Thursday, October 16, 2014

Finished: Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap + Graphic Knits Pattern Picks (25 weeks pregnant)

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Stripes are a close second to polka dots in my pattern happiness book. So when I was invited to join the blog tour/knitalong for Graphic Knits: 20 Designs in Bold Beautiful Color—the new book from Interweave by my favorite knitting designer ever, Alexis Winslow—I immediately gravitated towards the Bowerbird Wrap, a soft, squishy loosely-knitted ribbed, cabled, striped and tassled wrap made from luscious silky merino yarn:

It was the perfect knit for this tired pregnant lady—the cables and stripes and super soft squishyness of the yarn kept me going, but it was simple enough to take on the subway or bus, or work on during my Hypnobabies birthing class or while watching my daughter as she splashed around in the bathtub or built time machines in the living room from chairs and sheets. The staggered cable pattern was fun, but easy to memorize.

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

The basics:

Pattern: The Bowerbird Wrap by Alexis Winslow from Graphic Knits (Interweave).

Yarn: 3 colors of Malabrigo Silky Merino, a lovely soft hand-painted DK weight silk/wool-blend yarn. I used slightly over 1 skein of "412 Teal feather" for Color A, 1 1/2 skeins of "406 Narciso" (a chartreuse) for Color B, and slightly over a skein of "196 Mares" (a gorgeous painted deep blue purple) for Color C... about 585 yards in total.

Needles: The pattern recommends size 11 to start (to create a loose squishy double-sided ribbed fabric with the DK weight yarn), but I'm a loose knitter, and got gauge with size 9 needles.

Raveled: Here.

I would definitely recommend this project for a knitter of any level, even an advanced beginner. The only even slightly tricky bits are the cables at the edges, the color changes (I used a back join), and the twisted fringe finish. There's no fitting, no short rows, no stranded colorwork. And the ribbing makes it reversible—essential for a scarf or wrap.

It makes for a versatile garment. Wrap it...

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Drape it...

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Or wear it as a snuggly scarf.

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Seriously, this thing is really snuggly. I'm glad I sprung for the actual silk-blend yarn called for in the pattern instead of using plain wool or alpaca.

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Anyway. You know I mean it when I say that Brooklyn-based Alexis Winslow is my favorite knitting designer, as I've now made three of her garments, including my beloved chartreuse lace Georgina Cardigan (which actually works great for maternity, since it doesn't touch the belly) and my purple Delancey striped cardigan. Her designs are bold, figure-flattering, colorful, creative AND super fun to knit.

So please do show her some love and check out her first book Graphic Knits. When I am not hugely pregnant, I am most excited to make (suprise), the polka dot Sweetness Pullover (see knitalong here):

My other favorites are the wrap-style Orly Cardigan (love those staggered stripes!):

The Rook Pullover...

And the Danae Mittens:

So yes—please check out the patterns from Graphic Knits (you can see details for all of them on Ravelry), they are truly awesome. (And if you, unlike me, have an area of your middle resembling a waist, I highly recommend knitting along with the Sweetness Pullover!)

Disclaimer P.S.: I did receive a free review copy of Graphic Knits, but was not in any other way compensated or paid to knit the Bowerbird or write this post—I bought the yarn myself and wrote this post because I'm a huge fan of Alexis' work and hope her first book is a big hit so she can keep designing awesome knitting patterns!

P.P.S. So I will now admit that when I took all these photos in the early wee hours I hadn't finished applying the twisted cord fringe to BOTH ends of my wrap (I'll have to do tomorrow), but I think I managed to cleverly conceal that in my photos. Except now you know. Oops!

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Graphic Knits Blog Tour / Knitalong Post (w/ finished Bowerbird Wrap) Coming this Evening!

Hi everyone! Just a quick note that I'm super excited to be part of the blog tour and knitalong for Graphic Knits, a gorgeous, colorful and inspiring new book from Interweave by my all-time-favorite knitting designer, Alexis Winslow.

I had a lovely time knitting my book project (the Bowerbird Wrap), but due to some personal challenges barely managed to get it finished by last night. I blocked and photographed it this morning with a little help from a hair dryer, but still need to edit my photos and blog it properly later this evening. In the meantime, please check out the entire Graphic Knits blog tour:

  1. Knit Darling - Sweetness Pullover KAL - 9/19 (P.S. it has polka dots!)
  2. Heather Zoppetti Designs – Woodstar Mitts – 10/3
  3. Dayana Knits – Laszlo Cardigan – 10/7
  4. Stockinette Zombies – Germander Shrug and Sweetness Pullover – 10/9
  5. Knitscene/Knitting Daily blog – Barbet Turtleneck – 10/9
  6. Polka Dot Overload - Bowerbird Wrap – 10/15

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sewcation fail: defeated by a baby beanie and a broken sewing machine

I was almost defeated today by a baby beanie with a single pattern piece. But after hours of unpicking and making scale model mini beanies and finally reading other people's blog posts, I realized it wasn't my fault. I'm sure the baby in this Ottobre maga

Generally speaking, a hat pattern should allow for the insertion of a head, right? Not so this Ottobre reversible baby beanie (at least not as written).

I started off my two-day sewcation yesterday morning in high spirits, dressed in me-made maternity clothes with a mocktail in hand:

All set for my 2-day #sewcation w/ mocktail in hand & a #memade #maternity outfit (Burdastyle top I maternitized in 2010 + self-drafted half circle skirt). #sewing

I began with what I imagined would be the easiest project possible, to ease myself back into things: a gender-neutral baby jacket and hat gift set made from a repurposed cashmere sweater. I planned to appliqué a little blue felt bicycle on the jacket and line the baby hat with soft blue bamboo knit.

First #sewcation project: appliquéd cashmere baby jackets from repurposed adult-size sweaters. #sewingforbabies #sewing

I cut out both but I figured I'd start actual sewing with the baby hat, the cute little bear-eared knit "Ernie" beanie with just ONE pattern piece from the 1/2013 issue of Ottobre. WHAT COULD BE EASIER, RIGHT? I mean, I've made lined dresses and overalls and trousers and things with buttons and collars and plackets... A KNIT BABY HAT SHOULD TAKE FIVE MINUTES RIGHT?

Sorry if I am shouting. But I really can't help it.

Because TWELVE HOURS LATER I found myself unpicking THOUSANDS of tiny white zig-zag stitches out of fuzzy white cashmere sweater knit BECAUSE if you follow the Ottobre instructions in the order as written THERE IS NO OPENING FOR AN ACTUAL BABY HEAD.

Oops. My #sewcation is half over and so far my biggest accomplishment is sewing an Ottobre cashmere baby beanie together backwards. Now to unpick tiny white zigzag stitches from fuzzy white sweater knit. #sewingforbabies #sewing

I thought maybe I had just done something wrong, but I made some tiny little hat mockups (see photo at top of post) just to confirm I wasn't totally out of it... and then I searched online and found every single person who had attempted the hat had the same problem and had had to drastically alter the pattern to actually work. (Really, who'd think you'd need to read pattern reviews for a BABY BEANIE?). So I cut some head openings and resewed it together my way, and now all I have to show for my sewcation is one cute (if way too labor-intensive) little cashmere hat. I could have KNITTED it faster from scratch.

And that's probably all I'll have to show for my sewcation, since this morning the screw threads wore out in my needle clamp and now every needle I attempt to insert just falls right out with a maddening "Ping!" sound. The shop says it will take at least 10 days to repair as they are backed up.

In the meantime a friend is going to loan me her Featherweight, but renting a Zipcar and traveling way out to Queens with a broken sewing machine wasn't exactly the sewcation I had in mind. I might defer that for another day and spend today cutting out a few projects and knitting.

I think I need another mocktail.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Taking a Mini Sew-Cation!

Getting excited for my two-day sewcation next week! #sewing #maternitysewing #sewingforkids

Between one thing and another — work, pregnancy nausea followed by pregnancy exhaustion, chasing my four-year-old around Brooklyn, taking an intense hypnobirthing class,* cooking overly elaborate allergy-free meals from scratch, life, the universe, you know — there hasn't been a whole lot of actual sewing going on around here. Knitting, yes (because that's what subway commutes are for). And even darning:

Yes, I am that boring person who sits around on a Saturday night darning her wool socks, sweaters and tights. #makedoandmend (p.s. pictured are wooden darning egg and vintage and new mending wool). #darning #knitting

But not sewing.

And these summer and fall weekends have been too beautiful to justify making the kiddo stay inside and play Legos while I sew. I got myself a beautiful used Gazelle Dutch bike — that very serious type of 50-lb Dutch granny bike with the high handlebars, skirt guards, fenders, baskets, and so forth... and we got Ms. Z a Weehoo iGo Pro trailer bike to attach to my husband's bike now that she's outgrown her bike seat, and we've been taking family rides around the city:

Took our first family bike ride in a year (since Z outgrew her old bike seat) - I got a used Dutch Gazelle bike and we got Z a Weehoo trailer bike to attach to @whatmashekadid 's bike.

Z in her new Weehoo iGo Pro trailer bike

But you know I'm a sewing gal, and you know my sewing machine and I have been missing each other, and that is why I am taking the next two days off of work to sew while Z is at school.

Things I will be doing on my sewcation:

  • Tracing patterns.
  • Cutting fabric.
  • Sewing.
  • Eating tacos I did not make myself from scratch.
  • Drinking mocktails.
  • Taking excessive numbers of Instagram photos.

Things I will resist doing on my sewcation:

  • Reading blogs. (I know I need to catch up on all the amazing things you all are doing, but if I start diving into blog-land, no actual sewing will occur.)
  • Watching moving pictures on screens (unless done while paying half-attention at the sewing machine).
  • Cleaning, cooking, tidying, scrubbing, folding.

Things I hope to sew (or at least cut out or plan or SOMETHING—I doubt I'll get to all this in just two days):

  • 1 maternity dress (Simplicity 1360, pictured at top of post)
  • 1 pair maternity-ized Cake Espresso purple jeggings
  • 5-6 pairs maternity panties from my TNT pattern (see middle of this blog post).
  • A baby gift for a friend
  • A going-home outfit for my own baby — a matching knit kimono-style baby shirt and pants.
  • 1 nursing dress (Simplicity 1469, pictured at top of post)
  • 1 nursing top (Simplicity 1469, pictured at top of post)

So that's the plan. Ms. Z is only in school from 8:40 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, so we'll see how much I actually get done — but maybe it'll kickstart me back into finding a few sewing moments here and there going forward.

Wish me luck! It is also entirely possible I will end up napping the entire time and sewing a lone baby kimono shirt, but let's hope not.

*In case you're wondering why I am taking childbirth classes as a second-time mom, well, let's just say I had a rather long and challenging (as in 87 hours challenging) birthing time with my first child for which my basic childbirth education class left me completely unprepared. This time I am taking Hypnobabies and hiring a doula and I am quite positively set on hypnotizing myself into a much more comfortable — and less prolonged — birthing experience.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for polkadotoverload.com (quite likely to be spent on yarn or fabric).

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hetty Cardigan Try-On For Your Amusement (Sweater Girl Showdown Progress)

Hetty cardigan progress

Yes, so I think it is pretty obvious that I started knitting this Hetty cardigan (winner of my most recent Sweater Girl Showdown bout of cardigan indecision and Raveled here) a few weeks before I got my positive pregnancy test. At that time, I actually had a waist...

Now at 19 weeks, I'm not so much with the waist (in the front anyway):

Hetty cardigan progress

I also have given up on my old "don't wear leggings as pants" rule, because, well, I have one single pair of maternity jeans and these eBay-acquired used maternity leggings are really, really comfy. (I'm finding eBay has been my best source for used maternity clothes to supplement the items I sewed last time, as many items go for cheap or in lots, and it can be hard to find the few decent maternity items at local thrift stores).

I realize the sweater looks ridiculously small in front, but I am still fairly confident it will fit post-pregnancy and post-blocking. My gauge swatches grew significantly when I blocked them, AND this is a lacy cardigan AND it is 100% merino wool AND I will be adding some button bands. (My normal bust size may even return at some point, though probably not for at least the first year of nursing if my previous experience is any guide).

AND the back fits just about right, even now:

Hetty cardigan progress

Plus the color is just lovely!

All that said, it is a bit hard to keep momentum on knitting a thing I will not really be able to wear properly for at least 5 months. I find myself itching to knit a big scarf or wrap and some mittens, plus lots of baby things. We'll see when these sleeves will actually happen!

What do you think so far?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Finished: Handpainted Hugs and Kisses Baby Socks (Better Than Booties Baby Socks)

Hugs and kisses handpainted baby socks

19 weeks in, and I've finally finished my first project for little "Text Message" Wood (as my four-year-old daughter Z wants to call the baby) or "Torch Wood" (as my nerdy husband and I have been referring to him/her). The first sock took maybe a day or two, and then I got a case of the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome and it took me a month to finish the second.

It's partly because I got some really good "help" from Ms. Z winding the yarn, so somehow the inside of the second ball was completely tangled and needing days and days of untwisting and unpicking... (oh how I love my ball winder and swift, but they DO need to be operated in one direction at a time).

Helping me wind my sock yarn... #knitting

This is my third time making the free "Better Than Booties Baby Socks" pattern (this project and all details Raveled here) but somehow these came out gigantic, more of a two-year-old size.

I think my favorite part is that I FINALLY used up a small bit of some of the sock blanks I hand-painted with some talented knitting friends back in 2008:

Mikhaela makes a weird green, blue and ochre sock blank

Yes, that's all I have finished for the baby so far. What can I say? The second-trimester surge of energy I experienced last time around doesn't seem to be materializing, and I think it's due to all the chasing around after this one...

It was hard to persuade her to leave the beach and ride the Wonder Wheel...

Next up: I'm finishing a cardigan for myself (almost done with the Hetty by Andi Satterlund) and for baby, and a scarf for myself and a hat for baby. How are your fall knitting plans shaping up?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Something else made during Me Made May... (plus: an owly baby hoodie and maternity sewing plans)

Halfway through Me Made May a few months ago, my husband and I got some exciting news—I was four weeks pregnant! We did not yet want to publicly announce, but I almost instantly developed an obvious baby belly and a quite expanded bustline and began to have trouble fitting into some of my favorite clothes, me-made and otherwise. (I think it's a second-time mom thing, as I didn't show at all with my daughter until I was at least 11 weeks along).

I didn't want to give up on Me Made May, so I just tried to suck in the belly in photos and even wear body shapers to try to hide it on the blog and at work for the rest of the month... but by the last few days of May I was actually wearing some of the maternity clothes I made back in 2010, and various kindly people of New York were already starting to offer me seats on the subway. Can you spot it?

And then at about 6 1/2 weeks along, I suddenly was hit with a wave of nausea and exhaustion like no other, and am only now at 16 weeks starting to emerge into some semblance of normal feeling. All I've sewn in the meantime is a little baby hoodie for a friend's baby shower:

Baby Hoodie

The nice thing about sewing baby clothes is how very short the seams are—they may have just as many pieces and bits as adult clothes, but before you know it, everything is done. This is from the wonderful Kwik Sew's Sewing for Baby book, and I made the same pattern for my own daughter Z when I was pregnant with her (did she not have the BEST little fro-hawk?!):

Blue Doodle Baby Hoodie (worn by Baby Z, 12 wks)

I'm now planning to embark on a modest maternity sewing and baby sewing/knitting spree—a friend of mine from the Brooklyn Sewing Club scored me a set of Simplicity maternity patterns on a $1 each sale (some of which are actually Megan Nielsen patterns!), and I'm super excited to make them up. Here are my top three:

Simplicity 1469 (which is also Megan Nielsen's nursing/maternity top/dress pattern):

Simplicity 1468 maternity wrap top (another Megan Nielsen):

Simplicity 1360 maternity dress or mini dress:

I'm probably not going to overdo the maternity sewing, as I have quite a few maternity me-mades left over from last time and have been able to score a lot of great items free or thrifted (like the top in the photo). But I think at least a few warm maternity tops, a pair of wool jersey leggings, a long-sleeved dress and a wool jersey skirt for winter are in order, since I'm due in January. I might focus more on adding to my nursing-friendly-top-and-dress stash, as that will be something I can wear for at least two years, not just the next five months.

P.S. Our daughter wants to name the baby "Text Message Wood", "Tree Wood" "Apple Wood" or "Brothy Sisty Wood" (Wood is husband's last name). We will not be taking her up on her suggestions.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Chevron squiggle overload: the updated Cake Patterns free Tee pattern

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

I actually made this Tee a month ago while I was working on the updated envelope art, but couldn't share officially until the pattern was out in the wild (available now as a free PDF via Craftsy, or a printed (and of course not-free) paper pattern via Etsy.

As you all know, I illustrate for Cake Patterns and thus have access to the patterns for free, so this isn't an objective review or anything, but I don't get paid to sew Cake and I made this for fun and my opinion is my own, and etc. So when I tell you I love this Tee pattern—I mean it!

The basics

Pattern: The Tee, Cake Patterns Riff No. 2224. A knit custom-fit and custom-length T-shirt with cut-on sleeves, hem band, V-neck or round neck options and micro pocket options. I made the single-pocket V-neck version in a 26" length (I wanted an almost tunic-length top):

Fabric: 1 yard of a really uncooperative (if totally fun) thin chevron printed rayon-spandex knit from Tex Styles in Austin, Texas. The pattern wasn't even SLIGHTLY close to on-grain at all, so I cut it to make the lines look as straight as possible. And I used a bit of chevron for the pocket to look like an "M" for "Mikhaela."

Size: I made the size 35, with 38" bust and 39" hips and a 26" length. I normally would do a snug waist with negative ease, but since this fabric was so tissue thin I only brought the waist in to 33" at the fit check step.

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

Modifications: No modifications, except those directed in the pattern (bringing in the waist slightly for a closer fit during the fit check stage).

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

Construction notes: This is a very quick and satisfying make—no sleeve setting required. Cutting out the recalcitrant fabric was probably the hardest part.

The round neckline version would have been quicker, but I love a V-neck and have never made one before, so decided to try it out and am happy I did. I just followed the written instructions, but Steph recently posted a step-by-step photo tutorial for mitered V-necks that breaks it down more clearly for beginners.

The pattern also comes with a little pressing template that makes getting perfectly shaped little pockets much easier.

Wear: I've been wearing this versatile basic constantly—with jeans, skirts, whatever. Next time I might make it a little longer to be more tunic-length for over leggings. I probably SHOULD make a solid-colored one as I need some plainer Ts, but I'm sure I'll go for a pattern again.

Cake Patterns "The Tee" V neck with micro pocket

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself a free Tee pattern!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Do you have too many (or too few) clothes? + Me Made May VICTORY and wrapup

So somehow I did it—wore at least one me-made every day of May 2014, and got some kind of documentary photo to prove it, even if was just a low-quality bathroom mirror Instagram selfie.

Not only that, but it was really a "Me-Making May" (to use Susan's term). I completed EIGHT garments for myself during the month, and FOUR for children (which is a definite record for me—I didn't even have time to blog them all!): two dresses, five tops, three skirts, a sweater and a jacket. Um, that's my average sewing output for an entire year.

So I'm a little TIRED and taking a little break from sewing for a week or so to recover, but I'm making great knitting progress on my Hetty cardigan. It looks tiny BUT it's lace and all scrunched up, AND my gauge swatch grew quite a bit when I blocked it, so I'm not going to worry (yet):

Super sick today and had to stay in bed and sleep all day. Finally feeling better and taking out my Hetty by @andisatt for a little therapeutic #knitting . It's coming along so quickly!

Anyway, I was trying to think what I learned from Me Made May this year, and here are my random thoughts:

  • I have too many clothes. That is, too many clothes I never wear, and don't necessarily like. When putting together outfits for Me-Made-May I found myself wearing (or trying to wear) some me-mades and old ready-to-wear or thrifted pieces that I hadn't worn since LAST Me Made May... and that I think I just need to ditch. I brought quite a few bags to the clothes recycling at the farmer's market this month, though I hate to just get rid of me mades that way (maybe I'll give them away here?)
  • I have too few clothes. That is, too few clothes in certain basic categories that I rely on a lot: basic denim and solid-colored skirts, solid-color tops, jeans, knit camisoles. This is partly because I stopped buying most fast fashion two years ago after reading Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion... and I haven't really been focused enough in my sewing or thrift shopping to fill those basic areas.
  • I dress very differently when I'm going to be showing photos of myself on the internet. I wear heels and makeup slightly more often, and more dresses and skirts than usual. I swear I wore jeans for more than 50% of days in April, but since I don't have any me-made trousers I actually like, I only wore jeans or trousers four times the entire month of May.
  • I have/make too many polka-dot things. I know, this blog is called Polka Dot Overload. But I also love all kinds of other prints—bold florals and geometrics, stripes, chevrons. I need more of a mix here, I'm starting to bore myself.

How about you? What do you have too much or too little of?

Anyway, here is the last week of Me-Made-May... on to June!

Me Made May 25: Polka Dot Twins

Me Made May 25: Polka Dot Repeat

The little girl and I wore polka dots (yeah, I know) for my grandmother's 92nd birthday party. Mine is the third wear of my McCall's 6070 for the month. I think I need to make more of this pattern, as I'm obviously very into it.

Me Made May 26: Me Made Everything

Me Made May 26: Me Made Everything

I'm relaxing on my mom's porch in one of my Cake Hummingbird tops and a self-drafted knit half circle skirt. Z is wearing her new wax print Made By Rae Baby Sunsuit as top and Oliver + S Lazy Days skirt. Yes I have pale legs.

Me Made May 27: Stripes and bows

Me Made May Day 27 ... almost there!

My Tilly and the Buttons Miette skirt (blogged here) and Burdastyle Magazine Feb. 2010 top (never blogged). Plus old RTW cardigan for the summer-like heat.

Me Made May 28: Finally hemmed!

Me Made May 28: Finally Hemmed My Dress!

Finally got my act together nd started hemming the five unhemmed me-made dresses and skirts that had been piling up (I was wearing them, but unhemmed). The dress is vintage Simplicity 7575 (blogged here before hemming) and the jacket is out-of-print McCall's 5529, just finished last week (blogged here).

Me Made May 29: Dots and Denim

Me Made May 29: Dots and Denim

Jalie 2005 T-shirt and Cake Hummingbird denim skirt.

Me Made May 30: My Stash of Fabrics for Theme Friday

Me Made May 30: My Stash of Fabrics

My six main drawers of fabric, patterns and yarn are behind me (though I will admit I have fabric squirreled away in a few other places in the apartment). Wearing my (finally hemmed) Cake Patterns Red Velvet knit dress. I think this is my favorite photo for the whole month.

Me Made May 31: I Need a Nap

Me Made May 31: Goodbye Me Made May!

The me-mades here are the simple knit half-circle skirt and some hidden underthings. PHEW.

So what are your wardrobe challenges?

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