Friday, June 12, 2015

Complete: Damask Jumper

Hello all! Time to start whittling down my sizeable backlog of unblogged projects. I thought I'd start with this jumper, since it got a bit of love during MMM. This is one make I'm really happy with and, incidentally, one that reminds me that the things I make don't have to be perfect to be loved!

One of my goals for 2014 was to try colourwork in knitting. When I went through my knitting inspiration ideas on Pinterest I noticed that most of the colourwork images I'd pinned were only two colours, rather than the multi-coloured fair isle styles. The idea for this jumper came out of that observation. I didn't really want a striped piece this time; I was intrigued by the idea of doing a more "fluid" kind of design. As I thought about patterns in fabric that I like, I wondered whether a damask design would work. Unfortunately I couldn't find any knitting pattern even remotely like what was starting to form in my head.

My daughter has been getting into cross-stitch lately, and it occurred to me that gridded cross-stitch patterns are actually the same format as gridded knitting ones. Googling "repeated damask cross-stitch pattern" yielded me a pattern that I adored - this stylised floral one. I didn't want an all-over pattern, just a feature on the front, preferably with raglan sleeves. (Aside: I can't believe how hard it was to find a simple crew neck, raglan sleeved jumper with no side shaping! Every designer seems to want to put some twist on the basics...)

Anyhow, here's the end result:

And an close-up shot of the front:

The yarn is Cascade Heritage Silk (fingering weight), which I already had loads of after I unravelled my Still Light horror. (So this is technically a refashion!) I was able to get a skein of the same in black to do the colourwork in. I debated doing the ribbed hems in black also, but decided to keep it just to the damask in the end.

The yarn knits up into quite a drapey fabric, which I'd forgotten, but since I wanted a looser fit anyway that was fine. Here's one thing I learned - after I'd done one sleeve. If you're reusing yarn you've unravelled from a previous project, it knits up much more nicely if it's first wound into a skein, soaked and dried, then rewound into a ball; that gets rid of all the crimping. Thus one sleeve here is noticeably neater than the other.

The cross stitch pattern worked just as well as I hoped, although there was a lot of working out how to centre it and where to start the pattern before knitting began. And the front was assuredly not TV knitting! Silence and solitude were the bywords here. Painstaking note-taking was also vital, so as not to forget where I was up to...

The pattern I ended up using was the Simple All Age Raglan Sweater by Elizabeth Lowick, which is a useful one to have, accommodating 15 sizes (really!) from 24" up to a 66" chest. This had the straight sides (didn't want to have to worry about shaping as well as the colourwork...) and raglan lines that I was after. This polo neck I thought would be an easy modification to a crew one - just don't knit as much. Although I wasn't as happy with the sleeves. I'm not nearly as confident changing knitting patterns as I am sewing ones, so even when I found that the sleeve increases seemed to be happening very quickly, I wasn't sure whether I should adjust them or trust the pattern. As it turned out, I probably should have trusted my gut instinct:

The sleeves ended up with a really pronounced angle, and really looked awful on (think chicken wings...). I could have unravelled and started them again, but instead I took a very deep breath - several, actually - and researched steeking. Steeking, in my admittedly limited experience, seems to be used mostly for cardigans knitted in the round (especially ones in a detailed pattern). Once the garment is knitted, a sewing machine is used to sew down either side of where the opening will be and then the garment is cut open between the stitching lines. In theory, the stitching stops any unravelling. In theory...

Someone had written that you can't spell "steek" without "eek!", and that's true enough! I tried the jumper on and pinned the arms to the width I preferred. Then I sewed down that pinned line, first in a straight stitch and then a zigzag to be sure. And then to be surer, I overlocked. It seemed to work ok, but it took a little bit of care to ensure the sleeves didn't stretch and ripple along the seam line. The insides of the sleeves aren't nearly as neat as a tidy mattess stitch would have been, but the jumper is wearable now, and that's the point as far as I'm concerned!

So it's not perfect, but I really do love it. It's a garment that - design-wise at least - came out of my own head and was exactly what I wanted it to be. When I wear it, I'm not only reminded of how satisfying making my own clothes is, but also that I can trust my own instincts when it comes to experimenting. You don't get that with RTW!

What's your most satisfying sewing or knitting experiment? Do share!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Me Made May '15 - Weeks Three & Four

Well, if I needed definitive proof that I dropped the ball somewhat this Me Made May I have it right here! Here's the last half of May in one go, with some daily documentation and some hastily assembled hindsight photography. If anyone's still with me after the barrage of photos, I'll mention my discoveries/conclusions afterwards.
Day 15: (Two items - 7th day of aimed-for 10)
Top:  Style Arc Riva Raglan Tee
Pants: Style Arc Sunday Walking Pants
Not a glamorous outfit by any means but a satisfying one, mainly because it was perfectly suited to the day's activities. I remember the first MMM I took part in made me realise very quickly that I wasn't sewing useful lifestyle garments; clearly I've started to remedy that. I will need to replace my much loved and lived in hoodie sometime soon - it's getting a bit frayed around the edges.
Day 16: (One item - 2nd day of allowed 11)

Jumper: From a Patons Sorrento yarn pattern book.
Still really like this, even if it was the clincher for deciding not to bother knitting with cotton yarn again (garments tend to grooooooooooww after a few wears, at least until washed).
Day 17: (Outfit - 8th day of aimed-for 10 - well on track)

Jumper: Sombra, by Elanor King (not yet blogged)
Top: New Look 6899 (by happy chance exactly the right colour and neckline to fit underneath)
Pants: Burda 7214 (NYB - pretty thrilled with these; the most tailored I've attempted so far)
I think this was intended to be a summer knit, but as an Australian that always feels like a bit of an oxymoron to me. It is however a pretty wonderful trans-seasonal one. Post to come.
Day 18:  (One item - 3rd of allowed 11)
Top: Style Arc Rowe Tee.

Very poor showing, this - I forgot to take even a floor shot so this is an original post pic. Which confirms my suspicions that it has indeed shrunk an inch or two in the wash since...

Day 19:  (Outfit - 9th day of aimed-for 10....I think)

Kimono: Self drafted from RTW one.
Top: New Look 6899
Jeans: Refashioned (dyed).(Not blogged)
These jeans were a light rust red, and while I liked the fit, the colour didn't go with much else in my wardrobe. It's almost impossible to tell in this pic, being taken at night and in a very yellow toned outside light, but they're now my favourite deep, rich burgundy.
Does a no-sew refashion count towards a full outfit? Feels like cheating a bit, since I didn't actually sew them. I'll count it, but provisionally...
Day 20: (One item- 4th day of allowed 11)

Top: Self-drafted from a favourite RTW.

This should have, and could have, been a full outfit, but it didn't occur to me until the next day to wear either my black Willow pants or black Jacinta dress with the top. Der....

Day 21: (Three items, but not outfit - limitations of pledge evident again)

Anorak: Style Arc Romy. (NYB)
Jumper: Roam Tunic by Amy Christoffers
Top: (not shown) SBCC Tonic 2 (NYB)
FREEZING day outside spent watching junior athletics. Felt snug and cozy - and not a little bit smug, realising again that I am starting to sew a useful wardrobe :) Although I wouldn't have minded a grey beanie as well...
Day 22:  (Two garments - 8th day of 10)

Shirt: Simplicity 2447 (NYB)
Skirt: Refashioned from dress (NYB)

Really like this; always appreciate garments that work in warm and cold weather. Will blog soon (backlog is becoming intimidating...sigh)

Day 23: (Outfit - 10th day (if including 19th May)

Top:  Deer and Doe Plantain (as tunic)
Leggings:  Style Arc Wallis Pant
Cowl:  Grey Loop Cowl by Helen G
Again, not glamorous but just right for Saturday lounging/ dog walking/ playing with kids/ evening movie watching. 
Day 24:  (Outfit - 11th day)

Jacket: Get Creative Military Jacket (NYB)
Blouse: Named Kanerva Blouse.
Pants: Burda 7214
My new favourite outfit! (although not for lounging/dog walking/ etc) This jacket may be my favourite ever make. Will blog soon. Well, eventually.
Day 25: (Outfit - 12th)

Top: Style Arc Row Top.
Pants: True Bias Hudson Pants (NYB, and probably won't be)
The last of the balmy Autumn days, this. Actually spent the morning in my striped Kirsten Tee, but it got grotty after intensive pseudo-spring cleaning. The Hudsons are French terry this time around and I love them. I think they'll wear a lot better than the first pair did, too.
Day 26: (One item - 5th day of allowed 11)

Dress: Style Arc Emma Dress (NYB)...
...and could there be a less useful photo than this to show it? Confession: I cut this out ready for MMM '13, and promptly forgot all about it. It's been sitting at the bottom of the fabric drawer ever since. Am very glad it's finished now - wool crepe + deep pockets + semi-fitted makes for a surprisingly comfortable and forgiving woven winter dress.
Day 27: (Outfit - 13th day)

Jumper: Sombra
Top: (forgotten in photo) New Look 6899
Skirt:  Burda 7147 (NYB)
Skirt is not as short on as photo implies; sits lower than natural waist. This, I was delighted to discover, could be squeezed out of the 90cm left over from my new corduroy Military Jacket (24th May). I recently realised that my fabric drawer - the size of which determines my stash (self-imposed limit; don't feel sorry for me!) - now consists of about 80% leftovers and scraps from previous projects. I really need to find some good stash-busting projects! Suggestions welcome :)

Day 28: (Two garments - 9th day)

Jacket: Style Arc Audrey
Top:  Deer and Doe Plantain.
Oh, I should love this jacket! There are so many design features I adore on paper; bell sleeves, funnel neck, the cape's a beautiful wool with silk lining - I even sewed bound buttonholes. But when I wear it, I just don't. I really, really don't! Proof - the last time I wore this was MMM '14. I'm at the stage where I don't want to wear it, but I can't quite bear to part with it. I'm fairly sure I kept the leftover fabric - maybe it's time for a refashion....
Day 29 (Three garments total, at different times. We'll count it as a two-garment day (10th) )

Pants: Style Arc Willow Pants
Jumper: Beatnik by Norah Gaughan
Anorak: Style Arc Romy.

Another old photo here - but this is the top I wore with them anyway, so why reinvent the wheel? (Incidentally, this is the top I drafted the one on Day 20 from) Needed warmer clothes for evening; these did nicely.

Day 30: (Outfit - 14th day)

Tunic:  Roam by Amy Christoffers
Top: SBCC Tonic 2
Leggings:  Style Arc Wallis Pant
I was trying not to do an outfit repeat, but caved. Needed warmth and comfort, and this ticked every box.
Day 31: (Two garments, but at different times)

Jumper: Beatnik, by Norah Gaughan
Pants: Hudsons.
Jumper during day, Hudsons for curling up on the couch during evening. Very comfy end to the month!
And so, that was May.
I've written a few observations in the previous May posts, so don't need to repeat those here. But what the rest of the month showed me was:
  • My self-made wardrobe is reasonably cohesive. There are still a few things that only go with one or two other things, but on the whole I think I'm improving at not sewing wardrobe orphans.
  • My self-made wardrobe would be much more amenable to this pledge if that pledge was set during warmer weather! I was scraping a bit by the end. More layering pieces, especially cardigans, would be useful.
  • I'm becoming really intrigued by the idea of planning a capsule wardrobe (separate for warm and cool weather) rather than having a long list of "wanna-makes".
  • I hadn't noticed until now how little refashioning I've done in the past year. Two years ago it was a much higher percentage of my total sewing. I'd like to redress this.
  • I'm not sure if this'll make sense, but I also learned I really like some of my RTW clothes! I didn't realise this, but I think I'd started thinking that part of having a handmade wardrobe was having to replace all my existing clothes. But I'm not sure that's a helpful or useful mentality (nor a sustainable one). If, say, I have a wonderful RTW coat that is well-made and serves me well -and will serve me well for several years - then why do I need to replace it with one of my own making? Part of sewing for me is to get me out of the "fast fashion" mindset, but I've realised that I actually have many RTW garments that I wear and have worn for years that are still like new. Which when you think about it, is hardly "fast fashion". I still want to make / remake rather than buy, but I'm going to take the pressure off myself from now on. This year was supposed to be about slowing down and being more considered, after all! 
Some useful observations there for me, that will hopefully help me focus my sewing time and energy from now on. It's so easy to caught up in trying to sew All the Things, isn't it?