Exeter

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Start to finish, this sweater took me about 3 months to complete. I started this sweater while I was traveling for the holidays. I didn’t even knit a gauge swatch–yikes! I started a sleeve and figured I could always rip it out if it went badly. The yarn is Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in Snowbound that I purchased at Purl Soho in New York City last fall when we visited for the New York Marathon.

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I’m proud of this project because I grew a lot as a knitter. I completed cable surgery countless times after crossing my cables the wrong way (that’s what you get for not paying attention), and fully seamed all the pieces together. It was a fun knit–even if it felt a bit epic. I was definitely ready for it to be over by the time I finished!

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I recognize that a sweater with this much ease is not the most flattering. It has about 7″ of ease on me. I think I’ll wear this open most of the time, but the buttons are handmade wooden buttons from Etsy.  I’ll mostly be wearing this sweater on the weekends around the house or for walking the dog.

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The one issue I had was with the collar. It does not lay perfectly flat. For some reason, one side of the shawl collar was quite a bit longer than the other side. When I seamed the collar to the neckline, things were a bit janky, but it works. If I were a better knitter, I’d probably have ripped out the collar and re-knit. Ah, well. A great pattern, and overall, a fun knit!

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Yellow Benedetta & Liberty Print Josephine

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I finally got around to photographing this sweater, which I think I finished back in August. Truthfully, I haven’t worn it too much. It was intended as a springtime sweater, and I do think that’s when I’ll get the most use out of it. The pattern is Carrie Bostick Hoge’s Benedetta. The yarn is Finch in Carrie’s Yellow by Quince & Co. I loved knitting with this yarn. It is so very springy and lovely to handle. I am happy with the fit, except that I do wish I had added one or two more buttonholes. The bottom button pulls a tiny bit, and if there were another button or two, that wouldn’t be an issue. 

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I made up a Josephine top in a Liberty print from Spring 2014 to go with the sweater (I noticed that J.Crew had a top out of the same print for sale earlier this year). I realized that I forgot to snap a picture without the sweater on, but it’s very similar to my prior Josephine (except that I cut the correct size and have all six pleats across the front). I like to have a collection of woven tops for layering. I especially like that I can dress them up with skirts for work or throw them on with jeans on the weekend.

Acer & Manning Tank

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Happy New Year! Here are some finished project photos of my Acer sweater, which I finished around Thanksgiving. The yarn is O-Wool’s Balance, which is a 50/50 wool/cotton blend. The pattern is beautiful, and I know I will get a lot of use out of this sweater. I cast on for a size 36 in the hips and decreased through the waist to a 34. The result is a shapely sweater, but not overly so. The buttons are 20mm horn buttons from Fringe Supply Co. More project details on Ravelry.

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There were quite a few “firsts” for this sweater, which really helped me grow as a knitter: my first set-in sleeves, the first sleeves knit bottom-up, and my first picked-up button bands with button holes, to name a few. This sweater really increased my confidence–I cast on for Michelle Wang’s Exeter cardigan, an epic, seamed cable job, over the holidays.

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I made another Wiksten tank to wear with it, from Liberty of London Manning print. It’s one of my favorite prints, and it’s already gone into heavy rotation in my wardrobe, along with the sweater. Woven tops with sweaters are really my favorite things to wear.

Separates, separates, separates

Things have changed for me quite a bit in the last year-and-a-half or so. I went from being a law student living in rural Vermont to a sort-of unemployed lawyer in urban Philadelphia, waiting for a job I had accepted back in September 2013 to begin in August 2014. Now, I’m living in a less urban area of Philly, commuting every day 45 minutes each way to Trenton, New Jersey, and working a pretty intense 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. job as a law clerk for a judge. All of this change has required a pretty major overhaul of my wardrobe.

In my current job, I’m in court 3 or so days a week, which requires a jacket. Before I started this job, I had two suits and a slew of ill-fitting and outdated dress clothes from my pre-law-student days. I quickly added a couple more suits to my wardrobe this fall. I also knew that I wanted to increase the separates I had in my wardrobe. In particular, I knew I needed some woven tops–especially silk–to wear under jackets. My goal was to create a bunch of separates that I could easily grab without too much thought when I get dressed in the dark at 6 a.m. I want to look polished and professional because lawyers are on the whole a pretty conservative bunch. But, I also don’t want to completely lose my personality in a sea of black, gray, and navy jackets.

I also have a lot less time to sew now that I’m working full time. Usually, when I get home, I have just enough energy to shove food in my mouth and relax for a little while before bed. I’m also working hard to add physical activity to my routine. And, on the weekends, I am trying to catch up on household related stuff: grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking a big pot of something that will have leftovers to eat throughout the week. I also, unfortunately, usually spent some amount of time working on the weekends, because seriously, my job is kind of intense and overwhelming. All of this is to say that my sewing time has decreased significantly. Thus, I’m all about simple patterns that I can put together quickly and easily.

Enter the 9 items above–simple basics with a little personality. The green top is the Salme Hannah top made from an off-cut of green silk leftover from a dress I made (also needing to be posted here). It works under a jacket, but the arm holes were a challenge to fit and to wear. I need to re-draft them a bit to make this pattern work a little better for me. The two middle tops are variations on the Wiksten Tova, both from silk prints snagged at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL last spring. I love both of these. The rest of the tops are all Deer & Doe Datura blouses. I love the yoke of this pattern because it’s a great way to use up leftover fabrics. I also like using it for silks since the yoke means no fiddling around with bias edging.

For the skirts, I made a couple of simple pencil skirts out of cotton sateen: one in plain navy and one in a print. I do have more of the navy sateen to, at some point, make a jacket to go with the skirt. I typically wear the print skit with my navy suit jacket. It’s really nice to be able to separate my suit pieces to make more interesting outfits. Finally, the fuller skirt in the middle is a Colette Zinnia skirt made from a great black and white wax print cotton I bought at B&J Fabrics in New York. I love it and typically wear it with a blouse and a black jacket or sweater.

Believe it or not, I have a few more separates I didn’t photograph above. My love of Liberty of London knows no bounds these days, so I’ve been really enjoying making up a couple Wiksten Tova tanks to wear both casually and under jackets or sweaters for work. I also have another Deer & Doe Dature. All of these items were in the laundry when I photographed the pieces above. I need to keep working on documenting all of my sewing efforts! I also have more plans for more separates as I move into fall and winter. Now, if only there were more hours in the day . . .

Spring Shirtdresses

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Stores like Anthropologie are full of cute shirtdresses–and for good reason. They are easy to wear while looking put-together. Layer them with a jacket or a cardigan. Pair them with tights. Or go simple with a slim belt and ballet flats. In short: awesome. Unfortunately, I’ve had trouble finding a good simple shirtdress that will fit my hips AND my shoulders properly. The perfect challenge for the seamstress!

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I used Simplicity 2246 as my base pattern–the Lisette Traveler dress. For my first version, I cut into the stretch chambray I bought in Chicago (which I also used to make a springtime Everyday Skirt). I added about 1.5″ to the length of the tunic length version and kept it simple with a band collar (I kind of wish I had maybe a half inch more length on this, just for my own comfort). I finished the front with simple snaps instead of buttons. Oh, and to add a little shaping, I added two fish-eye darts in the back in a pretty haphazard manner.

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I wanted real, full-length sleeves for versatility–so I could potentially wear this with tights or leggings on chillier days. I also wanted a real sleeve cuff, which this pattern didn’t have. So, I grafted the bottom half of the Grainline Archer sleeve and cuff onto the top of the Simplicity sleeve–so that I didn’t have to re-draft the armholes or anything. I also added sleeve tabs, courtesy of the tutorial over at Dixie DIY, because who doesn’t love a sleeve tab?

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For the second version, I chose a straight hem and went a little longer in length, in the hopes that this could be more professionally appropriate. The fabric is more Liberty lawn that I’ve been hoarding since about 2006, too afraid to cut into it. I’m really glad I made the first version as an opportunity to fine-tune the fit and practice my topstitching before cutting into this beautiful and special fabric!

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The back fisheye darts are a bit more precise in this version, as I traced some off of an old sheath dress pattern I had hanging around. And, I narrowed the sleeves a tiny bit and took about 1/2″ off the length of the sleeves (though rolled up, you can’t tell.)

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Here’s a close-up of one of my sleeve tabs and the simple shell buttons I selected to finish the dress. 16 buttons and buttonholes on this dress! Thank goodness my sewing machine makes great buttonholes. It also has an automatic feature that sews on the buttons for you, which I used for the first time. It worked so great! Definitely gearing up for more button-downs in the future.

I’ve made eight garments from my spring & summer sewing queue so far, so I’m doing pretty well! I’m about to be on a hiatus for about a month and a half, though (more on that soon), so we’ll see if I actually get through everything.

 

 

 

Green Lady Skater

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Sometime earlier this winter, I had a fight with my serger and pitched her to the back of the closet. I dug her out again to make up a quick Plaintain tee at some point early this spring, and she performed very well, which gave me some confidence to work with knits again. I can always use a simple, easy-to-wear dress, and I thought the Lady Skater fit the bill. I had this fabric purchased from Emma One Sock at some point about five years ago. I don’t have much exciting to say about this project–you know, it’s a knit dress. It took me maybe 3 hours to construct. I’m pretty happy with it. I did use a new-to-me notion: wash-away wonder tape. I used it to secure the hem, and it worked really great to keep the knit stable for me to use my sewing machine, set up with a twin needle, to make a neat hem. A great pattern for a quick and versatile knit dress!

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Wiksten trifecta

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How is it already May 20? I can’t believe how quickly this spring has whooshed past. So many things–we moved in the middle of a localized flood, we immediately hosted 4 guests for the weekend, and I started running again (to get rid of those pesky winter pounds I managed to gain). Also: I HAVE MY VERY OWN SEWING ROOM. For the first time ever, I have a room where I can keep my machines set up all the time, spread my pattern pieces all over the floor, and keep my projects strewn about. The best thing is having a door I can close on this mess. Seriously, I’ve only been set up in this room for about a week and a half, and it already looks like a tornado of tissue paper and fabric scraps projectile vomited all over the room! Once I get things organized a bit more, I’ll share a photo.

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I actually made up this Wiksten Tova before we moved to our new, awesome place. I made it as a test to see how I liked the pattern. The fabric is some very sheer cotton/silk voile, I think, purchased at Mood circa 2008-ish? It’s pretty and floaty. I ultimately decided that the size I cut this time around was a bit large, so I’m glad I didn’t cut into some precious yardage for this version.

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Confident that I would like the pattern with a few tweaks, I cut into some precious Liberty of London cotton lawn that I’ve been hoarding since our first trip to London in August, 2009. I bought two pieces of Liberty cotton on that trip and have been too afraid to cut into their beauty ever since. Honestly, though, this stuff is so amazing to work with, I don’t know why I ever sew with anything else. (Oh yeah, maybe because it’s about $35/yard.)

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I made a few modifications based on my first version: cut one whole size smaller, added a little waist shaping to the side seams, took about 1″ off the hem and took a deeper hem at 1.5.” I think this will be a great little blouse to tuck into a pencil skirt or to wear more casually with skinny jeans and ballet flats, or under a cardigan sweater this fall.

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Finally, feeling confident about the Wiksten loveliness, I went ahead and made this little tank from this super lightweight cotton/silk voile blend, also from my stash circa 2010, if I had to guess. If I were awesome I probably would’ve double-layered the front piece–it’s a little sheer to comfortably wear without a camisole underneath. The fabric was so sheer, binding the neckline and armholes was a real pain in the butt. It doesn’t look super flattering in this picture, but it works well layered under a cardigan (the one in the first picture above is from Boden, purchased years ago and dug out of the depths of my closet, since I finally have something to wear with it). I think that I’ll be making more of these little woven tanks with a few little tweaks next time around.

Happy spring!