Santas’ Workshop

I was in my 20’s when I started knitting. I plodded along through the early disappointments, of which there were many. I learned to chalk them up to the learning curve, retreating back to what dish towels after the especially painful setbacks. It’s been a while, now, since I was in my 20’s and I’ve knit a lot of things between then and now besides lots (and LOTS) of dishcloths. I’ve knit socks and sweaters and mittens and hats and scarves and toys, and even a willie warmer. I’ve knit cables and lace and stranded colorwork.

But I had never knit intarsia on such a large scale, or possibly ever, though I vaguely remember being frustrated by the twisting yarns and the idea of intarsia has always inspired a sense of dread that I can only attribute to one or more failed attempts that I buried deep into my subconscious. I definitely had some yarn bobbins at some point which indicated some interest or intention to learn the technique, but I cleaned them out because I was never going to use them anyways. Hobbies and clutter, am I right? I am overwhelmed by stuff but anticipating what may or not be useful or when is a crapshoot.

I saw this pattern on ravelry and decided I was not going to be intimidated any more. I wrapped my yarns on cardboard and it worked just fine. Just fine in this case means I had to untwist everything ever couple rows because it quickly became a rat’s nest, but that’s the nature of the beast. The knitting itself, I was happy to discover, was surprisingly easy, if fiddly.

There were a lot of ends to weave in:

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I left all those ends on the first one because I thought I’d have tension issues that would need fixed. I didn’t and got smart and wove them in as I went on the 2nd sweater.

A vital blocking:

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Blank Santa faces

And a fair amount of embroidery and finishing:

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Buttons and bobbles and chain stitch, oh my.

And some sewing up:

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I often lament that it’s gone out of style to knit sweaters in pieces.

Add a collar and viola!

IMG_9923I am completely chuffed with myself. These may not be to everyone’s taste, but I am thrilled with them (my kids, on the other hand, not so much! But I don’t hang my sense of knitterly worth on their opinions) and I feel so accomplished. I had built intarsia up to be my last knitting frontier and it turned out to be just… knitting.

Santa Baby

I don’t know how to introduce these projects. They reveal some part of my person and general cheeseball-ness that I try to keep under wraps.

I love kitschy Christmas. I’m too self-conscious and unorganized to go all out, and my decorating scheme probably looks more like a lack of effort than a preference. Christmas red in my house is a true red, not burgundy, green is, well, green, not lime or forest. I thought about buying a tasteful wreath this year, but why should I when I already have one made of multicolored Christmas balls? I prefer colored lights to white and tinsel to popcorn. Our stockings are handmade. They don’t match, nor do our ornaments and I always felt kind of bad for trees whose ornaments do. A coworker once told what was to her a funny anecdote about how how excited she was when she moved into her first house to have an all-matching Christmas tree and how her mother undermined her efforts by sending her a box of her childhood ornaments. I had always considered trees with matching decorations soulless and associated them with department stores. I’d had no idea it was something anybody would want in her own home.

Different strokes for different folks. Not everybody wants a kitschy mishmash, not everybody wants matchy-matchy, only a few would make her children matching kitschy Santa sweaters.

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Pattern: Santa Claus by Sue Stratford
Sizes: 7 & 5
Yarn: Valley Yarns in worsted superwash & non

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There are lots of reasons not to make your children matching Christmas sweaters, especially if you’re as bad at laundry as I am. I don’t know which is worse: wondering if they’ll even wear them or wondering how long before an ice cream or chocolate stain ruins them. Time will tell which fate will befall these sweaters. If I had to wager a guess I’d say the blue will never be worn and the pink will be stained before we leave the house. That’s OK. I don’t mind. Knitting is my love language.

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More on the making another day.

 

More of the same, but different

Friends, I have come up with a corollary to the Christmas pajamas: Thanksgiving pajamas!***

As you are by now well aware, the sleepover pajamas from Oliver & S are my go-to pajamas pattern. HOWEVER. This flannel fell into my virtual shopping cart a while back. It was super cute, on sale, and I figured pajamas are always something I’ll make eventually and therefore not real “stash”. I didn’t have a coordinating flannel for the sleepover pajama’s distinctive exposed facings, nor did I want to think too hard about turning them inward. It should be easy as pie, but pie is deceptively hard, and I hadn’t yet refamiliarized myself with the pattern and sometimes even minor changes can be a mind meld so the last time I was at Joann’s I picked up the first basic children’s pajama pattern I came to in a book. It has a collar, see, and is therefore TOTALLY DIFFERENT.

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Pattern: Burda Style 9747
Fabric: Supernova flannel by Dear Stella
Size: 7*

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The light was so yellow the day I took these.

I thought this was a good plan. I thought it would be easy. I underestimated and reaffirmed my extreme distaste for paper patterns.

Now, I can handle paper patterns in certain circumstances. Circumstances like when a PDF is not available (WHY Merchant & Mill, WHY?). Or like the time I went to pick up my mom’s sewing machine after repair and the shop was clearancing out their paper patterns and I bought, oh, 8 or 10 indie patterns at $3-5 a pop. Good stuff, too: Thread Theory, Colette, and Sewaholic. I hate tracing, but I’ll trace if it means I’m saving 75% off suggested retail prices.

It’s worth mentioning, too, that all paper patterns are not created equal. I was genuinely surprised by the quality of indie patterns. The paper is thick, the instructions are comprehensive, the packaging is interesting and unique to the brand. The pajamas pattern I bought, though, was a tissue paper pattern, the kind that’s impossible to fold back into the envelope whence it came. The kind that make me hate everything and wonder why I’m even bothering sewing because it’s so dumb and why do I do this to myself and what’s the point? The kind that comes accompanied by brief, incomplete, sometimes inaccurate instructions printed on huge pieces of paper that are always in the way. I still have no idea what I was supposed to do with the back of the collar.** I drafted a back facing to sew to the front facings and sandwich it all together, but no such pattern piece was provided and the pattern instructions were to sew the front facings to the shoulder seams, so??? Yay me for knowing enough to come up with a solution.

 

*My kiddo is only 5, but he’s a largish 5 and I made a size 7 based on his measurements. These pajamas are enormous. I can’t tell you how oversized they are because he has’t tried them on, yet. There will definitely be some cuff and sleeve rolling.

**A cursory google search to identify this pattern tells me that I am not dumb and that the collar is meant to be finished with bias tape which the instructions neglect to mention. OK then.

***Thanksgiving pajamas seemed like a good idea until my mother pulled out a dozen pairs of new pajamas to give us the day before. Why do I even bother?

 

Mingos

My grandmother made us pajamas for Christmas every year growing up. It was the only present we were allowed to open on Christmas Eve and my brother and I always wore them to bed that night. I kept thinking about those pajamas from Christmas Past as I made these.

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I’m not sure why, though. I’m not planning on saving these for Christmas, and not for the reasons you might think. First of all, my house is c-c-c-cold. Then there’s the fact that my kids cannot be counted on to like the things I make them or use them even if they do like them. I”m OK with that, generally, or I try to be, but I don’t want to deal with it on Christmas Eve. Now factor in the competition from my mother who will surely gift Christmas-themed Disney pajamas that my homemade flannels cannot compete with. But the real kicker, the real reason why I won’t to save these for Christmas is because my 91-year-old granny is still sewing and sends pajamas to her great-grandchildren. Every year I think she won’t and every year she does. It’s a tradition I want to maintain, but it’s not my turn, yet. Call me superstitious, but I’m not going to meddle with something that’s working. Just in case.

Pattern: Digital Sleepover Pajamas by Oliver + S
Size: 4T
Fabric: Flannel from Jo-Ann

You might remember this pattern from last year when I made it three times before I burnt out. This time around the sewing seemed not nearly as arduous and I wondered if the break had done me good or if it was making the same thing three times that was such a drag or what was going on that my present experience didn’t seem to match up with my remembered experience. I pulled out one of last year’s pairs to look at them and no wonder! French seams, flat felled seams, everything was done up right because 1) I’m me; and 2) I didn’t want that cheap flannel fraying on me and leaving me with nothing but pajamas pieces after a wash or two. This year I have my serger and the sewing went much faster. Whew!

Three

MJ turns three today.

Here is the dress I made her:

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Pattern: Lotta Dress by Companie M
Size: 3T
Fabric: Cloud 9 cotton I grabbed off the clearance rack at Joann

I’m always learning new things when I sew. This time I learned how far ahead of the needle my serger’s knife cuts and why you don’t serge seam allowance after sewing inseam pockets.

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Pro-tip: serge those edges THEN sew.

After a long time out it turned out to be an easy fix. I removed the pocket, cut an inch off the width of the skirt, and started fresh.

It’s the same pattern as the dress I made MJ last year. I used the same button loop placket and cap sleeves, but added the i-cord and used inseam pockets because I thought I ought to mix it up a little bit.

I’ve sworn off Joann Fabrics. Again. Joann, why can’t I quit you? Oh yeah, because you are the only place anywhere close-ish that I can reliably buy notions which is something I re-remember every time I need buttons. I got super lucky, though, and hit a timely and unexpected jackpot at Urban Mining: vintage buttons!

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I stocked up.

Unbelievably I found buttons that were a perfect match in the quantities and sizes I needed. And I needed 4 smaller and 3 bigger, so let’s take a moment to acknowledge the improbability of finding these buttons in a space mostly dedicated to furniture and knick-knacks mere blocks from my house, no long, trying to trips to Joann necessary!

MJ, of course, would have been happiest with Minnie Mouse buttons. Here is the godawful dress I made at her behest also out of clearance Joann fabric that MJ spotted, adored, would not let go of, and insisted be made into a dress immediately upon arrival home. She will surely wear this dress instead. Ah, well, more power to her. The girl knows what she likes.

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Never Enough Geraniums

I recently contacted my former boss to ask if I could use him as a reference. I had not had contact with him in years, but he was gracious and kind and I found out he’d had a daughter since we last spoke. If you’ve ready recent posts you know that I like making things for babies. This child is not a baby, anymore, she’s a toddler, so I went to the stash and fell back on my tried-and-true, often-made, always-cute Geranium Dress pattern. I kept the sewing simple: no notch, no sleeves, just a piping detail to add a little oomph.

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Pattern: Geranium Dress by Made by Rae
Size: 2T

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No major mishaps in this make, unless you count the fact that I forgot to cut out two bodices, but then I forget to cut the bodice lining when using this pattern so often that I congratulate myself when I do remember.

Geranium is always a lovely make.

Small Clothes Carry Great Weight

I’d been avoiding the bins of kids clothes we have stored in the basement. I couldn’t remember if we had girls clothes down there in size 3T. This time it was different because either they were there or they weren’t and either way it was heavy because the daughter who used them or was supposed to use them isn’t or didn’t. Up until this point I knew that we had the clothes and the problem was whether or not to use them. Would it be too hard? Would it honor her? Was it creepy? I’d been dreading coming to the end of the bins of stored clothes since MJ was born. This time I didn’t know which problem I was going to confront or what questions I might ask myself.

While avoiding the the bins I made MJ a t-shirt.

IMG_8038.JPGPattern: Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt
Size: 3T
Fabric: Kristen Balouch for Birch Organic Fabrics, Folkland, KNIT, Enchanted Unicorns Dusk

And then I went downstairs and and discovered that we have lots of 3Ts, summer things B had worn and winter things she hadn’t. I’m feeling terribly unorganized and burdened by things and the emotional weight they carry. So many pants, many of which are cute little jeans that MJ will never, ever allow to be put on her person. She’s more likely to leave the house in this mismatched clashing pairing, if she deigns to wear the t-shirt at all:

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She’s her own person. And Goddamn if I don’t love her for it.