Ngaio blouse

Hello my lovelies! I really need to come up with some better ways to start posts. Oh well, maybe this can be my signature thing or whatever. Here is my Ngaio blouse!

I really liked this when I saw it on Leimomi’s blog – both back in the day when she made it for herself and then again when she released it as a pattern. I loved that it had bust cup sizes. I don’t care for the way the yellow top looks on the model – I mean, I think it looks fine but it’s not a look I want for myself. But the other one with a larger cup size is my JAM. I think for me I want the seamline to sit under my bust, when it’s on top of my bust I feel flattened and a strange shape. Once again, it’s a shape I think looks good on others but I find it disorienting on myself. Body image is a strange thing.

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Ngaio blouse

The readme for the PDF gives really clear instructions about which sections to print for which size, which I always appreciate. I printed everything off though because I wasn’t sure what cup size I’d end up using. The PDF went together really well, I love the way Leimomi organises and marks matching on her PDF patterns. I also REALLY love that her sizes are actual measurement sizes – if you’ve got a 46″ bust you’ll sew the size 46.

My measurements are High bust 42″, Full bust 46″, Waist 41″ and Hips 46″ – ish. These measurements all fluctuate by an inch or so but they are fairly accurate. I wear a 36DDD/E bra. Going by the detailed measurement guides this put me in a size 44 with the largest bust cup. I wasn’t too sure about this and I did up a muslin. It… sort of fit. Here are some photos of me where I look like death, wearing the muslin for you. I hope you appreciate it.

It was too tight though. I let out the side seams and it fit me better (this is what you see above) but still tight, I didn’t love where the bust seam was hitting me, Obviously this is accentuated by the two-tone fabric choices! But it made me look squished and boxy. And the upper back was WAY tight. So I went up a size and kept the same bust size . The final size that I sewed was a 46 with the largest cup size E/F.

The muslin of this size was still tight across my upper back so I did a upper back adjustment but I don’t think I did a great job. I haven’t quite worked out the best way to do this adjustment for myself. I really need the room across my shoulder blades but not at my upper back/shoulders. This combined with the style lines of the blouse results in some puffiness that I don’t super love – but I need that room for movement!

Perhaps I should just have added on to the sides of the back piece? As it is it’s much better than it was – I can sit comfortably at a desk and reach forward, for example – but still a teeny bit tight.

You can see the pull lines at the armscye. The sleeve is also pulling back towards my underarm in a way I’m not quite sure how to diagnose – any thoughts?

Anyway I think this back fit the best I’m going to get without adding in centre back/princess seams. I’m toying with mashing it up with the Springfield princess line back which fit me so spot on. I like the style lines as they are and I’m loathe to muck with them but when I see that back on me I’m not enthralled.

I did sew the back dart a teeny bit deeper, otherwise fabric pooled horizontally but now of course it makes the pouchiness more extreme. Swings and roudabouts!

I also moved the back bottom darts up and shortened them incrementally with each muslin. They’ve ended up with the bottom of the dart being 4″ higher than drafted and the top 2″ higher. As drafted the sat right over the fullest part of my butt. I have a long torso but not THAT long! This was an easy change to make, however.  I do love how high up the back neck comes.

I used the full instructions for this because I found the process a bit confusing at first. I do love that Leimomi supplies a short and a long set of instructions but I think in future I will still use the long instructions for this, and just look at the pictures, since the steps are specific enough to this blouse to need the help (i.e. it’s not just ‘sew back to front at shoulders and sides’).

I loved that the instructions told you which direction to sew your seams in – it really makes a difference in a make like this where there’s a lot going on and the way the top sits and fits depends on the way it drapes. A really excellent touch that Jessica also pointed out.

This was an incredibly fast and satisfying sew.  You can really tell the drafting and testing work that has gone into this pattern. Leimomi uses it to teach classes and you can really tell that all the rough edges have been smoothed off and only the necessary bits are in the instructions.

Untucked

I do wish the sizes went up a bit larger. In my opinion this runs small, which puts me in the third-to-top size. That’s still more generous than a lot of big 4 sizes where I am often the very top size, or other indies where I can only squeeze into their patterns by doing an FBA and some cheater grading. I do greatly appreciate the broader size range and the fact that it is actually appropriately shaped but there’s still a way to go. I know that both running a small business and drafting for a large size range is very challenging, I’d like to hope that if Scroop patterns gets bigger Leimomi might be able to revisit her patterns and go even higher. I would like my larger compatriots to be able to sew this pattern, too, without needing to grade.

Anyway. The fabric is some shirting that I THINK I got at rathdowne remnants? It’s a wee bit poly feeling. I sewed this up at craft camp and I finished the seams with whatever thread was in someone else’s overlocker at the time so the insides aren’t super pretty! But that’s fine by me.

Not as pouchy when untucked. Perhaps it’s too tight at the hips?

I would definitely like to sew this up again. The shirt is distinctive but I think it’s also simple and elegant enough to get away with having a few of these in rotation. I prefer sleeves but I can definitely see a sleeveless version in my future for summer, because the front makes it less basic and negates my main issue with sleeveless which is that I always feel underdressed. Yet another irrational preference that I know isn’t objective but I’ve learnt my own foibles!

TL;DR:

  • Sewed a size 46 with an E/F cup
  • Did a broad upper back adjustment of about 1″ I think
  • Moved the bottom back darts up 4″, shortened by 2″, widened very slightly at the top
  • Fabric is a plain shirting from Rathdowne Remnants (I think?)
  • Seams were sewn on the sewing machine and then finished with overlocking
  • The hem is dodgy as usual. I might redo it or I might just always wear it tucked in.

Next time I would:

  • Consider subbing in a princess seam back
  • There’s still some weirdness with the armscye and sleeve – it fits ok (a small miracle in itself!) but there are pull lines it would be nice to figure out what that’s about
  • I think I might need to do a sloped shoulder adjustment, that would help the pooling at my shoulder and might also help with the sleeve issue?
  • I will definitely be sewing this again though! Very pleased with this make.

Juniper cardigan

As you might have noticed I’ve been in a bit of a sewing drought. There aren’t too many things I need in my wardrobe right now and for some reason the things I do need aren’t really getting me excited to sew them. Upside is the finished knitted items. Downside is no sewing output (I don’t need many things but the things I do need I really need!) and also feeling a bit weird and twitchy because if I don’t make something regularly I go a bit strange. Er. Stranger. Strangerer. See??

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I broke my drought with some knits. First up was a pile of new Steeplechase bikeshorts. I wear a pair at least every work day – my original batch are long gone and the most recent batch was nearing a year old. They are still ok but as they age they lose recovery and the hems start to chafe a little. They are still wearable but not ideal if I’m doing a lot of walking in them, which I do in a normal work day, to and from the train and then usually some walking at lunch when I can manage it. So some of them will be retired into sleepshorts and some will be weekend wear for the occasions when I wear skirts on the weekend instead of yogapants. I now have another week’s worth of new shorts. It feels oddly luxurious to have that pile sitting in my drawer, nice and new and fully functional (although I did make the elastic the teeniest bit tight, so it will take a while for them to wear in. Better too tight than too loose at least). Like treating myself! In the most boring way possible!

While I was on the black knits train I cut out a Juniper cardigan from Jennifer Lauren Vintage. By the way I hope you’ll excuse the terrible photos. There’s so little daylight these days I’m struggling for photo time. I did a shoot on the weekend where the top was way overexposed and looked super saggy and wrinkly – it is a little wrinkly but it looked like a disaster which it doesn’t in real life! So I did a replacement shoot quickly this morning and I look like a half-asleep ghost (which is about how I feel lately! I do not like winter…) but I’m just not going to have time to photograph it again so you gets what you gets. Weird facial expressions and all…

Still looking more wrinkly than it does irl, but it’s an improvement. Trust me.

I saw this on the CSC pattern roundup for April. I’d put myself on an informal pattern buying hiatus after finding a big stack of printed but not taped up patterns! I was intending not to buy any more patterns until I’ve used some of the dang ones I’ve got, but I liked this so much that I bought it immediately.* It is exactly the kind of silhouette I want for my jumpers, hits at the right place, and the sleeves are a bit interesting. Plus, it’s finished with bands which means no dodgy hems. I have a couple of sewn jumpers that I don’t wear much because the sleeve hems make it look very homemade to me. Obviously I could draft hem bands myself if I wanted! But it’s always nice not to have to.

*As I was finishing this post up I checked my email and saw the Laneway dress and I was so high on the success of my cardi that I bought it. NO RAGRATS! But I might have to put myself on a firm pattern buying restriction because this is getting a bit out of hand….

Is this smizing? We’ll never know

I taped this up and traced off my size during my sewing drought – along with several of those stashed patterns! I’m slowly working through my pdf patterns and getting them neat and organised and labelled, and taping them up ready to go. It feels really good to be organised! And it meant when I felt like sewing again I was ready to go without too much mucking around.

The fabric is ponti from DK fabrics. I thought I’d taken a photo of the tag for fibre content but nope. I think it’s poly/rayon/spandex in some kind of proportion, and it’s really lovely. My intention was to make this as a muslin before using more expensive merino knits because I didn’t think it would be very warm but actually I think it will be a great transitional jumper. If it wears well I’ll be back for more of this fabric – it’s very wide so I have almost-but-not-quite enough to make a pair of gingers, which I think would be great in this. It has quite good 4 directional stretch, too.

Juniper is the first Jennifer Lauren Vintage pattern I’ve bought. I really liked the PDF – there are a lot of pages but everything is sectioned off so you can just print and stick the version you want – long length with long sleeves or short length with 3/4 sleeves etc. I printed everything because I’m a completist 😛 but having it segmented made the taping process feel quick because it wasn’t a big endless swathe. Much easier to do, too, when you can cut as you go and not have a massive sheet of taped together paper taking up space. The matching notches were well designed – I tape up a LOT of PDF patterns so it’s the kind of thing I take note of. This was one of the more painless PDFs I’ve ever used.

The instructions are really comprehensive as well. They would be great for a beginner I think. Often I skim straight through and just look at the pictures but I actually read them all because of the different shoulders, and also because its’ been a while since I sewed and like Anna I tend to have a lot of stumbles when picking up sewing after a break. I haven’t forgotten how to do things exactly but it all feels a bit foreign. The good part of this is it makes me realise how many skills I actually have! I just don’t notice them because I am used to them.

Anyway the instructions are great and very clear and helpful, and I appreciated the extended pattern measurements and discussion of choosing sizes, which helped me feel confident when choosing what size to trace off. Plus I appreciated the discussion of the weight of the fabric, which has definitely caught me out before with knits, as well as information about the right notions to use. The only thing missing from the instructions, imo, is a discussion of what stitches to use. It’s not mentioned anywhere at all which was no big deal for me but would be handy for a beginner. (As an aside, the Scroop Patterns Miramar has the best breakdown of what stitches to use with knits I’ve seen. Disclaimer, I did pattern test the Miramar although I have yet to make one because I have yet to find a knit with enough vertical stretch (maybe this ponti is it??). But the instructions on that were bang on.)

Bow before me and my armpit wrinkles

I cut a size 18 sleeve and upper chest, with a size 20 bust and a size 22 waist, based on the extended measurements and the information about intended ease included in the pattern. This made it a bit tricky trying to remember which size cuff and button band to trace off but not that bad – I just had to think about it a bit! The sleeves were the perfect length when I tried it on without the cuffs, so I just lopped them off to shorten them before I sewed on the cuffs.

As you can see, this  fits me ok but not great. I think I need a size larger in the front and maybe a size smaller at back waist – the pouching at the side waist is resolved if I pinch out a good couple inches at the back waist, but then the front is too tight. It’s clearly too tight at the bust – not heaps but enough to wrinkly – and  the front pulls up a little. I am trying to decide if I would do an FBA next time (and fold out the dart, or ease it in) or just cut the front a size 22 at the bust and size 24 at the waist, and add 1/2″ length to the centre front. I’ll wear it a few more times before I decide. I’ll also add maybe 1.5cm length to the centre back I think – it technically hits ok but as I move it hikes up and I find myself wanting to tug it down. I think when I make the back tighter it will exacerbate that issue so I’ll add the length to compensate.

The back waistband looks ok but I can feel it gaping

With all those caveats, this still certainly hits my goal of ‘fits better than my RTW version’. My usual outfit every day is some kind of variation on a circle skirt, a long sleeved tshirt or button up shirt and a jumper – usually from woolovers  because it’s the only place I can find actual warm wool jumpers (not poly, and not super thin wool like Uniqlo). But they are all very long in the waist and I am always fiddling with where they are sitting, or I have to tuck them in and that has its own issues.

The ponte is warmer than I was anticipating – not as warm as my woolovers ones but significantly warmer than my thin uniqlo one – but there’s enough rayon in it that it’s not weird and sweaty either. And it’s so nice not having to fuss with the waist being too long or the shoulders too wide. ‘Not having to think about it while wearing it’ is super high on my list of desirable aspects for my clothes.

Judging you… or myself maybe? Or perhaps a bird that I saw.

Sewing wise, this top went together so quickly and sweetly! The saddle shoulders have the potential to be tricky but the notches are bang on and the instructions are great so I didn’t have any trouble. The only hiccup was attaching the buttonband. I sewed the bulk of the jumper on my sewing machine with a lightning stitch, and then I used my overlocker for the bands and cuffs because I find they sit neater if overlocked. But I didn’t have any knit interfacing so I used regular, which meant that that section of the button band had no stretch there. Which is fine! Except that it meant that I had no give to ease it in. That plus the bulk not wanting to go under my overlocker meant there’s a little bit of a missmatch at the bottom of the jumper. Not heaps, but enough to make me cross with myself. This would be super easily avoidable if you were sewing on a sewing machine with more control, and next time I will machine baste it before overlocking. Totally user error on my part, a dumb mistake.

The sole survivor of the original photoshoot where you can see the dodginess I created. I promise it’s not half as obvious irl

I also wasn’t really thinking and used white interfacing – which was all I had on hand anyway. It does show through a teeny bit, I think it probably will show with wear. Not a huge deal but a bit annoying, and something to remember next time.

I never wear cardigans open so I decided the sew the buttonband shut. I was also influenced by the sewing error above – this hides it a bit more effectively. I sewed it up a bit too high so it pulls at the top, when I have black thread in my machine next I will unpick that top bit and use my favourite dodgy trick of sewing over the line of stitching for a bit and backtacking to hold it in place. The buttons are just basic ones from my stash, and I sewed them right through both button bands.

I didn’t top stitch because I liked it as is and didn’t want to risk making it wobbly. I stablised the shoulders with some thin twill tape I have from S’s dad – he used to own a deli and stocked basic notions which he took with him when he sold it as the new owners didn’t want them. So I have a nice stash of snaps and twill tape and the like. It felt really good to use some and it was the perfect thing for this. I really don’t like how clear elastic feels so I avoid using it where possible, and I thought on a thick knit like this I could use the extra heft of a woven stabliser. Also I totally forgot to take a photo of that bit and now it’s dark and impossible to photograph black things, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

TL;DR review:

  • Fabric is a ponti from DK fabrics.
  • I sewed a size 18 upper chest and sleeves, size 20 bust and size 22 waist.
  • My measurements are upper bust 41″, full bust 46″, waist 41″, hips 46″
  • Next time I would size down at the back waist (so, a size 18 upper chest and size 20 down) and either do an FBA or size up on the front from the bust down (size 22 bust size 24 waist).
  • I shortened the sleeves by 1.5″ ish (the length of the cuff).
  • I found the pdf really well designed, and the pattern well drafted. Really impressed by this.
  • I used regular interfacing for the button bands, not knit, and this made it hard to get the bands set in correctly.
  • This would be easily worked around by basting before sewing or overlocking the bands on.
  • I sewed the button band shut because I don’t intend on ever opening it.
  • I used thin twill tape to stablise the shoulder seams.

I really like this pattern and this jumper! My version is not perfect but I like it a lot, and I really enjoyed sewing this well drafted pattern. I would definitely recommend it, and based on the experience I would be keen to try other JLV patterns.

I’m looking forward to sewing it up in some of the merino in my stash – and maybe purchasing some different colours of the fabric store merino – A navy cardi would be very practical, and I think I might need an emerald one, don’t you?

Anniversary jumper

Hoo boy this one is another one that was a long time coming!

This knit started with the yarn. I wanted an affordable, thinner than 8 ply yarn, in nice colours. I can’t tell you much more about what started me wanting that because I bought this yarn almost three years ago! It’s Charlemont from valley yarns. I bought two hanks of Burgundy and three of Evergreen. The yarn is merino/silk/poly. The silk gives it a luscious sheen, and the colour is totally gorgeous (very hard to get an accurate photo of though it’s much less orange than it looks in these photos). But there’s enough poly in it to make it feel a bit odd to knit with, which definitely contributed to how long this knit took me. It’s also very fine – I mean OBVIOUSLY, it’s a fingering weight/4ply. The site calls it sock/fingering weight but it’s definitely fingering.

Because it was so fine I couldn’t get gauge for any of the patterns I liked. And anyway, I wanted something very plain and simple – they aren’t very exciting to knit but they’re the kind of garment I reach for over and over, and miss when I don’t have them in my wardrobe. I think I was swatching at craft camp and someone (Suse maybe?) suggested I try CustomFit. So I did! There wasn’t a design that was exactly what I wanted but the design it yourself bit was so easy. The design notes on this one are:

  • Hourglass close fit
  • Hourglass silhouette
  • Style: pullover
  • Length: High-hip length [which I then cropped]
  • Sleeves: Full-length sleeve
  • Neck style: Crew neck
  • The pattern called for 1×1 ribbing but I made it 2×2 because that retains its shape better

There’s no option for a cropped jumper, which I knew I wanted, so I just found where the waist would be and knit from there up. Essentially I took 4″ off the length. Details are on my ravelry page.

I really loved using  Custom Fit! I always have to add in bust darts and sometimes back shaping – generally I use the method in the Knit to Flatter book (by Amy Herzog who also runs Custom Fit). But honestly it was real nice to not have to do the maths myself. I am perfectly capable of designing this jumper my own self, but really it was worth $10 or so to not have to. Absolutely worth it.

I think I might need to start adding shaping for my upper back though

I did hit a major snag when I finished it and basted it all together. The sleeve caps were just laughably too short. Just not even close. I emailed the Custom Fit support and Amy was incredibly helpful. The measurements I’d put in were outside of what the algorithm could cope with, so she recalculated the sleeve caps for me! This involved some very nifty shaping and I am very impressed, both with her understanding of knit shapes, and the customer service. To be frank, I was a very irritating customer – I wrote long waffly emails, and then took months to reply back with crucial details like measurements. Amy was just wonderful throughout the whole process. I would recommend the Custom Fit service on this alone, PLUS the shaping  in the jumper is exactly perfect.

The remaining major flaw is my own fault. As I said, I cropped this jumper, because I wanted it to wear over dresses. However, it’s… short. I think really I should have another inch on it, although it does sit nicely over dresses – which was the intention. So I guess it’s a win – except that I don’t really have any dresses at the moment that this would sit nicely over! The ones I had in mind when I designed it have been retired due to wear or poor fit. Plus I really should have designed it with a Vneck to be useful over shirtdresses. I considered ripping back and redoing the neck – it’s not a hard adjustment to make – but this is the total amount of yarn I have left:

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So yeah, I’m not risking it! This is the result of some serious yarn chicken on the sleeves. I initially measured them too short because I measured a bought jumper where the sleeves were exactly 2″ too long, but I neglected to notice that the shoulder of said jumper hung off my shoulder by 2″! And so I had to knit them another 2″ longer than the pattern called for – which turned out to be a good thing because I knit the sleeves at a particularly stressful time and my gauge was noticeably tighter, and the sleeves were too narrow! So with all of that, I’ve knit those dang sleeve caps maybe five times? I had to rip back and weight each sleeve and work out how much yarn each row took in order to get sleeves that matched and were long enough. Yeesh! I did a lot of that on our recent trip to Broken Hill, while listening to the latest arc of The Adventure Zone (it’s the BEST you guys), so now every time I look at this jumper I think of those things, which is really nice.

So as you can see, the jumper isn’t quite right for any of my dresses, and it’s also not right for skirts! The pattern as written/generated, an extra 4″ longer, would probably be perfect.

Nope!

So I have enough of the green yarn to knit the pattern in its original form, and the colour would be more versatile in my wardrobe than this one. But honestly I’m not sure if I’m up for it! This has been on the needles for almost two whole years – mostly sitting idle but even when it was actively being knit on it took forever. That said… I really really like it. The shape is exactly what I had in mind. User error aside, I’m so incredibly impressed by how this turned out. I would 100% recommend the Custom Fit platform and I’ll definitely be using it again. And maybe I’ll even be knitting this pattern again… once I’ve had some time to get over the dramas!

Chuck sweater

You guys, I finished a knit!

This is Chuck by Andi Satterlund. I’ve seen Andi’s knits a lot on the blogosphere, and admired them, but I’d never bit the bullet on starting one because they are mostly in 10ply which is kind of hard to get here in Aus and also, I don’t honestly have that much call for 10ply jumpers. Until recently, that is! When we moved offices and the new office is basically refridgerated year round. In winter I end up wearing my outdoors jacket to sit at my desk sometimes, so I figured a 10ply jumper might be useful after all.

The yarn is from my stash. I had some leftover Cascade 220 from knitting a Rogue hoodie many years ago. I don’t actually have a single proper picture of that jumper because I never really wore it. The sleeves were about an inch too short, as was the body. It looked ok-ish but I never felt comfortable in it. In December 2014 I pulled it out to see if I could re-knit the sleeves, to find it had been moth eaten in some… significant spots. Nipple holes aren’t really the kind of thing I look for in a jumper, ya know? So I frogged the whole dang thing, planning to reknit it from scratch. A few months of slow progress in, however, I realised I just wasn’t that keen on it any more. I liked the idea of it but a knit hoodie doesn’t really fit in my life or wardrobe anymore. So I frogged it and skeined the yarn up and put it all back in the stash.

Obligatory cat pic

Then in winter last year I got the itch to knit again, and I was cross with the other thing I was knitting, which is quite fine yarn. I remembered Roisin’s version(s) and decided I’d give it a go! The yarn was sitting unused and unloved already, so if I didn’t love it I hadn’t lost much, and I was dying for the feel of chunky, wooly yarn in my hands.

Me, explaining it’s many hours yet until dinner time

Friends, I HATED knitting this sweater. I found the pattern really hard to navigate – I don’t know what it is but just something about how it was laid out made it hard for me to see what was happening as I read it. I had thought maybe I was exaggerating this in my head but as I was re-reading it to check my ravelry notes were up to date I got so frustrated trying to work out what the heck was going on that I accidentally tore a page in half as I was flipping it back and forth. Oops.

I made a bunch of adjustments. The details are on my ravelry page but the broad overview is:

  • Went down a needle size for the ribbing
  • Knit size L for shoulders and increased to the 1X size at the bust.
  • Added bust dart increases
  • Moved the side decreases to the back, which is where I need the shaping
  • Chucked in a couple of short row sections at the back to make up for my swayback
  • Knit an extra repeat
  • Knit the sleeves before I finished knitting the body because I was pretty sure they’d change how it fit (they did)
  • Picked up the number of stitches for the L sleeves and then didn’t decrease at the end of the armhole, leaving me with enough stitches for the 1X sleeve
  • Made the sleeves full length (see rav notes for how)
Bust increases

I initially knit the two repeats in the pattern and was going to just knit the ribbing long but the cables hit in an odd place and made me look really foreshortened. I check the hive mind via instagram and everyone agreed that it looked no good. So I ripped the ribbing back and did another repeat. I was concerned this would leave me with either a too-long jumper, or not enough ribbing. In the end it worked out ok. I wish the ribbing were 1/2″ longer, for proportion, but it sits neatly on my waistband at this length so I’m happy with it.

To be honest with you, I would not recommend this pattern to anyone above the size M, or with boobs bigger than say a C cup. I knew going in that it was a risk, making a chunky knit in negative ease, because I just don’t think that knits like that play well with larger figures. I think the risk paid off but I wouldn’t knit this again. And also the bust darts were VERY necessary, even though from the armpit down I knit the size that should fit my bust. Even with the darts you can see it folding and pulling at the side of my bust and I suspect it will wear badly in that area. I also think the cable and the negative ease makes my bust look droopy and frumpy. Not enough to not wear it, but it’s not really ideal.

Also look at the weird shape of that sleevecap! It’s a nice round shape when flat so idk what pulling is making it do that. I think I should have knit a size 1X sleeve but there honestly wasn’t that much difference in terms of stitch count.

Yup that pulling is definitely coming from the sleeve. Ugh.

I also really REALLY hated the way the sleeves were done. You pick up stitches around the armhole and knit it down, using shortrows to shape the cap. You are instructed to pick up less than half of the stitches that would fill out the armhole, and that + short rows immediately after pickup meant that row was really loose for me. I did a better job with the second armhole but even so I had to go back and stitch it closed so it wasn’t all gapey and weird.

ugly join on the first sleeve
Second sleeve is better

I also couldn’t find a way to make the short rows work without showing the wrap. I tried several techniques and all of them worked for me in thinner yarn but in this bulk, with negative ease? Nope. You can really see it in the back short rows I did.

The back shortrows do make it bubble a bit if I stand a certain way, but they also mean it doesn’t pull up at the back waistband. I’m very pleased with how that worked out.

I used this technique for the bindoff, and I’m really happy with it. I think this will be my regular bindoff now.

I did like the way the top down construction helped me try it on and add adjustments on the fly. And I do like the finished product – more than I thought I would when I first finished it! But boy. It was rough going.

I actually knit it with my Malmaison skirt in mind but I’m not sure I love them together. The Cascade is ‘Aporto’ and it’s a dark blue with flecks of green in it. It reads as almost navy but next to a true navy is much more petrol-coloured. And I love to match… I’ll probably wear them together, but I like it more with the demin skirt.

So there we have it! A very ambivalent FO. But however mixed my feelings are towards the pattern itself, I am THRILLED to have finished a knit. I haven’t knit very much the last few years, due to wrist issues and also really struggling with mental health in winter, which is when I knit most, and not wanting to do anything at all. It feels so good to be back to knitting – it’s my very first craft, and what made me start this blog, through which I have met so many of you wonderful people. I hope the bug sticks!

Jennifer dress

Hello! Here is my second iteration of Vogue 8811.

Gosh look how nice and even that waist is sitting! I get a gold star

I’m sorry these photos are so shocking. I went out two separate times to get them but still didn’t end up with good ones so I’m calling these good enough. I’m getting closer to figuring out appropriate times for good lighting, however, so hopefully they’ll improve.

I tend to like to make a pattern more than once. Partly this is because I always have to do so much fitting work that it feels like wasted effort if I just make a once-off. Also that you can never really be sure how something fits until you wear it, so I like to t ake a second crack at it – and I find I learn a lot about fitting that way, too. In this case I loved my first version so much that I was planning to make a second V8811 before I even blogged the first one.

I earmarked this blue broadcloth from my stash for it. It’s just from spotters, and I think I bought it intending to make a shirtdress. But it’s a bright enough blue that I thought it would probably come out a bit uniform-y so it was looking for the right project and I knew this simple bodice would avoid the uniform issue. But then… it’s a bit boring, right? It’s a nice colour but not in my usual palette so I wanted to do something to spiff it up.

I thought about adding some trim, as in view A, but honestly I’m not really a lace and ribbon kinda gal. Then I thought, that pocket has some opportunities! I have a pinterest board of embroidery ideas, many of which are vintage transfers, so I picked one I thought would work well with the fabric and started on it.

I mostly worked on it on my train commute and it went very quickly. I used machine embroidery stabiliser because my local stores didn’t have any proper hand embroidery stuff, and it didn’t 100% wash away which is why it looks a bit odd and stiff still. I think it will eventually dissipate and it’s not obvious except very close up. I used random colours I liked from my collection. The stems are stem stitch, the centres satin stitch, the leaves feather stitch and the petals grain stitch. Oh and the little cluster of french knots – I think I’ve FINALLY learnt how to do a consistent french knot, but I still don’t like doing them. I am now a bit addicted to embroidery – I forgot how fun it is! Except I need to find more useful and interesting things to stitch.

I did not, however, do a good job of sewing the pocket on. Oh, well. It’s not so obvious when worn so I’ll just live with it, although it does annoy me. Part of the issue is that the pocket is two pieces, sewn together and turned. The embroidered piece is on the bias since that’s what the pattern tells you to do but then I realised that’s only because if you’re using a plaid it’s a contrast. So I cut the backing on the straight grain but that was probably a mistake. Also the pattern has you turn it in a weird way – I was planning to leave the whole top unturned since that’s topstitched anyhow but the pattern has you turn it from the bottom which means you have to leave the opening quite small, so I couldn’t really do much about wonky edges. If I were doing this again I’d just do it my way.

I sewed the same size as last time (which started as a size 12). Changes I’d already made to the paper pattern included:

  • 2″ FBA
  • Added 3/4″ to side seams of bodice (so it was essentially a size 14 bodice).
  • Took up waist about 1″, losing a total of 2″ length from both the bodice and skirt
  • Lowered neckline 1″ at front neck tapering to nothing at front shoulders

I’d made the front 1″ larger last time but forgot to this time as I hadn’t made the extra addition to the pattern and I was cutting this out while sick. I also didn’t cut the skirt wider as the fabric was too narrow. I sewed the side seams at 1cm instead of 1.5cm to compensate for this.

This time I also:

  • Lowered the neckline a further 1/2″ all the way around, for a total of 1.5″ at front and 1/2″ at shoulder and back neck.
  • Sewed the armhole seam about 1cm higher so the armholes aren’t so gapey
  • Took 1cm off the top of the sleeves, tapering to nothing at the mid sleeve
  • Sorted out where the waistline should be.
  • Added a full lining instead of using facings.
  • Added pockets

Figuring out the waistline took a lot of basting and swearing but in the end what it amounted to was taking off 1″ from the centre front, tapering to nothing at the dart. This was pretty much what the FBA added that I had not dealt with properly. Naughty. I got my consequences though! I then took a further 1″ off the entire waist, front to back. I have read a few people saying it seemed long in the waist so perhaps it’s the pattern. I do have a long waist and it’s quite rare that I have to shorten a bodice unless I want it to hit above my natural waist. I must say I didn’t mind how it looked when it was a bit longer – it definitely had more of the 40’s long and lanky look (not that I will ever look lanky but you know what I mean… it had that feel to it) but it bunched up when I moved so it got taken up.

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This is before the last 1″ was taken out. It looks ok but you can just see it bubbling up. It was super obvious when I moved. Also note paint swatches on the boring grey wall behind me!

I also took the skirt up 1″ to make the waist wider, to compensate for not having cut it out wider. Consequently I only did a 1″ hem. I didn’t have to adjust the hem at all so I think my issues with the last one were the rayon stretching out after all. The broadcloth is pretty firm and hasn’t shifted on the bias but there’s still time! 😛

I lopped off 1cm from the top of the sleeve and straightened out the sleeve curve – the FBA had involved shifting that seam about a bit and I essentially just put it back as drafted. Again, should have already done that, very sloppy. I added pockets from B6285, which are my go-to pockets now – they’re an excellent shape and sit well in the side seams of a skirt. I also find they give a nice volume to a skirt, puffing it up a bit exactly where I want the volume. When I tried on my basted together version it hung quite limply, but with the pockets and the lining it fluffs up very nicely. Pleasing!

I fully lined it, and I really like how it is with a lining. I would definitely do this again next time. The bodice is bemsilk I think – it was from my stash – and the skirt is poly taffeta from Lincraft. This is now my favourite skirt lining, it gives a nice volume and is hefty enough not to try to sneak in between my legs when I walk. Plus it rustles nicely as I move, always a plus. The lining is my trusty self drafted 3/4 circle skirt/lining pattern but I probably could have just used the skirt pattern as it’s also a 3/4 ish circle. (A bigger circle will work it’s way between one’s legs in a very annoying way). The front waistline of the pattern is bigger than the back so I just very dodgily sewed the front lining up higher at centre front and didn’t bother evening out the hem. It hangs more or less right when worn, though. Good enough for a lining anyway!

I really love the colour of the lining taffeta. Trying to think of an excuse to make and wear a whole dress out of it…

I serged everything to finish before sewing it together. Lining hem is just serged, skirt hem is turned up and hand stitched. Sleeves and neck are understitched. The button is a loner from my stash – I thought I’d taken a better picture, it’s got swirls on it like a boiled sweet. I did the thread loop like the last one but I’ve made it too long and it keeps coming undone so I need to go back and fix that. The lining is tacked to the outer shell at the waist with the same thread loops.

I also am contemplating belt loops but it sits pretty nicely without them so we’ll see.

I don’t think you can really see it here but the only issue I have with this make is that it sits a little forward at the shoulder. I think I need to take another 1/2″ from the front neckline, for a total of 2″ off of it. If I pull it so that it sits where it would with a lower neck, it’s perfect – but the broadcloth is firm enough to prevent it sitting there whereas my last version the rayon sits there but just sits out from my collarbone.

I also want to put back the extra at the back neckline – I freehanded trimming that off and it was hard to taper to nothing because it’s quite a short seam so I’ll go back and adjust the pattern properly. I don’t think I’ll be making another of these immediately but I think it’s simple enough and it fits well enough that I see it becoming a TNT pattern, so I’ll retrace everything to have a proper, adjusted pattern ready to go.

When I’m wearing it without a belt, the dress feels like it’s pulling forward because of the too-high neckline. I could go back and take more out I suppose, but with a belt it sits ok. We’ll see how it wears. I do want to go back and take extra out of my Clarissa version because I have avoided wearing it a couple of times because the neck isn’t super comfortable. It’s fine but not great. A relatively easy fix, however!

I’m really thrilled with this one! It came out just like I had hoped. A rare treat! Despite having had a bit of trouble with this pattern, it was all self-induced, and the results were worth it!

Clarissa dress

Hello lovelies! I’ve missed you! I have miraculously managed to sew something in the last month, and I’m so keen to share it with you.

This is Vogue 8811, in the rayon I bought in Bali.

Description: Pullover dress has shoulder pads, semi-fitted bodice, French darts, bias, flared skirt, back keyhole closure with button/thread loop, side snap/extension or zipper closing, cap sleeves, and belt. A: Purchased trim. B: Bust pocket. Circa 1940

Recommended fabrics: Linen, Crepe de Chine, Lightweight Broadcloth

 

This one was a bit of a journey. I thought up this pattern and fabric combo while lying in bed desperately trying to stop thinking about work long enough that I could go to sleep (it’s been a BUSY month. I don’t usually think about work outside of work hours – one of the perks of my job is it stays at work). It was prompted by how much I love my Dorothy Lara dresses. I needed another dress that was weather appropriate for the late summer, and given how busy and stressful things have been I needed it to be easy to wear. I love those 50s and 60s silhouettes but it’s hard to beat the comfortable, functional ease of a ’40s dress. When I know I’ve got a rough day ahead and I want to feel and look good without having to put any thought into what I’m wearing throughout the day, I reach for my two DLs every time. I wanted more of that in my wardrobe!

I also wanted to use this fabric soon. It’s very on-trend, and I love it, but I was worried that if I left it in the stash too long it would look and feel dated and I wouldn’t want to sew it any more. So I wanted to figure out what to do with it soon.

I’ve had this pattern in my stash for some time, but I’d bought the wrong size. I had the size 4-12 size nest not the 12-18. Going by my measurements I would normally sew the size 14 , grading to a size 12 at the shoulders, with a 2″ FBA. I didn’t realise my size snafu until I was partway through cutting out the tissue pattern pieces. I figured it was a pretty simple shape, given that I would normally cut size 12 shoulders anyway perhaps I could just add on some width to the sides and do that FBA and call it good.

Pardon my mystery bruise. Looking pretty impressive though!

This sort of worked. The trouble is it has this cool waist dart – it’s angled and one side is curved and you ease it together to create extra shape. It’s REALLY interesting, and makes the bodice sit really nicely, and it’s also quite hard to do an FBA on! I’m not at all sure I did it right and I probably should have sewn it up without the FBA first so I knew what it was meant to be like. However, after the FBA and cheaters grading up, I had a muslined bodice that looked pretty good and sat right, so I cut out the fashion fabric.

The ‘grading’ involved adding 1″ to the front and 3/4″ to the back of both bodice and skirt. I also lowered the front neckline by 1″ at the neck tapering to nothing at the shoulder seam.

By the way, my lovely blue wall now has a bed in front of it so I’m auditioning new photo locations. The best options were this boring grey-blue wall in my craft room with one million powerpoints on it, or outside. Outside worked well but I think it would have been better if I’d waited an hour because I had trouble finding a good spot in regards to the sun and so I only got a few good photos. I’ll work on it.

Anyhow. The dress. So I sewed it all up and tried it on and it was HORRID.

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Noooooo I was not trying to sew a caftan! Or a mumu

The FBA had added length in a weird way, and the rayon was quite droopy and the waist was totally uneven and also way lower than it should be and dipped drastically at the front. Ack! I unpicked it and laid out the bodice and just hacked it off even at the bottom. I’d say there was about 4″ extra at the centre front! Then there was some back and forth of basting and unpicking of seams in a totally unscientific way that will come back to bite me if I ever make it again because I didn’t really write down what I was doing because I did it in bits and pieces over a couple of weeks in a period where I was very stressed and frazzled.

What I ended up with was a dress where (after said hacking off evenly) I took about 1″ off the waist seam – I just sewed that seam at a larger width so it ended up taking the skirt up too. I also took almost all of the width I’d added in at the side seams back out again although I did keep most of it in the seam allowances so that I can let it out if the rayon shrinks up. I think in a firmer fabric I might still need the width, but in the rayon and with such a busy print, it just looked frumpy and saggy. The pattern had instructions for either a hand picked zipper or an extension with snaps, but I found that I could just pull it over my head quite comfortably so I just sewed up the sides. Again, probably wouldn’t be possible in a firmer fabric but works really well for this.

I was going to add pockets in but with all the adjusting I ended up serging one of the skirt side seams shut and I couldn’t be bothered unpicking it. I really would like pockets because the neck is so high I can’t access my alterna-pocket (aka my bra). But then pockets in rayon are a bit less functional anyway, so dunno.

The waist seam is still a bit wonky, and I’m not sure if it’s my terrible hacking of the pattern, or just the way the rayon is hanging. The bra I’m wearing also really changes how this hangs – I guess because it’s such full coverage, the position of my bust point totally changes the drape of the bodice. Yet another lesson in wearing my good bras to sew in.

Those issues are lost in the busy print though so I’m not too fussed. Also I’ll probably always wear this with a belt anyway which covers some sins, although it would benefit from some belt carries to keep it in place. The pattern has pattern pieces for a belt and I was going to make a black one but I don’t have an appropriate buckle so for now it’s this white one or nothing. I like the way the white lightens it up though.

The sleeves have facings and I HATE them. Hate. They’re flippy and chunky and terrible. I also think I need to take 1cm off the top of the sleeves and that would reduce the amount they stick up. If/when I make this again I’ll either line it like Tanya did, or bias bind them. The pattern includes pieces for shoulderpads, so perhaps that would change the angle of the sleeves? I chose not to make them although I would like to have a go some time just to see how it’s done.

Hateful

This pattern has a bunch of nice vintage touches that I really appreciated – it’s one of the reasons that I rarely buy newly drafted patterns. I have or can hack most things from my existing pattern stash, but I always learn a lot about technique or elegant drafting from vintage (repro) patterns. That said, the instructions did have you press down the seam allowance on the waist and then top stitch it to the bodice from the right side, which I tried but found totally bizarre and almost impossible to keep straight. Is there a reason for doing it this way? When I was making my adjustments I unpicked it and did it the regular way.

The neck facing I like though. It’s really neat and well drafted, even if I did also have to hand tack it down.

If I make this again I’ll take an extra 1/2″ off the neck all the way round (but not at the back neck). I like how it sits at the back of my neck but it’s sitting too high up otherwise, and in a stiffer fabric would be uncomfortable. It’s ok in this but it does bunch a little and in wearing it sits away from my collarbone a little bit.

I also sewed the side seam/armholes up higher, because they were pretty gapey under my arms. I probably should adjust the pattern to take them up even higher next time, I think. I liked that the pattern had quite an angular curve for the sleeve – a mod I usually have to make myself for cut on sleeves. The sides do pull a little but that’s the tradeoff you make for a cut on sleeve.

The sides pulling make the back hem look like it’s hanging too low in a lot of these photos. It’s even on the hanger – I hung it for a week and the hem didn’t seem to grow but then once I hemmed it it was way lower front and back. I liked the length though so I went back and hemmed the sides shorter so it is now even. However when i move around it pulls up an inch or so on the sides, making the back in particular look low.

I think I’ll give it some time to see if it grows any more and then take it up again at the back. Even if it is technically even when I’m standing totally still, the reality is that it will always hike up, so I may as well account for that from the get go.

The back neckline has a button and loop. I did a thread loop using this method, although it’s a little thin and hard to loop behind my head, next time I would use a double thickness. The button is from my stash and you can sort of almost kind of see it below. I do forget to unhook the button before trying to take it off 100% of the time. Because I am a fast learner…

I am so totally thrilled with this dress. I debuted it at work on Monday and it was so comfortable all day, and I felt so elegant and put together. I had several compliments and one person asked if I had ‘had it made’ and was blown away when I said I’d made it myself! (Side note, I am starting to feel more comfortable telling people I make all my own clothes. It feels nice, and I’ve never had anything but a positive reaction, and very little of the sort of bewildered or condescending praise I have been used to. Just people genuinely interested and impressed. It’s so lovely.)

I will definitely be making this pattern again. I’d love to find a good plaid to play with the grainlines – and the skirt is cut on the cross grain which means that even though it’s quite full you can cut it out of a narrow piece of fabric.

TL;DR What I made:

  • Vogue 8811 in size 12
  • 2″ FBA
  • went back and chopped the bodice to be even (ish)
  • Added 1″ to side seams of front bodice and skirt, 3/4″ to side seams of back bodice and skirt (most of which was taken out again but which I would keep for a firmer fabric)
  • Took up waist about 1″, losing a total of 2″ length from both the bodice and skirt
  • Lowered neckline 1″ at front neck tapering to nothing at front shoulders

What I would do next time:

  • Line the bodice to eliminate sleeve facings
  • drop neckline a further 1/2″ all round tapering to nothing at the back neck
  • POCKETS!
  • Would probably be worthwhile muslining the bodice with no mods so I could see how the waist seam is supposed to look and what the curve should be so I can adjust my pattern and not have to keep fiddling with it to get it right.
I especially like these photos with the soft light that looks like a film photo on a cheap family camera. It reminds me of so many family photos taken in the garden.

I also thought a lot about the ‘dress like your grandma‘ challenge while sewing this. I won’t claim this for the challenge because this dress wasn’t inspired by the challenge so that would feel like cheating. But I couldn’t help thinking that probably the reason I like the fabric so much is that it’s very similar to the curtains in the ‘back room’ at my grandma’s house – the room which was a playroom and where we all slept when we slept over there. Lots of fond memories of that room, although I can’t seem to find a photo of the curtains.

In fact I don’t have a lot of photos of my grandma. There’s a family album somewhere but it never seems to be brought out even when I ask. In the last decade my grandma has lost her husband, two children and all her siblings so I get the impression she’s not keen to reminisce, so I haven’t pushed it. But all the photos I have of her she is wearing a dress in a similar cut to this – cut on sleeves, high neck, circle skirt, some kind of botanical print, and which she would have made herself.

Here she is with all her kids (if you include the youngest who she was pregnant with at the time so does that count?). She would have made her own dress and almost certainly all the clothes in this photo. My dad is the one in the front in the overalls with the excellent pout. He and his sister next to him on Grandma’s lap are both dead now. Judging by the ages this would be late ’60s.

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And here is my grandma with my cousin (the daughter of my aunt to the left of my Gma in the above pic) and I in about 1984.

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I’m the one awkwardly sliding off my cousin’s lap… I just realised that less time passed between those two photos than between the latest one and now. Wild!

As she and I get older I’m starting to have a deeper but also more complicated relationship with my grandma – I’m realising the ways in which she and I are very different, have different values and priorities. Not in a bad way, but in a way that complicates what has always been a relatively simple relationship for me. I get the impression she never really ‘got’ either my father or myself. But she didn’t have to to love us, and love us she did. I dunno, I’ve typed out and erased various comments several times, I don’t know that I can articulate what my grandma means to me as a person and as a relation. I do know it’s important.

I think a lot of (although not all) that draws me to vintage shapes and patterns is my association of them with her, with her elegance and class and sewing skills and love. Sometimes it feels very retrograde to like these clothes, and I worry about it and what it says about me, and what the world sees when they see me in these outfits which happen to be what I feel emotionally comfortable in. Especially in the recent political climate. And why IS it that I happen to be comfortable in them? I fluctuate between feeling tired of my own navel gazing and feeling it’s important to interrogate these things even if there’s never a final conclusion because it’s complex.

“All this could be perceived as nostalgia for an age of innocent exuberance. Indeed, this may be part of the story, but there is also the natural process of reappraising past etas, searching for inspiration, tracing social patterns and making sense of our origins” – Peter Cuffley ‘Australian Houses of the Forties & Fifties’

Still here

Hi guys! I’m still here, but crafting isn’t – my craft room is currently housing half the bedroom furniture, since we just painted that room. Plus it’s busy time at work and this week is the transition from ‘come home from a regular full day totally exhausted’ to ‘working extra hours and weekends’. We get paid for extra duties, plus good overtime, and I like my team and my job and it’ll be over in two weeks, so I don’t mind. But it doesn’t leave much time for crafting, let alone taking photographs and blogging… even if i had anything to photograph!

Mostly I just wanted to say I started another blog for my garden stuff – I have enough readers now that I was feeling a bit odd mixing sewing and everything else. It’s all garden for now, but I anticipate other house stuff ending up there. Who knows! It’s called ‘Under my own vine’ and I just did a short post about my tamarillo tree if that’s the kind of thing you’re interested in. I’d love to see you over there too!