One of my 2015 resolutions

As I’ve tried to rapidly piece together something resembling a functional, four-season wardrobe, I’ve fallen into the habit of buying multiples. It started in June when I purchased 6 tank tops on one trip to the mall, and it’s happened a few times since then, most recently at the Nordstrom post-holiday sale.

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That right there is a set of three identical cashmere sweaters, Halogen brand, in fuchsia, heather gray, and fire truck red. Here is how I rationalize buying three identical cashmere sweaters.

  • They were on sale, a very good price for cashmere.
  • These colors fit my capsules perfectly.
  • They’re plain enough to wear with anything, dressed up or dressed down.
  • Cashmere is super warm and it’s super cold out.
  • I know I’ll wear these till they’re unfit to be seen in public, and then I’ll continue to wear them around the house and hope that nobody drops by and catches me in them.

That last point? You want to know how I can guarantee that? Because I own two other Halogen plain v-neck cashmere sweaters identical to these, but in my old large size, and the cashmere sweaters are among the very few things I refuse to relinquish from those sizes. The big ones are black and purple. I wore the purple one Monday. It’s crazy enormous on me now, and I don’t care. I just wear it at home, not out in public, and it makes me happy and feels so cozy and warm.

The multiples don’t stop there. I also needed some flat casual shoes — my shoe size also changed, and I’ve had to spend a shocking amount of money on shoes and boots this past year. Most of those new shoes have heels, but we’re heading into the ice and snow months, and I don’t like wearing heels on ice. So I had to buy some flats, and I picked up a couple of other accessories while I was at it.

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The shoes on the left are Steve Madden silver metallic slip-ons from Nordstrom. The shoes on the right are Van’s. The two pairs really look so much alike in cut and shape — only the uppers and brand labels are different. I bought them at two different stores, and they’re still rather like multiples. Hey, at least my taste is consistent, right?

The other items are Ugg shearling earmuffs in a python print — OMG, so warm, love them — and a pair of bracelets. The wide silver bracelet on the right looks amazing worn over a blouse cuff. I usually wear my bracelets next to the skin, but the salesgirl layered it on top of the fabric of my shirt, and I was instantly mesmerized. It’s a pretty cool look. I’ll try to remember to take a snapshot the next time I wear it so you can see what I mean. It’s not something I would have thought to do on my own, but the bracelet is almost exactly as wide as most of my shirt and sweater cuffs, and it just works.

Between the holidays, family stuff, and a standard-issue holiday cold, I haven’t done as much knitting or sewing as I’d planned in this past week. There has been some, but not as much as anticipated. Honestly, I’ve spent more hours shopping than sewing and knitting, but what can I say — it was warm enough to justify going to the outdoor malls, and the holiday sales were enticing. I bought lots of other things, too, and will show them off later. For now, I think a little nap before the New Year’s celebration might be the best plan for the rest of today.

So, one of my key New Year’s resolutions is to stop buying multiples. I think I have enough foundation pieces now that I can start focusing on some statement pieces. I’m excited about that! It feels like progress.

I have other resolutions, too. Not everyone makes them, I know, but I use the start of each new year for some long-range planning. I also set monthly goals at the start of each new month. It’s just the way I function best, with a plan and some strategic thinking and a sense of where I’m heading. Most of my goals this year have to do with career, budget, household organization, and travel. My only real wardrobe/crafting goals are these:

  1. Stop buying multiples in ready-to-wear items.
  2. Going “cold sheep” on yarn purchases until I reach a certain trigger point.
  3. Sew and knit every day, even if only for a few minutes.

I know I’ll make all of these goals because that’s just my way. I make goals, I prioritize my goals, and I pick them off in order of priority. That third one is the goal I know will be easiest to achieve because it will be a pleasure. I don’t care to watch television, and my work involves so much reading that I tend not to read for pleasure all that much. My main leisure activities are working out and making clothes, and I usually manage to do both each day.

Do you have any 2015 goals for your sewing or knitting? What are they? Do you keep your resolutions?

Theresa

 

 

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A third class of fabrics

I usually think of fabric as falling into one of two classes: “easy” fabrics that are stable wovens and require little special handling beyond a straight seam and an edge finish, and “hard” fabrics that aren’t usually technically difficult (though they can be, like silk chiffon) but require extra steps or special techniques. The main difference between the two classes is that easy fabrics are straightforward in construction. Hard fabrics require a bit of thought, maybe a practice seam or two, maybe a different approach to finishing.  It comes down to techniques, really. You choose the construction techniques based on the type of fabric and garment, right? But choosing the right techniques will lead to a good result, so it’s really just about knowing which techniques to use.

I now have identified a third class. We’ll call this the pain in the ass class.

Fabrics in the pain in the ass class are, well, a pain in the ass to sew. No matter what seaming method you use, the results aren’t quite what you expect. In fact, the fabric seems determined to give a bad result at the end of a finicky or fiddly process, no matter what you do.

This Missoni-ish knit fabric was in the pain in the ass class. This stuff was so tender that it disintegrated along cut edges if you so much as breathed on it. It unraveled and left tiny little puff of lint all over the place. Look at the back of my sewing machine table in this picture — this is a sprinkling of puff linty bits that remained after I sewed about 14″ of one seam.

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Imagine what my bobbin cage looks like now, after finishing this dress. It’s basically one giant lintball wrapped around the bobbin mechanism.

So the raw edges are very tender, yet the seams couldn’t be sewn just once. The fabric is composed of regular stockinette and tiny dropped yarn-overs. Knitters will be familiar with this type of fabric, which turns up in many scarf patterns. I made one like this for a friend some years ago, and this is what the fabric looked like.

drop stitch scarf

Imagine this on a smaller scale, and you get the idea. There are lots of holes in this fabric, and the seams were distorting when I stitched through a hole section. So I had to double stitch each seam, once on the 5/8″ seam line, and again on the 4/8″ line. This turned my sewing room into an ocean of tiny lint puffs. I overcast the raw edges to stop the puffery, which meant a third pass through the sewing machine.

I mentioned that the stuff disintegrates along cut edges when handled. It’s not just the annoying little puff balls, but also the fact that the fabric ravels — again, all those drop stitches are just made to fall apart along cutting lines. They can’t help themselves. They are the pearl-clutching old belles on the fainting couch. They live to die beautifully.

The only way to stop the raveling was to stabilize the fabric as much as possible so that it wouldn’t pull or stretch even the tiniest tiny but. But the fabric — rayon! — was so slinky and slippery and loosely-knit that pins fall right out of it. That’s all, they just fall out. Tilt the fabric off the horizontal plane, and the pins end up in the carpet.

I hated working with this fabric. Hated.

So when I sewed the sleeves in inside out (A rookie mistake), it came as no surprise to me that the fabric resisted unpicking. Even the most delicate touch with a seam ripper made it want to shriek and die. After fiddling and much cursing, I checked the scrap bag to see if I had enough leftover to cut a second pair of sleeves. Luckily, I did — this had been planned as a sleeveless maxi, but then I made a knee-length version with bracelet sleeves instead, and this left just enough fabric to recut the sleeves. I actually cut the old sleeves out of the garment, leaving the stitched bits attached to the dress body around the armscye. This actually stabilized the fabric enough to make sewing in the new sleeves a breeze. Lesson learned — from now on, when a pain in the ass fabric tries to explode into lint every time you walk past it on tippy toes, I’ll zigzag some seam tape or stretch lace or something to the raw edges as a first step. I can always cut it off later, but it might help during construction.

This fabric also hated the iron. I tested scraps at different heat settings — on the synthetic settings, the fabric refused to take a press. On the warmer settings like wool and cotton, it melted. Literally melted. I’ve seen acetate do this before, but this is a first for rayon. Have any of you seen rayon do that before? Melt to nothing at the touch of a hot iron?

In any case, the damned dress is finished. I actually really like the finished garment, but I doubt I’ll be able to wear it without a bit of PTSD over the construction process.

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The pattern is McCall’s 6612, and the pattern deserves to be sewn again in a fabric that, you know, doesn’t make me want to douse it in gasoline and light a match. I still want to do the maxi sleeveless version, maybe in a plain jersey. There’s also a gorgeous drape-neck tunic version with shirring along the side seams, something I could easily throw on with leggings or jeans. So the pattern is a good’un, and now that I have it fitted to my shape, I’m sure I’ll make it again.

Just not with a pain in the ass class fabric.

What’s the worst fabric you’ve ever sewn with?

Theresa

 

We need a live rooster to take the curse off this shank

(I loved that movie.)

After yesterday’s adventure with boomerang needles and vanishing yarn, I was ready for a good day today. I went fabric shopping! That’s always good. More on that tomorrow, when I will show you the gorgeous goodies I now own. They followed me home, so I get to keep them now.

And then I sat down to finish the pink fleece set. I had only to top stitch one armscye seam and attach the hood. I wound a new bobbin and threaded up the new spool, and made it a whole entire two inches into the topstitching when this happened.

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NOT COOL, SINGER. NOT COOL.

That sucker snapped like a dry twig. Unbelievable. I had to hunt all over my sewing room for the bag of needle packs — seriously, I have an entire ziplock sandwich bag stuffed full of the little packs of Schmetz needles, my favorite kind. But for some reason, I can never find them when I need them, and I’m starting to think gremlins are moving them when I’m not looking. I have two plastic storage bins for notions. Two. So there are only ever two places for me to look for needles, and I can still never find them. I think my bins are packed too tight and I can just never find what I need in them anymore. Hmm, that might be something to fix while I’m on make-cation.

Anyway. Finally found the needle, and in the process of the hunt, began to question whether the sewing gods are mocking me. I never have problems like this. Two needles destroyed in two days? Never happens to me. Well, I guess I can’t say never anymore. In any case, I almost called it a day and went to find my knitting instead, but then my stubborn Taurus side emerged. I would by god finish that fleece set today.

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The fourth and final warm thing

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The third and final fleece track pants

I’m very glad to have these done because I’m ready for a break from sewing fleece. I have one more length I want to sew in the next month, but I won’t do that just yet. Because my house is very cold, It was a good idea to push to make some of these warm things quickly, but I’m really looking forward to sewing anything else. Anything. Just not fleece. Just for a little while.

While I was out today, I picked up some bemberg lining, thread, and a zipper to make a wool skirt — the wool is already cut, and now I have the other bits I need to actually make the thing. That will probably be tomorrow’s sewing project. It’s a fussy project because the wool is ravelly and shreddy and I will have to seal every raw edge prior to handling it. This is more prep work than I usually give to a project. But that’s okay — I have nothing to do tomorrow except knit and sew! Ah, bliss!

(Okay, and wrap gifts and make cookies and whatever, but that stuff won’t interfere with my bliss.)

Theresa

In which my December make-cation is off to a rather dodgy start

Okay, so technically, I’m not on vacation yet. I still have some work to do for the university over the next several days, and I’ll be popping into the family business to push some paper early next week. But classes are not in session, and I’ve edited my last manuscript of the year, so my desk is mostly clear. It feels like vacation just because my workload is so drastically reduced all of a sudden.

Today was supposed to be an at-home day because the foundation repair guys had to come and bang and rattle around in the basement again.* Of course, with an at-home day, and only a few measly hours of work to do, you can imagine where my mind went. Time to play with textiles! Yay!

Except first this happened.

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That sucker bent like a boomerang and basically locked itself inside the bobbin cage. With two layers of fabric on the shank, of course, because I was mid-seam when it happened. Guess how long it took me to get this needle free. Hint: long enough that I decided to take a tea break in the middle of fighting to dislodge it.

So. Okay. Needles bend and stuff. I got that sorted, and returned to my project, the final pair of fleece track pants and the final warm thing. I’m a little sick of sewing fleece by now, but this set is nearly finished, and I expected to wrap it up today.

Except then this happened.

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The bobbin ran out and I only had this much thread left on the spool. I still had to topstitch one armscye seam and attach the hood, so if the bobbin had held, this might have been enough to complete the project. Am I the only one who things it sucks that a fresh spool isn’t enough to complete this simple outfit? The spool was marked as having 125 yards, but I’m quite sure that is overstated. If the spool had really had 125 yards, there would have been leftovers.

And of course, I couldn’t just pop out to get another spool because workmen and their muddy boots were swarming the place today. I had to wait for them to wrap for the day before I could go pick up more thread.

What’s a crafty girl to do? I took a quick inventory of my already cut projects, and as long as I was going to make a thread run, I went ahead and checked that I had all the notions etc for those projects.

And then I made these.

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What the heck. They were cut and ready to sew, the final pair of cotton pajama pants that I cut out late in the summer. These take no time at all, and that’s one less pending project in my sewing room. I don’t even remember what fabric this is — something from a quilt shop, no doubt, but I can’t guess which one. This gives me four pairs of woven pajama pants, and that’s enough. Even if I get reeeeeeally lazy about doing laundry, four ought to be enough.

I thought I had more projects cut and ready to sew. But other than the fleece-in-progress, I only have one wool skirt, two summer sundresses, and a couple of muslins for coats. If I’m actually able to spend my time sewing instead of surgically removing bent needles and moaning about short spools, I can easily knock out the skirt and two sundresses before Christmas. As our country friends might say, God willing and the creek don’t rise!

Theresa

* For those of you who know me in real life, yes, foundation repairs AGAIN, but the engineer says that this is really for sure the last time they have to fix something, and they mean it this time you guys so stop laughing already. For everyone else, my house cracked in half about five years ago and the repairs have been epic. The problem stemmed from a collapsed underground stream in my neighborhood, and because of the way the land shifted, they’ve had terrible times fixing the house.

Goooooooooooooooooal!

Number 31 and 32, finished, and that means I met my goal for this year.

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That’s a sweatshirt and track pants in fleece that is almost black but really more of a very dark charcoal. I have one more fleece outfit cut and in progress, and then I’ll be laying off the fleece for a while. I do have a couple more lengths in the stash, but they’re neons meant to make “Please don’t drive into me” bright zippies for running outdoors in the spring. They can wait.

So, my goal was a garment a week for 32 weeks, totaling 32 garments, and here I am 16 days from the end of the year with the goal already met. And heading into the winter holidays, too, which I plan to use as a make-cation. I think I’m just going to tackle the stack of projects that are started but not complete — the Missoni dress that needs new sleeves, the wool skirt that’s cut and sitting in pieces in a project bag, etc.  I don’t know if I can get it all done — there is, after all, the tiny matter of a big holiday with a complicated family looming on the calendar. But I can knock out most of the pending projects, if not all.  Clear out the bulk of this mess so I can start the new year fresh. That will be a good feeling.

By the way, I made my knitting goal some time ago. I never posted this here, but my goal was six knitted garments, and I’ve completed eight, with four or five more in various stages of completion. I think I might try for twelve next year, because why not?

Soooo tempted to buy some fabric to celebrate making my goal. This outfit here is another 2.5 yards out, and that plus the four from last week’s red fleece set puts 6.5 yards into the “out” column since 12/1/14. That’s not a bad start on the whole fabric stash adjustment process (two yards out for every yard in). But I think I might just bank that yardage for now because there’s a blouse pattern I’ve been eyeing that takes 4.25 yards — crazy yardage for a blouse, about double what you would expect for most blouses. I have some eggplant silk charmeuse in the stash that would work, but I see this as more of a crepe — more matte than shine — so I might just pop for some silk georgette or crepe de chine once I bank enough yardage to justify the splurge.

Do you use the end of the year period to motivate you to finish tasks? I find it’s pretty useful.

Theresa

Sunday status report

This is a thing I knit this week.

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It’s not a throw rug, though the fabric is a bit ruggy because it’s knit from Noro Kureyon. It’s neither a blanket nor an antimacassar even though it’s draped on the back of the sofa. It’s draped there because all other work surfaces in my house have been given over to the upcoming holiday. Wrapping zones, baking zones, decorating zones — but not a “lay out your knitting for photography in an attractive manner” zone anywhere to be found.

Eventually, this will become a lanesplitter skirt, a Knitty pattern from about four years ago (link). But in order to finish it, I have to block it, and I don’t have an available surface for blocking right now. It will have to wait until the 27th, when all holiday madness will be history and my tables and counters can be reclaimed for regular usage.

At that point, I will make a nylon tricot lining for this skirt, too. The fabric is so coarse and ruggy that there’s no way I would wear it next to bare skin, and it would stick to tights in that weirdly inappropriate way that coarse fabrics stick to tights. So a lining it needs, and the fabric for the lining is on order.

I’ve also decided not to do a knitted waistband, which would be bulky and coarse and itchy and uncomfortable. Instead, I picked up a length of belt elastic and a black belt buckle. I’ll sew the belt right to the skirt as a waistband. It will be smoother and slimmer, and much, much easier to wear.

I’m also about halfway into a gathered pullover.

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The body is knitted in the round to the armholes, then divided for the shoulders. I’m right at the point of division now, so a little further along than this picture shows. The cable for this sweater is simple and lovely.

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That’s just the bottom half of the cable. With the top half knitted on, it forms a diamond-shaped medallion at the center front bodice. I’m using Sunday Knits Angelic 3-ply for this, yarn which was leftover from a shawl project. Here, I can show you the shawl, too, which I made a couple years ago and wear ALL THE TIME. This is one of the best things I’ve ever knit, a Carol Sunday pattern called Cambridge. Love this shawl.

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When I bought the yarn for that shawl, I planned to do the largest size, and bought accordingly — plus a bit extra in case I wanted to knit a hat or gloves, too. I chose to knit the medium instead, and ended up with enough left over for a sweater. This is an angora-merino blend that is so soft and luxurious, yet so warm and cozy, that it will be perfect for the Gathering sweater.

This means I have a lot of half-finished knitting projects laying around here right now. I have a feeling the holiday break and most of January will be given over to finishing what I’ve already started.

Do you tend to work on one project at a time, or lots at once?

Theresa

Turn Four

I used to live in Indianapolis, so forgive me if I make a few race or basketball analogies here and there. It seeps into your blood there, much like the corn and soy pollen from all the farmland.

In racing, turn four is the last turn on the track, and that’s where I am on this year’s garment goals. My goal, set back in May, was to make 32 garments by the end of the year. Here are numbers 29 and 30.

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That’s another Warm Thing (knee length hoodie with a kangaroo pocket) and a matching pair of fleece track pants. We’ve seen this pattern before. The pants are identical to the other pair I made in charcoal, and the only change to the hoodie was that I added a sleeve cuff, lengthened the hem about an inch to better cover my knees, and used a straight hem instead of a shirt-tail hem.

This feels like an insignificant project because it is what I think of as utility sewing — not a high fashion outfit, no special occasion, not even something I’ll wear in public. This is something to wear in my cold house during the cold months. I’ve been sewing multiples of these in fleece lately because I know I need them, and I need them now. It’s not particularly fun sewing, but it serves a purpose.

To meet my sewing goal for the year, I have to complete two more garments. That’s well within reach, barring calamity. I have two more pairs of these track pants cut out, another warm thing, and a v-neck sweatshirt, all sitting within easy reach of my sewing machine and ready to go. I have other things cut and ready to sew, too, and with the end of the year approaching, I feel like I want to clear out as many of these cut items as possible. Out with the old projects, make room for the new.

Because I’m on an academic calendar (I’m a fellow at a major public university), the next few weeks will be a bit slow on the work front. I’ll have to clean up after the fall semester and prepare for the spring semester, but that’s a light load compared to my usual pace. Even with holiday prep and parties, this should leave plenty of time to reach my sewing goals for the year.

That’s a good feeling. I know better than to celebrate the end of the race while I’m still at turn four, but I can see the finish line now. Time to push the pedal to the floor and go, go, go! I confess that I won’t make all of my goals for 2014, but that’s because 2014 was incredibly challenging on the personal front. The best I can say about 2014 is that it appears the members of my family will all live through it, and that was uncertain for much of the year. 2015 is bound to be better, and for now, at least I can make my sewing goals and truly celebrate the knowledge that we’ve come through the worst and things can only get better now.

And I’ll have 32 new garments to wear on my fitter body. That’s also something to celebrate — or it will be, once I can actually wave the checkered flag at the finish line.

Did you set goals for this year? Will you make them?

Theresa