Outstanding

Outstanding can mean “not done yet” or it can mean “exceptionally good.” This post is to celebrate these socks’ graduation from one use of the adjective to the other after being in WIP purgatory for 6 years.

Folks, I want to be able to say that 6 years is a long time for a project to languish. And maybe it is, objectively, if you’re the sort of knitter who makes a point of finishing the things she starts. I’d say it’s about average for me if I compare it to the other WIPs in the basket/closet/bin/drawer/unused luggage/vault/mom’s house/off-site storage facility. I jest, I jest.

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Pattern: Vorticity by Alice Yu
Yarn; Malabrigo Sock in Indiecita

Sometimes life interrupts knitting, but more often a project is packed away because something’s not working. As you’d expect, upon taking this pattern up again I remembered exactly why I’d put it down.

The chart uses a red line and an indistinguishably thicker red line in the same ink to indicate two different things. Moreover – get ready for some controversial knitting semantics – I disagree with the idea that a 4-stitch jog constitutes a “row.” It’s not. Call it the jog it is. Put those 4 stitches at the end of the prior chart row. Or at the very least state what’s happening in the pattern instructions instead of relying on a chart symbol in the same ink used to indicate a pattern repeat. I mean, c’mon, help a knitter out.

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Jog =/= row

By the time I picked these up again I had forgotten everything I had already learned the hard way except that the chart was garbage in a way I couldn’t remember. I’m really quite good at reading charts, though, so I powered through, much as I did the first go-around, and wondered what my problem had been years before until I realized the pattern wasn’t stacking the way it was supposed to. Back to ravelry’s helpful notes I went and oh, hello other instance where there’s a end of row red line impersonating a pattern repeat red line.

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This became a project I was’t going to let outsmart me. I can be stubborn. When I find myself digging in it’s usually a sign that I”m cutting off my nose to spite my face, but this is only knitting so I dug in, knit the damn sock leg no less than 4 times before getting it right, and finally finally got my pair of socks.

Get ready for a slew of socks, I’m having a bit of a moment. Or maybe the new socks I’ve cast on will languish for 6 years before you hear about them. It’s happened before.

Let it all go

I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m KoMari-ing my house, but I have been cleaning out. I’m not looking for joy. I’m looking for absolution. I want to be unburdened by things I’ve kept far too long, things that I thought might be useful or that I thought my future self would want. I can’t speak for my future-future self, but my present future self wonders why her past self couldn’t part with string art she made in junior high mumble mumble years ago or why she thought her present future self would ever want it.

My time to clean out is limited, and often interrupted. It turns out this works in my favor because I don’t get decision fatigue before I have to take a break. I have the mental energy to be honest and ruthless. If I can get the stuff that may still have some use to someone else into bags in the basement then it stands a good change of getting moved out of the house. Things are neater, shelves are clearer, drawers are emptier, boxes that I’ve moved twice without unpacking are gone, and storage bins I bought when I misunderstood my problem to be one of organization and not over-accumulation sit unused and have become clutter themselves.

I’ve been on such a roll that my attention has even turned to areas formerly sacrosanct. I’m talking fabric stash, folks.***

At first thought it isn’t so big and it’s easy to justify. But as I continue thinking about it the stash snowballs. I realize that I have enough for several dresses, a top, two shirts for Hubs, a skirt or pants, and some other random stuff that I bought for such-and-such purpose then abandoned. The stash no longer feels “not so big”.  But you know what? Those don’t bother me. Those fabrics wait patiently on the shelf. They’re all earmarked or usable quantities and I like them. Let’s call that part of the stash “curated”. It was the stuff in the bins that gets to me. What’s even in there? And why do I keep it?

It turns a big chunk of it was scraps of fabric I don’t like and/or aren’t big enough to be usable in any significant way. Off to Scraps KC it went. Another chunk constituted scraps large enough for children’s clothes. I had three choices: 1) admit I was never going to get around to using the scraps and give them away; 2) continue to store the scraps indefinitely in case I ever did get around to making kids clothes; or 3) make the damn kids clothes, already.

So I got to it.

I made a tunic from leftover seersucker.

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Pattern: Baby + Child Smock by Wiksten
Size: 5T
Fabric: leftover seersucker from my fen dress which predates the blog
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Minnie Mouse, you must have noticed by now, is a recurring theme.

The direction of the stripes were 100% a function of trying to fit all the pattern pieces on to the fabric I had.

I also made shorts. Three pair!

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Pattern: Puppet Show Shorts by Oliver + S
Size: 5T
Fabric: All linens from this project, that project, and the other project
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Did you think there wouldn’t be Minnie involved somehow?

I’ve made both these patterns before. If you click through you’ll see that this is even the 2nd pair I’ve made from the leftover mustard yellow linen. I overbought by a bunch. I can’t speak for the recipient (she told me they could be for her brother when she saw me cutting them out) but I personally LOVE them.

And finally, not kid-related, I made a project bag.

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Pattern: Cordula by Fröbelina

I’m feeling pretty chuffed. It feels good to move these scraps out of my stash and into my kid’s dresser.

*** Note I deliberately omitted mention of the yarn stash from this post. That one’s complicated.

Misdirection

I put heavy expectations on this one cut of fabric that’d been in my stash for too long.  You know the one: it’s pretty and special and you want the perfect thing for it and the longer you look at it the higher the stakes become.

I wanted something businessy enough for the office, casual enough I would wear it everywhere else. I was sorely tempted to hack Peppermint Magazine’s Peplum Top into a dress, but it would be too casual, too balloony, too sleeveless.

What followed was a long, indecisive story full of false leads, boring twists, humdrum turns. Highlights include an ill-advised pattern purchase which I don’t want to talk about because there’s nothing wrong with the design, it just wasn’t me and I don’t know what I was thinking. I stuck with it long enough to make an ugly muslin of said pattern out of terrible, cheap fake satin from Big Box Store.

Overwhelmed by my lack of ability to make a decision that wasn’t horribly misguided I finally did a thing just to get this fabric made into something and out of my head.

I made the Peppermint Magazine’s Peplum Top into a dress.

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Pattern: Peplum Top by Peppermint Magazine
Mod: cut a longer square to turn the ruffle into a skirt
Size: C? Maybe D? I’ll try to remember to check my pattern pieces.
Fabric: unavailable voile from La Mercerie

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I could be 9 months pregnant in this thing and you wouldn’t know it.

It’s just what I wanted.

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Even though I can’t wear it to work without covering up more.

I think it’s what the fabric wanted, too.

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Even if it’s a little stiff.

And it turns out I wouldn’t have had enough fabric for sleeves, anyways. I could have saved myself a lot of waffling if I’d considered that first.

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Sacked

It was a mistake to preface the debut of this dress to my husband by announcing that it was “a little weird.” The style wasn’t exactly flattering, but then I wasn’t sure it was exactly supposed to be, and I was self conscious about how the pleat fell right on the apex of my belly, making me regret all the more the Mexican food and ice cream I’d gorged myself on the prior weekend.

“It doesn’t look weird,” Hubs said. I felt relief, but he hadn’t finished. “It looks like a sack dress,” he continued, shrug implied. He meant it as statement of fact, not criticism, and really, this dress is the very definition of a sack dress (I looked it up), but the word “sack” destroyed all hope that I had achieved the subtly quirky yet sophisticated garment I had wanted.

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Pattern: The Shirt Dress by Merchant & Mills
Size: 10
Fabric: Flannel chambray from Stonemountain & Daughter

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I slept on it. I wore it work. I realized it needs a pair of heels, not my usual flats. I noticed it was comfy as all get out. The soft brushed chambray feels like wearing giant flannel shirt. Soft + comfortable + professional without being stuffy. Isn’t this combination exactly what I wanted? Why be disappointed that it’s not as flattering as a fit and flare which, cute as they are, I can’t stand wearing for more than a couple hours? I’ve worn this work quite a lot. It’s become a go-to, part of my regular biweekly rotation. I would wear it weekly if I didn’t think people women would notice.

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If success is measured in comfort and use, this one turned out to be a dark horse winner.

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Excuse the wrinkles. The only drawback to sewing my own clothes is that by favoring cotton and linen I have added to my ironing chore.

All Mixed Up

Spring is here, finally, and with it all attendant busyness that, I remind myself, is all good things and so WHY AM I SO STRESSED OUT ABOUT IT and having that nightmare where I’m in grad school and it’s the end of the semester but I haven’t done any of the work?

I never had that dream while I was actually in grad school.

Mom told me she wasn’t seeing any Easter dresses she liked in stores. So I made one from “leftovers.” Do they qualify as leftovers when you bought enough for 3 garments? Dubious.

I did make a special trip to Joann for the contrasting fabric.

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Pattern: Tic Tac Toe Dress by Sewpony
Specs: View B, sleeveless, size 5
Fabric: Cotton from Joann
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Piping! Lovely.

It’s the same fabric I used to make MJ”s birthday dress. I thought that birthday dress would be a good backup if this one turned out way too big until I realized I hadn’t seen the birthday dress since, well, perhaps as far back as MJ’s birthday 7 months ago. It’s not in her closet or dresser, that’s for sure. I am losing my mind, and all of the things I am in charge of. Which is everything. I’m a mess, folks.

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Did I sew this neckline twice to get it perfect? YES, I DID.

It’s big, but not too big, and kids this age you can justify making clothes a little larger than necessary, the caveat here being that you need to actually keep track of the thing if you want your kid to wear it more than once.

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When I showed it to MJ she said it was “all mixed up!”. Did she like it? “YES!” Mom says she’s going to be a quilter.

Home away from home

My office is a cubefarm. It’s fine. I’m not complaining. You stop noticing how very, very brown it is after a while. Decorating is not my thing, nor are workplace displays of my personal life or hobbies. I finally put up some photos of the kiddos only after I realized my supervisors were concerned about my commitment to the job. Apparently blank  cube walls don’t communicate a vested interest. I’m just a private person and yes, I realize the irony of saying that on a public blog.

Otherwise my decorating scheme consists mostly of schedules, procedures, post-it reminders, and, now, this kit from the Stranded Stitch:

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It does little to cover the brown expanse of my cube walls. Maybe I should make more.

Resolutions Interrupted

Here I sat with ambitious ideas and informal spreadsheets of inspiring patterns for my work wardrobe, all simple, modern dresses with loose, easy silhouettes, when I discovered Atalier Scammit and took a quick detour into my other sewing aspiration which is, apparently, to be French and wear clothes that are all about flowy ruffles and voluminous gathers and pretty prints. This version of myself is willowy and long-legged and breezy and owns a French country house boasting a gorgeous garden that’s home to a large honeybee population and fruit trees, but there are only a few variables that we can control. Ruffles and gathers it is.

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Pattern: Evol by Atalier Scammit:
Size: 8
Fabric: Cotton sateen Nani Iro fabric

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I loooove the yoke. I looooove the gathers. I looove the sleeves. I looove the curve of the button band. I looooove everything about this blouse. Everything except how it looks on me. But I don’t know if it matters. It’s a shirt. It’s innocuous. Nobody is evaluating it it but me.

Here are some terrible photos I took on a beautiful finally(!) spring day.

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I daresay it’s too big, but then I think isn’t that the whole point? Maybe if I tucked it

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This fabric is another one that I picked up while on vacation from Craft South. There’s just one left from that trip. This fabric was just waiting for the perfect blouse.

Maybe I won’t wear it in a field of poppies, but I’ll definitely wear it to work Good enough.

Blown Away

Look at me, already done with a Christmas gift! It’s for my grandma.

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Except I love it and I want to keep it for myself.

Except I already gave it to my mother for finishing. The idea was that it would be a joint gift from the both of us. I neglected to mention this to my mother. She was surprised.

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I got to work on this after a bit of a sewing spree in the early part of the year, a spree you wouldn’t know about since between snow and snow and more snow and then rain and technology woes, picture taking has been a chore I just can’t deal with.

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My sewing hobby was starting to get expensive, like that time 10 years ago when I was going through a Brooklyn Tweed Noro Scarf thing and could knit a scarf with $$$ worth of yarn in it in 4 days. You gotta put the brakes on sometimes if you don’t want to break the bank. Enter slow, steady, economical cross-stitch.

Those scarves are still gorgeous. Makes you want to buy some Noro Silk Garden, doesn’t it? No? Just me?

Papillon

Back when I was making those Santa sweaters I had to order more yarn. Have you ever run short on yarn and needed to order more? Of course you have. So you know that it just doesn’t make sense to pay for shipping for only the few balls needed to complete your current project. The obvious, practical, and economical thing to do is to order a sweater’s quantity worth of something else at the same time, which was how this really delightful HiKoo Sueno came into my possession.

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Pattern: Papillon by Svetlana Volkova
Size: Cast on medium with a gauge that produced something a bit smaller
Yarn: HiKoo Sueno in Rust

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Confession time: I had assumed papillon was sort of botanical term and it wasn’t until googling the word while writing this post that I learned it’s a dog breed. I have to tell you, I am deflated. I have met many fine dogs and my family had dogs growing up, but I am not a dog person. Sorry/not sorry.*

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Anyways, name aside, it’s a perfectly good pattern. I love the yarn. Good stitch definition, not itchy, orange without being ORANGE. Everything came up roses in this make. I didn’t even make careless mistake after careless mistake! Boring for blogging, eh?

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I keep searching for dog faces in this stitch pattern. Do you see any?

The project I cast on next was a bust, though. I ran out of yarn almost before I started. You win some, you lose some.

 

*It has since been brought to my attention that papillon is the French word for butterfly. Who knew? Approximately 275 million French-speakers, but I’m not among them!

 

Toast

My continuing troubles sewing with knits… continue. Let me enumerate my mistakes and grievances. After failing to cut a single pattern piece on the grain I:

  1. Broke a serger needle and since I
  2. Couldn’t find the allen wrench to replace the needle I
  3. Decided that I would just go ahead with the one needle and call it a 3 Thread Narrow stitch
  4. Resulting in holes at the end of seams when sewing in a continuous circle which I
  5. Realized were recurring and not one-offs only after multiple passes (because Hello! You can’t just leave a broken needle in your serger and call it a 3 thread narrow stitch)
  6. Meanwhile losing maybe an inch of length in the sleeve/cuff before
  7. Deciding I didn’t give a damn and zig zagged those damn holes closed, and not even with matching thread because I was GOING TO FINISH MY DAMN TOASTER SWEATER DAMMIT whereupon I
  8. Donned my finished top and realized I had sewn the bottom band on backwards with the seam in front.

It was not a good sewing night, folks. Now, in the clear light of day I can see that and I can’t really explain the fogginess, stupidity, and/or stubbornness that kept me going on down the wrong path blatantly ignoring the voice of common sense and reason that I definitely heard yet willfully ignored. I mean, really, a broken needle =/= a 3 thread narrow stitch, and I knew that. I just really wanted my damn sweater and it seemed to be holding the pieces of fabric together just fine which is as much as you want when you’re too desperate to give it a proper thought. It was supposed to be an easy, quick, one-night sewing project, and I was going to fight the thing into submission.

Knits can be challenging, at least for me, but they make up for that by being forgiving. In spite of all that I ended up with a passable top, passable here meaning I can wear it without embarrassment and nobody will assume it’s handmade because of its defects.

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Blurry, much?
Pattern: Toaster Sweater by Sew House Seven
Size: Small
Fabric: Cotton French Terry from Stonemountain & Daughter. Here it is in black.
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All seams in the back as they should be.

I even like it! Everyone and her sister has already made a toaster sweater, and with good reason: you get the comfort of a sweatshirt but a style that’s fancy enough to wear to work. Fabulous. I can’t stand the high funnel neck (I hate turtle necks, too, it’s a personal preference, not a pattern problem), so I fold it over and my neck can breath and move without touching fabric.

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Not today, funnel neck.

Next day I found an allen wrench, not the one that came with my machine which is gone, gone, gone, and fixed my machine up. All is well with serger until the next time…