Kwik Sew K4032 fleece jacket

 

First, a very happy 90th birthday to HM The Queen. I love the portraits that Annie Leibowitz captured of her with her family, especially the one with Princess Anne. Just lovely!

Yet another sewing project, Kwik Sew 4032, view B. I’m not sure what possessed me to attempt sewing a zippered fleece jacket as good quality ones are fairly priced around here. I think it had something to do with making my son a blanket out of the gray fleece, which was surprisingly good quality–despite it coming from Joann Fabrics of all places–and wondering how it would look with my favorite spring green color. Thus, a fleece jacket was born.

I had nothing but trouble with this project from the beginning, mostly operator error, although for the first time I was baffled by Kwik Sew’s instructions i.e. why was I instructed to cut out three pockets instead of the two I needed? and some confusing graphics. The parts I thought would be bearish — the collar, zipper, and topstitching — ended up turning out okay, while other parts — those darn zippered pockets! the hems! — had me with a seam ripper in hand for hours. Do I need to point out how difficult it is to rip out stitches in fleece, especially stretch/zig-zag?

Despite all the challenges I had here, it turned out well enough to wear on a brisk hike or an early morning bike ride. It is cozy warm and I like how it can be zippered up around my neck to block out wind. My husband gave me the highest compliment by saying it looked store-bought. Before he could ask me to make him one, I said I was retiring from the fleece garment making business. If I sew fleece again, it will be to make blankets, or maybe a simple ski hat or mittens.

Another caution: this is a unisex pattern but duh! I forgot and cut out a size medium. It is HUGE on me. I shortened the sleeve by a good inch on the pattern but still had to take another couple inches off while sewing. I don’t mind the extra room around the shoulders and middle as I like room to layer … just a word of warning if you’re looking for a snugger fit.

We’re off to Connecticut today to spend some time with my family. Have a good weekend!

 

 

Sewaholic Granville

Sewaholic Granville

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So! It’s finally spring in these parts, but I’m still obsessed with sewing blouses. I mixed things up by using a new (to me) pattern, the Sewaholic Granville. What appeals to me about Sewaholic patterns is they’re designed for women who are pear-shaped … smaller on top, curvier on the bottom. I wouldn’t say I’m small on top because I’m full-busted and frequently have to make full bust adjustments on my patterns, but I do have narrow shoulders so to get a good fit with blouses and dresses, I often have to buy a very small size to get the shoulder fit right, then adjust for my fuller bust and hips. My KwikSew blouses fit me well on top, but I’ve noticed there’s a extra fabric pooling at the small of my back and the hem could be looser around the hips. My hope was that the Granville would fit me better straight out of the “envelope.”

I put “envelope” in quotes because this was a pdf pattern. I’m just going to say it. I hate PDF patterns. I know some dressmakers love them (instant gratification) but I’ve recently made a resolution to not use them anymore because printing, taping, cutting, tracing … yuck, no thanks. That said, putting the Sewaholic pattern together went as well as it could despite my cat “hell-ping” me on the sewing table.

I made a size 12 with no modifications. I measured some key points on the flat pattern, figured the 12 would work, and started cutting. The fabric? Ok, confession. It’s quilting cotton. I stopped making clothes out of quilting cotton years ago, but when I saw this print while shopping with my mom this winter, I couldn’t resist. Pink and orange (my favorite color combo), and it reminded me of a Liberty print. It was also kind of loud. And my mother hated it. But it was $2.99 and had a nice hand, so all wins for me! (Yes, that my mother hates something usually makes me want it more. We have totally dissimilar tastes.)

I skimmed the directions, which were fine, but I mostly did my own thing based on what I learned in watching Pam Howard’s Craftsy class on shirtmaking. However, I did not flat-fell the seams … instead, I overlocked the seam allowance, then caught them with topstitching on the other side. Not the finest shirtmaking technique, but I figured if I sewed the pattern again, I’d do it with a higher quality fabric and do it right.

I was mostly happy with the results. The sleeve needs more ease, so I made a new pattern piece that includes a full-bicep adjustment, which should give me some extra wiggle room without changing anything else about the fit, which was perfect. I plan to make a couple more Granvilles with this adjusted sleeve. Stay tuned. Some other areas I need to work on include smoothing out the join of the collar band to the shirt and taking more care with the tower placket on the cuff. This was my first tower placket, and because the fabric wasn’t that tightly woven — quilting cotton, remember? — it didn’t come out that hot. 

I finished another sewing project last night, which I’ll post about later this week or next. My next sewing adventure is something easy … a pink and orange striped knit dress with the super-popular McCall’s M6886 pattern. This I plan to wear during our trip to Germany this summer. :)

Summer sewing with McCalls m6886

In other news … I’ve been working flat-out on our start-up business, Renegade Writer Press. Earlier this week, we released our first official title. More on this later, but reviews are coming in and they’re great. My business partner (and friend, let’s be honest) did a fantastic job getting this book done in record time. 

I hope you’re having a wonderful spring, too!

Well hello there!

PicMonkey Collage

 

PicMonkey Collage

 

 

It has been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been wanting to post again, but then when I think about how to start, it fills me with this vague anxiousness. So I’m just gonna jump back in and start talking. :)

A lot going on in my corner of the world right now. Some of it isn’t great–my mother is ill so I’ve been spending two days a week down in CT caring for her–but most of it’s pretty good and holding steady. The highlights:

  • My long-time writing partner and I started a publishing company on January 1, which is keeping me (us) super busy. I enjoy using the left side of my brain to run the business instead of focusing strictly on writing, which I don’t particularly enjoy on its own.
  • Since my work hours are more regular, I use the weekends to work on my sewing. I really enjoy sewing blouses, and that blue one above is the best I’ve made so far.
  • Knitting I mostly do at night while watching my TV programs or during a lunch break, which means I’m not knitting as much as I used to. The hat above is one of my favorite knits of the winter, the Mortice Lock Hat. I’ve also been working on a Isabell Kraemer cardigan (“Dexter“), which is coming along nicely but slowly. I’m using some Drops alpaca in a silvery gray…it’s going to look great against the blue of my new blouse! More on this knit later. I’m also trying to catch up on gift knitting…a few babies born this winter are in need of my craft. 😉
  • I completed the Whole 30 diet in January, which is why I included that slice of pizza above. I don’t think I lost weight, but one thing I did learn the hard way is that my body does not like wheat. I’ve suspected this for awhile, but it is good to know for sure that wheat causes me such problems. I was also able to kick my sugar habit, woo hoo!
  • My son is heading to high school this fall, which has sent me into a tizzy because I swear, he just graduated from kindergarten. This week was spent choosing classes, and I’m pleased he’ll be taking Latin as his foreign language (he has taken Spanish since grade school). I met with one of the Latin teachers a few weeks ago, and she seemed really passionate about her class…my fingers are crossed she’ll be his teacher!
  • And the big news is that we’re heading to Europe this summer for two weeks! I’m very excited about this because we’ll be spending time with my husband’s family in Munich, as well as traveling to Berlin with my brother and his wife. I’ve never been to Berlin and am looking forward to exploring the museums and historical sites.

Spring seems to have arrived early here in Massachusetts. Bulbs started popping up through the earth mid-February, and today it was in the low 70s! The rest of the week will be cooler, but definitely spring-y.

I’m glad to be back and will post more detail about some of the projects I’ve been working on. What are you up to?

Rrrrrrrrrip … done!

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That’s my Garland Yoke sweater. It took me a little over an hour to rip it out and re-ball the yarn, which I did while watching Project Runway. Enough time had passed between my finishing knitting the sweater and deciding that I’d never wear it so that ripping it out wasn’t painful — in fact, it was very satisfying. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy the act of knitting more than the creation of something knitted, if that makes sense.

I added an afternoon walk yesterday to my daily list of mood boosters and even though it was gray and stodgy outside, the fresh air helped and I was less moody by the end of the evening. Last night I slept well and deeply, so I’m going to take another walk in a few minutes. Today it’s crisp and bright outside.

I was going to post a photo of how Winston greeted us when O and I arrived home this afternoon, but on second thought, the photo may be disturbing to some. He had caught a mouse in the bathroom and couldn’t seem to understand why it wasn’t playing with him anymore. We called my husband downstairs to show him the great job Winston had done — Mr. Hail Britannia is not a big fan of cats, but he does respect a good mouser. Our previous cats have all been pacifists, much to his dismay. Winston is slowly earning his respect.

Rrrrrrrrrrrip!!!

 

 

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The dark mornings of autumn get to me. I was hoping to escape the doldrums this year, but no such luck. I’ve dragged my full-spectrum lightbox out of a corner, increased my Vitamin D and fish oil intake, and am doing everything I can to stay cheerful. That includes upping my knitting. Any other tips for beating the autumn blues?

I finished my Garland Yoke sweater a month ago. And I knew within a moment of pulling it over my head I’d never wear it. First, it’s much too heavy (worsted-weight wool). It’s also huge on me, and the neckline does my narrow shoulders no favors. So I put it aside and am waiting until I feel good enough to start frogging it. Tonight may be the night.

Kwik Sew 3614 shorts … and September!



Way back in July I noticed a dearth of shorts in my wardrobe. I’m not a big fan of shorts … specifically, I’m not a big fan of how shorts look on me. Mostly because I don’t tan at all and my white legs scare people, but also because I don’t like wearing anything higher than just above my knee. Since I have a spiffy new sewing machine, I decided to make some shorts that met my requirements and I feel comfortable wearing on the hotter days of summer.

Enter Kwik Sew 3614, a pattern I first read about on Sewn. Elizabeth had mentioned how members of Pattern Review raved about the fly construction instruction on these shorts, and after making a couple pairs, I have to agree — fly fronts can be tricky, but it’s smooth sailing with this pattern.

My first pair was constructed out of lavender-colored cotton twill I purchased a few years ago from Fabric Place. I traced and cut a size L and followed the directions for view A (the longest version) exactly, making no modifications. The shorts came out well and I’ve worn them a lot this summer. My only dislikes were having hook and eye closures on the closure tab. I decided with my next pair I’d use a button and buttonhole.

My second pair are the ones I’m wearing in the photos above. I can’t remember where I got the fabric, a navy blue cotton twill … either Joann’s or Sewfisticated Fabrics in Framingham. The button/buttonhole closure works much better. For future shorts I plan to use a contrasting facing on the waistband, as well as softer pocket fabric. I used matching twill to make pockets for both pairs of shorts. They’re fine, but maybe a little bulkier than I’d like.

This is a great pattern and I will definitely get my money’s worth from it as I have plans for olive, white, and red shorts for next summer.

Since I took a bit of a blog break for the last six weeks, here’s what else is going on. My mother and I took a week-long trip to central Maine in August and had a wonderful time. I didn’t take any pictures (bah!) except for a shot of my yarn haul from Halcyon Yarn in Bath.  I’ll do a run down of what I purchased in a separate post.

I’ve been a bit down because my father and stepmother are going through a painful divorce. It’s not a bitter one, just very sad because of the circumstances. I’m hoping that once the smoke clears, things will get better.

Then my husband’s car died. We were down to one car for the last few years, so it has been necessary to do some car shopping. It looks like I’ll be getting a new VW Jetta by the end of the week. It’s funny because VW was not on my “car-buying radar” until I rented one a couple weeks ago and fell in love. Even better, my son loves it and my husband, while not a fan of practical four-door sedans, admits that it’s a smooth, responsive ride.

And oh, that cat you see above? That’s Winston. I’l write more about him in another post, but we decided after a year of having no cats it was time to welcome a new cat into our home … and hearts. We adore Winston … he is a sweet, lovable, friendly guy. And even better,  he doesn’t chase my yarn.

What have you been up to this summer? Are you glad it’s September?

Pebble Beach Shawl

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I decided to heck with it, I’ll photograph my Pebble Beach Shawl on a wooden hanger, heat be damned!

I’m very happy with how this turned out. The pattern shows off the gradient wool to its fullest, and its airy design complements the colors, which make me think of a tropical sea against a white, sandy beach. It’ll be a perfect shawl to wear next spring. :)

The pattern is brilliant … I usually gravitate toward charted lace patterns, but Helen Stewart does her patterns in spreadsheet form, which works for my left-brain. I wouldn’t call it an “easy” pattern, but a careful beginner would have no trouble following along and obtaining a beautiful result.

My only frustration was with my initial choice of knitting needles. I was using one of my generic Chinese circulars, and the metal was far too slippery for the wool so I went out and splurged on an Addi Lace Turbo … ahh. I find the Addi Lace needles have the perfect amount of grippiness for lace knitting.

Close to nature

Where do I begin? I suppose where I left off. Camp pickup two weekends ago was uneventful. I was one of the first parents there, and O was standing at the door of his cabin waiting for me. :) Hugs all around. He had a great time and really liked his counselors; his only complaint was “too much swimming.” My boy is not fond of being in water, never has been. Most of his local friends were on vacation by the time he returned home, which actually worked out as it gave him some time to decompress from camp. Most of them are coming home this weekend, so this week Mom’s Taxi Service will be at full gear until O leaves for Texas next week.

Summer has been pretty quiet, which I like. Lots of slow, hot days filled with nothing but time. O thinks it’s going by too quickly, and now that I look at the calendar and realize that August is this weekend, I suppose he’s right.

OK, so moving on to the exciting bits. This week I went to make muffins and when I pulled the tin out of stove drawer, I noticed mouse droppings. Ewwww. Before you think I’m a terrible housekeeper, please note that our house is older and has lots of nooks, crannies, and holes that critters just love. I’m not frightened of mice–they’re kind of cute, actually–but I don’t want them around my food, so I had to put out a trap. The next morning, I found the little guy behind the stove. No more have been caught so I’m hoping we had one errant mouse in the house. The rest of the week I spent decontaminating our stove and the areas around it.

Then late last night I was sitting on the sofa when I noticed a noise coming from the living room coat closet. The door was cracked, and boom — out flew a BAT!!!! I feel much differently about bats than I do mice … you should have seen me bolt upstairs, screaming for my husband who was already in bed. Poor guy was sound asleep, but he knows how freaked out I am around bats due to some unfortunate childhood bat experiences while living in an old house in Vermont. He and O did some research on the computers upstairs to figure out the best way to get the bat outside, then they ventured downstairs to find the unwanted guest lurking behind the living room drapes. When they tried to scoop the bat into a box, he flew across the room and landed at the top of a bookshelf. By then the bat (and the boys) was tired enough that the second scoop went more smoothly and the errant visitor was released into the night. Shudder. We’ve had a long-standing wildlife removal appointment scheduled for this Tuesday, and I cannot WAIT to have these bats gone from our attic. And while last night’s bat visitation terrified me, I’m glad I saw from where it emerged because now we know where we have an exit hole into the house.

Yes, I’m a total wimp when it comes to certain species of wildlife in my house. I own my wimpiness. 😉

Crafting

Lots of sewing going on this summer in my studio. I now feel very comfortable with my new sewing machine, the Baby Lock Melody. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a flat felling presser foot for it through my local dealer and just about keeled over when I got the bill for it, almost $25. Ouch! So I decided to order one of those 32-piece presser foot collections from Amazon, along with a ruffler attachment. I paid a little over what I paid for the one foot through my dealer, so I figured if a few of the presser feet worked, I’d be ahead of the game, esp. the ruffler, which is pricey.

We have Amazon Prime, so everything got here quickly. The ruffler was easy to install and worked beautifully. The 32 presser feet came in a sturdy cardboard box and every foot was labeled on the front so I knew what each one would do. The feet are all metal with a few understandable exceptions, such as the teflon foot for sewing leather and vinyl. Last night I used the piping/welting foot to install piping around a mixer stand cover I made for out kitchen:

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I was very happy with how the piping came out especially as it was my first try. I used instructions from About.com to put this together, but ended up using my own measurements for the pattern. I added an outer pocket (which I tried to pattern match and you can see in the bottom photo) to hold the flat beater attachments, and created a lining with fabric from an old cotton Jacquard drape. All in all, I’m quite happy with it although I may make another just to improve on my design. :)

I finished the Pebble Beach shawl, which is blocked and ready to go. It has been so hot, though, that the thought of posing with a merino wool shawl draped over my shoulders … ugh. I’ll do a separate post on the shawl when it cools off.

What are you working on this summer?

 

One more day

Hawk on walk

Yesterday during our walk to pick up the car at the repair garage, I spotted this hawk fluttering around the ground. We couldn’t figure out if it was injured or hunting … we could also hear some angry birdsong coming from the firs. I wanted to get a little closer, but those talons!

So yes, one more day! Tomorrow I’m picking O up from camp. I miss him so much and can’t wait to hear of his experiences. I did get a letter from him on Wednesday, and I was surprised by how long it was. It looks like he kept adding to it each day. He’s a very good and entertaining writer. It sounds like he’s had a good time, except for the swimming. Although the weather has been warm here in New England, lakes and ocean water really don’t get warm until August … and even then, I wouldn’t call them “warm” … more like comfortable. Plus, O is not the most enthusiastic swimmer. He said the two weeks at camp would have been the best two weeks of his year … except for the twice daily swims, which he says ruin everything for him.

I would feel sorry for him, but I took swimming lessons as a child in the cold Atlantic Ocean. No pity party here. 😉

Camp pickup is between 9 and 11, so I’ll leave Boston around 6ish, which should give me time for some coffee and exercise breaks (need to stretch out my back frequently). I’ll be giving O’s local friend a ride home, too, so we’ll make a brief stop at my father’s house on the lake to say hi and pick up Aunt Pam’s yarn :-), then be back on our way home.

Crafting

I finished sewing a pair of shorts yesterday, waa-hoo. They came out great! When my head photographer returns home, I’ll get some good photos for my review. I am not a big shorts-wearer, but on especially warm days they’re necessary. I love these shorts because they completely cover my thighs but don’t make my legs look like sausages. Flush with success, I dug out some olive green twill from my stash for a second pair. But first, I want to finish a gift project (silk pillowcases). This is a wedding gift for a friend who is now pregnant, which gives you an idea how behind I am in sewing!

Knitting … not much to report here. I spent a couple hours yesterday tinking three rows (over 400 stitches each row) of my Pebble Beach shawl as I had two extra stitches. The problem was a wrong increase stitch. Sigh. When will I learn? Anyway, all is well, though I will probably not finish the shawl this weekend.

I discovered a new-blog-for-me this week, Ikatbag. This mother of three has craft skills that are a-m-a-z-i-n-g — she’s a whiz with cardboard and all sorts of crafts, but also sews without commercial patterns. In fact, she has never used a commercial pattern to draft her clothing! Oh, and she studied physics in college and does all sorts of cool science projects with her kids and creates the most stupendous birthday parties for her daughters … seriously, I would get palpitations doing half as much as she does in a day!

I’ll leave you with a video of me trying to get a hawk’s attention by talking to it as I would a cat. D’oh.

Hawk on ground

Hydrangea season

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I told my dentist last week that I see hearts everywhere. :)

The hydrangeas in the front of the house are spectacular this year, such a vibrant blue. Two years ago I had cut them back too severely so that last summer we only got a couple blooms.

I have not heard a peep (i.e. received any mail) from O since we dropped him off at camp. He had told me not to expect anything because he doesn’t like handwriting letters (the camp doesn’t allow computers/e-mail), but his counselor assured me I’d get a couple letters anyway. I’m trying not to get antsy about it … as long as he’s having a good time, that’s all that really matters. Plus the camp does a great job updating their blog every night to let parents know what’s going on. I can tell from the activities they describe that O is most definitely enjoying himself. He’s not super athletic but he’s “sporty” and loves to run around and participate in physical activities/games. They had a “marathon” the other night where kids could run a course through the woods, and I can guarantee he was ALL over that.

I’m picking him up this Saturday. I can’t wait to see him and hear all about his adventures!

Crafting

Melody and I are becoming fast friends, maybe even BFFs! Last week I took one of those “get to know your new sewing machine” classes at the dealership where I bought her. A lot of the class was fairly basic–how to thread the machine, how to wind a bobbin, etc.–but I did learn a few tricks and became comfortable with some of the advanced functions on the machine. Like buttonholes…as I said to my husband last night, I will never get sick of watching Melody sew a buttonhole!!! What used to be an exercise in frustration is now a matter of letting her do 90% of the job…my only task is to move the fabric around and press buttons. It couldn’t be easier.

Kwik Sew 3421Kwik Sew 3421

This week I finished the Roman shade for the dormer window in our bedroom and a pair of swimming trunks (Kwik Sew 3421) for my husband. I’ll talk about the Roman shades in my next post as I need to take photos. Both were straightforward projects, except for sewing the power mesh lining on the trunks. So slippery and fiddly and tricky to work with, especially when joining elastic around the leg holes. Luckily that part of the suit isn’t public. I used a medium-weight cotton twill I bought on sale at JoAnn’s for the outer fabric; my husband does not like synthetics, so cotton it is. Today’s job is to purchase a navy cotton drawstring to finish them off. The pattern, like all Kwik Sew patterns, is easy to follow. The only thing I would do differently is use my own way of inserting elastic in the waistband casing (sewing up the casing except for a 2″ gap, threading the elastic through as one long piece, sewing the ends, then sewing up the gap). The KS way is to sew the elastic into a circle then wrap the casing around it to sew it into place. Too fiddly for me!

Now it’s time for some selfish sewing. Today’s project is preparing fabric (lavender twill) for a my own pair of shorts.

I’m just over 80% done on the Pebble Beach shawl, which should be finished over the weekend at the rate I’m going. Each row is over 400 stitches long, and there’s a picot bind-off.

At last week’s knitting group I got my yarn to knit a 12″ x 12″ block for a blanket we’re making for an ailing group member. We get our choice of stitch patterns and I’m pretty happy with the one I chose. As soon as the block looks like a block, I’ll snap a photo. My goal is to have the block complete by next Thursday’s meeting.

Sequence Knitting got an excellent review at Knitter’s Review. Now I am tempted by Susan Crawford’s vintage Shetland knitting project/book, which is being crowdfunded. She has reached her goal, but is still accepting funding. I could have the book in my hands before the holidays, but honestly, will I really get around to knitting Fair Isle before then? I don’t think so.

I missed our Forrest family reunion and my Aunt Pam’s interment up in Vermont this weekend–my back was giving me trouble, then the car started making funny noises–but I did get to talk to my cousin Sherry at some length Saturday night. She said she sent an enormous amount of Aunt Pam’s yarn home with my father for me to have. Wow, I was so touched! I’ll probably pick it up on Saturday when I get O from camp…she says there’s a lot of it, so maybe I’ll have to make two trips. My Aunt Pam was a spectacular craftswoman; not only a first-rate knitter, but she painted, did cross-stitch and crewel embroidery, and quilted … and other crafts/art endeavors, I’m sure! At some point I will show you some of the projects she did. They are truly beautiful.