Knit + Sew = Skirt

The knitters among you will surely know the Lanesplitter skirt, a Knitty pattern from 2010 (link). This pattern is on its way to assuming “mandatory” status, as in it will soon make it onto that short list of projects that knitters seem compelled to knit. It’s a herd mentality, a way of becoming part of the crowd. Everyone knits the same patterns at some point or other, and then we can all compare notes and bond over our shared adventures. The mandatory patterns all seem small and simple enough to allow new knitters to play, while offering something cool and interesting for the advanced knitters. Other mandatory knits —

  • The mandatory Cookie A monkey socks (ravlink). Mine are knit in Colinette Jitterbug.
  • The mandatory ishbel shawl (ravlink). I knit this one three times, once for myself and twice as gifts.
  • Who could forget the clapotis? (ravlink) How many of these did you knit? I only did it once, in Chicago Bears colors, and it was sooooooooooo ugly. Blotchy orange and blue. WHAT was I THINKING???
  • The fetching mitts (Knitty link) which I knit out of possum yarn and sent to one of my authors who I knew would giggle at the thought of yarn from possums. Vile little rodents that yield exquisite yarn? That’s a metaphor for, like, everything about publishing.
  • The calorimetry headband (knitty link) which is the perfect thing for leftover bits of worsted. I’ve knit at least ten of these and I wear them all the time.

Those are just the mandatory knits I’ve fallen for. I’ve managed to avoid knitting the baby surprise jacket, the hitchhiker scarf, the February lady cardigan, the color affection shawl, and plenty of others. But it’s never too late to make a mandatory knit. They endure forever — I mean, it’s been like 50 years since the baby surprise jacket first came out, right? And that one’s not losing any steam. So I can probably still cough one up at some point, even though I’m resisting most of the other mandatory knits.

But the lanesplitter, that one had to be made. And having made it, I want to make it again. And again. And I can see why other knitters have racks of these in their closets. They are all the fun.

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A friend gifted me four skeins of Noro Kureyon in that sensational range of hot sunset colors. I wasn’t sure what to do with it and went back and forth between several patterns for some time. But it had to be a lanesplitter. Really, what other choice was there?

The whole trick to the lanesplitter is that there is no trick. It’s just a large rectangle knit on the bias with alternating skeins of self-striping yarn. Some rows are knit, some are purled, and you end up with a cool raised texture that highlights the stripes. That color effect just happens all on its own from the alternating balls of yarn. Nothing to it, really, though it’s not what I would call completely brainless. You do have to mind the pattern and alternate yarns and work some increases and decreases at the ends of rows.

Then, normally, you seam it along the short edges to make a straight tube, attach a knitted waistband in the same yarn, and call it done. I didn’t quite do it that way. The people in my knitting group right now would say I Theresafied it. That’s their word for changing a pattern to make it behave along custom preferences. Yeah, that’s right. I’m a verb for “can’t leave well enough alone.”

But in this case, I just didn’t want the bulk of an aran-weight waistband. I looked at the project pages on ravelry, and everyone who made the knitted waistband ended up with something sort of thick around the waist. So I hit on the idea of making a fake belt waistband. That black belt is heavy elastic belting sewed directly to the skirt. I added the buckle, which does open and close. Here’s a closer look at the waistband.

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That was no cakewalk, I promise you. The elastic belt has a finished width of 27.5″ including the buckle. The skirt has a finished width of 36.5″ at the waistband (more on that in a sec). The elastic belt had to be stretched hard — HARD — during the stitching. For every 9″ or so of skirt, I had to attach about 7″ of elastic belt, and I had to do it in a way that would let the buckle in front lay smoothly.

First, I attached the buckle ends to the skirt front center with safety pins, and repinned it about eleven thousand times to make absolutely sure it would lay flat when the buckle is closed and was absolutely dead center. Then I quartered the elastic and pinned it to the side and center back points, and stitched it on one quarter at a time. I broke two needles on that bad boy. This was not an easy process, but I’m really happy with how it turned out.

The skirt itself was supposed to be a tube, the same width at the waistband as at the hem. But here’s the thing. I usually have to alter skirt and pant patterns to accommodate a smaller-than-average waist (some would say, a bigger-than-average butt, ahem). I knit this to a finished size of 38″ hip, and when I blocked it, it grew to 46″. Argh. That’s Kureyon for you. So I had way too much fabric at a waist that was already going to have more fabric than it really needed.

So I made three more changes to the pattern to compensate for that.

  1. I sewed the side seam on my sewing machine instead of doing a hand seam with yarn. This took an inch and a half out of the circumference all the way up and down, waist to hem.
  2. I added a 2″ hip/waist curve in that seam, which removed 4″ at that side.
  3. I added a 2″ hip/waist curve in the shape of a dart where the other side seam would have been, if this had been knit in two pieces instead of one. That removed another 4″ on that side.

That brought the waist circumference down to 36.5″, still bigger than I need, but certainly more manageable.

My only other change was to add a nylon tricot lining. Noro Kureyon is sticky stuff. It needs a lining. This is how the waist and lining look from the inside.

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The tricot lining puckers quite a bit because of the way I had to pull the belt while attaching it. I stared at that for a good long time, trying to think of a way to pretty it up a bit, before realizing I don’t care. Nobody can see this puckering when I wear the skirt. I can’t feel it, either, because the tricot is so thin and fine and soft. So to hell with it. This one can look a little messy on the inside. I’ll find the strength to cope. Somehow. 😉

Which mandatory knits have you made?

Theresa

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Spring, I am ready for you!

Last weekend, temperatures here in Chicago climbed up near 40F. What a gift! On both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, I went for a brisk 3.5 mile walk along my usual neighborhood route. I didn’t run any of it — I haven’t run since October because of last autumn’s illness, followed by winter, ugh, winter. Who wants to run outside in subzero wind chills when the snow drifts make it impossible for cars to see you at intersections? Not this girl.

But spring surely will follow winter, and when it does, I’ll have a new fleece to wear on my neighborhood running route.

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McCall’s 6252 View A

I like the half-zip fleeces for outdoor workouts on brisk days. They’re warm without being heavy or constricting, and if I start to overheat, I can open the half-zip without having to worry about jacket fronts flopping all over and zipper tabs smacking me like little wasp stingers. Maybe I’m just a wimp, but man, those zipper tabs hit your hands the wrong way, and it hurts. So a half-zip is definitely better, imho.

I chose this radiant bright neon green on purpose. If you run or walk outdoors, this one won’t require explanation. but for the rest of you: cars. A really bright color for my workout gear, something impossible to ignore, makes me think maybe possibly they’ll drive past me instead of driving over me. There are far too many sad stories about runners being smashed on roadsides. I don’t want to become a statistic. Plus, bright colors are fun, and when else can you wear them? This green isn’t exactly the stuff of daily wear, but in outdoor workout gear, crazy bright colors are the norm.

The pattern came together easily without any real hitches. I wasn’t at all enthusiastic about the way they have you attach the facing along the zipper front — they want you to hand sew it, and really, who would bother? I machine stitched it, and it was fine. The facings themselves are a little oddly shaped, and in a lighter fabric, I would just cut the yoke front again and use that instead of the facings. But that would be far too bulky in a fleece like this.

I’ll make this again in neon pink at some point, and when I do, other than tinkering with the facing, the only other change I’ll make is to the sleeves. They’re big. I narrowed them a little bit along the seamline as I stitched — not much, just about a half-inch, but I’ll bet I could easily take out another two inches there. You can see in the photo how they bunch up from the extra width. The pattern envelope shows the same effect on the models, which I didn’t even notice until after I was fitting this to my body. The sleeves are just really too wide from about the bicep down.

Also, the collar piece is cut in a plain rectangular shape. As a result it stands up a little awkwardly instead of curving in toward the neck. So I might redraft that pattern piece for next time, but I want to run in this one a few times before I make that decision. It’s very possible that having the fabric stand up and away from my neck, almost like a funnel-neck sweater, will be more comfortable on a run. So I’m withholding judgment on this detail for now.

As I write this, it’s 13F outside with a “feels like” of 1 degree. One whole entire degree! Mother Nature’s a bit stingy today! And the 10-day outlook shows highs in the teens, lows in single digits and subzero, before you factor in the wind to get the “feels like” temperature. So this pretty green fleece will hang in my closet for now, but maybe in a few more weeks, we’ll see a couple of days approaching 40, and it might get some road time.

Spring has to come eventually, right?

Have you started any spring sewing or knitting yet?

Theresa

Wardrobe architect, week two, part one

It’s going to take me forever to get through all of the exercises in the Wardrobe Architect series on the Colette blog. It’s a great series, but a lot of time and thought, and I’m really super busy these days. So I might break down this next exercise into a couple of steps, the Q&A portion and the visual portion. It’s going to take some time to pull together the visuals for that part of the week two exercises, but here’s the Q&A.

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy,poised, powerful, etc)?

Bold, smart, sexy, original, and forward-thinking.

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

Lumpy, dumpy, frumpy, and grumpy — all of the umpies! I hate anything that feels like cheap, mumsy mall clothes.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

This is a really hard question to answer because I don’t really have style icons. There are people whose style I admire, but I don’t necessarily wish to emulate it.

Debbie Harry is high on my list because she embraced her sexiness in a very overt way, a powerful, feminist way. But I don’t want to wear satin pants or ripped shirts! I do love the way she can always make a white shirt look fabulous, and I love how clean and bold her look is. Very feminine, but a little roughed up. She’s my winner for “dressed down” style icons.

Debbie Harry

Anna Wintour has some of the best dresses of any woman on the planet, and I do love dresses. So I always tend to notice what she’s wearing, but have you ever noticed that most of her dresses use the same basic style lines? Jewel neck or crew neck, fitted through the torso, maybe a little flare in the skirts. And she wears a lot of prints — I shy away from prints. I think the lesson here is that you can wear the same basic silhouette most of the time and still have varied, interesting looks. I can’t wear that neckline she favors, but the fit and flare silhouette is one of my favorites.

anna wintour

I’m not sure she’s my clear winner for “dressed up” style icon, though, because there are so many women who look great in a dress or something a little more special than jeans. I like Victoria Beckham’s look quite a lot, though my body isn’t linear enough to pull off many of her outfits. She’s got those straight, willowy lines, and I’m more of a Marilyn than a Twiggy. But her look is sophisticated and bold, and I like that.

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

Girly (I like feminine, but an adult form of feminine, not a girly form) and avant-garde (I love avant-garde fashion but limit myself to something that can be described more properly as edgy and fashion-forward rather than truly avant-garde — though I wore a lot of avant-garde looks in my teens and twenties. I’ll always love it, but I can’t really pull it off anymore.)

List a whole bunch of words about style and emotions and narrow the list down to 3-5 words that best represent your desired look.

Womanly

Strong

Sexy

Bold

Urban

Each of these words triggers a lot of thoughts and related concepts. I almost wrote “feminine” but changed it to womanly because I want to avoid connotations of girlishness. I don’t feel comfortable in girlish clothes — I’m too short and hourglass-shaped to look like anything other than a caricature in that kind of style. But I don’t like masculine, boyish lines, either, so I opted for womanly. “Strong” to me encompasses clean, uncluttered lines that follow the lines of the body without adding loads of volume in any particular area, but it also means that the overall look itself has presence: not your typical suburban mall outfit. “Sexy” is idiosyncratic, of course, but to me it means not shying away from my natural shape, a pronounced hourglass, and not being reluctant to bare my arms or knees or to wear things that nip in at the waist. “Bold” is more of a mood than a look — strong, vivid colors, plus clear garment lines, plus good accessories, plus that hard-to-define extra that makes an outfit look expensive and original. “Urban” is mainly there to weed out a lot of looks I have never worn (cowboy boots, gah) or no longer wear (peasant blouses, tiered skirts, that boho hippie thing). I’ll incorporate an ethnic piece from time to time, like the carved jade pendant I bought in China, but the rest of the outfit will be more urban than suburban or country.

I’m going to stop there now. The next step is all about gathering photos and analyzing them, which will be a ton of fun, but time-consuming! And this urban, bold, sexy, strong woman has a date with her hiking boots this afternoon!

Theresa

Slowly getting it back together

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Isn’t that lovely? That’s a silk taffeta with silk organza appliques, painted flowers, and sewn beads. Love it. This is about to become a 3/4 circle skirt. I started stitching it and then realized I was out of lightweight seam binding, so I’ve ordered a bit more and am stalking my poor mail carrier, Frank. Feel sorry for Frank. He has to cart a lot of packages for me.

So, this round of remodeling is all done but for some tile repairs in both bathrooms, and that means I was able to put my sewing room back together. Literally — honestly, literally — as the painting crew started carting their stuff out, my laptop screen exploded with a virus. Within one hour, the painters were gone and so was my laptop, to the repair shop, where it lived for six days.

This is why my blog has been quiet. Hectic life, quiet blog, right?

But there has been a little sewing progress. I hemmed this little summer tank dress, which has been lingering for far too long in my UFO pile.

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New Look 6210

I made only minor alterations to this pattern, adding a little room in the bust and making the racer back a little more modest. Here, I’ll show you the racer back as altered.

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You can see that the back armscyes from underarm to shoulder are slightly cut in, but not super cut in. I just thought that would be more comfortable. It’s not anything wrong with the pattern, just a personal preference.

I don’t wear many prints, and cutting this dress reminded me why that is. The fabric is a lovely rayon jersey from Mood (link), and the scale of the print plus the muted color palette were what drew my attention to it. Print scaling on a petite body can be a little tricky, but this one is so large that you almost can’t see the repeat. A trained eye will spot it, of course, but to most people, that will look like a pattern with no repeat. I liked that, and it turns out to look pretty good on my 5’3″ frame. (I’ll be sure to update with a modeled shot when the weather permits me to wear this.)

In any case, I wanted to take advantage of the scale of that pattern to make it look like a no-repeater, but I also wanted to make sure that none of the curves were hitting me in awkward spots. So I spent a lot of time fussing with the placement of the pattern pieces until I found something that would work. I swear, cutting prints is more work than sewing them, but in this case, it was worth all the tinkering and shifting a quarter-inch this way or that. I’m very happy with the way the pattern swirls around my torso. This is a fitted dress, and the curved lines accentuate the fit rather than fighting it.

A couple weeks back, I sewed a very large cardigan/jacket thing with a sweater knit also from Mood (link). I had just enough of this fabric leftover to make a quickie skirt. I lined it in some nylon tricot (also called lingerie knit) that I had in my stash. That worked out well. The knit is a wool (a bit sticky but not itchy) with metallic lurex threads spun into the yarn that give it a silvery halo. I don’t think I gave you a good look at this fabric before, but here it is.

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You can just see how the silver threads add to the overall stickiness of the fabric, right? So lining it was the right move, especially given that this is a heavy knit skirt, suitable for winter wear, that would really need tights with it. We all know what happens when you don’t have a slippery layer between a sticky skirt and a pair of tights. Hellooooooo, good china!

I doubt I’ll wear the skirt very often, but what the heck. I had just enough length for it, and given the choice between whipping up a quick skirt and either tossing or storing the leftovers, I’ll take the skirt. Even if I only wear it once or twice a year, it’s still better than no skirt at all!

What do you do with your leftovers and scraps?

Theresa