A new WIP: Sweater Time

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Dividing for sleeves & body is such a satisfying moment.

This is the Jolie pattern in Life in the Long Grass Sock yarn. I had to make a bunch of modifications due to differences in gauge in addition to being too large-busted for the pattern’s size range. Still, the lace charts are nicely done, and easy to memorize. I invested in some HiyaHiya lace tip needles a while ago and damn do they make lace knitting easier! My old Knit Picks needles are just too blunt.

I want to keep knitting on this one but my hands are complaining, lol. Maybe I should get off the computer, too.

On Becoming a Sewist

I’ve been sewing for about two years now.

Garment sewing has been a wonderful journey for me. I started sewing for two related reasons. First, my wardrobe was starting to reflect a New York monochrome palette. I missed wearing loud colors and silly prints. Secondly, and more distressingly, I had trouble buying clothes that fit. I’ve been gradually recovering from a chronic illness, and as I do so, I’ve been gaining weight. I’m now in that awkward size range of not-quite-plus-size. Going clothes shopping was often a distressing and demoralizing experience.

Sewing my own clothes changed that. I am limited only by what fabrics I can buy, and my own skills. I can add color into my wardrobe. I can draft a button-up shirt that doesn’t gape at the chest! I can have skirts with pockets!

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Linen pants for summer. I like pockets, and I like being comfortable.

This is a strong contrast with my experience of buying my own clothes. In stores, I’m often at the top of the size range. I struggle to find affordable, durable clothing that actually fits me, let alone that fits my style. I always feel like I’m the wrong shape — too much of this or that.

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Plantain T-Shirt from Deer & Doe, a handknit cowl, and storebought leggings & skirt.

In many ways I am still a novice. I approach sewing like I approach many crafts – with the enthusiasm of a dedicated amateur. I can point to many deficiencies in my techniques, gaps in my knowledge, mistakes left unmended in my garments.

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Deer & Doe Agave Skirt, storebought shirt. There are lots of mistakes in this skirt – the buttonholes didn’t come out very well – but I still wear it. Because foxes, duh.

Still, even though I have plenty to learn, I have accomplished so much! My closet is now full of clothes that I’ve made myself. I’d guess that about 30-50% of my clothing is self-sewn. I’ve re-introduced colors and prints to my closet, more of my clothes have pockets, and – most importantly – my clothes fit.

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I’ve never owned a one-shoulder dress before, because I could never find one that actually fit me. This dress is self-drafted, using “Sew Many Dresses, Sew Little Time” as a starting point.

I am not an outstandingly good sewist, or a tailor. But here’s the secret: you don’t have to be. Something I didn’t fully appreciate until I started sewing was how bad most ready-to-wear clothing is. A lot of the clothes I was buying before were from fabrics I didn’t love. Worse, they didn’t fit me at all: if something fit in the shoulders, it definitely wouldn’t fit my bust, waist, or hips. So I accepted that all of my clothes would hang awkwardly, and wrote off some styles as just “not suited” for my body type. But when you make your own clothes, well, if you span several sizes, you just connect the dots on the pattern. That’s it! There’s no magic.

If you’re interested in sewing garments, here’s what I would recommend:

  • First, learn to use a sewing machine. Sew some straight lines. Tote bags or zipper pouches can be fun first projects. Probably get someone to teach you this IRL – it’s much easier with an in-person teacher.
  • Consider getting a basic dressmaking book – you can check one out of your local library, since most libraries seem to have pretty robust sewing resources. I have The Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking by Wendy Ward. Yes, there are a bajillion internet tutorials, but that’s part of the problem; it’s easy to get lost and disoriented when you’re just starting out and don’t know what you need to know. A good beginning sewing book will be concise while also introducing all of the essential basics, and you can use it as a reference.
  • Sew a basic woven pattern from an “indie” designer who offers in-depth beginner-friendly instructions. These are often called “sew alongs”. I started with the Hollyburn Skirt (pattern link, sewalong) and the Scout Tee.
  • Sew a basic knit pattern, again from a designer who offers in-depth tutorials. I like the book Stretch! by Tilly Walnes, which I borrowed from my library. Sewing knits requires a new set of skills, but it’s so valuable – most of our daily clothes are knits, right? Personally, I love this free t-shirt pattern.
  • Have fun, buy some pretty fabrics, and try to make some shit!

Goji skirt in Kaufman Washer Linen

It’s finally warming up in New York. We’re having a very pleasant spring so far. Usually I feel like we switch straight from winter to summer, but this year there’s been a mild, lazy transition to warmer weather. My summer wardrobe was lacking in both shorts and skirts, so I decided to make a quick skirt out of this rayon/linen blend.

The pattern is the Goji skirt by Deer and Doe. It’s very simple – an oversized, slightly flared skirt, gathered at the waist with drawstring and elastic. Really it’s a glorified trapezoid! But it’s a trapezoid with pockets. They’re huge patch pockets, more than big enough to hold my phone / keys / wallet.

The pattern is straightforward and everything came together well. I tried to take my time and be a little more precise than usual. I think it paid off! I’m happy with the seam finishes and the pressing. I used my serger for some of the seams but mostly it’s constructed on my regular sewing machine. I even learned some new techniques – I had never made my own drawstring before, nor sewn an elastic casing. The “use a safety pin to thread it through” trick really does work.

I sewed a straight size 48 based on my waist measurement, and that fit me just fine. Because it’s a drawstring waist, fit isn’t so important for the skirt version. I’m not sure if the shorts would actually be flattering or comfortable, so I don’t think I’ll be making them, but I might make another version of the skirt.

I think this will quickly join my heavy rotation of summer basics. I’m really happy with how the Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen drapes, and it has seemingly magical wrinkle-resisting properties. I’ve already gotten some compliments on it!

FO: Plantain Tee in Red Floral

I made another Plantain Tee! This time I cut a size 44, and I’m happier with the fit. I also shortened the torso by 1″. I could probably take another inch out of it. (I’m 5’2″, so this is not surprising.)

The fabric was an impulse buy from Mood at $15/yd. I cut this out of 1.5 yds.

I’m particularly happy with:

  • the fit: it’s comfortable, and feels like the amount of ease I was aiming for
  • the collar: it’s my first time sewing a successful neckband on the serger, woohoo!
  • the pattern placement: eyy, it’s not bad, right? I like the way the floral matches up across the sleeves, even if it’s not a seamless pattern (that wouldn’t have been possible with this large scale design).
  • the fabric cutting: me and my rotary cutter are becoming friends. ❤️ I’m getting faster, which is good, because fabric cutting is what keeps me from sewing more often…

FO: Deer & Doe Plantain T-Shirt

Hey look, I made a Plantain tee.

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I traced a straight size 46 for this one. Next time I’ll probably go down a size; there’s plenty of room, though it’s still a comfortable fit.

Not much to say about this pattern. It’s a basic t-shirt and I made the most basic version of it. Happily, this is almost exactly the style of t-shirt that I get the most wear out of, so I suspect I’ll be using this pattern many more times in the future. It’ll be nice to have a looser-fitting pattern to complement the close-fitting Renfrew Top, which I’ve already made four of. At some point I’d love to try the longer-sleeved version with elbow patches…

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The Plantain T-Shirt, long-sleeved version.

The fabric was some cheap cotton knit from Girlcharlee that I got for $1.50/yd; I used just over a yard of it. Since the pattern was free, I’d say this is one of my surprisingly economical makes!

More than anything, this was serger + speed practice. It took me about four hours start to finish to make this shirt. Progress! I’m still working on learning how to sew neckbands on my serger though….circles are hard.

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Merlo Field Tee, Take Two

After a several-weeks’ sewing hiatus, I finally have a new FO. I was grumpy at my current works-in-progress, so I decided to re-make a pattern that I knew that I liked, in a fabric that I was excited to work with, in hopes of getting myself interested in sewing again.

I’ve been itching to make another Merlo Tee for a few weeks now. My first one was a touch too small, and tragically I’ve already managed to stain it. What can I say, I’m a messy eater with a drinking problem.

I cut a size larger than last time, and chose to sew the wide-necked view instead of the crew neck. I used a drapey bamboo jersey from Mood, in gold and navy. I was a little worried that it would look too sports-fan-ish, but once it was sewn up I decided I was pretty happy with the color combination.

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There’s something about the contrasting bicep bands on this pattern that I really love. I’m also a sucker for fitted sleeves and wide-bodied designs. I expect I’ll be making more of this pattern, though next time I’ll probably pick a more subtle color combination.

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Next time I might even try to make some fitting adjustments. This size is comfortable overall, but I could probably do with less excess fabric in the back.

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This was my second project constructed entirely on my serger, and I’m happy to say that I’m getting pretty comfortable with it! It’s still early to tell, but I suspect that the combination of rotary cutter + serger is really going to speed up my sewing. This new shirt came together over two afternoons, which for me feels quick.

Today I assembled a printed t-shirt PDF pattern, traced my size, cut it out, and cut my fabric in…about two hours. I don’t know if that’s fast or slow relative to other sewists, but it was certainly fast for me. I’m mostly able-bodied now, but tasks like tracing and cutting usually require me to take several breaks. This time I only needed a few breathers…

Next, I suppose we’ll see how quickly I can sew up the t-shirt. It’s a Plantain shirt from Deer & Doe, a super basic tee in the short-sleeved version (so no adorable elbow patches, alas). I’m just trying it out with a “nautical” striped knit that I picked up at Girlcharlee for $1.50/yd.

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How is it already February?

I’m having trouble believing that it’s February already. The weather isn’t helping. It’s been bouncing between freezing-cold and unseasonably-warm.

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I’ve got my knitting mojo back in a really serious way. In January I managed to:

  • finish three (!) hats, basically none of which fit me. I keep making my hats too big. Good thing I like slouchy hats??
  • make good progress on my new cardigan

On the other hand, I basically did no sewing. I bought some fabric. I tried and failed to finish a dress before becoming utterly demotivated. I learned more about my serger and am trying out a rotary cutter. But it’s been a slow month. Partly that’s due to high pain levels – it’s easier to cuddle up on my couch with some knitting than it is to sit at a machine.

For February, my crafting goals are:

  • finish knitting through skein 1 of my sweater
  • finish at least 1 sewing project
  • finish at least 1 Burda magazine project (!) because I got a subscription

Let’s see how it goes.