Shoulder pads??

I am not quite old enough to have worn shoulder pads the last time around. To me, they remind me of my mom's old 80s blouses or the polyester shirts we'd turn our noses up at in thrift stores. Shoulder pads were the first thing I'd rip out of vintage finds, and it actually took me years to learn to put them IN blazers to give shape to a garment. 

So imagine my surprise to see them popping up in garments and sewing patterns all over. And I'm even more surprised to say I gave them a TRY. I can't say they worked out in every instance, but it's fun to experiment with something out of my comfort zone.

Pattern: Grasser Knit Jumper 810
Fabric: 2 yds knit
Cost: $12

First up is the Grasser jumper. This is a new-to-me pattern company from Russia and what drew me to it was a wide selection of really interesting patterns. This jumper in particular had such a different construction and shape that I was really excited to give it a try. 

The instructions are complete and include some pictures, but the translation is a bit off and the sleeve construction involved some trial and error on my part. But in the end, it all came together mostly as designed. The shoulders are supported with "roll fabric;" I used some light quilt batting to give it the extra shape. 

I did make some updates to the pattern before cutting it out. One, it's cut from a stable jersey rather than a thicker sweater material, so my version has less structure than the pattern. Because of this, the sleeves collapse a little rather than holding their shape, but I don't mind. And while I kept the sleeves the same, I updated the main body by eliminating the princess seams and changing the neckline to a regular crew neck. I got this idea from a few people on Instagram who had done the same and I find it works well on this less-structured version. Sometimes putting too many seams in jersey is just asking for wonky seams. 

It is admittedly not the easiest shirt to wear. It doesn't fit easily under sweaters, and is a bit of a new shape for me. But I actually like it more than I thought I would and have been wearing it a good bit. 

Next up is the MadeIt Patterns Eight Tee. This is part of their No Frills line, which is the same style and fit as their regular patterns but without detailed, step-by-step instructions. I found the information to be more than adequate, with full sizing information, technical drawings, fabric recommendations, and one page of instructions with a few illustrations for the more involved steps. 

Pattern: MadeIt Patterns Eight Tee
Fabric: 1 yd jersey
Cost: free - remnant

This top and the Just Patterns Claudia Tee have been really popular on Instagram this past month. I chose the MadeIt version because I liked the shoulder/sleeve construction - it folds under to create the shoulder line in a really unique way.  The top can be made with or without shoulder pads and, despite the name of this post, I chose to make it without. Even without the pads, it gives an exaggerated shoulder line for the same look. 

While the original shirt has a very boxy construction, I wanted something with a more exaggerated shape - wide shoulders and a nipped-in waist. To do this, I cut the shirt off at the waistline and added a narrower band. I then pleated the top into the band at the side seams. I also experimented with adding a waist tie. Mijke from SewItCurly did a similar alteration, but by sewing the shoulder "pleats" together rather than adding a hemband. 

I'm not yet sure how I feel about this top. It's definitely interesting, but I'm not sure I like the silhouette on me. Perhaps the original silhouette would have been better, but with my small shoulders I do feel like I'm swimming in it a bit. 

Either way both of these tops were really fun to experiment with and I'm glad I tried a new trend.  I've also been playing with wide-leg pants, another trend I've seen popping up, but I'm NOT ready for the return of low-rise jeans. 

Adjusting the Deer and Doe Myosotis

I think I'm just going to sew green things from now on. I have at least two more green projects in the wings. But next up to share with you is another version of the Deer and Doe Myosotis Dress.

Pattern: Deer and Doe Myosotis Dress
Fabric: 2 yds linen
Cost: fabric was a gift from mom :) 

When this pattern first came out I remember someone saying that it looked like an oversized toddler dress. While it is quite loosely cut, I think it's this easy-wearing shape that has made it a popular pattern for sewers. Personally, this is my second version and I find it to be a nice, casual, comfortable dress. 

I sewed this up in a beautiful linen that my mom sent me. The fabric, as with other linen I've sewn this year, is loosely woven and has a bit of give to it. It's perfect for this pattern because it doesn't need to fit tightly and precisely to the body, so a bit of stretching or fabric distortion wasn't much of a problem. 

The main change I made from my previous version was to lengthen the pattern at center front. It seems like everywhere I look these days patterns are riding up in the front. I don't know if it's intentional or not, but to me it just looks like the pattern didn't account for the bust shape and has a distorted waistline. Even the sample photos for this pattern ride up, giving not just the waistline but the skirt a high-low hemline. It's clear in the photos but not in the line drawing, so I assume this is a fit issue and not a design mistake. It looks ill-fitting unless you're actually trying to do a mullet hem!

If you're looking to make a similar adjustment, I started by slashing the front bodice at the lengthen/shorten line and pivoting it to add the required amount (about an inch and a half for me!). It's important to pivot so that you don't lengthen the side seam, just the center front. From there, I redrew the grainline and center front parallel to the hem. I also redrew the legs of the dart to connect the point and ends of the dart indicated on the pattern, as the legs get a little distorted. Finally, I added another button and redrew them so they were evenly spaced. 

I don't have a great photo of how this pattern originally fit me (probably because I like to hide my flaws). But below on the left you can see to some extent how the bodice and skirt on my first version ride up in the front. The right is my adjusted pattern with a more even waistline and hem. Success!

You'll also notice that I lengthened the skirt on my second version to a length that was more comfortable for me. I actually lengthened it a bit too much (five inches) and ended up making the ruffle a bit shorter. I wish I'd keep the original proportions but I'm pretending it's fine.  

Also, look how much my hair has grown over the last year of quarantine! I am also experimenting with cutting more layers and letting it air dry wavy. Now I'm just hoping the weather warms up again so I can wear my dress out. 

Green Blazer for the Good Times

Remember a few years ago when everyone was building their wardrobe and trying to make clothes for the way they live? More cake less frosting. Becoming a wardrobe architect. All that jazz. Well, one year into the pandemic and I have no interest in sewing for the way I'm living. I have been feeling so unkempt in my sweatpants, no-makeup, and ponytail. So I'm dressing for the life I want. And somehow that life involves bright lips, clean hair, and a forest green blazer with rolled cuffs. 

Fabric: 2 yds Robert Kaufman Ventana Twill in Dark Green
Cost: $30

Do I need a blazer right now? Absolutely not. But when you're bored at home it is the perfect challenging project. Also, if things ever do open back up, this will be nice for dressing up a bit or even more casual work meetings. I just love a good green!

I wanted to make a blazer because I love being able to roll my sleeves up. But if you've ever tried this on a normal jacket you'll find that it is quite difficult if the sleeves are too small at the wrists. To adjust this pattern, I found the widest part of each sleeve piece and widened all the tapered lines to match that width. So the sleeve is no longer tapered and rolls up really nicely. It makes the sleeves look pretty big and I thought I might have to take them in some, but this is really how much fabric you need if you want to be able to roll them up. 

I used my old standby pattern for this blazer, McCall's Palmer Pletsch Misses' Jacket #6172. I believe I bought this in 2010 and have been making great-fitting blazers with it ever since. Surprisingly, it is still for sale on the McCall's website. My friend Beth the jacket queen even named this as one of her favorite blazer patterns, so you know it's worth it. And if you're looking to brush up on your jacket-making skills, she offers classes at Hello Stitch studio

One other change I made to this pattern was to change the welt pocket to a sort of patch pocket that sits neatly between the side seam and the front princess seam. The truth is, I'm really not that good with welt pockets and wanted to try something a bit different. I also think it helps make the blazer a bit more casual.

I also haven't added a button yet. Maybe I'll leave it this way? 

Some people choose unlined jackets because they think the construction will be cheaper than making a lining. But I find that you spend so much time on nice seam finishes (which will show when you take the jacket off) that it is almost certainly quicker to line it. So of course, to take up as much time as possible, I did a mostly unlined version with bound seams. Not only did this give me more project to work on, but it also meant I could work with the materials I had on hand and not have to buy more lining. I lined the sleeves in a leftover lighter weight twill that turned out to be almost an exact match. The other seams are bound in a combination of black and black and white bias tapes that I had on hand. It was the perfect way to use up leftover materials. 

Here's another shot of the inside. You can see all the bound seams in more detail, as well as the sleeve lining. All the facings were hand sewn to the garment, and the sleeve was hand sewn at the armhole. 

I hope I find a time to wear this soon. In the meantime, I'll be dreaming about the life I want. 

Slowly Sewing

To be perfectly honest, for the first time in the 10+ years I've been sewing, I haven't wanted to sew. A year into the pandemic, I blame quarantine. Never before have I had so much unlimited time to sew. It was fun for the first few weeks. It kept me entertained for many months. And now... I've sewn it all. Couple that with nowhere fun to wear your creations and it's just... not that interesting. I'm slowly picking up projects again but also giving myself the space to nap, take dog walks, make waffles, whatever mood strikes. 

BUT I still have a few things photographed that I want to share with you, so you'll see that dribbling out until I get my "sewjo" back. 

Pattern: Victoria Jones's Waimea Ranch Shirt
Fabric: remnant chambray
Cost: gift

First up, my favorite button-up shirt pattern, the Waimea Ranch Shirt. I've written about it before, but it's the perfectly relaxed fit shirt with just the right amount of shaping. Just check out the back, which has those nice little fish-eye darts that nip in the extra fabric right where it's needed. 

And those pleated sleeves.

I got a little obsessed with the demin details on this one. I used red thread to do double lines of topstitching throughout (which I now realize is why I'm out of red thread). I also did flat-felled seams and have to admit that this was probably the first time I've EVER used flat-felled seams on a garment. I normally default to French seams as I find flat-felled seams to be much too finicky. They were a bit finicky but mostly worked out well.   

I did make one alteration to the pattern, which was to convert the pointed front and back of the yoke (more of a Western style) to straight seams. That makes this pattern much more versatile for me. 

I used leftover denim shirting from another project, turning it inside out to get a bit more of a worn/bleached look. 

The shirt has snap closures on the front and cuffs. But I messed up an got the from Amazon and they're already popping off all over. So I'll probably have to replace them at some point which is such a pain. 

I do love a good denim shirt though and hope I get some wear out of this when the weather warms up. 

A Tale of Two Sweaters

Can I tell you something? I made this sweater twice. Well, not this exact sweater. But I used this yarn and knitted up a perfectly fine sweater and then completely frogged it, all seven skeins of yarn, rewound them, and knit up another complete sweater. 

I bought this yarn on the last day before lockdown orders came out in March last year, knowing that I'd need a Project to work on. I finished the first sweater in October, then fully eight months into the pandemic. And in that time, the pandemic really made me take stock of what matters: relationships, self care, patience and joy. And, among other things, I have realized that life is too short for sweaters that you won't wear. I loved the bobbles and details, the months I spent working out the stitch pattern. But the whole thing just felt too heavy, too awkward. I'd pull at the neckline every time I wore it. So I took it apart. 

And you know what? I love my new sweater. It is the exact same yarn (plus a few more skeins) but the fit is so much better, it keeps me perfectly warm in my wintery apartment, and is easy to pull on and off and to wear. It's the little things like this that are getting me through the year. 

Yarn: Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash Wool in black
Patterns: Version 1 based on Caron Great Curves Knit Poncho
Cost: $140

Let's start with the first one. I love intricate stitch patterns and have spent a lot of time pouring over my copy of the Japanese Stitch Bible. For this project I was especially intrigued with the delicate lacy patterns that hid within them increase rows, allowing a pattern to expand as you work it. I spent months translating this technique to a shawl sweater pattern with raglan sleeves, using the knit stitches to create the narrow neckline and then growing wider as I worked down. I figured the whole design out in Excel, using the rows and columns to record each stitch. It was incredibly challenging and interesting work, and really held my attention. 

However, as is often the case when I try to create my own knit patterns, the end result is often not as wearable as I'd like. I find it much more challenging to work out necklines and sleeveheads in knitting than in sewing patterns. Living in a warmer California climate, I also struggle to match my knitting projects to what will actually get worn. 

While I wore this sweater poncho a few times, it never felt quite right. The whole garment felt heavy and cumbersome to put on over my head. It was also a bit unbalanced and would pull toward the back, chocking me a bit at the collar. While I loved the artistry and the process of creating this garment, the end result was lacking. So I snapped a few pictures to document my work and began the tedious process of taking it all back apart. 

Unfortunately, most of my knitting projects end this way. I've even knit a sweater twice where I didn't like the first or second version. However, I was determined this time to get it right and started researching knit patterns, which I vowed to follow to the letter. Up until this point, the only sweater I have ever really loved is the one I knit for my husband, the Brooklyn Tweed Hugo Sweater. So I decided my best bet was to try another pattern from them.

I eventually landed on the Watermark pattern. The instructions matched my yarn gauge and, with its open, pull-on style, it seemed like an easy pattern to wear. While I struggled a bit at first with the instructions, I found it to be a really quality pattern with well-thought out details. And you know what? I love it! It works well with my yarn, the fit is good and not too snug, and I have been wearing it nearly every day since I finished it. 

While I tried to stick faithfully to the pattern to achieve the best possible result, I did make a few adjustments. First, I found that my yarn gauge knit up slightly larger than what the pattern called for (even on smaller needles), so I knit the smallest size, realizing it would come out a bit bigger. However, when it came to the armholes, I made them two sizes larger and knit the sleeves two sizes larger to match. This worked really well for me, creating a cozy sweater but with enough room in the arms to wear with long-sleeve tops. I do believe they sized up the sweater for the models so it was hard to determine how snuggly the pattern was supposed to fit, but this solution suited me. 

The other thing I did was shorten the pattern. Again it was actually kind of hard to tell where the hem fell on the models from the pictures, but after looking at several Ravelry projects I decided to shorten mine by about 2-3 inches. I did this by starting the waist decrease early. Of course now I can't remember exactly how many inches I took off (was it 2? was it 4?) but it hits me now right at the hip. 

The stitch pattern on this sweater, while not quite as cool as the Japanese Stitch Bible, also added some visual interest and was fun to knit. It is seen better on the back of the sweater. 

The only challenge I had, and you can see it in the photo above. Was with the yarn dye lot. When I was making this sweater I realized I would need a few more balls of yarn and, now that in-person shopping at limited capacity is back open, went in after the holidays to pick up some more. I carefully checked the dye lot but realized only much later that I had only checked the dye lot of the first skein I picked up, not all of them. I do a lot of knitting at night and really only realized the color variation after I had already knit up the back portion of the sweater. Luckily, black is easy enough to fix and, if it really bothers me, I'll dunk the whole thing in some dye to try to even out the color. 

I suppose the last thing I'll note is just a word about the yarn and pattern companies I used. I was quite proud of myself for shopping local for this yarn, especially as I know retail stores have been struggling. But my friend let me know later that the particular brand of yarn I selected, Cascade Yarns, have been vocal Trump supporters and harassing others on social media. It's been a bit hard to untangle whether it was the present or former owners and exactly what beliefs they do or don't hold, but I was very disappointed to hear this. Especially with recent conversations on the topic, it strikes me that it is best to support companies that are working to make this space as inclusive as possible rather than going about business as usual or actively supporting a racist leader. Similarly, Brooklyn Tweed has recently been accused of copying and profiting off of the yarn of a local Oakland seller, A Verb for Keeping Warm. While mistakes will be made and it is not possible to have a "perfect" source for all your projects, I am reconsidering both these companies for projects in the future in favor of more inclusive companies based on what I learned while making this sweater. 

In practicing a craft I find there is always more to learn. From what projects suit me to where to source my supplies, I welcome the challenge of constantly learning and improving. 
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