It’s the Outside photos fall/winter edition! Here are some of the beautiful things I spotted in the last few months.
I hope YOU get a chance to get outside this week!
It’s knitting time again, and these ones are some rare birds: gift knits!
Before Christmas, I told my girls I would knit them both hats in a super bulky yarn color of their choice. They could also pick the pattern, but I had the option to veto anything I wouldn’t enjoy knitting. That sounded good to both of them, and so began the project planning!
After looking around at yarn options a bit, I settled on Malabrigo Rasta. It’s a hand-dyed, single ply, nicely squishy Merino wool, and has a decent amount of yardage (90 yards) compared to other super bulky yarns. For a hand-dyed yarn, it’s also on the less expensive side at $23 a skein. It’s not cheap, but a lot of hand-dyed super bulkies have less yardage and higher prices. Each girl picked her favorite: 687 Aquamarine, a tonal mix of light blues for one, and 177 Blueberry Cream, a pink and purple speckle with an ivory base for the other. We ordered them both from Wool & Co. in Illinois, which has free shipping and lots of beautiful options.
After that, it was on to the patterns. I have made a couple of Big Wool Basic Hats by Sara Heckman in super bulky yarn over the years, so one of my daughters went for that. This is a fun and easy free pattern, and a good first hat pattern if you’re a beginner knitter.
It’s basically a tube with ribbing at the bottom that you gather in at the top. Easy! Now that I have a little more experience under my belt, I decided to knit it 6.5″ long, put in a lifeline, knit 2 together all the way around, knit a round, knit 2 together all the way around again, knit the next round, and then follow the finishing instructions. I could try it on my daughter as I went to make sure it was a good fit for her, adjusting if necessary since it doesn’t take long to reknit in super bulky. With my additions, the hat was a little more shaped to her head rather than only gathered at the top.
My other daughter chose The Looking Glass Hat pattern by Jill DeMarco/Yarn It All by Jill. You can make The Looking Glass Hat in a single color or using two colors, and although it looks complicated, once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard. In fact, it’s really fun.
The method she describes for making the textural pattern is interesting, and while you have some long bits of yarn, they don’t ever feel floppy or unsecured.
I went down one needle size on both patterns because I’m a loose knitter, and that worked well. I did not knit gauge swatches. I’ll do that for larger projects, but not for hats.
I made each girl a pom pom with their leftover yarn, and I also bought each of them two different coordinating McPorter Farms faux rabbit fur pom poms from Coveted Yarn in Gloucester, MA that they could change out whenever they wanted. Since I had giant snaps that were the same size as the ones on the faux fur pom poms, I sewed one onto each yarn pom pom so those could also snap on, rather than having to be tied on. I love the option to snap a pom pom on because it makes it easy to take off when you want to wash your hat.
Thanks to the magic that is super bulky yarn, I finished these with time to spare and, while they weren’t a surprise, it was nice to know that both girls had hats they really liked, made by me…and I loved the process of making them.
Today I have a field trip to share with you, and if you’re local to Gloucester, MA, you can even check it out for yourself! In October, I visited the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester to see the exhibit, “Designed & Hand-Blocked by the Folly Cove Designers“.
The Folly Cove Designers were a group that formed and created work in Gloucester throughout the 1940’s, ’50’s, and 60’s. They were led by the multi-talented Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, whose children’s books, like The Little House, Katy and the Big Snow, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Calico the Wonder Horse, etc., you may have read.
I learned about the Folly Cove Designers over a decade ago, when a coworker who had grown up in the Folly Cove neighborhood and known the Demetrioses told me about it. But over time, I nearly forgot. Then I listened to the episode “Strong Community Threads” from the Haptic & Hue: Tales of Textiles podcast all about this group and was reminded. It took a British podcast to remind me of what was in my own backyard. Ironic!
My local library had a museum pass I could check out, which gave me free admission to the museum and the exhibit. I’m so glad I went!
This group began with a neighbor asking Virginia for art classes. From there it grew into more classes with more students, and a curriculum that resulted in a diploma.
Eventually the students and their teacher formed a design group of accomplished artists who printed with linoleum blocks onto a number of surfaces like paper and fabric. They held exhibitions, showing and selling their work. They depicted what they saw around them in nuanced ways, and in addition to seeing many examples of the prints and finished goods that they created, you can also see the blocks and type of press that they eventually used. Before they got the press? Bodyweight! Because when you don’t have all the “right” tools, you get creative!
Here are some pictures of the display showing the homework students did in their art courses:
To make a linoleum block print, you draw your design on your linoleum block, carve out the spaces you don’t want to print, roll ink onto the block, and press the block onto whatever you are printing on.
And here are the tools you use to carve linoleum blocks and make these types of prints:
The Cape Ann Museum is a gem. Not only did I go to the exhibit, I also went on the docent-led tour, and learned so much about this beautiful area of Massachusetts. The Folly Cove exhibit really touched me, though. In the vast landscape of history, this group existed so recently, you can almost reach back and touch them. And their work is phenomenal. I studied printmaking in college, and it gives me such an appreciation for their high skill level–certainly a level I never achieved myself. It’s wonderful and exciting to see people who worked hard together and truly excelled at depicting what was all around them–in the most original and surprising ways. Here are some of my favorite parts:
If you are going to be in the area and want to check out this exhibit for yourself, you should! It runs until March 25, 2023. The museum will be closed from January 24th to February 6th for renovations, and it is always closed on Mondays. If you live locally, see if your library has a pass that will give you free or reduced admission. I also highly recommend buying the exhibition booklet. I bought mine soon after the exhibit opened.
There may be more books on the Folly Cove Designers available at the gift shop now. This exhibit is excellent for those interested in printmaking, Cape Ann history, sewists, pattern lovers, those who like surface design, and anyone who loves Virginia Lee Burton’s children’s books. The museum is right in downtown Gloucester, which has lots of fun shops and a great waterfront to recommend it. One of my favorites? The little rainbow cookies at Caffe Sicilia.
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.
~How the West was Worn: A Complete History of Western Wear by Holly George-Warren and Michelle Freedman…I really want a copy of this book, but the used ones are so dang expensive! This was a really interesting resource.
~100 Years of Western Wear by Tyler Beard…gives you a look at western wear through, as you might expect, the last 100 years up to the 1990’s
~”Go West! Why These Custom-Embroidered Cowboy Shirts Are Topping Our Fall Shopping Lists” by Kristin Anderson for Vogue.com, September 29, 2015…an interesting look at one company making modern custom western shirts
*~”Updating the Cowboy Shirt” by David Page Coffin, Threads #67, November 1996
Of course there are many more resources out there, but these are a few that I found particularly interesting.
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.
The Pattern + Knitting
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!
Yikes! It’s been six months since my last outside photo post! What happened?!
Let’s play a little catch-up, and look at some of my favorite outside photos of the past six months. (And if you want to see last October’s, it’s actually a “Field Trip” post.)
Here’s November of 2021 through April of 2022. Enjoy!
Today I’m bringing you a pretty popular pattern (and some alliteration, all for free!). Simplicity 9388, a unisex shirt jacket in three lengths, has been well-received in the sewing community since its release.
I like making button up shirts and jackets that aren’t too tricky, so this was on my radar. When I got some Shetland Flannel Speckle in the “Steel” color by Robert Kaufman, it seemed like an ideal match.
Fabric & Notions
This flannel is 95% cotton and 5% polyester. It’s 44″ wide and 6.4 oz/square yard. It’s listed on Robert Kaufman’s site as being 2-ply and therefore “stronger and loftier”. It really is a nice flannel, as all the flannels I have ever used from Robert Kaufman have been. It fluffs up a bit in the wash and, my favorite part, contains little flecks of colors–green, blue, pink, orange, and white.
Mine was a Christmas gift from my husband and came from Amazon. He bought me four yards, and after making this shirt jacket, I have 16″ full width left, plus some odd-shaped extra bits.
You only need a tiny bit of lining for the inside of the yoke, so I looked in my stash and chose a bit of gray cotton lawn by Cotton + Steel. I can’t remember for sure, but I probably bought it at Pintuck & Purl several years ago.
Other than that, I found thread, interfacing, and buttons at Joann’s. I really thought hard on the buttons, spending a lot of time online looking at options, but in the end, Joann’s had just what I wanted. While I had thought something neon or bright would be the ticket, it was this medium pink that looked the best.
My favorite detail on this shirt is the “L” patch from Wildflower and Company on Etsy.
This was also a gift, and went great with the shirt. It was easy to iron on and instructions were included to ensure success. After adhering it, I stitched around the outside with regular thread in my bobbin and clear nylon thread in my needle. If you haven’t used nylon thread before, it looks a lot like lightweight fishing line, but comes on a spool. I have a really old spool that was given to me by a friend. This stuff pretty much lasts forever, and is great extra insurance on something like this embroidered patch that will definitely go through the laundry on a regular basis.
I did have one tool failure–and this is something I have seen in several cases, unfortunately. Using a yellow Chaco liner on white/light material is probably a gamble that won’t end well.
I don’t know if this happens with all the Chaco liner colors, but I have used the yellow on cream fabric and it has never washed out. I helped with a class once where someone made white jeans and couldn’t get it out. Now I notice that I can still see my marks even on this medium gray, even though I have washed it since making it. I absolutely love my yellow Chaco liner for its ease of use, and I really don’t have problems with it on darker colors, but it just doesn’t seem to come out of lighter colors.
I chose to make View B in a large for the bust/chest and waist and an extra large for the hips.
I thought about trying the shortest view (View C), but I really wanted hip pockets, and View C omits those.
This pattern was nice to sew without any real surprises, and it felt like it came together fairly quickly. I like the front chest and hip pockets and love how the lining on the inside of the yoke looks.
One of the few things I didn’t like is that, at this length, the hip pockets finish just above the hem, so if you put your hands or something heavy in the pockets, they will hang down beneath the edge of the jacket. To fix that, I topstitched my pockets to the front, following the seam line from the inside. They aren’t perfectly even, but it’s not noticeable unless you are trying to notice it. While I prefer the look of the jacket without this topstitching, it doesn’t look bad and it completely solves the problem.
One thing that was a little different from a lot of shirts that I sew is that this pattern has a one-piece collar and the button plackets extend past the edge of the collar. It give the shirt jacket a slightly different look from a regular shirt. I also like the seam line over the chest pockets. It’s a good detail.
This shirt jacket has, in my opinion, the perfect amount of ease to wear over other shirts or a light sweater, and I could see making this in other cotton flannels or, even better, in wool.
If you look around on the internet, you can see a lot of versions of this pattern, including an amazing version in red faux fur by Yoga Byrd over on the Minerva.com website (hopefully that link works).
While I started this in the winter (And maybe finished it in the winter? I can’t remember…), it’s a great transitional piece for spring. I have worn it a lot, and am so glad I made it.
There’s nothing like a garment you have made yourself when it comes to the ideal fit. And if you find fitting difficult, persevere! You’ll get there! With practice, even if we can’t make everything fit perfectly, we can usually get things closer to what we want than store-bought clothes.
It’s funny how something can stick in your head for years, and then when the moment is right, you call it up for inspiration. Years ago, I was on the beach, talking to some other moms, and one of them was wearing a pair of shearling fleece sweatpants. They looked so cozy, and I thought what a great idea they were for a beach that is pretty much always either breezy or windy and which is usually significantly cooler than whatever town you are coming from.
Last year, as it got colder and my thoughts turned to winter sewing, I was looking through my main Polartec fabric source, Mill Yardage, and saw some neon pink shearling fleece. I love neon pink, I love shearling, and I love Polartec, so I kept it in mind. I had a few ideas of what I might want to make with it, but the strongest came in the form of that memory of the shearling fleece pants.
Mill Yardage has an inspiration board on their website, and I thought this would be an awesome addition. It said that if you sent in an idea they decided to make for the page, they would send you the same amount of fabric. These pants were a fun idea I wanted to see in the world, and if they also sent me fabric, I could make my own pants. After mulling it over for months, I e-mailed them and shared my idea.
In a short time, I received an e-mail back! They liked the idea, and asked if I would be willing to make the project. I already wanted to make this project, so I said yes! They generously offered any fabric and notions I needed from their site to make the pants, so I sent in my requests, and faster than I could have imagined, had a package of fabric at my door. I was thrilled.
Here was my plan.
I wanted to take the Seaforth Pants from Hey June Handmade, a pattern for elastic-waist, wide-leg pants drafted for woven fabrics, and use View B, which has a narrower leg as my base for this project, since I suspected the pattern could work well for knits as well as the wovens it was drafted for. I wanted to make these in fleece and add a cuff to the bottom for the coziest sweat pants ever. I didn’t want slim joggers. I wanted roomy sweat pants that would feel soft and wonderful when you put them on.
To attempt this, I chose three yards of the long-dreamed-of Polartec Thermal Pro large and small clump shearling in “hot pink” which is nice and wide at 62 inches. I liked the idea of pants with different shades of pink, but I wasn’t sure about the bulkiness of the fabrics I was choosing. I felt confident I could make the shearling work for the pants. Or maybe I just wanted the pants I envisioned so much that I was going to MAKE them work no matter what. You can form your own opinions on that. 😉 But which fabric was the right color for all the extra parts while also not being too thick? I poured over the website time and time again trying to decide. What helped me the most in the end was the box of swatches my husband got me a few years ago. I could feel the fabrics and layer them to see how thick everything would be. So, with a mix of trepidation and confidence, I requested half a yard of Polartec Classic 200 double velour/recycled fleece in “rose petal” because it was the perfect shade of pink for my vision (and 60 inches wide–yay!).
I have made View B of these pants before, so I already had the pattern pieces cut out. I tried on the pants I had made previously just to get a sense of whether or not I wanted to make any changes to the pattern, and to figure out how long I wanted them. The fit of the pattern seemed good as it was. I wanted the inseam to be about three and a half inches longer that what View B is drafted for with a cuff that was two and a half inches tall. If you were following the directions as written for View B, you would lose one and a half inches to the hem allowance, so if I didn’t fold the hem up, and used a half inch seam allowance as in the rest of the pattern, I would need a cuff that was three inches tall for a finished height of two and a half inches. I measured my ankles, did some sketching, and then made a little pattern piece out of tracing paper. I would have to see if this would work.
Putting the pants together was not hard, although the pockets required a bit of focus. I relied on my sewing machine for the pockets, using a straight stitch since I didn’t need a lot of stretch in those seams. My stitching was a little wobbly, but I knew that once I wasn’t staring at it up close, I wouldn’t notice it. I used sew-in interfacing where interfacing was necessary, because you can’t iron this fleece without melting it, and I basted and pinned things in place until I had sewn them down.
Once all the pockets were on and it was time to put the actual pants together, I got illogically nervous about whether or not they would fit. It didn’t matter that I had tried on the pair I had already made. What if I blew it and this idea didn’t work? So, to make myself feel better, I serged the inseams and crotch seam and then basted the outseams together just in case. Guess what? They were fine. The pattern hadn’t mysteriously morphed into something else. What a shock! My fears were unfounded!
It was coming out great.
So, I serged up those outseams, put on my waistband, and then got ready to figure out the cuffs.
The cuffs were about half as wide as the lower pant legs. Polartec 200 does stretch, but it was asking a lot of it to stretch so much that I could just sew those cuffs on to the bottom of the bulky Thermal Pro.
I thought about it for a few days, and then mulled over my options with my best problem solving friends. In the end, I machine stitched around the bottom of the pants with a basting stitch and then gathered them. I then hand basted the cuffs to the pants and tried them on.
They seemed good, so I used my sewing machine, which I’m more skillful with than my serger, to sew them together with a zigzag stitch.
Then I went around again with my serger to neaten everything up. And it worked! The pants were perfect!
That being said, if you decide to try this, you may have more luck making the cuffs from something really stretchy like a thinner Power Stretch or just skipping the cuffs altogether and binding the bottoms of the pants with binding or something. HOWEVER, if you are as stuck on an idea like this as I was, the old adage holds true that where there is a will, there is usually a way.
When I finished these, I was THRILLED. These pants were exactly what I was going for! Spring may be right around the corner, but at least where I live in New England, these pants will get more wear than just in winter (these will come to the beach with me). Here is what I can tell you about wearing these. They are extremely soft, and they are extremely warm. That Thermal Pro is no joke. As soon as I put these on, I felt the warmth.
In our area, as soon as there is a whiff of spring and a nice-ish day, people kind of lose it and race to the beach. Seriously. People do not waste nice weather here. So, naturally, I had to go too. 😀 The beach was probably twenty degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than our town and windy, which was perfect for testing the pants. The wind does come through a bit, but less so than, say, this sweatshirt I made.
If you were wearing this fabric in winter with a base layer, you would probably feel pretty good. For a cool, but not bitterly cold wind, it was just right. You can easily believe that I saved all my scraps in the hopes of more fun projects when the temperature dips again next fall/winter.
I think that all the things recommended on the website for this shearling fabric (coats, vests, heavy blankets) would be perfect applications. For instance, wouldn’t this be a fun lining for a winter-worthy jean jacket? Or a shearling vest? And, the Polartec 200 was not too bulky for all my accent pieces. In fact, it was just right. I would say it feels just a little bit thicker than a beefy t-shirt.
After sewing this pattern in fleece, I have a few tips on ways to reduce bulk if you try this yourself.
Increase the seam allowance on the pockets where they are topstitched to the pants just a bit to make them even easier to sew on. When folding those same seam allowances under, cut out a little square where they overlap right at the corner. Just don’t cut too far in. On your back pockets, just fold the tops over once and stitch down since the raw edge won’t fray. I would also probably eliminate the back darts on the pants. If you opt not to remove the darts, you can cut the dart folds open on the inside after sewing them rather than folding them to the side to make things a little less bulky in the back.
Anyone can have regular sweat pants, but it’s the people who make their own clothes who can have extraordinary sweat pants. 😉
Thanks again to Mill Yardage for providing this excellent fabric. As of this writing, both fabrics look like they are still available.
I’ll leave you with this song and dance from the Movie “Funny Face”. Think pink!
I like the idea of being able to make an entire outfit. Do I want to make all of my own clothes? Not really. But do I want to be able to make all the types of clothes I might wear on a given day? Yes!
I have ventured into most areas of clothes making. Socks are one area I don’t visit a lot. I made a few pairs back in my first knitting phase, and I have sewn socks, but since picking knitting back up, I have more or less avoided socks. Rather than making one thing, I would have to make a pair. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to or that I would have the will to make both socks.
After I got a few sweaters under my belt, though, I realized that if I can knit two sleeves, I can definitely knit two socks. They are typically even smaller than sleeves! I was also inspired by my Mom, who is one of my knitting buddies, and who has gotten really good at socks. I needed to give this a try.
Drea Renee Knits Sparks Socks
Last year my Mom and I decided to knit the Drea Renee Knits Sparks socks pattern at the same time.
This is a stranded colorwork sock pattern with two colors. We’re both big fans of Drea Renee Knits patterns, and stranded colorwork is my favorite type of knitting so far. I had some Hedgehog Fibres sock yarn from when I first discovered their yarn (and speckled, hand-dyed yarn in general) that I wanted to use. There was a white mini skein with speckles of green, blue, pink, and purple in it that I used at the top of my socks, and a larger white skein with pink, purple, and black speckles that I used for the rest of the sock. That skein was actually reclaimed from a cowl that I frogged (ripped out). I can’t find the colorway name of the mini skein, but the larger skein was called “Cheeky”. I paired these with some Cascade Heritage yarn (colorway: “Real Black“) from Wool & Co. because I love that high contrast. All yarn was superwash wool combined with nylon for strength. The Hedgehog Fibres Yarn originally came from Pintuck & Purl.
Making the socks was fun, and I learned a lot. The design is cool and interesting, and the heels and toes look pretty. I really like all the tips and support designer Andrea Mowry puts into her patterns because there are a lot of things to know in knitting, and those tips and YouTube videos make it easy to learn as you go, no matter your level.
In making these particular socks, I made a few…mistakes? Accidental design choices? I don’t know. I’m a loose knitter, so I sized down to some tiny needles (US 1 and US 0), but nevertheless, my socks came out a little too large…definitely too large to wear out and about every day. No matter. They could be sleep socks. I usually wear socks when I go to bed and then, as my feet warm up, I kick them off. Their looseness made them perfect for this.
The other thing I did was accidentally reverse the colors on the second sock. It’s hard to remember what I was thinking because it looks like I redrew the color chart like I usually do so that I wouldn’t get mixed up, but somewhere along the line, I spaced out, and they are opposites. When I realized what I had done, I had to laugh. There are definitely socks out there that are made this way on purpose, and they look cool, but this was 100% a mistake on my part. Haha.
Since they are superwash and already too big, I have thrown them in the washer and laid them out to dry, and they have done great. I think they may have even accidentally gone through the dryer once or twice. They are pretty pilly at this point, but that’s easy to fix. They’re holding up great.
DRK Everyday Socks
My second pair of socks were the DRK Everyday Socks.
I used these as a sort of slow-and-steady, easy project since a lot of the pattern is knit 2, purl 2 ribbing. They were the project I brought along when I was listening to a speaker or knitting in front of the TV or in the car, and I worked on them slowly little by little over several months.
Come to think of it, I have done a lot of knit 2, purl 2 ribbing over the last year across three different projects and I discovered a few things.
1. I like doing this kind of repetitive ribbing best when knitting Continental rather than English style.
2. I also find it a lot more fun if I am using an interesting (rather than a plain) yarn.
Two of my three ribbing-filled projects have used a plain yarn, but these socks were more fun because I was using this great speckled sock yarn (colorway: “Pixie on a Bender“) from Birch Dyeworks for most of it. For the rest, I used a mini skein that I had which was also from Birch Dyeworks (colorway: “Mom’s Hot Pants“). The speckled skein, which is a white and pink base filled with pink, green, black, purple, yellow, blue, and even the occasional trace of orange was a gift from Maggie at Pintuck & Purl. Back when I used to work there we made plans to knit socks together so I could learn two-at-a-time Magic Loop*, where you knit two socks at once. Well…we didn’t get beyond about an inch and a half and the two-at-a-time technique never cemented itself in my brain. Even though those socks never materialized, I got to keep the yarn, and have always wanted to put it to good use. And those speckles really kept it fun.
My knitting was tighter on these socks, which I was happy about, so they are only slightly loose, and work great as everyday socks in general. I have worn them a few times, and I’m not sure yet if I like them as much as store-bought socks or not. When I first put them on, I can feel the texture of the sock under the front part of my foot, and I don’t love it. As I go along, I stop noticing it, but the jury is still out on whether or not I love handmade socks for everyday wear. I do love them on cold days with slippers, though!
This pattern was fun, I learned some interesting new things, and while I like the look of the Afterthought Heel in the Sparks socks better, both were great to knit. I like being able to have contrasting toes, heels, and cuffs, and both patterns allow for that in different ways.
It was also interesting to see what a dramatic difference blocking made in the look of the finished socks. Even though they are not at all necessary, I bought some Bryspun sock blockers by Bryson from Pintuck & Purl before finishing these. You can get a sense of how the socks looked before blocking in this picture of them soaking.
After knitting both of these, I feel like I have a good handle on using Magic Loop to knit one sock at a time. *If you haven’t heard of it, Magic Loop is a technique wherein you use a long circular knitting needle to knit smaller-circumference things in the round rather than using double pointed needles (DPNs). I’m fine with double pointed needles, but I am really glad I learned to knit this way too. I never really thought I would like it better than using DPNs, but I think I may be starting to.
Now that my DRK Everyday Socks are done, I’m trying to finish up a cowl I started in a class I took as well as a sweater. After that? Probably some Speedy Selbu mittens…just time time for Spring! Haha.
Hey, everyone! Long time, no post! That was unexpected, but we’re all fine over here. One week Flickr (where I store my blog photos) was down when I needed to upload. Then our computer showed the blue screen of death and was out of commission for awhile–luckily that has been fixed. And then it was school vacation week. Life! What are you going to do? Oh, well. Thankfully I’m back, and while it’s been a surprisingly busy week, I really wanted to get this post out.
It’s been awhile since I had a real craft fail, but these tights are definitely that! And it’s not the fault of the pattern. Oh, no. It was a combination of user error in the form of a serious rookie mistake and a miscalculation on my part about how stretchy my fabric was and what that meant for the pattern.
So let’s dive in! I made tights! Yes, I actually MADE TIGHTS! You don’t see a lot of patterns for tights, although it’s not hard to imagine that you could combine a leggings and sock pattern or something, but as someone who loves sewing from a pattern more than drafting or hacking patterns, I wanted a tights pattern. After making my fun wedding guest outfit back in October, I realized that the cost of awesomely-colored tights could really add up. I started to wonder if there were any patterns out there to make your own. That’s when I stumbled on this blog post from Lauren Taylor’s blog, Lladybird. A long time ago, she had tried out the Rose Hip Tights by Seamster Patterns.
This is an “old” pattern as far as modern indie patterns go, and it came out before there were a lot of indie patterns on the market as we know them today. That made it a little hard to track down because Seamster Patterns seems to have disappeared in the mid-twenty-teens. I thought I had hit the jackpot when I found the pattern on Kollabora, so I bought it and tried to download it.
Here’s a PSA for any of you that think that is a good idea–don’t do it.
I couldn’t get the pattern to download on my computer. It seems the site had made me a mysterious login and password which I hadn’t chosen and couldn’t access. After searching the internet, I started to see forums and discussions pop up where other people had tried the same thing, paid money, and gotten no pattern and no response from Kollabora. I had also e-mailed both Kollabora and a blogger friend who had once made the pattern to try to find out what happened, but had gotten no response from Kollabora.
Then I remembered reading an article by the Craft Industry Alliance about the founder of Kollabora and her newest venture, CraftJam, so I e-mailed the help section of CraftJam to see if they could assist me, even though it seemed like a bit of a long shot. Around the same time, my blogger friend sent me a copy of the pattern, since I had paid for it and didn’t seem to be getting a response from Kollabora.
Luckily, CraftJam was both very responsive and kind enough to dig up the pattern and send it to me. Their customer service was amazing and they really went above and beyond since they are a different website from Kollabora altogether.
As for Kollabora, while it’s still around, it isn’t really active at this point. That’s a long, drawn out story, but I wanted to share it in case anyone else has the same issue that I did. I don’t recommend flooding CraftJam with questions about Kollabora. I just wouldn’t try to buy any patterns from Kollabora at this point since it seems to be largely inactive at the moment. Maybe someday a new company will buy it and revitalize it, but as of this writing I don’t think that has happened.
All of that means that I’m now blogging a pattern that is more or less unavailable, which is an interesting choice. I know. I still want to discuss it, though, because some of you may have this pattern, but have never tried it, and I have a not-so-good memory, which means I might just forget I made these tights if I don’t blog them! Haha. Sad, but true!
So let’s get to it. This is the first time I have ever tried a Seamster Pattern, and this one is really cool. The Rose Hip Tights have options for thigh high stockings, low rise tights, and high rise tights. I decided to make the high rise tights. It’s clear that the designer put a lot of thought into these. There are only four pattern pieces–the main leg piece, the foot, the crotch gusset, and the waistband (or leg band for the thigh high stockings). The seams are strategically placed to look nice and not chafe, which is cool, and there are instructions for how to adapt the pattern to your fabric depending on your height, foot length, and the fabric’s stretch. The sewing is not too difficult. I think I did all or almost all of it on my serger. (I’m struggling to remember since I made these in fall 2021). Overall, it was a nice, quick project. And the thought that I could have tights in whatever color I wanted was pretty appealing.
I decided to try the pattern out first with double brushed polyester (DBP), which I bought from Cali Fabrics. I got some in mustard yellow and some in lavender. DBP is, as far as I can tell, what they make those super soft leggings everyone loves out of. And the nice thing is that the fabric is usually not very expensive. Seems like a win, right? Well, it could be…if you don’t mess it up like I did. Hahahaha. Here’s where the rookie mistake comes in.
When you cut out a pattern piece on folded fabric, you are actually cutting out two mirrored pattern pieces. When you cut a pattern out on a single layer of fabric and need two of a pattern piece, you need to cut one with the pattern right side up and one with the pattern upside down to get those mirrored images. Well…in my mustard fabric I cut two right side up. Yep. I’ve been sewing for a respectable number of years now, and I totally did that to myself. And the real kicker is that I didn’t even notice until I was sewing the crotch seam, almost at the end of the process! I was very confused for a moment there! Haha. Then I figured it out, but I was so close to the end, that I just decided to finish them so I could at least check the fit. Guess what? Perfect fit! Too bad one leg will always look inside out.
Sadly, the purple pair is also a bust.
These two fabrics had a slightly different amount of stretch to them, and using the calculations in the pattern, I decided to sew an XL and lengthen the yellow by 4″ and shorten the purple by 2″. I did not change the foot length. Figuring out exactly how much to shorten or lengthen was the one part of this pattern that I found confusing. I managed to cut the purple fabric out correctly and the sewing went great. When I put them on, however, the crotch of the tights was probably about 2″ too low. Looks like I didn’t need to shorten them after all. Ugh. I knew I would never wear these as tights if they fit like that. Another fail! (A pretty funny fail, just like the last one, but a fail nonetheless.)
On the plus side, I tried one pair of tights with optional elastic in the waistband, and the other without, and I liked both options. The feet fit great, and it was a cool pattern with a great fit overall.
After telling my mom about it, she suggested cutting off the feet and using them as footless tights, leggings, or pajamas. This seemed like a brilliant idea (Thanks, Mom!), so I did that and just used my regular sewing machine to make a little bar tack at the edge on the serged seam so it wouldn’t come undone. After testing these, I found they wouldn’t work as regular leggings for me, since they are a little see-through. On my daughter’s purple leggings (blogged here), there is a bit more ease, and they really aren’t see-through. With the tighter fit of these on me, though, they are. So, they could still be pajamas (the yellow) or footless tights (the purple). And maybe the feet could make some “interesting” socks? I don’t know. In all honesty, these may not stay in my wardrobe for long, but we’ll see.
And despite the total failure of this particular project, having this pattern in my pattern library really is a win. It’s a good pattern with real potential. I also appreciate a good laugh at my own expense once in awhile. 😀
That being said, if you have a great tights sewing pattern or fabric recommendations for sewing tights, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!