Knitting the Time Away

I have been sewing...really...trust me....I just haven't been finishing much. 😬

If you pop over to the Threads Magazine site you will find some of the things that I have been working on over the last few weeks.  I usually have several projects going so I can post some with Threads and some here and have plenty to go around.  But I have been a bit stuck lately.  It happens from time to time and I always seem to get back into my sewing room.  I guess it surprises me this time because I thought having lots of 'isolation' time and lots of stashed fabric would be the proverbial dream come true, but the days seem to fill up with yard work and figuring out what to cook (I don't think I have ever cooked so many days in a row...ever!!!!  Take out pizza, please!) and knowing that I will be needing a different kind of wardrobe going forward have all made for a sewing slow down.  As the ozone days happen and the bug count goes up I might find my way into the sewing room pretty soon.  I know I can't force the issue, just go with the sewing, or no sewing flow.

One project I did finish this past week was a knitting project.  I have been having some kind of knitting going during this time since TV evenings have been much more frequent.  As with a lot of my knitting, this one was a lot of trial and error (frogging) and experimenting to get to the final garment.  But I am pretty pleased with it and glad that it is off the needles.  By the time I finished it it felt like I had knitted at least two sweaters!

The yarn is a very loosely twisted, almost no twist, 6 strands of exceptionally soft cotton.  I kept sticking my needle between the strands...annoying!  My idea was to have little to no sewing to do.  I wanted to create the shape by holding and picking up stitches rather than seaming.  The cotton is fairly heavy and I thought seams would get quite bulky.

I cast on at the hem and worked to the armholes and then split the work into fronts and back.

Next I did a 3 needle bind off to create the shoulder seams and picked up around the armholes.  The sleeves were knit in the round with a series of decreases to get to the smaller wrist measurement.

Finally, I picked up stitches along the neckband.

I have no idea if this is the "real" way to knit a sweater, but it kind of worked out.  I learned to make buttonholes.   Don't look too closely, I'm not sure buttholes in seed stitch is the best first project, but there you go.  I also wet blocked the sweater since it was already 3D when I took it off the needles.  It took two days to dry!

All in all I am happy with the outcome.  I have not done much other than square knitting, so shaping and short rows are all experiments for me.   It is a good thing that I had really expert help....


Funny Pants and a Sunny Shirt

All spring I have been thinking about a pair of JJill pants that I saw in their catalog.  I don't know why they have stayed on my mind.  They are nothing like I would usually pick, but something about the print or the colors....I'm not sure...maybe they just have gotten stuck in my head because I want to think about anything other than virus and violence.  Whatever the reason, I just haven't been able to shake 'em.  So the other day when I got an "update" from JJill in my email, they were on sale!  Lucky me!  I figured this was a sign.  I ordered them up. (along with some really darling sandals😉)

When they arrived I was so pleased.  They fit...pretty much....the fabric and print were lovely...they might border on "too cute for their own good" but they make me happy.  I was surprised to find a tank top that I had gotten last summer when I was visiting Portland, OR that was perfect with the pants.  I love it when a plan comes together.  Even when it wasn't a plan.

I did decide to nip in the waist of the pants just a smidge.  It was really easy to do since the back of the waist is elastic.  I opened the casing and took a tuck in the elastic and stitched it back in place.  A 5 minute fix.

While I was awaiting the arrival of my spiffy (that's a word my Grandma used for just such occasions) new pants...which took forever to get here!  I kept myself busy with another thing that has been on my mind forever.  A new sun shirt!

I have been wearing this shirt that I got on sale at Banana Republic eons ago as a cover up at the beach.  It is a very lightweight cotton voile/gauze with a bit of a crinkle in it.  The weight is perfect for hot sunny days when I need to keep the sun off my shoulders.  I have tried other solutions, even made a couple of failed options, but keep dragging this shirt along.  It's getting to the point that it shouldn't be allowed out of the house, but I can't give it up.  I found a gorgeous gauzy linen while I was rearranging in my stash that was the weight I was looking for.  New sun shirt here we go!

Now I say the old sun shirt was perfect, but that's not quite true.  The neckline is a bit low and doesn't keep the sun off my chest, and it could be a titch longer if I am being super critical.  With those changes in mind I forged ahead...

My plan was to use the Tabula Rasa pattern from Fit for Art.  I love this pattern for lots of reasons, but in this case it is the way the sleeves and shoulders are designed that I wanted.  They are roomy without being 'baggy.'  Since I knew I was going to wear this shirt over other clothes, I wanted to make sure it would have the room I needed and also be easy to put on and take off.
You can see the Tabula Rasa and all the other great patterns from Fit for Art here.

I started by making the pleats.  The very tiny 1/8 inch pintucky pleats.  My fabric was perfect for the cover up but not ideal for making pleats.  After taking out several tries I decided I would pull a thread the length of the pleat to mark the fold.  I could keep the folds straight and when the pleats are sewn in the pulled threads don't show at all.  My edge stitch foot was also a lifesaver.


Because the fabric was soooooo loosely woven I wanted to avoid too many seams.  I decided to use the selvedges as the front button placket.  I measured the pleat placement in from the selvedge on each side of my fabric and made the pleats intending to cut the pattern out once they were in place.  I made another set of pleats in the center of the fabric to give myself the maximum space to cut the back of the shirt.  

When I folded the pleated fabric and placed my pattern pieces....BINGO!!!  They fit exactly.  I must have re-done the layout 7 times...yep...it was a perfect fit!  No side seams needed!  I only had to cut out the armholes.  The way the pattern is put together WITH a side seam makes it really easy to do french seams.  However, with no side seams...well let's just say that I'm glad the seams are in my armpits where nobody will see them.  ( I have edited out the bad words and hand wringing)

I added as much length as I could get out of my fabric and also made the sleeves a bit too long so they will cover the tops of my hands if I want and roll neatly out of the way when I don't need the coverage.  I made a small bias bound edge at the neck, buttons and buttonholes, Bob's your Uncle, I have a new sun shirt!  And doesn't it look great with my new flowery pants?! (also note darling sandals, score!)


After literally years of dreaming about this shirt, here it is!  Yeah!  Let the sun shine in!


Square and Muddy: Lessons from MeMadeMay

Another May is in the books!  Wow, what a May! So much unknown, so much turmoil.  Spring of 2020 is definitely going to be on our minds and in the history books.   I have a teacher friend who says he wants to be around in 15 years to see how this time period is taught in school.  An interesting thing to consider, eh?  I have another friend who says, "Never let a good crisis go to waste!"  Another interesting thought.  My May idea was not so lofty or profound, but I did participate this year in the MeMadeMay Challenge.  (If you are wondering, like I was, about how this became a 'thing,' check out the origin here)
I 'sorta' participated last year (you can read about my May 2019 here), just to see if I could do it, but I didn't have a way to really join in and share my 'makes' as they have come to be known.  This May I actually created an Instagram page/site/thingy? so I could add a picture each day.  I challenged myself to wear at least one handmade item each day, it is quite interesting to see all the photos at a glance.  It really does reveal a lot about what I choose to wear of the things I have made.  Here's what I learned from my 2020 MeMadeMay Challenge....

The first thing I realized was that just getting into "real" clothes during lockdown was a challenge.  The urge to just put on the same sweatpants everyday had a huge amount of inertia behind it.  I was very glad for the challenge as a way to get me dressed everyday.  I noticed that being in something that I had picked intentionally helped me move into action of some sort, even if it was just getting out for a walk, or calling someone on the phone.  Also, knowing that I was going to take a picture of what I was wearing gave me more incentive to 'look presentable.'  It was subtle, but really did nudge me everyday to make the effort.

Here's a kind of breakdown of what I wore for the month:

Self designed patterns/garments:  19
Hand knit items:  15
Redos/refashions/upcycles: 4
Merchant and Mills: 4
Reversibles: 2 
Square Clothing...31!!!!!
Mud colors....31!!!!

Yep!  I'm definitely square!  And muddy!  If you don't believe me, I have the photographic proof!
(you can see these better on my Instagram thingy...beckysewsalot)

"Square and muddy" might be OK for describing a pig pen, but they are not the most attractive adjectives for a wardrobe.  However, it is not surprising that they are the ones that describe my closet.  I have been loving and choosing fabrics and garments in a very specific and narrow color range for quite a while now.  It has created a selection of clothing that is ultimately mix and matchable, and what might be surprising, is that I don't get tired of it.  I know that the colors suit me and it helps me feel confident in my choices.  What might be somewhat surprising is that I find restricting my color palette pushes me to be creative in other ways, such as distinctive details, or design lines.  

Another realization that has happened over the past two years is that May is cold!  Growing up in Michigan you would think that I would have known that.  But as I looked over both last year and this year's clothing choices, I was looking at wool and sweaters and long pants and alpaca and turtle necks...occasionally by day 29 or 30 a short sleeve might show up, but on the whole, May is cold.  I think we here in Michigan trick ourselves into thinking that May is spring just because we are so dang tired of winter! 

So those are a couple of aha's from the challenge, but here is the kick in the head to all of this....going forward, I will be living for a big chunk of each year in a very warm and very colorful place!  Seeing these pictures and imagining them in Key West made me realize that I am going to have to break myself free from the mud and the alpaca and get into a bit more color and linen if I am going to feel like I belong on the island!  Now that feels like a challenge!


They Just Keep Coming

I may be sounding like a broken record, but I have another Merchant and Mills creation to share. 

Usually when I get home from a workshop I unpack and put everything away and promise to get back to it soon.  Of course, life happens and some time in the distant future I come across the samples or the half finished project and maybe I pick it up again.  It wasn't planned, duh, but as soon as I returned from my week in Rye we were asked to hunker down.  So, there I was with a pile of new patterns, a box full of luscious fabrics and all the time in world!  Shall we call it a bit of a silver lining?

It has been very nice to have the time to explore the Merchant and Mills portfolio.  I have been loving their design aesthetic and their silhouettes for awhile now and over the past several months I have tried several of the patterns.  Some I had already been working with and others were all new.  There was one jacket pattern that I wanted to give a try and decided to make it in something bright and springy. 

You may remember from the last post that I have been supporting our online fabric retailers...when I ordered the happy tropical print from Marcy Tilton's site, I just couldn't resist a piece of teal colored linen as well as a floral print rayon.  I wasn't sure from the website if they would actually go together, but when they arrived they were perfect.

Merchant and Mills Haremere Jacket here we go!

The pattern for the jacket I wanted to try is included in the "Workbook."  

There are a whole group of patterns that are part of the "All Season Wardrobe."  The pattern pieces are included along with wonderfully detailed instructions.  The Haremere is a jacket that gets its inspiration from menswear, but has some nicely done details that give it a softer, more feminine shape.  I was a bit nervous about the dropped shoulder since my shoulders are broad and I have learned that most patterns do not accommodate my generous shoulder proportions.  I did have to adjust the pattern, but ever so slightly, to get it to fit gracefully over my shoulders.  I was on a roll while I was working on it and completely forgot to take any in progress photos, so let's just say everything went swimmingly and here are some finished garment pics!

I had enough of the teal linen to make a pair of Closet Case Pietra Shorts (another pattern I have been wanting to try.)  Again, no progress shots....
And finally, I used a self drafted bias cut tank top for the rayon print.  

I am very pleased with all three pieces.  I may not wear them all together, but I think they will work with several other things I have in my closet.  Always a bonus!

It actually was raining when I took the pictures, the wellies and the umbrella are necessary, not just for the photos!

The inside has a lot of great tailoring details and I used a piece of tie silk for the lining and seam finishes.  The pattern does not call for Hong Kong seam finishing, but hey, when you have pink silk...

The shorts have great front pockets and the instructions for the elastic in the back waist are excellent.

I said I had enough for the shorts...let me correct that to, I had enough for the "outside" of the shorts!  I had to get a bit creative on the inside.

The seam across the bust of the top conceals a bust dart and the bias helps create enough stretch so that it fits close but doesn't need a zipper.  I  have a couple of these tops and love how easy they are to wear.

So far the Merchant and Mills patterns that I have tried have delivered.  It is so great when the idea in my head actually works out on the cutting table!  I still have a few more to try....


The Adventures of an Online Fabric Shopper

The truth of the matter is that I would not actually need to shop for fabric ever again and I would still not be able to use up my stash in my lifetime.  But...hey...has that ever stopped me before?!  I have to admit that the virus lockdown has put a definite cramp in my usual fabric shopping style, but I have done my part to keep our online fabric establishments going.  The tricky part is not being able to fondle the fabric before plunking down for it.  Example:

I saw these floral print pants in the JJill catalog this spring.  At the time it was miserable and cold outside and they felt sooooo summery.  I thought I should make a pair!  If you have followed my sewing adventures for any amount of time, you probably realize that loud floral prints do not make their way into my stash very often.  (mud colored, monochromatic prints, yes, florals? not so much)  With this picture in mind I went out on the 'interweb' to find the fabric.

Image For Linen-Stretch Button-Hem Ankle Pants from JJill

Since I haven't done a lot of online fabric purchasing, I wasn't quite sure where to start, and once I started, finding places that would be able to send it before next spring was a bit tricky.  I have had some lovely pieces from Marcy Tilton in the past, so that's where I landed.  

I knew the fabric would need a bit of body to handle the style of the pants, but, without being able to touch the material it was really difficult to know.  I opted for a tropical-ish print in linen.  I figured linen might have the hand I was looking for.  The description also told me that this would be a nice fabric for pants...OK...send me 2 yards!

You can probably guess that when it arrived it was absolutely lovely...for palazzo pants, maybe...but definitely NOT for the style I was coveting in JJill.  It is linen, but it must have a touch of rayon as well because it is drapey and swishy and light and airy....nothing like I had in mind.  

I washed it and it got even more swishy!  Hmmmm, I folded it neatly and added it to the stash!

Fast forward a few weeks....

I came across this pattern....

I got it when it was first released ??? years ago.  I have looked at it any number of times but have never gotten around to making it up.  The idea of a 'french house dress' for hanging out at home sounded appropriate...AND, what do you know?  I just happened to have a really swishy linen and rayon print that would be perfect!  Voila!  Ici my french house dress!


At this point I think I will call it a win for the summer wardrobe and go ahead and order up the pants from JJill...if they haven't sold out already!!!😏


Eve of the Unknown

Let's get the elephant in the room out of the way...
Yes, I am weary of living with no knowns.  Yes, I am grateful for the relative ease that my situation has afforded me.  I am safe, fed, sheltered, loved and clothed!  I have been trying not to start sentences or thoughts with "when this is over...." I am starting to say things like, "I'm glad I know how to use Zoom"  or "I never would have thought a virtual birthday party would be such fun!" 
For now, I will do now.

...and yes I am soooo very grateful for my sewing.  It is the one place that feels somewhat the same.  I can still get lost in a project and still obsess over thread color and crotch curves.  I think because it is mostly a solitary thing, it has much the same feel as before solitary was mandatory.

I actually haven't been sewing as much as I thought I would at the onset of the quarantine.  The strange spring weather in Michigan has also been hard to figure out.  My fingers are ready to be deep in linen, but the temperatures still say wool.  When I returned from my workshop at Merchant and Mills I was excited about the pants I had made there.  I tried the Eve pant pattern and ended up really, REALLY liking it!  I made it in a lovely linen at the workshop and then again when I got home in an ivory colored cotton drill.


I love the fit and the relaxed style.  I was thinking that warmer weather was right around the corner and I would be wearing them by now!  Not so much....

I had stacked up a couple of other potential fabrics to make a few more pair when the thought occurred to me, "Do I like wearing them?"  It is one thing to try them on and fuss with the fit, but actually wearing them and going about a normal day in them...hmmmmm?  I decided I should do a test drive and see before stocking up on them.  

The two versions I already had were not going to cut it in 40 degree, rainy weather.  I would have to have my long underwear!  So I found a piece of some kind of suiting blend that I had gotten who knows when for making who knows what...there was enough yardage to make the pants and that was all I needed. The pattern goes together really quickly and in a few hours I had another version of the Eve pants in weather appropriate fabric for my test drive.


Well!  Bingo!  I haven't worn anything else since I finished them.  My instinct told me they were good, but the wear test really confirmed it.  These are officially my favorite pants (right now!)  Even in tacky brown mystery fabric!  I did make one addition to the pattern that I think was absolutely necessary.  The pattern as written does not include front pockets.  I don't know about you, but I want pockets in my pants!  I added slant side pockets and put the opening inside the left side pocket.  It work liked a charm.  Pockets and no zipper in one go!

So, until the weather decides to actually act like summer, I am happily wearing my mystery fabric Eve pants.  I'm pretty sure there are a few more versions in my future.  (one unknown taken care of!)


Stay Put and Putter

Heading into month two of "Stay Put" makes me feel weary.  I have been keeping busy with projects and spring cleaning (like bugs out of the light fixtures cleaning!!!) and have even been enjoying more cooking and baking!  But knowing that so many people are struggling and not knowing when relief might come makes the days long and the nerves a bit raw.

Each day when I head to my sewing room I think I know what I will work on.  I have made any number of 'project piles' anyone of which would be fun to do.  But I never seem to get to the projects, I just keep piling and re-piling and end up making something completely unexpected.  A bit like wandering around in a town that I don't know.  Oh, that shop looks cute!  I wonder if there is a deli somewhere for lunch?  I've heard about this place....Anyway, I could scold myself and make a promise to focus and stick to the plan, but letting the wander happen seems like a kinder gentler way to go.  So here are a few of my random 'wanders' from the past week or so....

Since more TV has been part of our 'now' routine, I have been dragging out half finished knitting projects from who knows when.  A couple were started so long ago I can't remember what they were supposed to be and any pattern that might have existed is long gone, so those have been frogged and put back in the yarn stash for now.  I found a Wingspan scarf that was about 3/4 of the way along.  I just love this pattern and have at least 3 others that I wear often.  I love the way the yarn does all the work to make the design and the finished scarves sit nicely around my shoulders and under the collars of coats.  The yarn for this one came from a really tiny little yarn shop in Portland OR.


Here's another sweater that I started when I was in Key West in January 2019.  I actually got the yarn while I was there and made a good start and then it just got set aside.  It's two shades of white-ish linen.  It was a bit tricky as "TV" work because in the dark I really couldn't tell which color I was working with, and yes, I did have a few rows of un-knitting during the process.  It is my basic 2 squares with sleeves sweater pattern.  I do knit other patterns, but the 2 squares with sleeves are the ones that I actually like to wear.  I think this version is going to be great after a few wearings.  Linen always gets softer with time and wear, and this one is already pretty soft.  I really like it over the printed linen shift I made last summer to wear for my niece's wedding.

One of the things that I wanted to make after seeing it at the Merchant and Mills shop was a Costermonger bag/pack. 
The actual bag was simply an 18" square with straps.  I decided I could handle the size and shape of the bag without the pattern but did pick up a hardware kit that includes really cool leather straps, strap rings and rivets.  I also found a remnant of oiled cotton that would be the right size and brought that home, too.  I didn't want to mess up the oiled cotton so I decided to make a "trial balloon" of the bag.  When I got out the stuff for my "muslin" I figured it would take me a couple of hours tops to put together an 18" square bag.  HA!  I spent the entire day fiddling, cutting the wrong size pieces, sewing the wrong things together, whatever could go haywire did!  Boy did I feel like a newbie!  It finally came together, but I'm not sure it gave me any more confidence in cutting into my oiled cotton!  I may not jump right into that project!

I think what I have been doing in my sewing room would be called "puttering." 

doing a number of small tasks or not concentrating on anything particular.  move or go in a casual, unhurried way.

Yep, that's it!  Puttering seems to be OK for now.