Monday, November 23, 2015

Mojo Retrograde: Transitional Sizing and What to Sew

There have been distinct mojo issues around these parts lately. I've spent a few months in the weeds, not really knowing what to sew and craving all the wrong things. My sewing mojo really felt like it was moving backward.

Taco's 3 month old WTF face. I miss his fauxhawk.

It's pretty annoying to be wearing "transitional sizing" for so long - 10 months of pregnancy and 11 months and counting of post-partum/breastfeeding. I'm sure that in many ways my "old body" is not coming back. I'm cool with that. My body reflects my life's journey. But I doubt that I'll know what my body will look like until Taco and I finish nursing, and that's just irritating when it comes to deciding on sewing projects.

I had been craving sheath dresses and could think of nothing else for about two months. However, not only are sheaths pretty unforgiving when it comes to fit, but I would not be able to nurse Taco or conveniently pump in one. It came down to a struggle between my style and the practical needs of my life right now. I was stuck.

But I recently had a breakthrough. I sewed a silk shirt dress (to be blogged) and am feeling back on track and full of ideas that excite me. As usual, I want frosting. I want beautiful fabric and clothing that is interesting and well made. I'd like the actual sewing to be interesting, if not challenging. Here's what I'm thinking about...

First, I dropped everything, went to Mood with my birthday gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket and bought coating when I saw the new Closet Case Patterns Clare Coat pattern.

View A (right) is TDF! So different!
I think the A-line silhouette and raglan sleeves will be pretty easy to fit and not give me much trouble should my measurements change a bit. Plus it's got welt pockets. I love welt pockets.

Next, I feel like there were several patterns released while I was pregnant that would have been right up my alley, but weren't right for me then, including the Nettie, also a Closet Case Pattern. I've been wanting a sweater dress and Nettie's low, rounded neckline will work for nursing/pumping. Plus I feel like this will sort of satisfy my sheath dress craving while being more forgiving in the fit department. Yay knits!

The other pattern I most wanted to sew while pregnant was True Bias' Sutton Blouse. I've been enjoying wearing easy drapey blouses like Sutton since going back to work. I definitely have silk stashed away for a pretty version.

Next, I wear my blue wool trousers all the time and always get compliments when I do. They were a bit out of the box for me style-wise with their high waist, pleats and full legs. But they feel really luxe on and keep me warm on the cold train platform. I'd love more interesting wool trousers for winter. I have two candidates:

Burdastyle 10/2015-105

I love the BurdaStyle wide legged trousers that were in the October issue. And Sewaholic's Thurlows have been on my "to sew" list since forever. I may hold off on the Thurlows, which I think have a less forgiving fit than the wide legged trousers.

Last, I'm, um, having some troubles buttoning most of my jackets thanks to the extra 3" of bust I have at the moment. (Yes, when I keep saying I don't know where things will settle, that is code for "I have no idea how big my bewbs will be post-nursing." Right now they are ginormous.)  So, if I have mojo left after these other exciting projects, I may try to sew a version or two of Butterick 5567 or another easy to sew jacket or topper.  Wouldn't view A (the green one) look great with some faux leather parts? I think so.

Anyway, your guess is as good as mine about how much of this I'll accomplish or if I'll be distracted by other pretties. But to start out, I have this week off and have already muslined my Clare Coat and prepped my wool coating. So, you will at least see a Clare Coat here.

Also, stay tuned for my silk shirt dress.  I'm already enjoying wearing it. I just haven't had time to photograph it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween: Dragon the Hippo Speaks

Clio and Phineas are both off chasing Taco, now that the little guy can walk. And Clio doesn't let me play on the computer very often because she says Dragon Hippos get into trouble. But luckily, she left her laptop open, so I can tell you about Halloween.

The whole herd loves costumes, so we knew that Taco's first Halloween would be a big deal. And naturally, Taco wanted to dress up as me, his trusty Dragon Hippo! So, Clio made him a costume under my supervision.

Hippo in Charge!

I don't understand why there isn't a hippo costume pattern but Clio used OOP M6812 and made a few changes to it to make it more hippo-tastic. I think she did a really good job with the feet.

Hippo toes

It was very cute when it was done.

The resemblance to me is striking!

But Halloween was a very noisy day. It was a bit rough on Taco. Clio says, he is used to our quiet house and not the mayhem of his noisy cousins.

Can you spot Waldo in this photo? 

Plus, Taco doesn't like wearing hats. Even hippo costume hats!

So, Phin wore it for him.

Not happy!  Phin is a good sport. 

So, Clio let Taco take his costume off and just watch the other children come to the door for candy rather than go trick-or-treating. She says that candy isn't good for knit hippo teeth, anyway, and the sugar makes us hyper.

Taco top knot

So, we had fun playing on the floor instead.  And Taco wore his Halloween bib.  

Wild haired baby!

Next year I think we should add a dragon cape to his costume so he can fly!

Notes from Clio: Errr, thank you, Dragon, for filling everyone in. A few details... This is McCalls 6812, which is out of print, but adorable. I just altered the tail, hat and feet features to make it hippo-like. Thinking that I might have an unwilling baby on my hands, I didn't want to invest too much on this costume, so I used very inexpensive fleece and lining from Hancock Fabrics.  I also cut some corners by skipping steps like stay stitching and using my serger for some parts of the body, as well as busting out the hot glue gun for the felt features rather than sewing them on. We'll see if Taco likes Halloween in the future. This year it was all a bit overwhelming for him and he was happier just to toddle around my parent's house.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Teeny Tiny Taco Booties

Look at these adorable socks I knit for Taco! 

They are Ann Budd's Better than Booties Baby Socks, a free pattern. 

They are designed for a smaller baby than Taco, but I up-sized them a bit by using a larger needle (3mm instead of 2mm) and knitting the foot long enough for his little foot. I think they came out very cute!  


I love the cuff and leg. The whole leg is ribbed, which really helps it stay on, which is important for little feet and little fingers that like to pull socks and shoes off and throw them overboard while cruising in the stroller. I liked the short row heel less. I'm not sure if it's just a matter of technique on my part (it was a different method than my norm) but you can see the little gaps left by the short rows.  They're fine, just not perfect.

I knit these socks up in baby blue My First Regia, a wool and nylon blend designed for babies and sold in mini amounts - enough to knit a pair of baby socks. It's soft and warm, and was perfect for this project. The nylon should help it wear well, which is very good since Taco took his first few wobbly steps a few days before he was 10 months old. Now he's walking (and falling down) all over the house. An early walker is a mixed blessing.

Anyway, I love socks and sock knitting. This was a particularly rewarding make because it knit up fast and looks very nice, despite my little quibbles with the heel. 

Next up: Taco's first Halloween! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Socks! Toe Up, Two-at-a-Time With Stripes

As I've already said, one of the perks of my return to work is that I have time for knitting while I commute. Yay knitting!

I've been wanting to learn how to knit two-at-a-time socks for some time, but never seemed to have a good reason to change my normal sock procedure. However, after picking up some self striping sock yarn when a LYS closed (isn't that sad btw?) I had my opportunity.  A plain knit sock without a stitch pattern tends to work best for striped socks. But it can be a bit dull to knit, leaving me at risk of succumbing to Second Sock Syndrome

The gist is that you cast on two socks instead of one and knit from two balls of yarn - one for each sock - using the Magic loop method, which is already my preferred way. Normally two-at-a-time is done top down, but during my commute I puzzled out how I could knit the socks toe up using Judy's Magic cast on. Later I found corroborating evidence on Knitty, that this is, in fact, a legitimate way to do things. (Isn't it equal parts frustrating and validating to see that someone else invented the wheel before you?) 

Two at a Time Judy's Magic cast on photo from Knitty's very helpful instructions!

Once I wrapped my brian around how to knit two at once, the rest was pretty easy.  The "pattern" is my own Socks a la Clio, my master sock "recipe" which has appropriated the best parts of a few different patterns and grafted them into a glorious frankenpattern.

Basic Socks a la Clio (appropriated from better-than-me knitters)***

There are 2 things I don't love about these socks. The first is the yarn. It's Cascade "Sassy Stripes" superwash, a 75% wool/25% nylon blend. There's nothing wrong with it, per se. It's just a little less soft and cushy than some of the other sock yarns I've used. What can I say; I like the cushy yarns.

Second, after doing the heel, I ended up with one very very narrow stripe that looks sort of like a mistake. At least it looks like a mistake to me. I should have done something about it, but that would have required ripping out two completed heels instead of one. And I really didn't want to do that at the time.

And perhaps that's the rub with two-at-a-time socks. You do finish both your socks at once, which is no small thing. Plus they are identical. But if you make a mistake, you make it twice rather than learning from your first mistake and avoiding it the second time.

So, will I knit two-at-a-time socks again? Probably yes. And I can see how it would be advantageous to use this technique for pairs of things, like sleeves, once you've worked out your fitting issues. But I don't know if it will become my new norm.

What about you, my fellow knitters? Do you prefer to do things one or two at a time? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Phin is Hot! (Shorts)

Just in time for Columbus Day, I finished sewing shorts for Phineas.

For anyone else, this would be tragically out of season. However, Phin's internal thermostat has always been stuck on high heat and as a result he wears shorts year-round, at least around the house.

The genesis of this project is that Phin's favorite shorts finally sprung a leak. He wore them to a point where the pockets, belt carriers, and other details had a large amount of wear, and finally one area of stress tore.

So, I dismantled the shorts and used the pieces to create a clone. When I started the project, I thought how long could it take to sew shorts? Not long, I'm sure. Afterall, they're shorts! But I hadn't taken into account the amount of detail on these particular shorts. Sewing actually stalled at one point because I ran out of thread from all the top stitching. Also, shorts are really just trousers with shorter inseams. All the work on the fly and waist and crotch is just the same.

What I enjoyed about sewing these shorts was reverse engineering the pockets. The back patch pockets have a very cool pleat in the center which allows them to expand to hold whatever you put in them. The front pockets have a gusset that runs down the seam (the one not enclosed in the side seam) that allows them to expand. The pockets are actually one of Phin's favorite features of these shorts, so I was glad to recreate them. The only change I made to the pockets was to eliminate the smaller set of patch pockets that had been located on top of the front pockets. Phin never used them. However, I did make pattern pieces for them in case I want to include them in future versions.

Here are some of the details:

Back patch pocket with flap. I offered buttons, but the original has velcro. So, velcro it is.

Front slant pocket with gusset. Belt carrier. 

Front fly and waistband. I used hardware for the closure.

I think I may actually be even happier about these shorts than Phin. They really are one of my most beautifully finished projects, with attention paid to every detail. And I feel like my top stitching - and my confidence in my top stitching - has really come a long way. One of the reasons I have not sewn dress shirts for Phin is my lack of confidence with top stitching areas like the cuffs, placket, collar. So, maybe a shirt is at long last in Phin's future. Also maybe trousers...

And this brings us to fit. Another reason I haven't sewn more for Phin is that he doesn't have much patience for trying on and the fitting process. This is a challenge since Phin has some fitting challenges; he has a rather flat bum. But these shorts fit rather well. So I have a template I could use to adjust the fit of any trouser pattern that I might want to tackle for him.

Phin has a rather flat bum

The only other change I made was that the original waistband had a few elastic sections which I replaced with a normal straight waistband.  In order to get a good fit, I sewed the side seams after attaching the waistband, basting first and adjusting as needed. I learned this trick from Simplicity's Amazing Fit collection.

Last, but not least, the fabric is a cotton/linen blend twill from Fabric Mart. With the linen content, I was afraid that it would grow and grow. But is seems like the cotton, plus the sturdy twill weave, keeps it in check. Phin reported that after several hours of wear, the waist was still fitting well. It also doesn't wrinkle too badly, even though you can see some creasing. I assume that with more washes, this will soften.

At the end of the day, Phin seems pretty happy with his new shorts and, when I mentioned the possibility of trousers, he seemed enthusiastic. So, job well done, me!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

40: A Portrait

I am 40 today.

Cantina do Spade in Venice

Watching a small child grow keeps you anchored to the present rather than reflective about the past or contemplative about the future. This portrait, taken by Phin during our first family vacation in Venice, says just about everything I would want to say about my life in the present.

It says I am happy.

It says I have grown.

It says I like crazy pants.

It says I have purpose.

It says there is meaning.

It says I have joy.

It says I am loved.

It says I love.

I've heard that 40 is the place between experience and possibility, and I'm excited. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Did I forget to mention that we are away for a few weeks?

I've just finished a week of work in London, and now we are on our first family vacation. Guess where.