Monday, February 8, 2016

Wardrobe, another DIY


Want to see what I've been making? Lo, it is a nice day, with some light in it. (If this is winter, I like it very much). My trusty assistant and I filled a basket with accessories and went out into the sunny garden for a few photos.

I've talked before about my struggles with following a pattern--even a good one--and getting a nice fit. I don't think I'm shaped all that weirdly, but must be I am, or else I am too picky, or something. Anyway, because I don't really know (yet) how to modify a sewing pattern to make it fit my particular self, I have over the years sort of accidentally made a couple nice things and also a whole big bunch of sad failures.

Also, I don't like to install zippers, or make buttonholes, or wear things that have elastic in them. I don't like facings. I don't like to use any kind of interfacing. I will set in some sleeves, but only if I have to. I like plain and easy, but it's got to fit, and it's got to be comfortable. That seemed like too much to ask, and I gave up on sewing clothes a couple times. I thought I just couldn't get what I wanted, but I found out I can. I love it when I get my way.

I made a dress from a (really lovely) pattern, and it was a fail. I made another dress, from another (really lovely) pattern, and it was also a fail. So I put them in the donate bag, got out my big paper and drew the dress I really wanted; loose and easy, but with some shaping. No zippers, nor buttons, nor elastic. I used a couple dresses from my closet as a guide, to make sure I was even close to getting the right size, and I used a french curve to help me figure out the neckline. (French curve? Oh my goodness, so nifty! How does it really work? I don't know! I just use it by placing it over the sketchy curved line I have drawn and scootching it around until I find a curve that looks right...ack! I know there's more to it than this, but life is for learning.)

Feeling bold, I did not make a muslin. (I also did not make a muslin, because, truth be told, I don't know what to do with a muslin. I don't know how to take what I have learned from making a muslin and apply it.) So I got out the pretty fabric and just cut it out. And just sewed it. And put it on. And friends, I smiled. I danced! I drove Doc crazy by making him repeatedly agree that it was amazing. I have worn this many times, and it is such a thrill. I loved everything about it, especially the plain and perfect sleeve, but a variation occured to me, and I was fired up, so I got out some more fabric and tinkered a little. Quick change...

Brr! A real model gets to put on a parka between shots.

This is the same dress, but with a little more room in the hips and a little pleated cap sleeve. When I put this on, I smiled, danced, laughed with glee. Look what I can do! I can make my own clothes, and they are good!

Whoops, it's slightly windy--watch those petticoats...

Did I stop there? Well, no. I started thinking about yokes, and about a nightgown pattern I made up a couple years ago. A few adjustments to the neckline, and done.

[Headmistress at an English boarding school. She's strict, but sweet, too. Teaches the older kids to drive in her vintage Citroen...]

This fabric is a wool plaid that I thrifted. (I know! Score!) Coming soon: the square yoke version. Honestly, ideas are coming practically on top of each other.

I started thinking tunics:

It's soft, comfy, versatile. Next time, the neckline will be lowered, and sleeves will be long. I wonder, if I cut it on the bias, will it drape more? Will that stretch out the neck opening too much? There's just one way to find out. Do it and see!

As I've said before, I come from a very crafty tribe. We all figure if there is a need for something, might be there is a way to make it ourselves. My clan of aunties are artists, every single one, and one auntie is a top-notch sewer of clothes and furnishings--she can make lined drapes and formal gowns and for-sure clothes with buttonholes and facings and the whole shebang (*waves to Auntie B*) and in the early 80s, maybe I was about twelve or thirteen, my lovely mama decided to teach me to sew for real. We went to the fabric store and picked out an easy dress pattern--it had six rectangular body panels, waist ties, facings, and a zipper--and a tiny, eighties-style calico print cotton fabric. It was simple and fun; we worked together on it, and I couldn't wait to get home from school, so we could get back to it. She made me do everything myself, and the sense of pride when it was done was huge. I wore that soft, plain dress into tatters. I was still wearing it in college, when my hair was wild, with big earrings and long underwear leggings and engineer boots, and a bookbag I made out of worn-out jeans. As a DIY girl, I'm so grateful to have those sewing skills, even as I disregard most of them. Thank you, Mom.

Thursday, February 4, 2016



It feels like this weird non-winter is really almost over. I know all the old farmers around here would laugh in my face for saying that, but I saw a fully-budded forsythia yesterday, and I'm taking that as a sign. I don't know if it's because of the mild winter, or because of the catdog [it's because of the catdog] but this season has been so lovely. I can't remember the last time I could say that. I have loved this winter, and nobody who knows me will believe it. The catdog and I are doing more training work, which is honestly the most fun thing in the world. She sits with her ears alert, tail scrubbing the floor, and studies me for information. She figures everything out immediately. She hops into position like a little bunny and earns extra points for style. When I go across the room and then call her, she barrels toward me like a runaway train, ears and lips flying, then skids to a stop just short of a crash. It's just wonderful.

Puttering and crafts: I have been making things, and as soon as there is some sunlight around here, I'll show you some of them. Lots of dresses, with ideas for more dresses. I feel a little bit like I've cracked a code on this whole making a dress thing. So much for any notions about minimalism or capsule wardrobes. I've got dress fever! In between cutting up my whole fabric stash to make clothes, the Nenna cardigan is growing (size 4 needles! Are small! I'ma try to get this done before summer!) and I found some Berroco Folio in a beautiful shade of blue/gray which means a lacy scarf is also on the needles. More covered lampshades--seriously, no lampshade is safe from me now. It takes an hour, some glue. Big, huge results. It looks completely professional, which is kinda not how anything I do ever looks, and is thus miraculous.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Team Hats

Team hats! Too nerdy? I love these. These hats are what has become of the beloved tiny stash of Shelter that I bought at Loop last fall. I think there's enough left for one more, but since we are a team of two at the moment (Philly! Italy! Take care of my babies!) I think two team hats is enough. The matching hot pink pompoms really sell the whole thing, I think. Somebody chased us down the noodle aisle of the health food store on Saturday just to tell us how great the hats were, and I am convinced it is the matching hot pink pompominess that makes them so pursuable.

Doesn't he look great in it? He's really game for anything. This pattern (The Conversationalist by the Plucky Knitter) is all kinds of things I love: simple, adaptable, uses up the scraps, FREE--what more could you ask? The pattern has taken off like mad, and while simple, striped, worsted-weight hats and their patterns are abundant in the world, this one is for one thing actually slouchy-- (I'm looking at you, every single other hat I've ever made) and it is for another thing shown in the pattern photos in lots of bright colors, which makes you want to knit a whole bunch of them, and is why I dragged that hot pink Not Shelter yarn up out of the stash to use for the pompoms. It's a lightly spun single with very little twist, called something like "Bit O' Sheep" or " Full O' Wool" or something equally weird--I think it's discontinued and I don't have the label, so my recollections are old and vague, but it has survived many a stash purge, because I knew it would be perfect for something, and here is that something. I used my cardboard circles method (I talked about it here) for these, and they are plenty full and fluffy. Oh, and the Shelter colors, in case you're wondering, are Sap, Postcard, Foothills, and Thistle.

I'm so happy it's a little bit cold right now. That sounded weird to me, too. Also, someone else is pretty happy:
Catdog, in motion. You don't see that very often, do you?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Going Abroad



Last week we put our boy on a train bound for New York City, where he got on an airplane for Istanbul and then another for Italy. He will spend this semester learning Italian, traveling to Pompeii and Venice and Rome and Barcelona, studying beautiful ruins and temples and domes and naves and buttresses, walking in the footsteps of Pliny and Michelangelo. Eating gelato, discovering wine and olives, watching the volcanoes from his terrace by the sea. I watch the moon, thinking of it hanging low in the trees over Capri, glittering on the bay. I knit. Here in my kitchen in the country, looking out at the snowy orchards and fields, I make things; turn wool into a hat, cotton into quilt squares. It is deeply, vividly, crashingly quiet.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Quickie Cowl: an antidote for the sudden onset of Winter


Here's me looking skeptically out at the barren wasteland of our yard. Look at that face. That is the face of someone who is trying really hard to appreciate something bleak and colorless, and failing a little bit, but not giving up. Also, my neck got cold, and since a person can only have so many turtlenecks, I made this little cowl-ish thing last night--wow, crochet is such instant gratification. Using my usual metric, I'd calculate this cowl took me something like 1 1/2 episodes of Outlander, including having to rip back once and start over. I think it will be perfect over a little dress with a cardigan and tights--actually, it will probably go well over anything. It'll make all my warm weather clothes into cold weather clothes. How's that for results? Snap! What took me so long to make one of these? It's the accessory I needed the most, without knowing I needed it.

I started with this pattern, but had to modify it to accommodate my larger gauge and lack of yardage, and I used my leftovers from this--I had two balls of Ella Rae Latte in the stash, in the best, most pearly gray ever. This yarn is glossy and soft and pretty unbeatable. I want to wear this cowl every day, with everything. I think I will.


Friday, January 15, 2016

Granny Square, revisited


Winter is here. I'm still resisting a little, though I try not to. I want to love it, with it's sideways wind and little pellets of ice hitting me in the face like a thousand tiny knives. Winter, show me your appeal, truly! I will be your servant! Sigh. I light candles and imagine fair isle ski sweaters and hot cocoa with whipped cream...mmm....the catdog scoots up onto the sofa, and sprawls her whole toasty self on my feet, which is so nice of her, and wedges her nose behind my knee. Gives a long, rattly sigh and goes inert. No dog has ever been as happy to snuggle as this catdog is. I can't believe our luck that we've found each other.

I am crocheting, a giant granny square using up the scraps--and I mean to actually use them up, too, even those teensy leftovers, which is going to mean a million ends to weave in, but let's not think about that just now. Obviously, leftovers and scraps are continuously regenerating themselves, so it's lucky there can never be too many granny square blankets, am I right? What is it about the grannies, anyway, that make them so appealing in so many ways? They have the comforting repetition of simple dc stitches, and the bohemian virtues of thrift and color, so abundantly. Goodness, I love granny squares. I try to crochet other motifs, for the sake of variety, but none are as wonderful as the original, so I come back to it, again and again. Granny, you are the bomb. And so, another big blanket begins.

Friday, January 8, 2016



January. Those end of the year holidays are such a fulsome thing, with houseguests and piles of food and friends and there is much joy, and the stress of keeping all the gifty secrets half kills me every year, because I am an open book and the doc is a very, very clever man who knows everything before I do, and trying to stay ahead of him in the surprise game is a losing battle. He tells me he was surprised, but it wouldn't be beyond him to say so, just to make me feel good. So January always feels like a reset button, and I am inclined to lie down for awhile when it gets here. There was actual sunshine this morning, streaming through my window, and I spent a long time being lazy there in it, waking and dozing again, under the warm, rumply quilts.

Winter is being so kind to me this year, and I can't even express my relief. The sky this morning was pink.

I started this hodgepodge triangular scarf thing a few weeks ago, using my four precious skeins of Shelter from Loop in Philadelphia, and was into the edging at the end of the whole thing when I decided I didn't like it very much and unraveled it. This lofty, fluffy, rustic yarn is so nice, but it didn't want to be this.

This project been consuming most of my quiet day--it is the Nenna Cardigan by Christina Korber-Reith, in Berroco Vintage DK, "Elderberry"; yarn and pattern both chosen by my lovely mama, who asked me if I would knit it for her. Well, of course! I made a pot of coffee, set my Pandora app to Frank Sinatra Radio (he slays me, ya'll) and began decoding the eighteen pages of pattern instructions. Friends, this thing is making me feel like a rookie.