first foray into bra-making

Well, I’ve joined the ranks of bra-sewers! I am so intrigued by the fact that making your own bras is a thing, and that regular people can actually do it! I mean, I’ve known for years it is possible, reading the posts and seeing the enviable results of sewers like Lauren, Novita of verypurpleperson, and Norma of orange-lingerie. It just hasn’t felt like it is achievable – until I have now achieved myself. Behold, one Watson bra, and one knock-off.

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First off, I have had tremendous help from reading Lauren’s posts on bra-making. This one breaks down the materials and notions needed, and the two-part post showing step by step how she sewed a Boylston bra is just gold. My Watson experience plus these posts totally gave me the confidence to attempt sewing a bra using a traced pattern with no instructions.

Watson bra
Materials:
 Miliskin fabric, lining, hooks and eyes, plushback elastic (3/8″ and 5/8″), and strap elastic from a Blackbird fabrics kit. Lace fabric remnant from stash, rings and sliders from old, dead bra.
Pattern: Watson bra from Cloth Habit, and Grace panties from OhLulu (love this pattern! Success every time).

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Starting with a Watson bra and a bra-making kit was a very conscious choice on my part to make it easier on myself. The Watson pattern for being a simpler style with a lot of hand-holding, and the kit from Blackbird fabrics so I could skip making by brain hurt from figuring out what to get and where (I just postponed that brain-hurting, since I later decided to try other bra-styles, which needed other kinds of supplies). I actually made two Watson bras, but I’m only showing the one that is wearable. The other ended up in the trash after I salvaged the hooks, eyes, rings and sliders, because really – it was way too small and just not happening. The measurement chart in the pattern put me at a band size 32 and cup size E. I cut a size 3o E (don’t ask me why… mismeasurement?), which as mentioned, was too small. Next attempt I did a size 34 E, which is actually a full two sizes up both in bandwidth, and in cup-size. The fit was much improved. There is some bagginess in the upper part of the cup, which looks like it has to do with shape, or volume distribution, but the cradle part of the cup is fine size-wise.

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A lot of people have mentioned the comfort and relaxed style of the bra. I can totally see that, and I was really swayed and optimistic about the longline style, but I am getting some migrating throughout the day where I keep having to pull the bra down. Something isn’t quite working for me, and to be honest I don’t think I will try to figure it out. I tend to prefer underwire padded bras, or none at all, so a Watson-style bra honestly will get limited wear from me. It was a great project to get started though, to get familiar with the construction methods, the materials, and fiddly nature of sewing bras. For the second version I tried a few things differently than from the pattern, notably sandwiching the side/back portion between the miliskin outer fabric and the stable lining, to get a clean-looking inside. I also cut a couple of strips of the lining, and used them to finish the seams where the cups attach to the cradle. It worked beautifully and makes the insides look all professional and lovely!

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Speaking of professional, I can’t get over how good this next bra looks like on the inside. I mean, look at this!

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Grey balconette bra
Materials:
 Fabric from stash, lining and powernet from Blackbird fabrics kit. Foam from MakeBra in Finland, plush back elastic (5/8″) from B-wear in Sweden, FOE from my stash (originally from SewSassy) hooks, eyes, rings, sliders and strap elastic from an old, dissected bra.
Pattern: Traced from an old Change bra, this one.

My preferred bra style is a padded balconette type bra. Almost all my bras right now are from Change, and I have found two of their styles in particular fit really really well. So – since I’ve read that a lot of people end up tweaking and testing and muslin-ing their bought bra patterns, and even recommend tracing a well-fitting bra, I decided to start at that end. I took apart the most tired of my well-loved bras, and traced and cleaned up the pattern. The underwire came out and got reused, since there wasn’t really anything the matter with it. It is really a lot of fun taking these little pieces of fabric, putting them together, and bam! You’ve engineered underwear!

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The pattern I traced is a fairly classic t-shirt bra, with one vertical seam. It has padded straps, sort of like the Boylston bra, which I really like. Since the straps are set quite wide, it feels like a balconette style, though I think it is a tad more coverage than typical balconette bras. The original had a thin synthetic jersey kind of fabric (I really don’t know my bra fabrics yet) covering the foam cups, and the same fabric for the bridge and cradle. It also has a seam at the narrowest point under the cup, meaning that I would either have grey cups and black bridge and cradle, or grey cup and bridge, and black cradle, or grey everything – layering the thin jersey over the bridge lining and cradle as well as the cups. I thought grey everything would look the least weird, so I went for that! Of course, I didn’t have fold-over elastic (FOE) in grey, so I used the black I had on hand. It made for a pretty sporty look I think.

Construction wise I followed Lauren’s excellent tutorial, as well as checking out my dissected old bra. The Boylston bra doesn’t have FOE, so I had to diverge a little there, in finishing one bra cup seam before attaching the cup, and the other after. The strap elastic is also attached straight down, as opposed to becoming the finishing on the top edge of the cradle, leading to the hooks and eyes. I messed that bit up so it looks less professional in that spot, but the function is still fine.

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I was hoping for a pretty bang-on fit since I copied the pattern from one I knew worked well. At the same time, I’ve seen plenty of people mention that changes in fabric really affects the fit. For a first attempt with a foam cup this bra is pretty damn good, with one area of improvement. While the silhouette from the side is nice and rounded, looking straight down it looks a little pointy. I thought there might be an issue of not enough length from left to right, but I made up a foam muslin after some pattern changes that only seemed to make it worse. My next attempt will be to turn the cup into a three-piece pattern, so volume and curves can be distributed along several seams. Theoretically that should improve things – realistically I am bracing myself for quite some trial and error here! If anyone has experiences they want to share, please do!

For my own sake, I will jot down the changes I’d like to make for the next version. I’m thinking the small remnants I have from this floral Bettine dress would make a fun bra!
– Eliminate the seam directly under the cup, and have one at the side seam instead. That seems more par for the course when I look at other bra patterns.
– Get rid of the tiny dart at center front – I think it’s there to cover the ends of the FOE. I’d rather have a continuous elastic, or a bow to cover up the raw edges.
– Move 3/8″ – 1/2″ from the cup to the band at side seams.
– The slinky jersey has much more stretch than the foam, and since I cut them the same size the jersey is loose. If I cover foam cups with stretchy fabrics I should reduce the pattern for the stretchy fabric with at least 10%.

– Remember to attach the strap elastic to the bottom edge *before* the picot edged elastic. Then do the top edge of the cradle before securing the strap elastic to the top.
– Attach underwire casing before FOE elastic on the front/top edge of cup, to attach casing all the way. Secure ends with zig-zag, cover with FOE.

grey_bra-1A reapeat picture. But I don’t care – I’m proud!

sydney jacket in bergen

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Fabric: About 1.3 meters of boiled woven wool, 1.5 meters wide. I was gifted the fabric some years ago by a sweet fellow sewist, and I’m so glad to finally have found the right project for this dusty colored wool.
Pattern: Sydney jacket, from Tessuti fabrics.
Techniques: topstitching.

sydney_jacket-1Feeling just a *bit* awkward posing with my tripod, on the street in my neighbourhood this past extremely windy Sunday afternoon. Yep, just me and the brunch crowd hanging around!

Oh, man – I love this jacket. It’s maybe not the most year-round kind of jacket, but damn, I feel stylish in this! I’m not quite sure what to say that hasn’t already been mentioned by the many, many bloggers who have made this jacket already since the release last year. I will try. I mean, words usually have to be dragged out of me, so I hope you all are aware of what sort of sacrifice this is for me. (I kid. I have so many words inside me. Just in general I mean.)

sydney_jacket-2I was too impatient to steam the jacket before wearing it out!

The construction is, as noted many places, a little different, but in a fun way. The seams are all overlapped and topstitched down. I ended up doing double rows of stitches just to make the seams more secure, plus I think it looks nice. Starting a Saturday morning in a mad dash of inspiration, I was not about to leave the house to buy me some fabric-matching thread, so I made do with what I had. I chose a warm sable kind of color, which I think went well with the dusty rosy mauve of the wool. It certainly does not match, but it’s not exactly a contrast color either – it just gives a bit of dimension!

This was not a difficult jacket to make. I spent three leisurely hours (including some unpicking and a snack break) one morning after realizing this fabric in my stash was a perfect fit for the pattern I assembled and cut the previous night. I was on my way to pull out a thicker grey felted wool when this softer boiled wool just sang out for my attention. What could I do but obey? Based on other bloggers notes about the roominess I decided to cut the petite size, with the added 1 cm length of the size small. I’m happy with the ease I have in the finished jacket – I certainly wouldn’t want it any larger (I’m 5’4″/164 cm for reference). I have to say… as soon as I put it on I knew that grey felted wool is coming out after all. I want another one! So cozy and warm! I mean, it won’t really hold up to cold days or superwindy days, but I most definitely felt the added warmth of wearing this jacket!

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I can’t get over how pulled together, slightly artistic and cool I felt wearing this. I’m not even sure I know what I think this word means, but I felt chic damnit. There. I said it. Now – go make yourself one of these. I’ll be back soon with some knits I’ve finished, in my favorite color ever. Oh, the suspense! 😉

portside travel set for international travels

Well, really for any kinds of travels – I used it this weekend for a sleepover and a trip to a cabin, and last week going to the gym. But I *made* it for my epic sailing adventure to Belfast last summer!

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Oh the sheer joy and slight terror on my face! I was so excited, and rightly so – the sailing trip was a wonderful experience. Statsraad Lehmkuhl is a training vessel based in Bergen, with both permanent crew, trainees that spend a couple of years on board, cadets from the military academy that join on the 2-month cross-Atlantic sail each fall, and shorter trips that we mere mortals can pay to go on. It’s work though – two shifts of four hours each every day, where we haul sails, maintain the ship, keep lookout, and steer. And sleep in hammocks, which was… the best. Ever. We were told to avoid packing in suitcases, since space was limited and the lockers narrow. It seemed like a great opportunity to make a Portside travel set!

Fabric: 1-ish meter each of dark navy twill from somewhere in London (bought for a Robson coat), a water-repellent fabric called Dralon from Stoff & Stil (I think it’s the right color, but it might be creme instead of light grey), and lined with some polyester crepe-satin-twill (totally the official description) from my stash, bought on sale at Vogue in Evanston, IL several years ago.
Pattern: Portside travel set, from Grainline Studio.
Techniques: lining, convex curves, zippers, topstitching, webbing.

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I actually managed to only finish the duffle bag before the trip (last-minute too – if I remember correctly I was sewing in the lining the morning of departure!). After the trip I had other projects that took up my time, so it wasn’t until early this spring that I picked it up again. I made a few changes to the pattern. First up, I used lining in more places than the pattern calls for, like to finish the outside pockets, and inside the pouch. To accommodate the length of zippers I bought, and also because I like the look of the tabs between the zipper and the side seams, I added an inch of width to each of the travel set pieces. Only – I forgot I had done so when I had to recut the bottom for the dopp kitt, so it is a bit misshapen. Haha!

Buying notions was a bit of a headache for someone who ends up researching different options to no end, and due to time constraints I didn’t use all of it for this bag. I want to list it here for future reference though. The black zippers with antique brass teeth that I did use came from Etsy shop zipperstop, whom I’ve bought from before and has a mind-numbing number of zippers available. They also do custom stuff (these were custom length), and have been quick, with good customer service. I also ordered some grey donut style pull, also antique brass, from zipstop, which look very nice. From 3DAN I bought the hardware (1 ¼ inch gunmetal D-rings and 1 ¼ inch gunmetal swivel snap hooks) and webbing (heavy weight nylon in deep grey – oh how I agonized over color choice, there were so many to choose from, and computer screens can’t be relied on to show nuanced differences in cool vs warm grey tones!). I ended up using none of the webbing or hardware – it took too long (which really means, I was too late in ordering!), so I raided a bag I was throwing out for the hardware, and used the webbing available at Stoff & stil, a rather stiff and cheap feeling gros grain in grey (ugh, more color choices! Should the webbing match, or contrast? Perfect match, or just “go”?). Now at least I have everything at the ready for the next bag, and I can use the much nicer feeling nylon webbing – it’s more finely woven, smoother, and reminds me of seatbelt material.

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Sewing the bag, the dopp kit and the pouch is pretty straight forward, but a bit fiddly at times. Sewing the bottom in and pivoting at the corners, and topstitching afterwards benefits from a lot of precision, a good dose of dexterity, and a fair amount of patience. Even with all of those some of my sewing was less even, but the pattern is forgiving enough that it still looks *really good*. I’m pleased to no end with these, especially after the addition of an old brown leather luggage tag I found at my dad’s house, and matching brown leather pull tabs.

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I know some people have mentioned the d-ring installation as tricky, and I found this arm sling tutorial helpful in making things less confusing. I’ve used this bag quite a lot since finishing it, and I’m so thrilled that I made a piece of luggage I can use and looks so… real! I’m anticipating getting a lot of use out of the two other pieces too now – the dopp kitt is currently holding a knitting project, and is the perfect size for a baby sweater in progress. Size wise the duffel bag suits a weekend-length trip. I’m sure I could get a weeks worth of stuff in there if I only brought the most necessary, but the weight of the bag is actually was stops me before the volume. In fact, for the next one I might try attaching the carrying straps further down on the bag, so I could wear it on my back. On this one the straps are attached too close to use it that way. I’m thinking also an inside pocket or two could be practical. Clearly I’m planning on making more. I think they would make really nice gifts, for example!

And finally, one more picture of me boarding the ship because I loved the trip and I’m very proud that I traveled in style, and ended up climbing up the rope ladder level to the flag during the course of the trip. Ship ahoy!

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i have plans… OAL-plans

I’m chipping away at my ufo-pile that I posted about last month… um, two months ago (how in the world did that happen?) – I’ve finished the Grainline Portside travel set and just need to stuff it with pillows and photograph it, tackled a few easy repairs, and gotten back into muslin making for the Robson coat. I’ve been telling myself to knock out these unfinished projects before starting anything new, but then Lauren and Andi’s Outfit Along shows up and disturbs all my plans! In the best way, of course.

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Lots of pops of pink on my sewing table! Really my family inherited dining table, but… um, covered in planned and potential sewing projects now. A lovely little corner of my lovely new apartment!

The Outfit Along is a challenge to, between June 1st and July 31st, knit one garment and sew one garment to create a complete outfit. Technically you’re meant to start from scratch, but reading Lauren’s post got me so very inspired to build an outfit around a half-finished cardigan (another Bayview Street Cardigan) that I’ve lacked the drive to finish, so I’m bending the rules as I see fit. :) It took me about ten seconds to decide on a pair of shorts, another ten to realize I had a pattern in my stash that would work well (Simplicity/Built by Wendy 3850 pants), a minute to dig out a fine-waled grey corduroy I think will be perfect, and (I will admit it) a whole day to land on a magenta crinkly chiffon underlined in dark brown-grey chiffon for a sleeveless Pattern Runway Pussy Bow Blouse.

Going through my UFO-pile made me realize I tend to abandon projects when I deviate too much from the pattern or instructions, and run into fitting issues or problems that require a bit of effort to work through. I want to finish these garments that I’m planning, not add to my pile of stuff – so I’ve decided to really hold back on alterations I make to these patterns. For the shorts I’ll raise the center front though, as I’ve seen that is a recurring comment from others who have made it, and for the blouse I want merge the ties and the collar stand instead of having a separate tie. I’ll probably also raise the underarm slightly since the blouse isn’t drafted to be sleeveless.

So, I’m going to finish a longstanding UFO, make two pieces of clothing I’ve been wanting in my wardrobe, using fabrics and patterns from the stash. Win, win, win, win, huh? I’m excited! Anyone else participating in the Outfit Along?

ufo spring cleaning

Happy Easter everyone! I hope these days off are a welcome break, filled with all the things you want to fill them with. For me, its crime shows on tv (a Norwegian must! I don’t know why, but Easter is all about the murder mystery books and the who-dunnit on tv), chocolate, reading, knitting, and…. spring cleaning.

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There are several reasons why the cabinet with my in-progress sewing projects is getting emptied and scrutinized these days. One is of course that I have a very generous two weeks off from working, thanks to the local school system adding winter break onto this years early Easter. Another is (exciting things up ahead!) I’m looking to move soon – this time into my own apartment! Nothing is finalized yet, but I’m making every effort to become a homeowner this spring! This is beyond exciting and also terrifying, but mostly I’m feeling the happy feelings. This is also an excellent opportunity to sort through my things, and in the spirit of Marie Kondo and her life-changing tidying magic – only bring with me what sparks joy.

So, unfinished sewing objects… Some of these are years old, and have felt like a cloud hanging over my sewing time – “I should be working on that dress that only needs buttons, but…” I wanted to clear out the projects that no longer thrill me, and at the same time I was a bit curious why exactly I stalled. This might be more to my benefit than of interest to others, but here is an overview of the projects I found lurking – and why I’m giving away two incomplete dresses if there is someone who wants them and finish them. 

There were three categories I found:
– Simple projects that really just needed 20 minutes of attention. I tried to knock these out straight away, and managed to hem a dress that has been waiting for 5 months, mend a hole in a knit sweater, and patch up a pair of jeans.
– Slightly more involved projects that should still be doable in a few hours, like the several pouches below, a pair of zippered welt pockets in an otherwise finished jersey dress, a leather bag that needs assembly, and an umbrella destined to become a reusable shopping bag.
– The bigger projects I found were a trenchcoat with a partially assembled muslin, a lace skirt, a muslin for a bias cut silk slip, and a pair of pants with serious fit issues.

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What: First up, a ufo I’ve tackled and want to show off as a finished object! I’ve had a scrap of black pleather lying around for ages, and at one point decided I wanted to make a lined clutch with gold teeth zippers and a gorgeous golden-green dupioni silk.
Why did I stall: I didn’t have a pattern, and the odd shapes of the scraps meant this was an excersise in creative patterncutting, and it just required too much brain power to get started.
What now: Yesterday I was finally in the right mood to figure out construction details and cut out pieces. I really like how it came out! Save from a small corner of the lining that I left open to pull everything through, this is all machine stitched, and the challenge of finding the right order of operation was a lot of fun and very satisfying. The proportions are a tiny bit off I think, and the top zipper is really a bit too long for the edge I sewed it to (see the slight puckering?), but for the satisfaction of those colors together and the top stitching, I can live very well with the imperfections. Mostly it just feels good to have finally finished it and not have it “waiting”!

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What: Next up, the two smallest pieces of the Grainline Studio Portside travel set. I made the dufflebag itself last summer, before my sailing trip on the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, and it was great.
Why did I stall: I had all the self/outside patternpieces cut and interfaced, but not the lining. I think also I lost the sense of urgency as I barely managed to finish the dufflebag before my trip, and that’s why I was making the set.
What now: I lost a couple of the self pieces, so I had to recut those, and then I cut the lining pieces. They now just need to be slip-stitched to the zipper, and anchor the corners. Also, I forgot that I had added an extra inch of width, so the bottom of the dopp-kit is a little wonky. This is why leaving projects for months and years suck – you totally forget all the little changes and choices you’ve made!

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What: Smaller repairs – zippered welt pockets, and interfacing a floppy collar and buttonstand on a blouse.
Why did I stall: Tedious unpicking ahead. Decisionmaking – where to place the zippers? How much of the buttonstand to interface? Remove the  buttons and the collarstand to really get access? Annoyance – why is this blouse made without interfacing? It’s so floppy and unsymmetrical! Impracticality – I actually wear the blouse quite a lot, now it will be out of commission for a while (well, given my track record at least! I’m hoping to change that!)
What now: Just do it.

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What: Oh, wow. This is an oldie. I’ve had this bag planned since my senior thesis collection (in 2011!). I didn’t have time to make it for the fashion show, and I don’t remember when I actually cut it, but.. here it is.
Why did I stall: It’s like a kit that didn’t come with instructions. Last time I had it out I got totally overwhelmed with trying to figure out the spacing for the holes along the edge that I need to punch out, so I just put it away again. Also, I’m not in a very dire need of a small leather bag, even though it will be cute.
What now: Well, some math and a good album is maybe what this requires?

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What: Lace skirt, from pattern testing Sewaholics Rae skirt pattern.
Why did I stall: I want to make this into an underlined pencilskirt (check out my asking for input on lining choice here), but that means unpicking 8 serged seams, drafting a panelled pencil skirt pattern and underlining each panel piece.
What now: I know, I could make this much easier on myself, but I think this is a project I would enjoy doing very thoughtfully and thoroughly. I should probably start by seeing if I have a suitable skirt pattern in my stash somewhere – that feels like the biggest hurdle to keep going. I almost decided to get rid of this project, but something keeps holding me back. I think I will like this skirt once I finish it!

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What: This is also from last summer – a pair of Named Patterns Alexandria pants.
Why did I stall: I really did not like working with this pattern. It put me in a bad mood. Then the fit was not good, so I tried to slim the legs down and made it worse.
What now: I’ve decided I think a crotch gusset might be the solution. I’m wondering if the width across the hips and… crotch width perhaps? is not wide enough, making a very unflattering “tent” when I sit down. This will need some trial and error to get it to fit, and that requires patience on my part.

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What: Sewaholic Robson coat! I’m actually really looking forward to working on this! I bought the fabric several years ago in London specifically for this coat.
Why did I stall: That lovely printed cotton voile is to become bias binding. Something like 14 metres of it. That is stalling me, as is the fact that I made the decision to grade between several sizes while cutting out the pattern for the muslin, and now I don’t remember what sizes I used and where. Once I have the muslin sewn up I anticipate fitting changes that needs to be transferred to the paper pattern. Also, the amount of fabric is a little daunting!
What now: Now that I write this out, it doesn’t feel all that undoable actually. I think when I work on this coat it needs to be the only project I’m working on – or else I will lose track and get confused.

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What: Pattern Runways Gathered sundress. I blogged about it here.
Why did I stall: I’ve worn this twice. I really love the fabric, a soft cotton silk in lovely colors. It’s just that the fabric reads very differently at a bit of a distance, as a garment, than it does up close. I used a gold-colored silk as an accent in piping along the waistline and the pockets, and I thought changing out the waistband itself would break up the print a bit. I did a lot of unpicking, and then… I don’t think this is my style anymore.
What now: I loved making this dress – I put a lot of effort and care into it, but it’s not for me anymore. If anyone wants this, and put it back together, I will be happy to ship anywhere. (The zipper is included, it needs to have the waistband reattached to the bodice and the skirt, and the lower portion of the zipper attached again. It measures 98 cm/ 38,5 inches in the bust, 75,5 cm/ 29,5 inches at the waist, and is 94 / 37″ cm long in total from top of shoulderstrap to hem)

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What: 0451/2246 Traveler dresses by Lisetteblogged about in progress here.
Why did I stall: My sewing machine doesn’t make button holes. Or, it does, but it’s totally anti-automatic. I’ve been waiting for a chance to borrow someones machine and make the buttonholes, but it’s become clear now to me that even if I finish the dress, I won’t wear it. So, again – if anyone wants this and finish it, I will be happy to ship anywhere in the world.
What now: I really enjoyed making this dress as well – as you can see, I took great care to match stripes, made interfaced bias sections for sleeves and hem, and I did a small FBA as well. I made alterations to the pattern, which I’m glad for – if I want a shirt dress, I have a fitted pattern ready to go! But the colors and the plaid isn’t for me anymore, so it’s free to a good home if anyone wants it! It measures 98,5 cm/ 38,75 inches in the bust, 77,5 cm/ 30,5 inches at the waist, and is 95,5 cm / 37,5 inches long in total from shoulderseam to hem). The fabric feels like a wool/linen blend, but there could also be some polyester in there. It’s a tiny bit scratchy, in other words. 😉

What is the main thing I’ve realized going through my UFO’s? For one, I think I should try to only have one sewing project going at a time – maybe two if the second is a fairly simple one. The choices and changes I make as I’m underways will be forgotten if I put away a project for too long. Another thing I’m realizing is that I stall out when things veer off course. Some days I’m up for the challenge of figuring out things, and other days I just want to follow directions and use sewing as my meditation time. It feels really good to go through these old projects and sort out the ones I actually want to finish! And maybe I can be a bit more mindful about new projects that I start – that I am exited enough about them to work through any problems that might arise?

How about you out there – any spring cleaning or finishing up projects? Regardless – Happy Easter!

winter woolens

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… or “Loki mittens and the third watch-cap”. It’s winter! I made wooly stuff I can wear! Let’s have a look.

Mittens
Yarn:
 Random scraps of yarn – most of it gifted balls of Icelandic yarn from the stash of a friend who’d been there.
Pattern: Made up, based on Loki sweater pattern. (my ravelry project page)
Techniques: Stranded colorwork, ribbing.

Cabled hat
Yarn:
 Merino wool from a frogged sweater.
Pattern: Cabled watch-cap by Kristen Orme
Techniques: Ribbing, cables.

So, the mittens are a figment of my imagination. Not in the sense that they aren’t real (they must be – the keep my hands warm every day!), but the pattern is made up. I came across the Loki kid sweater on Ravelry a really long time ago, and immediately thought they would make cool Icelandic-inspired mittens with some Icelandic coarse wool I’d just been given by a friend. It took several years to make this happen, but here! Finally!

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I used the repeat pattern from the original kid sweater and repeated it eight times, following the decreases from the chart exactly. It made a sort of funny cone-like shape that isn’t the best for.. you know, hand-shapes. I’m on to the second pair (this time for a friend), and making improvements to get a proper hand shape instead. Meanwhile, I washed, blocked and stretched this pair, and it works just fine. It is very rustic looking – both in yarn and stitch quality! In my defense I will claim that the gorgeously colored green yarn (which a burn test revealed to be some sort of acrylic I think, though oddly stiff) was really hard to work with. I didn’t make it easier on myself either by choosing to combine three different weights of yarn! Especially in the middle section where all three colors are in play at once – it got thick and dense real fast. Surprisingly though, for being a stranded pattern *and* real sticky Icelandic wool, these mittens are not very warm. On their own they are barely good for a crisp fall day, which doesn’t quite describe the season we’re in. I wonder if the gauge might be too loose to get a real dense fabric? Regardless – a pair of thin gloves underneath and it’s all ok. Plus, I love how well these mittens match my woolen hats, and my winter jacket, and generally the rest of my wardrobe. I’ve decided they are kind of charming in their rustic-ness!

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I had a lot of fun knitting these mittens – I’ve forgotten how much I love doing colorwork! It is a fairly small project, and with changes to pretty much every row it is excellent entertainment… Just one more row! I have two more of this type planned out/started, and another fingering weight colorwork pair of mittens  at the top of my ravelry queue (this one). I’m thinking of using my Barcelona souvenir yarn and some thin brown alpacca yarn. It will be sumptuous!

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Ok, and now the hat. It might look familiar. It’s the third time I’ve knit the exact same hat in the exact same yarn. I posted about the first time I knit this hat here (it ended up being to big and I gave it to a friend), and here is the post for the second one (which apparently I’ve lost).

I’m not quite sure what to say about this hat other than 1. I obviously love it since I’ve knit it three times, 2. I actually finally almost used up the rest of this merino wool! It came from a thrifted sweater and the yarn is so fine I’ve been knitting with four strands, 3. I like the wider ribbing of the second version the best, and 4. I’m particularly pleased with how I did the increases between the ribbing and the cabled pattern in such a way that the pattern grows naturally from the rib pattern.

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Oh, I wanted to talk a little about photo editing! That was a topic on Katie’s blog in connection with her Better Pictures post on indoor photography, as well as Gillian’s post on using Lightroom. Personally I use a combination of Bridge and Photoshop, which I have since I got a really great deal on the Adobe CS-package while still a student at an art college. Sidenote – there at school I took a digital photography class where we used Lightroom, and I thought it was really good, and easy to use. When my current set-up is outdated beyond repair, Lightroom would be my dream choice for blog photo editing.

The set-up I’ve got going now is pretty much a substitute to the Lightroom setup in many ways. I use a Nikon D600, and I have it set up to save in both RAW and jpeg formats. I got used to working with RAW-files in the digital photography class, and I’m just not going back if I can help it! There is so much information in the unprocessed files, which in many ways makes photo editing much easier, since there is more you can do before your photos look… you know, really edited. Anyways, I open my photoshoot folder in Bridge, and look through what I have. As I go along I label the pictures I like (you can use a star rating, or different colors). Then I filter to show only labeled photos, and start comparing and deselecting the good but not great ones. Once I have my selection I mark them all and open with Photoshop, which will go straight into RAW-editing mode. From there I can play with temperature, exposure, black level, brightness, recovery and fill light (the last two are great for overexposed white areas, and those times when the light source is behind me or not strong enough). Those are the things I pretty consistently adjust. I have set up an action to save my photos, so a keyboard shortcut will resize the photo optimized for web, into a folder I’ve specified, and close out the photo from Photoshop so I know I’m done with it. It works really well. I’m very in favor of actions – once you’ve taken the trouble of setting them up!

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I thought about all of this because while editing the photos I hit the auto-option for color temperature and general exposure (like I always do – at the very least I want to see what the program thinks I should do!), and it made the colors really warm, and it made for a nice-looking photo. My first thought however was “This is all wrong! It was a really cold day, with the sun setting early in the afternoon and I had a pale, low sun as the source of light. It should look cold!”. So I left the pictures looking a little cold. I’m not entirely sure what my point is, other than maybe that I edit the pictures to reflect how I think it looked or felt that day. Which this day was pretty damn chilly. I think maybe my frosty breath is visible in some of the pictures!

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Anyone else have a system or agenda with their photo editing? Or, use the “I’m just adjusting my hat/scarf/hair-pose to avoid awkward idle hands in photos? Or, have knitted some warm wintry goodness lately? It’s the season! (Or maybe… it’s the season for having them finished already so they can be put to use!)

cozy raglan sweater, sort of, finally

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Happy new year! A little belated, but I’m wearing my new (store-bought) sparkly skirt in honor of 2016! I think it will be a good one. I hope you all had a lovely holiday celebration, and rest and good company and good food. But don’t be distracted by the sparkles – it’s actually the black sweater we’re here to look at!

Fabric: 1 m black wool terry
Pattern: Raglan t-shirt, Design #4 in Ottobre magazine 5/2013. I cut a size 38.
Techniques: bias binding, understitching, overlocking.

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First off, pictures of this project is inspired (again) by Gillian’s newest post for better pictures, on taking indoor pictures. It is cold outside, even on my veranda, so getting good indoor pictures until it warms up would be nice! The main tip I took from this post was to find a spot perpendicular to the light source. This means however that my stuff is all visible in the background. Paired with the fact that even at two pm the light is fading here, I opted to use the aperture priority setting with a small aperture (f 1.8) that would let in the most light, and blur out the background the most. I don’t know if this affected the autofocus, of if it was where in the frame I was standing, or my sweater being black, but I’ve never had to delete so many totally out of focus pictures! This was a hard one for my camera, poor thing.

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This fabric is crazy cosy. I got a metre of this stuff at a school where I taught sewing as a substitute teacher this spring, and it’s from a local factory that produces wool clothing. I really like the slight horizontal striations, it gives what is really just black jersey a little bit of texture. The fiber is pure wool, and I would call it a terry – it has all those little loops on the backside,  so it’s super toasty! I knew right away that it would turn into a casual Grainline Linden-like sweater. (Or, as I like to put it, the fabric told me what kind of garment it wanted to be!)

I like to be able to use patterns from my stash when possible, so while I don’t have a huge stash, but I did find a raglan top in an Ottobre magazine that I chose to use. The pattern, #4 in the autumn/winter 5/2013 issue, is really a t-shirt pattern, so I knew I needed to make a couple of changes to get the casual sweater fit I wanted. For one, I had to add my own cuffs, hem and neckline bands, and I decided to size up to get a roomier fit than the t-shirt was intended for. Also, the pattern had a dart at the shoulder for shaping, which I didn’t want, so I slashed and spread. I messed this bit up. I ended up adding length at the front between the armpit and shoulder – length that wasn’t appropriate to add, and got a funnelneck thing going on! Not good. I unpicked, overlapped, and trimmed the neckline down, and that helped. I could not get the neckband to look decent though, so I finally just attached it as a binding instead. I eased the shoulders in especially during this step, which also helped, but I can see the binding makes the neckline a little bulky, and it still wants to stick up a little bit. I have the same thing happening on my ikat Hemlock dress – I’m thinking binding in a lighter weight jersey like on my recent Bettine dress is a good solution. Oh, and also note the little piece of ribbon I put in. It’s mainly meant to help me quickly tell the front from the back, but I also think it’s a nice little touch!

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Take notice of my face in the picture above – it’s my “seriously camera, will you focus and take a picture now, if I move a little to the left?”-look. But it also shows the back raglan sleeve, which I think has a nice line (nicer than the front, but that’s mainly my fault). While I was making this I was not really pleased with how the sweater was looking. I thought the sleeves were too slim, the neckline and shoulder fit was a mess, and the sleeves were really long after adding cuffs rather than folding and hemming them. And don’t I actually look better in dropped shoulder styles rather than raglan? The width of the hem band was due to how much fabric I had left, and it doesn’t look entirely proportionate in my eyes. The fabric isn’t the stretchiest, so cutting the cuffs and hem band from a narrower width of self fabric is only partly successful. I mean, it works, but not super well. For example – I can’t pull the sleeves up more than 2 inches above my wrist – the cuff is then stretched to its maximum! Oh well.

For all my hesitations and second-rate solutions I have ended up with a perfectly wearable and undeniably cozy sweater. I actually like slim sleeves; the extra length is something I really love in sweaters; and the neckline would probably look a little constricting with the added band, as was the original plan. It’s not perfect, and this post certainly contains a fair amount of what Karen cleverly dubs ablogogising (oh how I enjoy Karen’s writing!) – pointing out the errors in my make. But, it is cozy and warm. And I’ve worn it for three straight days. Let’s call it reluctantly, eventually, finally a success, shall we?

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