It is catch-up time around here! I have several things I have knit or sewn that have been waiting for their turn on the blog, and this is my oldest sewing project in that category. I made Simplicity 9449, View D, a full skirt, for my daughter to wear to church on Christmas Eve 2021. Yikes. My tardiness aside, I would like to say that I just love it when the Big 4 reissue some of their vintage patterns. These are our heritage brands, and they have an amazing catalogue of patterns. I love so many of the vintage ones, but finding one in your size, especially if you don’t fall into typically vintage sizing, can be tricky. The reissues are great because they come in modern size ranges with multiple sizes in one envelope–excellent if you fall into more than one size. One funny thing I noticed, however, was that although this pattern says it’s from the 1960’s on the pattern envelope, there are fashion facts from the 1950’s on the instructions inside. After looking up the original, Simplicity 1235, on the Vintage Pattern Wiki, I found that it was originally published in 1955, so I guess the outside date is a typo.
Simplicity 9449 comes with four views: a dress, a jumper, a slim skirt, and a full skirt. My daughter wanted the full skirt, View D, so I went off to Joann’s and found a suitably Christmas-y fabric–a burgundy (AKA “Tawny Port”) polyester crepe. I think it was from their Casa collection, which has fancier fabrics.
Helpfully, Joann’s had coordinating zippers for this fabric line, so I grabbed a matching invisible zipper as well. What a beautiful thing to have perfectly matched fabric and zipper!
We made a few changes to the pattern. I moved the side zipper to the back and we added some in-seam pockets in a fun Rifle Paper Co. quilting cotton that I had left over in my stash.
We omitted the patch pockets that came with the pattern. The pocket pattern piece and directions we did use came from Simplicity 8689. I also added an extra bar to the waistband so that you could adjust the tightness of the waistband just a little bit depending on how you are feeling on a given day.
Overall, it wasn’t too hard to sew, which is great because I do not love sewing to a deadline, and this was definitely one of those deadline situations. I used a microtex 70/10 needle in my sewing machine, sewed everything with a straight stitch and finished seams with my serger. I used silk pins, and did a rolled hem using my sewing machine. That seemed faster than following the hemming directions and I wanted to practice rolled hems.
Also, following the hemming directions would have involved a fair amount of pressing, and this fabric did not press well, which is unsurprising since it is made of polyester and is a bouncy crepe. While the pattern envelope calls for an invisible zipper, the directions inside for View D show a standard zipper, so I used the instructions on the zipper package to shorten and install it.
After I finished, the side seams were weirdly puckered, which you can kind of see in the picture below.
I resewed them once in case I had caused it by tugging on them to match them up lengthwise, but it didn’t help. Was it because they were on the bias? Because I serged the seam allowances incorrectly somehow? I’m not sure. The front and back seams were just fine, but they’re also on the straight grain, so they’re more stable.
All told, I’m pretty happy with this project, and I think my daughter was, too. This is maybe a half circle skirt, and she loved the fullness, especially when worn with a petticoat. Unfortunately, the polyester fabric is a major static magnet, which is kind of a bummer. So, there were pros and cons. Typos aside, I would make this pattern again. I would rather not use that polyester crepe fabric a second time, however.
This is a good basic pattern that easily gives you a vintage or modern look, depending on how you tweak and style it. Even better, it was something I could make in a short amount of time in the midst of everything else I was working on.
I have one more handmade Christmas gift to share with you today. This should have been a birthday gift long before it was a Christmas gift but, like so much of the sewing I aspire to, it got waylaid by life. This project is the Jutland Pants from Thread Theory, a menswear pattern for casual or cargo pants.
I have used it many times before. These pants are for my husband.
I used 100% ringspun cotton duck canvas from Big Duck Canvas in olive. The fabric is heavyweight, at 12 oz./square yard, and is a single fill weave (I’m still not fully clear on what that means, since I’m not a weaver, but they explain it on the site). This yardage is factory seconds, but I didn’t find any flaws in the fabric. It’s a nice, wide fabric at 67″.
My husband is definitely worth sewing for. While he is particular about what he likes, he is a very grateful and appreciative recipient, even if I don’t quite hit the mark. And these are definitely a little off, although they are close.
Like any good sewist, I took measurements beforehand. He told me that the pants I had made previously for him still fit, but as someone who has sewn for a long time now, I know that one of the most important commands of garment sewing is: DO NOT SKIP MEASURING. So I had to do it. The tape measure showed that he was a slightly different size than before, so that’s what I traced, with plans to transfer all our former tweaks to this version. I have made this pattern so many times that we have a dizzying number of notes on what to tweak where–it got a little confusing. However, I made myself a master list, and went to town.
Alterations and Tweaks
This time around, we planned to shorten the pants by an inch, as before, even though he is just over six feet tall. We wanted to add pocket reinforcements (see below) like I had seen on some Carhartt overalls I have, but once Christmas started approaching, that mod got tossed out. We would have had to change the pocket shape and redraft the interior of the pocket, which doesn’t look too hard, but would have taken more time.
We wanted to raise the side cargo pockets by 5.5 inches if shortening the pants in the middle (something I should have done but forgot) or 6.5 inches if shortening from the bottom (which I ended up doing). He wanted the belt loops to be longer than on the original pattern to fit his favorite belt better, so we used the belt to measure the exact length + ease that we wanted. He also wanted one double belt loop on the front like a pair of pants he has from Duluth Trading Co.
Also, we decided to use self fabric for the pockets. One of my biggest mistakes on an earlier pair was using lawn for the pocket bags. Those pockets wore out long before the pants did and had to be continually fixed.
I worked steadily on these pants throughout December, and I was nearly finished on Christmas Eve, but with only two hours before church, and in desperate need of a shower, I had to put them on hold. Rushing tends to lead to mistakes, and I didn’t want to have to redo anything, so the finishing touches had to come a few days after Christmas.
As for the pattern itself, it is good overall, but pattern piece 17 (the hem reinforcement) is 1/8″ too wide, and the waistband is about 1 3/8″ too long in the size 39. I’m not sure if this has been fixed on the PDF or in reprints of the pattern. I think I have one of the earlier paper copies.
This size is also longer in the leg than the previous size I made for my husband, so in addition to the inch I usually take off, which I completely forgot to take off at the lengthen/shorten line, I had to take another inch and a half off the bottom.
And that meant that my carefully planned cargo pocket placement wasn’t quite where I wanted it.
Luckily I sewed my Velcro in much better than I have in the past!
The knee reinforcements were also slightly off, but not too bad.
I still can’t believe that after all my planning, I forgot to shorten the pattern! Ugh.
I also meant to try to fit these as I went, but that’s not very easy to do with the order of construction, and I just plain forgot! Once I get into a pattern, I like to just follow the directions, which means I can forget extra things I plan to do if I don’t write myself notes. And in the end? The pants were slightly loose on him. Dang it! It turns out I should have listened to him in the first place and gone with his original size, even though his measurements put him in a slightly larger size. On the up side, he always wears a belt, and he is a very grateful gift recipient because he knows how much time and work go into anything I make for him.
Despite all these minor missteps, the pants actually fit pretty well, and he has worn them a ton. They are definitely sturdy. I was afraid they might be too stiff, but he really likes them and thinks the fabric is great, with the exception that some white marks have mysteriously appeared with wearing and washing. I think it adds to the weathered look, myself.
Personally, I find sewing for other people a bit nerve-wracking. When I make something for myself, I decide which mistakes I can live with and which I want to fix. When I sew for others, it feels like I need to take things up a notch, fix more of the mistakes, and aim a little closer to perfect. The truth is, I have the skills to make a garment look good even when it’s not perfect, but you know how it is–you want that gift to be extra special–your best work. While I still prefer to mostly sew (and knit) for myself, I am beginning to see the joy in making something that’s “just right” for someone you really care about. So, while these pants didn’t turn out as close to perfect as I would have liked, they are still really great pants, and my husband has already worn them a lot. All in all–worth it. 🙂
Hello, everyone! I hope you had a nice time over the holidays. I took a break from my day-to-day activities as much as possible, hung out with my family, ate lots of good food, and got in some nice walks, ice skating, and puzzle time! Now it’s back to it! I managed to get lots of good (and sorely needed) blog pictures with the help of my husband, so I can share some projects with you. And what better to share now that it’s fully winter than some knitting–and a sweater, no less?
Needles: metal circular needles in sizes US 0, 1, 2, 3
Timeframe: April 14, 2022 (swatching!) to November 11, 2022
With my penchant for bright colorwork, this sweater pattern was a surprising choice for me…but it was directly influenced by the Wool & Honey sweater I made. That sweater, also a Drea Renee Knits (DRK) pattern, also knit in Jamieson & Smith 2-ply jumper weight, has to be my most worn sweater to date. There is something magical in that weird, boxy shape and slim sleeves with the cool texture on the yoke, knit up in this beautiful woolen-spun yarn. It’s lightweight and the perfect year-round sweater. In fact, I love it so much, I got nervous I was going to wear it out. I didn’t want to knit it again–it took me a long time and I wanted to make something a little bit different.
Enter, The Weekender Light sweater. In knitting it, I could use more of the Jamieson & Smith 2-Ply yarn, which I had fallen in love with. And this time I would try out one of their yarn cones rather than ordering balls of yarn, for added savings. I trusted in my desire for another sweater I could wear constantly to carry me through all the miles of stockinette stitch in fingering weight yarn that this pattern required.
Now that I knew I loved this yarn, I got smart and ordered a shade card (yarn color sample card) along with my cone of yarn. That way I could see the different colors in person and wouldn’t have to guess on future projects since it’s pretty likely I will order from J & S again. And then I threw a few balls of shade FC22, Bright Pink Mix, into my cart, in the hopes that it would coordinate with the cone of yarn I had ordered, since originally, I had planned to make all my ribbing a darker pink, (see this tutorial for how to do that at the neckline). Unfortunately, I didn’t love them together when they came, so I saved the Bright Pink Mix yarn for another project and decided to dive into a single-color knit.
I tend to knit much more loosely than Andrea Mowry, so I ended up getting gauge on US 1 needles, rather than the suggested US 4’s. I knit a lot of DRK patterns, and this is typical for me. Actually, it’s not just DRK patterns. I usually have to size down with my needles to get gauge. I was between sizes, and since I know my tendency to knit loosely, I chose the smaller of the two, a size 4. I started out using a US 0 on the ribbing and a US 1 for the body. I didn’t enjoy the cast on, but it definitely looks nice. I also knit the ribbing pretty tightly, so that wasn’t the most fun, either, but that was all on me. After that, everything was going well!
Then things took a little turn when we went on a road trip last summer.
I was a little way into knitting the body of the sweater when we started driving. Now, I love a good road trip…once we’re on the trip. Leading up to it, I always stress. Did I remember everything? Clothes? Food? Medicine? What if we get in an accident? What if one of us gets tired? And on and on. I’m actually better than I used to be, but regardless, I always get a bit spun up about things before we go. Well, it seems that I took that nervous energy with me on the trip, even though I felt fine once we were on the road, and suddenly, I was knitting too tightly. I had managed to get in a few inches as we drove (which took awhile). All I had to do was look at it to realize that my knitting had tightened up.
I put the sweater in time out.
Then I went to the yarn store with my Mom, got yarn for two new projects, ordered some needles and stitch markers, and started on something totally different. That sweater stayed in time out until we got home.
Once home, I could finally face up to the fact that I had to rip out my knitting and go up a needle size.
I ripped my last few inches out, put in a lifeline just in case I reverted back to my original tension, and went on with the body, using US 2’s. On I went, seemingly forever. To be fair, I don’t knit a lot in a day. I sometimes put in a little time at night in front of the TV, but often that’s it. I also usually pair a longer or more complicated project like a sweater, with a faster or easier project like a hat or cowl. So, little by little this grew until I got to the sleeves. I went up a needle size to a US 3 for those. On Andrea’s recommendation, I usually go up a needle size for sleeves to keep my gauge consistent.
At the end of October, I got a fairly mild case of COVID. After sleeping for a few days, I started to feel better, but was still confined to my room, so as not to get my family members sick. At that point, something lit a fire under me, and I decided to knit as much as I could and finish this thing! I watched a lot of TV on my laptop, and knit sitting down, standing up, in between organizing my sewing patterns, after stretching out my arms, etc., etc. Shortly after leaving quarantine, I finished my second sleeve! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Then it was on to blocking. This yarn really transforms with blocking. And I especially noticed that with the yarn on the cone. The cone yarn from J & S was “in oil” meaning it has some spinning oil on it. I never felt, noticed, or smelled any real difference from knitting with the balls, except that maybe the yarn looked less fluffy. During blocking the water was a little cloudy, so I rinsed a few times until it was clear, but other than that, it was the same as blocking yarn from the balls. The yarn on the sweater went from looking like it was knit from a rough string (it didn’t feel rough, just looked a bit rustic, I guess), to fluffing out and looking soft and beautiful. I use store brand CVS baby shampoo as my “wool wash” so it came out smelling of wool and baby shampoo, a lovely combination.
So how does wearing this compare to the Wool & Honey? I don’t think it’s equivalent, to be honest. I like this sweater, and I have gotten a lot of compliments on it, but I don’t love it as much. It has the same kind of boxy fit, although I think mine is slightly smaller at the bottom, probably due to my early gauge issues and knitting the ribbing fairly tightly. I like the round neck of the Wool & Honey better as well as the yoke construction. This sweater has the same nice light weight, and I like it with close-fitting pants. It’s also a color I wear a lot, so I’m really glad I made it, but I need to wear it more to see if it will become the staple that my Wool & Honey has.
I also own the original Weekender pattern, which is knit in a worsted weight, but I need to wear this one more to see if I would make that version or not. Now that I can compare aspects of both the Weekender Light and the Wool & Honey in the same yarn, I wonder if I would be happier with something like the DRK Everyday Sweater which has a construction more like the Wool & Honey. Who knows?
The great thing is that I am starting to get a bit of a hand knit sweater wardrobe, which I love. I remember when that happened with my sewing, and how great it was. I love wearing something I have made nearly every day.
Even though every single sweater feels like it takes forever, I like knitting them alongside the hats and cowls, which are my other favorite things to knit. I just need to stretch and strengthen my arms a bit so that I can knit more and longer without injuring myself. The pitfalls of crafting are real, people…but so are the rewards!
American western wear is such an interesting subset of fashion. It can cover everything from the toughest everyday workwear right through to a costume worn in concert by a famous musician, with plenty of range in between. I think that’s what makes it so intriguing to me. I love the practical value of workwear, and western wear, in many cases, takes workwear and makes it beautiful in a way that even those beyond its natural boundaries can appreciate. Although I’ve never lived in the western United States, I’ve always been interested in this type of clothing, particularly western-style shirts. That one garment seems to have so much possibility. Take your basic button-up and add some shaped yokes and maybe shaped cuffs and you’ve got a blank canvas for as much or as little decoration as you like. You might choose to keep it simple or maybe you add piping, fringe, shaped pockets, and/or embroidery. I love seeing the different directions people have taken this in. And that’s why I wanted to try it for myself…well, that and the fact that growing up, I kind of wished I could be a cowgirl. I guess that never died. 😉
I’ve been turning this over in my head for a few years, and collecting ideas on my “Sewing Inspiration: Western Shirt” Pinterest board. To be fair, in the past I did make Simplicity 1538, view A twice (first attempt, second attempt), which has a bit of a western style to it, but I wanted to try piping this time. Despite the fact that I wanted to go all out and fill up a shirt with embroidery, contrasting fabric, or other cool details, I decided to start simple with a shirt that had a shaped yoke and, hopefully, cool shaped cuffs. I settled on McCall’s 6262 a unisex Palmer/Pletsch pattern from 1992. This was advertised at “The Easy Western Shirt” with plenty of options, so it seemed like a good place to start. Looking at the finished measurements on the envelope, I decided on a size large, even though my actual measurements put me at an XL bust and XL/XXL hip. I found a used copy of the pattern on eBay in September 2020.
The ’90’s and its love of positive ease in clothing meant I didn’t have to do a broad back adjustment, but I did grade out a bit at the hip to the equivalent of an extra large.
Despite the millions of ideas I was interested in, I decided to keep it simple for this pattern and just add some piping and pearl snaps, and make the shirt in a single color of fabric. I think this was a good choice, because by the time I finally got around to starting this project in January 2022, I had really psyched myself out about the piping. Yeah, I really overthought it.
I chose to use a “flannel solid” in lilac from Robert Kaufman that I got for Christmas, and I paired it with spring green piping and white pearl snaps. View C was my choice, but I opted to skip the darts.
I really wanted to try out that piping, even if I was worried it wouldn’t turn out right. The instructions were very good, with lots of tips for a quality finish as well as information on how to get the details you wanted.
Despite my desire for “cowboy” cuffs (cool, shaped cuffs), I decided to let that go this time since it wasn’t included in the pattern. I’ll show you what I originally had in mind, though. Check out view A in this picture of vintage McCall’s 2118:
I had bought an issue of Threads Magazine* that explained how to add those cuffs to a shirt, but I knew that every deviation from the pattern would add to the time it would take for me to finish. Some people love hacking patterns, but I love following the directions (mostly) and finishing my garment. I buy patterns because it means someone has done all the problem-solving for me, and I can just follow along and make something cool. That can change based on the project, but for the most part, that’s how I love to sew. Every time I add a deviation from the pattern or something I feel nervous about making, it really slows my process down, and that bugs me, since I don’t sew especially quickly to begin with. Slow sewing can be fun, but usually I want that garment finished and on my body now!
By the time I actually finished this in March or April of 2022, I knew its time for that season was limited since spring and warmer days were around the corner. And then it sat while it waited to appear on the blog, so it hasn’t gotten worn much! Now that it’s cold again, I really want to wear it!
–This definitely has that ’90’s oversized look to it, but that makes it really comfortable. I like it better tucked in than out, but will wear it both ways.
–This flannel is nice and beefy, as usual for Robert Kaufman flannels, which are some of my all-time favorites, but it is pilling a bit after only a few washes. I guess that’s just par for the course with cotton flannel.
–I’m getting better at putting pearl snaps in, although I did crack one of them. Luckily, you can’t feel it, and it won’t fall out–it just looks cracked.
–My piping, while not perfect, worked out pretty well for someone with very limited piping experience! I’m happy with it.
My interior finishing on the yokes just involved pinking the seam allowances.
It’s not my favorite finish since it will (and did) fray, but I knew it wouldn’t be able to fray beyond the stitching line, so it was fine. I also added piping at the cuffs.
As I said, I’ve been contemplating this shirt style for a long time. If you are also interested in this style, here are just a few of the resources and inspirational places I looked to get ideas as to the range of western wear. Hopefully there will be more of this awesome style in my sewing future.
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!
Last Friday I went to the Brimfield antique fair in Brimfield, Massachusetts after a few years off. Like so many things that we didn’t do during the last few years, the time off made it feel a bit strange and outside the realm of my normal routine, like I had to break the ice all over again. But with the company of my best Brimfield buddy, Jo-Alice, we travelled old roads again and went to this, one of our favorite events, and it was just as great as ever.
I took a few pictures for you so you could get a sense of the experience, too. Check it out!
There are always so many vintage clothes to see at Brimfield. You can find them scattered throughout the various fields, but there’s always a huge tent at the Mahogany Ridge field. (Here’s a link to a map of the fields I mention.)
I found some real treasures there. Vintage clothes rarely fit me, but I like to take pictures of ideas I could use in my own sewing, or just things that look interesting.
Brimfield Barn also has an area with some beautiful vintage clothes.
There were lots of other good finds scattered throughout Brimfield, too. Check out this wool jacket.
The pockets were pretty cool.
I always love to look at all the kitchen tools and dishes because so many of them are still useable in a modern kitchen, and my favorite things to find at Brimfield are the things I can use. Even those that are more display items are often really beautiful. For instance, check out this hand-crank whisk. It seems like an early version of a Kitchen-Aid.
There are a lot less sewing tools, patterns, and machines than I would have expected at Brimfield–I’m struck by this every year–but I suppose it’s not surprising. We live in a big country and while there are numerous devoted sewing people out there, it’s not a huge percentage of the population.
After years of sewing and antiquing, I have seen a lot of what is out there, but at J & J Promotions (another of the fields), I ran across a booth that had incredibly beautiful sewing tools, many of which I had never seen before. This booth, in a tent with several others, was run by The Freeman Family, and I had the best time talking to Vickie about what the different tools were used for. Many of them were for fine needlework beyond what I will probably ever do, but some of them were gorgeous versions of commonly used tools.
One of my favorite things about Brimfield is learning about tools and other things that I never knew existed. The dealers know so much, and while there have been times when I haven’t felt like chatting, I usually really enjoy asking questions about the unique and wonderful things they are selling. It adds so much to the experience of being at Brimfield.
Other Interesting Finds
Some stuff at Brimfield is just weird. And that’s part of the fun.
I came home with a few treasures. I always keep a list of things to look for for myself, the house, friends, and family. I really love finding gifts for antique-loving family members. This time I got those beautiful embroidery scissors I showed you above (a birthday gift for someone who doesn’t read my blog), the steel pennies above for my husband (one is also a gift for someone who doesn’t read this blog), as well as:
some small Wiss scissors and a brass (I think?) thimble–it’s the style of thimble with no end on it. You use the sides to push the needle through. I bought these together for $5 total. I really don’t need more scissors, but I do love good ones, and I seem to unintentionally be starting a collection of Wiss scissors. Whoops! Haha.
The thimble was great because it actually fit me, and as soon as I put it on, I could feel that there was a right way to wear it. Whoever had used it before had used it enough that it started to form to their finger, and you can feel that when you wear it. I love that.
I got this bag for my husband, but it wasn’t quite the right shape for him, so now it’s MIIINNNEEEE! Yay! It’s perfect for me.
And, here are my favorite things that I got:
A pair of turquoise earrings, and a turquoise ring. I got them at different places, but I have enjoyed wearing them together. One of my big goals was to find a silver ring with a big, semi-precious stone in it. This one is just right and fits several of my fingers depending on if it is humid or not outside. I really enjoy looking at turquoise jewelry, although I rarely buy any, so it was great to find two good deals on these.
It was so good to break the ice and get back to Brimfield, but what made it even better was spending the whole day with Jo-Alice. I have done Brimfield alone, and I love it, but it’s even better when you can go with a friend who is a good match for your pace and shopping style.
One of the things that I noticed at one point is how Brimfield really turns the normal ideas of what is valuable upside-down. We were in a booth looking at some completely torn up jeans, but they had been hung up like a work of art. Nearby, there were some jeans for sale that had been beautifully mended. There are a lot of things you can find at an antique fair that in normal daily life get forgotten or overlooked, but in that context are treated as treasures and valued for the work that went into their creation and the potential for work or beauty they still hold. As a maker and as a Christian, those themes of finding beauty in the broken and overlooked are ones that I hold dear, so it was cool to see them played out here, too. Sometimes the things that get cast aside have more value than we realize if we have eyes to see. I love that.
At the end of the day, we were sweaty and tired from walking on and off for nine hours, but we had a wonderful time, ate like Hobbits, and talked the day away. If you get the chance to go to Brimfield or a local antique fair, I highly recommend it.
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!
We’re in the last few weeks of fall, winter starts on December 21, and the temperature is dropping! Time to work on cold-weather clothes. Yay! Now, I’m not talking about coats. That’s an area I haven’t yet explored. I’m talking about the clothes you wear throughout your day.
I don’t live in the coldest place in all the world, but it does get cold here in Massachusetts. We usually have a respectable amount of snow, and the temperature spends plenty of time below freezing. I get cold. But the Alaskan proverb I used as part of the title of this post has proven true for me. I have learned how to layer, and in order to do that, I need clothes with some room in them, unless they are made of stretchy, warm fabric. So let’s talk patterns and fabric that will work for winter and winter layering!
During the cold months, I typically wear a camisole, t-shirt, sweater/sweatshirt, and then sometimes another sweater, vest, or flannel shirt over that, if I’m really cold. I love the idea of wearing cute woven tops, but I always reach for the knit t-shirts. If you find that you do the same, here are a few to try:
This t-shirt is “a classic relaxed fit t-shirt sewing pattern”, according to Thread Theory’s website. It looks like the perfect everyday t-shirt. Thread Theory pays meticulous attention to detail, so you know that any pattern from them will be high quality. They also have a men’s version of this pattern here.
Not only am I excited about this pattern because I know Thread Theory creates great things, I’m also excited that it’s being shown as a pattern you can do real work in (check out the other pictures in the pattern listing on the site to see what I mean). No, I don’t work on a farm (at least not yet), or on a construction site, but I still like clothes I can “get things done” in. I work in my home, and I need to be able to do a million different jobs in my everyday clothes, not to mention that I love quality workwear as a clothing type for its design and durability.
Another pattern that I have long wanted to try, but haven’t yet is Vogue 8950, which is one of their “Very Easy Vogue” patterns.
This pattern would be great with leggings or if you need a shirt long enough to tuck in. It could also help you use some smaller off-cuts of fabric you might have around for the back, chest, and shoulder sections.
Another top that you could take in a lot of different directions (base layer, fancy top, everyday shirt, sweater) is Burda Style 6990.
This raglan top can have a wide or narrow neckline, mock turtle, turtle neck, or cowl neck, as well as a few different lengths. I wish Burda Style’s size range was more expansive, but regardless, it looks like a good pattern, and is listed as “super easy”.
For a raglan with a few different options, but more expansive sizing, check out the Visby Henley from Itch to Stitch.
I made this last year, and found it to be a great pattern.
Pants and Leggings
I like two types of bottoms in the winter: either woven pants with room for long underwear underneath or leggings–the cozier the fabric, the better.
The woven pants I’m excited about this winter are from Simplicity 8391*, a pattern I have really grown to love.
The pants in this pattern are cropped, but it’s easy to add length. My last pair was made from denim.
It would be a cinch to add another inch or two and make these from velveteen or wool (lined, of course), both of which I have in my stash. Keep the decorative buttons, like I did on my denim pair, for a cute sailor-inspired look, or leave them off and make straight/wide leg dress pants. It would be no problem to wear a pair of long underwear pants, leggings, or tights underneath for added warmth.
For an (almost) all-in-one option, what about the overalls from Kwik Sew 3897*?
I had sort of written this one off as not quite what I wanted until I saw Martha’s version of it on her blog, Buried Diamond. I absolutely love her overalls. In fact, I highly recommend her blog for some major sewing and bright color inspiration.
Now, let’s think about leggings! My favorite leggings in the colder months are the ones made from stretch fleece, like Polartec Power Stretch. I source most of my Polartec fleece online from Mill Yardage. My husband got me their complete swatch pack, since Polartec makes so many different types of fleece, and it has really helped me choose the right fabric for various projects, even when ordering from sites other than Mill Yardage. Power Stretch is one of my favorites.
I think it would be great used in the free Peg Legs Pattern from Patterns for Pirates.
From what I have read, they fit like compression leggings, so if you want that fit, use your size according to your measurements. If you want a slightly more relaxed everyday fit, go up one size.
I really can’t believe I haven’t tried this pattern yet. Not only is the the basic pattern free, they have created an add-on pattern with different options like side pockets, colorblocked side panels, a contour waistband, etc.
Now we need something to wear over the t-shirt or over the sweater that’s over the t-shirt. I’ve got it covered! (haha, no pun intended)
One very intriguing sweatshirt/sweater I found is Vogue 1635.
I hadn’t even noticed this pattern until I saw Lori’s version of it on her blog, Girls in the Garden. It’s a really interesting pattern that uses a zipper as a design element along one sleeve and up into the collar.
Just about the only woven shirts I wear when the weather gets cold are flannels and shirt jackets. Simplicity came out with a unisex pattern in three lengths that looks really cool. It’s Simplicity 9388, and I’ve already seen the longer version making the rounds on a few different blogs.
McCall’s 7913* is great if you have a pre-quilted fabric or if you want to quilt your own. This one is also unisex and has a shirt jacket or a vest option.
I love a good vest. Right now I’m in the process of making the Men’s Santiam Vest from The Green Pepper Patterns for myself, since the size range in the women’s version was a bit smaller than what I wanted.
I’m pretty excited about this one, but I seem to be sewing at a glacial pace these days, so it’s coming, but it’s not ready yet. I’m planning to use some insulated Carhartt canvas I got at Field’s Fabrics in Holland, MI this summer, and I’m going to line it in a curly Polartec fleece from The Rain Shed and add wool accents. So exciting!
I’m also interested in The Green Pepper’s pattern for the Plush Polar Jacket and Vest (#507). I have a gray fleece vest from L.L. Bean that I got in high school, and these days it’s a little snugger than I would like. I’d love to replace it with one that fits me better in a fun color. Someday!
If I wanted to dress up, I like Burda 7769, which I have had in my pattern library for a long time, but have never made.
It looks like they have reissued this pattern with updated photos. Wouldn’t it be cool in wool or velveteen? Yes, it would! I don’t need too many nicer-looking clothes these days, but I do need a few, and this would be fun.
One last vest that you could make look sporty or dressy is Simplicity 1499.
I made this once from a quilted flannel I upcycled, but I have never tried View C. That style could easily be made nice for when you want to look a little more put together.
Hopefully this has given you a few more winter things to try. I always love seeing pattern round-ups and people’s ideas of different patterns for different seasons. What are you sewing that you are excited about this season?
*For any patterns no longer listed on their company’s website, I have linked to Pattern Review, so you can see a picture of the pattern with line drawings. This usually means the pattern is out of print. Out of print patterns can often be found on third party websites like Etsy and eBay.
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 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).
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!
These tiny lines in the fabric are pintucks–small folds of fabric that she created and stitched down by hand.
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.
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.
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.
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!