Kismet Cowl

My knitting mojo seems to have come back just in time for a warm and dry Southern California winter. My sweaters have been largely sitting unloved and my new umbrella hasn’t been used a single time. Woe! Since October we’ve only had 22 day with a high under 70F and not a single day with a high below 60F. But the biggest challenge has been the lack of rain, only 2 rain days so far and none appearing in the forecast. I like living in a warm and dry climate, but this is a little extreme even for me!

However I’m really enjoying knitting again and I hate to waste motivation. So this year I’ve been mostly making smaller projects like shawls and cowls. I’ve never been an accessory knitter, but only a few weeks into 2018 I’v already finished one shawl, one cowl, and have cast on second shawl. These little bits of warmth have been perfect for those slightly cool mornings when I just want a little something to keep my neck and chest covered while I escort my kids to school.

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I’ve named this project the Kismet Cowl mostly because the combination of yarn and pattern seemed meant to be. I bought a mini skein set from Wonderland Dyeworks at Stitches West in 2015 and then I didn’t know what to do with it.

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As you can see the set was made of 3 solid colors and one variegated skein. Each mini skein is about 195 yards. There was quite a bit of yardage, but in odd amounts for a lot of shawl patterns. Plus I didn’t know how to incorporate the variegated skein. I suppose I could have used it to stripe a sweater, but the yarn kept saying it wanted to be a shawl. Hopefully it is feeling okay about its fate as a cowl.

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When Mary from Lyrical Knits mentioned she was hosting a MKAL (Mystery Knit-a-Long) for a cowl with 4 colors my ears perked up. Then she showed her color choices and she had picked 3 solids and one variegated skein. I was sold. At last I’d found something for my much loved but neglected mini skein set!!!

 

The construction was interesting. The pattern was written with 3 parts, two were essentially triangle shawls and the middle piece was a sort of a parallelogram shape where you don’t increase or decrease yet maintain the slanted shaping of the first triangle. The clues started coming out right before my trip visiting a friend in Portland making this cowl a perfect travel knitting project. It’s also been a perfect purse project to keep on hand for church, lunch breaks, and general downtime in my days. I’m actually sad to have finished it!

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This cowl also maybe gained me some cool points with my coworkers. I was as a going away party and someone asked me what I knit. I was able to pull out this nearly completed cowl and boom! The combination of fingering weight yarn, even stitches, and color combination was a serious win. I’m thrilled to add it to my collection of accessories to help me along through this drought winter.

I finally got around to photographing several sewing projects so next week is back to sewing. Probably with my newest project, The Colette Myrna.

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Silverleaf Shawl

Finally all caught up on 2017 projects with this one last thing, a shawl.

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This shawl is so full of love for me.

Every year a huge percentage of my knitting friends make the pilgrimage to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival aka Rhinebeck. Rhinebeck is the biggest fiber event in the US, but since it is in New York I’ve never been able to attend. I can’t lie, I am super jealous of those that live close enough to attend annually. The topic of Rhinebeck is brought up in forums all year round, so great is its impact on attendees.

Last fall when the festival came around again I kept myself busy with the event I host each year…Whinebeck. Sob. Sad is the life of those who cannot attend Rhinebeck as we scroll though our Instagram feeds watching our friend spend time together frolicking in the crisp autumn air.

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And then in late October I received a surprise in the mail. It contained a single skein of Duck Duck Wool Merino Silk yarn in the color Cover Up. Oh my stars, I thought it might burst from happiness. My friend Stacey conspired with my local friend Erica to purchase a little something from Rhinebeck. I understand many opinions were given in making sure just the right shade was selected and they picked the perfect color.

I immediately started looking for pattern that would be a good fit to both the fiber content and yardage. I settled on Silverleaf by Lisa Hannes. It is a simple pattern that alternates garter stitch with eyelet ridges, then towards the end a lovely section of leaves. After the lace I continued the garter/eyelet combination until I didn’t have enough yarn to complete another repeat.

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The finished shawl is a slip of a thing, long and thin in shape, but it is perfect to cover my chest on cool mornings. Plus it makes me feel loved by my knitting friends. It was the perfect project to finish out the year.

I have a couple sewing projects to share soon, but I’ve also finished a lot of knitting recently, so consider yourself warned. More knitting ahead!

Wrap Dress Duo

I have a love/hate relationship with Art Gallery knit fabrics. I really love some of the prints. In the world of quilting cotton companies AGF has done a pretty good job at producing apparel fabrics and designs that are great for adults that don’t have weird repeats and are nice and crisp. So many companies seem to focus heavily on baby or childish prints, so I applaud AGF for their taste. The jersey knit is also easy to work with and feels wonderful to wear, BUT all designs are printed on white fabric. What’s the problem with printing on white fabric? Well the problem comes when you wash your garment and the white fuzz from the wrong side of your dress lands all over your dark clothes.

However, sometimes a fabric design is so pretty I buy it even though I know I probably shouldn’t.

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I first saw this plum floral at Michael Levine’s months and months ago. Maybe last summer? I almost bought yardage back then, but I refrained when I saw it was printed on white. Then as the months passed by I kept thinking about this design. Of course by late fall it had disappeared from the shelves of Michael Levine’s and I had to go seek it out! Thankfully I found yardage available at Harts Fabric (and on sale too)!

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I’ve been in desperate need of new winter clothing. A lot of my old favorites look really old from weekly wear and washing, so it was definitely time to spruce up my clothing options. I used my pretty new fabric to whip up a hybrid dress that would be suitable for the office. This is a combination of the Cashmerette Dartmouth Top with a half circle skirt.

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I’ve come to really love wrap dresses and this mock wrap was really simple and extremely wearable. I find the neckline on the Dartmouth to be reasonably modest for work, no flashing of my bra (yay!). Though I do think it runs large, I’ve made 4 Dartmouth tops prior to this dress and they all had something odd in the sizing. This version is a 12G/H for the bust and a 14 for the waist. When I compared the pattern pieces to my much loved Washington Dress bodice I saw the Dartmouth has more ease.

I think I mostly avoided the dreaded boob flower with the print placement, but I am a little sad the print isn’t more balanced on the front. I had 3 yards which was just barely enough if I wanted long sleeves. I also tried to make sure I didn’t have a big flower right over my um…feminine area, though I did end up with a butt flower. I think it isn’t too noticeable unless you go looking for it.

My biggest issue now is not owning a sweater that matches. Too bad knitting is slower than sewing!

And even though I get a little annoyed with how AGF fabric washes up, it is super easy to sew! When I purchased the plum floral I also tossed in this small scale floral on dark green so I could truly test out both fabric and pattern.

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The green dress is made just the exact same way as the plum dress. I even remembered to sew the wrap to disguise the fact that my breasts are two different sizes. I think the prints are different enough that more people wouldn’t notice that style is the same.

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Oh and both dresses were made with my long neglected serger. When I cleaned the house over the holidays I made a decision to put my serger next to my sewing machine on the kitchen table. It looks ridiculous having so much sewing machine taking up half the space, but it’s been working well. It is so much easier to just move back and forth as needed and the serged seams look so great. One of my friend declared my clothes looked professionally made!

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While the color might not look perfect for long, I am thrilled to have two new dresses to keep my warm on chilly mornings and looking chic in the office.

 

Mourning Dress

One of my biggest projects of 2017 was tackling a mourning outfit. Every year Heritage Square holds an event that explores Victorian mourning customs including a mock funeral procession. I really needed something I could wear to the event each year, however I’m never actually in the mock funeral. I prefer a station in one of the other areas of the museum, especially since I bring my older daughter along. So as I was researching mourning wear I had a generous time frame to pull from (1870-1920). I also wasn’t restricted to the deep mourning of the recently deceased. It was freeing and yet felt pretty overwhelming.

Since I knew I’d be tackling this project for the fall I kept a look out for fabrics and hoped that eventually the right thing would come along and help narrow down my choices. Luckily I was able to get some black cotton lace yardage in a destash for a reasonable price. Shortly afterwards I found lavender cotton sateen (no longer available) at Renaissance Fabrics and the two paired together so nicely. A half mourning dress would be perfect for our annual event!

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I spent a whole lot of time looking at pictures of extant gowns to see if anything had used black lace and lavender. I found…not many options. Information about mourning clothes seems to be a little harder to find in the Edwardian-1920s period. I probably could (and should) have done more research, but I needed to get sewing. So I found a pattern that was very similar to the gowns I liked from 1910-1912 and ran with my vision.

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I think I did pretty well. The wrap front bodice with guimpe underneath is completely period appropriate. So was the lace overlay on the skirt and a belt (with bonus heirloom buckle from my MIL!). Not an exact match to my examples, but the basic elements are the same. The one detail that might have been nice to include is the contrast trim at the neckline, but I got a little fatigued during the process. The cotton sateen also turned out a little thicker than I remembered and so I started cutting elements to decrease the bulk.

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For such a time consuming project I don’t really remember many of the details. October was kind of a whirlwind between making this dress and planning my younger daughter’s 3rd birthday party.

I decided not to line the dress because the sateen was pretty bulky. The front neck edge has a bias binding hand sewn on. The pattern (Butterick 6093) called for a side zipper and I swapped that for hook and eye. I thought about having the lace overlap in the front, but now I can’t remember why I decided against it. Maybe not enough lace fabric? Lazy? Too tired? Maybe all of the above. Butterick patterns fit me decently well so the fitting process was not too bad. I compared the shoulders to my recently completed Jennifer Lauren Laneway dress and otherwise blended sizes. I’m getting better and faster at mock ups so the process moves a little more quickly. I need to trust my gut instinct more frequently.

The guimpe was made with Wearing History’s Edwardian Era pattern. I bought it because it was one of the only patterns I could find for a guimpe and I didn’t have the brain power to figure it out for myself. I could have drafted my own and it probably would have fit better, but I was balancing too many things in my life.

Because nothing could go smoothly, the original fabric I ordered for the guimpe ended up sold out. The seller more than made up for the inconvenience, but I had hoped for something slightly more transparent. This is black wool gauze. One thing I totally didn’t see coming was how badly the gauze would combine with the underside of the sateen. The fabrics LOVE each other. So now every time I wear this ensemble I have to have my husband yank my under sleeves for me. Whoops! Thankfully once they’ve been pulled down everything fits nicely and stays put.

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And then after wearing my new dress to the museum, it got a second life as my Halloween costume. For my daughter birthday I dressed as a witch and my adorable mom dressed as a gnome. Getting to wear the dress two days in a row was fun, and adding a witch hat was super simple. I purchased one from a halloween store and covered it with lace scraps from the dress. Whew! Thank goodness I didn’t need to make a mourning dress and a costume for the same weekend!

How’s everyone settling into 2018? I’m really trying to keep a positive attitude and in a couple weeks I’m going to follow along with the Orange Theory Fitness Transformation Challenge. I’m not officially signing up because I cannot physically make it to 3 classes a week, but will aim to work out 3 days a week and to OTF 1-2 a week. I’ve been attending classes for 6 month now and have made a ton of progress on my fitness. Plus the 8 week challenge sounds fun to way to kick a few bad habits.

 

Christmas 2017

All year I was looking forward to making the girls their Christmas dresses. Lu will be turning 6 this coming spring and she’s getting more and more into big girl clothes. She still loves dresses, but not with the same intensity as her younger years. I felt like time was running out to make pinafore dresses and this Christmas was the perfect opportunity! It was a dream project for me. They were so so so darling.

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Oh my stars! Such cuteness from my silly girls. Thankfully they both just loved their Christmas dresses. Whew!

The under dresses and pinafores were both drafted from the same pattern in Liesl Gisbon’s Building Block Dress book. The book comes with a pattern for a basic dress and the chapters are instructions on how to use that basic pattern to produce tons of different styles. It goes all the was from 6 month size to a child size 12 and I can tell I’m going to get a lot of use out of the book.

For this first try I used the basic dress which has a bodice, collar, long or short sleeves, and an a-line skirt. Charlie’s is a size 18-24 months with 2T length and Lu’s is a 3T lengthened to 5 in the bodice and 6 in the skirt. Both fit pretty well right away, but could have used a smidge more sleeve length. However I also added an elastic casing to the sleeves, so perhaps the length would have been fine with a plain hem.

I tried looking for more Christmas-y fabric online, but I never did find something that seemed right. So I went stash diving and found a remnant of the blue floral and a 4 yard cut of the green floral. It would have been nice to use the same fabric for both, but the scale of the green floral was too big for Charlie’s tiny bodice piece and I didn’t have enough of the blue for both. Oh well, similar is close enough for me! Lu wasn’t super thrilled with a dark green dress, but I sold her on the little pink and red flowers in the print.

I originally bought both prints to make myself dresses. It is from the Floratopia collection from Elizabeth Olwen for Cloud 9. I did make a dress from the blue floral, but I hated the dress and got rid of it. Now with the girl’s dresses complete I think I have enough to make myself a skirt from the green floral.

The pinafores are using the same pattern, but I split the bodice into 3 pieces and added width to the middle piece to achieve the gathered look I love many Victorian and Edwardian girls dresses. I have one saved that seems to have disappeared from the original site, but trust me that the seaming is pretty spot on. The drafting and sewing process was really tedious, but the finished pinafores were totally worth it.

The fabric was the same plain white lawn from Renaissance Fabrics that I used for my Lamplight outfit and it was just the perfect weight to float over the corduroy dresses. Sadly it looks like the fabric is sold out, but they usually get in more of it. Each pinafore is trimmed with candy cane embroidered cotton lace. I’d wanted to gather it to add fullness to the hem, but I’d only bought 4 yards last summer when I went shopping at Costume College and it wasn’t enough to gather and trim two skirts. So I used the little bit I had left over to add a shoulder flounce to each pinafore. I think it worked out just right!

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And while I still have a couple things to share from 2017, my crafting was mostly cleaned up by the end of the year. The beauty of staying home for the holidays with no house guests is we’ve had ample time to sort and clean our house. A few more areas to manage, but still it feels good to start 2018 better organized. Frankly I’m happy to see 2017 gone from our lives. We had some really good times and my husband had more steady work than he’d had in a while, but on the other side we had a lot of anxiety over a potential medical issue for our older daughter. It turned out in the end, but that was a 6 month process of appointments and missing work and stress. Both girls moved up to new schools and that has been really good, but my work has become more and more stressful with each passing year. I still enjoy it, but gosh I miss the glory days when I didn’t have to say “no” so frequently. Most of all the holidays have brought a much needed break to refresh. Happy New Year.

How my Knitting Mojo Came back

One last post before Christmas. I had planned to use this time to do some last minute sewing (altering a skirt, making pajamas, and sewing an apron), but frankly I just don’t want to. We had planned to host Christmas Eve, but plans have fallen through, so instead we’ve been baking and doing a ton of laundry, and re-doing our kids room. Bunk beds arrived earlier this week and it turns out building them and organizing a kids room is a huge time suck and also exhausting. So here I am watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while sitting on the couch and hoping my children are going to sleep. Ahhhhhh, it feels nice.

Until a couple years ago I was solidly a sweater knitter. I used to make several a year, but then I hit that point where I had too many. Yes, too many hand knit sweaters. They felt overwhelming in a bad way. I knit a few for my girls too, but they spend so much time outside and running that 2-3 each winter are more than enough. Charlie runs so hot that she barely needs anything long sleeved. I’ve knit a few pair of socks too, but I’m not sure how much people are actually wearing the pairs I gave as gifts. My knitting hit a rut. I’ve managed to finish 10 things in 2017 when I usually make 30+.

But recently my desire to knit has kicked back on and I’ve been knitting shawl after shawl! It all started with an email from Black Trillium Fibres. I opened one of their promotional emails and a purple speckled gradient set was right there calling to me. I bought it pretty much immediately even though it was named for a Star Wars character (not a fan and don’t usually fall for the gimmick).

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When it arrived I knew I had to start knitting with it right away. I scoured Ravelry for a pattern and my stash yielded a mini skein gradient from Knitted Wit. Things rarely fall together so well in one project.

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The pattern is Passaggio from Lyrical Knits. Mary and I have been Revelry friends for years so I know her patterns are well written and sure to turn out well. Part of my knitting slump was because I was designing my own sweaters. They are gorgeous and original, but something you just want to sit back and let someone else do the math. Passaggio didn’t disappoint. It is thoughtfully laid out and just as the rows are getting really long they start to shorten again. The shape is a trapezoid that provides a nice amount of coverage to keep the chill off my shoulders without slipping off when I move. We’ve had such a warm fall that a shawl of this size can replace a sweater.

The hardest part of knitting this shawl was balancing the amount of yarn I was using. It didn’t quite work out like I’d hoped. On the right is a picture of one of the outer triangle sections. My Black Trillium gradient had 5 shades of purple while my Knitted Wit set had 6 shades of teal. It took some thinking to decide on a layout. So each side triangle has the lightest purple shade for 2 sections then each darker shade for 1 section. That allowed me to use 1 shade of teal for each eyelet row. However from the picture on the left you can see that each section is a bit of a mishmash. I started to run out of yarn. For the center section I had to use multiple shades in each section to make it work. It isn’t what I’d hoped, but it is symmetrical so it doesn’t bother me in the finished shawl.

Gosh, this is beautiful. It took me 2 months to weave in all those ends, but the finished project is so worth all the effort! Since I finished this back in October I’ve finished another shawl and have yet another on my needles. So I’m counting Passaggio as the pattern that got my knitting back on track.

And for all of you who celebrate, I hope you have a lovely Christmas! Santa is on track to visit us in about 25 hours and make two silly little girls very happy. I’m looking forward to a night away with my husband and lots of time hanging out with my sister. Maybe I’ll sew, maybe I won’t. Either is totally fine, but knitting is sure to happen!

Lamplight 2017

Well, the holidays are upon us! When we started planning Lamplight way back in June the event seemed a long way off. A whole 6 months away! Then suddenly it was Thanksgiving and dress rehearsal was a week away. It always seems to fly by in a flurry of committee meetings, rehearsals, and a whole lot of sewing.

This year I re-joined the planning committee after taking a few years off while Charlie was a wee thing. Now the girls are a little older and if I need to bring them to a meeting they can (mostly, sort of, kind of) behave. Two fellow volunteers write a new script every year and I cannot believe how well they can pull it off and find a way to showcase our very amateur acting skills.

This year we did a production of Cinderella. It was an interactive play with the guests playing a game in the first scene, making dance cards in the second scene, and dancing in the third scene. My fall has been pretty busy so I opted for a smaller role with fewer lines and an easier costume. It was a good call since I sewed my entire costume the week before the dress rehearsal.

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Pretty much as soon as we decided on Cinderella I started campaigning to be a step sister. There weren’t a ton of middle aged women roles this year, so step sister was my ticket to few lines and an opportunity to act like a fool. My fellow volunteer and friend opted to also play a step sister and it was really fun.

Right away we decided to wear our underclothes for the scene instead of making fell bustle ensemble. Thank goodness we made this call! I ordered a new corset from Redthreaded and already owned a camisole and flannel petticoat. All that I needed was a robe, corset cover, and petticoat.

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As luck would have it, the head costumer made me a robe back when I was pregnant with my older daughter. She based it on this original house dress that belongs to another volunteer. The original was on display for the holidays and while mine has no waist (due to its maternity design), you can see the resemblance!

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So all I had to make was a petticoat and corset cover. For the petticoat I was determined to use this silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics. It spoke to me. It probably looked more like my ball gown skirt for the scene, but I don’t care. I loved every second of swish through the evening. I bought 6 yards and used Butterick 3418. I used this skirt a couple times before and it is nice and basic and has a good sweep. I was even able to line up the plaid pretty well for such slippery fabric. And was just barely able to add on the pleated ruffle with the yardage I purchased! What a fabric hog of a skirt!

The corset cover is made with cotton lawn I also purchased from Renaissance Fabrics. It is one of my favorite fabrics ever. I buy it by 4 or 6 yards at a time and use it to line dresses. I used Butterick 3765 as a base, but that is more of an Edwardian pattern. To make it like this original corset cover in the Met’s collection I split the pieces at the waist line and added insertion lace to the top. Then I added darts to the bottom to make the waist more fitting. Worked like a charm! Not exact since I procrastinated, but still similar enough that it’s fine and the red ribbon at the neckline helped the look coordinate a bit.

To finish the ensemble I made a pair of fabric slippers while my friend was over visiting. Thank goodness for friends who don’t might chatting while you keep on sewing!!! I never did take a picture, but I might keep wearing them as house slippers because my feet are suddenly SO COLD.

So, that’s Lamplight 2017! And frankly, while 2017 was a pretty good year overall I’ve named it the year of minor emergencies. Much of it has kept me crafting for my sanity and I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks to share some more of my creations!