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!

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

 

#slowfashionoctober: Introductions

Its that time of year again! The weather is cooling (finally!), the leaves are changing (which is so weird, I’m from CA, y’all!), and Slow Fashion October is here again. This first week is about introductions, giving us all a chance to say who we are, and what slow fashion means to us. To be perfectly honest, I had a hard time getting going this week. And not because slow fashion isn’t important to me, and I don’t have a lot to say about it–because it is, and I do–but rather because I was so overcome by other Life Stuff, that it fell by the wayside. Which in some ways, was almost perfect (for the purposes of this blog post) because it got me thinking about how slow fashion fits into my life as it is right now, not the life I hope to someday have.

As some of you may know, I am currently in my first year of law school. This means that my time is limited. I spend a good chunk of my weekday on campus, in class, and doing homework. While I have a little more time to myself on the weekends, I still spend a good amount of it doing homework, doing chores, going to networking events, and sleeping. While I certainly do get knitting time, I don’t really have much wardrobe planning time, and I personally find those to be two different things.

Along with the lack of time to devote to slow fashion, I find that living on a student’s budget means that I have a distinct lack of funds to devote to slow fashion as well. I keep find holes in my wardrobe, particularly since my move to a cooler, damper climate, and though I would like to fill them, I simply do not have the money to make that happen. I need to knit some more pullovers (my closet is sorely lacking), and cardigans with full length sleeves (3/4 worked for CA, not so much for OR), and while my light sundresses worked just dandy in CA winters, I could use some heavier dresses for winters in Portland. And some lightweight layering tops to wear under all the pullovers I’m going to knit. And some swingy a-line dresses for when spring comes. And on, and on, and on. I really would like to make all these garments. In my goal to eventually have a mostly handmade wardrobe, I would like to be able to plan out what to make, purchase the fabrics and yarns necessary, and then get to work. But with my budget where it is, that just isn’t going to happen right now.

Which all brings me to, how does slow fashion fit into my life as it is right now? In my life of no time and no money, does slow fashion even have a place? Spoiler alert–it does!

In some ways, not having unlimited amounts of time and resources to devote to creating the perfect handmade wardrobe is actually really making me slow down and think. What pieces do I really need, what is absolute top priority among those pieces, what is the best way to get it done? All of that, and more, are things that I have been asking myself as I have been trying to figure out where slow fashion falls into my life. Can I find it at a thrift store? Will I be happy with finding it at a thrift store, or would I ultimately be better off waiting until I can make it myself? These are also questions I have been considering. For some things, like jeans, I am absolutely confident in my ability to find at thrift stores. Other things, like well-fitting sweaters, and dresses, I know I will have to make for myself.

I am still figuring it all out. I am still in the process of trying to piece together my new life, incorporating all these new, fearsome pieces in with the old, comforting pieces in an effort to put together a picture that I like. It is challenging. There are a lot of pieces that I have had to set aside for later or throw away entirely. But this piece, this slow fashion piece, is definitely a keeper. It is a way of life that is so near and dear to my heart, I can’t imagine ever throwing it away. I just have to find the right place to put it.

So that’s my introduction y’all. I’m Brigit, I’m a 1L law student living in Portland, OR, and I don’t have things any more figured out than anyone else. Happy Slow Fashion October!

Some KAL Love…

I love knit-a-longs. I love the challenges they offer, the opportunity they provide for engaging with the broader knitting community, and the oh-so-helpful deadlines that mean I actually get things finished in a timely manner. This year, I decided to actually get myself in gear to participate in two annual KALs who’s hashtags I’ve been admiring for some time, Andi Satterlund’s Outfit-a-Long, and Karen Templer’s Fringe and Friends KAL.

This year’s OAL just concluded, and I am very excited to say that I finished on time. This was a big deal for me, because it was the first time I had sewn a garment. I’ve been wanting to branch out, and start learning to sew for some time, but due to time constraints, lack of space, and my own fixation with having someone around to actually teach me, I hadn’t been able to get going. By deciding to participate in this year’s OAL, I was making a promise to myself to stop putting it off, and actually get sewing. I chose the Zinnia Skirt by Colette Patterns, since I had already purchased the pattern in the spring. I was also lucky enough to have a friend who is a talented seamstress offer to help me put it together. We took two days, and about twelve total hours, to put my skirt together, and it was such an amazing feeling to slip into that skirt, pull of the zipper, and have it fit like a dream!

And of course, the knitting was fun too! Zinone, the knit pattern Andi had designed for this year’s OAL, was one that I had been wanting to knit since seeing her teaser pics for it earlier this year, and it certainly did not disappoint. I’m not much of a lace knitter, so doing the lace back, and shoulder details was a bit of a challenge for me. It isn’t often I find myself having to go back several full rows to fix a mistake, but when I was getting started on the lace section of this piece, I felt like all I was doing was frogging and re-knitting. However, it was all worth it for the finished garment! Seriously, if you like to knit summer tops, this one has to go on your list. Not is it immensely adorable (seriously, how cute is a cropped, lace back top?), but knit out of Quince and Co. Sparrow, it is practically weightless, making it ideal for oppressively hot summer days.

I had a blast participating in this year’s OAL, and am so glad that I rose to the challenge of learning to sew. I had let that keep me from participating in last year’s, and know that when the 2017 OAL rolls around, I will be eager and able to join right in.

 

With the OAL behind me, I’ve now got my eyes on this year’s Fringe and Friends KAL. Karen Templer always manages to come up with such exciting subjects for her annual KALs, and this year is no different. The challenge this year is so knit a top-down sweater without a pattern, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what people come up with, and to get started on my own.

To be perfectly honest with you all, when I first saw that a free form top-down sweater was the subject of this year’s F&FKAL, I almost thought about sitting it out. After all, I have already knit several top-downs, using either my own design or heavily modifying someone else’s, so I couldn’t really see what knitting another one would do for me. Then, in a moment of clarity, I had a vision of the sweater I wanted to knit. Snuggly, grey, long, with deep pockets, and a vertical brioche band, the exact sweater that I have been wanting in my wardrobe, but haven’t been able to find a pattern for, and I realized the genius of a top-down KAL. The best part about creating a handmade wardrobe is the freedom it gives you in creating clothing that perfectly suits you. What better way to knit a sweater that fits perfectly into your wardrobe than to design one yourself? This KAL gives us all a chance to flex our muscles as designers, and to really think about the sort of sweaters we want to add to our closets.

Does anyone else have a favorite KAL, one that you did in the past or an annual that you try to do every year? Is there a KAL that you’ve been wanting to try, but haven’t been able to yet? Share in the comments below! I’d love to hear your KAL stories.

Also, as a small side note, I have recently moved to Portland, OR. So if anyone has any recommendations-food, drink, activities, stores, ect., let me know!

Progress Report: March ’16

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Ah, March! There is so much to love about the third month of the year! Spring is just around the corner, flowers are blooming, the air is warming, birds are starting to sing. The beginning of any month is a great time to take stock, but to me, the start of March always feels like an especially ripe time for self-reflection. So, in that spirit, I am using the start of this month to begin a new series called Progress Report, in which I’m going to take the time to check in with myself about projects that I currently have in progress. By taking the time at the beginning of each month to do a check in, I’m hoping to encourage myself to finish the projects that I have started, really zero-in on the sorts of projects that I like to do, and keep track of what I have done for future record. And with that, let’s dive into March!

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Leonie: Last month, I started yet another Leonie. I made 3 of these last summer, and with spring already looming large in Northern California, I felt compelled to start something out of anything other than wool. This is one of the very few patterns that I have made multiple times, and I imagine I will make it many times more. It is super easy to wear, and provides opportunities for lots of fun yarn combos! This particular version is combining Habu Cotton Gima, and Shibui Twig.

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Vianne: I started this a couple of weeks ago as part of a project I undertook at the beginning of the year to shore up the sweater holes in my wardrobe. Along with two pullovers and another cardigan, I started on Vianne to create something I found myself reaching for, but not finding. I’m super excited to have this one off the needles!

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Ashland: I cast on my Ashland last fall, out of love of colorwork, and the desire to tackle some of the new techniques (steeking) that this project presented. I stopped working on it when I needed to wind a new skein of yarn that I never actually got around to winding. Since then, I have acquired a swift and ball-winder set-up of my very own, so its time to pick this cutie back up!

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Top-Down for Ed: Out of all the projects in this month’s Progress Report, this is absolutely the piece that has been in development for the longest amount of time. I started this as a present for my boyfriend’s 21st birthday, and he will be turning 23 next month. I have had some up’s and down’s with the piece! If I’m being honest, the biggest challenge that I have run into with this sweater is lack of interest. Maybe its selfish, but I always have a harder time getting excited about things I’m knitting for other people. Outside of that, this sweater is being knit on MadelineTosh Merino Light on size 3’s, so it has been slow-going. On top of this, there was a set-back last October when, almost ready to bind off, Ed and I decided that the fit wasn’t quite right, meaning I would have to rip back most of the body. However, I am determined to get this one finished! Ed has been incredibly patient with me through this process, and he is so excited to wear it.

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Nell: I got the pattern and fabric for this in January, and am finally sitting down today to cut out the pieces for my Nell shirt. This will be my first ever, grown-up sewing project. I must admit, I have been putting it off because I am massively intimidated by the machine. As a knitter, I am much more comfortable with doing things with my hands, and giving control over to the sewing machine is rather frightening for me. But sewing has been something I’ve been meaning to conquer for years now, and I am ready to dive in!

I’m looking forward to seeing where I am with all of these next month!

Northward Ho!

I am at a sort of crossroads in my life. Or rather, I am on the road to the crossroads, and I can see it up ahead, but still have a ways to go. I just finished up my undergrad career this December, and am about to begin applying to law school, which I plan to attend this fall. In the meantime… here I am. After working and going to school the past four years, it feels immensely strange to suddenly be doing, well, nothing. I’m still working, but three days at the local knit shop is still so much less than what I was doing before. I feel almost lost in this interim period, where I have few responsibilities, and a massive amount of free time, more than I’ve ever had in my life.

However, instead of becoming mired and listless, I have decided to use this time to my advantage. I plan on committing myself wholeheartedly to my creativity. I plan on knitting with purpose, finally learning to sew, giving my wardrobe a long, hard look so I can get a better handle on what I need it to be, going on as many quiet bike rides as I can, and most importantly, I plan on documenting as much of it as I can to keep myself motivated and interested. And I plan on sharing all of that here.

I have no idea where this will end up, but I do know that it is starting here, and it is starting now.