Wednesday, April 25, 2012

San Francisco bound!

Masheka and Mikhaela in San Francisco

Masheka and I on our last trip to San Francisco, in 2007

Great news, everyone! We're taking an actual family vacation (before the little one turns two and can't fly for free) for a week to one of our favorite cities, San Francisco, where we'll be staying with friends, relaxing, hanging out... and NOT scrambling to sell comic books in a crowded convention hall like the last time.

I was sad to discover that the famed Alameda Antiques Fair I keep hearing so much about on the Sew Weekly (cheap vintage fabric! sigh!) won't be open while we're there, but we're hoping to check out the Treasure Island Flea and the Gaultier exhibit at the de Young.

I'm debating whether I even want to mess with fabric shopping, since I finally have my stash down to a point where it fits in all my drawers... though I'm sorely tempted by some of the discount fabric sources that Debi and Clio have blogged about from their trips there, like Fabrix and Scrap.

And then there's vintage shopping... please stop me now.

So no sewing for a bit, but I hope to make some knitting progress on my chartreuse Georgina cardigan (swatched, but not started) and my blue Waving Lace socks (just turned the first heel)...

In other news, I finished a soft blue washable wool "foolproof" baby hat for a pregnant friend, but can't decide if matching mittens are a good idea:

Foolproof Blue Baby Hat

And I started watching Downton Abbey and am officially addicted... even with all of you talking about it, I just didn't give it a shot until I started doing a few 19-teens-fashion-related sewing illustration projects (which you'll see very soon!) More on that later.

So, if you've visited San Francisco--what are your favorite haunts? Any favorite places to take small children?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Brooklyn Sewing Meetup & Swap!

Really, is there anything MORE fun than sitting around relaxing on a Sunday evening with a bunch of talented seamstresses, eating delicious food, talking sewing (and even knitting) plans and projects and sipping bubbly drinks? How about swapping FREE fabric and FREE patterns?

Seriously, I had such a fabulous weekend. I took my daughter to see the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, a cartoonist friend who had just been announced as a finalist for the Pulitzer came to visit my husband and me ... AND I went to an awesome Brooklyn sewing meetup and pattern/fabric swap.

Now, I've been attending the monthly Brooklyn BurdaStyle Sewing Club meetups on and off since 2010 (see "Meet the Brooklyn BSC!"), and they are always a blast. BUT to add even more fun this time, we had several new attendees ... and they may be familiar faces to some of you!

Brooklyn BurdaStyle Sewing Club!

From left to right:

I was worried Wanett and Lee might think I was a stalker when I commented on their blogs out of the blue asking them to come to the meetup... but they both braved a horrendous downpour to share their fabulous sewing projects and plans--and some tasty baked goods!

At our meetup we:

  • Went around the table taking turns sharing our latest sewing and knitting projects and plans... sharing triumphs and fails alike and trading advice.
  • Talked super-nerdy sewing talk about serging and hem finishes and bodice alterations and waistband interfacing.
  • Watched Z run around in circles squealing in joy (she had so much fun she didn't even eat the dinner I brought her).
  • Ate yummy food.
  • Sipped sweet tea and prosecco.
  • Swapped patterns and fabric.

Pattern and fabric swapping

I was really glad of the swap, as I had some really nice fabrics sitting in the stash that deserved a better home--a good-quality gray wool pinstripe suiting that is too neutral in color for me, a purple stretch crepe that was just one too many purple fabrics for me, some lovely rayons and cottons (including one that didn't work for my Mad Men dress dickey but was so awesome it deserved some love). I also gave away quite a few of my 1960s a-line and drop-waist dress patterns, since that's just not my silhouette.

As tempting as the array of free fabric and patterns (including some Vogue designer patterns and some vintage patterns) were, I forced myself to take only one piece of fabric and two patterns--all for Z, not me:

BSC meetup loot

All in all an awesome night--thanks ladies! And now I'm super-motivated to get going on my next spring sewing project!

Anyway, if you're interested, drop me a line. Our club is very welcoming--we even have a member who comes in from Manhattan. And you DON'T have to only sew BurdaStyle patterns, of course--many of us do, but all sewing at all levels is welcome!

So, the question of the day: how often do YOU get to hang out with other sewing-obsessed people in real life (if at all)?

P.S. Here's my daughter admiring some cherry blossom petals at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens:

Oh, and speaking of my daughter... when I went to go wake her up this morning, I found her standing in her crib smiling, wearing a red polka dot sunhat and purple polka dot shorts (OVER her pajamas) and saying "Polka dot! Polka dot!" I'm so sorry I didn't get a picture!

Monday, April 23, 2012

In Defense of: "Mom" Jeans, "Granny" Panties + "High" Waists

High Waisted Denim Love

"But you don't want to wear MOM jeans, do you?"

Said my mom, to me, after a frustrating hour-long jeans try-on-a-thon at our local Old Navy. I had just rejected yet another pair of "classic-rise" jeans that weren't even making a serious attempt at approaching my belly button (or covering the stretch marks), and I was about to cry.

My sole pair of halfway-decently-fitting jeans are falling down and falling apart, and I had searched high and low for a pair--just ONE pair--of jeans that might replace them, even if that meant trying out the skinny jeans trend.

Well, maybe I do want "Mom jeans" (minus the stonewashing and pleating, anyway). Because I'm sick of jeans labeled "high" or "mid-rise" resting five inches below my natural waist. What conspiracy decided that "modern" jeans should sit barely above the hips, requiring tunic-length shirts to awkwardly hide exposed bellies, and belted tops to emphasize a natural waist that could just as easily be emphasized by a well, waistband?

I am perfectly fine with my post-baby belly--stretch-marks and squish and all--because I couldn't begrudge anything having to do with the birth of my amazing wonderful little girl. But that doesn't mean I covet the muffin-top look, and I would much rather the emphasis be on my waist than my belly, thank you very much.

And as a vintage lover, I reject the idea that a low-waisted jean is inherently superior (though it certainly works awesomely for many, of course). Seriously, when and how DID this happen? If you look at any pants or skirt sewing patterns from the WHENEVER up to the 1980s, they pretty much rest on the so-called "natural" waist:






Oh wait!

Yeah, there you have it--the hip-hugger jean (and that pattern envelope girl is even striking a pose worthy of Tanit-Isis, queen of the low-rise jean!). Perhaps we can blame the 1970s? The natural waisted jean had a brief revival in the 1980s:

Source: via Mikhaela on Pinterest

And then somehow, somewhen--in the 90s?--someone permanently decided that it was more modern to ignore the laws of logic and gravity and figure flattery and decree that natural waists were not only outdated, but UGLY, PASSE, and FRUMPY, retraining the eyes of millions over time until we could not but be horrified and terrified by so-called "Mom jeans." This (admittedly hilarious, thank you Tina Fey) Saturday Night Live video didn't help:

So where does this leave me? Frustrated and jeansless, pretty much. (And that Craftsy Jean-ius class wouldn't work for me, as I have no jeans I'd even want to copy). I even went to American Apparel, but their high-waisted jeans did NOT work for me, and seemed quite a bit more 80s than 40s or 50s:

American Apparel jeans

And speaking of natural waists--what's a girl supposed to wear with her high-waisted jeans, pencil skirts and so on? It's almost IMPOSSIBLE to find cute, reasonably priced high-waisted underthings... in fact, most of these are actually retro swimwear bottoms from Modcloth:

Not Your Granny's High-Waisted Panties

So, readers, some questions for you:

  • How do you feel about natural-waisted women's trousers and panties? Do you think they can be sexy, or do they automatically scream "FRUMP-VILLE" or "80s" to you?
  • Do you have any favorite sources for high-er waisted jeans and panties--or do you prefer to make them yourself?
  • Have you ever been accused of wearing "Mom jeans"?
  • If you DO prefer low-waisted jeans--tell me why?

Update May 2013: Thank you for all the awesome comments on this post. I went to many stores and tried on a number of jeans, and the ones that ended up working best for me were the Not Your Daughter's Jeans Marilyn Straight Leg—they don't hit EXACTLY at my waist, but they are close enough. I did buy one pair full-price, but have bought a few others at deep discount from

I also ordered a huge variety of different "high cut panties" styles from HerRoom and ended up really liking the Naomi & Nicole Light Control Lace Brief Panty 724, the Rago Shaper Panty Brief With Lace 919 (Made in USA) and the Warner's All Day Fit No Pinching Hi-Cut Brief Panty 5138. The Warner's are the most casual and low-cut of the hi-cut bunch, the Naomi and Nicole are close to the natural waist, the Rago is a bit above the natural waist. All are awesome in their own way!

Thanks again readers!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the ready-to-wear hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for (and quite likely spent on yarn or fabric).

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Done! Scarf-Collar Floral Knit Top (Jalie 2921)

Tie-neck knit blue floral top (Jalie 2921)

My Jalie scarf-collar floral top: quick, easy and satisfying. Now officially my favorite top I own! Wore it to work Friday and received two unsolicited compliments (by which I mean, they were given without me blurting out "I-made-this-top-what-do-you-think?!" first).

Inspiration: After three of my four secret sewing doubles (Katie, Elizabeth AND Kristin) made fabulous versions of this top, I knew I had no choice in the matter.


Sea Blue Spring & Summer Separates

The pattern: Jalie 2921, the ever-popular scarf collar top.

Tie-neck knit blue floral top (Jalie 2921)
Pattern Description: Close-fitting (negative ease, baby!) v-neck knit top with various sleeve length and scarf collar options. Front is 2-piece.

Pattern Sizing: Includes wide range of sizes, from toddler girls to plus-size adult woman. I made the S (34" bust) overall, but as per Katie's tips traced the size V (37") for the bust and front sleeve armhole (to adjust for my 37" bust).

Even with the full bust adjustment, there's still about 3-4" negative ease across the bust--just enough to make it fitted, but not enough to distort the side seams when I wear it (unlike all my RTW tops!). The waist (which I tapered back to the smaller size) has a few inches of positive ease--I'm not sure if that's good (hides squishy post-baby belly?) or bad (too boxy, if something so fitted can be called boxy).

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Sure.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Not really, because the illustrations aren't very clear. I relied on bloggers who had been kind enough to show the process.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Love the close form-hugging fit, love the v-neck, love the tie neck. And it's a great basis for a TNT pattern!

Fabric: Poly (ITY?) geometric floral jersey from Metro Textiles in NYC, with a fun 1960s vibe to the print. It's one of the many not-quite-right fabrics I bought for the dickey of my Mad Men dress. $6 for 1.5 yards, I believe, and I still have enough left for a sleeveless top. It's really awesome and soft and substantial and has a great drape and cling to it. Sadly, like most of its polyester sisters it does NOT press, so the hemming was a bit difficult.

Tie-neck knit blue floral top (Jalie 2921)

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Did a cheater width FBA (see above link in sizing), and added half an inch to the length, too.

Construction notes: All seams done on serger, and the hem and sleeve hems topstitched on my conventional sewing machine with a twin ballpoint needle.

I usually stabilize knit shoulder seams with an inch-wide strip of self-fabric cut along the vertical (i.e. with much less stretch), but I tried to do something new and use clear 1/4" elastic. It was a disaster--the shoulders bunched up and gathered awfully--and I had to unpick miles of serger seams and go back to my tried and true method.

Tie-neck knit blue floral top (Jalie 2921)


  • My first truly successful non-maternity knit top EVER.
  • One down on my spring separates plan!
  • It is super awesome and I love it.
  • I have a TNT top pattern!!!!
Room for improvement?:
  • In my excitement I completely forgot about pattern matching and pattern placement, mistakenly treating this as a small-scale floral...when it actually is a medium-scale floral with quite a big repeat. This especially sucks because it has a center front seam. And I really shouldn't have put the lightest area right over the belly.
  • I don't know about all the positive ease at the waist--I might make the next version with zero ease.
  • Hello major swayback issues! (though I'll probably often tuck this in).
  • I sewed the little hole that the scarf is supposed to be pulled through shut... and when I tie it the inside of the V of the neck flips/droops forward a bit.
  • Undecided on how I feel about the sleeve length--maybe cap sleeves would be better on me.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Oh yes and yes and yes and super yes. This only took me three evening stints to do (one to alter and cut the pattern, one for the serging, one for the topstitching) and I bet it will go faster next time.

Wear to: Work, home, weekend, date with husband, playground with daughter... Everywhere!

Conclusion: I'm so glad I decided to take a break from my misery-inducing alteration-intensive Mad Men dress and make a quick fun spring knit!

Tie-neck knit blue floral top (Jalie 2921)

Full outfit details:

  • Top: me-made, tie-neck knit blue & green floral top (Jalie 2921), in ITY knit from Metro Textiles in NYC
  • Corduroy skirt with flounce: Anthropologie (gift from Mom when I went back to work after baby)
  • Tights: Spanx brand reversible tights (my favorite--they're super sturdy and one side is black, the other is dark brown)
  • Chartreuse heels: Gentle Souls, from forever ago
  • My daughter is wearing a dress and leggings from Old Navy. But where are her shoes?!

How's your seasonal sewing going?

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Sewed a Snuggie! AND a Body Bag.

Inspiration: The Snuggie, the Forever Lazy, and the modern body bag.

Pattern Description: Large polar-fleece monstrosity has powers to eat you alive, make you cry, snuggle you tenderly.

Pattern Sizing: Fuzzy fleece sadness has no sizing, envelops all people equally.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? The very question offends, as this miracle of engineering was the product of months of exquisitely intellectual design.

Were the instructions easy to follow? You mean the ones I made up in my head? Cut hole in middle of giant piece of fleece, insert over head, finish edges, add centered zipper, stand back in horror.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? Like: fuzzy and warm. Dislike: saps will to leave couch.

Fabric Used: 4 yards black stretchy polar fleece from Fulton Fabrics in Brooklyn, $4/yard. Zipper was $2-something.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Left bottom edges unfinished.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? In all seriousness, this thing took a surprisingly long time to construct, as the seams were so long and my toddler kept trying to pull it off the sewing machine by the ends.

Conclusion: I'm a costume designing STAR. Time to sit here by my cell phone, waiting for Hollywood to call...

Video background details:

"Just Give Up." Because Snuggies and Forever Lazys are for Liars.

Written and Directed by Stephanie Bencin (pictured above with Z, who was totally fascinated by all this.)
Starring The Prom.
Siobahn Thompson
John Milhiser (shown in first photo)
Sasheer Zamata (shown in above photos--her love of vintage and thrift styles recently featured in Time Out New York)
Stephen Soroka
Justin Brown
Amber Nelson

Costume Designed by Mikhaela Reid

P.S. In case you're jealous, but don't have my amazing advanced skills of "designing" large terrifying fleece rectangles with centered zippers and neckholes...

Seriously, where do you think I can get some of that crossword puzzle fleece?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Polka Dot Blog Crush: My Secret Sewing Doubles (and Yours)

What could be better than a magic wire dress form that exactly duplicates your shape?

How about some fabulous and prolific sewing bloggers solving your fitting challenges for you?

I follow a ridiculous number of sewing blogs, and I learn so much from fabulous sewists of all shapes and sizes... Still, I will admit to get especially excited by alterations-related posts by fellow sewing bloggers who are also struggling to fit:

  • large busts with narrow frames (30F and 32G girls, raise your hands--and be careful your RTW shirt buttons don't pop off in the process!)
  • bonus points for super narrow shoulders
  • extra super duper bonus points for extreme nursing-related cup-size fluctuations

Which brings me to this week's...

Polka Dot Blog Crushes: My Secret Sewing Doubles

In no particular order:
  • Lladybird. This badass seamstress is all over sewing (and knitting, and embroidering) fitted, girly, fabulous vintage-inspired hourglass awesome of all kinds, with an awesome pottymouthed, nose-ringed flair. AND she wears the same bra size as me (32DD/E), so I was SO excited to see her recent rundown of Bombshell muslin alterations:

  • Kadiddlehopper. Katie is both a pediatrician and a doctor of fabulous large-busted sewing (a title which I have just made up). She makes an out-of-control number of perfectly-fitted tops and jackets and dresses, and I'm currently using her full-bust-adjustment (FBA) tips for my Jalie scarf top. From what I can gather, we wear approximately the same standard pattern sizes (12 up top, 14 below) AND she's also a nursing mama. Score!
  • E Made This. Elizabeth and I were pregnant around the same time in 2010*, and I just adore following all her lovely sewing adventures -- everything she makes is stylish, beautifully made and well-fitted, and she even knows how to make perfect jeans! She is all over FBAs and narrow shoulder adjustments, too.
  • K-Line. Kristin's sewing obsessions, experiments and ruminations are a delight to follow, and she is currently busting her butt to perfectly fit Gertie's Starlet Suit Jacket. She is also a purveyor of manifestos on bust size and bra fitting, which I whole-heartedly endorse. (I'm not sure of the origin of her blog title--Kristin, can you fill me in?)

*Back when I was pregnant, I used to similarly obsess over bloggers tackling maternity alterations. None of those bloggers are currently pregnant, but Megan Nielsen's DIY maternity blog is a great resource, Inder-ific is sewing for her bump and even Peter has been getting in on the preggo sewing action.

By the way, I hope you all know that women with cup size of C or more should usually choose patterns by HIGH bust measurement, not full bust, in order to properly fit the upper chest and shoulders? That is why, even when I had a 42" bust at my most pregnant, I got the best bodice fit in patterns with a bust size of 34 (with huge full bust adjustments and pregnant tummy adjustments required) -- and would have been lost in ill-fitting misery had I chosen a size 22 pattern instead of the size 14.

So, readers, I ask:

  • What's your main fitting issue, and who are YOUR secret sewing doubles? (For example: Cidell of Miss Celie's Pants mentioned recently that she has the exact same lower shape as Trena of the Slapdash Sewist).
  • Are there any other prolific narrow-framed FBA-ers out there I should be tracking? (Full disclosure--I have a high bust of 33-34", and a full bust of 38," wear a 30F or 32E bra... and current measurements are 38", 28", 38".)

UPDATED TO ADD: According to this fascinating article from the the Guardian UK:"Why are British Women's Breasts Getting Bigger? "in recent years the average bra size has expanded from 34B to 36D"--and there are more and more women with narrow band and large cup sizes. Theories as to why range from hormones in the environment to better nutrition. Another interesting quote:

"There's been a huge growth in the small back, larger cup lady, particularly among young girls," says Julia Mercer, head of fit and technology at M&S's underwear department. "The younger girls just seem to have bigger breasts now."

Which means I probably have more doubles than I even realized!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Me-Made MAY-be 2012: What I MIGHT wear, if I DID participate

Julia (1984) and Teen Wolf III

Do you think it's a problem that the majority of the me-mades that actually fit me are Halloween costumes? Above: me in 2005 as Julia from Orwell's classic 1984. Unfortunately everyone just though I was Rosie the Riveter. (Oh, and my then-boyfriend now-husband as Teen Wolf, of course).

I LOVE the idea behind Zoe's Me-Made Challenges--challenging ourselves to actually wear what we make, and to find new and fun ways to style our said makes.

But when I called up the Goodwill to ask for all my old wadders back, they just couldn't seem to locate my wobbly-hemmed sequined tank top, my medieval golden gown attempt or my shredded punk rock T-shirt dress.

Seriously, I've sewn or knit more than enough garments over the years to squeeze in at least one me-made per day... if only they (a) all still fit me, (b) were in perfect condition and (c) were actually appropriate for summer weather. (I actually do wear almost one me-made thing every day in the colder months--knitted hats, fingerless gloves and/or socks).

But I'm not going to dash out as many simple me-mades as possible in the next few weeks just to meet the challenge, because I have vowed to only sew what really inspires me, what I really enjoy and want to make. I sew for fun, people. FUN ALL THE TIME.

Anyway, the pitiful inventory of already-me-made things I MIGHT be able to wear in May:

4 skirts

  1. My Sew Grateful colorblocked skirt--a wool jersey blend, but it's lightweight enough, and I've darned the hole in the tissue-thin navy section.

  2. My reversible (counts as two!) shirred skirt--though I probably should take in the side seams, me being about 50 pounds lighter than when I first sewed it and all:

    Finished: My Reversible Shirred Skirt! (36 weeks pregnant)
  3. My $2 polka dot polyester skirt:

    Brown polkadot skirt

1 pair of pants

  1. My triumphant wide-leg trousers... but they're corduroy, and wouldn't work for any hot May days. And I seem to have shrunk a bit since I made them (I blame my teething, nursing-crazed toddler).

    Trouser Triumph

1 cardigan

  1. My flutter-sleeve blue cotton-silk cardigan... but only if I can do some serious surgery on it first... it's really a baggy mess. I knitted it to fit me PERFECTLY with plenty of negative ease and some enthusiastic short-row bust shaping, but neglected to factor in just how much cotton knits grow.

    Teal Flutter-Sleeve Cardigan Flat View, Front

1 pair of socks

  1. My freshly-darned Monkey Socks. We DO set our own rules for this challenge, right? So can minor garments and accessories count?

    Mikhaela's Mixed Up Monkey Socks

3 pairs of maternity underthings

  1. Again, do accessories and minor garments count? Because really, these could be my secret weapon. I certainly can't photograph how they look with the outfits, but if I could count these, it would allow me to wear things like my beloved thrifted sundresses that would otherwise be off limits.

    8. Final near-perfect panties with picot elastic-front

1 apron

  1. The oldest me-made I still own and use. Does throwing it on whilst cooking count for the challenge?

    1950s-style sewing apron

And some MAYBES

  1. I've just (as in, last night) FBAed and cut out the Jalie scarf collar top from my Spring & Summer Separates sketch, and see no reason why this shouldn't work out... and maybe I'll get to the others, too.

    Sea Blue Spring & Summer Separates
  2. And then there's my Joan dickey/bow dress--yes, it's wool, but I do hope to finish it soon (I'm on muslin 2)... maybe we'll get a cool day or two:

    Mad Men Sewing Challenge Sketch: Joan Dress

Too bad I sold my Battlestar Galactica uniform on eBay--restyling it for work would have been quite the challenge!

Battlestar Galactica modified BDUs

So, what do you think readers? If you were me--would you just sit this one out? Or would you wear your Stepford Wives polyester lace dress costume to the office?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cheating on Sewing

Plum Stripe Toddler Tomten Jacket for Z

Accomplished: the stripey purple Tomten toddler sweater hoodie. Not Accomplished: getting toddler to stay still in front of a plain backdrop for a proper photo.

Readers, I don't want to scare you, but I've been having dreams about yarn. Big, soft, luscious skeins of snuggly soft wool in bright colors, falling from the sky and turning into magical socks, cardigans, scarves, shawls, hats... Well, I'm not sleeping well, and it's kind of a problem. I recognize well the usual signs of obsession I dedicate to all things sewing.

The other day I found myself pulling ALL of my back issues of Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting off the shelf and just sitting with them in a pile on the floor daydreaming (which is something I normally only do with Threads and BurdaStyle). I've even been reading knitting blogs instead of sewing blogs on my iPod Touch as I lie in the dark nursing the toddler off to sleep.

Plum Stripe Toddler Tomten Jacket for Z

I think it was the thrill of FINALLY finishing Z's Tomten jacket, which ended up taking FOREVER (five months, because I only knit on the subway and during lunch breaks) thanks to the gigantic hood and huge armholes and, well, huge EVERYTHINGness of it all:

Plum Stripe Toddler Tomten Jacket for Z

This yarn-o-mania might also have been triggered by the excitement of planning my next big project, the Georgina Cardigan. Which I HAVE definitively decided to knit in chartreuse, specifically this Swans Island Organic merino (nonsuperwash) "Spring Green" worsted wool (from Purl Soho):

Swans Island Merino Organic Worsted Spring Green Wool

But please don't be concerned. I may be feeling the lure of the loop, but sewing is my entree, and knitting will forever remain a side dish. Mainly because too much knitting aggravates old repetitive stress issues I used to have. I actually gave up knitting entirely for a year, and when I started up again, I kept it GLACIAL and SPORADIC, and sold most of my dashed yarn dreams on EBay.


Plum Stripe Toddler Tomten Jacket for Z

  • Pattern: Tomten jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman. An awesome modular classic EZ pattern, but beware the giant arms, they require half as much yarn as the hood and body combined. Note: No details are included on how to insert the zipper. In the ancient copy of Knitting Without Tears I learned to knit with, so: FREE.
  • Yarn: Berocco Vintage Chunky (50% Acrylic, 40% Wool, 10% Nylon). I used 6 skeins, and I almost ran out at the very end. I chose it because of the colors, and it's nice enough, but I hate that it's only 40% wool and am not sure if I'd ever use again, especially on a kid (acrylic = flammable, wool = magic and flame-retardant). Paid for with a gift certificate from the hubby, so I'll say: FREE.
  • Needles: Size 9 circulars (used to knit flat).
  • Notions: Separating plastic YKK zipper from SIL Thread, $3.
  • For full details and notes on how I inserted the zipper (shorter version: by hand, with a backstitch, took AGES) and hid the color changes (or at least, started hiding color changes halfway up when I realized my "who cares, it's a kid's jacket?" attitude was lacking), see the Ravelry project page.

The too-tight hat: still too tight

In other cheating on sewing news, thanks to an excellent suggestion from a commenter here, I decided to block my too-small 18 Seconds to Sunrise blue cowled alpaca hat in hopes it would grow... and it did!

Blue Alpaca Sunrise Hat and Cherry Garcia Cowl

But after wearing it for two days, I have decided that while it is no longer "PAINFULLY tight," I would still call it "ANNOYINGLY snug." We'll see if I ever get around to correcting.

Darning methods compared

Finally, as promised, I did indeed darn my first pair of socks, the first socks I ever knit, in fact:

Sock darning methods compared: weaving vs. duplicate stitch

I used the traditional weaving method on the left (Knitting Daily tutorial here), with less-than-amazing results--the patch is obvious, thick, and not very stretchy, though it has a certain Dickensian charm.

For the sock on the right, I used the duplicate stitch method (HJS Studio tutorial here). It was maybe SLIGHTLY more time-consuming, but much neater and stretchier, and it just blends in way, way better. No contest, really.

But whatever: they had big scary holes in both heels, and now they are whole once more. And from a distance, both methods look just fine, and warrant a heel-clicking of joy:

Sock darning methods compared: weaving vs. duplicate stitch

I can't wait to darn EVERYTHING now: more socks, holey sweaters, and my Sew Grateful colorblocked skirt.

Or can I? Tonight I traced the patterns for my spring and summer tops, so maybe this fever is passing. And I'm even thinking I might be able to get back to my Joan dress, now that I'm over missing the deadline so badly.

So readers: do you ever cheat on sewing with other hobbies? How long does the madness usually last before you come to your senses?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vote for Lowell Textile History in 3D! (and my amazing mom)

One of my mom's award-finalist 3D models of Lowell, Massachusetts: the Boott Mills complex on the Merrimack River. Part of this section is used as a museum dedicated to the history of the textile mill era in New England

Readers, my mom—and my textile-history-rich hometown, especially its schoolchildren!—need your help.

I may have mentioned my amazing mom Beryl Reid a time or two or three zillion. My mom is the kind of woman who can do ANYTHING. When she's visiting I might come home from work to discover she's reupholstered all the furniture in fabulous fabric with lovely piping, sewn up 67 cloth diapers and a bevy of baby carriers, repaired the bookshelf, designed several dozen intricate three-dimensional building models to appear on Google Earth and done some intense genealogical research--all while my daughter was napping after a fun-filled trip to the Central Park Zoo.

Well, maybe not all in one naptime. Anyway, I bring her to your attention once again because her Lowell collection--200+ three-dimensional models of buildings in my hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, which you can see on Google Earth--is one of only 6 finalists worldwide in Google's "Model Your Town" contest. Guys and gals, this is a really big deal! And she needs YOUR vote to win! (You can vote here--make sure to click on her set of models before voting, or it'll accidentally vote for a different set).

What's the sewing connection? Seriously, it doesn't get more textile-tastic than Lowell.

Also, if my mom wins, the prize is a donation of $25,000 to the Lowell public schools—very fitting, since my parents are both retired public school teachers, and my brother and I both attended the Lowell public schools. Lowell is a large, diverse working-class city made of up immigrants and their descendents from many eras, from the Irish workers who originally worked in the mills in the 1800s to Cambodian refugees who resettled in Lowell in the 1980s. And the schools could really use the funds.

So, please take a look at the contest--and if you like my mom's models of Lowell...

...please vote for her!

P.S. My husband and I had our wedding in Lowell, in a park right by one of the old boarding houses the mill girls used to live in:

Wedding 2007

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Wardrobe Rescue: The Mending Pile Attacks!

It's a thingie, it's a whatsit, it's a ... darning egg!

Can't blog much tonight folks, because I'm busy DARNING my socks. It's all very 1940s of me, don't you think? Could I be MORE glamorous?

Seriously, I've been doing quite a bit of sewing these past few days (despite an awful cold virus that has been making myself, the mister and the toddler totally miserable) but none of it has been the exciting Big Reveal kind. Just a lot of patching and mending and button-replacing and, as of a few minutes from now, SOCK DARNING.

Although I generally avoid my mending pile like the plague, when I actually force myself to attack it I really enjoy fixing those little things that will bring a garment back from the dead to wear-ability land. I know some people would rather replace T-shirts and socks rather than fix them, but when it's one of my husband's really nice arty silk-screened tees or one of my snuggly pairs of expensive (or handknit) wool socks, I'd rather fix them.

Anyway, for my repairs I generally refer to this frighteningly-illustrated book I picked up on deep discount many years ago, Jan Saunders' Wardrobe Quick-Fixes:

But sock-darning is a whole new venture for me. I don't actually own a darning egg like the one pictured above, so I'm going to try and use an orange (my local knitting shop even recommended a lightbulb, but I don't want to accidentally embed shards of glass in my heel). Wish me luck! I'm using the "Darn Those Socks!" tutorial from HJS Studio:

So are you a make do and mender, a regular fix-it guy or gal? Or do you prefer to move on and let your holey socks go to the great holey sock basket in the sky?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Cardigan Conundrum: Which Color? (NOT Chartreuse Again)

So if you didn't already guess, the winner of my Sweater Girl Showdown: Shrunken Cardigan Edition was Brooklyn-based knit designer Alexis Winslow's lovely Georgina!

Georgina Cardigan Color Options: Which Yarn to Choose?!

Oh, and if you haven't already ogled the pattern on Knit Darling, check out the fancy lace back view:

I've already purchased the pattern on Ravelry, and now I am left with the problem of yarn and color choice. My initial thought was chartreuse, because I am OBSESSED with chartreuse cardigans... I have one in wool, one in silk, and one in cashmere--plus a UFO sewn one in doubleknit--and I probably wear them more than any other sweaters I own, as evidenced in these three garment photos from my pregnant days:

My No-Pattern Rib-Yoked Full Gingham Skirt!Spiral Skirt With Less Distracting BackgroundOrange Silk Floral Maternity Dress Remix

But perhaps I need to branch out a bit, color-wise. I'm leaning towards periwinkle or blue, though I do have a soft spot for bright pink--like chartreuse, it seems to go with everything in my wardrobe! Check it out--I'm wearing pink AND chartreuse in both of these photos from 2007 (the one directly below is by Márta Fodor):

Pink corduroy and green polka dot remix

Fancied Up Fuschia Remix

The two non-chartreuse cardigans I wear most often are this old thrifted red wrap cardi shown here in 2006 (when I still took photos in my bathroom with the mirror):

Red wrap sweater remix

Speaking of ancient bathroom photos--I didn't even crop my laundry bag out of this one! Cashmere chartreuse cardi I still wear all the time, shown with my me-made blue wool tweed skirt:

Blue and green remix

And here's my trusty thrifted periwinkle cashmere cabled cardigan, which looks way better in real life now (and fits much better now that I'm not pregnant):

18 weeks pregnant pink & purple remix

OK, enough already. I'm also self-debating over yarns and fibers. I don't know if I want to use a solid color yarn (to better show off the fancy lace and ribbing and eyelets and suchlike) or a subtly variegated semi-solid yarn... most of the yarns I was ogling were semi-solids but really, I think this might do best in a solid.

Anyway, this is the fun part, right? Now I get to go to my local yarn shops and feel up the squishy wooly wares and dither back and forth and... for as long as the toddler will tolerate, anyway.

You might have noticed I'm not even CONSIDERING a neutral color, because I find that I almost never wear the few neutral cardigans I own. That's just me, though--if your favorite sweater is gray or black or brown, I salute you and your yarny neutrality!

>So, fellow sweater girls (and boys?)--what's your go-to cardigan color?

P.S. In the meantime, I'm making socks (Ravelry project details here)! From yarn I dyed myself (ages ago), in a lovely super-bright ombre blue. In the Waving Lace pattern by Evelyn A. Clark from Favorite Socks, which looks super-complex but is really easy to follow/memorize:


P.P.S. Guys, I was ALMOST up to 200 followers... I was at 199... and then I suddenly dropped back to 198! Maybe I offended a die-hard sewist with all this knitting talk? (not that I care!)

P.P.P.S. Happy Easter and/or Passover! (We'll be doing both here).


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