Monday, December 30, 2013

Sewing Resolutions for the New Year

I know end of year posts can be either fun or a bit tedious (because, hello, I've been reading your blog all year - what do you mean you don't only write for me?!) - I mean, I normally do it anyway so my criticism of the practice is a bit unjust, but this year I'm trying something different.

(Though if you're terribly disappointed and/or you just wondered over here, you can always find the work I've completed and am proud of under the sewing, knitting, and crafting tabs at the top.)

The last few months, I suppose the last few years really, but especially over the winter months, I've been in more of a reflective mood and I want to write about topics that have been on my mind for quite a few months now, but have been all jumbled up.

Maybe this could be a sewing inspired New Years resolutions list for 2014? I've bolded items to make it easier for me to stay focused when I was writing; hopefully it helps you read the "list" and isn't too distracting.

This isn't about more sewing or making time or any other standard wishes because I've had a list of items I want to make going back to March and I haven't made a single item on it, and I currently have no plans to start. And to be perfectly honest I'm not going to postpone dinner or time with my loved ones or even stop binging on Netflix for an extra hour of sewing each night.

I want to slow things down a bit and I might make less. Part of the whole deal with sewing my own wardrobe was that I planned on having higher quality and better fitting clothing. And I can't say that's the case. A lot of times I'll force something to work because I'm tired of dealing with it, I need to finish for a deadline (self-imposed or otherwise), or I'll just slap it together because it's still nicer than RTW.

I'm not talking about mistakes I make as a beginner. I like my mistakes because that's how I learn. (For real! How else am I supposed to know the importance of finishing seams unless a skirt unravels?) I'm talking about the lazy short-cuts that mean after 1-2 real-life wearings my new dress or skirt has to be tossed into my mend pile, and I haven't touched my mend pile all year ever.

I don't need that many clothes. I had a shopping problem when I was younger and it resulted in hundreds of dollars on clothing (probably more) that still have the tags on to this day. When I was terribly poor I stopped shopping completely and when I started getting a little bit of money again, I learned to sew. I don't want another closet full of clothing I'll never wear, regardless of whether or not it's handmade ESPECIALLY because it's handmade. My awesome handmade clothing needs to be seen and properly admired.

Additionally, I want to really think and plan out a proper wardrobe. Making lots of vintage dresses but neglecting the (zero) pants and loungewear situation is a problem. I want to focus on gaps in my outfits and really have a well-crafted wardrobe.

I will start paying full price for patterns I love and want this year because I finally realized if my dream pattern is out there, it's so much easier to buy that than to get a different one for less and spend hours of my life figuring out how to modify it. I hated having a box full of patterns that I knew I'd never use. Why not invest my time and money into something I'll love rather than investing in hours of frustration?

I'm going to focus on fabric. I have an overflowing fabric stash. Some of it is really nice silk I bought almost two years ago that I was afraid to cut into and others are terribly cheap polyester that reflects the light. I've been trying to make a dress with the cheap polyester because it's pinstriped and it looks business-y, but it's going terribly and, let's be honest, I'd pass it in a second if I saw that fabric in the store. Just because something is free or cheap, doesn't mean I need to wear it and walk around in a highly flammable outfit.

So cheap fabric is out. Nice fabric will be used.

I'm going to alter patterns, rather than making them straight out of the envelope. While I'm not proportional at all, I can typically make something exactly as is and have it fit me moderately well. However, if that's the case, why am I making my own clothing and not buying RTW?

I am going to start doing a FBA at the very least on all of my patterns from now on.

I'm going to learn how to properly draft a pattern. I keep telling myself I'm going to take the pattern making class at FIT, but let's be real. That's not going to happen. For my birthday earlier this year, I purchased a 1920s draping book and a 1930s pattern making book. I've only flipped through them thus far, and I intend on learning because I have so many ideas for clothing I want to make that I cannot find for sale.

I'm going to mend and refashion. This ALWAYS makes a list of goals I have, and I could easily dedicate another closet (you know, if I had one) to my mend/refashion pile. I'm going to go through and start figuring out what could be done with them. As I have problems with my imagination when it comes to improvising for myself, I will probably post pictures of "before" clothing to get ideas for the "after." They typically already look great, but I don't wear them so I must change them.

There will be more crafts! Seriously, I have a ton of crafts on pinterest that I want to make but never get around to doing. I have some crafty friends, but it's so hard to organize groups when people have to think about friends, family, work, and, of course, the hour long subway trips to get around the city. I'm going to find crafty people wherever I can and drag them back to my place. One crafty project a month - surely I can manage that!

So yes, there's the list. I have quite a few more ideas for where I want to take my sewing and knitting in the next year, but right now they're just ideas whereas this list is very feasible and easy to share. Hopefully now that I've acknowledged my problems I can magically grow and take my sewing to the next level and you guys will continue to love it!

Any sewing resolutions for you guys?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Finished: Knitted Mouse Rug

I picked up this great book from the library called Pet Projects: The Animal Knits Bible and, yes, of course I made something for my two cats.

It has some cute projects in there, like a little tent (meant for turtles but totally do-able for cats) and some adorable sweaters and cushions. It also has some weird ones, like the anti-fireworks dog helmet and plastic knitted water lilies for your pond.

Anyway, of course I had to do a weird one for my cats. I mean, it's Christmas and I was taking a break from my cardigan so why not?

While I find animal rugs to be incredibly creepy, I figured my cats wouldn't have the same hang ups I do about dead animals, especially since it's a knitted item.

And thus, I created a mouse rug for them to lounge about on. I only wish we had a fireplace so they could properly enjoy it.

This was knitted up in a seed stitch and I almost wish I hadn't because I don't really care for it, but it's for the cats so it doesn't matter. I think the idea is pretty clever and they need more things to lay on/things I can easily pick up when company comes over.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and hopefully you didn't spoil your pets as much as I did mine! I'd like to say I have one more sewing project to put up before the New Year, but don't get your hopes up!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's Not You, It's Me: Breaking Up With Almost a Cardigan

I've been working on this cardigan and while it's very pretty and I generally love the work that I'm doing with it... I don't really think I want to continue.

I've completed the back and half of the front and, well, look at the amazing lattice work!

And look at the pretty wishbones! The other pattern at the top of the photo is called "ear of corn" but it looks more like "thick braid" to me. Either way, it's very pretty.

But guys, I don't think I want a cardigan. I certainly don't want to knit more flat pieces then seam everything together at the end. And I already have a purple cardigan. Plus in order to continue, I must sit down and concentrate and maybe even do some math as the instructions simply say to "work to correspond... reversing all shaping and placement."

Sure, it's probably not that hard, but do I want to do it?

The answer is no, I don't. I suppose a more reasonable person would set the project aside and complete it at a later date, but let's be honest. If I do that, it will never get done.

Also, perhaps this is silly, but I don't feel excited about this cardigan like I was about my owl sweater. The passion isn't there and I'm tired of counting each pattern within the pattern while shuffling back and forth between 4 pages. It bores me. We've been on a break for the last week, and I think it's time to officially end it.

Though really, I'm wondering slightly seriously if my yarn isn't cursed because I've attempted 2 sweaters, a hoodie, and now a cardigan with this yarn before frogging all of them. Maybe I just haven't found the right pattern for it? Does the yarn ever speak to you?

Anyway, I'm hesitating to frog this project because it IS very pretty and intricate (at least for me) and I'm proud of it.

Perhaps I can turn it into something else. Any ideas? Because right now the top idea I've got (aka the only idea I've got) is a cat sling.

Monday, December 2, 2013

DIY Gift Idea: Memory Candles

If you've been friends with me for any length of time, chances are I've given you a memory candle for some celebration or event in your life. If you're lucky, I've even shown you how to make them yourself as it was shown to me. Well, now you no longer have to wonder how I pulled off this magic because today's post will teach you how to make them.

(No time? Not crafty? Check my etsy store to purchase your own!)

candle/ glass candle holder
photo editing software and/or Word
packing tape

First you should find a candle or candle container that you like. It should be clear, with smooth, straight edges (i.e. nothing that's small at the bottom and widens out to a larger top).

Next, you need to find photos that you want to use and modify them. You should make them black and white, and you need to resize the photos to fit on the candle container.

I turn them black and white and adjust the contrast in an online image editor like Pixlr or PicMonkey, and I re-size them in Word using the handy rulers next to the margins.

Via Guides and Tutorials

Once the photos are black and white and the right size, print them out. Make sure to give each photo a little white border which you'll need in a few moments.

Once you've printed it out, make a photocopy of the pictures. Copier toner is cheaper and the picture looks worse, but that's the kind of ink we need for the project. If you have copier toner at home, perfect! If not, I make photocopies at work or the library and every so often at Staples.

See the difference? We need less quality!
Take packing tape and place it carefully over the picture. You'll want to create a border on each side of the picture. If you have a larger picture, overlapping tape is fine.

Smooth out and press down the tape so that the ink can be picked up by the tape. Make sure there are no bubbles!

Fill a bowl with warm water and let your taped photos soak for 5-10 minutes.

When you notice the paper separating, take the packing tape photo and gently rub to remove the rest of the paper. I find it's easier to remove the last bits of paper under running warm water.

 Shake the excess water off the packing tape and set it aside to dry. As it dries, you'll notice little bits of paper that you missed. You need to run it under warm water again and rub the last bits of paper off.

Repeat a few more times if necessary until all the paper is gone.

Once the tape completely dries and you don't discover any pesky bits of remaining paper, carefully line up and press the packing tape onto the side of your candle holder. Smooth it out so there are no bubbles.

And there you go! You can add more pictures or just leave the one.

Add a candle to your container and you have a wonderful, sentimental gift that can keep forever!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finished: Knitted Owl Sweater

So I may have found a new location to take pictures of my makes. I dragged the boyfriend out there and the conversation went like this:

Me: I want to be in the picture with the sign.
Bf: Yeah, we have time for whatever you want.
Me: Are you getting the sign?
Bf: Why are you doing so many hero poses?

What? You mean you HAVEN'T heard of my new movie coming out this fall?!

The boyfriend came up with the name and it's pretty awful, but then it kind of stuck since I'm terrible at naming things.

So yeah, I finished my owl sweater. If you recall, I almost finished it before ripping everything out and starting over. I'm really glad I started over. It's much thicker since I held the yarn double and I don't have to worry about wearing something underneath it anymore.

It fits perfectly and the pattern is written so well. I had zero problems reading it (which is the first time I have ever said that about a knitting pattern!) and it knits up so fast. Knitting this the second time took 2.5 weeks to finish.

I didn't even struggle when it came time to join in all the sleeves with the front and back to create the yolk or when I was learning how to do short rows (which are really easy btw).

I will say that the pattern called for a stretchy bind off and everyone on Ravelry said it was unnecessary so I was all cool, I'm doing a normal bind off then. Big mistake. It's pretty tight. I do think a stretchy bind off is the way to go.

Additionally, I'm not sewing buttons onto the sweater. I can tell that they're owls without them. I looked at all 6,919 projects on Ravelry and decided that, while fun and nice, the buttons didn't necessarily add anything to the finished sweater.

Also, I had just woven in 40 or so loose ends (don't ask) and I was done with the hand sewing for awhile.

You can see my back decreases pretty clearly and I'm so proud of how neat everything looks. I wanted to show you my armpits where I used a kitchener's stitch to seam it together, but the boyfriend felt it was unnecessary to take pictures of that. But really, everything about this is so nice!

This is also the first time I've ever paid for a knitting pattern, and I swear, if they're all like this, I will start throwing money at people. No more free patterns for me that no one bothered to proof read or even check to make sure the cable direction is going the right way.

Also, perhaps a bit unfortunately, because this was so easy and quick, the boyfriend now thinks knitting is easy and is compiling a list of things I need to make for him... Eek!

Oh, and in case you're wondering, my terribly wrinkled blue skirt that I'm wearing is the first thing I ever made with a sewing machine!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

More Updates and Inspiration!

So I made a promise to myself that I would stop putting up inspiration and idea posts because I NEEDED to show off some finished objects, but then, you know, I found some things I'm drooling over and I just had to share and, anyway, I have updates so I'm sorry, but you must be patient.

If you follow my instagram account, you'll know that I've been knitting a lot in between posting pictures of my adorable cats. (You were warned about the cats!)

I finished my owl sweater last Friday and I blocked it Saturday. Sunday it stormed so I couldn't photograph it and it gets dark at 4:30pm now so I suppose I'll take photos this weekend? I have nothing but amazing things to say about the sweater and the pattern, although I will skip the buttons/eyes. I think you can discern the owls well enough without them, and unless I find the perfect buttons, ones that are small and narrow and look like evil owl eyes that also blend in perfectly with the sweater, I won't sew any. And even if I do find the perfect buttons, I think I'll only sew two of them on. For camouflage or something.

I started on a second knit sweater and I'm about 25% of the way through, but it's seamed pieces and I'm thinking about ripping it all out and attempting to modify the pattern so I can knit it in the round. But that seems terribly difficult at the moment...

My first cozies!
Last year when I started knitting, I made quite a few coffee cozies to practice my purls, knits, and cables and switching back and forth between them all. When I posted the finished object, I noted that the designer's website had gone down, and now it seems her ravelry page has gone down as well. I was asked if I still had the pattern, which I didn't, but I did manage to write the pattern based on memory and looking at my finished cozies.

Writing knitting patterns is probably the hardest thing I've done in awhile. It was a nice challenge though, and I'm happy to say I've got all the kinks worked out and my testing was successful. You can check out the patterns here.

So I'm sure you've also noticed that I haven't been sewing. While it's true the colder weather tends to make me curl up in front of the television with a warm cup of coffee and some knitting, there's another reason, and it's a little silly. I don't want to finish my seams. I'm so tired of French seaming everything, and I feel like I'm just wasting thread. I don't care how nice it looks because it just means extra time for me and if I mess something up, then I've got two seams to rip open and repair.

So back in August I mentioned that I would be getting a serger soon. Well, I finally sucked it up and ordered the Janome 8002D. It has excellent reviews so I'm hopeful that once it arrives I'll get back in gear.

Ooh, and another reason I haven't been sewing is that I haven't been super happy with the way my items are coming out. I mean, I'm generally happy, but there are some fitting issues (beyond the finishing issues above) that I continually have problems with. One of which is my bust. I complained the loudest on my Mae blouse where I ruined the neckline. I couldn't figure out why I have so much gaping! But the gaping isn't unique to that blouse; I have gaping on most of my RTW clothing and, when home sewing, I tend to just tack it up and move on.

However, Sunni at the Fashionable Stitch has had this amazing series on properly fitting clothing. The short story is that I think I'm using the wrong measurements. I have a very small upper body and, by comparison, a large chest. I need to go down a size or two when I cut out patterns and perform a full bust adjustment each time. In theory, this adjustment should mean that I'll have a properly fitting garment. But it also means more steps that I don't want to take. Hmph.

I did cut out parts for my cape, sans adjustments. Hopefully it still comes out all right.

I also attempted to sew up a simple skirt as well, but something happened when I was matching the plaids... I sewed it up, the plaids matched, but there was all this weird fabric. So I cut it off. Then I realized there was too much of a curve, so I sewed the curve out and cut some more off... and then I realized that the back of my skirt was gone forever. (sob) If this was normal fabric, I could have just cut out some more, but it was plaid so I didn't have enough. Maybe I'll get creative and mix it with some other fabric?  Or maybe I'll go to the store and see if plaid's on sale again. Or maybe I won't do anything because I'm not really a fan of plaid.

And so now onto things that inspired me this week! Even though I've been making a lot of wiggle dresses lately, I'm starting to really like the fuller skirts (again). But before I commit to making more of them, I want to try out some of the dresses that have a bit more ease, that skim over your curves, that almost seem to float when you walk.

Sort of like the woman on the far right. 
But per usual, I'm inspired by almost everything.

I love those wide leg trousers! (But stay off the crocodiles...)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Well, I almost had a sweater...

I made another sweater! Kind of.

So remember how I skipped the gauge and recommendation for my last sweater and it ended up way too small? Well, this time I skipped the recommended yarn again but I DID complete the gauge and I was like, "Oh, perfect. If I knit this a little loosely then I can totally make the gauge even though it's the wrong yarn weight."

So coincidentally I have a really hard time reading instructions because right there on the FIRST PAGE it states:

"If you achieve gauge by working an aran / worsted weight yarn at a looser tension, your owls will not have the same neat definition, and the shaping will not look its best."

See, generally fine looking partial owls.
I realized this about half way through the pattern and I decided it didn't matter. Really, I don't mind if it's a little hole-y and psh, I'm sure the owls will look fine. I did not convince myself however so I actually knitted up a separate little swatch with the owls and yes, they did look fine. So I kept on trucking.

You know what else the instructions said?

"k to underarm, between 15-19 inches"


In case you can't tell since I'm wearing a dress, that stops exactly at smallest point of my waist. So it's very cropped which is cute but not my style. At all.

The boyfriend chimed in helpfully: "You know, you should really stop expecting to get things right on the first try. Just accept that you're going to have to re-do them several times."


At the very least, I now know that I can make a sweater and it will look beautiful. (Because even though I took this apart last night I really do love this!)

This sweater only took me about 2 weeks, which I thought was pretty fast, so hopefully in another 2 weeks I'll have something that actually fits.

Extensive research on ravelry tells me if I hold the yarn double, it will come out just fine and dandy so that's the plan.

Is anyone on instagram? Or rather, since I'm the last person ever to sign up: hey, I'm joining instagram! You can follow me here. It will mostly be pictures of sewing and my cats. Let me know if you're on there!

And in case anyone is interested, here's the pattern I'm attempting to make. (If you actually bother to read the instructions, they're quite outstanding. I've had no problem following along and that's usually a big challenge for me when I knit.)