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.


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?



When first impressions are wrong

Okay, so I made this sweater/coat/cardigan thing, and I was a bit iffy when I first finished it just because it’s really, really big. Crazy big. Like, I made the size medium (12-14), which is my normal sewing size, and I had to take 4″ (10cm) out of each side seam. And it’s still very generously sized, even with that extra 8″ removed. Here, this will give you an idea–


McCall’s 7057 View B minus 8″ in girth

This thing has so much more volume than most of what I wear these days. I like a trim silhouette, and this is far from trim.

But check out that collar! That’s the detail that made me rush to make this garment in the first place. It’s actually a convertible hood. It drapes around the shoulders, as shown, or you can wear it up, like this.


Goal for 2015: I will get a decent camera and learn how to use it

That’s like a magic trick, right? Such a fun design detail, and I really liked sewing it. With the hood down in collar form, you can’t really see how huge the shoulders are. The big proportions are a little more apparent with the hood up. So at first I was worried that this would feel like one of those enormous snow jackets our moms all made us wear when we were little.


I can’t put my arms down!

But then I wore it. Tuesday was warm for Chicago in January, a tick above freezing. So I threw on dark jeans, a black long-sleeved tee, some heeled boots, and my favorite long silver statement necklace, seen in the photo. I added red leather gloves, my red bag, and a black fedora, and I was out the door — and this cardigan coat thingie was absolutely perfect. It kept me warm enough outdoors without overwhelming me with heat indoors. Comfortable. I could let it drape open if I became too warm, and wrap it close if I became too cold.

But just because a thing is comfy, that doesn’t mean it looks okay. I had to pick up my nephew from high school that day, and I heard more than one MILF called at me — not that we encourage these things, but at least it’s some evidence that I didn’t look like I was wearing a big sloppy bathrobe. One of the sports coach teacher men was rather friendly with me, too, more evidence that it wasn’t completely hideous. And I liked wearing it. Of course, I like wearing some pretty awful things in the name of winter warmth, so I know better than to think this is evidence of style. But I didn’t scare off children or sportsball men, so how bad can it be? That was my logic, such as it is.

That was Tuesday. As I woke up Wednesday, my first thought was, “I wonder if it will be warm enough to wear the big thing again.” And today, Thursday? Same thought. I woke up hoping I could wear it. I think I might have a new trend here. I don’t know what it is about this cardigan, but I know I’m going to wear it until it is dead from overwork and exhaustion. One wear, and I was hooked. It’s like the crack of sweater jackets.

The fabric is this black wool sweater knit shot through with silver lurex threads from Mood Fabrics. It’s right around sport or DK gauge, just under 6 stitches to the inch, so it’s fairly heavy for a milled knit fabric. It sewed like a dream and feels incredibly good — warm and cozy, but it’s definitely wool, just a mere touch of rusticity in the hand. I loved sewing it and would absolutely sew it again.

I only had two minor quibbles with the pattern. One, there are no belt loops. I made the belt and didn’t even notice that a belt loop pattern piece was nowhere to be found. I might just do a crocheted loop at some point, but honestly, I doubt I’ll ever use the belt. It just feels bulky and awkward when it’s belted, and the belt kind of ruins the line of the garment.

My other minor quibble is that the instructions have you sew the pieces together in an unusual order. Instead of sewing fronts to backs at the shoulders and then sewing the hood/collar thing on, it calls for you to sew the fronts to the hood/collar, then sew the backs, then sew the shoulder seams. That seemed like it would be unnecessarily fiddly, so I didn’t do that. I couldn’t think of a single reason why anyone should!

But neither of these quibbles is really anything to detract from an overall great pattern. I already have my eye out for some red wool sweater knit, because OMG, this thing in red? I NEEEEEEEEEEEED one!

Have you ever had a wrong first impression of one of your creations?


Bargainista Fashionista contest

I entered the January contest at Sewing Pattern Review, which was kind of a fluke. I had a pattern and fabric already purchased for a garment that fit the rules. I needed a heavy satin lining fabric, but stumbled across a place (MacPhee Workshop in Canada) that carried it and was willing to ship it for a reasonable price. The satin arrived a couple of days ago, and with everything I need in place, I decided to enter the contest.


The idea is pretty simple. We’re making things that were inspired by designer pieces. In this case, I’d been noticing a sudden profusion of leopard-print coats all over the place, on celebrities and on runways and in department stores.

Yves Saint Laurent showed this one in printed marmot for a mere $21,500.

Leopard YSL 21500

But I don’t wear real fur, so my pocketbook was spared the real thing. I really liked the color combination in this one, Sofia Cashmere from Nieman Marcus for $895. I also was intrigued by the size of the collar and I liked the tie belt.

leopard 895 Sofia

But I wanted single-breasted, and this one is double-breasted. Then I spotted this one for $2295 — single-breasted, a gorgeous collar, a good length, but the wrong color combination for me.

Leopard Reiss

I wanted this basic coat but in my colors. Donna Karan answered the call with this Vogue pattern for the fall. I snapped it up as soon as I saw it.


Finding the right fabric was a challenge, mainly because I don’t do well with beige/gold colors. Most leopard prints fit that category. I looked at some low-pile fake furs (which is what the pattern calls for), but in the end, decided on this heavy wool sweater knit in a dark coffee and charcoal colorway. It was from Mood, $24.99 a yard regular price (on sale for $19.99), and I needed 4.5 yards. So the fashion fabric cost $90, the lining was $34 ($40 Canadian), and the pattern was $5, for a total of $129. I’m reporting the prices of the original coats and the materials because that’s part of the contest, so please forgive this money talk. The idea behind this contest is to understand just how much we save by making our own clothing (not to mention the benefit of being able to select our own colors and materials to suit our preferences).


The lining, I’m happy to report, will be tomato red. I have a red handbag with a leopard print lining that I love, so I knew this combination would not only work, but would make me happy for a long time to come. I love this bag.


It’s good, right? That red with the print is just the right level of boldness. The lines of the bag are clean and uncluttered — the pizzazz comes from the color and print. I like that a lot, and I think this coat will achieve the same basic balance.

The muslin is cut and ready to go, and the coat has to be completed by January 31. It’s a complex pattern — 3-piece sleeve, a proper collar with a stand, etc. Here’s hoping the muslin and fitting are quickly done so that I can move onto the fabric and lining before the month is half gone!


Sunday status report

I’ve had a good bit of knitting time this week as I cope with this illness. Between naps and blood draws, I’m basically fighting to get my work done and then napping more or knitting. Knitting is a lot slower than sewing, but I was able to finish this hat in just a few days.


This is the Hinagiku hat, a freebie on ravelry (link), made in Heirloom Cashmino DK. I just bought a winter coat, a puffy hooded parka in a black and white plaid, and none of my existing hats look passable with it. They’re all too colorful — stranded brioche, fair isle, variegated, etc. They clash with the plaid. So I had these two little skeins of Cashmino, an incredibly soft cashmere/merino blend, and it seemed perfect for the hat.

The pattern uses two stitches, a standard 1×1 twisted rib and a daisy stitch. The daisy stitch is new to me. You k3tog and don’t remove the stitches from the left needle. Yarn over, then k3tog again through the same stitches — then you can slide the old stitches off the left needle Purl one, then repeat — it’s a 4-stitch pattern, 3 for the daisy and then a purl. There’s a resting row in between rows of this pattern (purl if it’s flat, knit if it’s round like this hat). The result looks a bit like a crocheted shell stitch. Here’s a close-up.


Cute, right? And it really does resemble crochet. It’s a little hand-crampy because that third maneuver in the daisy — the second k3tog after the yo — can be a little fiddly. I would knit a few rounds, then switch to something else to rest my fingers. When I got to the top, where you have to draw the yarn through the live remaining stitches to close the circle at the crown, I decided to thread the yarn several times through the loop of those live stitches to create a slight button effect.


I’ve done this on other brim-up hats before, and I just like this detail. It gives some weight and a cleaner finish to that final circle.

In between turning my fingers into claws with that daisy stitch, I finished a footie and started the second footie. No second-sock-syndrome here! It’s good to have a bit of mindless knitting on hand — I always keep socks-in-progress in my bag, and so luckily, I had these when I was in the hospital for testing earlier this week. I’ve never regretted toting some knitting around with me, but there have been plenty of times I’m glad to have it!


When I was in the hospital earlier this week, the nurses kept commenting on the socks I was wearing. They just happened to be some red variegated Opal socks in my standard 2×2 ribbed leg and foot — the sock pattern I almost always make because the fit is so good. In any case, one of the nurses was impressed enough with the idea of socks that don’t fall down inside your shoes — and that keep your feet warm! imagine! — that she told me she’s going to learn to knit now, too. Some people say they want to learn and you know they don’t mean it. This woman meant it. Another convert to the fold!

I also finished the “skirt” (hip to hem portion), waist shaping, and belt loops on the Montera jacket. I’m nearly finished with the third ball of yarn, out of an estimated 5.5 needed, so we’re past the halfway mark on this project. The skirt portion is so wide, over 60″ hem circumference, that it is difficult to photograph it flat. I had to turn under the portion on the right from the side seam to the front band.


Here’s a close-up of some of the belt loops. You had to knit each section between the loops separately, and that’s a lot of ends to weave.


Unblocked knitting always looks so raw! The next section of this sweater requires you to track multiple details at once — above-the-waist increases, bust shaping, buttonholes, and cabling. My brain is foggy enough that I don’t want to risk trying that without a chart, so I’ll be charting out these maneuvers before I take this project any further. Better safe than sorry.

I also have several sewing projects on the go, and two of them are near completion. Three, actually, now that I think about it. But I’ll save those for FO reports later this week.

If you knit, what are you knitting now?


Staples and splurges

The Vogue Fabrics location at Roosevelt Road is going out of business. Sunday is their last day. The only remaining locations will be in Evanston.

I used this as my excuse to go to their 2-day warehouse sale in Evanston. I know, logic, right? The near location is closing, so let’s go to the far one! Um… Yeah. I have no real explanation, except that I’ve never once managed to make it to one of their warehouse sales. I’ve been to the Evanston Main Street location a bunch of times, but never to the warehouse. It’s always on a bad weekend — too broke, too busy, too whatever to be able to go.

So I went this time, determined to know if it is worth the drive. Well, I’m not sorry I went, but I’m not sure I’ll go all that often. I bought a full bolt (50 yards) of muslin and a full bolt (25 yards) of Armo fusible interfacing in gray. Fifty yards of muslin — that’s a lot! But I usually buy it ten yards at a time, and it seems I’m forever running out, so I thought I might as well buy the full bolt. The way I run through both these utility fabrics, it made sense to buy them while they were on sale. The warehouse was surprisingly clean — much cleaner than the Roosevelt Road location, which is always in need of a good sweeping. But the better fabrics weren’t part of the big sale, and I didn’t like any of the low-end fabrics that were on sale, so that pretty much took care of that.

And then I stopped at the Roosevelt Road location on the way through the city, because why not. Between their regular store sale and the end-of-bolt discounts for the clearance sale, I was able to score some excellent wools for not a whole lot of cash.


The full bolts from the warehouse are in the back, still shrink-wrapped. The gray fabric center front is a nudge over six yards of menswear wool, a very fine woolen, actually — tightly spun fibers, smooth weaving, and a lovely hand. This was an end-of-bolt score so I ended up with plenty for pants, skirt, jacket, etc. The paler gray is a 2-yard cut of the same fabric for pants, and behind that is 6 yards of a gorgeous wool crepe that manages to be fluid enough for dresses but firm enough for tailoring. I’ll probably make pants and a long jacket out of that, maybe a skirt, too.

So that was time well spent, and money well spent on things that will mix well into my plans. I’m glad I went. I doubt I’ll be buying much fabric for a while as I work on sewing what I’ve got. There’s plenty to keep me out of trouble for a while. I might need some bits and dabs — I know I need some shirting to match a plaid wool I bought for a skirt, for example. But other than some odd bits like that, I’m pretty content with my stash right now and look forward to sewing a bunch of it up.

The same can be said for my yarn stash, which is exponentially larger than my fabric stash. This week, after finishing the Kyoto turtleneck, I cast on for the Montera jacket, a Knitty pattern. How adorable is this?

montera knitty

Photo from Knitty.com

I love the asymmetrical front band, the flare from waist to hem, and the placement of the cables. And the belt. And the hem. Oh, heck, I love everything about this pattern, and I have to say, now that I’m knitting it, I love it even more. The details such as placement of decreases are thoughtful and well-designed, and I know I’ll get a good result. It might take a while, though. This is a pretty big project. Here’s the current status, just started on the second ball of Glenfiddich Wool Aran.


Not a bad start. The hem is over 60″ around — that’s a 47″ cable needle, you guys! I think that will be lovely to wear, warm and almost blanket-like below the hips, fitted and smooth through the torso. The wool is a very appealing jade green with flecks of blue and white — my camera is making it look a bit more blue than it actually is. I really like the fabric this wool is making at this gauge, and so far, so good, knock wood.

Speaking of muslin, I think I finally figured out how to do a FBA on that Ralph Rucci coat for the sew-along — I’ve cut yet another muslin piece, and if this one works, I’ll post about it in a few days. Tomorrow I’ll show you another fitting trick on a yoked skirt. Because I’ve been sick for two weeks now, my blogging (and my sewing and knitting) have been unpredictable, but there is some progress to report. Some! It’s funny, but one of the women at Sewing Pattern Review was saying she got loads of sewing done because she was sick, and I was so impressed by that! My progress is sputtering, at best, when I’m not feeling well.

Do you tend to sew/knit/create more or less when you’re down for the count?


Fitting the muslin for the Ralph Rucci coat

So, I obviously need an FBA here. Those are some major wrinkles coming from the sides and armscye.



I’m wearing the muslin over a fairly bulky sweater, but that was deliberate. I wanted to see how the jacket would close over a thicker layer. It’s fine through the waist and hips, not so good over the bust. One of the great things about a fitting muslin is that you can draw right on it. I used a green highlighter to mark the two deepest wrinkles, which is where the FBA will have to be made. If you look near the seam on the right, it’s easier to see the markings.


This means it’s back to the pellon tracing I made of this pattern piece. I’ll add a dart to that area, remove this panel from the muslin, and replace it with the darted/FBA new piece. Also, I think the jacket is too long overall, too, so I’m going to shorten the sleeves and hem while I’m at it. I’d like it to hit right at the knee, and now, it’s probably two inches below that point. It occurs to me that if I add some hidden closures below the waist, this piece can pull double duty as a coatdress of sorts. Debating that now. I think it would be a cool dress, but I don’t know if I would wear it as a dress, you know?


How to Cut the Muslin for the Ralph Rucci Coat


The first step in the Ralph Rucci coat sew-along is cutting out the muslin. Here is a tried and true method (tried by yours truly!) to cut the muslin.

Step One.

Take pattern tissue from envelope. Stare in befuddlement at tissue while trying to see where one piece begins and the other ends. See animals in the shapes as if you are cloud-busting.


Oh no! This giant crab claw is about to pinch the label on my cutting mat!

Step two.

Amuse yourself by trying to guess from the shape alone what the piece actually is. No fair peeking at the printing on the tissue!


This is a sleeve. I KNOW, RIGHT?

Step Three.

Realize that no matter how long you sew, you will never be able to see garments quite the way Ralph Rucci, Certified International Genius, sees them. Unfair!

Step Four.

Think about all the other garments in his atelier that likely have seams in batshit crazy places. Wonder how hard it would be to break into the atelier to examine these deliciously inventive garments.

Step Five.

Remember that you were born without the criminal gene and could never actually break into anyplace, no matter how gorgeous the clothing. Unfair!

Step Six.

If only there were such a thing as a cloak of invisibility. OMG. He’s probably at work making one in his atelier right now. If anyone can make a cloak of invisibility, it’s this guy.

Step Seven.

Yes, do some more cutting and marking, and trust that the pieces will somehow fit together.

puzzlefitStep Eight.

Double, triple, and quadruple check that you have cut all the pieces you need. Use the numbers on the pattern pieces to arrange and count. It’s not as if you can just glance them over and see front, back, sleeve, collar, etc., in the ordinary way.

Step Nine.

Check again, and this time, try to guess which edges will be sewn to which other edges in which order. Go ahead, guess. It’s fun to play a game with so many possibilities.

Step Ten.

Spend the rest of the day singing this.

Cheerleaderish hand-clapping optional

(I can’t even tell you how much fun I’m having with this pattern, and I still haven’t sewn a stitch. This will be the best coat ever.)