Sewing for good

What I’ve been up to:

I’ve been sewing since I was 8. My grandmother Meemo taught me when I spent two weeks visiting them while my family did something else. I’ve sewn mainly clothes but also a few home dec things and small items like project bags.

The only quilt that I’ve made looks good but is full of little less that well-met corners. I’d like to make a couple more and would like to do a better job on them. Over the last couple months I’ve decided to up my quilt making skills since the craft requires a different approach to sewing than garment construction. One of the local quilt shops, Cinnamon’s Quilt Shoppe, has a quarter preview session where the instructors for the upcoming classes give a brief overview and show samples for project-based classes. I decided to sign up for a tote class and 3 quilting basics classes, Rotary cutting, accurate quarter-inch seams and pressing.

While I already knew how to use a rotary cutter, cutting mat and ruler, Janet shared a lot of great tips in the rotary cutting class and my accuracy is improving. The quarter inch seam class was really eye-opening. I assumed my quarter inch foot was all I needed. But… being a ‘good student’ I bought all the materials she listed in the class materials list including Clearly Perfect Angles guide and Perfect Piecing Seam Guide (both links direct you to the shop’s online store). Who knew how much difference the right tools could make!? In class exercises really helped me understand how to use the tools she recommended. Again, my accuracy is improving. Janet also gave a quick preview of one technique covered in the pressing class which is great because that class is postponed until we’re allowed to meet in groups.

The tote class was fun. I was the only one who had all my pieces cut out in advance. Even then I don’t know how anyone could finish the tote during the class. I worked on it a couple hours a day and finished it 3 days later. I absolutely love how it turned out and it’s now my everyday handbag. In addition to the two outside pockets there are pockets inside. On one inside pocket I tweaked the stitching to add a slim slot for a pen and now I can always find it.

And now for sewing for good:

Recently I started seeing news reporting that hospitals were running out of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and staff at some hospitals were making fabric masks to help fill the gap. I decided I should help out even though I didn’t know of any organization needing them locally. One of the articles I read had a link to a pattern and picture tutorial from Sew Good Goods. I made one quickly using a fabric I thought my husband would wear. I didn’t mention it to him until it was made and I gave it to him. He hasn’t worn it but I think he will the next time he runs errands; in fact he’s asked me to make him a second one so I don’t have to wash it as soon as he comes home.

Since then I learned that my LQS has started making mask kits and collection masks with the initial goal of collecting 1,000 for Brooks Rehabilitation, a regional health care provider of in and outpatient physical, occupational and speech therapy treatments so I guess they’ll be used in non COVID-19 environments. I dropped off about 20 earlier today.

I’ll post on my recent knitting efforts soon!

And… quote the recently published poem by Adam Mansbach, “Stay the **** at home!” (Click to see Samuel L. Jackson reading it!

More Boxy Sweater Tips

I decided to write one post covering my thoughts on sweater sizing and at least one other on other tips. Let’s see where this goes.

Your fabric

I really think the fabric needs to have some drape. If you knit at a gauge that creates a firm fabric, it’s not going to have the drape that makes the silhouette flattering. The yarn you choose can also play a role.

So… it’s more important to get the drape than to get pattern gauge. If your gauge doesn’t match the pattern gauge, you may be able to knit a different size to get your desired fit.. I have two blog posts that can help you figure out what size to fit:

  1. Sweater math
  2. Boxy Sweater Sizing. This covers suggestions for determining where the drop shoulder will hit and your arm circumference at that point

The fit

The more ease you have, the more significant the difference between the center front/back and side bottom edge. Notice how the center hem rises as the sweater ease increases.

Design tweaks

Some ideas:

  • add short row shaping to the back to lower the center and make it more even with the sides (or add more to make it lower in the center)
  • Add a split hem (can combine with short row shaping in the back). Split hem can be same length in front and back or back can be longer
  • Add texture, stripes, color blocking.
  • Insert a overall lace pattern
  • Insert a lace panel (vertical or horizontal)
  • Change the stitch pattern for the bottom and sleeve bands. I love broken rib.
  • If you aren’t sure how long you want it to be (or want it as long as possible but are afraid of running out of yarn), start with a provisional cast on. After you add the neckband and sleeves, knit down to desired size (including bottom band).

There are probably hundreds of pattern designs on Ravelry with a boxy silhouette. In addiition to Joji Locatelli’s Boxy, Worsted Boxy, Little Boxy, VNeck Boxy and Elton (cardigan), I’ve knit Donner, Blueprint, Autumn Square and Light Trails. Because of my obsession with the Boxy silhouette, I’ve created a few bundles in Ravelry. (You have to be able to access Ravelry to see the bundles.)

If you find something you like in one of my bundles, I strongly recommend you add it to your Ravelry favorites or queue. I’m constantly making changes and delete things rather regularly.

Boxy Sweater Sizing

Let’s talk about Boxy sweater ease

I’ve knit eight Boxy sweaters (Joji Locatelli bottom up Boxy sweaters) and several others that have a boxy silhouette. I love wearing them and anticipate making many more. Some I’ve knit exactly as written in the pattern and some I’ve tweaked in one or more ways.

Nine Boxy Sweaters – All designed by Joji Locatelli.
Top row: Elton Cardigan, Worsted Boxy, Little Boxy (DK weight yarn)
Middle row: Worsted Boxy, Boxy (seamed), Boxy
Bottom row: VNeck Boxy, Boxy and (year another) Boxy

First I’m going to focus on selecting a size

You may not want the full amount of ease but don’t go too small. It’s a dropped shoulder design so it needs to be oversized. I think a minimum of 20-25% of your bust circumference is needed. For a 36” bust, that’s 7” to 8.4”. For a 42” bust that’s 8.5”-10.5”. If you are fuller at the waist or hips, you want to make sure there’s some ease there too.

If you reduce the amount of ease, the body will hit higher up on your arm. You may need a deeper arm opening because of this. You’ll probably want to knit your sleeve longer too.

1. to determine where the body hits on your arm, measure the width of your sweater. You can figure this width out from your swatch before you cast on and use that information to decide what size to knit before you cast on.

Measuring width on a top-down Boxy.
Measuring width on a bottom-up Boxy.

2. divide that number by 2. If the width of the sweater is 30”, that’s 15”

3. have someone measure your back width from the bump at the base of your neck down one arm to determine where the drop shoulder will land.

4. Measure your arm circumference at that point. Add 1/2” to 1 1/2” of ease. Divide that number by 2 to calculate the arm depth on your sweater body.

Where the drop shoulder will land.

That’s it for now. I’ll be writing a few other posts covering other tips for Boxy sweaters.

Where did March (and April) go?

I meant to post at least once a month. Clearly that didn’t happen. I’ve been pretty busy on the knitting front; sewing – not so much!

Squee – she is so cute!

Let’s start with the cutest thing I finished: Gnatalie, a gnome designed by the brilliant Sarah Schira who publishes as Imagined Landscapes. It was a mystery knit along but I ‘cheated’ and looked at FOs. I thoroughly enjoyed knitting it and will knit more of Sarah’s gnomes over time. This one has already found a new home with a friend who’s a Master Gardener.

I finished my first pair of socks for 2019. Used one of my favorite yarns, 716Knit’s 716Sock. The yarn makes my knitting look so good! All those little stockinette stitches line up perfectly. Must buy more at ZK, even though I don’t need any more sock yarn. Maybe I need to destash some more of my sock yarn to make room for it? As usual, I used the SoxTherapist’s Fish Lips Kiss heel.

I finished my latest Boxy and LOVE the sweater so much. The yarn is discontinued and I love a couple colorways on destash but I’m trying hard not to buy another SQ.

I’ve wanted to knit the Rain on Notre Dame Cowl, another pattern by Sarah Schira, since it was released. As part of the ZK retreat build-up, another retreat attendee, Patty and I decided to knit it. I pulled a gorgeous skein of Sundara Aran yarn from stash and got to work. I’m sure I’ll knit it again.

I’ve added another sweater to the mix – BlueBee Studio’s Clio. While it’s a boxy shape, it’s a much more challenging knit than I’m used to. Lots of texture and cables. Hope I don’t have to tink back too much. I’m participating in an open test knit to test out changes that Elizabeth Doherty made to make it easier to knit. I’m using one of my SQs of Wollmeise DK. The colorway is Türkise Markise and it’s impossible to photograph the colorway accurately. It’s a rich neon bright medium turquoise. People are definitely going to notice me when I wear this sweater.

I’ve been making slower progress on Autumn Square but it’s moving faster since I finished Boxy. I hoped to finish it in April but was distracted by other patterns, especially the my mitered square blanket. I’m bordering each square with Hedgehog Fibre Sock in the gorgeous Graphite colorway. I’ve decided to plan out a row before knitting it because I’ve been wasting so much time trying to pick the yarn for the next square. Let’s see how that goes. Right now it’s pretty portable and lightweight so I occasionally work on it in public. I’m sure I’ll stall out when it warms up.

I’ve also knit a few dish clothes. I’ve discovered that it the perfect project to take to a concert. I’m underimpressed with the cotton yarn I’m using so I’ll have to try out different brands.

I’ve been a bit hit or miss with my spinning. In late January, I started a new project, choosing a Merino/Nylon blend pencil roving from Smith and Ewe. I was hoping to get a fingering weight yarn but it ended up a bit heavier than that. I’m not disappointed with the final results even though it’s a bit thicker than I’d hoped … it’s gorgeous. Must figure out what pattern to match with it.

Now for the little bit of sewing. I’ve cut out a Thea Rachelle Raglan top. I need to sit my butt down at the sewing machine and start putting it together. It’s my first time working with double gauze. I bought the fabric on sale at one of my local quilt shops, Calico Station a couple years ago.

Planning my Makes

I know… lots of people make plans at the beginning of the year and immediately forget all about them. I’m usually that way. I’m determined that 2019 will be different.

How am I going to ensure that my goals aren’t just a passing fancy?

  • For my making plans, I’m going to use the MakeNine format to focus my sewing and knitting plans.
  • I’m going to use MyBodyModel croquis to sketch some of my makes clothing plans before I start on them.
  • I’ll share my MakeNine and MyBodyModel plans on Ravelry and Instagram to help with community support/accountability.
  • I’m going to bullet journal. I need to integrate my MakeNine goals and MyBodyModel sketches into my journal.

Well… I drafted the beginning of this post in early January. It’s February 7th and not only have I not finished the post, I’m losing focus.

Bullet Journal: I didn’t get into the habit before our vacation and haven’t picked it back up. Need to change that today!

MakeNine: I created 2 separate MakeNine grids: one for sewing and one for knitting.

MyBodyModel: I’ve lost enough weight that I need to make another croquis.

Knitting MakeNine

Knitting MakeNine
  • 4 sweaters: use stash yarn for at least 3.
  • Two Cowls
  • Fingerless mitts
  • Hat
  • Patterned Socks

The mitts pictured are the Stitched Together Mitts designed by the brilliant and lovely Elizabeth Doherty. I’d like to make them to practice stranded colorwork. It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve tackled it. I even have the yarn picked up.

I’ve started two new sweatersAutumn Square by Hinterm Stein. I’m using Grinning Gargoyle MCS Fingering that I purchased in 2017 at the Zombie Knitpocalypse retreat marketplace.

I needed a mindless knitting project for our annual jazz cruise. I’d planned to start AutumnSquare. But… as soon as I read the pattern, I realized that the pattern started with oodles of short rows. So… time for another Plan B, this time a fingering weight Boxy, a wonderful oversized sweater designed by Joji Locatelli. I’m so in love with this yarn, MadelineTosh 80/10/10 Fingering. The base is discontinued. Boo hoo!

I cast on a new pair of socks on January 1st. Nothing special but the yarn sure is fun. Fishlips Kiss heel (my go-to heel). Main yarn from 716Knits. The colorway is “The Girl Makes Godot Look Punctual”.

Sewing MakeNine
  • Mandy Boat Tee (I’ve made two I love and two that didn’t quite work out right)
  • Simple ‘floaty’ skirt
  • Jeans skirt
  • Button front shirt
  • Casual dress – this is similar to one of my favorites from years ago.
  • V-neck Tee shirt
  • Culottes.
  • 2 Casual woven shirts

Sewing MakeNine

Ack! I found a hole in one of my sweaters! Three rows were damaged. It looks like something nibbled on it. After some online sleuthing, I found a tutorial by Patty Lyons that looked like it would work. I ended up redoing the ‘ladder’ for each row and did several of the rows multiple times. I still need to weave in ends and wash/block it but I think it’s looking pretty good. Plus, the fix falls where the sweater drapes at the shoulder.

Next Steps:

  1. Inspect all my handknits and make sure nothing else got damaged.
  2. Clean my closet including dusting all the shelves and vacuuming the bins.
  3. Wash/block everything before putting it away.

It’s going to be at least a month-long project.

Trying to Declutter

So much for blogging a couple times a month.  I’ve been busy but not really too busy. I’m just not making it a priority.

Quick making recap:

Clockwise from top left: Tiny Tot hat and French Macaroon pullover.  Rolled brim hat with eyelash trim.  Blueprint pullover. Worsted Boxy


Since my last post, I’ve:

  • Sewn 2 more Mandy Boat Tees.
  • Sewn 2 more Simple Summer Pleated Skirts.
  • Finished knitting my Quetzel Green Blueprint Sweater.
  • Knit a Worsted Boxy with some scrumptious Miss Babs Yowza in a gorgeous greyish blue-purple that’s almost impossible to photograph.  It’s a 3/4 sleeve sweater.  I also made two wristlets from the leftover yarn so I can have faux long sleeves when I need them.  Sure wish I’d used the same ribbing on the wristlets.  Oh well… 
  • Knit gifts for my two great-nieces, a sweater and hat for 7-month old Lilly and a hat for Autumn.
  • Finally finished sewing about 10 project bags that were laying around. 
  • Made two small pouches for frequent buyer / gift cards.  Neither one is exactly what I want.  I think I’m going to mash up the two patterns, make a few tweaks and try again. 

I’m the moderator in the Yarniacs Ravelry group.  The community is so supportive.  The group has two 3-month knit alongs each year; the Self-indulgent KAL which runs from the winter solstice to the spring equinox and the Colors of Fall KAL (COFKAL) goes from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox. 

To help encourage people to finish up projects that they haven’t finished, I’m hosting a WIP KAL that starts the day after the COFKAL and runs to the end of the year.  There are prizes!  Any project started before the KAL starts that you finish or frog can be entered for prizes.  The community support has helped me make some tough decisions.  I knew I was going to frog a sweater project but I also frogged the start of two different socks and three shawls. 

It feels great!  I have 4 projects on the needles right now

  1. Another Boxy using Berroco Mixer in the Inferno colorway.  It’s a black thick and thin yarn.  I LOVE JOJI LOCATELLI.  She’s an amazing designer!  I’m trying to finish it for our jazz cruise in mid-January!  Fingers crossed! 
  2. Elton, a striped cardigan also designed by Joji Locatelli.  It’s on hold while I work on the Boxy.
  3. Socks.  Fun pink, green, black and white yarn with pink contrasting cuffs, heels and toes.  I’m using the Hermione’s Everyday sock pattern for the leg/foot and my favorite Fishlips Kiss heel.  I think I’ll finish these before the end of the year.  (I’m almost done with the second sock; the photo below is not a current one.)
  4. I just started a Memory Blanket that I’ll use to knit up fingering weight scraps.  It’s going to be a multi-year project.  

Decluttering:

I’m a bit of a pack rat when it comes to crafting stuff.  I’ve got to get real and get rid of things I don”t / won’t use.  Thanks to a dear friend, Cindy, I read “Decluttering at the Speed of Life” by Dana K. White, who also blogs as A Slob Comes Clean.

Dana’s approach to decluttering makes much more sense to me than other books I’ve read.  I’m slowly making progress in the two rooms I use for crafting.  I took a banker’s box of yarn and project bags to a Sunday Crafternoon.  The ones that didn’t get taken and two more boxes of crafting things (fabric, books, yarn and more) went to my new crafting hang-out space, The Craft House, because they’re collecting for a One Heart Jax (FB link). 

I’m also slowly getting rid of clothes I’m not wearing and don’t see wearing again.

I made quite a bit of progress in November and then stalled out. Need to get back in to it. #thestruggleisreal We’ve got company coming in mid-January and the sewing room has to be guest-ready. Wish me luck!

Back in the (sewing) saddle!

When I was 8, I got to spend a week with my mom’s parents and pretend I was an only child. That week was life-changing because my grandmother taught me to sew. Meemo had been taught by a dressmaker and was an amazing seamstress. Since I was only 8, I only learned the basics but it was enough to set me on the path.

I made some truly sad looking things at first. I was rushing to finish things and made careless mistakes. At one point my mom, who had basic sewing skills, told me I had to do a better job or she wouldn’t buy me more fabric. I knew my mom meant it so I took more care. In my junior high school home ec class I already knew quite a bit and was a snotty know-it-all. I think the teacher was ready to strangle me. In high school, I made the three dresses I wore to formal dances. My favorite was the slinky red Qiana halter dress and matching bolero jacket that had marabou feather boa trim on the cuffs and shawl collar. I wore it with platform sandals.  I remember thinking I was fat!

Sr Christmas dance with paulettte

Here’s the lovely red Qiana formal I made.  My younger sister is to my right. 

 

When I started college, I wanted to be a textile research scientist. I started as a home ec major because they had a textile analysis program. I ended up changing majors a couple times but am glad I started out this way because I was able to take some amazingly sewing classes for college credit and improved my sewing chops dramatically, including pattern alterations.

In my 20s, I made a lot of my clothes because it was cheaper (it was the early 80s) and they would actually fit. I even made many of the suits I wore to work. I discovered an awesome fabric store in the DC suburbs, G Street Fabrics and took some amazing skill and fit focused classes. I still have the pattern alteration reference materials I purchased at that time.

I continued to make clothes, especially casual ones, into my 30s but stopped after I gained a lot of weight and didn’t feel good about my body.

Since I quit sewing clothes, I’ve done some home dec sewing. I’m most proud of the queen-size quilt I made about 10 years ago. I’m sure I’ll make a couple more but don’t anticipate it becoming an obsession.

Fast forward to last year… I’m retired and have more time to play. I’ve made many project bags to hold my knitting projects and as gifts. Many knitters I know in person, from Ravelry, IG or other digital sources are sewing. I see many IG posts during #MeMadeMay and pout because it’s too hot to wear any of my knitted socks or sweaters in May. I learn about indie pattern designers and online fabric stores. I get the itch to make clothes again.

My first few attempts were a total fail. I started with an indie sewing pattern and made a couple wearable muslins.  When I tried on the second iteration, it wasn’t flattering but worse… I wasn’t able to take it back off.   Luckily, the side seams were only basted;  I had to unpick the side seam to take it off.  If I were a newbie, I would have quit after that disaster. Instead, I decided I would stick with top patterns that have closures or are made with knit fabrics.

Before tackling any more tops, I decided to sew a skirt.  I started to draft my own skirt pattern but stopped when I decided it was time to join Weight Watchers and get back to a healthy weight.  It just doesn’t make sense to work on ‘perfect fit’ when my body is changing almost weekly.

Instead, I’ve sewn four simple skirts from the same pattern, Sew So Easy’s Simple Summer Pleated Skirt. For two, the first and also my most recent, I used some knitting-themed quilting cotton while the other two are more “normal” cottons. This pattern has a contour waistband, front and back pleats, pockets and a back zipper.  I wasn’t really happy with the pocket and swapped it out for the Suki Kimono pocket on my most recent version and I’m much happier.  Eventually I’ll make more fitted patterns with front and back darts but this pattern is perfect while I’m losing weight.

Pictures clockwise starting with the large photo: Suki Kimono, Perfect Tee Shirt and Summer pleated skirt, Mandy Boat Tee

I’ve also made a Helen’s Closet “Suki Kimono”, Pamela’s Patterns “The Perfect T-Shirt” and two Tesutti “Mandy Boat Tee”.

I didn’t like the fit on the first Mandy Boat Tee I made.  It was a bit too tight in the arm and not quite as boxy as I’d hoped.  I made a few simple mods and am thrilled with the second one.  I made it 4″ wider in circumference by adding 1 inch vertically between the center and side seam on both the front and back.  I also added 1/2″ length to both the front and back in the armscye area and an inch to the width of the sleeve.  The result was perfect other than body length so I made it about 5″ shorter so it would hit high-hip instead of being a tunic.  Now, I’m obsessed with the it and want a dozen.  In fact, I’ve already got fabric lined up for my next two.  Off to cut out the first one.