Friday, April 27, 2012


Ack. I just lost an entire blog post because the new Blogger interface doesn't autosave anymore. And to think I called this "challenged" for other reasons.

Unfortunately it's been almost impossible to sew this week. Last week I fared better for the Sewalong because I was technically on vacation, although by vacation I mean going in to work twice and also working from home. For some reason this time of year at my job equals no time and energy for late night stitching for me. (But this sounds an awful lot like the slippery slope towards whining, which I try very hard not to do here. Let's just say it's been a tough week. Or month. Or something.)

At least sewing with knits means I can get something done with limited time. Sadie's cardigan above is based on tutorials like this, but modified for her teeny frame. I left all the edges raw so the cardigan took a whopping 30 minutes to make because the only seams are the arms and armholes. Easy peasy. She quite likes it, especially because it's aqua. But Milo has outgrown the shirt pattern I've been using for a couple of years so I had to spend time making a new one and then figured he could use a long sleeve shirt with long enough sleeves (you know that day when you realize all your kids' sleeves are closer to their elbow than wrist? I finally noticed it was that day.) The "x" is just for fun and similar to something I added to his hoodie a while back. I'm not sure if the shirt is too pajama-like or not, but Milo doesn't seem to care. He took off the shirt he was wearing as soon as I showed this new one to him. Guess that's a positive sign from a two year old. And I had a total epiphany about the bottom hem after reading this KCWC lead up post. I had forgotten all about the decades-old fusible seam tape I had. I mean, I used that stuff on everything!  I used to make Laura Ashley inspired dresses in a single night thanks to that magic glue. So on Milo's shirt the tape provided enough stability to top stitch the hem and make a nice finish without the knit fabric stretching. Amazing. And isn't that what these challenges are all about? We sew, we learn something new, we get inspired. With whatever time we have.

And now I'm off to see what other people have been sewing for their kids. It just might be the best way to kick my whining mood in the arse.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

just in time

This weekend has not been cooperating in terms of sunlight. Finally I managed to find about 15 minutes of light this morning to grab photos of the last two shirts I've made for the Spring Top Sewalong. And before I go on - I have to say, I'm so delighted that my first top was in the Top of the Tops for Week 3, and then yesterday it was announced as a Judges finalist! Truthfully, I squealed at the news - which Jay found out first (super bonus points for a husband who was waiting to see the winners announced, right?) This Sewalong has been inspiring in so many ways - thank you Rae for such a great idea and challenge.

So, on to these two tops. The first is from a Vogue dress pattern I used last summer, but modified to be a shirt. It turns out both times I've used this pattern I've made a mistake - you're not meant to actually sew the pleats, only baste them so they are loose and flowy. I looked at the pattern photo so many times yet couldn't make out what was different (and almost thought I'd had the piece sewed on backwards). Finally after some very careful reading I realized that I missed that one simple word: baste. I then started a third shirt hoping to do it properly, but after basting (or in other words, following the directions ) I had to admit I actually preferred the tightness of the sewn pleats, even if it is a little like secretary wear circa 1971. I also love the cowl neck and the shirt works great with a cardigan. I picked up this gray knit fabric from Designer Fabric Outlet for 5.99/yd which is such a steal - it's stiff and a great colour. It's perfect for this style of shirt.

Next up, a very simple, totally unflattering tank using the nice fabric I got from Etsy. Come to think of it, the bias trim is from Etsy too (from this shop). But a shirt like this is so great in the summer when I have to wear cardigans to the office anyway. This is sort of my own pattern, which started as a commercial maternity pattern that I lost and so then loosely drafted from a finished dress, and I used it last summer to make three tops and two dresses. I wore the tops all season so adding a red option should come in handy.

There are so many great tops to check out, make sure to visit the Sewalong Flickr pool. I've only added about a hundred ideas to my sewing to-do list thanks to that collection!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

itty bitty knitting

Knitting for babies is the best. Who can argue with a quick project that ends with the world's cutest garment? But I have to admit, I took a while deciding what to knit for a soon-to-be-born April baby. I couldn't convince myself to knit a vest (what? have I lost my mind?) - something about the wee babe having to wait at least six months before wearing one was a hurdle for me. So I debated and debated and then finally settled on a short-lived pair of bootees. I mean, even if the baby wears them once it's still fun. And April can be chilly, right?

I used a free pattern called Swimmy's First Booties, which I loved immediately. The simple style means the wool gets to be the star, but it's also so easy to modify. The only mod I made was knitting the cuff longer and putting in two rows of 1x1 ribbing after the first three rows of stockinette to help battle the issue of booties falling off wiggly newborn feet. And although I have much to learn about grafting, the instructions found here at Knitty are quite amazing, and I actually tried garter grafting this time. I can't have a single distraction while doing it, but it's not as scary as it sounds.

On the reading front, I can't believe this is the first time I've read Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's writing.  For one, she's a knitter, and second - she lives in my city! Seriously, it's like I live on Mars sometimes. But I can't say enough about how much I've enjoyed this book. I love that knitters share the same quirks and the same experiences (oh, and I love that she lives in a small Toronto house, so I can also relate to her homefront issues, like where to store yarn when you have no closets). Reading this book has been like having a knitting friend in my house for the past two weeks, and I'll be lonely when it ends. Jay has never really been one to entertain conversations with me about the activity I do EVERY DAY. I guess I'll just have to grab another one of Stephanie's books, or at least start reading her blog.

For a healthy dose of knitting and reading inspiration, visit this week's Yarnalong over at Ginny's.

Monday, April 09, 2012

polka yoke

Even though sewing can be quick, making decisions about what you're sewing often takes forever.

I had a quiet afternoon on Thursday to make a top for the Spring Top Sewalong, but choosing a pattern and fabric ate up way more time than I thought. The sewing part extended well into the weekend and after a rousing debate with myself this morning about adding decorative buttons, I finally finished the top (and it's completely button-free). The one bonus to the lengthy fabric debate is that I managed to work some yellow into my wardrobe. I'm pretty sure that's a first.

The pattern I worked from was Simplicity 3790. It's a pattern for knits, so I modified it quite a bit to use for woven fabric. I went up two sizes but trimmed back the armholes at the front and back while also adding more fabric in the front piece to allow for extra gathering. I pieced the yoke from 3 different fabrics but lined it with the gray linen. This is the second time I've used this pattern and I'm still not happy about the top seams - because it's a pattern for knits, the seams are finished after they are sewn together and there is no facing to clean up the inside edge. I made my own facings for the outside edges of the armholes (from the gray linen) so that side is good, but the inside isn't ideal. I used a black knit bias tape to finish the back neck edge, and was about to use it for the armholes, but after sewing one side I realized the gray edge was softer...even if that gray looks horrid next to my pale arms. But overall I really like the shirt, and I know that summers in an office mean cardigans are essential. So - cute tanks underneath those cardigans are a downright necessity.

Thank goodness there's still time to make one or two more.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

the waiting pile

Ahh, spring. The seasonal shift from yarn to fabric begins again. And just in time for both Made-by-Rae's Spring Top Sewalong and Elsie Marley's Kids Clothing Week. My sewing to-do list has exploded with ideas - call it spring fever for the craft-obsessed.

To start the sewing season, a package arrived with fabrics from a great shop on Etsy. I ordered from here once before and was so happy with the mini dot linen/cotton blend that I purchased a larger cut this time to make a dress from. The shop has knits, linens, cottons in solids, cute small prints, stripes, plaids and polka dots. It's all pretty much perfect and what's really great is that there is often a photo of something made with the fabric for you to see (and the photos themselves are wonderfully art directed). I'm pretty excited to try the knit bias tape too - as much as I've figured out my bias tape maker for cottons, I don't know that I have the patience to make continuous bias tape from knit fabric. Of course, I could just be lazy.

Sewing inspiration abounds at the Sewalong Flickr Pool. Check it out if you're itching to stitch too.