Monday, September 28, 2020

FO: Koi Reyna Shawl

Don't we all just need a project o the needles? I find that with knitting being a big stress reliever for me, I am actually a little sad when I finish a project. I brought my Copycat Jaywalker Socks with me when I was playing D&D all day with the boyfriend and his peeps back in July, but knowing I would likely finish the socks that day I decided to pack an additional project to start in the event that I found myself with some unoccupied knitting time. D&D leaves a lot of time in between your turn when you play with a decent sized group of people, so I find I need to have knitting on hand :) Anyway, in packing for that trip I decided to pick a yarn from my stash I wanted to work with first and then find a project for it. I wanted the project to be simple knitting and to be something I could throw in my purse and bring with me without a lot of bulk. I'm still dealing with my current sweater project drama, so it needed to be something different. In the end, I picked up one of my favorite skeins of yarn - Knit Picks Stroll Hand Painted in the Koi Pond colorway

I fell in love with this colorway back in 2016 or so when it was introduced, so when  succumbed to the big sale they had in February of 2017, I grabbed myself a skein. It sat in my stash for a while with the fate of becoming a pair of socks (I was having a big sock moment at the time), but I saw another knitter I follow made a pair of socks with the same yarn and colorway and I just didn't love them as much as I thought I would. This being a "hand painted" yarn instead of a "self striping" yarn, the colors are a bit more prone to pooling than I like, and when you look at the project on Ravelry made with this yarn, it's about a 50/50 chance that you will end up with lovely striping of the colors or big pools of colors. I just didn't want to risk the pools because that's something that really bugs me and I knew I wouldn't be happy with the result. SO instead of socks, I decided to make a shawl.

This is the Reyna Shawl by Noora Backlund, which is a free pattern on Ravelry. I believe I had seen this pattern over the years, but it wasn't until picking out this yarn and looking through finished projects made with it that I decided I wanted to make this up. It's a very simple triangle shawl that alternates between a 2 row mesh stitch pattern and garter stitch. Not only did the finished shawls in this yarn look great, but it was also simple enough of a stitch pattern that I could pick it up at any point and easily find where I was. It checked all my required boxes, so even though I always seem to swear off making shawls every time I finish one, I went for it this time. Spoiler alert! I did not hate making this shawl as much as I have hated making ones in the past, lol, so maybe I'm growing as a person.
Everything seriously went great in making this shawl. It was a fantastic purse project - easy to knit, no charts to follow, and small. I started this that night of playing D&D and worked on it little by little  for 2 months. The only "need to wrap my head around it" moment was when I finished the pattern but still had 1/3 of the skein. The whole reason I wanted to knit this was to use up this lovely yarn, not have a "too-tiny-for-other-projects" ball left over. So I decided to made the widest mesh section as written, then I did the same number of garter stitch rows as the previous section, then I did the mesh pattern until I only had enough left to bind off. I wound up using all of this skein except like 12 inches, which is awesome.
I really love how the color is distributed in the shawl. I was a little worried about some pooling in the first sections, but as the shawl grew it only had a few dark areas here and there that were pretty small - no big distracting blobs of bright or dark colors :)
As far as the shawl itself goes, I like the versatility in theory, but realistically I will never wear it in the traditional "shawl" position like this, lol. It's nice to have the option, I guess, but I will always wear them as scarved. That said, I do like the size that this one turned out. It would've been good as written, but I like that extra bit of length that the rest of the skein added. I love that it was so easy to use up the whole skein with this pattern, so if you, like me, hate leftovers that languish in your stash after a project, I highly recommend giving this pattern a try.
As far as the finished project, this yarn was just as lovely to work with as it turned out. This is just such a soft and deliciously squishy yarn. In fact I liked this so much that I've been eyeing a few of the newer colorways, lol, which kind of defeats the purpose of getting this out of my stash, but I still have a gift card to use so, lol. We will see.
So that's my newest shawl :) Interestingly (to me, at least) I enjoyed making this so much that I cast on another shawl immediately after finishing this one. I just love that they are small projects, portable, not a crazy time commitment, and will help keep my neck warm in a few months when I can actually wear them, lol. I never thought I'd say this, but Yay for shawl knitting!


Yarn: 1 skein Knit Picks Stroll Hand Painted in the Koi Pond colorway - $11.00

Pattern: Reyna by Noora Backlund - Free

Time: 2 months

*This post contains affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make any purchases at Knit Picks. That said, I purchased this yarn with my own money and my opinions are 100% my own. I just really love this yarn :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

FO: Sleep Shorts for Sewists

Wow, folks, it has been a minute. To be honest, I've had pictures of things ready to post for over a month but with all the new changes on Blogger, I couldn't ever figure out how to alter the html so I just gave up and didn't post :/ I've found it now, so we are back in business. Anyway, this post is actually about 3 items I made back in May. I know! Craziness. But here we go:
Back in May, I decided I needed some sleep shorts. With the boyfriend coming over on the weekends, I felt I needed some socially acceptable pajamas (socially acceptable meaning not a huge t-shirt with holes and stains all over it like I usually wear). I have a stupidly large stash of quilting cottons for someone who doesn't make quilts, and in my head I've always justified buying them for pajamas and bags. Now I've finally one of those things! Hooray!
It started with this pair. I used the Margot Pajama Pants pattern from the book Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the buttons. I love this book overall, but this pattern has proved extremely useful int he time I've owned it. I've used this pattern more than any other sewing pattern I believe, lol. Anyway, so I started with the Margot pattern, added pockets, changed it to an elastic waist, and shortened the hem to knee length, which I'll admit sounds like a lot of work but these were all super simple changes to make.
The big thing that put me off making these for so long - I had to trace a smaller size of the pattern. It's silly that I put it off because of this because A) I trace all my patterns and B) this is probably the easiest pattern ever to trace. It seriously has 2 pieces. But at the end of May, I buckled down out of necessity since it was getting warmer and I only had pj pants and knew I would sweat to death all summer. I was able to use the pocket I had made for my previous pairs of this pattern. For the length change, I just held up the pattern to my body and marked a bit below the knee. Easy.
Also, how cute is this fabric?! When I saw it in the sale one time at The Sewing Studio, I had to have it. Sadly they only had about 2 yards left, which wouldn't be enough for a dress (my other go-to use for cute quilting cottons). This is called Sewing Studio and it was designed by Cynthia Frenette for Robert Kaufman. I just love the pattern piece design. Very appropriate.
After making the first pair, I decided to go for it with a second on a different fabric with no set purpose that I've had for a while. This was another sale bin find and it was only about 2 yards. It's called Birch Farm Barn Owls by Joel Dewberry. I always love his fabrics but I can never figure out what to make with them, lol. For this pair I tried to line up the owl design across the front and I'm pretty happy with the results of that endeavor I have to say.
Pockets again. Gotta have pockets. Even though they really do increase the bulk in my widest area :/ But convenience wins out, especially for house wear, amiright?
It's so funny - these are both quilting cottons, both cut and sewn exactly the same one night to another, but this pair is just a smidge tighter around the hips and it makes the pockets bulge out more. Weird.
Interestingly enough, I had this thrifted t-shirt I grabbed a while back that happens to match these shorts fantastically! Now I have a pajama set, lol.
I did do one fancy thing with these - I always have a hard time telling the back from the front on this pattern, so I grabbed a roll of woven ribbon I had on hand and made little tags for the back waistband :) 
So yay for pjs! I've worn these all summer long and they are cute and comfy :) So while this isn't the most involved project, it has proven super useful so I'm really glad I sewed these up.

Fabric: 2 yards Sewing Studio by Cynthia Frenette for Robert Kaufman fabrics quilting cotton - $6.75
               2 yards Birch Farm Barn Owls by Joel Dewberry quilting cotton - $6.75
Pattern: Margot PJ Pants from Love and First Stitch by Tilly Walnes
Notions: white thread - $0.50
Time: 3 hours and 2 hours
Total Cost: $14 for both

Friday, August 7, 2020

Sewing and Weight Loss

This is a topic that I didn't really think much about until it came up on Gillian of The Sewcialists Instagram feed. She was asking for people's tips on sewing for a changing body, meaning how to sew if you are getting larger, and I sent her a message telling her my experience in the opposite direction. Shortly after this is when everything with Covid19 got really crazy, and I completely forgot to send her my blurb, but the idea stuck with me and I decided to post about it here. So if this isn't your thing, I give you permission to skip this one :)

Over the last year, I have lost 55 pounds. It started as not having any appetite due to stress last July - I found out my husband was cheating on me. Before that point, I had reached the largest I had ever been due to OTHER stress - I was in the process of adopting twin infant girls and for a while I was lucky to eat anything, let alone anything that was remotely healthy. Previous to the girls I had dealt with my husband's drug addiction for years of relapses and rehab, and food was my only comfort. When everything went down between my husband and me in July, I weighted 225 lbs and I was miserable. I had several health problems that were weight related, plus my weight had always been something I was very self conscious about given that I have been plus sized for most of my adult life, meaning despite my best efforts to remain "body positive" my physical looks self esteem was very low. When I stopped wanting to eat for about a month due to depression and stress brought on by the early process of divorce, I decided I was going to try and make the best of the situation and use it as a boost to finally lose the weight that doctors had tried to get me to lose for 10 years. After the initial month of not eating much, I did it all the healthy way. I became super vigilant about what I ate and kept track of my calories/proteins/sugars/fats/etc. I started exercising regularly several months ago. I have now managed to lose 55 lbs and I am still going (now I'm more focused on toning things up than losing weight, but that's a different story.
It's very strange to see these two photos side by side. In my mind, I still look the same, but photos don't lie. Gosh, it's bizarre to think that's me.
Me at my largest - I stopped buying clothing at a size 18, but I believe I reached a US size 20. This was April 2019. I believe my measurements were 43" bust, 42" waist, 50" hip, but I was not able to sew in that time and some things were tight, so it could be slightly higher numbers than that.

So what does this mean for my sewing? Well, anyone that had followed my blog once upon a time (back when I was still making things to show), they will possibly now understand the drastic decline in my sewing output over the past 2 years. I had been on a steady weight gain for the past 10 years, gaining much faster over 2018. Many of the things I had sewn when I first started making my own clothes in 2014 no longer fit me and I had sized out of even some of the things I made in 2017. I was so exhausted with suddenly being the caregiver of 2 adorable but drug addicted infants PLUS working full time PLUS trying to keep my house clean,etc PLUS dealing with the ramifications of my then-husband's addiction PLUS things being more strained between us and finding out he had someone else. I didn't even factor my size or eating habits or health into the equation - there was just no time or mental space for it. But it did mean that I had to buy my clothing since I sized out of my clothes and didn't have time to make any more. I made very few things in 2018 as a result.

Once I noticed my body getting smaller in about September of 2019, I started making small alterations. I lucked out since I tend to pack things away in hopes of being able to wear them again one day, plus I love to thrift shop, so I supplemented my wardrobe as best I could at the time with preowned clothes. I altered the burgundy skirt you see in the 2020 photo above and took 5 inches out (I now have to take it in again). My other makes are sitting in a box anxiously waiting for me to either alter them down or to donate them to be appreciated by someone else. I've wanted to sew SO BADLY for the past 2.5 years, but even once my girls started to be less stressful and time consuming, I was losing weight and didn't want to make things only to have them not fit a month or so later. I am still stuck in that limbo. I wish I could sew clothes, but aside from a few holiday makes I have not sewn anything for me to wear. I do still knit, just going down from the size I previously was making since knits tend to be fairly forgiving and I enjoy making sweaters. I've also been tackling several old non-clothing projects (bags, a quilt, an apron, etc - to be blogged soon!), but clothing is my real love and I've enjoyed planning what I want to make once my size levels out. I'm hoping that will be soon, but I have certain goals I want to hit before I stop and who knows what size I will be by then.

My advice on sewing for a changing body? Avoid designs with side seam pockets. My Melissa Skirt was the greatest example of a perfect design for altering. I just unpicked the top stitching, sewed the side seams in as far as I needed, serged off the excess, then redid the top stitching. I haven't done this to anything with side seam pockets simply because it's so much more of a hassle. Also I'm still pretty surprised at how forgiving elastic waists can be, even when going smaller. Almost all of my elastic waist skirts still fit me reasonably well. Also t-shirts are a very simple alteration as long as the shoulder width hasn't changed much. You can just start at the hem and sew all the way up the side including the sleeve. Very easy. 

Anyone else out there having any big physical changes? How has it effected your sewing? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Mending: Shoe Repair!

As a person who 1) can sew, and 2) is cheap, I have developed quite the personal pride in being able to fix my belongings that I use regularly if something goes awry. Usually this means I patch holes in clothings and whatnot, but I'm also no stranger to fixing my shoes. In previous years, that has always meant various types of glue - e6000 and ShoeGoo are favorites - but this time, it required a bit more sewing prowess to make some of my favorite shoes wearable again.

Back in March of April, I noticed the little elastic pieces holding the buckles on my beloved SoftSpots Huaraches had stretched out and lost its elastic. This didn't prevent the shoes from fastening, but it made the buckling process a major headache and made the shoes loose enough on my narrow feet to be annoying and I stopped wearing them. While I was at home during quarantine in about May, I decided to finally buckle down and fix my comfy shoes that went with everything. Luckily, I had already purchased the 1/4" wide elastic from Hobby Lobby before the elastic raze happened, so I had everything on hand to get this done.
I started with the broken right shoe of my black pair. I used my seam ripper to carefully unpick the top stitching beneath the elastic - I then had to use the seam ripper to separate the outer leather from the inner layer as it was glued together. I used the old elastic piece to cut a new one, put the buckle on, shoved the excess elastic into the shoe, and then worked on top stitching the new piece in place. I was careful to stitch through the same holes that were already in the leather to keep it clean looking. 
I repeated the same process for the white pair - I had to fix both shoes here. Sadly, I only had the off white colored heavy duty button thread and didn't realize this pair used all white, so once I got it stitched back in place I was slightly bummed, until I buckled it up like it would be worn:
And as you can see - the color of the top stitching thread is a complete non-issue once the shoes are put on and buckled :) 
So I was able to salvage 2 pairs of my regularly worn shoes all by myself with just a little sewing knowledge and some elastic and thread :) I was pretty pleased with myself. I've worn these shoes at least once a week since fixing them and the repair has held up great, even without redoing the glue between the layers. This is why I love leather shoes - it's a material that will last and therefor it is worth the effort to fix them when they break. This little fix saved me a couple hundred bucks, honestly. How can you argue with that?

So I hope this helps inspire others to try their own shoe repairs in the future. If it's not something you want to tackle, why not go to a shoe repair shop? The repairs are usually very affordable and then you keep using good shoes instead of them ending up pin a landfill somewhere.