Hi, everyone. Happy week before Thanksgiving! Today I have a lovely linen blouse to share with you. This is the Fibre Mood Norma blouse.
I got this for free when Fibre Mood gave it away as part of a sewing challenge.
It took me awhile to get around to making it, but I got there in the end! Actually, this version was inspired by melt.stitches who made Norma in bone colored linen. I think I saw her version on Pinterest or the Fibre Mood site, and fell in love with this top in a pale linen.
I had read numerous blog posts by people who had gotten linen from fabrics-store.com and been happy, so when white midweight linen went on sale, I snapped some up. It was very nice when I got it, both before and after washing, and made me think of the midweight linen I had bought from Fabric Mart to make my yellow Roscoe Blouse. Cutting and sewing the fabric was great. I did find one flaw in the fabric that I didn’t notice until after I had cut everything out, but luckily it ended up on a facing, so no one but me (and all of you) will see it.
For this pattern, I made a 16 bust, 16 waist, and for the hip, I straddled the line between a 16 and 18 (this is in the US sizing). I made a note to myself to cut wide seam allowances at the hip in case I wanted to let the seams out a bit there for more room, but I think I forgot all about it when I got to cutting and sewing. I did a major broad back adjustment, as I often do on shirts, and that worked out great.
I also lengthened the sleeve cuff since I wanted them loose enough around my lower arms to be comfortable whether the sleeve was hanging down or pulled up over my elbows.
When Fibre Mood first started, you had to add seam allowances to all of their patterns. This often (though not always) seems to be the preference in European patterns. I don’t think this originally had seam allowances, but in my copy of the pattern, it does, which was nice–one less step to do!
The order and steps for sewing this were a little bit different than some patterns I have used, and I really enjoyed the change. This pattern often has you finish seam allowances before sewing pieces together. This works out great if you are going to serge or zigzag your edges.
If you plan to finish your seams together, you will need to change things around a bit, but that wouldn’t be too tricky.
After hemming, I sewed my facings down. I HATE facings that flap around. I know facings are supposed to give you a beautifully finished edge without stitching around it, however I don’t mind the look of a stitched down facing as much as I mind my facings flapping around and getting wrinkled every time they go through the wash.
I took a bit of time going back and forth over my button choices, and chose some vintage white (shell?) buttons from the collection my mother-in-law gave me.
I’m really happy with how they look. I had thought about green glass or pink plastic buttons, also from that collection, since I love distinctive details, but because I don’t have a lot of white shirts in my wardrobe, I wanted this one to be versatile and neutral.
There’s a nice tip at the end of the pattern to add some tulle into the shoulder area if you want to keep your sleeve heads extra puffy. I didn’t do that this time, but it’s a great idea.
Changes for next time and overall thoughts
If I were to make this again, I would do a few things. It’s clear to me that I need to do a forward shoulder adjustment as the top ends up shifting back as I wear it.
This doesn’t affect how it feels. It really just affects how it hangs on my body, giving it the look of a shirt with a high-low hem. It works out well for this shirt because the neckline is a little low for me (another thing I would change if I made this again), but because the shirt tends to shift to the back, it effectively raises the neckline to a point I’m comfortable with. Other than that, maybe I would lengthen it an inch or two, but I’m not really sure. That would be a good round three potential change, if I got that far with this pattern.
Otherwise, though, I love this shirt. I have been reaching for it a lot. While I don’t think I need a million of these shirts in my closet, I like this enough that I wouldn’t mind one or two more, and I would definitely consider using a midweight linen again–it’s so nice. It’s turned out to be a great (and pretty!) wardrobe workhorse as we have transitioned into the cooler weather.
Hey, everyone! Sorry I missed you last week. It was finally COVID time in our house after managing to avoid it for so long. Luckily, not everyone got it and it wasn’t too bad. I’m happy to be back to blogging this week, though.
McCall’s 6848 was my last summer project, finished in September. I really didn’t think it would still be weather-appropriate in November, but we have had some warm days here!
It’s been great to wear the shirt a bit and get a feel for what I do and don’t like about it. First, details!
This is McCall’s 6848, View C, which is technically a pajama top, but it’s just a good boxy top in general, so I like it for daily wear.
It’s from 2013, so it’s out of print now, but is probably findable on Etsy or eBay.
I have made this pattern several times before, making it a real TNT for me (a tried-‘n’-true pattern). I still have several of my previous versions of this around, and although I have changed sizes, they still fit since this pattern has a fair amount of positive ease. For this version, I made an XL bust, XL waist, and XL/XXL hip. I used a “neon highlighter pink” silk crepe de Chine (CDC) fabric from Fabric Mart that was one of their NY Designer fabrics. I don’t actually know which NY Designer this is from, but I picked it for the substrate and the color rather than the designer status. I really like silk CDC. It’s such a nice, drapey, wearable fabric. I don’t find it hard to sew, and I throw mine in the washer and dryer rather than dry cleaning. This was a great deal, too, at just over $10/yard.
This pattern is pretty quick and easy to sew. I used French seams on the shoulder and side seams, which looks so nice.
I did notice, at this size, that the shoulders seemed to be different lengths for front and back. It’s possible that I traced something wrong, or maybe it was the pattern. I didn’t feel like going back and checking the original pattern, so I just made sure the shoulders lined up at the neck. I figured I could trim the armhole if necessary.
The neck binding is a really nice touch on this pattern.
I suggest trimming down the seam allowances a bit before applying it to make things easier on yourself.
For the finish at the armhole, I skipped the basting and did a one inch double turned hem, sort of diagonally folding under the areas at the bottom of the armhole.
One additional thing I added that was not in the pattern, was some little lingerie straps on the shoulder seams near the neckline.
This top would really make a great pajama top, but since I wanted to wear mine as an every day top, I didn’t want it to keep slipping from one side to the other and showing my bra straps. I found some lace seam binding in my stash that coordinated remarkably well. After estimating the length by comparing it to my bra strap and adding in some extra, I sewed one end to my seam allowance and then sewed snaps to the other end at the part of the seam allowance closest to the neck. When I tried using these by snapping them around my bra straps, I initially thought things looked pretty wonky, but once I moved everything into the correct spot, it was perfect! The shirt no longer slid around on my shoulders. It stayed perfectly in place.
As for the shirt as a whole, I don’t really love it untucked, but I do like it tucked in or tucked in the front.
It’s a wonderfully breezy, comfortable shirt. I’m really glad I made it. It can join the two others in my closet. 🙂
To check out my other versions of this pattern, click the links below:
So…I may have made this t-shirt last spring, and am just now blogging it.
And maybe it’s been hanging up on a hanger near my sewing machine waiting patiently to be blogged after only having been worn a handful of times. Yikes.
Now that it’s getting cooler again, I want to wear this shirt! I love those leopards! Not leopard print, but actual leopards, which I like much better.
This is the Thread Theory Woodley Tee in the women’s sizing, sewn up in 100% cotton jersey from Joann’s POP kids fabric line plus some ribbing, which I think is 100% cotton, although it may contain some spandex. I really like this new line, and find a lot of fabrics and prints I like for me, as well as prints I would use if I were making clothes for kids. Unfortunately, I don’t see these two fabrics on their site, so they may be sold out. In the past, I have felt pretty unimpressed with the fabric selection at Joann’s, but in recent years, they have started to sell more options that I really like.
The Woodley Tee is a relaxed-fit t-shirt that’s meant to be a great basic.
I was really excited to try this since my preferred t-shirt fit of late is more relaxed. I also like that you can use low-stretch knit fabric with this pattern. I made version 1, the solid color/long sleeve option.
When I looked at the finished measurements, I decided to size up one size. After sewing the shirt, I think I would always do that on the arms, as I wouldn’t want them to fit any closer. They’re just right one size up. I could go either way on the body. Probably I would size up one again, as I did here, but if I didn’t, I think it would also be fine.
As for construction, it was pretty straightforward with one addition you don’t always see in t-shirt patterns. This pattern has a shoulder binding on the inside that works to stabilize the shoulders (so you don’t have to sew in elastic or twill tape) and gives a really professional finish.
I won’t say I managed to sew it in perfectly. I found it a little tricky, but I got it well enough in the end. To be fair, I doubted the instructions since they didn’t tell you to stabilize the shoulders at the beginning, so I went ahead and did it myself with twill tape. Then I got down to the shoulder binding and realized I should have just trusted the pattern (or read all the way through before starting). Since the shoulders were already stabilized, I didn’t bother to cut my fabric on grain. I just cut it on the cross grain to save fabric and since my fabric was directional. Next time, hopefully, I’ll just do what the pattern says.
Other than that little hiccup, everything went great! I skipped the pocket, used the serger on the main seams, and zigzagged the hem. Initially I wasn’t sure how I liked the shirt, but now I’m into it.
I like the fit and the fun design on the fabric. I think I would make this again. The color blocked option is one that would be fun to try, too. It’s a great way to use up some scraps. So, if you’re looking for a relaxed-fit tee, I can highly recommend this pattern which comes, not only in women’s sizing, but also in men’s. Thread Theory always has excellent, high-quality patterns, and this one is no exception.
Let’s start with the pants! These pants, made using Simplicity 8841, are a repeat pattern for me–not something I always do. Each sewist/craftsman/artist has a way they like to dive into projects, and for me, it usually involves trying something new, often a new pattern, so I rarely circle back to previous patterns unless I really liked them and want more versions in my closet or they are just right for the fabric I want to use. I really liked the style of these pants, and I wear my first version a lot. However, I kind of overfit that version, and I thought I could do better…plus I really did want more of these in my closet!
The other thing that drove this repeat performance was some great denim I found at Joann’s. It was 100% cotton, and pink from being vegetable-dyed. The vegetable dye made me curious about how the color would hold…and I really like this shade of pink. Simplicity 8841 seemed like a good match for the denim. I got what I needed when it was on sale. Yay!
According to my measurements, I was a size 24 in this pattern. It only went up to a 22, so I did some very inexpert, cheater-style grading. I looked at the distance between the last few pattern sizes, and sized up the largest size by that amount, by just tracing around it, and trying to make things look like they would have if there had been one more size. I wanted to make View D, but with the longer length of View C. This was pretty easy to do.
Using the book, Sewing Pants that Fit from The Singer Sewing Reference Library, I added 1.5″ to the back crotch length by making a wedge adjustment for a protruding seat. This entailed cutting into my back pattern piece from the crotch seam to the hip, without cutting all the way through. I then tipped the top of the pattern up 1.5″ making the back crotch seam of the pattern longer. After doing that, you have to smooth out the hip/outseam because making that wedge creates a little divot at the side seam.
Then I lengthened the back crotch point by 1.5″ and lowered it 0.25″ to true the pattern. This can help with full thighs or a protruding seat. I have found that it works for me, whatever the reason may be. I tend to need more length in the back with Big 4 patterns. Somehow it always feels a little bit like trial and error, but I usually end up making the maximum crotch seam length adjustments on the back pattern piece and find those really comfortable.
These pants are pretty straightforward to put together with good directions.
I changed up how I inserted the elastic into the waistband a little bit, but otherwise followed the directions as written. Since these pants have no fly, and only front patch pockets, I pushed myself to finish them before meeting up with a friend who was visiting. It’s always really fun to have something new to wear for something like that, and it’s good for me to occasionally give myself artificial deadlines to speed a project on.
Once I started wearing the pants, I had a few thoughts about them. They are definitely a style I like, and they’re very comfortable. The dye in the fabric seems to be holding well, too.
I’m not sure I love how they look, even though I love how they feel. They look a little too big to me. I’m all about preserving design ease and not making the smallest size you can squeeze your body into, but maybe I could have made these a little smaller, especially since the size 22 pants that I made do still fit. The other iffy part is that the waistband doesn’t feel as strong as I want it to. The pants stay up just fine, but it feels like if I load up my pockets, things could get saggy. Yikes.
I have toyed with the idea of taking off the waistband and cutting a new one that would allow for 2″ wide elastic, like the Elizabeth Suzann Clyde Pants pattern, but I cannot tell you how much I really don’t like going back into patterns once I have finished them. I know they would be more wearable if I altered them, but the joy of alterations is not the reason I sew. The fact that they do fit and are comfortable will probably be enough for me to wear them and not bother to alter them. The good news is that the paper pattern adjustments I made were good. I don’t feel like the back of the pants are too short or tight (i.e. no wedgies or “plumber’s butt”–yay!). They feel just right.
The real kicker, though, is that while writing this, I looked back at the blog post I wrote for the first pair of pants I made, and those had the same problems! Yes, if I had carefully read my own post before starting on these, I wouldn’t have graded up, and I probably would have tapered the legs of the pants. I still would have made the flat pattern adjustments I made this time–I did remember the need for those–but I could have made an even better pair of pants if I had listened to my past self and reminded myself of all the changes that would have been helpful. Oops.
So, I guess this project is a little bit of a mixed bag, but overall good. I do recommend the pattern if you are looking for a simple pair of elastic-waist pants. These could definitely work, construction-wise, for a beginner, and they are loose enough that you wouldn’t have to think about fitting to the level you would with a pair of skinny jeans or something like that. I would potentially make these again, with some slight tweaks (after actually reading this post and my last one; haha).
News from the Fair!
And now for something unrelated, but awesome! If you read this blog regularly, you may remember that I submitted some garments to the Topsfield (Massachusetts) Fair for the first time. Well, the cardigan I knitted got a first place ribbon, and the reversible vest I sewed got both a first place ribbon and Best in Show! I was so excited!!! I knew that I had worked up to my skill level at the time and pushed myself beyond on those projects, but it’s really, really nice to occasionally have some outside validation for your work, from people who also make things.
Making clothes is my art practice. My work will probably never be in a gallery, and I don’t want to turn it into a business, so I don’t get that kind of positive professional critique on a normal basis, so it means a lot. That being said, I do very much appreciate all the cheerleading and support I get from my family and friends. That is what has really kept me going all these years.
My parents and kids were with me when I went to see all the entries, and they can tell you that I had a pretty big smile on my face. What a great experience!!!
Hi, everyone! It’s fall! Yay! While I still have a few summer projects to show you, time really got away from me this week, and I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of them. What I do have pictures of, though, are a few projects perfect for the start of fall: two more Twig + Tale leaf blankets and a quick upcycle. All of these projects are almost a year old (yikes!), but just haven’t made it to the blog yet.
Last October, I whipped up a Quaking Aspen Leaf Blanket from the North American collection for a friend that was visiting. I used a golden corduroy left over from some pants I made since aspen leaves turn yellow, and for the other side, I used the last scraps of this bit of green blanket someone gave me years ago.
I also used it on my own Monstera Leaf blanket (which I still love and use all the time). This blanket came together really fast, as these blankets all do, and was a fun present to give my friend.
The other leaf blanket I made was the English Oak from the European Collection. I wanted a blanket to use on our couch, and I let my husband pick which leaf shape he liked best since he loves trees. I used a cream twill originally from Fabric Mart that I have used in many projects, and I backed it with a mystery home dec fabric that feels like cotton.
I have probably had this fabric since before I began sewing regularly. I really had to piece it together to make it work!
While I like the shape of the oak leaf blanket, I don’t love the finished object as much as the others that I have made. I think it’s something with my fabric choice. It’s good functionally, but it’s just not my favorite one. Still, it works well, and I’m glad I made it.
One other project I did last October was a quick little upcycle. Sometimes it’s the details that make a garment, and that was the case here. I thrifted a nice flannel shirt for my husband, but it wasn’t quite his style, so I kept it for myself. I liked it, but it kind of needed something. I realized that if I just changed out the buttons for some really fun ones, it would give the shirt a distinctive detail without much work required and would make it more interesting and fun to wear.
Of course, this completely dovetailed with my desire to try out some of the super fun buttons by Tabitha Sewer that Pintuck & Purl had in stock. Yes! I chose some that are neon pink with neon orange edges…or maybe neon orange with pink edges? These buttons aren’t cheap, so ironically, my “small details” cost more than the shirt, but oh, well. Tabitha Sewer has so many fun buttons, but so far I have held off buying more until I have a specific project for them. Adding some to this shirt turned it from something a little too normal into something really fun! That also means I wear it a lot more. I am so motivated by good colors in my creative work. I just love the fun they bring.
All these projects are great for fall! Have you tried making a leaf blanket? Do you have favorite details you add to bring a garment from just ok to extra special? Let me know!
Before starting, I looked back at my old post to see what changes I had made to the pattern. I used those again: a minor forward shoulder adjustment, and lengthening the top by two inches, although this time I added one of the inches to the bodice and one inch to the peplum. I made size G, and found a surprising error on the pattern. Even though the key to the sizes shows different line styles for sizes G and F, on the printed and assembled PDF, they both look the same. I just had to count up or down to my size to make sure I was on track. It’s very possible this problem has been fixed since I downloaded it, but keep an eye out just in case if your are sewing either of those two sizes.
This fabric is a little shifty to cut, so you need to be careful and go a little bit slowly. This can be an issue while sewing, too, so make sure you stay stitch the front and back neckline before getting started. It’s not a hard fabric to sew–just be aware that it can shift. Handle it carefully, and you’ll be fine.
I tested out various trim options, but in the end, I decided to keep the outside of the top plain to let the linen shine through, although I did use some fun Rifle Paper Co. rayon bias binding I made instead of the facings. After doing the forward shoulder adjustment, I didn’t really want to alter the facings when I had this pretty option I could use instead. I used my serger to finish my other seams, so the inside looks nice and neat.
When I finish a garment, unless I really hate it, I usually feel like it’s THE BEST THING EVER and MY NEW FAVORITE and so on and so forth. I loved this when I first made it–and I still do, but wearing it a few times has helped me to see not only its best qualities, but also some that I like less. The pros are that this is a great pattern in beautiful fabric, and it feels like an absolute dream to wear in the summer. It’s cool and breezy and SO GOOD. Another thing that I love is that because it is dartless, it’s also reversible. I love it both ways. Each one is a little different. The parts I like a little less are that at this size, the armholes are a little low, and show my bra. The beautiful volume that allows this to feel so light and breezy also can have a bit of a pregnancy look, especially from the side. That would be different in a drapier fabric like a silk crepe de chine or a rayon challis, but in a fabric with any amount of body, you need to be prepared for volume. In general, I like the volume, but not always.
All that being said, I really do love this top. I think it will look great as the season turns, on those days when it’s cool enough for jeans and a jacket, but still warm enough for a sleeveless or short-sleeved shirt. I had to do a lot of piecing on the peplum to get it out of the small amount of fabric I had, but I made it with only two scraps left over. Man, I love linen!
Last, but not least, guess what? Today is the nine year anniversary of this blog! Wow! It’s great to be able to look back and see how much I have grown as a sewist and craftsman, how much my focus has both narrowed to sewing, and then expanded to making garments in general with the reintroduction of knitting to my crafting skillset. Will shoes be next? Will I ever make a straw hat? Who knows?! Thanks for reading along, though. I really appreciate it. 🙂
Hello, friends! And welcome back to the blog. After taking the summer off, I’m ready to get back to writing about sewing, knitting, photography, and other fun creative endeavors. I hope you had a good last few months as well.
My “To Blog” list is pretty long, but I’m actually going to start with a more recent project. I was a tester for Megan Nielsen’s latest pattern, the Protea Capsule Wardrobe. I went through two rounds of testing as the pattern grew from a few views to the many views you see now. In order to be a tester, I signed up to her list and sent in my measurements. They cycle through their list and contact people with a good range of measurements, and then e-mail you when they have a pattern for testing to see if you are interested. You get to see the line drawings and description of the pattern as well as the deadline and what they need from you, and then you can say yes or no. This is a volunteer position, so it’s your responsibility to get your materials together for the project. You don’t have to blog the results or put it out on social media, but since I will really and truly forget the details of my projects if I don’t blog them, I wanted to share my tester versions, and hopefully give you a look at the pattern in its developmental stages.
As the pattern was released, the company offered testers the option of a free Protea Capsule Wardrobe pattern in print or PDF. I chose print, but still had to pay shipping, and I’m currently waiting for it to arrive. I don’t often test patterns since I have so many of my own projects that I want to make, and Megan Nielsen is the only company I have tested for (unless I’m forgetting…but I think that’s right). The process was a little different years ago, but I have always been impressed with the freedom and flexibility this company gives you in testing. So! Let’s get to the actual garments. Just remember…these are versions that came out before the new and shiny final pattern, so some things have changed a bit.
Test #1: Protea Blouse
Here is the first line drawing we were sent back in January. I chose to make the square-neck blouse out of a striped cotton seersucker I bought at Field’s Fabrics in Holland, MI in summer 2021.
I love the general style of this blouse and have worn it all summer long. I love that it is loose and boxy and I didn’t have to make a broad back adjustment.
When the option to test the next version of the pattern came along in May, I wasn’t quite sure that I would have the time, but I really liked the look of the tiered dress with a square neck and flutter sleeves. I found some fabric in my stash and decided that I could make it if I applied myself!
I chose to make this dress in a cotton double gauze from Joann, also from the summer of 2021. I didn’t have quite enough fabric. What I did have was a little narrower than the recommended 60″ and I only had four yards instead of the 4 3/8 I should have had, but I decided to do my best to make it work. In the end, I mostly made it. I went back and bought a few fat quarters of quilting cotton in the same pastel purple to cut my pockets out of. That fabric requirement was pretty much spot on.
I made the dress with a size 18 bust and 20 waist and hip without the drawstring. I didn’t veer too far from the directions except that I hemmed my sleeves with bias tape instead of turning the hem in twice, and gathered my skirt tiers using a zigzag over a string instead of sewing two parallel lines of stitching (a technique I picked up from another Megan Nielsen pattern). I haven’t seen the final version yet to know what choices they made for those parts of the pattern instructions.
I felt a little bit different about this dress when I finished it than I did the top. I love positive ease, and this dress has LOTS of it. It was a bit much even for me.
Unless you are looking for a completely unrestrictive dress, I like it a lot better with something pulling the waist in just a little. I tried pinning the drawstring casing on, but I wasn’t a fan.
The drawstring casing for the dress in this version of the pattern used the same pattern piece as the waistband for the skirt. It’s a clever idea that reduces the number of pattern pieces, but I don’t actually like it on the dress. It’s really wide and I didn’t like how it looked. I also didn’t like the dress without something to pull in the waist a little, so I put the finished dress to the side for a bit to think it over. In the end, what I did was to make two ties out of some single fold bias tape I had that matched my fabric.
I sewed them on to the outside, but if I were planning on adding ties from the start, I would have sewn them into the side seams at the waist.
This allows you to gather the waist in as much or as little as you like. There is a bit of fabric that gathers under the ties, but it really isn’t bulky. I tie mine just tight enough to get a little waist definition, but still loose enough not to feel restricted.
For me this takes the dress from something I didn’t like at all to something I love. It’s amazing what a little tweak can do.
Seeing the final pattern, I like it a lot. You don’t often see an indie brand bring out a capsule wardrobe-type pattern. The Big 4 do it (I’ve seen a lot from Butterick), but not always indie brands. Since indie patterns can be so expensive, this is a good value for your money, and it’s simple enough to sew and has such clear instructions that even a beginner could tackle it. You get some good mix and match options with the sleeves and necklines so that you could easily sew a lot of different-looking garments from this one pattern. I like it stylistically, as well, except for the dress drawstring. Personally, I’m really into the square neck, flutter sleeves, and tiered skirts. I don’t often return to patterns I have already made since I love trying new ones, but before summer started to wane, I was contemplating more of the square-necked tops, so I could see revisiting this one and trying out any of the views. I like them all.
Since I finished pattern testing, I have made a few other garments, and I entered both a sewing and a knitting project in the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, MA for the first time ever, so we’ll see how that goes! I submitted my Patagonia inspired vest and my Arrowhead Cardigan which were both a lot of work and took a lot of brainpower!
Also…I found some sandals with wooden bases at the thrift store that I have started stripping down to try making into sandals I like, but it’s slow going with the other projects, and…you know…actually taking care of my family, ha ha.
I’m pretty inspired and excited about making all the things at the moment. I didn’t sew a ton over the summer, so it feels good to get back to it. And I have a million projects to bring to the blog (some from last winter/spring–yikes!), so I look forward to meeting you back here soon. Happy weekend!
Oh, boy, do I have a backlog of projects to blog! I need to take about a million pictures, so I’m starting with a few of the projects that I don’t have to model. Then when I can rope a family member into taking pictures for me, I’ll try to catch up on the rest.
This particular project is one of the simpler ones I have made, but actually took me forever to finish! Sometime between 2020 and 2021, I cut three camisoles out of some of my larger scraps. I used Simplicity 8545, View B.
I used View A previously to make some brightly colored slips in cotton lawn (you can see them here). I thought a few camisoles to go under transparent or low-cut tops would be a good idea and a useful way to use up some of my offcuts, so a year or two ago (I think) I made a cream colored camisole from a silk lining fabric that a friend had given me.
Around that time (maybe?), I also cut out two more camisoles from some old Cotton + Steel cotton lawn, so I could have some colorful options. Those two lawn camisoles sat on my “to sew” rack for…a year? Two years?
They became my only UFO’s (unfinished objects). I don’t like UFO’s in sewing, but I didn’t want these badly enough to carry me through to finishing them, so they just sat there. This year I decided enough was enough and tacked them on to one of my big sewing batches. I wasn’t even sure if they would fit when they were finished, but I figured if they didn’t fit me, they would fit someone else. If I never made them, though, the fabric probably wouldn’t get used at all.
For these, I changed the pattern up a little to make them easier to make and nicer to wear. I found with the slips that I really didn’t need the zipper to get them on and off, so I eliminated that and just sewed the back up. I also eliminated the facings, which constantly flip out on my slips and drive me nuts. Eventually I hope to sew them down, but I really hate going back into old projects, so I haven’t gotten to that yet.
Once I finally decided to sew up the lawn camisoles, the goal was to get them done as quickly as possible, while still sewing quality(ish) garments. I picked one thread color for both (pink), serged my seam allowances, and used whatever bias binding I had on hand to save time and use up materials. (You have no idea how much random bias binding I have!) I had made bias binding for the silk camisole and used beautiful French seams and a tiny rolled hem on that one, but these two just needed to get DONE! For a little extra insurance, I also sewed a 3/8″ seam in the back and on the sides instead of the 5/8″ seam allowance the pattern called for.
I’ll spare you the details of exactly how I sewed the bias on, but my goal was to sew it so that I could try the camisoles on before finalizing the length of the shoulder straps. That meant making the final attachments in the front. Those joins got a little ugly, but it didn’t matter–these are meant to go under other clothes and I wanted them done.
Happily, they do fit ok, and I love how bright and fun the two lawn ones are and how practical the cream one is. Have I worn them? Maybe the cream one a few times, but not the lawn ones yet. I hope I end up wearing them, but even if I don’t, someone else could. I’m definitely happy with the modifications I made. And I’m happy that I didn’t give up on these and throw them in the scrap bin. This is a good, basic yet versatile pattern with some fun options, and even though I haven’t made the dresses or shirts, I’m glad I tried the slip and camisole views.
Today I have something fun to share with you! It’s not my normal type of sewing, but it ended up being pretty cute. It’s a humpback whale stuffed animal!
I got the Crafty Kooka Humpback Whale pattern as a birthday gift from one of my kids. I had seen it online and I really wanted to try it. I was so curious about how it came together, and I love whales as a decorative element (real whales are pretty cool, too).
I tacked this project onto the end of my winter sewing batch, so that I would be sure to get it done, even if it did take me until spring. I found some fabric (blue wool/cashmere, I think, and cream cotton twill), batting, and stuffing in my stash, and then bought some safety eyes at Joann’s. I couldn’t find the exact size, but I got something close. Then I dove in, and out came this fabulous whale, that REALLY looks like a humpback whale. I was so impressed. This is a quality pattern from someone who really knows their stuff.
Unfortunately…I hated the process of sewing this whale. It was probably a combination of wanting to move on to spring sewing and the need for precise sewing on some very curvy and pointy shapes. If you are someone who loves a sewing challenge, precision sewing, or trying out really interesting pattern shapes, you will probably love this. If you want a quick and easy sew, are a beginner, or don’t love super careful sewing, you will not like this project. I found it harder than sewing an underwire bra (which actually isn’t super hard, but does require focus and care). On the upside, this is a great pattern with terrific instructions, and it produced an excellent outcome. I recommend this if you are really into sewing stuffed animals and you have or want to develop the aforementioned precision sewing skills.
Despite not loving the process of sewing this whale, I do love the finished product, and so does everyone in my family. My husband predicts I’ll sew another someday. I won’t say never, but it will have to be awhile. We discussed names for a long time, with one Jane Austen-loving family member pushing hard for “Fitzwhalliam Darcy” after Fitzwilliam Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, but in the end, I pulled rank as the creator and went for something Hawaiian, since there are humpback whales in the Pacific. It was between Duke Kahanamoku, famous waterman, Olympic swimmer, surfer, etc., etc. and King Kamehameha, the first king to unite the Hawaiian Islands. I went with King Kamehameha as the name for the whale, but after doing further research, I switched back to Duke Kahanamoku. They both seem amazing, but I liked Duke’s selflessness and standout character.
Now we have a great whale that lives on our couch, and gets lots of snuggles from the family. And with that, I closed the book on winter sewing and checked off one of my craft goals for 2022.
What about you? Would you sew a complex stuffed animal? Any tips for me if I try another in the future?
Oh, boy, this was a big one! Today’s project is the Arrowhead Cardigan by Anna Cohen for Imperial Stock Ranch, and it took me a long time and a lot of head scratching to figure it out, but I did it!
This cardigan was definitely above my skill level, but I’m happy to say that perseverance paid off, I learned a ton, I conquered some fears (steeking!), and made it to the finish line. And it fits, which I have struggled with in the past.
Now for the details!
Sweaters are a big undertaking when it comes to finding and choosing yarn, especially if you want to watch your costs. Plainly put, it’s expensive to knit a sweater. Yarn cost is always a factor for me, especially on larger projects. Thankfully, there is a wide range of yarn and price points, if you are willing to dig a bit. And I love the digging–it’s like a treasure hunt.
I found what I was after online at WEBS (yarn.com) in the closeout section. Univeral Yarn Deluxe Worsted offered some bright colors in a 100% wool yarn (non-superwash, worsted spun) at a great price. Reviews were a bit mixed, but I decided to take the risk. My skin isn’t super sensitive to wool and I planned to wear this over a shirt.
I ordered three skeins of “Blushing Bride” (pink) and seven skeins of “Strip Light Yellow”. With shipping, my cost was around $50. That’s more than I like to spend on fabric for a sewing project, but for a sweater, that’s really economical. When the yarn came, it looked and felt great. Before ordering, I had done my best to determine if the colors were far enough apart in value (gray scale) that they would stand out distinctly, and they were. In person, they were just as good.
I was really struck by this pattern when I saw it. The design was beautiful and it looked oversized and cozy in all the best ways. I looked at others’ projects on Ravelry and really liked the sweater in different colors as well. Also, I have to admit the original styling for the pattern was right up my alley, and it didn’t hurt that I knit most of this while watching the first 13 seasons of Heartland (a Canadian show set on a horse and cattle ranch) with my daughter. Sometimes I think of this as my “Heartland Cardigan”. All I need is a horse and a farm to go with it! Oh, and a lifetime supply of farming knowledge. You know, the little things. 😉
My gauge came out pretty close to correct at about 17 stitches and 16/16.5 rounds over 4″ x 4″ (the pattern calls for 17.5 stitches and 21 rounds over 4″ x 4″ (10 cm x 10 cm)). I never worry too much about row gauge since I can change the length of the sweater as I knit. I had already gone down from the suggested needle size of US 8 to a US 6, and since I am typically a loose knitter and this sweater has plenty of positive ease, I went down one size as well from the large to the medium. For my body ribbing, I used US 4’s. Since knitting smaller circumferences can tighten your knitting, for my sleeves I went up to US 7’s with US 5’s for the sleeve ribbing. And then I just hoped and prayed it would all work out.
I decided I wanted the pink to be my dominant color (the one that would stand out the most), and after looking through some notes on Ravelry, I decided to catch my floats every 7 stitches. I recolored all my charts so I wouldn’t get confused and knit the wrong color (like I did in one of my Sparks socks), and I made full, colored charts of the sleeves so that I wouldn’t make mistakes there. Those charts took me a long time to color and create, but it was so worth it!
When I tell you this pattern was above my skill level, I’m not kidding. I’ll admit that I am used to using patterns that hold my hand, and I love that. It gives me the confidence to dive into things I have never tried, knowing the help is there for me to figure it all out in the course of the project. There was a lot more assumed knowledge with this pattern, and occasionally I would have to think about a direction or next step for a few days or dig into some knitting books or the internet to figure out how I was supposed to proceed. It meant I made pretty slow progress, but the breaks to puzzle things out ended up paying off each time. I’ll skip the blow by blow description of what I did on each step, but if you could see my copy of this pattern, you would see margins filled with notes.
I have a theory that really, really wanting to make something can carry you through a big project, even if it’s beyond what you have done before. This sweater further solidified that idea in my mind.
If you take on this sweater, which is a good one, despite the complexity, you should note that there is an error in the medium size instructions. When you begin the body and have to join in the round, the part that says to knit 105 stitches should say 106 stitches. If you don’t change that, you will be short of the 220 stitches you are supposed to have after joining in the round. This will also impact your stitch counts as you go through the pattern. Sometimes you will have to add a stitch, sometimes two, at various points, so keep an eye on that. The charts were fine, by the way, it was just the written directions that were off.
Eek! A Steek!
This sweater is knit from the bottom up as one big tube, with panels of stitches in the areas you will have to open up for the front opening and the armholes.
You open these areas by sewing within that panel (I used my sewing machine) and then cutting down the middle.
Seems scary, right? And it was, but also exciting. I practiced on my swatch after doing lots of steek research on the internet, and that worked out well.
It’s such a crazy idea to cut your knitting, but it really works!
After doing that, whether at the front or sleeves, you pick up stitches to knit the sleeves and the ribbing around the front opening, and then later you knit facings to cover the raw edges and the sewing machine stitches. I worried that sewing down my facings would show from the outside, but it didn’t.
Since my row gauge was off, I decided to steek the front opening after finishing the body a little before the directions told me to. That way I could try the sweater on and see if my sleeves were at a length I liked before adding the final patterning and ribbing at the wrists and finishing them. Once I had steeked the front, I also blocked what I had to get a better sense of that sleeve length. And I was nervous, because I was not knitting quite as loosely as I had expected, so I just needed to see how things were going.
Doing all of this gave me a lot of helpful information, and I’m so glad I did it.
This is the project where the idea of using lifelines really solidified in my brain as well. I found the shoulder area especially confusing to knit, so before starting, I added some blue pearl cotton to my live stitches in case I messed up and had to rip back. Luckily, I didn’t have to rip back, but it was nice having that security. You can see a bunch of these blue lifelines three pictures up where I had just cut my front steek.
I began knitting in August of 2021 and I finally finished my sweater in March of 2022. Seven months! I didn’t work on this non-stop, and usually only put in time while watching TV on a lot of evenings. I’m really happy with how it came out and that it actually fits.
It’s very interesting, now that I have knit several sweaters that actually fit, to see what I reach for and what fits best in my current wardrobe. I don’t wear this quite as much as I thought I would since it can be a little hard to find pants and shirts to go under it, and I tend to reach for pullover styles more (my purple Wool & Honey sweater is my most-worn sweater by far). It’s very comfortable, though, and I like wearing it. It has pilled somewhat, but the pills are very easy to remove. It is not scratchy unless I am wearing a bag on my shoulder that presses it down, and then it is a little scratchy in that area. I feel like my yarn choice has paid off, however. I love how bright the sweater is, and the amazing designs in it. If you don’t look too closely, it sometimes looks like the sleeves match up with the pattern of the body. They don’t, of course, but it’s easy to think they do initially.
This sweater really stretched me, and taught me a lot. It helped me conquer the fear of steeking, and helped me realize that if I think long enough, and search hard enough, I can find the answers to a lot of knitting questions. This project made me feel like I levelled up, specifically in stranded colorwork, which is my current favorite area of knitting.
I entered this cardigan in the 2022 Topsfield Fair (in Topsfield, MA) and it won a first place ribbon!