Sunday, October 4, 2015

Slow fashion October Vol 1: Origins

Ah, the sweet sounds of childhood...
I've been wanting to do a sort of personal history of how I got into sewing and knitting for awhile now, and since Slow Fashion October is finally upon us, I finally have the perfect chance! The first post is meant to be a "getting-to-know-you" deal, so let's start way back in the golden and glorious early 80s, when some of the earliest seeds of DIY were first planted in my impressionable wee brain.

I grew up in a small town on Vancouver Island, one of four kids born to a pot smoking mill-worker dad and a stay-at-home mom (who later worked in the explosives industry, post-divorce). Like everyone else of their generation, my parents had some vague and largely unrealized back-to-the-land tendencies, which led them to fill the family book case with craft encyclopedias and can the odd jar of pickles. My dad had some decent carpentry and gardening skills, and I can recall my mom sewing curtains for the kitchen windows, as well as some Halloween costumes. But these projects and hobbies were often small, and not long-pursued. We did, however, go in for secondhand in a big way. As a family of six being supported on a single income, we didn't often have the luxury of indulging in new goods: I distinctly remember getting boxes of hand-me-down clothes from bigger cousins in Ontario once a year, and these being divided between whichever siblings they were appropriate for. And while I appreciated the new clothing my nana sent at Christmas, still covered in tags and smelling of the department store it came from, I was equally happy with my older cousin's holey sweatshirts.

The fabulous L7 and...Twiggy Ramirez
Let's skip ahead to my high school years, where we are now firmly in the frayed and musty-smelling 90s (sorry!). On the one hand, I feel like this wasn't such a bad time fashion-wise to grow up female: you could totally get away with wearing thrifted, baggy, IDGAF clothing, and be considered cool (in the larger world at least, if not in my shitty redneck hometown). On the other hand, Marilyn Manson happened, and I decided to throw my sartorial lot in with his dress-wearing bassist/guitarist, Twiggy Ramirez. Since this was pre-Hot Topic and early, early internet, I was basically pushed into learning to sew for lack of any suitably goth clothing outlets in my locale. However, my skills were rudimentary at best, and my mom's sewing machine basic to say the least. Work space was also incredibly limited, and I can still remember the frustration of trying to cut velour fabric on the carpeted floor of our living room. Still, I muddled through, and my then-baffling fashion sense led me to make a wide range of bizarre garments, including the following:

- a t-shirt with non-stretch lace sleeves and some random goth word hand-stencilled across the chest (and before you ask, no, I most certainly could not bend my arms)
- boot-cut pants made from non-stretch (again!) yellow and black striped twill (which split up the ass seam at a dance)
- faux leopard fur flares, complete with safety pin closure (no zippers for this budding seamstress!)
- a floor-length skirt with alternating satin and lace panels, which I wore to school like I was the goddamn Lady of Shallot

I also scoured the thrift stores for vintage, A-line house dresses from the 60s, which invariably had to be altered, and had my fair share of handmade band t-shirts (including a bright yellow one with the word "Prick" written across the front in black Sharpie, which earned me a trip to the principal's office). 

If any of this is making me sound like some kind of intriguing, small town grunge pioneer, don't believe it: I was most decidedly not cool. I was a tall, scrawny, socially awkward, female version of Joey Ramone, who had things thrown and shouted at me from the moving vehicles of rednecks on a daily basis. Still, this is where I first gained an interest in making my own clothes (however hideous they may seem to me now), and where a basic foundation of skills was laid. Let's move on, shall we?

No Logo, Erin O'Connor on the cover of i-D magazine

OK, 1999 - 2005, the university years: my redneck hometown is a thing of the past, and I am safe and free going to art school in the closest thing Vancouver Island has to a big city. Like every other first year student in the history of forever, I experienced something of a political awakening (WTO! Women's studies! Socialists are still a thing!). I also read Naomi Klein's "No Logo", and my previously vague "fuck the man" feelings became considerably more focused. Whereas previously I distrusted corporate culture and wore thrifted goods because Kurt Cobain did, I now had a lot of very specific information regarding the global manufacturing industry to back my choices up. Fashion-wise, this was a very twee time for me: lots of skinny pants, tight vintage tees, and retro tops with whimsical prints (a kind of Belle and Sebastian-inspired librarian couture). 

Although my sewing skills were mostly used for altering secondhand clothes at this point, I did make a significant jump in skills-acquisition by teaching myself to knit from Debbie Stoller's "Stitch 'n' Bitch" book (yeah, early 2000s Bust magazine!). It was a slow process, but I did manage to make matching garter stitch scarves for myself and a girlfriend (in hideously inappropriate yarn). I also made a few knitted gifts and started a few sweaters that I never finished. The truth was, I simply didn't have the time: for my last years of university, I was working and going to school full time, and there were precious few moments when I could do anything unrelated to projects for my art courses. Towards the end, I even felt resentful of my fine arts practice, because the results seemed so impractical and useless compared to the things I made sewing or knitting (not that I truly believe art is pointless, but...the art I was making was pointless). Anyways, I plugged away at my various interests, finished my fine arts degree, then decided to get outta dodge.

Photograph by Corrine Day, i-D magazine from early 2000s
Like so many Canadian anglos living outside of Quebec at the time, I decided I had become too cool for the town I was in and decided to move to Montreal. I packed one pair of jeans, three thrifted t-shirts (with wolves and motorcycles on them, natch!), a coat that proved to be woefully inadequate for Montreal winters, and caught the Greyhound east. I also brought my sewing machine and serger, both of which took a nasty beating during the trip, but still worked on arrival. Like most transient people my age, I wound up working in a call center and going to shows (mostly music or "art", often involving overhead projectors). My income was so low that I don't think I bought one single solitary item of new clothing while there, except for socks: everything was either thrifted or bought off ebay. I had a million roommates, started a quilt I never finished, acquired way too many vintage sewing patterns, experienced one terrible relationship, drank too much, and came home after two years.

Freja Beha Erichsen, photographed by Cass Bird
Once back on the West Coast, I decided to get serious about a lot of things: I worked two jobs to make ends meets, went back to school to get my teaching degree, cut out the excessive drinking, and ended the remnants of my awful Montreal relationship. I also got way more serious about making clothes: I realized that for all those years, I had considered myself a knitter and sewer of garments, yet I didn't really have a single piece of finished handmade clothing in my closet. So I started to learn more about fabric, researched patterns beyond the Big Four, got my sewing machine tuned up, and set to work. I did the same thing with knitting: I found some pattern magazines and companies that were more in line with my tastes than the more mainstream sources, spent some time learning about different fiber types and yarn weights, and tried to learn new techniques at a rate that was manageable for me.

I'm now 35, and have been back on the West Coast for about eight years. I have a great job as a teacher, and for the first time in my life, I also have the time, space, and income to support my interests (sewing, knitting, being more responsible and ethical about things I need but can't make). I've slowly taken on a lot of projects that would have seemed impossible to me even five years ago (coats, button-down shirts, jeans), and my taste in clothing has evolved as well. This is probably the first time in my life that my sartorial choices are not linked hard and fast to whatever subculture or music I'm currently into, and while that can be a bit disorienting at times, it's starting to work (all part of getting auld, lol!).

Anyways, that's a whole lot of my life in one long-ass blog post. Please share something about yourself in the comments if anything resonates/inspires/helps!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Happy feet

My Poppy Barley Foxhunt boots, bought last year
I've come to realize that while an entirely handmade wardrobe is no longer the stuff of fantasy for me, one thing I will never be able to make for myself is footwear (unless some generous and extremely wealthy patron would like to send me to one of these awesome sounding workshops in London). Since I try my best to make sure that anything I can't make myself is ethically made, this has led to a lengthy and somewhat frustrating search for shoes and boots that are not made by companies with inhumane labour practices. Luckily, there are more and more options for people seeking ethically made footwear, and I've compiled some info on the companies that, given an unlimited shoe budget, I would be most likely to buy from.

Before I begin, let me just say that none of these companies have asked me to mention them (this list is purely the result of my own obsessive internet quest), and that with the exception of Poppy Barley, I don't have any experience actually ordering from these companies. This is really more of an FYI list for anybody thinking of checking out some ethically made shoes, without having to slog through a cyber swamp of garbage.

Also, a quick note on ethical shoe business models: while there are a few domestic shoemakers on this list, most of them make use of what I would call a responsible outsourcing model. For example, a company might be Canadian, but the shoes are made in Peru. The big difference between this business model and the kind used by a company like Nike is that even though the shoes are made in another country, the manufacturing is kept in-house, rather than sub-contracted out to unregulated factories. This (hopefully) means that workers are paid better wages and work in safer conditions.

Ok, if you're still with me, let's look at some damn fine shoes (all photos copyright of respective company)...

From top left, clockwise: Chukka boot, Smoking shoe, Austin shoe, Ecuador Huarache
Company: Nisolo Shoes
HQ: Nashville, TN
Manufacturing: Peru

These guys offer a pretty decent range of styles for all seasons, although they don't yet offer any tall boots. There's a lot of detailed info about their manufacturing process under their "about" section.

From top left, clockwise: no longer available, Adriana Coco, Paloma shoe, Cameron Oxford

Company: Fortress of Inca
HQ: Austin, TX
Manufacturing: Peru

A mix of basic and not-so-basic styles, similar in aesthetic to some of the Nisolo shoes. Lots of info about their manufacturing process, and they offer free domestic shipping (flat rate shipping everywhere else).

From top left, clockwise: Caramel Nomad bootie, Lalibella loafer, Mist suede Nomad bootie, Accent loafer

Company: Sseko Designs
HQ: Portland, OR
Manufacturing: Uganda, Ethiopia
Sseko got their start making ribbon sandals (which aren't really my thing, tbh), but it looks like they've started to branch out into other styles. Their business model is meticulously outlined on their webpage, and is quite an interesting read: the company employs women during the time between high school and university, and matches their savings in the form of scholarships. There's a lot more to the story, and I would encourage you to check it out!

Left: Sabah shoes, right: Mohinder women's flats

Company: Sabah
HQ: New York, NY
Manufacturing: Turkey

Company: Mohinder
HQ: San Franciso, CA
Manufacturing: India

Both of these companies were the result of traveler's epiphanies, and both are committed to supporting the local economies and traditional methods of their shoemakers. The Sabah shoes only come in one style, but you can get them in virtually any kind of leather and colour you can think of. Mohinder shoes currently come in 2-3 styles, but others appear to be in the works.

Left: Plain clogs, right: Halter top clogs

Company: Sven Clogs
HQ: Chisago City, MN
Manufacturing: USA

For some reason, clogs are the one kind of shoe that continues to be produced domestically. These guys have a range of styles and heel heights, although most of their closed-back clogs are only available in mid/low heels. They do, however, have an awesome closeout section where you can get their clogs at seriously reduced prices.

From top left, clockwise: Slip-on oxford, Chelsea boot, Feminine slipper, Hacienda boot

Company: Poppy Barley
HQ: Edmonton, Alberta
Manufacturing: Mexico

Yay, some Canadians! Poppy Barley are one of the few companies listed that offer some honest-to-goodness tall f/w boots. They also offer custom sizing options, so whether you need adjustments for different sized feet or need a particular calf width, they can do it all!

Left: Ngola boot, right: Sogal shoe (shade no longer available)

Company: Oliberté Shoes
HQ: Oakville, Ontario
Manufacturing: Ethiopia

More Canadians! These guys boast that they are world's first fair trade certified footwear manufacturing company, and offer lots of production info on their website. Stylistically, they are more rugged than the other companies on this list, and I personally prefer their men's shoe line.

All styles from the Taua line

Company: Veja
HQ: France
Manufacturing: South Brazil

Ethically made sneakers are truly hard to find, and Veja offer not only a wide range of modern styles, but also complete transparency regarding their manufacturing process (including the challenges they continue to face). They also offer free international shipping on international orders over 150 EUR.

From top left, clockwise: Armelle shoe, Ella bootie, Céleste boot, 1/3 Gardian bootie

Company: La Botte Gardiane
HQ: France
Manufacturing: Villetelle, France

La Botte Gardiane is a French boot making company, although they are also well-known for their sandals. All shoes are made domestically, and they offer a wide range of styles with options for customization. They also offer (beautiful) tall boots:

Left: Cavalière City boot, right: Elloa boot

Finally, a quick word of caution: when compiling this list, I made an effort to choose companies that are transparent with regards to their manufacturing. Most (if not all) of these companies cite ethical manufacturing as a primary part of their business mandate and strive to provide some kind of proof of ethical practices (unlike some global companies that make bland statements about commitments to labour standards without offering anything to back them up). Still, without actually visiting a manufacturing facility, we can never be 100% sure of the conditions people are working in. So if you have questions about a company, ask them! The more we require companies to care about the conditions and lives of their workers, the better for everyone!

I realize this list is far from comprehensive, and am hoping that it can continue to grow. To that end, if you know of a company that produces ethical footwear and has a similar aesthetic to the ones shown here, please leave a link in the comments section!

Hope this helps :)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Oshima with the dust off...

Brooklyn Tweed: I can't quit you babe (oh god, someone plz get my classic rock reference/why am I such a dork?)
What we have here is some major fall cleaning, my friends: a sweater so auld and ancient that to my eternal shame, I no longer remember what yarn I used to make it (!). I actually finished this some time last summer, blocked it, wore it, even took pictures of it, but completely failed to get off my ass and post something about it. So in an effort to get all the woolly skeletons out of the closet, I present to you my fashionably late Oshima sweater!
  If memory serves, this was a relatively easy knit, with the occasional challenging bit. The brioche stitch chest and shoulder sections were especially attention-demanding, although exhilarating to see unfold. I actually put this project aside at one point, a few rows into the brioche part on the front: when I finally picked it up again, I ripped those first few rows to start afresh, rather than try to puzzle out where I was. I also seem to recall having some trouble with the increases on the collar piece, one of which remains a larger-than-it-shoulda-been hole (shameful!).

The only mods I made to this project were to knit the body an inch or so longer, and to give it a split hem. I found the arms excessively long (unusual, given my gorilla limbs), but fixed this by rolling the whole cuff up rather than doubling it over itself. I *may* have also sized down a needle when I knit the collar, cuz I remember thinking I wanted it to have some structure rather than just flop around but...who even knows (sorry!)?
Anyways, I do apologize for the lack of useful info in this post. What I can say with absolute conviction is that I really love this sweater, and wore it to bits last winter. In fact, it's one of the few sweaters I've made recently that will be given a place in this year's winter wardrobe, mainly because it's so damn comfortable! I also love the subtle detail of the directional brioche rib around the collar and shoulders: it's interesting without being all COMPLICATED-CABLES-IN-YR-FACE about it...not that there's anything wrong with that!

Well, this completes my knitterly housekeeping: onwards to fresh projects!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Back again...

Top, left to right: cabled Relax, BT Dunaway scarf. Bottom, left to right: BT Bellows cardigan, BT Ludlow wrap.

Well, here I am, skulking back like a runaway cat. The maintenance of this blog has caused me more existential angst than I care to admit to, but I can say that I've gone back and forth on pulling the plug completely several times this spring/summer. So what's the big deal?

It honestly just became a bit too much work: re-arranging my bedroom every time I needed to take pictures, ass-numbing hours spent Photoshopping said pictures when they turned out crappy, agonizing over clever things to write about each project, uploading each project to Ravelry/Burdastyle on top of the blog, etc etc. Anyone who maintains a blog must have experienced these particular pains in the ass at some point, as well as having asked themselves "why frickin' bother?" on numerous occasions. As I was finding it harder and harder to answer that question, I decided to take some time away.

So, why am I back again? I don't even know. I still don't have any real answers to why this space needs to be, but I don't feel ready to give up on it altogether. I still have some projects to share, and after freshening things up a little bit, I decided to give it another lease on life.

We'll see where and how it goes...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Rainy Day Ondawa

Ah, what to say about this project? Where on earth to start? Every single part of it was a joy: the excitement of seeing the pattern when it first came out, picking out the yarn, knitting that amazing cable chart, pulling it on for the first time when the seaming was all done...from start to finish, it was totally rewarding (and I haven't even worn it out head's going to explode when that time comes, lol!).

I suppose you want some details, so: this is Ondawa, a pattern from Brooklyn Tweed's fisherman knits-inspired fall 2014 collection. Also, I did not knit this with Loft. Remember when I was super excited that my LYS had started carrying Brooklyn Tweed yarn? And yet, I seem to be doing whatever I can to avoid actually using it! I don't know what my problem is (that's a lie: it's money!), but I chose to make this instead with Hikoo's Kenzie (a blend of merino, nylon, angora, alpaca, and silk noils). I have a feeling the gauge is slightly bigger than actual Loft, but don't know this for sure because once again: pas de gauge swatch! Not that it matters a whole lot, because I made the second smallest size and it's meant to have quite a bit of ease.

And since we're talking about sizing, I should probably mention some of the weird stuff I did to get the fit I wanted. I didn't particularly want a crop top, mainly because I didn't want to have to wear something underneath it, so I added two more repeats of the central cable. I also didn't want to be swimming in it (19 inches of ease, wtf?), so made a much smaller size than the pattern recommended. And then (because why stop there?), I also made the shoulders wider than the hem when I blocked it. And after all, it fits pretty swell!

This is probably the second most challenging project I've attempted after Exeter, but it's not actually difficult: there's no in-pattern shaping, the cables are all clearly charted, and you're basically just knitting four rectangles. So maybe challenging is the wrong word...ambitious, maybe? Impressive? Then again, I'm always impressed when I do something besides stockinette, so it's good to raise the bar a little now and then.

Oh, and almost forgot the best part: this was done entirely sans cabling needle! I kinda hate the whole "slip 3 stitches to a cable needle and hold in front/back, knit whatever from left needle, tear your hair out cuz this is taking so long, etc etc". Soooooo, I looked up how to cable without the fuss of an extra needle in the way, and found a couple of tutorials. Basically, you re-arrange the stitches on your left needle so that they're sitting in the order you need to knit them in. Some folks would probably find this more of a pain in the ass than just using a cable needle, but not me! Especially when you're cabling every five seconds (sometimes just a single stitch), like in this pattern. So yay, learned something new!

There are actually quite a few Ondawas in progress on Ravelry right now, and I'm really looking forward to seeing more of them as finished projects. If you have one in progress and have any questions, feel free to ask!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Rusty Slade

So, part of the reason I finally got off my ass to post my Ivory Laurie tee is because I actually really wanted to post this guy...and since I'm wearing the Laurie tee with it in the photos I took, it made sense to show it first (kind of?). In truth, this is my second Slade cardigan (first is still languishing somewhere unblogged, because...yup, laziness!): these are so quick and lovely to knit up that before I was finished that first one, I started up another. While the first was done in a typical-for-me tweedy charcoal hue, I thought I'd cut loose a bit with a pop of colour (to use a perennially annoying fashion term), and acquired some more of the same Japanese Maple Cascade 220 that I used for my Rusty Setzer cowl.

I've kind of gotten in the habit of automatically substituting Cascade 220 for Shelter in my mind whenever I see it in a Brooklyn Tweed pattern (cuz I'm cheap), but in fact I think it is ever so slightly thinner than Shelter. I say this because I knit both my Slades in the same size (41" bust, second size from smallest), but the first I did make in Shelter and the fit is a bit roomier. I was originally aiming for something a bit more oversize, and figured that this being a man's pattern, I only needed to worry about not making it TOO big. With this assumption in mind, I chose a size that had a smaller arm circumference and pretty much ignored all the other measurements, which I might not repeat if I make a third version.

After sewing the arms into my first Slade though, I noticed that the part where the top of the sleeve met the shoulder seemed really big all around. I then embarked on a little sweater surgery: I took apart the seam, and frogged the top of the sleeves quite a few inches. I left off the last arm increase before the shoulder shaping, then knit fewer rows for the sleeve caps (I'm sorry I can't be more specific than that, I seem to have lost my damn notes!). Then I put the whole thing back together...and since I sort of knit the two Slades simultaneously, I had to do the exact same thing with this one (yoiks!).

The rest of the knitting and seaming on this sweater is so simple that I didn't mind having one slightly weird mod to deal with. The only other issue I had was I made the neck ribbing band two short...on both...and blocked them before noticing. When it finally dawned on me that they looked a little off, I went back to the pattern and stared at the schematic like an idiot for 20 minutes trying to find a measurement for the neck band, only to find it much later buried at the end of the neck band instructions (it's 6", suckah!). So I had to unpick the cast off edge, carefully pick up aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall those stitches, and add about three more inches of ribbing to each...and there is nothing more awful than going back and adding more ribbing when you thought you were finished with the damn stuff.

However, all worth it in the end! I do need to block the ends of the neck band of this one again, because they have a tendency to lift up at the hem, but I do love a simple, comfortable, and easy to wear knitting project. I especially love the colour of this one: the perfect warm, heathery fall shade to snuggle up in on those cold days when your soul shrivels at the thought of braving the elements :)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ivory Laurie

Here I am, late as usual, and still milking my summer projects for all they're worth. This one is a particular treasure, because it's everything that this project was supposed to be, but better! For starters, it's made of jersey (possibly bamboo?), so I did not have to wrestle with the additional fitting issues inherent in a woven fabric. Also, I did not have to make a single pain-in-the-ass modification! Yes, I did add 2 inches or so to the hemline, and I also substituted the Grainline Hemlock neckband for the foldover pattern neckline, but those mods were easy as pie compared to the Sisyphean undertaking that was the pleated Salme tee.

I made a straight size 40, which is precisely what the size chart told me to make, and it fits perfectly. The pleats were relatively easy, since I used a piece of rigid paper to help keep them straight (and since I'd already had massive amounts of practice). It's a pretty casual top, all things considered, but I usually wear it on days when I need to look like a "nice" teacher at school (as opposed to one who fell out bed and may or may not be wearing the same jeans as she did the last four days).

As you can maybe tell, Named Patterns are rapidly turning into my Brooklyn Tweed of sewing pattern companies: I don't think I've ever come across a pattern company where the sizing was so spot on for me, and I love that they release whole collections at a time (really looking forward to SS 2015, ladies!). If you haven't looked them up already, do yourself a favour and do so now!

On a completely different topic, does anyone else have a really hard time taking decent rear-view shots of their sewing/knitting projects? I can't believe how strangely I have to contort myself in order not to appear hunchbacked...and yet it looks normal in the what do I look like the rest of the time, lol?

Anyways, I have a pile of sweaters I'm finishing up, so hopefully there will be some woolly goodness on here soon!

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Ok, sneaking this in because I can't face the shame of not having at least one teeny tiny post this month: here is another version of ye olde trusty Hemlock, already much used by me and so very many others. I've already waxed amorous about this pattern, so really, all there is to say about this top is maybe a few things about my mods and the fabric. Look closely now...closer, dammit!

Why, is that a high-low split hem? How annoyingly on-trend and not innovative at all! Still, I have to admit that I felt pretty clever making that change, and have since really loved this shirt to death. I do like the look, and it's pretty subtle overall, although the one thing they never tell about a split hem is that it can create that dreaded bell shape in a top (bell shape...ugh!).

As for the fabric, I ordered it forever ago with a bunch of other stuff from Girl Charlee, and it was definitely a bit of an impulse buy. I liked the slightly tweedy look of the gray stripe, but when it arrived, I was more excited about the other fabrics than this weird terry knit stuff. I was basically like "I guess I can make it into a muscle tee or something, lol", and left it to languish on the back of my stash shelf. Then I saw some picture somewhere on the internet that was basically a high end version of Hemlock in a very similar fabric, so my scrappy self got to work. And I love it! Sooooooo comfortable...and easy...and me :)

Anyways, I'm hoping to be a better blogger, but work has kicked my ass a little these past few weeks/months, leaving me tired and cross-eyed in the evenings (in a good way, really). See, the teachers union in BC was on strike from the end of June until three weeks into September, which was both frustrating and terrifying by turns. I didn't mention it on here because it didn't really seem like the appropriate space to go into the politics of my job, but suffice to say it was an incredibly stressful time for me (as well as for students, their families, and my fellow teachers). I am so glad and relieved that it is now over, but it meant that the back-to-school chaos that we usually walk into at the beginning of September was even more intense, what with the first three weeks of the school year lopped off. This isn't a complaint, just a bit of FYI and an explanation as to why I've been a little AWOL :)

So there you are...hopefully I'll be posting again soon. I've still got a backlog of summer projects to get through, plus some new ones on the way! Fall knitting and sewing is always my favourite, so I'll be sharing some more soon...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Archer: Blue x 2

Am I the last person in the sewing blogger-verse to have made a Grainline Archer shirt? It sure feels that way. I was super excited about this pattern when it was first released, then even more excited to put the pattern together and figure out what style I wanted to make and what fabric to use. At some point I remember seeing an Instagram photo of a colour-blocked version that Jen (of Grainline) had made, and decided that I would attempt one myself. However, all that initial excitement resulted in a kind of creative implosion, because the prepared pattern languished under a bunch of other patterns in a neglected corner of my sewing room for quite some time before I got around to giving it any love.

As we all know, there comes a point when the UFO will NO LONGER BE DENIED. In the case of this shirt, that moment came some time this past July. I finally got it together to figure out the necessary modifications for the colour-block panels before cutting out the fabric. Now, was it a smart thing to do, this altering of a new-to-me pattern on the first go? Probs not! In fact, I had to cut the bottom panels twice and adjust the top panels because the first time the proportions didn't look right (bottom panel needed more height). It wasn't the hardest thing ever, but it was a little challenging. I had to be extra careful when sewing the bottom and top panels together because if the seam allowance had been off even a little, it would have looked wonky (especially around the front button band). Thankfully it came together reasonably well, and once that part was nailed down, the rest felt like pretty smooth sailing!

The fabric I used for the bottom panels is a navy blue tencel, and the fabric I used for the top is actually leftover chambray bedsheet from this top I made two summers ago! I kind of love the fact that cost-wise, this thing was only about $25.00 to throw together (including the pattern). It was kind of tricky deciding what to do for the buttons, but in the end I chose to match them to the darker fabric, which looks fine. Also, I used this totally awesome collar turning technique to get really good collar points!. I used to be slightly terrified of collars (and pockets, come to think of it), but I think the key is having a good pattern and some trustworthy techniques under your belt.

The *only* thing that's a bit of an issue with this shirt is the size. For some dumb reason, I cut out a size 8, even though I'm actually a size 10 in this pattern. And upon closer comparison of a favourite shirt with the finished Archer measurements, I found that I probably should have cut out a 12 to get the slightly oversize fit I like in a button-down shirt. Yoiks! It's not too small by any means, it's just a slimmer style than I had envisioned, which is FINE, because I can only be a Sloppy McScruffers so much of the time.

Well, that's it for this guy. If anyone wants any tips on making their own colour-blocked version of this shirt, do make your queries via the comments. It's actually fairly easy, and a fun variation on an already great pattern :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

All Things Knitwise...

photo copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood
Confession time! I am really not a summer person. This might have to do with being born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where summer can feel more like a dirty rumor than a dependable fourth season, or it might simply have to do with a personal intolerance to heat and seeing humans in shorts. Who can say? What I do know is that I always view the approach of autumn with a sense of relief and anticipation (relief because I can stop cycling through the only three summer appropriate tops I own, and anticipation because FALL KNITTING!). True to this last statement, there's been a veritable deluge of great fall/winter patterns popping up on Ravelry recently, including the highly anticipated fall 2014 collection from Brooklyn Tweed.

This feels like the Brooklyn Tweed collection I've always wanted: it's definitely sweater heavy, and beautifully inspired by traditional fishermen knits (think lots of gorgeous cables). It's great to see how the different designers have interpreted and used traditional cable motifs to come up with patterns that have a modern heirloom feel to them. As usual, I've chosen a few favourites to share, but the whole collection is literally perfection and you should go drool over it now!

photos copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

A few of my faves:

Top left: Hawser, by Jared Flood.
Top right: Bellows, by Michelle Wang.
Bottom left: Rowe, by Michelle Wang.
Bottom right: Docklight, by Julie Hoover.

My absolute love-at-first-sight/I-may-cast-on-tomorrow favourite is the Ondawa sweater (Michelle Wang, again!), and is pictured at the top of this post. IT IS PERFECT. I described it to a friend as being like a cabled version of Relax, and I cannot wait to sashay my way through winter draped in its fisherman fierceness!

So the folks at Brooklyn Tweed have clearly been busy, but they're not the only ones:

photos copyright Susie Haumann
Susie Haumann has also released a beautiful new collection, called "Let's Tweed", full of typically simple and beautiful designs (the above two are Houndstooth and Tweeded, respectively). It's only available in Danish thusfar, but hopefully we'll start seeing English translations at some point.

Finally, I wanted to mention (for the benefit of anyone who may not be aware) that Karen over at Fringe Association is organizing a KAL featuring the Amanda sweater (pictured above). My understanding of the concept is that the knit-along is pretty open (you don't necessarily have to knit Amanda, it could be another fishermen-esque design). It sounds pretty cool and flexible, and I might just use it as an excuse to start the Ondawa sweater before I'm truly finished my other UFOs.

Aaaaaaaaaand, since this post has dealt largely with fishermen knits, I will leave you all a parting gift: a young (and gorgeous!) David Gilmour snuggled up in an aran sweater (also gorgeous!).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Lady Gray

Ok, summer project blog-aggeddon is officially underway! As I mentioned in my previous post, my summer sewing/knitting consisted largely of wearable basics, which are great for the everyday wardrobe, but can be less than mind-blowing to read about. With that in mind, I decided that my first summer project post would feature one of the more interesting garments of the bunch, so here she is: Erica Schlueter's "Bohemian Tee" from the spring/summer 2014 edition of Knit.Wear magazine.

Now, I don't normally go in for fancy knit stitches, because having to pay attention to my knitting prevents me from being able to freely gawk at whatever dumb movie I've sitting in front of (it also makes drinking while knitting a more hazardous activity than usual...not that I'd let that stop me!). But this top was just small enough that I figured I could handle the agony of sober, movie-less knitting without completely losing it. And it was worth it!

The knitting went pretty smoothly overall, although I did have that weird "I-don't-know-if-I'm-doing-this-right-but-it-looks-ok" feeling pretty much the whole time I was working on it. I LOVE that it looks like crochet without actually being crochet, because if it WAS crochet a) I wouldn't have been able to make it, and b) it would look even more like a doily than it actually does. Speaking of the doily effect, I very seriously considered making this in a much lighter colour before choosing this medium gray, and I'm so glad that I didn't go ahead with my original plan, because it would have been a little too Ye Olde Dishrag for me.

The only real modification I made was to the length of the body: the original pattern instructs you to knit five repeats of the wheel pattern, which could only look right on someone who is under 5'6" and never stands up. Since I'm 6'0" and stand up on a fairly regular basis, I decided to add two more repeats of the wheel pattern, thus saving the world from the unnecessary sight of my eye-searingly pallid midriff.

The yarn I used is Sandnes Garn's "Duo", which is a cotton/merino blend. I'm not sure whether it's the stitch or the yarn, but the top does feel a wee bit heavier than it's probably supposed to, being a summer top and all (doesn't actually bother me though, since I'll probably get more wear out of it this way!). I made the smallest size, but blocked it pretty aggressively so that the wheel pattern would flatten out and the fabric would open up a little. The tranquility stitch used for the greater part of the body does create a bit of a bias slant, so the top did look weirdly crooked pre-blocking (it straightens out nicely though).

What else? It's a bit see-through, but not horribly so. You could easily wear a camisole under it, but I usually just settle for a nude bra (scandalous!). It's been really fun to wear so far: I like that it isn't SO bohemian that it veers off into being too casual or sloppy. And truly, this was the perfect sized project to learn some new, challenging stitches, and spread my knitterly wings a bit.

Now that it's done though, it's back to beer and stockinette :)

Monday, September 1, 2014

A New Record


Holy crap, I made a lot of stuff this summer. In fact, I can honestly say that the title of this post is not merely a snarky reference to my lack of regular blog updates, but in fact a very true statement about my sewing/knitting output these past couple of months. I have truly never produced as many finished garments in such a short time span. For real. EVER.

And the best part? Every single one of them turned out wearable.

Now, full disclosure: some of the knitted pieces were only finished this summer, as most of the actual knitting had been accomplished over the course of the spring. Still, still, I am extremely pleased and proud of having so many completed garments added to my wardrobe. I think part of the reason I'm so happy about these projects is because there's a good solid range represented: there's something for each season, and while most of them are pretty functional basics, there are a few more interesting pieces too. There's even a few garments in there created for the express purpose of being lazy and doing nothing all day! Truly a well-rounded collection...

I'm planning on doing a post on each of these garments over the course of fall, but for now, it's enough to have finally updated this poor neglected blog. I hope you've all had a good summer, and I look forward to being around a bit more in the weeks ahead!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Bite of BT

All pictures copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood AND USED WITHOUT PERMISSION, SO SHHHH!
I wasn't expecting to do a post tonight, so forgive me if what follows is unpolished/incoherent/lacking wit...but those sly, secretive sneakypants over at Brooklyn Tweed have just dropped Wool People 7 on us, and I couldn't not blab about it. See, I had a *feeling* this was brewing, and freak that I am, have been diligently (so as not to say obsessively) checking both Ravelry and the BT blog for any hint of a new collection. I may have even uttered some expletives out loud, to my computer, when the release of aforementioned new collection was deemed to be not happening fast enough (maturity: qu'est-ce que c'est?). Happily, it's here now, and we can all heave a sigh of relief and admire the goods.

As usual, I've picked the simplest, most pullover-y of the bunch as my personal faves, but in a *shocking* twist, I've also taken special note of a very long scarf...a very long garter stitch scarf...knit with Loft (reaches weakly for smelling salts).

Here are some credits:

Left: Vector scarf, designed by Tanis Lavallee
Upper right: Natsumi sweater, designed by Kazekobo
Middle right: Yane sweater, designed by Tokuko Ochiai
Bottom right: Devlan sweater, designed by Bristol Ivy

At risk of being a "Judgey Janet", I have to say that once my current UFOs are all dealt with, I will most likely turn to BT's Winter collection from this year before hitting up any of these new patterns. I'm still really excited about that collection, and haven't had the time to make a single sweater from it yet, so...I love this one too, but it's going on the back-burner, please don't kill me.

I for one, am quite pleased to have three more simple, classy pullovers with interesting details to add to my already infinite list of simple, classy pullovers with interesting details to knit. Thanks, BT!

And in parting, can we all agree that the true star of this collection/photo shoot is this lady and her hair? So lovely!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gingerbread Blair

The shirt so nice, I made it twice (lol)! As predicted, I made another Blair top, and I think I love this one even more than the first. It's always great when you've made a pattern before and know what to expect (in this case, easy sewing and awesome fit): it's even better when you choose a much-loved fabric in a great new colour (this is the same kind of double-faced knit I used for my colour-block Hemlock, and it is soooooo soft and drapey). In this case, the right side of the fabric is a beautiful shade of warm gold that can best be described  as "gingerbread dough" (which, btw,  is totally not done justice by these photos). The back side is a plain black , which I think adds more depth to the gingerbread colour on the other side than if it were white or any other light colour. Not exactly a spring colour, but so rich and fun to wear...!
As mentioned above, the fit of this top is great...however, the neck finish on the original pattern didn't really work that well for me last time, so I simply used the neckline and neck band from Grainline's Hemlock tee on this version, and it turned out much better imo.

Anyways, I already blabbed a bunch last week about how great Named patterns are, so I won't bore you to death this week with more of the same. However, I can tell you that since making these Blair tops and beginning work on their Jamie jeans, I have already added a few more of their patterns to my list of future makes (I am especially temtped by the Leini dress, which is ridiculous because I am essentially anti-dress, but I guess hope springs eternal or something?). Anyways, I hope to see a lot more finished Named projects around in the near future :)