Finished (Sorta) Object: Alder Dress #1

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Well folks, here we are, my first finished (sorta) sewing project of the year – my first Alder dress! Not only is this my first Alder dress, this is also the first dress I’ve ever sewn, and it’s definitely not the last! In fact, a big part of why I wanted to learn to sew is because I love to wear dresses, but it can often be difficult to find any that I like in the stores. They either don’t fit right, aren’t the right color, or are made from awful fabrics (and that’s before we even get to how they were made and all the issues there). But before I dive into sharing my experience sewing the Alder, I want to address the “sorta”.

I’m going to start by saying that I did not make this dress entirely on my own. I had some help from the most talented seamstress I know – my mother. When I was at her house last weekend, she graciously put in the buttonholes, and reattached the collar so that it would lie flat. It was my first time attaching a collar, and my machine won’t do button holes (more on that later), and I was grateful for her help. However, it appears I’ll be needing her help one last time. After sewing on the buttons this week, I gave this beauty a wash, and was sorely disappointed to pull it out and realize a good two inches of the button band had pulled away from the dress. I must have sewn too close to the edge of the fabric, and I have no idea how to go about fixing it myself without messing the whole thing up! Thank goodness I’ll be in California for a good chunk of the summer, because this baby needs more TLC than I can give it before its ready to be worn.

So that’s it. My Alder dress is entirely finished. Sorta.

I won’t lie, it was super disappointing to pull this out of the dryer and realize what had happened. Not only was my heart set on wearing it, but I was so proud of my handiwork. Pulling it out and seeing that I had done something so wrong that part of the dress detached was a real punch in the gut. But that’s making, and that’s life. I had to remind myself that I’m still incredibly new to sewing, and this is the first time I had made such a complex garment without supervision. My sewing machine isn’t the greatest – it’s an ancient Singer, and something is off in the tension, and I have no idea how to fix it (another Mom project!). I did my best with the tools I had, and I learned a lot of new things! That’s something I can be proud of.

As for actually making the Alder dress, oh boy did I have a good time! This is the second Grainline Studio pattern I’ve made, and I must say, I love how easy those patterns are to follow. They’re clear, concise, and the details are always just so. I followed the Alder make-a-long that’s up on the Grainline blog, which further added to the clarity of the instructions. I highly recommend using it the first time you make an Alder.

I made version A, which has a waist-less, A-line silhouette, and decided to do a mandarin collar instead of a full shirt collar. Partly because I wasn’t quite ready to put together a full shirt collar by myself, and partly because I felt the mandarin collar went better with the clean lines of the dress. Alder had a lot of firsts for me. This was my first time doing a button band, a collar, pockets, and bust darts. None of these things were as difficult as I thought they would be, and I’m delighted to have added them all to my repertoire.

This will absolutely not be the last time I make an Alder dress. Not only am I itching to try version B, with its lovely gathered skirt, but I’m sure I’ll be putting together repeats of each version. That’s why I got the pattern in the first place. Alder is a beautiful garment that fits perfectly into my wardrobe. Different fabrics are going to bring this pattern to life in different, beautiful ways. I can’t wait to have this sorta finished piece become a fully finished piece so I can put my first Alder dress into the wardrobe rotation. And I can’t wait until I put together my second Alder, and all the ones that will come after.

Have you made the Alder dress? Did you like it? Do you have a sewing mishap where you thought something was completely finished, but then realized you had made some kind of mistake? Share in the comments below!

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Progress Report: Volute

I’m writing to you today from my mother’s kitchen in Santa Rosa, CA. As I sit here, she’s putting together a wonderful breakfast of homemade cinnamon rolls, savory buns, sausage, eggs, coffee, and mimosas. It’s raining outside – that beautiful California rain that envelops the world and turns its green – and there are loved ones chattering away in the living room. I’m in heaven! A family wedding has brought me home for the weekend, and it honestly couldn’t be at a more perfect time. Finals are coming at the end of the month, and its going to be an absolute slog to make it there. Coming home for a few days is exactly the treat I need to help make it through. After all, what is more healing then a few days at home?

Like any knitter, I always bring a project with me when I go on a trip. This is a three day visit, so I only needed to bring one thing with me. I chose Volute, my incredible mohair experience, as my project for this trip, and I truly don’t think I could have picked better.

Volute has been on my mind for about a year now. This time last year I was working at a knitting shop here in Sonoma county, and we were hosting a Shibui trunk show just after Stitches West that Volute was a part of. As soon as I saw it, I knew it belonged in my closet. The floaty mohair is absolute perfection – the way the fabric drapes reminds me of flowing water. It’s an excellent layering piece for spring and summer, providing just enough warmth to keep bare shoulders happy without being stifling. And the color! I don’t usually do this, but I’m knitting my Volute in the same colorway as the sample. Ash is a dark grey that gives Volute the perfect touch of witchiness. Seriously, over a black dress, with a moonstone necklace, and a crescent moon crown, Volute is going to be packing a pretty magical punch.

However, while all of my Volute-wanting factored into bringing it on my trip (actual knitting time means it will get done faster!), my main reason for bringing it is that its all stockinette stitch. Volute is basically a large stockinette rectangle that gets strategically seamed together to become a cardigan. Now, I know that some of you are going to be instantly put off by that. Who wants to knit miles and miles of stockinette, and in mohair no less! But let me tell you, it has been such a joyful, meditative experience for me, I’ll be sad when its finally finished. The power of stockinette is that it slows down your brain. It lets you just focus on making the stitches, and feeling the yarn that’s in your hands. I can (and have) gone stretches of time just knitting in silence, completely absorbed in the repetitive knits and purls.

Which is exactly why Volute came with me on my trip. This is a bit of a whirlwind visit, so I’m not necessarily going to be able to focus on any of my projects that require more concentration. But this trip is also a breather from classes, and studying, and the mad dash to the end of the semester. I wanted to bring a knitting project that would be just as relaxing as sitting in the kitchen watching my mother make cinnamon rolls. With its endless amounts of stockinette, Volute was precisely the project to help me unwind, and calm down my mind. So often, stockinette stitch is overlooked, written off as being too boring. But there’s a lot of power in its meditative qualities that can be ideal for relaxation.

What about you? What’s your favorite thing to knit to hel

Pattern Release: The Coffee Date Cowl

Ah, spring break! The needed rest towards the end of the spring semester, when it feels like you’ve been working non-stop since January, and you need a recharge before that last major push before finals. I have never been one to go away for spring break. With three kids, and a parent who is a public school teacher, spring break has always been a time to putter around the house and get done things that could never be accomplished when school was in session. Now that I’m older, that’s still how I spend my spring break. While others are on their way to Hawai’i, Malibu or Mexico, I’m pulling out my gardening gloves and dusting off my sewing machine.

However, this spring break, I did something a little different – I began an adventure into the wild world of knitwear pattern designing! I released my first pattern, the Coffee Date Cowl! I’ve been working on this pattern for months, and was so excited to finally get to share it with this fiber community I love so much.

Like so many other things in my life, this pattern was inspired by my environment. Its chillier in Portland than I’m used too, but I kept finding that the large scarves I wound around myself as I left my house early in the morning would become too cumbersome later in the afternoon. I kept finding myself reaching for cozy cowls that weren’t there. The Coffee Date Cowl was a solution to my problem, and I hope that those of you out there also reaching for cowls can use it as a solution to your problem too.

The colorwork pattern is also modeled after the Portland environment. In springtime here, tulips, daffodils, and other bulb flowers are the first to bloom. They push themselves out of the ground offering the first vibrant color to a winter-weary landscape. Robins also start to make an appearance in early spring! Their little redbreasts add another splash of color that February eyes are longing for. The triangle, and diamond motif spoke to me of awakening flowers and returning robins.

This is certainly not the last pattern you’ll see from me. I’ve already got a few more that I’ll be sharing with you soon. But this is my first, and I’m sure it will hold a special place in my heart.

PS – Releasing patterns wasn’t the only thing I did over spring break. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about my Alder Dress! Its the first dress I’ve ever sewn, and I love how it turned out.

Finished Object: Yellow Polwarth!

During the course of my first Portland winter, I came to the realization that I needed more layering garments. Due to the drought in California, this had been my first winter in about 5 years. Over the course of those five years, I had gone through about six moves, and several wardrobe purges, which had somehow resulted in a closet that was short on layering pieces (but heavy on sundresses!). I realized that I needed a few lightweight pullovers in my closet, and I needed them badly. The sort of pullovers that could go over a shirt, and under a jacket. The sort of pullovers that could be thrown on over anything, and stretch through several seasons. Fortunately, I had just the thing queued up in my stash!

When I first saw the detail shots for Ysolda Teague’s Polwarth sweater, I knew I needed to make it. I bought the pattern as soon as it came out, and the yarn not too long after. Then it sat in my stash for about a year, waiting for the right time to be cast on. That time came a few weeks ago, when I decided that Polwarth was exactly the wardrobe staple I was missing. And boy was I right! Since finishing this sweater, I have worn it almost non-stop, with all types of outfits, in all sorts of weather. This has proven to be exactly the laying piece that I needed, and I am so happy to have it in my closet!

Polwarth was a simple knit, with just enough interest in the design details to keep me engaged. The brioche triangle detail on the collar was my favorite part of the design! I haven’t done a lot of brioche before, but the instructions were so clearly written, I found it very easy to follow along. Likewise, the subtle curve of the raglan seams – achieve through strategic increase row spacing – were fun, and engaging to create.

After splitting for the sleeves, I set aside the pattern and took some creative liberties. I omitted the waist-shaping, opting for a boxy shape that I find is perfect for layering. The most noticeable change I made is the split hem. I have been wanting to incorporate a few split hem pieces into my wardrobe for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make that happen. I also went ahead and lengthened the back ribbing about an 1″ more than the front ribbing, and I love how it turned out! It came out exactly as I wanted, and it looks perfect over all of my split-hem shirts.

Lastly, I knit the sleeves the flat, instead of in the round, and opted for 2×2 ribbing on the cuffs instead of brioche. I also lengthened the cuffs to 5″ so that I could fold them in half. Again, I love how the sleeves came out! Folded sleeve cuffs may be my new thing!

The last thing I want to say about this sweater is the color. I have always loved this rich, golden yellow, but it can be so difficult to find. Brooklyn Tweed’s Hayloft colorway knocks it out of the park! I am so glad I chose it for this piece, and am eager to use it for other projects. For a girl who primarily ears greys, blues, creams, and other neutrals, this rich yellow is just the pop of color I need to increase the richness of my wardrobe palate without wandering too far out of my comfort zone.

I would definitely call this sweater a great success. It’s exactly the layering piece I was looking to create. It’s lightweight, warm, goes perfectly over several of my shirts, and fits snugly under jackets and cardigans. The details make it interesting to look at, but the shape is simple enough to make it perfect for the every-day. The yarn is soft yet sturdy, which makes it comfortable while greatly reducing the chance of pills. And above all, it was fun to knit! I would absolutely recommend this pattern for your own lightweight pullover needs!

Have you made a Polwarth? What did you think about it? Do you have another favorite lightweight pullover pattern? Share in the comments bellow!

Pattern: Polwarth by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: 5 skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Hayloft
Size: 37 1/2″

 

Wardrobe Building: The Sock Drawer

This past week I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I cast on a pair of socks. When I first started knitting, socks were my ultimate goal. I wanted to be a competent enough knitter to manage their tricky construction. Though I no longer remember the first pair of socks I knit, I do remember feeling immensely proud of my accomplishment, and eager to move on to my next pair.

For a few years, knitting socks was my jam. I loved everything about them, from their interesting construction, to how amazed non-knitters were when I pulled out my double-points. I almost always had a pair of socks going, and was constantly endeavoring to try new things – lace, cables, heel construction, I wanted to try it all!

The past two years, I have moved away from socks, and concentrated all my efforts on sweater-making. Its been ages since I actually had a pair of socks on my needles, and perhaps even worse, its been ages since I’ve had any handmade socks in my sock drawer. Most of the socks I knit during my sock phase were either experimental (and therefore didn’t fit quite how I wanted or didn’t work with the yarn I had picked) or had been knit for someone else (usually my boyfriend). As a result, I have a dearth of handknit socks for my own feet. This is a situation I felt needed immediate rectifying, so after casting off my latest sweater, I dove into my carefully curated collection of sock yarn and cast on.

As I started knitting this sock, I began to think about my pledge for the year – that I would only make new clothing, not buy any. I had intended that pledge to extend to my entire wardrobe, but I hadn’t given any thought to whether underwear – as in socks, bras, and panties – would be included in that. “Wardrobe” is a broad term, and taken at its broadest, all types of underwear should be included.

This is something I feel doesn’t get a lot of air time in the conversations surrounding slow fashion. Certainly disposable socks and undergarments are just as much a product of fast fashion as cheap jeans and blouses. Making it a goal to knit all of my own socks is just as important as making it a goal to knit all of my own sweaters. So, in addition to one day wanting to be able to have all of my outer garments be handmade or otherwise sustainably produced, I want to be able to have all my under garments be created in the same way.

At the moment, I am nowhere near being able to sew my own bras or underwear (although the underwear thing is probably way more likely to happen since there aren’t any underwires involved), but I do have the ability to knit my own socks. So, in keeping with the promise to make all of my new clothing this year, I will be making all of my socks in 2017.

What about you? Are you a sock maker? Are you also working towards making your own undergarments? Or do you do so already? Share in the comments below!

PS. – Wanted to share this article on the environmental impacts of fast fashion. I thought it was a good overview of some of the ills associated with the fast fashion world.

Knitspiration: Summer Knits

Is anyone else as ready for tank-top and sundress season as I am? Don’t get me wrong, I love winter (at least I love West Coast winter). I love the coolness in the air, the ability to wear snuggly sweaters every day, the sound of rain on my rooftop, the way hot coffee tastes on an exceptionally cold day. All of this I love! But I also love the feeling of sun on my face, how it feels to put on a dress and be ready to go, the ability to bear my arms without them freezing and falling off. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have been dreaming of summer.

However, being a knitter in the summer months can have its draw backs. After all, what’s a knitter to do when it becomes too hot to knit on wool? If you’re anything like me, you keep going as long as you can, but even I have my breaking point. At a certain temperature, it just becomes too hot to keep a big pile of animal fiber in your lap. These past couple of years, instead of being resentful that the weather was keeping me from knitting, I’ve learned to embrace the summer months as a time to knit on linens and cottons, and have even started to plan ahead what my summer knitting projects will be. The patterns I’m sharing today have been dancing around in my head the past couple of weeks, and the more ready I get for summer, the more I dream of knitting these beauties.

Moon Tee (top left): Ain’t she a beaut’? Can’t you just picture throwing this on over a pair of jeans and heading to a farmers market or an outdoor concert? Looking at this top has me dreaming of days that require sunhats and iced coffee. This piece would also transition well. It could easily be layered under a pullover or cardigan and carry well into fall (winter too, if you live in a more mild climate). This is definitely one I’ll be wanting to get on my needles this summer.

Vaara (top right): I don’t know if I can accurately convey how much I love this pattern in only a few sentences, but I’ll take a stab. I actually knit this up last summer, and I can’t wait for it to warm up so that I can wear it again. It’s a fun, fantastic knit, and the curved hem is so flattering! This is one I will definitely be knitting again, and as summer draws closer, I’m more enamored with it than ever.

I won’t lie, it seems a little strange to be publishing a piece on summer knitting while its cold and rainy outside, but sometimes daydreaming is all we have. What about you? Is anyone else ready for summer or are you all happy to have winter stick around a while longer?

On The Needles: Spring ’17

Hello everyone! It’s been a while, huh? Turns out law school isn’t exactly conducive to regular blogging. Who would have thought? In all seriousness though, these past few weeks have been over-whelming to me for a myriad of reasons. I still feel like I’m trying to find my footing in this new semester, and getting this blog running more smoothly is definitely a part of that.

This week, I thought that I would share with you all what I’ve currently got on my needles, kicking off what I hope will be a regular quarterly check-in. I thought I would get things going with spring, embracing the symbology of growth, and new beginnings.

(And yes, I know that technically there’s still a month or so to go here in the Northern hemisphere before its officially spring, but a girl can dream!)

So, without further ado, here are the projects I’ve got on my needles as of spring 2017!

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The Polwarth Pullover: If you follow me on instagram, you’ve probably noticed that its been nothing but yellow the past couple of weeks. That’s all thanks to this baby, my take on the Polwarth design by Ysolda Teague. I’ve been fascinated by this pattern since I first saw it. It caught my eye at a time when I had become enamored of pullovers with triangle details at the neckline. I had been toying with the idea of designing a pullover with a triangle detail myself, but when I saw this design, I knew I didn’t have to. I actually purchased the yarn for this sweater – Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Hayloft – late last spring, but only recently cast on as I realized I need a few more pullovers in my Portland closet. Plus, the yellow is so rich, it really brightens up these grey, rainy days.

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The Løs Pullover: While the sweater above is trundling right along, this one I’ve been taking my time with. I expect that this will feature heavily in my wardrobe next fall/winter, and make several appearances on my instagram this spring and summer. The reason I’m taking my time with Løs is that the textural pattern is extremely complex. I don’t typically knit things where I need to have the chart open in front of me the entire time I’m knitting, so this has been relatively slow-going for me. However, all’s the better in my opinion, because this baby is a honey to knit on! The pattern is thoroughly engrossing, and the yarn – Woolfolk Far in color 08 – is a knitter’s dream! I’ve raved about this yarn before, and will likely continue to rave about it until the day I die. The chainette weave of Far takes to the stitch pattern in Løs so perfectly! This yarn and pattern were truly made for each other, so I don’t really mind taking my time.

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The Anna Vest: I’m a little late to the party with my Anna vest, but better late than never, I say! Last year, when everyone was making these beauties for Karen Templer’s knit-a-long, I watched in awe as all the FOs rolled in. I knew I wanted to make one for myself, but it had to be absolutely right. When I was moving this summer, one of the things I did was go through all my yarn. When I came upon 5 skeins of Quince and Co. Owl in Buru tucked into my stash, I realized the right yarn had been under my nose the entire time. I’m extremely close to being done with this one, and I’m hoping it will become a staple in my wardrobe this spring.

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The Ed Sweater: What more can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? I’ve still got guy on my needles, working on making it into the promised sweater for my man. But who knows, maybe by the time I put together my On the Needles: Summer ’17 post, this will be completely, and thoroughly finished.

What about you? Do you have anything exciting at your needles right now? Let me know in the comments below!