Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Knitting Progress Update: So Little Time ...

I feel like I'm always saying this, but I've had the craziest few months ever. This time it really is different and more crazy than the usual crazy, which has left me with almost no time to make much of anything. I've managed to sew a few things that I had deadlines on, but my knitting has almost come to a complete stand still. It's so sad and I really wish I could be knitting more - I miss the relaxation it brings, not to mention the joy of a finished project - but trust me when I say that it's for the best reason. I'm hoping I can talk about that reason soon. For now, I wanted to at least post an update on various projects for my own sanity (to feel like I've not given up my blog!). So here we go.

My biggest project is my Dahlia Cardigan. I started this back at the end of May and made good progress for a while, making it almost halfway before I had to set it aside for regular life. This is seriously the strangest sweater construction I've ever done. The pattern itself is a little older, but it was very popular with 1599 projects up on Ravelry alone. It was published in the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits but you can now buy it as a digital download. I've been really pleased with the drapey front look right now - after making so many sweaters, I like that I can switch it up in this way since I so rarely button my sweaters anyway. I wanted to make something lighter weight and still different, so I'm knitting this up in MillaMia Naturally Soft Cotton in the Flamingo colorway from LoveKnitting.com. This isn't a traditional choice for a cardigan like this, but I get to wear my heavier and wool based sweaters so little that I wanted to try out this tactic. So far it's going well aside from the crazy construction. I honestly feel like Holly Golightly when she says that she doesn't know if she's knitting a sweater or a ranch house. This picture should show you what I mean:
This is how the sweater looks now that I've finished the right side and am into the left side. You start by making the back lace panel (which is the most fun to knit, hands down). Next you put one side on hold and bind off the top and bottom while continuing on the right side. You set the main body aside, knit two separate pieces for the upper back/collar and the lower back, then knit them into the body as you work outward. You add in an afterthought line for the sleeve to be knit later, and make the entire right front drape. Then you unpick the provisional cast on of the upper back and make it the width of the entire back. Since I started this so long ago, I couldn't remember stitch counts, so I just had to try and read my knitting as best as possible to make the two sides of the upper and lower back even. These are the big open slit areas - that is the upper and lower back, not the sleeves. Crazy, right? My husband and I were in a weekly class that just ended last week, but this gave me some knitting time that helped me make a little progress ... until I lost my knitting bag! I was so heartbroken. I checked every place I had gone on the last day I knew I had it with me with no luck only to find out a week later that someone at work had wrapped it up in a sweater and shoved it on a bottom shelf to get it out of their way, I guess :/ I was miffed but that was completely overridden by my elation to have my sweater back. I had mentally tried to make myself ok with it being gone that whole week and it was so hard, guys. It felt silly to be so upset about something like that, but I think you other makers out there can understand - particularly when the bag contained a mostly finished sweater I'd been working on for 5 months. Anyway, it's back and will get worked on whenever I had spare time (who knows when that will be, but oh well, lol).
When my knitting bag disappeared, I still had my weekly class with knitting time that I didn't want to go to waste, so I grabbed my Ducks in a Row. I started this back in January (how sad is that), and I had barely managed to finish the mama duck body before I set it aside for my Recoleta sweater. During just 2 of our classes and one random Sunday with a little knitting time, I was able to give the mama duck her wings AND make 2 complete baby ducks! Now I'm very motivated to finish this project soon. I plan to buy the pieces for the wheels this week, then I can put it all together. I'm not really looking forward to making all the i-cord it will take to connect these, but it will be worth it. I plan to give this to some special little ladies at Christmas and I feel like this is a reasonable goal. It feels so good to make a toy again :)
I also have a pair of Jaywalker socks in the works - I mentioned wanting to make these back in this post about my case of start-itis at the beginning of the year and I started these just 2 days after that post went up in February. I worked on them for a few weeks on and off, but I quickly set them aside to work on my Recoleta. So I have most of a sock now just without the toe area, lol. Who knows when these will be finished. They do look nice, though :) I say that, but just pulling this out to take the photo has me more motivated to work on them since it is closer to finished than I remembered. Always nice. Then we will see if I am struck by Second Sock Syndrome or not.

I also still have my Lady Russel Shawl in the works, but I have made zero progress since my post in February. I also have a partially made blanket I bought at a thrift store years ago that I vowed to finish up when I moved back in July - it is still sitting in the same bag, totally untouched, lol. Also I swatched for 2 other sweaters - Endearment and Rebel Lace Cardigan - but those are still just swatches. Maybe someday I'll have enough knitting time to make a sweater again, lol. Until then I am enjoying the little time I do get and slowly but surely working toward a few finished objects. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

FO: Sorrel Dress

I'm a little late for release day, but yay for the Sorrel Dress! I can finally share this dress that has been a few months in the making :) I was thrilled to be chosen as a tester for the new Sorrel Dress pattern by Jennifer Lauren Handmade. The pattern is a vintage style shirt dress with kimono sleeves, a fold back lapel, release darts at the waist for the bodice and the skirt, and a more straight silhouette. This was a little out of my style comfort zone, to be honest. I'm more of a fit and flare girl by nature, so I was hoping for that shape when I signed on, but the pattern sent only had a straight style skirt. I also have been skeptical of kimono sleeves for years. I'm very picky about sleeve styles as I just feel like some make my arms look bigger - I always thought kimono sleeves would be one of those unfortunate styles because they always seem like cap sleeves in line drawings. This dress has proved my suspicions unfounded!
When it came time to make up my final version, I was a little at a loss as to what fabric to use. This design is very open ended with the suggestions on fabric, and I knew I wanted to stay in my stash. In the end I chose a fabric that I had actually tried to sell a little while ago. I had this up on my Instagram destash, but I went with the inspiration and took it down :) The fabric is a mystery woven I got at a thrift store a while back. The overall fabric is navy blue with a subtle textured stripe in the weave as well as single strands of white thread woven in to create very light flecks in stripes throughout. I did a burn test and I know it's a natural fiber because it ignites and keeps on burning with no beading (just ash), but that's as far as I know. It seems to have some rayon content just judging by how shifty and difficult it was to cut. Whatever it is, I really like it. I'm glad I found a use for it at last.
For my initial muslin, I made it up as drafted except that I added 1.5" to the waist length since that is a standard adjustment for me with Jennifer Lauren patterns. My muslin seemed a bit too long in the waist, so I shortened it by 1/2" for my final version. I also made a 1" forward shoulder adjustment and let out the waist a little by sewing at a 3/8" allowance instead of 5/8". I think the weight of my fabric affected the fit on my final version and now even with shortening a little I think it's still a bit long. The waist does sit at my natural waist, but it just looks a bit too long to my eye - maybe this style would look better on me just above the natural waist. Anyway, I had to do some adjusting to make it look more fitted like it's supposed to. I had to take in my addition to the waist just a bit at each side seam, then I extended my darts on the bodice and the skirt by 1" each to take up some of the excess fabric and smooth things on my stomach. In the end I decided to add a sash at the waist to help snug things up and help the excess fabric blouse up a bit to look more intentional. All these things are based on my own "going rogue" with this pattern - the pattern itself was great! I always love Jen's instructions and drafting, and I have yet to have any type of issue with her designs. (and I'm totally not required to say anything like that, that is just my opinion - her patterns are always a pleasure.)
As with all of Jen's designs, this one includes pockets :) And I always add pockets when possible. This fabric is a bit heavy and drapey for them and they possibly add a bit of girth to my hip area, but I don't care because pockets. Incidentally I think the dress looks very flattering with my hands IN the pockets, lol. My waist tie is just the full width of the fabric and 3 inches wide - I angled the edges down just for a bit of style. It's a little bi short, so I can only tie it once, but I like the effect.
Here you can see the stripes of flecks (flecks of stripes?) in the fabric. I actually accidentally cut the lapel facings upside down, and in my sewing room the back from the front of this fabric was quite obvious, but I did not want to cut new pieces and I figured no one will notice but me. Can you even tell that the strips on the collar are slightly more pronounced than the rest of the dress? I figured not. Keeping with my stash, I used some plain navy buttons that I have a whole bucket of from a Sewing Studio deal. At first I was less than thrilled by them, but now I really like that they blend in so well.
The actual "collar" is non-existent on this dress - it's just a lapel that folds back to give the illusion of a collar. This made the construction so much easier than a true collar would be, but I still get the look of having one - a win win :)
Here's how short my tie turned out, lol. I don't hate the look without the belt, it just doesn't help accentuate my waist, which is my preferred look, so I like to snug things up with the belt. This fabric was quite fray-proned, so I used my serger on all of the seams inside (yay serger, lol).
My fingers are at my natural waist in this picture. The seam sits fine, but not that I've worn it I can tell that I only needed that extra length in the front, not the back, which may be causing my issues. Anyway, these are small things. I've already worn the dress and aside from it being a little too short to sit on the floor for me, it felt great.
Here's a close-up to show the weave in the fabric. Isn't it cool? The fabric is also a little heavier than I typically wear in Florida, but I think it will be a nice "winter" dress (at least as winter as it ever gets here). It's still breathable, so I think it will work well for all seasons.
And here's a direct sunlight photo just because. This one is also without the waist tie. I'm on the fence. Do you think I should wear it with the tie? Should I make a new tie? A belt? Let me know your thoughts!

I'm really glad I had this project to get me sewing a little. It's been hard to carve out time for sewing, but it's so nice to have a finished piece to wear around that I like so much :) Thanks, Jen, for letting me test this pattern, and if you're interested there is a whole Kickstarter campaign going right now to help fund paper patterns from Jennifer Lauren Handmade! Isn't that exciting?! At the moment, you can only get the Sorrel through that campaign, but it will be available next year. The project is more than fully funded now, so she is starting to sell preorders of other patterns in paper as well. So fun. Head over here to see the campaign and grab a pattern for yourself!

Fabric: 2.5 yards of mystery woven fabric - $1.00 (thrifted)
Pattern: Sorrel Dress by Jennifer Lauren Handmade
Notions: 1 yard Pellon SF101 interfacing - $1.00, navy thread - $1.00, 10 plain navy buttons - $ 0.20
Time: 12 hours (with testing and muslin making included)
Total Cost: $ 3.20

* I received this pattern free of charge in exchange for testing it pre-release. All opinions are 100% my own and uninfluenced.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Mending Mending Mending

A few weeks ago, I found myself a wanting to sew but not wanting to get involved in any big projects. I also had a decent mess going in my sewing room that I didn't want to make worse with all the relocating of items that goes into a new project. Oddly enough, I actually decided I was in the mood to do some mending! This is extremely rare, so I decided to go with the flow and see what all I could get fixed up. About 45 minutes later, I had this pile ready to go back into use. Not bad, eh? 
Isn't it funny how most of us don't like mending? I've read several other bloggers say they would rather start an entirely new project than pick apart an old one to mend it. I'm not quite that staunchly against it, in fact I love the personal satisfaction that goes along with saving something and wearing it again - particularly if I went to all the trouble to make it in the first place. I just have to be in the right mood to actually do any mending. My mending basket overflowed before I moved in July, but I just kept adding to it. So what did I pull out of that bin and make wearable?
First up was my Southern Lady Plantain Top that I made back in 2015. This was an unplanned refashion that I just really wanted to make on Labor Day weekend, but the only thread I had that was an appropriate color was heavy duty button thread. In my naïveté, I thought this would be fine. It wasn't. Even in the original post I mentioned how it was scratchy on my arms with that thick thread in the bobbin. This eventually annoyed me so much that I exiled this shirt to the bin even though I love the shirt itself. This time I had olive green thread on hand, so I was able to redo the twin needle hem and put my standard woolly nylon thread in the bobbin. So much more comfortable! Time will tell if this is enough to make the shirt wearable or if I will need to change out the thread in other areas like the neckband. For now, I'm just happy to have this awesome shirt back in rotation - and just in time for the fall colors to look appropriate :)
Since I had the twin needle already set up, my next project was my Deep Teal Boogie Shirt. I have constant issues with hems coming undone. I've even tried tying the bobbin thread together, but it's no use it seems (any tricks out there?). This hem came out a while ago and I had been wearing it anyway, lol. I often tuck this shirt in, so it didn't really bother me. I finally pulled it all out and redid it - here's hoping is stays in better this time!
Next up was my Gertie's Cherries Sorbetto. This top has been in my closet since 2015, yet I have only worn it maybe 3 times since it was too short due to lack of fabric. I just couldn't bare to part with it since I love the fabric. Recently I tried it with my Pippi Pinafore though and it was perfect! The shirt stays tucked in with my pinafore, so there was no worry that it is technically a little too short. I wore it, then decided to wash it and hang it to dry. This would've been fine HAD I ACTUALLY FINISHED THE SEAMS! What the heck? I don't know if I used pinking sheers to no avail or if I just completely forgot to do anything to the seams whatsoever, but when I pulled it out of the wash it was a frayed mess on the insides. Now that I have a serger, I just went down each seam I could get at and serged the seam allowances. The sleeve seams were too small for me to get the serger onto, so I just used fray check there. I'm hoping this isn't too little too late now that I have finally found a way to wear this top. Time will tell!
Since I was on a roll, I finally tackled this store bought eyelet skirt. A few years ago I caught the back on something at work and ripped a big hole through several of the eyelets. I kind of wish I had taken a before photo to show - it was super obvious, plus I didn't want any further ripping or unraveling. I always liked this skirt, so I just chucked it in my mending basket until now. To fix this, I did the same thing I usually do to fix sheets. I used tiny pieces of fusible interfacing on the back to hold the ripped sections together and not be visible through the holes. Next, I dropped the feed dogs on my machine and used my free motion embroidery foot to just go to town over the ripped areas. I like to make sure I go back and forth in one direction first and then go back and forth perpendicular to the first stitches to mimic the weave of the fabric. Since the fabric is white and it's so busy with eyelets, the repair just fades into the rest. I'm really happy with how this turned out and it even survived a trip through the washer and dryer.
The final items were just silly little things. First was sewing a flower thing back on a baby sock (unpictured) - that sock was brand new and it fell off during the first wear! Good thing I can sew - that baby ain't coming off now. Then I pulled out possibly my oldest item for mending - this tie for my husband. I don't remember where we got this, but he always liked it and used to wear it quite often until the back look came unfastened from the tie many years ago. This took seriously less than 2 minutes to sew back down and I even made sure to secure the other side just in case it was close behind. Isn't it ridiculous that it took me so long to fix this? No excuses, man. This was just silly.

So I spend somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes on all these items and that included all the machine changes to accomplish each repair. Now I have 6 items to add back into the family rotation :) Here's hoping it doesn't take me as long to do the rest of the mending in my basket!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Book Reviews: 16 - 20 of 2018

Like many others, I read Flat Broke with Two Goats because it was the Big Read with the public library. I figured why not, so I gave it a whirl. I must add my opinion to the countless others - who the heck chose this book? More than that, who decided it was good to publish? The author is a typical upper middle class wife before the recession who is suddenly finds out that her husband has been hiding the terrible state of their finances for years and is forced into foreclosure and living in a friend's (amazing by anyone else's standards) cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. She has a waterfall in her front yard. She has acres and acres to herself and a 3 story cabin for only $275 a month. Her kids still get to go to private school and college. Yet she still whines and whines about how terrible her life is and how she just can't take it. I kept reading this hoping the author would eventually hit the "ah ha" moment that most people living through adversity have the opportunity to gain, but nope. She spends her time buying goats with money she doesn't have and drinking $15 craft beers with her husband to wind down at night. The idea of this book had great potential ... if only the author had actually learned something from her experience. Instead she just kept living and thinking the same way she had before, complaining about things that most others would have seen as a God-send in her situation. If you want to be aggravated for a period of time, by all means read this book. I guess I just don't enjoy reading a story where someone creates their own problems and never learns anything from them all while complaining about how everyone else in their life put them where they are. I doubt I will ever read anything with the "Big Read" again. I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

Thérèse Racquin tells the story of the book's namesake, an quiet orphaned girl who is taken in by her Aunt and cousin. Her aunt, Madame Raquin, has a small inheritance that she uses to endulge her son, Camille's, every whim. This brings them to Paris where Madame Raquin buys a shop in a dingy arcade to pay their bills. Thérèse just accepts her life as it is, working in the shop while her cousin stays in bed due to illness day after depressing day. Eventually Madame Raquin convinces Thérèse to marry Camille, which she agrees to because she is completely indifferent to life and it will secure her a home and livelihood. Life continues in this way until Camille get a job and brings a friend home for dinner. The friend, Laurent, becomes integrated into the family and before long he and Thérèse become attracted to each other. For the first time, Thèrèse has a zest for something in life and a secret affair begins. The two are happy in the beginning, but like most things in life the thrill wears off soon and the two start entertaining the idea of how great life would be if Camille was not in the picture.

I can see how this cautionary tale was considered too vulgar in the 1860s when it was first released. The tale ends in typical Zola fashion - depressing and twisted. The lovers eventually drive each other crazy and their tortured lives affect those around them. The story is interesting, but reading this further solidified my dislike for Zola's style. Everything is the most seedy and dirty aspect of human life. I'm not naive enough to think this is unrealistic, but it's not something I want to put myself into all the time. That said, this is a quick read, and like I said - it's interesting, but you can pretty much see what coming fairly early in the story. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Heart of Darkness is the dark story of a voyage up the Congo river in the 1890s. Charles Marlow comes from England to the Congo to work for a Belgian trading company, piloting the boats up and down the river. Things start out seeming a little strange with the other men he works with, but one night the boat is attacked in the darkness and his uneasy feelings begin to make more sense. The story is based off the author's own experience in the same position as the narrator. At the time of publishing, this was considered a horror story. I found it to be interesting but a bit fast paced to really be scary. It is certainly neat to hear accounts of Africa during the late 1800s. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Everything I Never Told You follows a family in the 1970s who are faced with the suicide of their teenage daughter. The Lee family - James (dad), Marilyn (mom), Nath (oldest son), Lydia (middle daughter), and Hannah (youngest daughter) are a mixed race Asian family living in a small town in Ohio. The parents put demands on their 2 older children in an effort to make them accomplish the things they dreamed of but could not realize in their own lives. James wants Nath and Lydia to be popular and sporty, but they are both antisocial and Nath is obsessed with space. Marilyn wants Lydia to be a doctor to show that a woman can be more than a mother, and Lydia says yes to everything Marilyn throws at her in an effort to keep her mother happy so she will not leave their family. Hannah is an accidental child who is mostly ignored by her parents. When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, all the family members are forced to come to terms with the unhappy life Lydia lead while they were too focused on themselves to notice. The story was pretty much depressing from beginning to end, exploring the various neuroses of each family member and their history that made them this way. Each person is effected by the parenting they had, which then effects how they parent and keep the harmful cycle going. Some aspects were interesting, but it just never really brought it's head up the entire time, which is a little hard to enjoy. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Circe is a novel account of the witch from The Odyssey, told through her own perspective. As the disappointing daughter of Helius, Circe seems to have no God-like abilities until she unknowingly turns the mortal that she loves into a God and then turns a nymph into a monster. She is banished to a secluded island as punishment, where she spends her days honing her craft of herbs and spells.  Circe is woven into the tales of other Greek myths - Icarus, the Minotaur, and Medea. Various mortals land on her island, mostly sea men who see a lone woman and try to take advantage of the situation only to be turned into pigs and trapped by the witch. When Odysseus lands on her island, his men get much the same treatment until he comes to get his crew back. This leads to an affair between Odysseus and Circe while he and his men live on her island for a time. Eventually Circe must make a choice between living amongst the Gods who never cared for her and the mortals she comes to love.

The book was very well written and entwined all these myth together in a flowing way. I enjoyed reading these stories through a central perspective, and Circe's voice is backed up through her own experiences in the book. I enjoyed this new twist on mythology. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.