The news from my couch

(title h/t to Bishop Allen)

I’m currently recovering from the plague. And by plague I mean a nasty combo of flu, upper respiratory infection and possibly walking pneumonia. I’ve watched a LOT of trashy television. And Sesame Street. (My son got it too, though not as bad.) This is my ninth straight day on the couch. Do not recommend.

I’ve been knitting a lot while I’m sick. I’m working on the Lousia sweater from Cocoknits. It’s all stockinette, so it’s simple, mostly brainless knitting.

I've been sick for a long time. This sweater is progressing impressively considering how much I'm sleeping. Unfortunately I've used more than half of my yarn, so I may have to wait to finish it until I can make it to the yarn store.

This is the sweater as of Monday. I’ve since completed the body up to the armpits and most of one sleeve. Here’s the project on ravelry, if you’re interested.

I spent a lot of time cleaning out and organizing my sewing room. It’s still not fabulous, but I have a much better handle on what’s actually in there.
My sewing room.

I’ve completed some other things over the past few months, although photography’s been spotty. I made a bunch of little-kid t-shirts:

I haven’t gotten around to photographing the others, since they’re pretty consistently on the toddler/covered in jam/in the wash.

I also bought a big piece of pendleton wool and stitched around the edges to make a blanket.
My current while-watching-tv project: sewing a fancy border onto this giant piece of wool so I can call it a blanket. Bonus: I get to snuggle underneath while working on it.
It is the coziest.

I finished off these hand warmers that I started at least five years ago:
Finally finished these arm warmers that I started in 2009. One less unfinished project! (Yarn and pattern are both from @shibuiknits, but at this point I don't remember the names. )

I also finished off a couple of more major sewing projects that warrant real photographic treatment: jeans for tom, and a dress for me. I’ll post those…someday.

What’s new with you?

Wardrobe Minimalism

I recently stumbled across the blog Un-Fancy, and from there into the world of minimalist wardrobe blogging. Which is, apparently, very much a thing. I’ve linked to the 333 Project before, but I never really did anything about it.

The basic concept of 333 is that you assemble a capsule wardrobe of thirty-three items, then wear only that for three months. After three months (theoretically this is a season change, but I live in California so it doesn’t really apply..) you make another capsule and then wear that for three months. Etc. The idea is that many items roll over after three months, but some things get rotated in or out.

Anyway. This time, I was due for a closet clean-out. Majorly. I’ve been a lot of different sizes over the past three years (pregnancy, breastfeeding, weight gain) and had to deal with different life circumstances. Stuff piles up.

I made a list of what I thought I needed in a wardrobe (note that this excludes accessories, workout gear, pajamas, underwear, bras, camis and leggings that I wear under things):

My Wardrobe Sprint 2015

(This is an approximation from Polyvore. Actual list below.)

  • 3 black tops
  • 3 colored tops
  • 3 striped tops
  • 3 button downs
  • 3 pullovers
  • 3 cardigans
  • 5 dresses
  • 3 skirts
  • 2 flared jeans
  • 3 skinny jeans
  • 3 jackets
  • 3 boots
  • 1 sandals
  • 3 non-boots
  • 2 fancy shoes

This is actually more than forty things…but whatever. I also realized that my lifestyle right now pretty much requires that most everything I wear be playground compatible. There’s no real distinction between work clothes and kid-chasing clothes.

I sorted through my closet and pulled out everything that didn’t seem to fit into this. Some went to charity, but mostly I just packed things away to consider later. Special occasion clothes and costume stuff got stashed in the closet in our den. I went from running out of space to hang things to having more than half of the closet free.

THIS IS IMMENSELY FREEING, YOU GUYS. Getting dressed is so easy now.

I have learned a few things:

  1. I don’t actually own everything on this list. My “but I have nothing to wear” feelings are kind of vindicated here. And now I know what I need to make or buy.
  2. Some of the things I’m lacking (or where I didn’t like the things I already owned) are because of fit. I have forward shoulders, so woven shirts and dresses always constrain my movement and I don’t own any. Sewing to the rescue!
  3. The representation of me-made clothes is only okay. My briar t-shirt is in there, and my drapey cardigan. And some Alabama Chanin dresses. But not a whole lot else, which I suspect is due to fitting issues.
  4. Three cardigans is not nearly enough cardigans.
  5. I forgot about graphic t-shirts. I LOVE graphic t-shirts.
  6. As a parent of a very messy little kid, I will never be quite as minimalist as some people. My clothes actually get dirty. Frequently.
  7. That said, this is actually a lot of clothing. PLENTY of clothing. I do not need more clothing than this in rotation at once.

I’m planning to wear this for a while (filling in the gaps as I go) and re-evaluate at the end of April.

So that’s my plan. Anyone else tried something like this?

Bits and Pieces

What I’ve been up to lately, in no particular order.

  • I’m part way through sewing up the Nell blouse from A Verb For Keeping warm. The black silk was purchased in Hong Kong on my honeymoon. The kimono scraps were a gift from my mom. I love having special little details like this on a project.

    Using precious little bits of kimono silk to line the yoke of this blouse. #365

  • My stash is kind of a mess. I set up a new sewing area in our basement about four months ago, but never really sorted out the fabric or patterns. I’m doing it now, slowly, and putting pictures of things in Evernote for convenient searching. (Hat tip to Mel, who gave me the idea.)

    Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 9.48.10 PM

  • I made a very successful muslin of the Colette Parfait dress, but then realized that the fabric I had planned didn’t work due to asymmetrical stripes. This led to the purchase of a whole bunch of monochrome dress fabrics, which I’ll hopefully get to soon.

    Monochromatic sewing plans

  • I have been knitting lots. The Georgina sweater is nearly done. I’ve been wearing knit cardigans a lot lately, so more are planned.
  • I bought a giant piece of blanket-weight Pendelton wool to use as a throw blanket. It’s gorgeous and super warm. I’m going to add some edging but otherwise just use it as-is. I was considering one of these blanket stitch variations.

    New blanket #365

  • Taking photos (of myself) for this blog is hard. I made a fairly epic dress for my company holiday party, but had some problems and didn’t finish in time. It’s done now, but I haven’t had time to dress up and take the pictures. Must learn to use the remote and the tripod! Or sign my husband up for photography lessons. Anyone have tips?

Instant Gratification

Sometimes, things are hard. But sometimes they come together really quickly, and oh man is that nice.

This project came about because I signed up for a drawing class, which started tonight. The syllabus instructed us to go buy various pencils and charcoal. Once purchased, it became clear that I would need some way to carry these things. So I went down to the sewing room, and started digging around. This is what I came up with.


The outside is a sashiko kit I did a long time ago. Sashiko is a type of traditional Japanese embroidery or quilting, and the design in this kit is one of a number of traditional patterns. In the US I’ve mostly seen in manifest in craft store kits intended as pillows, but in theory you could put it on almost anything. Sashiko embroidery is sometimes used in boro, which is elaborately patched, layered, indigo-dyed fabric. It’s gorgeous, and probably warrants a whole post by itself. Maybe sometime!


The kit just had you embroider a square, and I was never really sure what to do with it. So it went into the drawer of precious little bits and pieces. And then it sat there for five years until I pulled it out for this.


The inside is just quilting cotton from my stash, and the zipper is a spare jeans zipper I already have (short zipper = nothing falls out during class).


I didn’t use a pattern, just folded two squares in half. I did the sewing-fabric-on-the-end-of-the-zipper thing to get a cleaner finish. There are probably a million tutorials for how to do this online.


Yay for quickie projects!

Hawthorn Dress

Remember my post about muslin hell? I did finally sew up the Hawthorn dress! It was actually done at the beginning of September, except for the hem. But then I had to persuade my husband to mark it, and I hate curved hems, and oh look, it’s January.


So, the dress: It’s pretty. The linen is lovely. I put in a million little buttons and did the invisible hem and bound the waistband and it’s very nice inside.


The hem is a little wonky because I couldn’t be bothered to do a faced hem. But I think it benefits from the extra weight and it’s invisible from the outside, so whatever.


The vibe is a little “40s factory worker”, but I’m into that. But…it doesn’t fit. Like, four extra inches of ease at the bust doesn’t fit. I get that it doesn’t look that bad in the pictures, but there’s a ton of extra room and it doesn’t stay put on my body. The bagginess also makes it next to impossible to wear anything over the dress, which is a problem.


Some of the extra fabric is because I did a pretty serious full bust adjustment (which I did need at the time, and don’t now). The rest is probably the linen’s tendency to grow and stretch. This is probably something I should have anticipated, but really I had no idea it could possibly be this dramatic.


Right now, I double I’ll wear it. After all that fitting…agh. But sort of to be expected. I’ve been going through some medical stuff which means that in the past year I’ve gained (and lost some of, multiple times) 15 lbs, and worn bra sizes from H to DD. All of this has a lot to do with why the dress didn’t get finished for a long time. And while I can take things in to accommodate some weight change, the two extra cup sizes are hard to magic away after the fact.

At this phase of my life (pregnancy, breastfeeding, chasing a small child, maybe having another small child someday) sewing fitted things is a big challenge. My size changes so much that it’s hard to ensure that I’ll actually get to wear anything I make, which is deeply discouraging. I have lots of sewing plans, but who knows if the results will be even remotely worth the time I put in?

All that said, I did learn a lot from this project. Namely:

  • For bodice adjustments, I need a FBA (usually) and a forward shoulder/hunched over computer person adjustment. And often a swayback adjustment as well. This should transfer across patterns.
  • Sleeves are really hard if I want to be able to reach my arms forward and type and stuff. However, since I nearly always wear something over my dresses, I’m probably better off making mostly cap sleeve and sleeveless dresses anyway. This simplifies things dramatically.
  • Linen grows. It’s tricksy for fitted garments.
  • I really, really, ought to add pockets to any future dresses like this.

I had plans to make another version of this dress, but I think I’m shelving them for now. Fortunately I did trace the pattern, so I could start over if I want.

In more promising news, I did make a muslin of a different Colette pattern a couple nights ago and it fit reasonably well without adjustment. I think that my bust size is back to being proportional with their fit model (which I believe is a D cup), instead of way over as it’s been for most of the past couple years. So perhaps I’ll have better luck with that?

End of the year

According to wordpress, I only posted nine times in 2014. Life has been…busy. My job sort of imploded this summer, so from July onwards I was sort of eaten by the combination of job stress, interviewing for new jobs, and starting at my new company. I am much, MUCH happier now. But things were not so great for a while.

We went on a road trip between the two jobs, which was rad.

And I got to visit the LA fabric district.

The house continues to be something of an albatross. I love it, but it requires a TON of work and is far away from many of my friends. We are semi-seriously considering selling it and conceding that we’re just not cut out to be home owners. We’ll see.

We got back from visiting family on the east coast two days ago. Eleven days, three cities. Great, but intense.

The lack of blogging might also be attributed to the fact that my 4.5 year old laptop is slowly but surely biting the dust.

I have been making things. Lots of things. But blogging fell by the wayside. Part of it’s the photography. I tend to feel like it’s not worth posting unless I can take “real” (not iphone) photos, which is hard. Maybe 2015 will be the year where I master the tripod and remote?

Anyway, I’m declaring project backlog bankruptcy. Here’s some (poor quality, iphone) pictures:

I knit most of this cardigan in January 2011, right before I found out I was pregnant. But it didn’t seem worth it to finish something I couldn’t actually wear. So it languished for years until I finally put on button bands this spring.

I made another Alabama Chanin dress from this book. That makes five dresses from this pattern. This one is all hand sewn. Unlike previous versions I made a couple of fitting adjustments and used two layers of jersey. This dress is great.

The best part is this embroidery around the hem (inspired by some photo on pinterest I couldn’t find a credit for).

I made my son a Max (from Where the Wild Things Are) costume for halloween. Although it looks more like one of these lemurs. This one might actually warrant its own post.

The dress I was making muslins for in the last post is mostly done, but not hemmed. Pictures someday.

I won a copy of the Muse Jenna Cardi and made it up in a merino knit.

The pattern is lovely – detailed, nice finishes, cute details. The cropped length is great. But I don’t love this version. The snaps I used are way too heavy, the fabric is too lightweight for the pattern, and that gray isn’t doing me any favors. I’m plotting a redo.

Other things I’ve been working on, but haven’t bothered to photograph: another of these dresses, a Georgina sweater that I belatedly realized is totally ripping off Mikela’s awesome version, various small knitting projects, the rest of the sweater I posted about here, a party dress Cambie, and elaborately embroidered Alabama Chanin skirt that is too big and needs to be reworked (argh) and a baby quilt (which is still secret until I can finish it and hand it over to the proud parents).

Family testing out the new dining room carpet.
Also the house: moving around which room does what, painting lots of things, putting in rugs and lights and other things that make it feel moved in. Someday we might even fix the leaking skylights.

Other things:

I discovered TV Ate My Wardrobe and I’m addicted.

I made a box!
I took a woodworking class this fall. My project (a little box with drawers that hangs on the wall) isn’t done yet, but it’s still pretty cool.

I’ve also been toying around with the idea of making various simple plywood furniture for our house. Seems like a good way to get basics made to my exact specifications, no?

Also considering making Heather’s cutting table. Part of our house rearrangement of earlier in the year meant I moved all the sewing stuff to the basement, where I have more room to spread out.

So that’s me. What have you been up to?

Muslin Hell

At the last meeting of the Seam Allowance group, we all decided that September was going to be Shirtdress September. Meaning that we’re all (okay, the 5 of us that were actually there) going to make a shirt dress before the next meeting on September 14th. This works great for me because I’ve been eyeing the Colette Hawthorn pattern for a while. And I picked up some great fabric at the meetup last month.

So all was going well. And after my last few experiences with woven dresses (see the Darling Ranges dress. Also this and this, both of which have lingering fit issues that mean they haven’t seen the light of day very much.) I decided to muslin the fuck out of this one. I measured my size at a 14, and made a muslin.

Muslin for Colette hawthorn

Clearly I needed a full bust adjustment, so I made another muslin.

Muslin for Colette hawthorn

Better, but there were a TON of problems in back, the darts needed to have some width re-distributed, and the bust point was just too high.. Much pinning and gnashing of teeth later, I had muslin number three. It was looking pretty good up until I tried attaching a sleeve. But it was binding really badly at the front, to the point where I could have never worn the dress at a time when I needed to use a computer.

Muslin for Colette hawthorn

So I messed with the armhole a bunch (adding in back, taking away in front) and moved the shoulder seam forward for version #4. I also did a slight broad shoulder adjustment. And I re-drafted the sleeve cap. At this point I’m sitting on my basement floor surrounded by scraps of muslin and paper, tape, and three or four different books on fitting. At least I’m learning a lot!

Muslin for Colette hawthorn
This is the fourth (and hopefully final!) version. I haven’t pressed it or tried it on yet. It’s not at all shaped like my dress form anymore, which is probably a good sign.

Some reflections:

  • Is this more complicated than it has to be? Probably. If I knew what I was doing, I could do it faster and with fewer versions. But I think I’d still need both a full bust adjustment and a forward shoulder adjustment in any case, so it was never going to be that simple. My body is not one to fit anything out of the envelope.
  • Am I overfitting? Entirely possible, though it’s kind of what I’m going for. We’ll see how it works out.
  • Is this worth it? I hope so. I like shirt dresses a lot, so perhaps if I get the fit dialed in on this one I can make several variations.
  • Is this necessary? I say yes. Looking back, the only woven dresses I’ve made that really fit well were maternity dresses, which were all designed to be quite forgiving in the fit department. Everything else gets pulled out once in a while, but it’s not comfortable. I’m hoping to move past that point!

Next up is trying on the next muslin, and in all likelihood messing with it even more (though really, I hope not…). Then I need to true the pattern (making sure all the darts are the same length on both sides and so on) and trace off a clean copy. Oh, and re-drafting all the facings that no longer make sense because I changed everything else about the pattern. Then cutting and sewing the real thing! Worst case I’ll wind up with a sleeveless dress, which isn’t a terrible fate.

What are your experiences making muslins? Was it ever this involved?