Author Archives: Lisa Poblenz (patternandbranch)

About Lisa Poblenz (patternandbranch)

I write the blog Pattern and Branch. Pattern and Branch is dedicated to exploration and curiosity, trying new things, and finding new ideas in the areas of art, craft, food, and life. I love making and learning. Come join in!

Field Trip: The Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

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Field Trip:  The Georgia O’Keeffe Exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

I went on a field trip last week to the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA to see Georgia O’Keeffe:  Art, Image, Style.  I heard this exhibit was coming way back in May on the Thread Cult podcast.  It was exciting because the exhibit isn’t just about her paintings, but also contains her clothing, some of which she sewed.  I had a free pass to the museum and I saved it just for this show.

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

Georgia O’Keeffe is not one of my favorite painters, but having studied art, and now applying my artistic side through making clothing for myself, this exhibit sounded exciting to me.  I certainly wasn’t disappointed.  I loved it.  The funny thing is, it wasn’t the paintings that I loved or her exact clothing style.  I loved seeing the two together with images of her by various photographers, seeing her tiny, tiny stitches, seeing how she created her own style.  I’ve never read a biography of Georgia O’Keeffe, so I don’t know what her personality was like, but going through the exhibit gave me a sense of someone who found out what she liked and quietly went with it (feel free to set me straight in the comments if she was loud and dramatic or something).

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

Because sewing has become my own form of creative expression, I was moved to see how she created her own style that exemplified who she was…and she did it at an amazingly high skill level.  The miniscule and beautiful stitches, pintucks, and mending on her clothing was wonderful to me.  She sewed her clothing by hand!

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

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Georgia O'Keeffe at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

These tiny lines in the fabric are pintucks–small folds of fabric that she created and stitched down by hand.

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

Garments shown above are all believed to have been sewn by Georgia O’Keeffe.  These pictures really cannot convey the beautiful and precise hand stitches she used.

The exhibit was divided into two parts–before she went to New Mexico and after.  Sewing wasn’t her main mode of expression, and as she went on in her career, she started to have others make her clothing, but even when she wasn’t sewing for herself, she used her apparel to express who she was.  It wasn’t a loud explosion of color or attention-grabbing fashion.  She quietly found her style and stayed with it, but when you see her fashion choices in the time after she began visiting New Mexico, things start to feel very contemporary.  Some of the clothing she was choosing then is what people wear every day now.

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

These garments weren’t sewn by Georgia O’Keeffe.  The styles are still in vogue today.

It wasn’t about being sexy, grabbing attention, or screaming at other people to follow her.  It was just about what she liked.  And you know what?  We are following her.  The show ends with a recent Dior fashion show that has numerous elements obviously inspired by O’Keeffe.

There is something really compelling about someone who quietly does their thing.  I’m tired of the loud and blustery.  I’ve done it, but I think I respect this more.  Even if my take on this show isn’t a clear and accurate picture of who she was, it certainly caused me to think.  It’s ok to carve out a unique path in fashion and in art.  It doesn’t have to be overly sexualized, because we’re more than that as people.  It doesn’t have to be loud to be compelling.  It doesn’t have to be in-your-face to make a difference.  Sometimes quiet diligence is what prevails.

This exhibit is showing through April 1, 2018.  You can see more pictures of the exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum’s website as well as on my Flickr page.

Recommendations

  • The Peabody Essex Museum has an excellent gift shop.  They have all sorts goods related generally to art and specifically to their exhibits, currently including black hats as that was a distinctive item of apparel that O’Keeffe adopted in her New Mexico years.  I found my own black hat that really felt like me.  Fashion and art take courage because both involve putting yourself out there.  I’m going to wear this until it doesn’t feel awkward any more, because I LOVE it.

Georgia O'Keeffe at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA

  • O’Keeffe was influenced by the writing and art of Arthur Wesley Dow, which reminded me of how much I love his work.  Some of his landscape paintings and his use of color really stop me in my tracks.
  • Since we were talking about fashion, I really like some of Dansko’s ankle boots lately.  Comfortable and good-looking!
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Open Wide Zippered Pouch from Noodlehead

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Open Wide Zippered Pouch from Noodlehead

And now for something a little bit different…

I don’t always sew Christmas presents.  It can be hard to know what people will like, and I don’t want to invest time into something that isn’t a sure thing.  That’s why, this year, I decided to make a few zippered pouches.  These are not clothing or decor, and they are very, very functional, and can be used to store whatever the recipient wants.

Open Wide Zippered Pouch from Noodlehead

I haven’t made many bags, so I’m not as tuned in to that area of the sewing world, but I knew from what knowledge I did have, that if I wanted to find a tutorial for a bag with great instructions, I should look at Anna Graham’s blog, called Noodlehead.  So, off I went, and found exactly what I was looking for:  the Open Wide Zippered Pouch.

After the initial tutorial post, Anna went back and updated it with two more size options so you can make small, medium, or large pouches and, as the name indicates, these pouches open wide when you unzip them.  They also stand up, thanks to interfacing and boxed corners, and stay open so you can see what’s inside.  I had never considered these options before, since the zipper pouches I use are store-bought and of the flat variety.

Open Wide Zippered Pouch from Noodlehead

I made both pouches in the small size.  They were easy to make and didn’t take long at all.  I got all my fabric and zippers at Pintuck & Purl–just quarter yards of each fabric I wanted to use.  The printed fabrics are Cotton & Steel quilting cottons and the light blue solid is a lightweight denim from Art Gallery Fabrics.

I sew a lot of clothes but I have found that there are always new areas to explore in the sewing world.  So even if bags are fairly new to you, as they are to me, you can handle this.  I would definitely make these again, and I’m already planning to try out another of Anna’s pouch tutorials this year.

Open Wide Zippered Pouch from Noodlehead

These pouches were well-received and are already in use, which makes me happy.  I recommend Anna’s tutorial to you if you are looking for something like this.  Here’s my question for you:  do you have any favorite bag patterns?  I’m not planning on switching away from garments, but I might try a few bags this year.

Recommendations

  • I’m reading The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair, and it’s so interesting.  This is a great book for someone who only has little chunks of time to read.  She talks about a myriad of colors, and each entry is only about two or three pages, so you can learn a lot of fascinating color history, even if you only have 5 minutes here and there to read.
  • I tried Cremont cheese from Vermont Creamery earlier this month, and it is SO GOOD!  I highly recommend this one if you are a cheese lover.
  • I just started listening to the Awesome Etiquette podcast from the Emily Post Institute after hearing about it on the Love to Sew podcast.  It’s definitely not about picking apart the behavior of others, but focuses more on how we can care for others with our actions.  It’s nice to hear and think about positive, uplifting things.

The Long, Long Cardigan: McCall’s 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan: McCall’s 7476

The long cardigan was a new style for me until the beginning of the year when I bought one at TJ Maxx.  I wasn’t sure about the look, but I was curious and wanted to try it.  I told myself I would test it out, and I really liked it!  Then I saw this look and found McCall’s 7476.  It was time to MAKE one of my own.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

The only problem was that the super long version I wanted (View E, but without the shawl collar) called for A LOT of fabric.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

I knew that if I was going to make this, I would have to find a good deal on material.  One of my favorite places to look for such deals in person, rather than online, is at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA.  It’s not exactly nearby, but if I’m really efficient with my time and focused when I’m there, I can do it on a weekday.

I went with my list and my budget and my ideas and, providentially, there was a sale on wool.  The fabric I found for the cardigan was a wool/acrylic rib knit, so it was affordable with the discount.  I don’t normally like rib knits, but being able to see and feel this one in person convinced me that it could work for my cardigan.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

On to the project!  I washed and dried a fabric swatch (I think it was 4″ x 4″) to see how much shrinkage would happen.  Despite the warm temperature I used, there really wasn’t any shrinkage.  So, I put the rest of my fabric in the washer and dryer.  The only downside to this fabric is that it’s a hair magnet, but at least it doesn’t shrink!

I cut my pattern out on the floor after cleaning it as well as I could so the fabric didn’t get dirty.  I cut a large for the bust and waist and an extra large for the hip, leaving off the shawl collar.  This was also my first time using knit interfacing.  It went well, and I like the feel of it in the finished garment.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

Except for the unwieldiness of the project due to its length, this wasn’t hard.  I tried using Coats & Clark’s new Eloflex thread, which is slightly stretchy and made for knits.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

After awhile, I switched from Eloflex as my top thread and in my bobbin to Eloflex in just the top and wooly nylon in the bottom.  It seemed like my machine didn’t like something that I was doing, and for some reason, that configuration seemed to do the trick.  I still used a zigzag stitch and all the other things I do for sewing with knits (walking foot, lighter presser foot pressure, jersey needle), but just changed up that top thread from my usual all-purpose Gutermann to Eloflex.  We’ll see how it holds up.  No complaints so far, but I also haven’t used it enough to say if I love it or not.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

The other thing I tried out on this garment was Steam-A-Seam 2 (the 1/4″ one).  I’ve had this for a while, but haven’t really used it.  It’s a lightly tacky double-stick tape that you then use to fuse your fabric together with an iron when it’s positioned.  I used it to help me hem and for my pockets as an extra stabilizer. It says it creates a permanent bond when ironed, but I still sewed my hems and pockets where I applied it.  Why did it take me so long to use this?!

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

After wearing the cardigan a few times, I wonder if I need to shorten it just a bit.  The hem is about an inch off the ground.  (For reference, I’m 5′ 8.5″.)  It doesn’t pick up as much dirt as you might expect, but I’m always worried it will drag.  I was hoping I could just fold the hem up one more time, but when I tried pinning it, I realized that my hem was slightly uneven, and simply folding it up really exacerbated that.  Maybe it’s time to use my new-to-me hem marker if it will go down that far.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

I really, really like this cardigan.  I know it’s a different look and it’s a lot of black for me, but it’s so cozy and warm (guys, it’s basically a blanket or a robe).  I like how it looks with jeans or overalls, and it’s great to have something so long and dramatic–something so different from most of the rest of my wardrobe.  I would definitely make this again.

The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

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The Long, Long Cardigan:  McCall's 7476

Recommendations

  • While reading the Wednesday Weekly from Helen’s Closet, I saw that Sewrendipity is creating a hub for local fabric shopping guides.  You can see if she’s linked to one near you, or submit your own.  It’s a great idea.
  • Indie Sew wrote a great article on fabric weight, how to determine fabric weight, and why it’s important.

 

 

 

The Coziest Sweatshirt: Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

After the dirndl project that I undertook earlier this fall, I wanted to make sure that I had some quick, easy projects in my next project batch.  As we were going into cooler temperatures, I started to think that a few knit sewing projects were in order.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

One of the new things I want to incorporate more into my wardrobe is leggings (even though I’m not wearing them in these pictures) which, whether or not you think they count as pants, definitely count as secret pajamas.  However, I also don’t want my hind end exposed, which means I need longer t-shirts.  I’ve tried the Briar Tee from Megan Nielson Patterns, which I like, but it’s not quite as long as I want and I think something is off for me in the shoulder area.  I really like the concept, however, and so I thought I would give Vogue 9055 a try.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

I found the coziest sweatshirt-like knit fabric at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA that seemed perfect.  It’s 80% cotton and 20% polyester.  This pattern and fabric combination ticked most of my boxes:  cozy, secret pajamas, like a warm hug, long and butt-covering.  The only thing it was missing was real color.  While gray is a cozy color, it also kind of depresses me.  Sorry, gray lovers.  I live in a land of gray winters (as you can see from these pictures) and I need color.  So I bought bling to spice it up.  🙂

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

While in my mind this project was going to take me, like, two seconds (which never actually happens, but it’s still possible to delude myself), it didn’t.  I made the shirt, minus hems, and then I looked at it…  The hips were too wide, and actually it looked a bit big on top, too.  The neckband wasn’t tight enough, so it was flopping forward.  What the heck?!  Also, why have I not mastered knit neckbands after all this time?!

So I took a step back and started working on one issue at a time.  I took the extra off the hips that I had added previously, and that made a big difference.  I decided not to hem the sleeves or body of the shirt because I like the unhemmed shirt length and the look of it unhemmed.  I could probably trim an inch off the sleeves…but I just don’t want to.  As for the neckband, I cut it off and stay stitched again, but it wasn’t great without some sort of band.  So I asked someone who knew more than me (always a good choice!).  She told me I needed to make the band shorter, and she did all my calculations for me, making the neckband 15% smaller than the opening of my neck hole (thanks, Stacy!!!).  When I recut the piece and sewed it on, it was SO MUCH BETTER.  I still need practice to get knit neckbands perfect, but this was a serious improvement.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

I know lots of people are down on the amount of ease in Big 4 patterns.  I’m the opposite.  I usually love the amount of ease they include, since I’m not a fan of super-fitted clothing, but I think in this fabric, I could have gone down one size from my measurements.  On the plus side, it’s the ultimate in comfort.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

As for the sparkly decorations I bought for my shirt, there really isn’t a lot of space to put them on.  So I don’t know.  What would you do?  Keep the sweatshirt plain or add details or decorations of some kind?  For now, it’s plain, because I just wanted to wear it, and it really is as cozy as it looks.  I’m open to ideas for jazzing it up, however.  Leave your ideas in the comments!

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

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The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

The only thing that is out of the ordinary in this project is that I tried a new product:  the new Eloflex thread from Coats & Clark.  I haven’t used it enough to have a firm opinion on it, but it seems good so far.  It’s not elastic thread, but it does have a bit of stretch in it.  You can’t really tell if you hold a small amount between your fingers, but if you hold about a foot of it and pull, you’ll feel more stretch than in standard polyester thread.  Normally I would use all-purpose Gutermann polyester thread for my knits, maybe with woolly nylon in the bobbin.  For this shirt I used Eloflex in the top and in the bobbin.  Now we’ll see how it holds up to wear and tear.  I’m definitely excited to experiment with it.

The Coziest Sweatshirt:  Very Easy Vogue 9055

Recommendations

  • Check out these cool seam rippers from Bias Bespoke on Etsy.  This one is a travel seam ripper with a flip-down lid, and this one has a seam ripper on one side and tweezers on the other.  Smart design!
  • My awesome parents now scout out fabric stores for me (my mom is also a quilter, but they look for me now, too).  They discovered Fabrications in Richland, MI.  If you are looking for wool knits, Fabrications has a number of them, including some marked “machine washable”.  I spent a lot of time on their website picking out swatches so I could give some a try, courtesy of my parents.  Thanks, Mom and Dad!  I’m excited!
  • Sometimes I struggle with anxiety (especially the last few winters), so this winter I’m trying out The Happy Light to see if light therapy helps.  As one doctor said, even if it’s psychosomatic, if it helps, it’s worth it.  So far I really like it.  We’ll see how the whole winter shapes up, but even if it doesn’t help with anxiety, it makes a great little work light.
  • Here’s what happens when you use Google Translate to take a song out of its original language and then translate it back.  🙂

 

How I Sew

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How I Sew

The process of how people make things is interesting.  It’s fascinating to see the spaces people create in and to learn about their processes.  And since sewing is my creative practice, I’m interested in how others sew and in thinking through how I sew.  After spending a few years sewing regularly, I’ve developed some habits and systems, and I thought I would share them with you in case you are curious about those types of things too.  Here is how I take a project from start to finish.

Overview

Currently, I batch my projects.  The first time I tried to do this, it was completely overwhelming.  But the next time I did a single project, I missed it.  These days, I tend to group about five sewing projects together and move them from start to finish as a unit.  Here’s what that looks like.

1.  Choose patterns and fabric.  This has to be my favorite part (except for finishing, when I get to wear the final product!).  Pairing fabric and patterns is so much fun.  Sometimes I have a pattern I want to make and I go looking for the fabric.  Sometimes there is a fabric already in my stash that I bought for a certain type of garment, in which case I have to look for just the right pattern.

How I Sew

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How I Sew

This is what I’ve got on my sewing list right now (which is a bit larger than usual):  Vogue 9055 (a knit top), McCall’s 7476 (a long, knit cardigan), Mini Virginia Leggings from Megan Nielsen Patterns, The Belvedere Waistcoat from Thread Theory Designs Inc., The Fairfield Button-Up, also from Thread Theory, Simplicity 4111 (a woven top), and the Lander Pant and Short from True/Bias.  This particular batch is a little out of control, but I’m going with it.  Christmas might have a little to do with the size…

2.  Choose pattern view and sizes.  Once I decide on my patterns, I make sure I know my measurements and, in this case, the measurements of the other people I’m sewing for.  I use this information to pick out my size(s) on the back of the envelope and I also choose what view/version of the pattern I’m going to make.  Everything gets written down on a sticky note and stuck to the back of the pattern, along with a list of the pattern pieces I’ll need to trace.

How I Sew

It’s also important to note what notions and interfacing I need, so I can look through what I already have and write down what I need to buy.  I stock up on what’s missing the next chance I get.

3.  Trace patterns.  I trace my size(s) in each pattern and, while I usually use paper patterns, if I am using a PDF, I assemble and trace that as well, since I don’t want to print and assemble PDF’s more than once.  I often have to grade from one size to another between the bust and waist, and sometimes I have to do a broad-back adjustment as well.  All of that happens on my traced pattern pieces.  The clean, traced pieces look so nice, and I’ve learned to enjoy the process of tracing.  It can get intense, though, when you are tracing through five or more patterns, especially the ones with lots of pieces.  TV, an audiobook, or a podcast help.

How I Sew

4.  Cut out patterns.  Once all my pieces are traced and adjusted, I cut out all of my fabric and interfacing (or my muslin if I’m making one).  Whenever possible, I cut on a self-healing mat on a card table that is raised up on bed risers.  I use a rotary cutter and large washers as pattern weights.

How I Sew

For longer patterns, I cut on the kitchen table or living room floor with scissors.

How I Sew

Once cut, I pin my pattern pieces to the fabric and stack everything up.  Sometimes I transfer markings after cutting, and sometimes I do that right before sewing.  Despite how nice and neat the picture below makes things look, my cut patterns usually end up draped over a chair in the living room, taking it out of commission.  I should probably use hangers more often!

How I Sew

5.  Time to sew!  Once I have everything cut out, I can sew, sew, sew!  I think that’s what really hooked me on batching projects–the fact that you can sew through project after project.  I love that.

I usually pin my instructions up in front of my machine, mark my place with a little Post-It flag, and transfer any pattern markings to my fabric pieces if necessary.  Then I sew through each project one by one.

How I Sew

In my current batch, I’ve made Vogue 9055, McCall’s 7476, and three Mini Virginia leggings.  All of these are knit projects that were super fast.  I felt the need for a few quick projects, so I put those at the front of the queue.  Now I’m ready to dig into the Belvedere Waistcoat, a garment type I’ve never made before.

Batching like this produces a nice group of projects I can photograph and bring to you here on the blog.  It’s really satisfying.  When I’m finished, I clean everything up and plan my next group of projects!

What about you?  Do you batch projects?  Do you have a system for working or do you change it up?  I’m curious!  I’m also excited to look back at this post sometime in the future and see how much my work practice changes (or stays the same) over time.

 

Just Like Magic…In Which a Down Jacket Becomes a Down Scarf

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Just Like Magic…In Which a Down Jacket Becomes a Down Scarf

Welcome to this issue of Experimental Sewing!  Today’s project involves turning the remnants of a down jacket (from this past project) into a scarf.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

After seeing the scarves Alabama Chanin and Patagonia made from worn out Patagonia jackets a few years ago, I reallllly wanted to try it for myself.  I thought it was a cool idea, and I was intrigued by the thought of recycling a down jacket (plus, I couldn’t pay $90 for one of theirs just because I was curious).  It was time to get sewing.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

I decided at the outset that my goal wasn’t perfect, heirloom sewing.  Undoubtedly the Alabama Chanin + Patagonia scarves are amazing in quality and workmanship, but I didn’t want to worry about that.  I just wanted to know if I could do it and what the process would be like.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

After my first project with this down jacket, which was interesting, but somewhat unpleasant to sew, due to the reality of sewing down in your living room, my husband suggested that I try sewing the scarf outside.  That was a game-changer.  Sewing outside in October, when it was still somewhat warm but not hot, was heavenly.  Any escaping down floated away on the breeze.  I felt like I was in a sweet, sweet dream (the weather was really nice), sewing away on my Featherweight in the backyard. 😀

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

Let’s talk process for a bit, and discovery.  I looked at what I had left of the down jacket, and marked off pieces with  my sewing marker that were as rectangular as possible.  Then I sewed a straight stitch on either side of my cutting lines.  After that, I cut my pieces up.  And then I sewed them back together…as you do.  😉  This left me with something like a long rectangle, but also some exposed, slightly downy edges.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

And that’s when I made my discovery.  I went to an estate sale and came away with, among other things, fleece binding!  I had no idea this was a thing you could buy!  It was perfect for my project.  Rather than buying more to match things, I just decided to use what I had to cover the seams joining the rectangular pieces and the edges.  There was a little hand-sewing involved where the binding crossed from side to side, but not much.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

Before I finished, I also sewed a little rectangle to the inside of one end so that you could weave the other end through, helping to keep the scarf on.

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

Some bonuses include the three pockets that are left in the scarf from the original jacket and, weirdly, the fact that the front zipper is still a part of the scarf and you can zip it up so it looks like you are wearing the front of a jacket.  It’s weird and cool.  (Really!  It’s cool!  I promise!)

Look out!  This could be the next trend coming your way in 2018.  You heard it here first!  😉

Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

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Just like magic...in which a down jacket becomes a down scarf

I don’t think, after doing this, that I’m going to set up shop making a million things from down.  It was fun, but not so much that it’s going to be my new favorite thing.  What IS one of my favorite things in sewing is trying out different fabrics, and this definitely scratched that itch.  I’m pushing the boundaries of my sewing knowledge a little more each time!  That’s a win.

Recommendations

  • I just checked out the new cookbook from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, called Smitten Kitchen Every Day.  I’m still reading through it, but after only making it through the Breakfast section, I want to make every recipe.  Seriously.  I might need this cookbook.
  • I feel I would be remiss if, after this project, I didn’t recommend Wrights fleece binding.
  • I can’t get the great fabric/color combination of this Kelly Anorak sewn by Lauren of Guthrie and Ghani out of my head.
  • Oh!  And one more since we’re talking fabric.  I LOVE this Neon Neppy fabric from Robert Kaufman, and I can’t decide which one I love best:  Blue, Royal, or Charcoal?  The internet really doesn’t do it justice–it has little slubs of neon color throughout, and since I’m clearly in a speckle as well as a neon phase, it’s right up my alley.

Three Knitted Cowls

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Three Knitted Cowls

It’s time for a little knitting…only a very little, because these days I’m primarily a garment sewer, but before I got serious about sewing, I was serious about knitting.  Lest that give you any false impression of my skillz, let me set you straight.  I’m no expert.  I thought I had progressed pretty far, but I took about a three-year break once I really got into sewing, and in that time, not only did my skills atrophy, I started to realize how much more there was to learn.  I discovered that if I really wanted to, I could become an excellent knitter…but that’s not my goal right now.  Yes.  I just told you I am choosing mediocrity.  😉

So what do I really want out of knitting?  I want fun, small, easy- to moderately-challenging projects that I can do while talking with friends or watching a movie.  I really enjoy knitting, but I don’t want to have to pay too much attention to it or fix mistakes.  I want projects that don’t require perfect sizing, because that’s an area where I struggle, and I’m not ready to give knitting enough attention to fix that.  I want my mental energy to go toward sewing, because right now, that’s where I want to be excellent.

So!  We come to the point where I keep seeing truly gorgeous skeins of yarn.  How can I use them in a project that fits with my requirements?  Looks like it’s time to knit cowls!  Cowls are the perfect project for someone like me.  A cowl, as I’m using the word here, refers to a scarf that is a loop rather than a rectangle.  I can choose a simple cowl and I immediately have a project that is portable, fun, and doesn’t require precise sizing.  Once I figured this out, I made three cowls!  Want to see?

Cowl #1:  The Very Gifted Cowl

This pattern is from Churchmouse Yarns and was free.  It’s very simple, with a cast on, an edging row, a body in basic stockinette stitch, and a bind off.  The pattern also comes with a nice calculator so you can figure out how deep you can make the cowl with one skein of yarn depending on the weight you choose.

The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Yarn Cheeky

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The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Cheeky

I used sock yarn from Hedgehog Fibres held double in a color called Cheeky.  I just need to tell you that this yarn company is largely responsible for bringing me back to knitting again.  I used to follow the owner, Beata, on Instagram because I just loved her beautiful yarn, but  I had to stop because she was making me want to knit, and I wanted to focus on sewing!  In the end, though, my enabler friend Maggie at Pintuck & Purl, ordered some Hedgehog Fibres yarn for the shop, and that was it.  I had to give it a try.  I really enjoyed knitting with it, even though I normally shy away from such thin yarn.  I still have a tiny bit plus a mini skein left for some future project.

The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Cheeky

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The Very Gifted Cowl in Hedgehog Fibres Sock Cheeky

Cowl #2:  Portillo Cowl

This one is by Gale Zucker and is from the book Drop-Dead Easy Knits.  It ticked all the boxes for me because it’s a cowl, it uses big yarn (which means it’s fast), and it’s also easy but still kind of interesting.  You’re just using the garter stitch, but you change color a bit, which gives the cowl a cool look.

Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

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Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

I used yarn from Yates Farm in Windsor, Vermont.  This yarn dates back more than a decade to my initial yarn phase.  I love it and wanted to use some of my partial skeins up.  This was just the right project, but because it’s so chunky, it knits up pretty huge.  This cowl’s going to keep me nice and warm!  I still have a ton of needles from when I started knitting, but I didn’t have circular needles long enough for this project.  In case you find yourself in the same boat, check out this economical option from Amazon.  Score!

Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

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Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

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Portillo Cowl in Yates Farm Chunky Yarn

This cowl is not perfect.  It’s not hard to see where I wove the yarn in or ignored a mistake, but I was going for a pleasant experience over perfection, so it is what it is.  It bugs me a little, but not enough to go back and fix it.  My friend’s and my motto for knitting is:  “Don’t be a stressed-out knitter.”  In other words, feel free to ignore your mistakes if you want to.  So I did.

Cowl #3:  Spidey’s Spiral Cowl

I’ve made this cowl before and given this pattern + yarn to knitting friends as gifts.  You can find it on Ravelry for purchase or you can buy it through your local yarn store (I got mine at Pintuck & Purl).  I really like how interesting it is, and because it uses such nice, chunky yarn, I actually don’t mind going back and fixing mistakes (once in a while).  My attempt last year in Yates Farm chunky yarn didn’t turn out the way I hoped.  It was more like a stiff neck tube, and I think it eventually made its way to the thrift store.

Spidey's Spiral Cowl in Baah Yarn Sequoia Yearling

This time I made it in Baah Yarns Sequoia in a color called Yearling.  I had plans to use a different colorway, but this pink was like cotton candy or a fluffy cloud, and when I saw it at Pintuck & Purl, I knew it had to be mine (See?  Enablers!!!).  I do think the final shape looks a little funny, but I don’t care!  This is the softest, most luscious yarn ever, and I needed to make something with it.  I even saved my tiny scraps, so I could just touch them.

Spidey's Spiral Cowl in Baah Sequoia Yearning

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Spidey's Spiral Cowl in Baah Sequoia Yearning

One thing I will say about this yarn and the Hedgehog is that they smell sort of like a perm.  Have you ever smelled that smell at a salon before?  It’s sort of weird, but I think it’s because of the dyes they have to use.  You really don’t notice it unless you are keeping your project in a plastic bag, so maybe use a cloth bag (or just don’t be surprised)?

So that’s it!  I now have all the cowls!  What on earth am I going to knit now?  Maybe another try on last year’s hat?  I would love to have a version that’s a little longer.

All the cowls and scarves!!!

Thanks to my photographers for making me laugh so much.  Now back to sewing!

Recommendations

  • I updated my blog post on McCall’s 6751 (the cross-back top).  It felt too exposed and unrealistic for my daily life, so I switched out the back piece and it’s so much better now!  You can check out the new look by scrolling to the bottom of the post.
  • Can someone make me this Color Dipped Hat from Purl Soho in these colors so I don’t have to make it for myself?  It’s a free pattern!  If you want to make it for yourself instead, that’s cool too.  😉
  • If you’ve ever wanted to make a popover shirt (I know I do, even though I haven’t done it yet), Liesl has a free popover placket and tutorial on the Oliver + S blog.  Check it out here.

It’s Dirndl Time! Burda Style 7084

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It’s Dirndl Time! Burda Style 7084

It’s dirndl time!  But it’s not for Oktoberfest.  Oh, no.  I finally made a dirndl, and I made it for…a German-themed birthday party!  It’s not every day you get to say that.  And yes, it was as awesome as it sounds.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

I’ve always been interested in folkwear, and have thought from time to time that it would be fun to sew a Dutch costume and attend a Tulip Time festival, but I never got serious about it.  Then, a few years ago, Gretchen Hirsch of Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing went on a trip to Europe and got dirndl fever.  Here is her definition of a dirndl from the same blog post:  “the dirndl is an ensemble which consists of a low-cut full-skirted dress with a snugly fitted bodice, an apron, and an underblouse that ends just below the bustline. Adorable jackets, flowered headbands, and hats may be added!”  I read her blog posts and looked through all the beautiful pictures of the many variations of this traditional Alpine look, and I caught the bug too.  I’ve been wanting to sew something at least inspired by Bavarian folkwear ever since, and this party was the perfect opportunity.  (I even started a dirndl Pinterest board to save my inspiration pictures!)

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

Part of what made this whole experience great was that this wasn’t just any German-themed birthday party, but one for a fellow sewist.  It was attended by a number of other sewing people, so in the weeks leading up to the event, as I was sewing (and stressing that I wouldn’t finish in time), I felt the solidarity that comes with knowing there were others in the vicinity making their own dirndls.  It gave me the will to power on!  😉

Being practical (and on the lookout for a dress pattern I would use in my everyday life) I chose Burda Style 7084.  My hope was that with the apron, it would look like folkwear, but without the apron, it would magically transform into an everyday dress (#secretdirndl).  There seems to be quite a lot of variation in the traditional look, which Gertie touches on in this blog post on dirndls and wearability, so my idea wasn’t too out there.  Additionally, as much as I love the look of the dirndl with the blouse, fitted bodice, and gathered skirt, if I was going to actually wear this more than once, it was going to need more ease and bust coverage.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

So, despite some trepidation that I wouldn’t finish on time or that something would go amiss, I got started.  Before making the dress, I did a major broad back adjustment on the back bodice piece, and then made a quick muslin of the bodice.  Thankfully, that worked out and showed me I was on the right track.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

Although my measurements put me at an 18 for the bust and waist and a 20 for the hips, I made a straight 18 since the hip part of the dress is really just a lot of gathered fabric, which seemed pretty forgiving.  I made View A, with the little collar, but in the shorter length.  I hadn’t spent time sourcing fabric, so I was hoping that I could use some from my stash, and choosing the shortened length both saved me fabric, and made the dress fit my preferences better.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

In the end, the dress was almost free.  My outer material is a very lightweight, nearly sheer Swiss Dot Chambray in a color called Denim by Robert Kaufman.  I bought it with a gift card I won in a giveaway from The Cloth Pocket in Austin, Texas (Thanks, guys!).  I underlined it with an old sheet, which added opacity and body (and also cut down on wrinkling).

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

For the apron, I used a sheer cotton embroidered curtain panel someone had given me.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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It's dirndl time with Burda Style 7084!

All I really had to buy was the pattern, some buttons, and pencil pleating tape for the gathering on the skirt.  All of those things came from Jo-Ann Fabrics.

The pencil pleating tape was a little tricky to find.  You can gather the skirt by hand (as shown in this blog post), which I would love to try someday, but I was happy to have a quick option for this project.  I did some googling and didn’t turn up much.  In the end, I found 4″ pencil pleating tape for sale by the yard in the upholstery section of Jo-Ann’s.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

In order to use it, I sewed it to my assembled skirt, pulled several strings in the tape to gather the fabric, and adjusted the gathers until the skirt fit the bodice and my hips.  I braided the long ends of the ties and loosely knotted them rather than cutting them short, so that I could adjust the skirt in the future should I ever need to.  Then I sewed the skirt to the bodice.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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It's dirndl time with Burda Style 7084!

When making the apron, I didn’t think about the fact that the apron length is meant to go with the longer skirt, so I had to take it apart after I thought I had finished and shorten it from the top since I was trying to preserve the embroidery along the edges.  In the end, though, the placement of the embroidery was much better on the shortened apron than it had been originally.  I’m so glad I found a use for this gorgeous and delicate fabric.  It definitely looks like I put more work into it than I did!

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

I decided not to add the rick-rack the pattern called for, and I chose really basic buttons in the interest of frugality and wearability.

Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

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Dirndl time with Burda Style 7084

Despite my fears, I finished in time, and I love my dress and apron.  It doesn’t hurt that I already owned a real, traditional German jacket.  It made for the perfect outfit!  The party was a blast, and I have worn the dress many times since making it, both with and without the apron.  It was the perfect first dirndl project.  Maybe there will be more to come?  Hopefully!

Recommendations

  • I’d love to try these Buckeye Turtle Brownies.  Just the name sounds amazing!
  • This Kalle Shirt Dress that Marcy made is so great.
  • I’m really obsessed with this outfit from Denim & Supply by Ralph Lauren.  I need to make a wool vest, stat!  Actually, I want the whole outfit, and with sewing as my superpower, it’s not out of reach!  Does this mean I need to enter Designin’ December?