Thursday, January 31, 2013

Da-da-dah! The After photos!

I did it, internet!  I let the shame of having terrible Before pictures of a horribly messy sewing/yarn room motivate me to clean up and achieve a perfect(-ish) After state!  And I did it within the month, too.

Take a tour:

I organized and stored all my fabric into tubs, and I put all my patterns in the basket.  They're not really organized, but they're all in one spot, and fairly easy to flip through.  The yarn on top is Stylecraft acrylic that I'm slowly using for a blanket. 

I pulled out all my yarn and organized it as I put it back, bulky on the left to lace weight on the right.  I threw out a few old things, and weeded out. 

I pulled out a little side table I got from goodwill a few months ago and set up a winding station!  No more taking the swift down and putting it up on the ironing board, shaking everything off it while I'm winding.  Speaking of the ironing board, look what's on it!  Just the iron!  Aha!  Now, the key of organization is Know Thyself, and I know that stuff will pile up eventually.  But I can pile it up on the winding table, not the ironing board.

For months, I've been ripping things out of magazines and saving special cards, wanting to put them on my bulletin board.  For some unexplainable reason, instead of pinning them up, I've been storing them in a box below my table.  What?  How long does it take to pin something up?  That's the whole point of a bulletin board--easy access to items you want before you.  So I pinned them up.

And if you're thinking that looks like a brand new sewing machine, you're right!  My parents very generously bought me a new Janome for my birthday.  More on that later.

There's one thing you will not see: the closet.  No one will see it.  If you open it, you will be buried.  But whatever.  The rest of the room is spectacular.  I'm ready to go!  Bring it, 2013. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

FO: Vitamin D

Knitting is really the perfect pregnancy past-time.  Knitting almost necessitates that you sit, and sitting is high on my list of preferred positions at the moment.  I've never felt so lazy in my life, but I just keep telling myself that it won't always be like this, and I should try to relax. 

So all this sitting and knitting has finally produced a sweater!  When I found out we were expecting, I searched Ravelry to find some maternity-friendly patterns, and this one was high on my list. 

Pattern: Vitamin D by Heidi Kirrmaier.  It's had rave reviews, and I agree with the general consensus: this pattern is graceful, both in the way it's written and in the final product.  It's a waterfall open cardigan with slightly unusual construction: top-down raglan, but sleeves are knit flat and seamed; lots and lots and lots of short rows; eyelets as decorative increases (the rays of sunshine, or little windows to let your skin soak up that vitamin D).  The pattern has several tables full of numbers and stitch counts for all the different sizes, so as long as you can read a table, you'll always know exactly where you are in the pattern. I made size 39, M2. 

Process: I knit one sleeve back in November, then put the sweater aside for some Christmas knitting.  When I picked it up again after Christmas, I knit the second sleeve ... without rereading the directions.  I forgot to cast on 4 stitches on either side of the sleeve stitches.  I didn't discover this until I'd already seamed both sleeves and was picking up stitches for the body.  I debated moving on for about 3 minutes, and decided it would be ridiculous to have a sweater with one sleeve two inches narrower than the other one, so I unseamed it and ripped it out. 

I had a big sigh when I finished the arms and started looking at more than 300 stitches on each row, but then I discovered that the main part of the body is constructed with short rows.  I love short rows.  Even if you're turning just a few stitches before the end of the row, it makes the knitting time seem, well, shorter. 

Yarn: What can I say?  Madelinetosh is amazing.  The colors in this Tosh Merino Light are just right for this sweater.  They're perfectly variegated without any pooling or striping.  The yarn was a gift from my mom, and it's made one of the nicest sweaters I have.  Even though the pattern was written for a sport weight, this fingering weight worked perfectly. 

What I learned: I learned a new technique for doing short rows: shadow short rows.  They are brilliant, and I can't see any reason to ever go back to the standard wrap and turn. 

Final thoughts: I put this sweater on, and I immediately felt several degrees less maternity-frumpy.  I'm starting to get bored with my limited wardrobe, and this feels classy, effortless and unique.  I love the way it fits around my baby belly, and I think when the baby belly is no more, it will be another kind of beautiful.  I'm completely happy with it! 

I immediately cast on the second sweater in my maternity queue, and was surprised-but-not to discover it's another Heidi Kirrmaier pattern, Nanook.  This one's in aran weight, so it should go much more quickly. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

FO: It's triplets! Renfrew triplets!

Along with many other expectant sewers, I used So Zo's maternity top tutorial to stitch up some great tops.  I used Sewaholic's Renfrew pattern because I love it and because it has a lot of variety to it.

I followed So Zo's tutorial exactly for the front, but I did extend the back length by 2 inches.  After my first top, I thought it was a bit long and so I reduced that to just 1 extra inch of length.  I was surprised that I didn't really need to add a lot of extra width to the pattern, just length.  (Extending the front length by five inches did actually yield about 1.5 extra inches in width because the pattern flares out toward the hip a bit more.  I'm not explaining that well, but trust me.)

The first version I made out of a so-so ITYish crepe jersey knit, not exactly what I wanted for the Renfrew pattern.  (I have the hardest time finding great knits!)  It ended up working really well, and it's a little dressier.  The cowl looks great on this top, and I think I'll definitely be making more of the cowl style post-baby.

Then I made a 3/4 sleeve scoop neck for a slightly more casual style.  I did give myself 2 extra inches in length on the sleeves.

Finally, I made up another long sleeved cowl neck in white.

It was getting really dark and stormy when we took these pictures.
The purple and white fabric are the same kind from Joanns.  They are super stretchy and prone to pilling.  Not the best fabric at all, but they don't have to last forever.

I love these shirts and the way they fit.  Even though none of the fabric choices are perfect, I've still been super comfortable in all of these, and I've had compliments especially on the white cowl. 

In non-maternity clothing news, I am making progress on the sewing and yarn room clean up!  I didn't realize how much I'd really have to weed out and get rid of.  I'm about halfway to a beautiful after picture!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

FO: Maternity McCalls 5974

When I finally got over my first trimester ennui and felt like sewing clothes again, I knew that McCalls 5974 would be a perfect maternity dress.  I scoured google for sewers who had already done the same, and I was really surprised to find none!  Although it made me wonder if this was such a perfect pattern for maternity-ifying after all, I pressed on.

I had made this dress almost a year ago, but didn't add any length to the skirt, and it was way too short to wear in public.  But it was great to try on and see how it was going to work over my expanding middle.  After evaluating the straight-from-the-envelope pattern, I decided to added two inches to the back width and four to the front.  I added four more pleats to the front skirt so that even with the extra width, it would fit to a normal bodice.  I added five inches of length to the skirt, and also made the hem two inches longer in the front middle than at the sides, so that with a full baby bump, the hem is still even and not arced upwards. 

The color is not quite this purpley in real life. 
This dress worked so well for me, I immediately made another.  And I have been living in them both ever since. 

And I think I know now why this isn't an obvious maternity dress for the whole blogosphere.  The waistband at the bottom of the bust is supposed to hit at, duh, your waist.  Well, it definitely fits me more as an empire waist.  If I want to make this dress again post baby, I'll need to lengthen the bodice.  (But how would I do that without putting too much fabric in the bust area?  I think I'd need to do an SBA also.  And am I really going to want to wear this style dress again anyway?  I'm not going to stress about it now.)

I'm super happy with these, and I'm so happy making my own maternity clothes.  During my first pregnancy, I had a couple of super cheap knit dresses from Target, but they were too short.  I wore leggings under them, which is a fine style, but not exclusively and not for 6 months.  After I finished these dresses, I tossed those old cheap ones back in the maternity storage tub, and there they remain!

Next up: maternity tops!  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Holy Complete Mess, Batman!

I'm doing something very brave.  I'm posting before pictures on the internet without any after pictures to immediately counterbalance their horribleness.  I'm doing this for the accountability, people.  So here it is: the modern world's messiest sewing room.

Please, stick with me!  Don't click away in disgust and horror!
You know when you're on vacation and you see a gorgeous vista and you try to take a picture to capture it all and the grandeur is reduced to something sort of uninspiring?  The same thing is happening in these pictures.  Trust me, in person, it feels like this room is going to eat you before you'll ever be able to fight your way out. 

I blame 75% of this mess on Christmas.  In addition to extra-intense sewing and crafting, we used the sewing room as a catch all for random stuff as we were cleaning the rest of the house.  This is not my normal, acceptable level of slightly creative clutter.  This is code red craziness. 

This is clearly fabric abuse. 
I had a thought that I should take pictures before cleaning this up, so I could do a before and after post.  But I've done that before, and you know what happens?  Things get better, but I never really get to a beautiful "after" point.  At best, I get to the "in progress" stage.  So I had a brainflash.  I should post the before pictures to motivate me into actually getting to the after pictures.

My game plan is to make the timer on my phone my new best friend.  Since this is all so overwhelming, I'm breaking it down into 25 minute cleaning sessions.  Twenty-five minutes isn't even half an hour!  Less than half an hour is totally doable.  (See the mind games at work?) 

I've already started by going through all my fabric, refolding it, and stashing it into three bins: big cuts, small cuts/garment left-overs, and quilting/crafting fabric.  I also have a bag of muslin fabric.  So I'm headed toward that after picture!  Watch this space. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

FO: McCalls 6510

I hate trying on maternity clothes.  They fit poorly, they're made poorly, and they're not really me.  And who wants to wear things that fit poorly when you're semi-uncomfortable most of the time as it is?  I've only been to a maternity store once during this pregnancy, and that was enough.  I did try on this kaftan style top that I sort of liked, but it was too big in the chest and too small in the hips.  (Seriously?  Too small in the hips?  Pregnant women are supposed to have hips!)  It was $35, and I thought that I could certainly make it for less and get a much better fit.

I found some beautiful charmeuse during Gorgeous Fabric's Cyber Monday sale for $8 a yard, and bought two yards.  I also discovered that I had McCalls 6510 in my pattern stash.

Although this style is close, it wasn't quite right.  And I obviously needed to make some maternity adjustments also.

I started with view A, and then modified it a lot:
  • Changed the neckline to a v-neck, and narrowed it by about half an inch on each side.  
  • Made the sides fall straight down from the shoulder, ending at a right angle at the hem, instead of curving in.  I altered the seam lines based on my measurements. (No tight hips here!)
  • Added 4" in length.
  • When I cut the front, I put the point of the v-neck on the fold, but then rotated the bottom of the pattern piece so it was about 3 inches away from the fold.  This way, it added more fabric in the front panel without changing the side seams.  It also made the front hem slightly curved in the middle, making the hemline appear straight, instead of arced by the baby bump. 
  • Added a belt above the bump by inserting button holes above the seam lines. 

Basically, I just kept the shoulder seams.  And here's how it came out:

I love it!  I wore it on Christmas and New Years.  It was comfortable and festive.  It's a little different than my normal style, but still me.  It fits a thousand percent better than the cheap one in the store, and I feel proud for making something that fit me (for less money, too!). 

I'm happy with my improvements on the original shirt and with the way I modified a pattern to get what I want.  My husband is a little worried that I'm spending time making things that I'll only be able to wear for a couple of months, but I think the biggest benefit of making maternity clothes is the confidence it gives me to alter and modify patterns to fit me.  Plus, I can always modify maternity garments to fit me after baby, if I'm not sick of looking at them by then. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Knitting and Sewing Goals, 2013 Edition

Now that I've had a chance to recap the year, it's helped me focus on what I want to do this coming year.  

I love the way the knitting and sewing blogosphere has helped me think about these resolutions or goals.  Usually, I think of resolutions as a correction of a fault or bad habit.  "I want to lose weight, I want to do better at keeping in touch with people, etc."  But these crafty resolutions are all so positive.  "I want to challenge myself and learn new techniques and start something big!"  Why aren't all resolutions so aspiring?  I love it. 

I've created some short lists, but I have one main goal and resolution for the year.  Keep knitting and keep sewing.  I'm have this fear that having two kids to love and care for is going to zap all time and energy from me, and that I won't pick up a needle at all after April.  So if I keep knitting and sewing and working on projects, even slowly, throughout the year, I am going to feel awesome in 2013. 


  • 2 brave sweaters!  Most of my sweaters are of the play it safe variety.  Last year, I just wanted to knit some sweaters, any sweaters.  This year, I'd like to do some challenging, dramatic things.  Pieces with big, drapey collars or bold cables or even, if my skills progress a little bit, colorwork.  Those things are all over my queue, so I just need to pick one.
  • Continue to study and work on colorwork and stranded knitting.  I'd like to get the tension thing down.
  • Baby knits!  I might be the only knitter on earth who looks forward to adult sweater knitting, but thinks baby sweaters are too much work.  So ridiculous!  And I have a baby and a toddler to knit for!  No excuses for not knitting them both a winter wardrobe.
  • Baby blanket, maybe this Vintage Throw, and another adult blanket.  I have yarn for a beautiful Girasole, and I really want to get on it.  


  • Pants!  When my waist comes back to me, I want to start working on pants.  I'm going to start with the Tori Crop pant from Style Arc, because, hello elastic waist and stretchy fabric.  If I can get those to look good, then I really want to work on some Thurlows.  
  • A jacket.  I'd love to do the Minoru jacket, and with Tasia's awesome knit-a-long blog posts, I think I can.  I'll just take it slow.  
  • An intentional palette and wardrobe pieces.  This was one of my goals for last year, and I didn't quite do it.  I blame getting pregnant, losing mojo, and then needing to work on maternity stuff.  But next fall, I should be able to make some great non-boring basics that would work together well.  I've already started a board on Pinterest for my fall sewing queue.  
  • One home decy thing, just for fun, maybe?  I'd love to make these Amy Butler Gum Drop Pillows for the baby's room.   

Other stuff:

  • Pick one thing from my Pinterest boards a quarter and do it!  So four projects total over the year.  That's do-able, right?
  • One blog post a week.