Irrational Fear and Crafting

Posted on | July 28, 2015 | 9 Comments

Crafting, whatever your poison, is something that should be fairly carefree (unless we are talking about gauge swatches, they should never be carefree). Creativity and making is what keeps many of us sane.

However, I’ve noticed something over the last few months. When I begin planning a new project I experience fear.

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Maybe fear is too strong of a word, but it’s very much what I feel. For example, I’ve had this Liberty print fabric for over a year (it might even be two) and the perfect pattern picked out for it. But every time I made plans to tackle the project, I stalled. I made a muslin last summer, refit it again last April, made a test garment, wore it a bunch of times and loved it, but I still made excuses when it came to cutting into my pretty Liberty floral.

I’ve noticed this when designing knits as well. I’ll start off strong with numerous sketches, but then it comes to the swatching stage? Nada.

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I used to throw caution to the wind! I was never the kind of crafter that started off with the beginner project. Knitting? Went straight for a sweater. Sewing? Give me a tailored coat any day. And so on. Experimentation was my middle name.

It seems silly, but when I get down to the bottom of it, I think the more I learn about any given craft, the more I fear making mistakes. As I learn the “correct” way of doing things I’m paralyzed by the thought I might press a dart wrong or forget to use the perfect left leaning decrease. Meanwhile, making mistakes is how we learn. Circles, circles!

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The perfectionist, and to a lesser point the time engineer in me, wants everything to be perfect and on schedule. No stopping, no standing. This is not the way the creative process should be!

I’ve thought about various creative exercises to help break me out of this funk, but my brain keeps shouting at me, “no time, just get it done!”

Arrrrrgggggghhhhhh!

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So last weekend, I finally set aside some time for that Liberty dress. As of this moment it’s a collar, placket, and hem away from being wearable. As I cut into the fabric, nothing terrible happened. As I sewed it up, the machine didn’t eat it. As I ironed it, I didn’t burn a hole right through it.

Hopefully this dress will be the break in the dam that I need!

Have you ever experienced this sort of thing? If so, how did you overcome it? I need all the suggestions I can get!

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Truss – Wool People 9

Posted on | July 13, 2015 | No Comments

A few weeks ago, Brooklyn Tweed released it’s latest installment of Wool People, an annual collection that brings together independent knitwear designers from around the world.

Wool People 9 is an amazing mix of beautiful shawls and architecturally inspired sweaters all knit up in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter and Loft. If you have yet to experience this gorgeous yarn, you must seek it out, immediately! I don’t think I’ve ever been in love with a yarn this much since I discovered 100% cashmere.

TrussTruss – photo by Brooklyn Tweed

I was honored once again to be included in the Wool People collection. My contribution is Truss, a simple, slightly boxy drop shoulder cardigan with flattering stitch detailing at each side. The structure of the partial rib pattern allows the fabric to draw in just the slightest bit for a contemporary fit.

Even though it’s been a personal struggle for me to get back to designing the last few years, the mood boards for the Wool People collections have inspired me to dig deep and get back to work. When viewing the final product, I am overwhelmed by the beauty and amount of detail that goes into making everything just so. This makes the collaboration even more special to me.

Thank you to everyone who has left me a kind note about Truss, the response so far has been amazing and inspiring. Your support means more to me than you know.

Truss may be purchased on Ravelry or Brooklyn Tweed. Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn can be found online or at a number of fine yarn stores around the world.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on Me Made May 2015

Posted on | June 2, 2015 | 2 Comments

This year is the second time I’ve participated in Me Made May, a month long celebration of handmade garments. This year, I made my challenge a little more difficult. I pledged to wear at least three complete me made outfits each week. I’ve included a just a handful of the photos from the month for this post. The rest can be found on Instagram.

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What I Learned

1) I’ve come really far since last year! This time last year, I was just starting to get my me made wardrobe together. I made it through the month comfortably with the garments I made throughout the last year.

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Diplomat Dress

2) The weather was very good to me in regards to getting some sweaters into the mix as well. I have a pretty extensive hand knit sweater collection and this challenge was a great way to force me to think about getting more of them into the regular rotation.

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Paulina + Cynthia Rowley Simplicity 2215 skirt

3) I really need to make a few more pairs of jeans! My Ginger Jeans saw a lot of action this month. Having a pair of me made jeans to throw in the mix this year was THE BEST!

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Quintet (Spring 11 Twist Collective) + Kristen Kimono Tee + Ginger Jeans

4) I now have a better idea of wardrobe holes that I would like to fill in. Mostly I could use a few more separates so I can stretch what I have already even further.

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Ondawa + Cynthia Rowley 2215 skirt

5) What I don’t want to acknowledge is that some of my handknits don’t work for me anymore. However, I’m not ready to let them go. Why is this so hard?

While I won’t necessarily miss taking photos most mornings before heading out to work, I am already looking forward to next year. Me Made May is a great way for me to mark progress, plan ahead, and enjoy a wardrobe I’ve created slowly with my own two hands.

 

Shibori Dyeing at the Brooklyn Craft Company

Posted on | April 15, 2015 | 1 Comment

A few weekends back, I took a really fun Shibori dyeing class at the Brooklyn Craft Company in Greenpoint. Shibori is a Japanese resist dyeing technique traditionally done with indigo dye. I’ve wanted to try Shibori dyeing for awhile, but living in a small apartment isn’t really the best place to experiment!

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This particular class was an introduction to the technique. We explored folding the fabric into rectangle and triangle shapes using acrylic blocks as a resist, binding the fabric with rubber bands to make circular patterns, and using a pole to wrap and scrunch the fabric around. For the dye, we used a crystalized indigo dye that is a little (a lot) easier to prepare than a traditional dye bath. It’s so much fun dyeing with indigo. When you take the piece out of the dye bath, it’s actually green. As the dye is exposed to the air, it’s begins to turn to a deep blue right before your eyes!

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I was surprised by how well the resist blocks kept the dye out. At first, I was a little disappointed that the fabric didn’t take up more color, but the results grew on me. The beauty of Shibori dyeing is the unexpected results. For my next few pieces, I experimented with leaving more fabric exposed and wrapping the rubber bands a little looser. The results all varied, but being able to freely experiment without fear of messing up was freeing.

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My favorite piece from the day was created by simply wrapping rubber bands around sections of the fabric. I have to say though, taking all of the rubber bands out gave me quite a workout!

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I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of this beautiful cloth I dyed. It’s too pretty to just let it hide in a closet! The pieces are only large enough for something smaller, maybe a pillow or a bento bag for my knitting projects? Any ideas?

If you’re interested in taking the Shibori class, I believe the Brooklyn Craft Company will be offering it again on May 2nd. It’s a fun way to spend a day getting your hands dirty!

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Knitting in Progress, the Great Gauge Debacle 2015

Posted on | April 9, 2015 | 5 Comments

The temperature is slowly starting to rise in NYC signaling that maybe this long, long, long terrible winter is finally at its end. The greatest thing about Spring weather in the city is I can still wear a sweater as a layering piece. It’s still a little chilly in the morning and most of the time, I’ll forgo a jacket for some toasty wool instead.

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About a month ago, I started on a lighter weight sweater from Wool People 8, Flight by Sarah Pope. I got a chance to try on the sample last October at Gauge + Tension and fell in love. It’s an easy style with cute details: a pop of color on the inside hem and cuffs, a Bauhaus inspired yoke, and princess line shaping. It’s also knit up in Loft, the fingering weight offering from Brooklyn Tweed, making it a perfect Spring layering sweater.

I cast-on without ceremony and knit away until I was up to the armholes. That’s when things got dicey. My gauge was off. Terribly off. My sweater was huge.

And here’s where I confess that I, the queen of gauge swatches, did not swatch. It’s kind of funny actually. Me of all knitters. Just goes to show you that even experienced knitters who know better make mistakes.

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The sweater is knit on size 4s, I went down to a size 3 for the first try, and went down to a size 2 after swatching properly. I’m up to the underarm once more, but now I’m afraid that my gauge is too tight. However, I do know that Loft relaxes quite a bit after a good blocking, so I’m not too worried yet.

Why did my gauge change so much between a size 2 and 3? Well, I not only changed needles sizes, but I changed needle materials as well. I went from bamboo to metal.

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This info graphic from Alexis Winslow sums everything up more perfectly than I ever could with words. While you should always do your own test to see how your gauge will react with each needle material, the info graphic is a great place to start. The next time you have trouble getting gauge, maybe instead of changing your needle size, try your needle material instead. Very helpful information, no?

So do tell, what is your worst gauge debacle?

Jeans! I made Jeans!

Posted on | April 6, 2015 | No Comments

This post has actually been a long time coming (really long, this draft was started on January 3rd). I worked on perfecting the fit on these things, specifically the crotch curve, for about two months. Not a straight two months, mind you. However, if you ask my husband, I stared at my crotch in the mirror for 99 1/2 days. He’s very specific.

But anyway, jeans! These aren’t the best photographs around, but if I delayed any longer on the account of good photos, I might never post about them! Also ignore all of the wrinkles, those are from sitting on the subway.

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I was lucky enough to snag a denim kit from Closet Case Files, which came with the lovely Ginger Jeans pattern, back in October. The denim included in the kit is some super high quality yardage that isn’t typically found in fabric stores. This denim, however, isn’t from the kit. This denim is some 3% Lycra stuff I picked up from Paron when Heather happened to be in town and helped a bunch of us select. She kept a good secret though, I had no idea her next pattern would be jeans.

This is actually my second pair of test jeans. The first was mutilated too badly to even finish sewing up. Before you start to think there is something wrong with the pattern, let me calm your fears. I’m just a perfectionist who is new to fitting pants and I wanted them to be perfect. Getting the perfect crotch curve was making me crazy. First there was a shelf, then wrinkles, then I added room in the hip to account for what I took out of the curve, then the wrinkles were back. I’d fool myself every time thinking I had figured it out, but then I moved and it was all over. I may have even stared at a few crotches on the subway to see how their jeans fit. I don’t recommend this. Not at all.

There came a point when I just had to let go or I was never going to have a pair of pants. After all the narcissism, I’m pretty happy with the result. I figure, this is still considered a wearable muslin and after wearing them a few times, I can tweek the pattern for next time if anything really bothers me. Of course there will be a next time, I have 5 yards of super special denim sitting here. I just want to make sure I have the fit I want before I take the scissors to it.

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As far as alterations go, here’s what I did for my Gingers (I made view A):

– According to the size chart, I’m an 8 in the waist and a 6 in the hip. Since I was using a 3% stretch denim instead of the suggested 2%, I cut down a size (6 waist/4 hip). In the end, I cut down to a size 4 in the waist as well. I felt it held the high waist up better with less wrinkles in the crotch.

– I raised the front crotch 1/4″ but I’m not sure if that was correct or not. I may go back for the next round.

– I dropped the back 1/2″ with the corresponding 1/2″ drop to the back crotch. This helped with some of the gathers under my butt. I also scooped out the back a little at the bottom.

– I took the front thigh in 1/8″ and the back in 1″.

– I took out 5″ of the length.

Final thoughts? I’m just so darn excited that I made myself a pair of jeans. While I’m no longer holding myself to a strict “no buying clothes” rule this year, it certainly just got easier if I don’t have to purchase jeans anymore. I’ve worn this pair at least 2-3 times a week and my co-workers can’t believe that I made them. Considering I work in fashion, I take this as a major compliment.

First Sweater of 2015 and I Love It!

Posted on | March 1, 2015 | 5 Comments

Hello, my lovelies! If you’re in the Northeast, I hope you’re surviving the frigid weather we’re having by knitting tons of warm woolens. I have to say, there is nothing like bitter cold to charge up the knitting mojo. I’ve been on a bit of a roll since January and between trying to knit like the wind and participating in the Year of Making, I haven’t been very good keeping up with writing about everything. Instagram is just too darn easy and I’ve been lazy.

Without further ado, I present my first finished sweater of 2015 (well, the first that I can show you anyway)!

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Details:

Ondawa by Michele Wang

Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in Fossil

Needles: US size 8 & 7 (I used the 7’s to knit two rows at the start of the rib. I felt it would help keep the edge neat and tidy)

I actually started this sweater back in November, thinking that I could complete it for National Knit a Sweater Month. Well, I guess it wasn’t cold enough back then to motivate myself to knit faster. Once I picked it back up at the end of January, I pretty much flew through the rest of the knitting. The back had been completed previously. The front was knit in about a week and the sleeves over 2 days.

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I decided to make the sweater about 1 1/2″ longer than what the pattern called for. It’s still on the shorter side, measuring 19″ long, but when you have a boxier body like this, personally I think making it too long makes it look frumpy. Also, when the neck is wider, the body can be a little shorter without looking too short. That’s a tough one to explain, you’ll just have to trust me on that one!

The body and sleeve are knit in the smallest size. What’s great about this pattern though, is that it’s a big box that the sleeves are inserted to. If your muscle is a little larger or smaller than your bust size, not a problem, just choose whichever size works for you. I was a little worried that the smallest sleeves would be too small. They were SO TINY before blocking! But in my experience with Shelter, the piece will grow and bloom once washed and blocked. Also, the twisted rib and cables will relax making the fabric a little wider.

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Ondawa was really fun to knit, the cable patterns weren’t that complicated, and I was able to memorize them after the first repeat or two. It’s rated a 4 out of 5, but I think if you are an adventurous knitter who has done a little cabling along the way, it shouldn’t be too hard for you. Plus, the front and back panels are straight. No worrying about shaping in pattern. The sleeves are shaped, but the twisted rib is worked up both sides. It’s not to hard to keep in pattern when it’s essentially 1×1 rib.

Final verdict? I love, love, love this sweater. It’s really comfortable to wear and it goes great with my high waisted Ginger Jeans (which I’m wearing in these photos). I probably should have gotten some better photos of the jeans while I had the hubby around, but I was in a bit of a rush. I promise one of these days I’ll show them off better in all their jeany glory. Maybe when we finally get some warmer weather.

What have you been knitting for yourself (or loved ones) to keep warm for the winter? Did the weather bring your knitting mojo back as well?

 

Snow Day!

Posted on | January 27, 2015 | No Comments

New York City doesn’t slow down very often, or for that matter, come to a complete standstill. A travel ban has been imposed and subway service has been suspended due to winter storm Juno, although as I write, things are slowly coming back to a slow trickle.

As a crafter, I’ll take it! Being stuck in my apartment for a day or two fills me with excitement. There is so much I want to work on and the biggest issue is always what to work on first. Having a unexpected day off from work must be used to its full potential. You won’t find any Netflix marathons going on here.

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The office closed early yesterday and I used the extra time to start on my Watson bra. I managed to get most of it constructed in only a few hours, it went together pretty smoothly. Sadly, I won’t be able to finish it today since I wasn’t able to purchase a back hook closure last Friday. The only thing I was able to find in the garment center was a hook tape that I could cut to size. It just seemed unprofessional to me, so I passed. After doing some searching, it looks like that might be my only choice. How can that be garment center? I am disappointed in you!

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Besides bra making, there has been a bunch of other stuff going on this month. I decided to participate in the year of making and have been documenting it with a photo a day on Instagram. I also finished my Ginger Jeans. I’ve had the post written up for a few weeks, but it’s been so cold, it’s hard getting motivated to take photos. I will show them off here as soon as I get some photos, promise.

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And then there was Vogue Knitting Live, which I missed most of. I collapsed in a feverish stupor on Saturday and didn’t make it outside again until the following Tuesday. I did managed to make my class on Friday morning and make it to the marketplace that night to buy vintage buttons. I took a darning class with John Brinegar so I could finally learn how to repair my knits. One day, I would love to take a class with Tom of Holland, the king of visible mending. Man, that would be awesome.

So what are you doing on your snow day, if you were lucky enough to have one?

 

 

 

 

 

Year End Wrap Up

Posted on | December 22, 2014 | 1 Comment

I did it! I’m down to the last few days of 2014 and I have not purchased one new piece of clothing this year. To be fair, I’m not much of a clotheshorse, even though I work in fashion. Shopping doesn’t really excite me, so this project was a bit easier for me.

Stasis Pullover

Stasis Pullover – Completed Feb ’14

 

Even though it wasn’t much of a challenge to keep out of the stores, that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything from my journey. I learned that I can make due with much less than I thought. Not once did I mutter the words, “I have nothing to wear.” This project also taught me that I can’t replace fast fashion with fast sewing/knitting. I had so many plans! I was going to make a ton of new things for myself!

Albion Coat - completed Mar '14

Albion Coat – completed Mar ’14

Well, that didn’t happen. The reason why it didn’t happen had to do with more than just running out of time. With each make, I found myself taking the time to really analyze my fabric choice and fit. Knitting took a bit of a back seat in the whole process. One reason was I had a fairly large selection to pull from already. The second was I was still on a bit of a knitting hiatus.

Diplomat Dress

Diplomat Dress – completed Jun ’14

Fit is a big one for me. I think the number one reason I can’t bring myself to shop in stores is because I am VERY critical when it comes to fit. I have a petite build and clothes don’t always fit me properly. I don’t care how amazing the garment looks on the hanger, if there is strange pulling or wrinkles happening, it’s not coming home with me. One of my biggest goals this year was to finally learn how to fit garments properly. Funny enough, this wasn’t really something that was taught in fashion school.

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Saltspring – completed Jul ’14

 

I spent my year pouring over Craftsy classes and books, making personal slopers, and starting at myself for 8,956 hours in the mirror. I’m finally starting to learn what all of the pulls, wrinkles, and gathers mean and how to fit them. It’s a process and I hope to build on my fit education in the coming year (woohoo! bras!)

Bombshell swimsuit

Bombshell swimsuit – completed Aug ’14

As of right now, I don’t have any expectations, restrictions or goals for 2015. I might relax my shopping ban just in case I see a quality piece I really, really love. From here on out, it’s about quality, not quantity. For the moment, I’m just enjoying building a wardrobe that is unique to me all while enjoying the process. Isn’t that what’s important in the end?

Bedford - completed Oct '14

Bedford – completed Oct ’14

Thank you so much for following along with me this year! I especially thank everyone who comes to my corner of the world looking for knitting progress and stuck with me throughout the sewing process! Thank you for all for each and every one of your comments and lovely notes throughout the year, they really mean a lot to me!

I wish all of you happy holiday and a prosperous New Year! See you in 2015!

 

 

Wool People 8: Eaves

Posted on | November 18, 2014 | 6 Comments

Wool people is a semi-annual collection of knitwear designs by guest designers curated by Brooklyn Tweed. I could probably wax poetic about BT for days, but I’m sure you already understand what I mean. The photographs! The styling! The designs! Not to mention the yarns. Today I write not only to tell you that Wool People 8 is now available, but that I have a design included in the collection. You guys have no idea how hard it’s been to keep this under my hat!

Eaves from Wool People 8

Eaves by Melissa Wehrle

All photos © Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

Eaves may seem like a simple sweater to the casual observer. However, it is composed of some carefully placed details that not only make for a classic, highly wearable sweater, but a interesting knitting experience as well.

One of my favorite things about designing with Brooklyn Tweed yarns is the shared color pallet between Shelter and Loft. It opens up so many design possibilities with regard to mixing gauges. For this design, I kept it simple. I love the way the skinnier Loft looks with the chunkier Shelter ribbed trims.

The slanted stripe detail at the shoulder adds a nice little twist to an otherwise simple pencil stripe. The short rows also simultaneously help shape the armhole curve and shoulder slope. I love a detail that not only looks interesting, but is functional as well.

For more info about Wool People 8 and to see the other designs, make sure you check out the beautifully photographed lookbook. If you would like to knit your very own Eaves, the pattern can be purchased directly from Brooklyn Tweed or on Ravelry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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