First scraps

I knit three hats in the last week-or-so. Three! But one in particular is special to me.

I started knitting in 2015. It did not come naturally to me, but: I was determined. (Some would say stubborn.) I had a very patient teacher. During that spring and summer I must have knit oodles of lumpy swatches. I made one fingerless mitt, and never finished its pair.

Finally, my parents gifted me a skein of Noro Obi for my birthday, along with a pattern for a simple garter-and-lace circular cowl and the needles called for by the pattern.

And I made it!

That left me with half a ball of Noro, which has been patiently waiting for me in my yarn bin. Finally, several years later, I used up all the scraps on a new hat.

I’ve been on a hat-knitting tear recently. I guess I’m craving instant gratification. After working in fingering weight yarn for a few months, it’s amazing how quickly a worsted or aran weight yarn works up.

This was my second time making a pom pom, and I’m pleased with it, though the Obi was a little awkward to work with (it’s so fragile!).

Going back to this yarn was a nice moment of reflection on how far I’ve come as a knitter. I am much more fluid; my knitting comes faster, more evenly. I have an intuitive understanding of my work. (This project was entirely improvised; I don’t use hat patterns anymore.) I have amassed a collection of yarn and handknits that – cliche though it is – brings me joy.

I took a long break from knitting to focus on sewing, but guess what? Looks like I’m back.

2019: Sewing Intentions

I’m calling these “intentions” and not resolutions because, well, I don’t think it’s a good fit.

Right now, my sewing practice is still very much in the new-shiny-obsession stage. If I have downtime, and the spare mental energy, chances are that I’ll be sewing. My knitting was on a hiatus for a little while, but I’ve been getting back into the groove of it. I suspect that 2019 will be a transitional year for me, as I figure out what a sustainable rate-of-sewing looks like in my life.

I don’t have any specific projects or patterns that I want to make next year. No #MakeNine. But here are some themes.

Techniques

I want to take on at least a couple of challenging projects that stretch my sewing skills. I’m curious about a lot of things that seem like Big Projects: jeans, jackets, button-downs, coats.

I want to try drafting my own pattern, and I am curious about learning to drape. There are also just a lot of techniques and construction methods that I haven’t tried at all (inserting invisible zippers! different kinds of pleats and tucks! burrito yokes!). And oh, the fabrics…I’ve never sewn with silk, linen, leather, lace.

Because there’s so much out there, I’m planning on letting myself wander and pick up new projects as inspiration strikes. 🙂

Tools

I have two new tools that I want to learn how to use: my rotary cutter and my serger. I think this will come naturally with time. I also really need to reorganize my room and invest in better storage for my sewing notions…but that’s pretty much always true.

Basically, I want to give myself space & time to invest in learning how to use my new and existing tools well. There’s something really satisfying about being able to sit down and get shit done because you understand the things you’re working with.

Lifestyle / Wardrobe

Right now, my wardrobe doesn’t really match my life in two major ways.

First, I don’t really know what I like to wear during the summer months. Summer in New York is hot, and humid, and I have to quickly transition from stuffy subways to overly-conditioned office spaces. Yuck. My body has changed a lot, and I have trouble finding RTW summer clothing that fits, and as a result I don’t even know what I like to wear. I want to make a concerted effort at figuring this out.

Secondly, I need more workout clothing – especially for lyra/aerial hoop. I think this could be a fun opportunity to sew with some loud, outrageous fabrics, and also to experiment with styles that I would normally never wear. For example, I’ve worn both crop-tops and open-backed tops to circus classes, and – it felt great! even though I’ve never done that in “normal life” before. I have a vague desire to perform at some point in the next year, and it would be fun to make part of my outfit for that, maybe?

So. Sewing will only answer part of this equation, but I think it could be a fun way to address some of this.

Experimentation

More than anything else, I want 2019 to be a time when I can experiment with my crafting. I want to keep materials and tools on hand that are inspiring to me. I want to craft when I feel inspired/energized, and to feel guilt-free about my crafting practice. I want to try new techniques and leave room for old hobbies that I love, too.

So what do I want to sew…?

Here’s what I’m daydreaming about right now:

  • cozy plaid flannel shirts
  • colorful cotton shorts for summer
  • a leather jacket
  • a colorful, dramatic wool coat
  • lyra outfits
  • bras ??? with matching fabric to my wardrobe, a la fourpatch?
  • ….

Honestly, as soon as I start daydreaming, the list gets pretty long. We’ll see what happens next…!

2018 Lookback: Bonnie’s First Year of Sewing

I made three New Year’s resolutions for 2018:

  • learn to sew
  • do one pushup
  • don’t write a book

I’m giddy-excited to have succeeded at all of them! (And yes, there’s a backstory to points 2 & 3.) Let’s talk about the first one.

Learn to sew! I’d taken an intro class to machine sewing before, actually, but had never sat down and attempted to sew anything on my own. But I wanted to! It was just extremely intimidating. I don’t think that spatial reasoning stuff comes naturally to me. At first, it was difficult to figure out things like so if I sew with right-sides together…then will the seam be on the right side or the wrong side? Argh.

What motivated me to learn to sew:

  • In 2018 I ended up needing a lot of new clothes (hurrah for recovery!). That meant an opportunity to change things up.
  • I wanted clothes that fit. Desperately. My body type isn’t always easy to shop for in RTW, and I’m right on the edge of “standard”/plus sizes. There’s a lot of backstory here that I might get into in a separate post.
  • I wanted COLOR! and PRINTS! Living and shopping in New York, it was easy to build a wardrobe of dependable neutrals. But I wanted my wardrobe to be LOUD.
  • I wanted clothes made in natural fabrics (linen, cotton, wool). I generally prefer to wear them. It’s surprisingly hard to find non-synthetic fabrics in stores…

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy sewing as an act – I mean, I was pretty convinced that I hated ironing – but I figured, what the heck, I’ll try it.

I think it’s obvious that I ended up enjoying it.

I’m still noodling on why I enjoy sewing so much. There are aspects of it that are similar to knitting: it’s an opportunity to play with color and texture, with a sense of accomplishment at the end. There’s the puzzle of garment construction. The feeling of slow and steady incremental progress as you work through a project. These are all rewarding things.

I’ve been keeping track of my makes in a spreadsheet. According to this I’ve made fourteen (!!) projects in just six months.  That includes two skirts, one dress, one pair of shorts, and nine shirts. Almost all of these are in heavy rotation in my wardrobe.

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The ‘cost’ column is interesting – it includes amortized pattern price, fabric cost, and notions. I think that I’ve learned to be more economical in my fabric cutting, so hopefully I can reduce leftovers next year. I also expect to re-use more patterns, and to start purchasing more non-indie patterns, so that should bring my typical pattern cost down. But…also I really like buying pretty, gorgeous fabrics, and I’m happy to spend accordingly on them.

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All in all, I think this has been a successful start to a new hobby.

Onwards and upwards.

learning to serge, day 1

Holy crap, this machine is terrifying.

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I’m really glad that it came pre-threaded. First I tested it out on some scraps. Then I decided to try seaming together the neckband I had previously cut out for a t-shirt…

…and promptly made my first bird’s nest. d’oh.

I guess I need to re-cut that neckband, since I accidentally hacked off a good piece of it.

Figuring out how to remove said bird’s nest was an adventure, but at least I noticed it before my machine ground to a halt. I assume this is sorta like a normal sewing machine: when something goes wrong, stop and fix it.

Anyway. Bird’s nest removed, I decided it was time to rethread. Because obviously a good share of problems come from threading issues, right…? Plus I had to learn this eventually.

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Thank god for Youtube, because threading the lower looper was driving me crazy! I didn’t realize that the lever up there (with the two sideways arrows) actually slid outwards until I watched a video. Naturally, the manual doesn’t mention it. I guess I need to get better at reading symbols.

Some thoughts so far:

  • holy crap, this machine goes so fast and is so loud and it’s scary
  • I definitely am going to be threading it powered off. I feel so clumsy trying to figure out where to put all the threads, and I could easily envision cutting myself on that knife
  • wow, I actually needed tweezers
  • wow, I’m glad I bought a few cones of serger thread, this thing consumes a lot of thread
  • I love my label maker with all my heart – there are some good diagrams on this machine but I need words, dammit
  • there’s a lot of new stuff to learn, but it feels tractable
  • I’m so excited to get better at using this, because omg can you imagine how fast I’ll be able to make t-shirts?

Things I still have to figure out/practice:

  • how to thread successfully with the presser foot still attached (lol): so far I’ve been able to do this correctly but only if I take the presser foot off first
  • practice practice practice sewing in a straight line / with a consistent seam allowance
  • when do I need to use a regular sewing machine for construction vs this one?

Catalyst Odyssey + Renfrew

Here’s a shirt I finished last week. I’d been intrigued by this print from Art Gallery Fabrics for a while, and then I noticed it slowly vanishing from stores…and I had already exceeded my fabric budget for the month, but I wanted it…and what if I couldn’t get my hands on this print again?

So. I snagged a 1.5 yd remnant. Luckily, I managed to get an entire long-sleeve shirt out of that!

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As you can see, the shirt is somewhat translucent under direct, bright light. Whoops. I’ll probably be wearing a tank top under this most of the time.

This is the Sewaholic Renfrew pattern in View A, with some modifications. I graded between a size 12 for the body, size 10 at the neck, and size 14 at the sleeves. I took out about ~2″ from the sleeves and should have taken some length out from the torso as well – probably about 1-1.5″. At some point I should take the waistband out and shorten it; it’s so long that it’s almost a tunic on me.

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I’m proud of how nicely my neckband turned out this time. I’m getting more accustomed to sewing with knits.

I’ve made the Renfrew top four times, and it’s in heavy rotation in my wardrobe. I have two short-sleeve versions and two long-sleeved versions.

My march towards a ridiculous animal-print wardrobe continues! ✨

sewing queue: holidays 2018

It’s the holidays, I don’t have to work, and I have plenty of time for sewing! Here’s what I’m excited to work on next:

Learn to use my serger (and sew an Ebony tee).

I bought myself a serger for my birthday! I have it out of the box and sitting on my table, I just need to…sit down and learn how to use the darn thing. This is both intimidating and exciting. The activation energy for this one is high, you know?

I have fabric for an Ebony T-Shirt cut out and waiting for me. I attempted to do an FBA, but of course I’ve never made this pattern before so who knows if it will fit! I figured that since the style is very forgiving (oversized, drapey) it’s a decent place to start practicing with my serger. I’m using some Kaufman Laguna jersey that I got for $3/yd, so I’m not particularly attached to it.

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Make a muslin for my princess-seamed dress

I traced a pattern; now it’s time to make a muslin. I have some beautiful deep wine-colored ponte knit from Stylemaker Fabrics that I’ve been waiting to sew up. I’ve never worked with a Big 4 pattern before (only indies!) so this is new to me. I don’t know if the size I picked will work out. TIME TO TEST.

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Cut fabric for a Burda batwing top

I’m also preparing to sew a Burda pattern for the first time: 108-01-2014. Phew, that tracing was a nightmare…and in the end it was only a few rectangle-ish shapes. I deliberately picked a simple Burda pattern because I’ve heard horrible things about how difficult they are. The schematic assembly/tracing was definitely more intimidating than the pattern itself.

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I have some cheap Black Friday fabric that I’m going to use to muslin this one. It could be pretty, it could look silly, who knows!

So that’s what I’ve got queued up. Hmm. I also have a lot more fabric in my “up next” pile, but this is the “realistic” version of my queue.

What’s on your cutting table?