Reflections

Posted on | July 29, 2014 | 1 Comment

 

Fabbrica, Legnano [Factory]Image by Rob., via Flickr

I can’t believe we are almost through with July and more than half way through 2014 already. This also marks a milestone in my big goal, not buying any new clothing for the entire year.

I’ve been reflecting on my goal a lot over the past few weeks: what it means, how it makes me feel, what I’ve sewn for myself, and how much I’ve spent on fabric and a bit of yarn. Let’s just say that making clothing for yourself does not involve saving money!

This article from Bust magazine was circulating around Facebook a week or two ago and it was a great reminder why I am doing this. (It’s also a great read! Go take a look if you have a minute.) As the months go by and I see that this issue is still popping up, it feels good to do my part in my own little way.

I find that I don’t miss shopping at all. Honestly, I’m not really sure I ever enjoyed shopping that much. Being in the fashion industry has taught me a few things throughout the years. Mainly, I know that some price tags don’t match with the quality of the garment. I also know how much things cost on the manufacturers end. The other reason is I’m tired of seeing the same design being copied over and over again by different stores. Boring.

Yes, higher priced clothing is more original, better made, and depending on the designer, is made in acceptable conditions. However, those clothes aren’t exactly within my budget. Maybe when I catch up on clothing making, I can save up for an amazing piece or two.

As I’ve progressed through this project, it’s getting easier and easier to see the holes in my wardrobe. It’s also been fun experimenting with different choices. In the past, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than 4 days a week without wearing jeans. Now I find myself only wearing them 1-2 days a week tops. Working with a limited wardrobe is also less overwhelming when getting dressed in the morning.

In regards to my clothing making, I’ve been more mindful about what I will and will not wear. Since my time is limited and I can’t just pop by the store if I need something, choosing a project that will work with my lifestyle is not negotiable. Fabric choice is a part of that as well. I seem to have a love affair with printed silk chiffon (specifically by Anna Sui), but there are only so many silk chiffon dresses one can own and wear on a daily basis.

So far, I’ve made seven pieces for myself this year. In a way, it doesn’t seem like much, but a project a month isn’t too shabby. For the next half of the year, I have a few things planned already, including a swimsuit for my vacation next month! I also have a sweater or two planned along with some vintage dresses and Liberty print projects.

I’ve already started to think about next year and I’m seriously considering making this goal a permanent part of my lifestyle. My only hang up? I still might eventually need to buy some jeans!

 

 

 

 

Community

Posted on | July 21, 2014 | 12 Comments

CommunityImage by Jeff Kubina, via Flickr 

Ever since I started dabbling with sewing again, I’ve noticed something about the sewing community. They still blog! Not only do they blog, but they have a solid community behind them. They know each other, comment on each other’s new makes, and encourage one other to be better sewers.

I guess I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for the days when knitting blogs used to hold the same place in knitters hearts.

Yes, I know we still have a strong community, but it’s different now. And it’s pretty freakin amazing. We have a place that over 4 million knitters call home and a huge database of such amazing information that we wondered how we ever survived before it’s creation.

So why this post?

Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t been too active in the knitting community lately. Maybe it’s that my book totally drained me. Maybe I’m just feeling overwhelmed by all of the new knitting patterns and designers out there (I can’t be the only one, right?) I haven’t even been to my knitting group in a month, or has it been two?

Maybe it’s that these days, I don’t have as much time to be as social on twitter and Ravelry. I have found a renewed interest for this little blog, but it feels a little lonely sometimes. When browsing the sewing blog community, I can’t help but feel like an outsider looking in remembering when that was the knitting community.

I also wonder if I’m just feeling guilty. It’s so much easier to take a quick spin through my friends on Ravelry, see what they are making and leave a drive by heart. Would it take me that much longer to open up a dialogue and congratulate this person on knitting 60,000 stitches and making something awesome? To me, that’s what makes a community great, forging lasting relationships with someone that shares your passion. Someone who knows what it’s like when you had to rip out that entire sweater. Someone who knows the joy of finishing that project that has languished in your WIP pile for years. Someone to celebrate with when you have made something pretty and would never tell you store bought goods are better.

I guess that is my way of saying that from this day forward, I am going to work harder to try to build back up my community and be a better member. I miss you all!

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Sewaholic Saltspring Maxi Dress

Posted on | July 14, 2014 | 9 Comments

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This dress is the whole reason why I love to sew clothing for myself.

I’m short and store purchased maxi dresses are not my friend. They drag all over the floor and make me look like I’m melting from the feet up. Capris aren’t my friend either, but we’ll save that story for another time.IMG_1527

When I first saw the Saltspring dress by Sewaholic, I immediately knew I had to have it, but honestly I wasn’t even considering the maxi version. The years and years of maxi dress disappointment had taken it’s toll. IMG_1553

I bought a really bright crepe chiffon at Mood to make the knee length version, but wanted to test out the pattern before I cut into the best fabric in the world (it’s Betsey Johnson! Coming soon!) When my friend moved last year, she gifted me with lots of fabric and I found this lovely poly print in the box. It just so happened that I had enough to make the maxi version. I thought, why not? IMG_1557

I cut a straight size 6, which except for the hips, matches up with my measurements perfectly. While I maybe should have shaved a little off in the hip area since Sewaholic caters to pear shaped ladies, I don’t think it affects the look of the garment at all. The only other change I made was taking off about 4″ in the length. I think this is the first pattern ever in the history of my sewing where I have cut my suggested size and it actually fit! It’s the little things sometimes.      IMG_1560

The fabric was a little slippery to cut, but for the most part, it behaved while being sewn up. I probably could have done a little better on my seam finishing to keep it from unraveling, but I had hit the point of “I want to wear it tomorrow” and that was all she wrote. I also tried out this awesome technique for sewing a baby hem. It really worked! The only time I cursed was when the first time around, my bobbin ran out about 1/4 of the way through. Bobbins have a way of doing that at the worst time. Always.

I love the fit, the fabric, and the confidence it gives me when walking down the street. Some clothing just makes you feel so good and it’s nice when those clothes are something you made yourself!

 

Summer of ’69

Posted on | July 7, 2014 | No Comments

 

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After a fairly tolerable June, Summer arrived in grand fashion last week in NYC with temperatures in the 90’s. For such occasions, the most I can imagine wearing is a comfortable dress. It’s easy to throw on and as I wait for the subway in unbearable conditions with sweat rolling down my face, at least I look cute doing it.

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The pattern is Simplicity 1878 – the Lisette Diplomat Dress. I wanted a few shift dresses for the summer that had a nice shape with some interesting details and this one caught my eye. I liked that it had a few more details than a simple 60’s shift, but still had nice clean lines.

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I found this tie-dye cotton poplin at Mood and fell in love. The fabric is perfect for this dress and has just a little bit of stretch. I’ve worn it twice already and it certainly passed the comfort test. It’s first outing was to a concert and Sean Lennon’s band was the opening act. Quite fitting for the debut of my 60’s inspired dress, no?

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The pattern went together pretty easily, but I did need to make a few minor adjustments. According to the pattern envelope, I’m a size 12, but I don’t like how much ease is built into the big 4 patterns so I cut a straight size 10. I’m petite, so my biggest problem was the waistline and bust point didn’t hit anywhere near where they are supposed to. I took about 1/2″ length out of the top yoke section and another inch or so between the waist and yoke seam. I thought there was a problem with the sleeve cap at first, but it turned out to be poor sewing on my part. Sometimes I’m a little too eager sewing the sleeves into my muslin!

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Overall, I love this dress! It’s comfortable, fits well, and works well for warm summer days. Typically, I don’t remake patterns, but I have the feeling this one will make it into a second or even third version. Maybe something in linen or solid black?

 

Knitscene Accessories 2014: Pellissier Cowl

Posted on | June 3, 2014 | 2 Comments

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While I hope you’ve found all of my sewing projects interesting these last few months, I finally have some knitting to share! I’d like to introduce the Pellissier Cowl, which is a double-knit cowl inspired by the Art Deco building where I work.

The first time I stepped into my building a little over two years ago, I fell in love with the Art Deco details in the lobby. The radiator covers especially caught my eye.

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Aren’t they beautiful? I wish we still cared this much about good design everywhere just for the sake of it. Every morning I would stare at them knowing that one day they would become a knitting pattern of some sort. When I saw the mood boards for this issue of Knitscene Accessories, I knew it was finally time to dream up something interesting.

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I chose a cowl for two reasons. It offered just enough space to showcase the pattern and it was a small enough project to learn a new technique – double knitting. Since the pattern has a few stripe sections, a regular stranded knitting technique would not work in this situation.

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As with learning any new technique, I was a bit frustrated at first. As I got the hang of double-knitting, which didn’t take too long, the cowl became a lot more enjoyable to knit. If you have never tried double-knitting for yourself, Amy Palmer wrote up a fantastic companion article to show you the ropes.

The cowl is knit up in Lorna’s Laces Honor, an alpaca/silk blend. It was a pleasure to work with and most importantly has a nice drapey hand. Because of the double-knitting, you are essentially knitting two layers at once. In wool or cotton, your cowl will run the risk of being as straight as a board! The colors dye up nice and rich in this yarn base and the two chosen really show off the design well. It’s also nice that since you are working in double knit, the cowl is reversible and you can show off whichever side you’d like. Silvery and light or dark and mysterious. If substituting colors, I would just suggest going with another solid or semi-solid. A variegated yarn might get a little busy in this instance.

Knitscene Accessories 2014 should be hitting your LYS now, or is available as a hardcopy or digital download from Knitting Daily.

 

 

Reflections on Me Made May 2014

Posted on | June 2, 2014 | No Comments

With my first Me Made May completed, I wanted to write up a little recap of my thoughts for the month and how the challenge worked out for me. Even though I didn’t post too many pictures on my Instagram feed, I can tell you that I faithfully met my proposed challenge of wearing three me made pieces every week. On some weeks, I even surpassed that number. Some days I even wore a completely me made outfit. Since this was my first year, I kept the challenge fairly flexible because the last thing I need is one more stressful thing in my life.

Makes for May

This month I also completed three pieces of clothing. Macaron, a pleated skirt, and my first knit t-shirt made the month of May my most productive sewing month yet! My new skirt saw the most wear, appearing every week since it was completed.

What I Learned

It really is easier than I thought to include garments I have made into my normal rotation if I stop to think about it for a minute. I am a creature of habit and it’s so easy to reach for my favorite pair of jeans, a t-shirt and sweater and be done with it. This month took me a little outside my comfort zone and forced me to be a little more creative with my choices. Since I pledged not to purchase any new clothes this year, this month has taught me that even though I don’t have many pieces that I have sewn, I managed to come up with a good selection of outfits. Just goes to show how you can do a lot with just a little.

What About The Knits?

My sweaters actually formed a core part of my outfits for the month. While my sewn selection is fairly small, my collection of sweaters is not. It was nice that the weather cooperated for the most part permitting me to enjoy the cooler weather and allow me to layer my knitwear. I also wore many of my book projects for the first time, which was quite exciting. The two sweaters that got the most love were my Magnolia Cafe Cardigan from Metropolitan Knits and the Solstice Cardigan by Cecily Glowik MacDonald (unblogged). One cardigan is oatmeal and the other is grey which made it very easy to pair them with everything!

What to Focus on Going Forward

Participating in this project did help me to realize where there are gaps in my handmade wardrobe or what I should definitely make more of. Dresses are a given because they are so easy to wear, but I was surprised how skirts are starting to replace my jeans on a daily basis. I would also like to knit a few more neutral colored cardigans. While I love to mix up my color palette when knitting, what it really comes down to is how often I’m able to wear my knits with other things. I’ve always been obsessed with heather grey, so now is my chance to knit all the grey I could possibly ever want without feeling guilty or boring. Finally, I could also use some more knit shirts and a nice spring coat.

If you participated in Me Made May, I’d love to hear how it went for you. If not, do you think you might entertain the idea of participating next year? I’d love to see more knitwear in my Instagram feed!

Weekend Reading

Posted on | May 30, 2014 | No Comments

Here we are again at another installment of weekend reading. I hope you are finding some of the articles and links I’ve posted over the last few weeks interesting or generally amusing. While I skipped last Friday due to the holiday, I’d like to keep up on this and make it a weekly thing. With that said, if you see anything interesting that you think others might like as well, especially knitting news, always feel free to send it my way: melissaATneoknitsDOTcom. Have a good weekend!

 

Book Review: Green Gables Knits – Patterns for Kindred Spirits

Posted on | May 29, 2014 | No Comments

Screen shot 2014-05-25 at 8.44.20 PMI have to admit, I never read the Anne of Green Gables series as a child. The only exposure I had to these books was a movie version that my classmates and I would watch in parts during the winter in 6th grade when we couldn’t go outside for recess. I liked the movie, so why I never picked up the books, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the Nancy Drew kick I was on at the time.

When I heard Joanna Johnson was publishing a new knitting book inspired by Anne of Green Gables, I was curious what it was all about. I have enjoyed all of her illustrated children’s books complete with knitting and sewing patterns and was interested to see her take on a different subject matter.

My first impression was I was thoroughly impressed by the photography. The old school house setting was perfect, the models reflect the characters from the book, the styling is spot on, and the photos are gorgeous. You could see Joanna’s passion for literature and her love for these books come alive by her attention to detail, research, and careful design choices. The layout of the pattern book is also simple, clean and well thought out.

However, this is a knitting book after all. What about the projects?

The book includes eight projects inspired by the characters in the Anne of Green Gables series. My favorite is Anne’s sweater, a seamless open front cardigan with pockets. A very practical garment indeed. There are also patterns for a few accessories and a mans vest, all well designed and suited to the character it was inspired by.

Finally, as a history buff, I was impressed by the inclusion of several photographs from the L. M. Montgomery Collection at the University of Guelph Library, including a portrait of the author at the age of 14. A photograph and quote accompanies each pattern and shows the writers inspiration behind a few places in the series.

Whether you are a fan of Anne or not, this collection of patterns certainly deserves so much more than a mere passing glance. The book is available in both paperback and as a PDF. The paperback (signed!) can be found here. To purchase the PDF, head over to its Ravelry page here.

Full disclosure: A PDF review copy of Green Gables Knits was provided, however all opinions are my own.

Summer Concert Tee

Posted on | May 27, 2014 | 1 Comment

This past weekend officially kicked off the beginning of summer and how fitting that I managed to sew up my first summer tee!

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The pattern is the Summer Concert Tee by Dixie DIY, which I picked up in the Perfect Pattern Parcel #1 (perfect pattern parcels are only available for a limited time, but #3 will be out this week!). The tie dye cotton knit jersey is from Mood Fabrics and was very easy to work with. It’s also extremely soft and drapey, a perfect tee shirt fabric for sure.

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I sewed this top completely on my regular old sewing machine, no serger required. I have to say, other than sewing in my neck trim a little uneven, the machine worked pretty well. The collar probably would have gone a little better if I had waited till the morning to sew it in. I was getting a little tired and patience was starting to wane. I was at that point in the project where I just wanted it done. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about!

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I used a three step zig-zag stitch for the seams, added a clear elastic tape to the shoulders as a stabilizer, and a twin needle for the hem and top stitching at the neck line. I also added some stitch witchery inside the hem to keep it from stretching out of shape when sewing with the twin needle. I was happy that the stabilizer didn’t affect the drape of the hem too much. It’s definitely a little more crisp after heming, but it’s much better than a wavy hem and it still falls nicely when worn.

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This project came together pretty quickly, I completed it in about 4 hours from start to finish. I cut the smallest size, but added 2″ to the front length. I also raised the neck drop a little bit. To make things easier to cut, I traced the pattern on one layer of fabric with tailors chalk instead of on the fold. Knit fabric can be a little tricky to cut, and cutting on the single layer worked out very well.

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I love my new comfy tee! Now that I know knits aren’t as hard as they seem, I foresee a few more knit projects in my future.

A Tasty Floral Macaron

Posted on | May 20, 2014 | No Comments

I finished my Colette Macron a few weeks ago, but it’s awfully hard to get a picture around here lately. I really need to get myself a tripod!

The process of fitting this dress was a little frustrating at first. When I cut out the pattern, I was in a little bit of a hurry and cut to all one size instead of grading at the waist. I added the missing inches back in, but the bust area fit my body terribly. See the gathering under my bust? That’s the problem.

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A terrible iPhone shot in my smoked mirror

After a small bust adjustment, changing the position of the bust dart, and shortening the back by about 3/4″, things were looking good enough to finalize the pattern and cut my fabric.

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And here she is! Macaron, just in time for Me Made May.

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I choose a fine wale corduroy in a floral print from Paron that is not shy by any means. For the contrast, I ended up with a grey cotton/silk from Mood that I couldn’t get the wrinkles out of once I washed it. The wrinkles aren’t too noticeable after a good press, so I try not to worry about it.

The body is almost fully lined in yellow acetate or poly, I can’t remember what I bought. This was a necessity to keep the hem of the skirt in place while walking, especially if wearing leggings.

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Overall, this dress was a huge success! I’m feeling more comfortable when adjusting fit on my muslins and getting back in the swing of things with my sewing. This marks my 4th finished project for my year of no shopping. Summer is coming though and I have quite a few sundresses, skirts, shorts, and tops on the agenda. I had better get going before my living room turns into a sweltering den of heat so thick that I can’t breathe!

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