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!


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″


Final FO of 2016 and Plans for 2017

Its funny. I had a whole post dreamed up that would summarize my last finished project of 2016, and outline my goals for 2017. It was going to be light, breezy, and maybe even annoyingly cheerful. Then, 2017 hit and everything got derailed. I started out the year by making the trek from Santa Rosa, CA (that’s about 50 miles north of San Francisco) to Portland, OR. Its a relatively simple journey up the I-5, and would have marked the end of my two week holiday visit with my family. Everything was going fine until we (I was travelling with my amazing boyfriend) hit Oregon. Just a few miles south of Ashland, OR, we were in a car accident. Thankfully, we were both okay, and the car, though undriveable, was far from totaled. What followed was us being stuck in Ashland for three days, snowed in between two closed mountain passes, spending money we really didn’t have, relying on the kindness of strangers, trying to find the positive in what has to be the most stressful start to a new year I’ve ever had.

I had wanted to start this year with a week at home before classes start. I was going to spend time making, drawing, baking, perhaps even getting a jump start on planning the spring garden. What I got was no where near that, but it did give me a good opportunity to put my survival skills to the test. It was a chance to see how I performed under immense stress that I didn’t see coming. And I rather believe I rose to the odds, if I do say so myself, because my boyfriend and I made it through, made it home, and even managed to have a bit of fun along the way.

I also got the chance to do a lot of thinking. I thought a lot about what I want out of this year, out of myself as a fiber artist, out of myself as a member of this maker’s community, and out of the community itself. What do I expect? What do I hope to achieve? With such an abrupt reminder that things do not always go as planned, and so much is out of my control, what can I do in my personal life to reasonably affect change?

I don’t have answers to any of these questions. But what I do have is a few goals for the new year that, after my surprise adventure, I feel confident I can achieve. In 2017, I want every addition to my closet to be handmade. This is a goal that I believe is within my grasp. It may take a fair amount of perseverance and self control, but I feel I have proven to myself in the last few days that I have what it takes to tough it out. Along with proving to myself that I have the guts to take on such a challenge, I also recently convinced myself that I have the skill needed as well. During my stay with my family, I had the chance to do a little bit of sewing. With my mother acting as a safety net, I took on the task of making A Verb For Keeping Warm’s Nell Shirt, and was utterly shocked at the results. This was a pattern I had purchased last spring, in the hopes that it would be accomplished sometime in the future when I felt ready to take on such a daunting pattern. At the time of purchase, I had yet to sew anything on a machine, and was convinced it would take me many finished garments to amass the skill necessary for such a complex pattern. I have never been more delighted to be wrong!

The Nell Shirt was only my third garment sewn on a machine. I did all the sewing myself, with very little use of my safety net (there was a few questions about how on earth you go about insetting a placket), and the result fit like a dream. There are a few hiccups here and there. The sleeve caps had to be sewn over twice to get a few spots I had missed on the first pass, the v-neck is a tad bunchy, and the front gather will never be perfectly centered. But it looks amazing on, and fits like a dream. And when I was stranded, and the thing I wanted most was to be at home, putting on a shirt that I had made myself provided me something of what I was craving.

Perhaps the greatest gift a homemade wardrobe can give us is the feeling of home.

So, that’s my great goal for 2017, to make every wardrobe addition handmade. My second goal for the year is to regularly publish blog posts. Look for regular weekly updates here on Sundays (with the possible exception of finals week!).

Hope you have all been having a less eventful year than I have! And if your 2017 has so far been as fun as mine, you have my sympathies! Feel free to share what the first week of the year has had in store for you in the comments below.


Nell Shirt Details:
Size: 8
Fabric: Linen/Cotton blend, purchased too long ago to remember the label