Thursday, May 05, 2016

sewing for kids

Since my last post, I have been sewing up a storm and knitting a bit, too. Unfortunately, I've had very little time to devote to photographing my projects (aside from some hurried snapshots on Instagram here and there), so you'll have to wait for the eye candy. To give you an idea of what I've been up to: I made some crazy pants and knit some crazy socks, sewed a few summer basics for Anya, knit a hat I won't need for months, started more socks that are rather boring me to tears, printed out a stack of pattern PDFs from Seamwork Magazine to make someday (I'm a subscriber!) and bought a jeans pattern (a couple, actually - this one and this one and this one and I also really want to try this one but I think some self-restraint is in order) that I do not yet have the gumption or brain space to start. But I will very soon, I think, perhaps as a reward to myself for turning in grades next week (just in time for hot summer weather, ha!)

In the meantime, I've had a lot of thoughts about sewing clothes, specifically for kids, and I wanted to write some of those thoughts down here. I have such mixed results when I sew clothes, and thus, I have a lot of mixed feelings about doing it in the first place. Once you throw in opinions and social pressures of the young people in your family, the whole picture gets a lot more complicated.


Let's back up for a minute. Those of us who sew garments for ourselves do so for a variety of reasons: it's fulfilling to make things, it feels good to make an article of clothing that looks and fits just the way you want, you can at least partially avoid taking part in the unethical practices of the fashion/textile industry. I fully admit to having jumped on this bandwagon for many of the same reasons.

I have found, though, that it's all too easy to get swept up in the romantic ideas of a handmade wardrobe, only to be disappointed when something I've spent time, money and effort making doesn't turn out right. I'm slowly getting better at choosing fabric and refining my technique, but I've had several things end up with a goofy fit or sloppy finish or odd buttonhole that I'll only wear as PJs or for garden work. I know that to get better, I have to keep practicing, or possibly even break down and seek outside help (like from a class, gasp). I'm too proud for that.

As frustrating as it can be to botch a project, it's pretty damn rewarding to have a successful garment. It's why I keep doing it. I wear those crazy pants with pride! I know you can't wait to see them in detail.

Here's a preview of the crazy pants. I totally love them.

Back to sewing for kids...I have a 10-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter. A lot of kids' patterns only go up to size 6 or 8. A few go up to size 10 or 12, and it's rare to see any that go beyond. I used to wonder why, but now I understand. I made a couple things for Daniel recently and I have noticed that he rarely wears them. And by rarely I mean never. This morning he tried on a pair of shorts I made him and commented that he might wear them on the weekend, but not to school. This does not really hurt my feelings. After all, most 10yo kids do not want to wear something made by their mom, boys especially.

What do most 4th grade boys wear anyway? My kid lives in nylon mesh basketball shorts and jersey t-shirts. Ask me what garments I'm least excited about sewing, and my #1 answer is nylon mesh basketball shorts. Actually, my true #1 answer would be my own underwear (I know it's a thing, but ...no thanks) and my #2 answer is nylon mesh basketball shorts.

It's different with Anya. She's still young enough - just - that there's not the stigma of wearing something handmade. I also think girls have more leeway in some respects when it comes to clothing choices. This can be both good and bad, of course, but it means that she won't stick out if she goes to school in a pair of handmade city gym shorts.




This evening I decided to make a plain black t-shirt for Daniel using my serger. I've had that serger since I saved up and bought it cheap at Joanns in 2002 or 2003, but until tonight I had only ever used it to finish seams, never to stitch together knit fabric. The t-shirt was an experiment to see if I could sew knits on that machine and I made a black one because black thread was in the machine and damned if I was going to re-thread it (fancy pants sergers thread themselves and I want one, but $$$$ so it's not happening). I used my tried-and-true Flashback Skinny Tee pattern (that one goes to size 14!) and some plain black interlock knit. The thing about sewing with a serger is that the seam is pretty much permanent so there is no chance to fix mistakes.


Since the whole thing is jet black I didn't bother with any close up pictures. Nothing will show up anyway.

Miraculously, I did not screw anything up and the shirt turned out okay. Daniel tried it on and says he likes it. He even wore it to bed, bless his heart. But I dunno...something about it just isn't quite as perfect as it could be. The fit of the sleeves (a tad tight?), the size of the neck (a tad loose?) that would be fine on a younger kid, but not so much on him.

He is such a goofball.


My whole point here is that I'm still undecided on whether it's even worth sewing for kids or not. They grow out of sizes in a flash, they don't always like or agree to wear what you've made (often for legitimate reasons, in my case!), and it just seems like a whole lot of effort and not much reward. It certainly doesn't save any money, especially when half the things I make are duds.

Do you sew for kids? What do you think?



Monday, April 18, 2016

auntie

Today I booked a flight to Boston for a long weekend in May. I'll be visiting my new baby niece, Violet, who is four weeks and a day old as of today, so I'll get to meet her when she's two months old. I can't wait.

This baby girl already has several aunts on her mother's side, but I'm the only one on this side of the family, so it's my job to dote. And dote I shall. I already knit some things I gave my brother and SIL at Christmas time (see this post to refresh your memory!). My parents were visiting us here in Madison when we got the call that V had made her way into the world, so my mom and I put together a care package for them with cookies and soup mix, and I also knit a hat that I'm sure is way too big, but should fit in the fall.

But now that spring seems to have arrived (I say this with caution, because even though it felt like summer today, it was still snowing last week), my craft of choice is sewing. I've got enough planned sewing projects to last me 'til Christmas, but at the moment I just want to make All The Outfits for this baby girl. 



What is it about sewing for babies that I find so irresistible? That they're too young to express opinions about what clothes they're wearing? That everything is so little and cute? That a piece of fabric leftover from another project is enough for a whole outfit because the human who will wear it is smaller than a house cat? That I'm making up for when my own kids were babies and I was far too busy and overwhelmed with new motherhood to sew for them and now I'm making up for lost time?


I'm thinking it's probably all of the above, at least to some extent.

Anyway, now that this post is a few pictures in already, I'll share some details. I bought the Lullaby Layette pattern from Oliver&S and I've made three things from it so far, the first being this purple onesie.

I did French seams throughout except for attaching the sleeves. As you can see, I love my new baby niece, but apparently not enough to change serger thread for sleeve attachment purposes.


I also have some things to learn about installing snaps. I bought the snap setter tool from Oliver&S and even after practicing on scrap fabric, I still screwed up a lot on the actual project. Despite double and triple checking, I put on a whole row of them upside down on the purple onesie and had to pry out a couple of them with my teeth (my parents were horrified when I told them. Mom and Dad, MY TEETH ARE FINE.) 



I didn't get the snaps lined up perfectly, either. But it's in the crotch so the first time it's covered with a diaper blowout I don't think anyone will say "tsk tsk! those snaps don't line up quite right, now do they?"

On the next little onesie I made - this time using double gauze by Cloud 9 Fabrics leftover from another project I will blog about once I have photos - went much faster than the first one. I was still scratching my head over the placket, though, and if you look really closely at the finished object, the pleat there is a little messy.




For this one, I eliminated the sleeves completely and just put a bias edging around the armholes. I love the feel of double gauze, but it does fray something fierce, and I didn't want to deal with hemming those tiny sleeves with such delicate fabric. The gray fabric I used for the bias edging is quilting cotton, so it's more stable and easy to work with.

As you can see, I didn't learn my lesson about the snaps with the first project. These are totally backwards. I didn't want to pry these out, not because I'm worried about my teeth (MY TEETH ARE FINE) but because I knew the fabric wouldn't survive the procedure. 


Three's the charm, right? This last set is a little different. The fabric I used for the top was leftover from a dress I made for Anya when she was 2? or 3? or 4? (I thought I blogged it but I can't find a post in the archives) - anyway, it was a long time ago, back when she tolerated wearing dresses. There wasn't quite enough for the whole onesie, so I made the shirt version and dug up some knit fabric for a matching pair of shorts.


The shorts are a pattern from Brindille and Twig (cuff shorts, found here). This was the first time I'd bought a pattern from there. They do have quite the selection, and these went together pretty fast, but I wouldn't recommend them for someone new to sewing. My main complaint is that when you print out the pattern from the PDF, it's really hard to tell how the pages fit together, and then on top of that, it's really hard to tell which lines to trace for each size. Also the instructions are for using a serger, and I don't use mine for knits (I'm scared to!), so I just used the stretch stitch with a 1/4" seam instead. This actually came back to bite me in the bum when I accidentally sewed the waistband onto the leg cuff and had to spend 45 minutes picking it out with a seam ripper. That stretch stitch is practically indestructible.

In any case, the shorts turned out really cute in the end, I used up more scrap fabric, and I am especially pleased with how well they match the top.


These three outfits are the 3-6 month size, and should fit Violet over the summer. 

The funny thing is, I have a whole pile of fabric I bought brand new just for this baby when we found out she was a girl, but I can't bring myself to cut it up just yet. It's fun finding bits and pieces from other projects, and those new fabrics are big enough cuts they can even wait until next year when she's a toddler (hard to imagine right now).


Sunday, April 10, 2016

impromptu sweater

Spring is coming to southern Wisconsin, but it's coming with a limp. Hard frost night after night, blustery winds, dustings of snow all make it hard to believe the weather will one day be warm and sunny again, but I've spotted crocus and tulips blooming and a few other green things poking up here and there.

March came and went. On a whim, I decided to cast on a sweater, something nice and warm with thick yarn to finish up quick and cuddle up in. It's the Trail Jacket by Hannah Fettig and I'm still wearing it.


This one wasn't in my queue or even on my mind, but Hannah hosted a hashtag on IG (#wewearknitbot) with some sponsored giveaways, so that got her designs in the back of my mind. I had this yarn from a failed test knit (the only one I've botched for Thea, ever, in over a dozen tests for her, and it was all my fault for not checking gauge, that's knitting hubris for you) and I decided to just knit up something quick. 



The yarn is Berroco Blackstone Tweed Chunky. Isn't it the perfect green? Earthy and herby and  tweedy without being too pukey or yellowish.  This green is actually pretty close to my eye color (they used to be brown, but no longer.)


I made two modifications to the pattern. The first was to make the sleeves long instead of 3/4 length. If I'm going to wear a sweater made out of fat woolly yarn with angora in it, I see no point in having sleeves that don't fully cover my arms. 

The second mod was to knit the sleeves flat rather than in the round, as per Karen Templer's suggestion a few weeks ago. I really prefer this method for sleeve knitting, especially on a cardigan. For one thing, the rest of the cardigan was knit back and forth, so my gauge was more consistent when I kept doing that for the sleeves. For another thing, knitting sleeves in the round is quite cumbersome when you've got the whole weight of the sweater there, and going back and forth just feels more comfortable. To get the fit right on the sleeves, I did cast on two extra stitches to have a selvedge for sewing up later, and I had to adjust the decreases just a bit so they wouldn't be bell-shaped at the wrist. I hate hate hate wearing bell sleeves. So floppy. 


As you can see, I'm happy with the finished sweater. I was also one button short, but I didn't want to make a special trip back to the craft store to get another one, and I'll probably never want it buttoned all the way up to the collar anyway, so it's all good.

Our very brief photo shoot in the front yard got a little silly when I tried to climb the crabapple tree.



I know it looks like I'm smiling, but that is a look of panic right before I had to drop to the ground. I'm not so good at tree climbing as it turns out.


Someone decided to photobomb. 



With spring making such a slow start this year, I'm still knitting warm and woolly things. None of it is terribly interesting, but I'll try and do an update of works in progress in the next week or so. I do think that knitting blogs are more interesting when you see the process, not just a parade of finished objects.

But my inspiration lately is really with sewing! I set up that unfinished basement room and it's been really nice to have my own space to work, even if it's rather cave-like. And that baby niece of mine? Yeah, she's going to get some handmade clothes from her auntie pretty soon, whether she needs them or not.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Snapshot: perfection


Last week was such a bummer, but at the end of it my niece was born! I can't wait to meet her. 

I also can't wait to knit all the things for her. I hope her mom and dad don't mind...

Friday, March 25, 2016

sharing...

My Milk Stout cardigan was featured on Julie Asselin's blog today! Go check it out here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

FO: Harvest Cardigan for Anya

I'm just going to be straight up honest here and say that I am having a shitty week. It's spring break for my teaching job and I have spent ALL of it taking care of sick kids (one's a puker, one's a cougher) and frantically re-scheduling rehearsals to make up for days I had to stay home. Stuart even had to take a sick day because I had rehearsals for a concert this week that just could not be postponed. I hear that attendance is down and there is a shortage of substitute teachers, so there must be several varieties of crud making the rounds in the Madison schools. 

I'm also increasingly frustrated with my work situation, feeling very much stuck between a rock and a hard place. It is very, very difficult to find anyone who can identify with my particular circumstances and I feel quite isolated. It could be worse, certainly, but it could also be so, so much better and I don't know what to do to get there.

Now that I've laid all of that out for you, let's look at some knitting, shall we? Here is Anya in her new favorite sweater.




She loves it. She adores it, in fact, and this pleases me very much. In fact, I believe she wore it to bed over PJ bottoms (also handmade, never blogged, but I will eventually) without even wearing a shirt underneath.

This expression is just so...Anya.

Yes, I do have another child, and yes I do love him every bit as much as this one, but he is 10 and not nearly as receptive to handmade clothing. He also tends to make goofy faces whenever I bring out the camera, so he does not make as many appearances here.


The yarn is Swans Island worsted something or other that I bought from a friend of mine who posted it as a destash on Ravelry a few months ago. It was totally an impulse buy, but I saw the lucius teal color and knew Anya would like it. When I brought it home and showed it to her, she got this huge smile on her face and her eyes widened and I knew it was a winner. We did a pattern search on Ravelry and she chose the Harvest Cardigan by Tin Can Knits. Anya still wears her Rhymes With Shawl sweater ALL THE TIME, so when she specifically requested an open-front cardigan, I knew she would wear this one, too.  


Truthfully, this was intended to be a Christmas present for Anya, but I got caught up in a couple of test knits for Thea and Anya's sweater got pushed to the back burner. 



She loves this sweater and I love it too. The color is perfect for her. Perfect. I'm actually getting sick of seeing teal everywhere, but it's a good alternative color for a girl who refuses to wear pink or purple, and the way this yarn is dyed is brilliant. It looks like solid teal from afar, but when you view it close up there are subtle variations that give it depth without looking busy.


It was easy to knit, and would have gone lightning fast if I hadn't kept putting it down for other projects (like the afore-mentioned test knitting). The sleeves didn't work out as written, partly because my gauge got tighter in the round (this happens with me sometimes, but not always consistently) and partly because the decreases are weird in her size. It wasn't hard to fix, though.

I love this girl.
I still haven't found that missing sock I started. I'm kinda bummed about it. Meanwhile, I finished a couple of hats and started a new sweater, all of which I'll blog about eventually. While "my" spring "break" (quotes are intentionally ironic here since none of it really rings true) is wrapping up, the kids have theirs next week and my parents are coming for a visit. So assuming everyone is healthy enough to go to school tomorrow (and I'm not holding my breath, given how things are going this week) I get to spend tomorrow cleaning up and figuring out what the heck we're going to eat over the next week.


Monday, March 14, 2016

new space(s)

This is my attempt at an artsy fartsy photo of homemade pita bread.
I have mentioned in passing that our house underwent a large remodel over the last several months. It was all the things you expect a renovation to be - expensive, disruptive, stressful, 3 months longer than predicted - but it was also necessary. The kitchen, especially, was in dire need of expanding and updating. You can read more about that and see some "before" pictures in this post from last fall on Madtown Mama.

This is what the kitchen looks like now, messy countertops and dirty pans and all:


The change is pretty dramatic, isn't it? I'm thrilled. We're all thrilled! And I'm sure that future out-of-town guests, such as my parents who are planning a trip here next week, will be thrilled not to be crammed into that old tiny eating space any more.

Below is a photo of our dining room. That was added onto the back of the house, and if you look in the upper right corner of the picture, you can see where the outside wall originally was. I think we added about  250-300 square feet in total.


We had a full basement room built under the dining room. It's unfinished, but insulated, and that's where we cooked and ate our meals from Thanksgiving until the week following Valentine's Day. Daniel nicknamed it "the concrete chamber." The Concrete Chamber is a nice big room, if not especially lovely, and I recently decided to commandeer it for my sewing space. 

I did clear this with Stuart first. He had joked about making the room into a man-cave at one point and I wanted to make sure he wasn't serious. (He wasn't).

There are no windows and thus no natural light. The walls are covered with OSB and the floor is just poured concrete. The ceiling is unfinished, though we did have can lights put in so the artificial light is pretty good.

See? Not too pretty.
The important thing is that it's mine. The setup I had before wasn't bad, but it was in the main finished area of the basement, where the TV lives and where overnight guests stay, so I couldn't always use the sewing machine when I wanted to. Now I can go make noise and make a mess and it won't bother anyone!

I found a carpet remnant from when we had the basement finished several years ago and unrolled that in the middle of the room. I also removed all the hardware from the old basement door and laid it across a pair of sawhorses for a work table. This is my favorite feature of the room so far! 


I thought about finding a way to plug the hold where the doorknob was, but it turns out that's a handy place to hang scissors when I'm not using them.


Ordinarily, I would not have had time to do lots of crafty stuff on a Monday, but I was home all day with sick kids. I managed to get some actual work done, after which I puttered around in my new space for a while. I assembled a paper pdf pattern (Lullaby Layette from Oliver&S, in anticipation of my new niece due next week!!!) and sewed up a skirt; the pattern is Everyday Skirt by Liesl Gibson, and now all it needs is the hem.

I confess to feeling some guilt about this. I have yarn that takes up space. I have fabric that takes up space. I have sewing equipment and tools that now take up a lot of space. It all feels so indulgent, almost greedy. I have far more than I need. I don't think I would feel this way if I was making some things to sell or running a creative business, but I'm already running myself ragged with performing gigs and I'm not really the entrepreneurial sort. Essentially, I feel like I don't quite deserve it.

I showed you mine. Now you show me yours! Creative spaces, I mean. Do you have a workspace like a craft room or knitting corner? Where is it? What does it look like? Put a link in the comments so I can have a look!