Sunday, May 24, 2020

My First* Sewing Projects

*So, technically, I sewed two things as a pre-teen: a skirt (with copious amounts of help from my mom) and a knitting needle case (which I still use today!).

Social distancing measures have pushed me even more toward the things that help me deal with stress: knitting and embroidery. The extra time at home, the extra stress, and the huge and inspiring sewing community on instagram led me to purchasing a sewing machine back in March and try to learn something new.

The first things I made were masks (the first two incredibly ill-fitting). Getting thread and fabric has been a bit of a challenge (and a wait). I used old pillowcases and craft thread I had on hand for the masks. I also used old tights for the ear bands by cutting them horizontally at the leg. I settled on the pattern from State the Label for my most recent masks as they were very comfortable for me, but they don't fit my partner well. If you have any patterns/instructions you like for mask-making -- leave me a link in the comments!

While waiting for fabric to arrive (some of which I ordered from JP Knit and Stitch :) ), I settled on two patterns with which to flex my brand new sewing skills: Shirt No 1 and the Wiksten Shift Dress. #shirtno1 and #wikstenshift have thousands of posts on instagram so I figured those patterns must be working for a lot of people, and hopefully they will work for me!

First of all, Shirt No. 1 is an excellent first pattern for a new sewer. The instructions are detailed and clear, there are only two pieces to cut, and it introduces you gently to things like finishing a seam, adding bias tape to a neckline, and hemming.

The first one I made from a cotton fabric. It's pretty stiff but fits ok. I also made my own bias tape as I was having a hard time getting any ordered for delivery. I definitely HATED making my own bias tape. I will eventually get a bias tape maker to speed the process. I did, however, feel very proud when I got quite a few yards of bias tape out of less than a 9"x9" square of scrap fabric. (I used this video which helped a lot). I did an XS here and wished it was a bit bigger... which led me to make another in a size M.

This time, it's slightly too big 😑 Don't get me wrong, both fit fine. But I am searching for the perfect loose-but-not-too-loose comfy linen or cotton shirt to be in all day when I'm home. This one is made out of a linen blend, but it's a little itchy. It's hard to pick fabric when you can't be in the store and feel it. In the future, I think I'll be a little more targeted in picking fabric that's been reviewed by someone in detail about feel and drape.

Next, I tackled the Wiksten Shift Dress (Long, No Pockets). I measured a size 2 (for bust) or a size 6 (for hips). Since the website said to follow bust measurement and many sewers said to size down, I sewed the size 0, but kept the size 2 width. I also shortened it by about 2" and pushed the slit up 1" (I wish I had done 1"!)

I got this out of 2 yards of fabric (the pattern suggest 3+!). I managed to do this by folding the selvedges toward the center, essentially creating two folds to cut the pattern pieces on.

This was definitely a step up in terms of difficulty, but still manageable for a beginner. I managed to do the gathering at the back yoke using just the instructions provided (though YouTube has been my constant background tab while sewing for every other technique).

While sewing the dress I kept thinking it looked more and more like a hospital gown. The blue color I chose reminded me of scrubs and I just couldn't see how it would end up looking good on me. After trying it on, I do like it a lot. It's definitely boxy, but comfortable and definitely very on-trend. I used a very comfortable linen blend this time (so soft!)

These indie patterns are a bit expensive. Adding the cost of fabric means that this hobby isn't exactly budget friendly all the time. I'm trying to make due with a little less (fabric, thread, etc.) and also be very careful with what I actually do decide to spend my money on. I've also seen that thrift stores can be a great source for fabric just waiting to be repurposed (once those thrift stores reopen and it's safe to visit them).

What is nice about these patterns is they come with a lot of versatile variations, so I'll definitely get more than one use out of them (and already did).

There are a few patterns on my to-do list: The Estuary Skirt, or a nice linen pant like the Ninni Culottes. I'm also going to do the Wiksten Top (part of the pattern bundle that included the shift dress) with an eyelet cotton I have.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

My First Original Embroidery

After building up so confidence with a kit and patterns from Sarah K. Benning, I attempted my own original landscape piece based on the photo below.

For a while I was spending every March visiting California while my partner and I were long distance. We were lucky to be able to visit so many of beautiful places Northern California has to offer. This is a photo of Point Joe on the 17 Mile Drive in Big Sur.

I really upped my french knot game while working on this hoop.

It now joins this other recently-finished embroidery from a Sarah K. Benning pattern. My three embroideries now hang is a small happy portion of our apartment.

My next goal is add embroider to my clothing. I recently bough a sewing machine that I'm excited to learn to use. I have my eyes on the 100 Acts of Sewing Shirt No. 1. I practiced a bit adding this little cutie crocus (you guessed it, another Sarah K. Benning pattern), to an old shirt of mine.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Recent Knit FOs: Three(!) Sweaters, One Hat

Pattern: Brin
Needle: US4

I hope everyone is doing okay during this unusual and stressful time. I find myself going through big spurts of energy to devote to knitting, embroidery, etc. and then other periods where it's hard to do anything at all. Something that really helped was doing my first KAL with a friend of mine. We picked Brin as the perfect late winter/spring transition sweater to knit together. 

I modified this sweater quite a bit in terms of fit. The original is quite oversized even in the smallest of sizes. I went down a yarn weight (or 2) and down a few needles sizes as well. Since my row gauge was way off, I added some rows before joining in the round and before the bottom details. Full mods are on the ravelry project page.

If I did it again I would probably add just a few more rows to the bottom. It's sooooo close to perfect length -- I might reblock it to squeeze out that extra half-inch of length. I would also do a stretchy bind off at the sleeves and bottom. 

I think this is my favorite knit to date (I feel like I say this all the time). The true test is always whether I actually find myself wanting to wear it after the initial excitement of finishing it wears off. So far, I have actually put it on multiple times since finishing (even though no one sees it since I'm home all the time). 

Pattern: Kinikin Cardigan
Yarn: Lots of bulky stash!
Needle: US11

I knit two versions of the Kinikin Cardigan (the other is below). I think I found Tara-Lynn Morrison's patterns just at the time I needed quick, bulky knits. The almost-instant gratification is I think one of the best parts of many of her patterns.

This second version was a great stash-buster. I had a lot of different bulky yarns floating around in my stash but not enough of one single one for its own sweater. It took some creative blocking to even out the different gauges of a few of the yarns. I also held one fingering-weight and one lace-weight yarn throughout to give the sweater some cohesion.

Pattern: Kinikin Cardigan
Needle: US11, US15, US19

This first version of the Kinikin Cardigan was really mostly a vehicle for an embellishment technique I saw "in the wild" while visiting Toronto. A woman had a sweater on with the most beautiful applique/embroidered/felted berry branches on it. I tried to mimic that look here.

My major disappointment with this sweater is the mohair. IT SHEDS EVERYWHERE. I knit my No Frills sweater with this same mohair and it doesn't shed like this sweater does. It must have something to do with the tighter gauge on the No Frills sweater. 

That, and the fact that both sweaters tend to fall off my shoulders quite a bit, has meant that these two sweaters haven't gotten a ton of wear.

Needle: US8

Finally, I (belatedly) shipped off a baby hat to friends of mine who recently had a little boy. This pattern is my go-to for baby hats -- the ear flaps are key! It's also super quick.