Summer Knitting

I love summer knitting. There. I said it. Whew! Just getting it out in the open like that makes me feel so light and free!

Knitting is usually all about the big, warm, cozy sweater, right? The wool cardigan, the bulky jacket, the stranded or cabled details that add extra warmth. Come spring, in knitting groups everywhere, people will start glaring at the rising mercury and muttering, “I don’t know, maybe some socks or a lace shawl until the weather breaks.” And it’s true that holding a blanket or heavy jumper on your lap in August doesn’t feel very nice.

But there’s so much more to summer knitting than socks and accessories. Don’t get me wrong — I’m an avid sock knitter, and I’ve knitted more hats and gloves over the years than any person could ever need. They’re fun little projects that factor high on the instant-reward scale (as instant as knitting ever gets, anyway). So I do get excited in the hot months about knitting little light bits of froth to drape around my neck or pop onto the ends of various limbs.

Even more than that, though, I love knitting tees and vests and tanks. And tiny little cardigans! They’re perfect for summer when the air conditioner is blasting arctic air all over your bare skin. And little skirts! I can’t wear skirts in Chicago’s frozen winter, but in the warmer months, skirts are the greatest thing ever. A warm breeze against bare legs? Yes, please!

Now that the weather is turning warmer, my knitting time is also turning to warm-weather items. First on the list is this Ankestrick cardigan in a laceweight that I just barely managed to start last summer.

summerhill start

Summerhill in Misti Alpaca Lace

That’s a top-down cardigan using the contiguous shoulder method that I’ve become so addicted to. It’s a great way to ensure a good fit. I find it better, generally, than a raglan in both fit and style, but that didn’t stop me from casting on this raglan cardigan a week or two ago.


Miette in Classic Elite Lush

That’s Andi Satterlund’s popular retro-style pattern, and the yarn has enough angora in it to make it seem even more retro. This is proving to be a quick knit so far, and it might end up living on the back of my chair at the family business through most of the summer. I don’t spend many hours there these days, but I spend enough to want a dedicated cardigan there. This might be it.

I’m eyeballing one, possibly two tunic/minidress things, another Elfe tee, and this extremely cool skirt — check it out.

golfjes skirt

Golfjes from Atalier Alfa

I’m so, so taken with Alfa’s patterns. She blows me away with the inventiveness of her stitches and style lines. That Golfjes stitch pattern makes my fingers itch to cast on. Doesn’t it kind of look like ripples on the surface of a busy lake? I’ve already picked out the yarn I’ll use, some Lorna’s Laces sock yarn in mostly black, gray, and cream, with just a slight touch of red here and there. (Colorways Pinstripe and Embers.) (We’re all shocked that I’m using black and gray, right? But there is SOME red in it!) The yarn is wound and ready to go, and I can’t imagine I’ll hold out much longer before casting this on. Knitting time has been precious, which is probably the only thing keeping this skirt off the needles right now. Every now and then, I see that project bag sitting all forlorn and patient in the drawer, and I coo, “Soon, my pretty, very very soon.”

What are you excited to knit this summer? Or do you put your needles away until the first frost in autumn?



Cutathon, the first batch of summer projects

I don’t know about you guys, but I find cutting and sewing to be two very different types of activity. Each feels like a separate sort of creative process. They’re both satisfying, but because of the differences between them, I want a different mood and a different mindset for each.

When I’m cutting, it feels a bit like puzzling through a planning stage. I trace all my patterns, and then I make alterations on the tracings based on the actual measurements at certain critical points like shoulder and bust and waist. So a lot of decisions have to be made here that will affect the final garment. How much wearing ease do I want, and wear do I want it? I’ve been sewing long enough that I don’t have to really ponder these decisions most of the time, but sometimes these can be tricky calls.

This is also where I’m learning how a particular fabric will behave. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been sewing or how many times you’ve knit with other versions of a fabric. No two rayon jerseys, for example, will behave in exactly the same way. Cutting the fabric lets me start to get to know it and think about how I might need to adjust the construction methods to accommodate different characteristics.

So I like cutting, but it feels more cerebral than sewing, which I find almost mindlessly soothing by comparison. And this is one of the main reasons I tend to cut things in clusters, several projects at once. When the mindset is there, and I have a bit of time for it, it makes more sense to knock out a bunch of cuts at once. And as long as I’m pulling out the mats, French curves, tracing materials, etc., I might as well make good use of them.

This past weekend, I cut out three new projects for summer. The first is a white mesh baseball jacket. The cuffs, collar, and front band will be in white cotton ribbing. I had to do quite a lot of puzzling and thinking to figure out how to adjust the pattern to accommodate the mesh — eliminating the lining and pockets, for example — but for the most part, this pattern is better suited to this task than any other jacket pattern I looked at. This will be one of those things I can toss on over jeans and a tee or over a sundress, and it will work easily with any casual style. Side note: I’m really taken with mesh lately. Don’t know why. Mood had some really nice ones and I snapped up two, this white one and the black bonded mesh knit I used to make the tunic I blogged about last week. This white mesh is heavier, with a denser drape, and I think the cotton ribbing will give it good structure.


I also cut a cotton batik sundress with a mullet hem. This one required a bit more pattern adjustment prior to cutting — it’s really, really loose. I wanted it sort of skimmy and loose, rather than just a big cotton sack, so I tried to narrow it through the shoulders and reshape the upper bust. I’ve already started sewing this one, and I still need to take it in a bit through the shoulders, but it’s going to work out pretty much as planned. I love this print, a deep stash length from the Needle Shop. I usually shy away from browns and golds, but this one had to come home with me as soon as I saw it.


Finally, I cut a jersey maxidress in a striped knit from Fishman’s that was originally intended for a much different project. I’d thought to make one of those folded, crossover drape front blouses with it, but then I tried one on in the store to see how it would look on my figure. It was awful. I looked pregnant and drowning in fabric. So I decided to make a summer maxi out of this fabric instead.


This had to be cut in a single layer to make sure the stripes matched just so. My trick for cutting patterned fabric is to always cut in a single layer and lay the first piece on top of the fabric to cut the second piece. This guarantees that all the matching points will match. In this case, because everything had to be cut on the bias, it took a little extra time and care, but my cutting trick always works pretty well. If you look closely here, you can see the white outline of the pattern piece under the first bodice piece that I already cut. It’s a little hard to see because the patterns are matched along the cut edges.


And then, after cutting, this is how the two bodice fronts look, right side up and side by side.


That’s a pretty good match. I’ll have to be careful during seaming to make sure the stripes align properly, but it shouldn’t be too hard to make it work.

So this is my first batch of warm-weather sewing for the year, yay! I can tell I’m antsy for summer because every time I look at my pattern stash, the sundresses are the only things that appeal to me. Nothing beats an easy, soft summer dress! I can’t wait to wear them!

Are you ready for some heat waves?


Closing in on a few FOs

I confess, knitting and sewing time has been scarce for the past six weeks or so. I’m just really over-scheduled right now. It’s temporary, thank goodness, and I can already see the end of this cycle starting to manifest. I like being busy and arrange my life to keep it that way, but sometimes I overdo it just a wee bit.

So this has slowed down the knitting and sewing progress, but it hasn’t stopped it altogether. Today, I finished this mesh tunic.


I’m really pleased with how it turned out. This is Butterick 5954, a highly rated pattern that made the “Best of 2014” list at Sewing Pattern Review. I can see why. The cut is perfect. It’s loose and fluid without being baggy, and that’s a tough line to toe. I did add a FBA to the pattern front, but other than that, it was the only pattern adjustment. I didn’t even narrow the shoulders, though I would likely do it if I sewed this pattern again. (I will sew this pattern again. Without question.)

This is view B of the pattern, a fairly plain tunic shape with a lot of flare at the hem. There’s another view with overlapped fronts and a cowl neck that many, many sewists have made.

Butterick 5954

It’s pretty, and I like it quite a lot. I keep wanting to make it, but I’m hesitant because I think all that fabric would overwhelm me. I’m pretty self-conscious right now about the weight I gained last fall during my illness, and I think adding a lot of fabric onto my too-heavy (for now) figure would practically guarantee that I never wear the top. But I’ve got the all-clear from my doctor to shed that weight — a work in progress right now, and the hours in the gym every day are definitely contributing to my over-scheduling issue these days. But if it means I can get back into my regular size and make this top, maybe in a floaty, sheer chiffon, then it will be worth it. I keep seeing it in a citrus-y bright color, sheer and light, and very summery. It doesn’t look very summery in that tweedy knit pictured, but that’s how I want to do it.

Speaking of sheer fabrics, this whole project came about because I scanned the “new arrivals” page at Mood Fabrics and spotted this knitted mesh.


That’s a bonded mesh knit, two layers of knitted fabric that are joined with a double-knitting technique in various places across the knitting rows. It’s very, very soft, like the softest t-shirt jersey. I snapped this photo of a scrap left after cutting, but you can get a closer look at it on Mood’s product page (link). This fabric comes in a lot of colors, and I debated far too long between the spearmint, white, and black before going with black. It’s sort of my default color.

I’ve worked with other bonded/layered knits before, but this one was comparatively easy to handle. It was stable enough to stay where you put it and grip the straight pins, but soft enough to roll easily at the hems. I debated doing a hand-rolled hem on this, in fact, because a hand-rolled hem will always be softer than a machine-rolled hem. But then I thought that bit of hardness from the machine-rolled hem might help support the flare down at the hem, and it seems to be working as expected. I’m glad I opted for the machine-rolled hem, but when I make it again (maybe in this bright blue crinkle chiffon? hmm…) I would definitely consider a hand-rolled hem to keep the chiffon floaty.

In any case, I can already tell I’ll wear this a lot. It’s the perfect thing to throw on over a tank/tee and leggings/jeans on a summer day when the air conditioner is going to be blasting wherever I go. And in the transitional season we’re in now, when it could be 70F or it could be 50F — roll the dice! — this mesh is just the right weight to stay comfortable. As an added bonus, the texture of the mesh looks great with these Steve Madden booties I bought a few months back. See the quilting detail on the leather?


The shape of that quilting mimics the mesh pretty closely, which is just one of those little details that makes me feel like I might be doing something right. Also, you can’t go wrong with black heeled boots or booties, right? It doesn’t seem to matter how many pairs I already own — when I see a perfect pair like these, I have to snap them up. I especially love the inside of these boots.


It just has the vaguest whiff of Alexander McQueen’s Highland Rape collection. Remember that one? Genius. These boots are, of course, not as splendid or shocking as that collection was, but the secret glimpse of plaid inside the rather tough, edgy boots always makes me remember the mood and tone of that collection. I really do love these boots. ::happy sigh::

Have you made any new pieces for the transitional weather?




Cleaning up a bit of old mess

These project bags have been mostly finished in my sewing room for months. I only needed ribbon for the drawstring closures. Of all things to stall a project! I just kept forgetting to buy ribbon when I happened to be at the sewing stores. I forgot to buy ribbon so many times that I finally just made a special trip to the sewing store for the express purpose of buying ribbon and finishing these bags. Otherwise, I was pretty sure it would never happen.

I’m so glad I did!


Seven new project bags!

I made doubles of the pink, blue, and teal on purpose. These are meant for sweater knitting projects — one bag will have the pieces in progress, and the other will have the rest of the yarn for the project. With matched sets, it will save me some digging and hunting time when I go into the bins in my closet.

Also, I really like this deep, long shape for knitting sweaters in particular. When you finish the back or the front or whatever, you can roll it neatly, stuff it in the bottom of the sack, and keep the working piece close to the top of the sack. It makes it much easier to get at just what you need.

These should have been done months ago, really. All held up for lack of ribbon. I keep swearing I’m going to do better about making lists — people tease me sometimes about my lists and notes and things, but this is exactly why I need them. If I try to do anything without a list, I end up forgetting to buy ribbon for like four months. My brain is a sieve.

While my blog was quiet for a couple of weeks there (due to family stuff — sister was ill and hospitalized three times, the third time for surgery, and she’s 100% fine now, yay!), I did almost no sewing whatsoever, but I did knit these socks.


Just plain ribbed socks in a heather gray Schoeller Stahl sock wool. That is one bad picture. Argh. My camera has really been fighting me lately — won’t let me change the flash settings at all, and I’m getting really blurry photos with tons of glare patches and other odd bits. Check out what it did when I tried to take a picture of my first daffodil this weekend.


Hello, spring! This might be a flower of some kind!

Weird glaring and blurry spots. I need a new camera! My backpacking group, it turns out, is very knowledgeable about cameras, so I’ve been reading their discussions on the topic in preparation for making a decision. I’ve always hated this little point and shoot one I’ve been using, but my phone camera is even worse, if you can believe it. Anyway, this old point-and-shoot is about to be upgraded to something with actual lenses. A real camera, you guys. I feel like such a grown-up!

Guess I’d better put it on my shopping list so I don’t forget it! 🙂


Not much to see

I went to one of those sewing cons yesterday, and it was pretty much a bust. I’ve been going to this one pretty regularly for several years now, and it was just a down year. I was disappointed, but I know from other regular annual cons that some years are amazing and some are … not amazing. Better luck next year?

I didn’t buy one thread’s worth of fabric.



I didn’t buy fabric in this aisle.


I didn’t buy fabric in this aisle, either.

Truly, there was very little fabric for sale in the first place. If you wanted fat quarters, you could get plenty of those. But fabrics by the yard? There were only three vendors, one of whom is shown in that picture above. They had that one rack of rolls — almost all poly and rayon knits, plus a bit of silk duipioni and a few stray bolts of light cotton wovens. The second vendor — the one I almost always buy from — brought minimal stock this time, and almost every bolt was beige or brown, not my colors.. The third and final fabric vendor was selling quilting fabrics by the yard, but they specialized in kid stuff and it was all too juvenile for my tastes. I did want to get some quilting cotton and good, sturdy flannel to make some shoe bags, but I guess I was out of luck. There was not one speck of flannel in the entire conference center. My second choice would have been a cotton jersey, but the only jerseys were poly and rayon. Just not what I wanted.

There was one button vendor, but her stock was minimal. I’ve been to her store, and I know she has great stuff, but I couldn’t find anything to take home in her booth. The lace vendor brought maybe a quarter of the number of trims I’m used to seeing in that booth. After spending the day looking at things and chatting with people, it almost seemed as though the tone of the conference has shifted from garment and quilt sewing to craft sewing. I walked past booth after booth of fabric paints, rayon embroidery thread, and stencil sets. People were excited about things like rag baskets and painted canvas tote bags. And clothes for Build-a-Bear dolls — I heard more than one conversation about that. Not my kind of sewing, and I think the fact that this is the trend now contributed to my overall disappointment in the conference.

I did replenish my gadget horde, though.


Those are pattern storage boxes, a new set of mini French curves, a new bodkin, bamboo point tool thingie, a point turner, a chalk holder and set of chalks, and one lonely silver swivel hook for a purse strap. (Side note: Why is purse hardware so hard to find anymore? I would have bought two of these swivel hooks, but they only had one in stock.) By the way, all of that haul (except the pattern storage boxes) came from the same gadget vendor. She has become my go-to gadget person over the years because she not only carries every everything you can imagine, but she carries multiple types and styles of each thing. Conversations with her go like this:

Shopper 1: I’m looking for a hip curve.

Store lady: What kind?

Shopper 1 (beatifically): There’s more than one kind?

Shopper 2: Do you carry flexible rulers?

Store lady: Yes, in several lengths and styles.

Shopper 2 (shocked): You mean I have a choice?

And on and on. Sometimes I hang around that booth and eavesdrop a little to hear what people are looking for. You learn about some nifty tools this way! But most of the tools I bought this time were rather ordinary and non-nifty. This is because, when my sewing room windows were replaced earlier this year, I somehow lost a little pencil box full of tools from that room. I’m betting it was just hauled out with some of the other rubbish when they were cleaning up. In any case, I’ve given up looking for it and am starting the process of recreating it. This lot goes a long way toward replenishing the supply.

I’m sure my disappointment this year is just a sign of a pendulum swinging. Long-time Makers Of Things know that this happens. The pendulum swings away, but it always swings back. Today’s crop of conference-goers is excited about painting stencils on neckline — seriously, that’s what this was:


Free demonstrations in concessions area!

This very nice, very knowledgeable lady gave great tips on how to evenly place embellishments on necklines, and the audience was soaking up every detail. A few years ago, while I sipped my coffee on a break in this same spot, I watched a thought-provoking presentation on fitting issues for petites and talls. You never know what they’ll have going on this little stage, but this year, it seemed to involve a lot of paint and embroidery and applique work.

Not my thing. I don’t have bad feelings toward that kind of making, but it’s just not my thing.

So the pendulum swung away from me, but it will swing back eventually. And when it does, you can bet my post-conference report will be much different from this one!

Do you go to any sewing cons?