattern in the back piece (shown completed above), but I can't even find it any more so I don't care. I've also finished the (short) sleeves already. With only the front left to do, barring a sudden reversal of enthusiasm I should finish this in March, way ahead of schedule!

My cross-stitch kit as of 28/02/2017

3. I am also still working on my cross-stitch kit. At the beginning of February I was almost exactly half way through, and I've made quite a lot of progress since then. Again, barring a sudden downturn in effort, I suspect I'll finish this during March as well. I already have plans for what to move on to in terms of stitching projects.

My sewing plan for March is to continue to work on the things I picked out in my plan for my spring wardrobe, plus of course my Magazine and Wishlist challenge items. This week I'm working on a couple of easy knit items, but I'm also tracing/preparing to start sewing one of the jackets I want to make for Spring! Outerwear WILL HAPPEN!

On a personal note: I had hoped to start my new drug treatment in February but sadly it's been a non-stop story of increasingly aggravating delays. Still no date for when I'll start but surely (surely!) even these profoundly inefficient people will get their act together soon!