Kinder Cardigan

There was a big transition for our family this week as our oldest daughter started kindergarten! Lu was just thrilled to go to elementary school and start learning big girl things. I really wanted to make her a first day of school outfit, but she is required to wear a uniform. Sure, I could have made her a blouse and skirt, but I have to admit uniform sewing is super boring. While I try to make a good chunk of the kids clothing, for uniforms I was happy to put in an order from Gap and use my limited summer sewing time for other projects.

This seems ridiculous since we live in Southern California, but I opted to knit Lu a first day of school sweater!

Gosh, she is so cute. Sure it was a high of 85F on Monday, but it was grey and cool-ish in the morning. She happily donned her new cardigan which looks quite nice with her new school shoes.

I’ve been trying to knit up some of the patterns in my library and yarn in my stash, so I shopped both to achieve a nice traditional sweater. This is the Wee Wildflower pattern from Alana Dakos. There is actually an adult version too, but I don’t think I’d ever knit it for myself. A little too twee. The yarn is Madelinetosh’s Twist Light in the color Care. Twist light is 75% wool and 25% nylon which is a good combination for a kids garment. Technically it is machine washable, but I’ll try to remember to wash it by hand. Care is a wonderful color that includes nearly every shade in the rainbow. It was a limited release color sold to benefit Doctors Without Borders. I took the time to alternate two skeins so there is very little pooling of the colors. Yay!

Choosing a size to knit was a bit tough. Lu has a 19 inch chest, but is average height for a 5 year old, so I ended up knitting the size 2 sweater with a size 6 for the length. It worked out pretty well everywhere except the sleeve caps. The sleeve caps as written have almost no height, just a lot of width. I added some extra height and it was still tough to fit the sleeves into the armcye. Lu also have very thin arms and the sleeves are tight. I cannot imagine shoving a 2 year old’s arms into such a small circumference. Could be my gauge was off, but still I found the sizing odd. The pattern also has no shaping for the shoulders in the back, so I added that too.

This finished sweater is pretty great and fits Lu well right now, but I don’t think this one is going to last long. I have a feeling Lu is going to shoot straight up this year with all the running and learning she’ll do. Just one day into the school year she’d figured out how to swing by herself and by Friday Lu was all atwitter over recycling, the solar eclipse, and science! “Mommy, I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”

Easing into Motherhood

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Today I’m writing about something a little different, motherhood and sewing. I regularly read Seamstress Erin‘s blog. She has a fun and eclectic style that I admire even though it isn’t my style. This month Erin (along with Jodi from Sew Fearless and Monserratt from Mexican Pink) are hosting a celebration on motherhood, our bodies, and sewing called Easing into Motherhood. So I thought I’d write up my own story. I’m sure to many women parts of it will be so familiar as it seems like many mothers experience similar stories even if we many only hear about them through the magic of the internet.


Sewing came into my life a long time ago. I have few memories from the days before I picked up a needle and thread and started creating. I felt like as oddball child with my interest in girls lives from previous time periods both historical and fictional. My early sewing days were filled with making costumes such as a Victorian dress made with table clothes and something resembling a Southern belle.

As a young adult sewing continued to be a for fun activity. Even though my hips were a different size from my bust I could still shop for clothing in regular stores as long as I was careful to select dresses with gathered skirts or separates. I was also very scared that if I didn’t dress trendy enough I’d never find a boyfriend. Silly, but true.

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My pre-marriage sewing consisted of 1950s and 1960s dresses made with quilting cotton. I didn’t make a lot of dresses as I was super super broke. I also didn’t know anything about buying fabric aside from wandering the aisles of JoAnn’s and picking up things I liked. Some times my dresses turned out awesome, sometimes they did not. As long as I picked styles with full skirts I could cut a straight size and sometimes I would design my own styles. Everything was still purely for fun or for a specific purpose (like Halloween).

Then I had baby #1.

By the time I was pregnant with my first daughter I had discovered sewing blogs, local sewing stores, and started buying fabrics other than quilting cotton. I distinctly remember getting pregnant and searching the internet for vintage maternity dresses. I was SO SURE I was going to make all my maternity clothes. I’m sure you can see how this turned out…I made 2 elastic waisted skirts for work and that was it. Morning sickness was unrelenting for the first trimester, I lost a lot of weight, and then I spent the rest of my pregnancy sick from undiagnosed gallbladder issues.

I also spent my pregnancy dreaming of the perfect breastfeeding wardrobe I was going to create. I even commented on the (now discontinued) blog 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World. Here’s a screen shot of my comment. I’m laughing at how naive I was back then. Also, the comments section on that blog are absolutely filled with people I recognize today. Hilarious blast from the past.

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After having Lu I was hit with so many issues. I mostly got my waist back, but my breasts were huge so none of my pre-baby clothing fit right. I also continued to have gallbladder issues that lead to surgery at 3 months postpartum, issues with creating enough breast milk, a full time job, a baby who never slept more than 2 hours, and a husband who was working on the road when Lu was 6-12 months old. Somewhere in that first year I managed to fit in a sewing class on making your own custom sloper. I squeezed myself into my me-made pre-pregnancy clothes for sewing classes, but I can’t remember really sewing myself any everyday clothing to fit my new body. My husband bought me a fabulous new Janome and I retired the Brother my parents bought me as a teenager.

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I did manage to make multiple historical dresses. How crazy is that? I was too out of it to make myself a work dress, but I made a 1930s dress, a full bustle gown, and a few other things for when I volunteer at a local museum.

And while I wasn’t doing much sewing when Lu was a baby, I was doing a hell of a lot of knitting. In 2013 I knit 35 projects (14 accessories, 8 baby items, and 13 sweaters for myself). I knit while I breastfed, while I was pumping milk at work, while I was between tours at the museum, in line at the post office, when I was a passenger in the car, and basically anywhere and everywhere I could hold the needles. Sewing meant setting up my machine and finding my place in the project. Knitting could be picked up and put down at nearly any point in the process.

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I knit this while I was in labor!

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During pregnancy #2 I didn’t even bother trying to sew maternity clothing. I bought a few things and wore them on repeat. Instead of sewing clothing I took up quilting starting with a quilt for the new baby.

After Charlie was born sewing came back into my life full force. Only this time I wasn’t sewing for fun, I was sewing for a purpose. Two children had left me with a body that no longer fit well into any clothes I could buy. I stumbled through 10 months of breastfeeding with a combination of Cake’s Tiramisu pattern, and Sewaholic’s Yaletown dress. Wrap dresses were my jam. So practical for nursing and those endless pumping sessions.

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When Charlie weaned it was like my body was handed back to me. Knowing she was my last baby I could move forward making clothes I’d love to wear. Things with zippers and made from woven fabrics with no elastic. Magical. IMG_4311

Being a second time mom was also so very different. I was so much less anxious all the time. Charlie slept better than her older sister and my husband did less traveling. I started sewing most nights from 7-8:30pm and with 90 minutes per night plus nap times on the weekends I could actually dedicate my mind to figuring out fit issues. I started making muslins instead of diving straight into a project and it was so worth slowing down to have better fitting clothing.

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I actually use apparel fabrics and the results are far superior to quilting cotton (even if the prints aren’t as cute). At this point I only own one commercially made dress, a leftover from when I was still breastfeeding that still garners lots of compliments. But I think the biggest compliment is that people don’t even suspect my clothing is homemade. These years of blogging and working on my skills have lead to a wardrobe of custom fit clothing that makes me feel confident both as a woman and as a mother.

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Cinderella Cardigan

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      “Shiver and quiver, my little tree, Silver and gold throw down over me.”
    -Cinderella by the Grimm Brothers

At last a sweater has escaped my knitting needles. This was 10 months in the making and took far too long, but the results are pretty nice I think.

Cinderella is my favorite fairytale, so when one of my favorite yarn dyers, Astral Bath offered up a lavender dusted with grey called Cinderella, I knew I had to own it and put in a custom order. Silk blend bases only for this color and well worth it.

The yarn arrived quite true to the description, as if Cinderella has been hard at work in the ash, but what pattern would work well with the dark patches in the yarn? I dove into my Japanese stitch dictionaries and found a simple stitch pattern that reminded me of little specks or cinders.

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I also knew I wanted to try patterning the sweater around the waist so I set out playing with the spacing of each dot and doing math to figure out how to get the spaces just right at the waist. Thankfully I have CustomFit to make the knitting pattern. I just had to apply the stitch pattern how I wanted.

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Overall I’m happy with the finished product and I’m sure I will wear it a ton. The wool, silk, and cashmere blend is light enough for spring and also to ward off the summer office air conditioning. However it isn’t quite as perfect as I’d hoped and for a couple reasons.

For one my bust has shrunk over the last year by 2.5 inches. So the fit is a little bigger than I’d like up top.

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The sweater is also just too long. The large bust, silk content, and pattern calculation errors joined forces against my desires. CustomFit makes great patterns, but there is also a bit of learning curve to modifying the patterns it creates. I know I like my sweaters to be about 13-14 inches from underarm to hem, but when I request that length in the software I get a cardigan that is 15-16 inches instead. This is not the software’s fault. If I were to button the cardigan the negative ease at bust and hip would bring up the length. However since I wear my cardigans open and now own a smaller bust this sweater isn’t what I hoped.

My next sweater is already on the needles and I’m exited to see if I’ve improved on the fit. Hopefully it takes me fewer than 10 months to complete!

Rainbow Girl

Our super busy spring is in full swing now. I can’t remember the last time my weekends we’re so full! Recently my mom, the girls, and I all headed up to San Jose for Stitches West. A lot of my knitting friends head to Rhinebeck in the fall, but my group on the West Coast heads to Stitches instead. Usually I spend more time at the event itself, but this year I spent more time with my family because my sister is getting married!!!!

Oh how Lu loved those wedding dresses. She loves all thinks sparkly right now and was pretty happy to see Aunt Kat try on pretty dresses. Now Lu is plotting what she will wear for the wedding for her important role as flower girl.

It felt kind of silly going to a knitting event when I’ve barely knit anything recently. I spent so much time cross stitching this year during my evening tv time. However one of my knitting groups started a challenge for the year. Every quarter we set our own goals and for each goal met we get one entry into a lottery for a prize. I don’t qualify because I’m the one buying the prize, but I’m still finding the event useful for focusing my time.

I’ve already posted about my first goal (pussy hats) and now I’m posting my second goal, a new sweater for Lu. She wears a sweater every day to school and all of hers were looking rough. So many pills. So much dirt. So well loved.

I started planning this sweater in the fall of 2015. I knit a baby dress with a rainbow mini skein kit from Neighborhood Fiber Co. and had way more yarn left over than anticipated. Not enough to knit a whole kid sized cardigan, but enough to alternate with a coordinating color.

I headed to my local yarn store and picked up a skein of Knitted Wit in a grey. Turned out to be a perfect coordinate to the rainbow, don’t you think?

For a pattern I dove into my library to find something simple and near the gauge on my swatch. I settled on Cricket which had a slightly tighter gauge.  By knitting one size smaller at a looser gauge the finished sweater is around a size 4. I’ve knit this pattern once before (also as a school sweater) and I think I won’t knit it again. It is very square and very wide in the shoulders. I’ve knit other patterns that suit my tall and thin girl better.

Of course Lu just loves the finished sweater. It’s really so fun and cute and looks good with her navy and red school dress code. I still had leftover rainbow yarn so I sent it on to live with my friend. I made 3 projects with that rainbow set! It was like the yarn in the book Extra Yarn. I’m pretty sure I could have knit a mailbox cozy and a dog sweater, but instead I’m sharing the rainbow love as my rainbow itch has been satisfied for now.

Why I Marched

Considered this part craft post and part political. You’ve been warned!

Yesterday my mom and I joined roughly 750,000 of our friends and neighbors in a march/rally in Los Angeles. I have never seen so many people in one place before. It was inspiring, and yes, I made Pussy Hats.

The first one turned out a little on the small side, so it was instantly claimed by my pink obsessed 4 year old. She thinks pussy only applies to a cat and I aim to keep it that way for now. She was just excited to have a cozy hat and it came in really handy when I took her ice skating on MLK Day.

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The other 2 hats were worn by my mom and I to the Women’s March LA. I mostly followed the idea of the pattern, but worked it in the round and used a 3 needle bind off for the top. Part of what I loved about the pussy hat project was that there were many ways to make one with the same general result. Not as many people in hats in LA as other cities, but it was also a really bright and sunny day. Wasn’t hard to feel a tad on the warm side between the sun and the crowd.

I used Astralbath Yarn in Spectra held doubt. I know Ridgely would be happy to have her yarn used for a political purpose. She’s awesome. It had been gifted to me by another knitting friend Mary and it was just the perfect amount for our 3 hats. I wish I’d had the time to make and mail one to my sister too, but I didn’t quite make it in time. Sorry sister!

In case you can’t tell my main sign said “healthy families = a healthy America”. I saw a ton of signs yesterday and they covered a huge range of issues, healthcare, education, marriage equality, immigration, and yes…abortion. I’ve been sad to scan through my Facebook feed and see that my more conservative friends and family seem to have put their blinders on to only focus on the abortion issue.

So I encourage people on both sides of the aisle to look at the bigger picture. There are lots and lots of ways that we could lower the need for abortions. Here are just a few ideas

  • Better sex education
  • Make higher education more affordable
  • Make birth control easily accessible
  • Lower the cost of healthcare
  • Paid maternity leave
  • Equal pay for equal work
  • Affordable child care
  • Teaching girls to be more confident
  • Teaching all children “No means no”

If the United States improved in these areas we would lessen the need for any woman to face the often difficult decision of whether to have an abortion. So instead of focusing on a single issue I am choosing to focus on the many ways we can make women’s lives better.

After attending marches yesterday I know many people are left asking what next? The organizers of the march have put out the first step in a 10 step plan. It starts with reaching out to your representatives, and whether you marched or not I encourage everyone to take part. The only way to make our message clear is to SAY SOMETHING. So go out and do it. Start being the change you want to see in our nation and our communities.

 

 

Christmas 2016 – Part 2

And now part 2! Things I made for adults in my life.

So 2016 was the year I learned to knit socks. It’s silly. I don’t wear socks during the day. However I do enjoy wearing the hand knit socks I’ve received as gifts! So I started off knitting a couple pairs for myself and realized if I was going to feed my sock knitting obsession I needed to branch out to gift knitting.

It started with this pair I made for my mom. I didn’t quite have the right colors for her so I wandered down to my local yarn shop and picked up a skein of Malabrigo Sock in Anniversario. It is quite lovely with reds and purples all intermixed. It looks a little nutty in the photos, but in person the colors blend nicely. We have fairly similar feet so they it was easy to gauge the size and I hear she enjoys wearing them.

 

Next up are socks for my sister. My mom and sister are pretty forgiving gift receivers should things turn wonky. Thankfully this pair also turned out just beautifully. This time I used Dark Harbour Yarns in Bluebottle, but the color really reminded me of Elsa from Frozen and the color is a gradual fade from white with speckles to a dark blue-green. Totally stunning. Nikki creates gorgeous colors!

And then there is the cross stitching! I bought the kit from The Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery. It was a mystery stitch along and their patterns are so darling. Not sure what I’m going to do with the long narrow piece, but the bonus ornament pattern was super adorable! So I made two, one for our tree and one for their cousins’ tree!

Then there were was cooking, baking ,and tea towel calendar hemming and all those little projects that fly under the radar! A busy season to be sure, but it was fun to dive into my stash of supplies and come up with some fun customized gifts for some of my family this year.

And now back to my ever growing queue of projects! On top of sewing my usual favorites we have two weddings to attend this spring and of course Easter dresses to plan. I so looking forward to making some fun things!

Christmas 2016 – Part 1

Before moving on to new projects in 2017, I thought I’d take a moment to post the things I made for the Christmas holiday this year. In order to keep our holiday spending in check, I turned to my stash to find some fun materials for gifts.

First up is the adorable Little Red Riding Hood doll set.

I bought the panel at our (now closed) local quilt shop. In fact I bought the very last one in stock. They sold out super quickly and I can see why. Isn’t it sweet? I ended up making a few alterations to the panel directions. 1) I bound the quilt with some fabric from my stash  and 2) I made the doll’s skirt completely reversible with the left over binding fabric and an elastic waist.

Of course our 2 year old spend much of Christmas day sitting in the doll bed instead of her dolly, but that’s toddlers! And the Lil’ Red set has been dragged all over our house and the clothing tried on many different babies.

Next up was a sweater, also for the toddler. I’d purchased the yarn at Vogue Knitting Live here in town last spring. I’ve heard great things about Sincere Sheep, but I’ve come to realize it is best to buy new-to-me yarns in small quantities to test before diving in for enough to make myself a sweater. I quick peek at my phone showed I needed only 2 skeins to make Ysolda Teague’s Wee Envelope pattern in a size 2, so I snatch up Equity Sport in Aegean.

I think you’ll agree the color look just gorgeous on Charlie and kept her nice and toasty on our trip to the beach. The yarn was also a joy to knit! So bouncy, just the way I like it. Ysolda’s pattern was fabulous as always. I’ve knit 3 patterns from her Wee Ones collection and all have turned out wonderfully.

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And lastly here is a snapshot of the girls on Christmas morning. It is hard to tell because Lu immediately donned her Doc McStuffins costume (gift from Santa), but the girls also got matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. I just love this particular tradition. Usually I buy their jammies, but this year I quickly made up a matching set.

It was a bit of a happy accident. The first shipment of fabric got lost in the mail and Sahara Fabrics nicely sent me a replacement. Both shipments ended up arriving leaving me with 3 whole yards of the space print. In the end I was able to get 2 long sleeved long night gowns and two sets of leggings from the yardage. Hooray! I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of using fold over elastic, so don’t look too closely at the neck line. I need a bit more practice.

And so this is part one of the gift sewing! It is really fun to have kids who appreciate hand made items and I plan to keep on indulging them as long as they let me!