So I made this pair of disasterpants (they feel worse than they look), immediately rued wasting the fabric, but then got some great suggestions to reuse it and keep it out of a landfill. The one that really grabbed me was KK’s idea – a vest! I had a biggish scrap left of uncut yardage and a strong desire to chop up some jodhpurs, and thus this vest was born.

I’m really a bit tickled by it. I knew from the get that I was unlikely to keep it (my middle is usually warm enough, it’s my ends that need help), but may I introduce Han Solo – After Dark?

I know the camera adds 10°, but it’s not overemphasizing the triangular profile of this vest. It’s like wearing a velveteen pyramid. That’s because I quilted not 1, but 2 layers of batting to each outer layer.

This fabric swallows light, but you can maybe kinda-sorta see I used wavy vertical lines. It was a really relaxing experience; I made a paper guide to keep the lines relatively consistent, but the organic nature meant I didn’t have to be precious about spacing or even notice if I strayed 1/8” from the planned curve. Also, I quilted each piece separately (just the 3 – back and two fronts), and they were all wee and easy to handle. And now, really quite plushy!

Can you tell the back is cut from two pieces, and one is on the cross-grain? It seemed so obvious on the table, but it shows up less in photographs than I expected. I didn’t have enough fabric to fuss about fuzz worry about nap.

I Googled around a bit and decided that rather than buying a pattern to use up scraps, then buying fabric to use that pattern, in a circle, forever, I would try a free pattern. I landed on this Purl Soho design as a base. I started with a size L, but shortened about 4 or 5 inches – a few from the bottom, and a couple more removed horizontally through the armscye. I considered extending the front to overlap or cutting a separate button placket, but a) I was pretty sure I didn’t have enough fabric to pull that off and b) I wanted to make this a no-spend project, and I didn’t have any coordinating buttons to hand. As it turns out, the shape of the neckline as drafted is too high to overlap nicely anyway.

I did pop in some pockets. I didn’t have enough fabric (that’s my vest leitmotif) for patch pockets, so welts it was.

I worried the velveteen + two layers of batting might be too bulky for nice welts, but actually they went in neatly and smoothly. I’ve learned you can play pretty rough with cotton velveteen and it doesn’t mind, so I pressed with lots of steam heat. Also the fabric ate up all my topstitching.

I used and appreciated this single welt tutorial from poppykettle! Unlike hers, however, my pocket interior isn’t self-fabric, but a long rectangle of scrap cotton with a bare facing of velveteen, and my measurements were based on availability rather than any overwhelming design plan or logic.

My lining is composed of a thousand scraps, mostly velveteen but also some leftover corduroy from old mangled overall legs. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough navy to go around the armscyes or face the hem.

Lining the vest, especially contrasted with bias-binding, was delightfully quick. I used a convenient Sarah Kirsten tutorial – special shout-out to her tip to sew the edges of the turning hole down to the edge of the fabric! Wrassling this right-side-out was a bit athletic, and I can’t be certain but I think she saved me from shredding the lining like cabbage.  

My last step was to sew directly over the quilting lines nearest to each front edge, now through all the layers, to de-puff the front somewhat. At this point I wasn’t even using navy thread in my bobbin – it’s purple – and yet it just nestled down into the pile and disappeared. And the vest was done!

And actually, so was this bonus skirt! After ripping out the inseams, I cut off most of the lower legs. Then I sewed the back center seam in a straight line down from the waistband, the front center in a straight line down from the base of the fly, trimmed the excess, serged the edges, turned the hem to my desired length, and ta-da. A new mini. The finished length at center front is 16.25″; the finished length at center back is 18″.

Neither the vest nor the skirt are staying in my closet, but I don’t consider either of them a failure. I made them both to get something out of nothing, and hopefully once they’re swapped or donated, someone will enjoy each piece. Maybe even together, but they’d have to be bolder than me!

Happy February! : )

Pattern: Purl Soho vest

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: L; shortened from the bottom and through the armscye (about 4 – 5”)

Supplies: scrap velveteen and corduroy

Total time: 6.75

Total cost: $0.00

Pattern: refashioned pleated mini

Pattern cost:  N/A

Size: 44 waist (from SisterMag jodhpurs)

Supplies: refashioned jodhpurs

Total time: 1.75

Total cost: $0.00

Olive Morellas

Sometimes my sewing falls accidentally into a vertical schedule; this year, like last year, I shared elastic waist pants in January. Actually it’s the same pattern, the Pauline Alice Morella pants. These are pretty freshly made but they’ve already had quite the workout. READER!! Did you know…IT FEELS NICE TO WEAR SWEATS?

Basically I’ve been pulling these on whenever possible, and not just weekends and evenings. And I can, because they’re my *dressy* sweats. They’re made from the second length of my recent Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece order from Hawthorne Supply Co. I got 2 3/8th yards of this color, olive, and I have over half a yard extra (20.5″ full width!), plus scraps. I cut my waistband in two pieces to maximize the yardage, but even so, whattah savings. I might try to squeeze out a warm tee or something from the remainder. It’s dicey, but it might just work!

I’ve wanted a really cozy pair of winter jimjams for a while, and here they are, but you can go ahead and call these pants a topographical survey because they are finding aaall the bumps. You can see my hems through them (multiple).

In a non-layering season the bum would probably look less busy, but right now I’m wearing an outfit on an outfit (long-sleeved undershirt, fleece-lined tights, then a turtleneck and socks and fleece-lined sweats); it’s 8°F (-13°C!!) so you’re getting whatever the opposite of a Full Monty is. A Cavernous Montgomery. Also, in New England, talking about extreme cold is whining AND bragging. 😎

Even though this fabric is a knit, I treated it like a woven – I used a straight stitch everywhere and sewed my same size unadjusted, 44. The fit is noticeably looser than my cotton/linen pair, surprising no one. Generally this is a good outcome for sweats. Unusually, though, I have too much fullness in the front thighs. So far I’ve led a thigh-forward adulthood, so I was surprised to find excess fabric there in particular! I’m not sure if this is being revealed by the fabric or caused by it.

Either way it’s worth it. These are really, really comfy. They’re one of those “I’ll wear it right off the machine, thank you shopkeep” kind of makes. I did climb out of them long enough to sew over the back waist elastic because it was twisting a lot. Originally, I found an elastic piece of the right width and length in my shoebox of notions (sorry, cookie tins), and I thought it was the fancy non-roll stuff, but boy did it prove me wrong! Happily, topstitching makes it behave itself!

Twist no longer, waistband.

I used different scrap elastic in the ankles; it was the Gallant to my waist elastic’s Goofus, so the ankles remain un-topstitched. Thanks, ankles (thankles).

The cuffs are author’s own, by the way. I cut two rectangles 16.25” x 5” with the stretch going around the leg. Then I folded them in half, attached them and ran some 1.5” elastic through, basically following this waistband tutorial…but on ankles. I did not remove the hem allowance from the pants pattern, so my finished legs are about 3” longer than drafted.

Obviously the main feature of this pattern is its wraparound pockets! I promise you won’t be mad at yourself if you reinforce those corners. After a few wears I found some popped threads, even though I sewed over each corner twice, so I added these Merchant & Mills rivets. Technically they’re bag rivets, but I liked the color.

I had forgotten nearly everything about constructing these statement pockets except that I wanted to add some stitching to the pocket edge, so this time I followed the directions and understitched it. It helps the pocket opening stay neat, though the bag itself still gets rucked up inside the sweatpants’ leg sometimes. Either way I can’t keep my hands out of the pockets so I’m really glad they’re reinforced.

There’s a lot of clipping to the stitching line when making these. My woven pair has survived over a year of washing and wearing, and I’m not very gentle on my clothes, so I’m hopeful this non-ravelling fabric will survive too! They won’t get used in the summer, but I plan on wearing them hard enough for the rest of the winter to make up for that.

Once again I’m a little out of sync with the world; I think people are looking forward to getting dressed up again, but I’ve only just discovered the joys of fleece lining. I’m probably set for sweats for now, but I might add another sweater at some point. In this reporter’s opinion, my winter knits sewing twofer was a success!

Stay warm! 1 month of 2022 down, y’all. 11 to go.

Pattern: Pauline Alice Morella pants

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 44

Supplies: 2 3/8 yards Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece in Olive, Hawthorne Supply Co., $35.04; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 6 hours

Total cost: $37.43

#2 Toaster #2

I recently ordered fabric while chilly.

I’m henceforth going to make all my shopping decisions while chilly. I’m not saying the cold makes my brain work better, just that 4 yards of Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece was EXACTLY what I wanted to sew with in January. I got two lengths, one for a sweater and one for sweats. This first one is called Woodrose. After 4 years, it finally kicked my butt into gear to make another Toaster #2 sweater!

I sewed my original 2017 Toaster from soft, drapey modal French terry. While it didn’t exactly work, I could see it had potential. By the way, Sew House Seven is steadily + reliably updating their catalogue to add sizes up to 34, and I believe the Toaster will be included soon.

When browsing cold-weather fabrics, I saw Kaufman does a French terry now. I picked this color to go with the skirt I made recently. I’m trying to add more variety/warmth/elegance/overall oomph to my winter wardrobe, but even so my clicking-finger hovered over my typical Sienna for a while; maybe next time!

Hawthorne Supply Co. sells fabric by the 1/8 yard, which is terrific, because the pattern calls for 1 5/8 yards; half-yard cuts would have left me with an awkward amount leftover, guaranteed. I shortened the body of the sweater 1.5”, and I have 6” extra selvedge-to-selvedge. I like the finished length, so next time I can order 1.5 yards. Climb back into my pocket, sweet little $1.70! You’re safe now.

I haven’t been working on anything madly complicated lately but this still seemed like a luxuriously tiny number of pattern pieces. Front, back, sleeve, badda-boom. I compared the front and back armscyes, and they are shaped differently as I hoped/expected, but the sleeve itself is vertically symmetrical. What’s that about? It doesn’t affect comfort, so maybe it’s a knit thing.

When I make another Toaster #2, I’ll extend the width of the grown-on neck facing to reach the shoulder seam. It’s like an inch away anyway, max; may as well anchor it there. Missed opportunity. The split mitered hem is a quick, clear, fun part to sew, though! I added a sassy little triangular fold before topstitching the top of the vent allowances.

Construction went quickly, but I spent a solid hour or more at the end of the process just futzing. The front funnel neck looked odd. There seemed to be too much fabric above the bust, or maybe too much width? Maybe some combination of those? I did my usual ‘tug tests’ – pulling the fabric tighter, looser, forward, back, etc., and have concluded that I don’t know much about history biology what a slide rule is for fitting the upper bust, but I know how to show a sweater a good time.

I tried stitching in the ditch to keep the neck facing in place, by hand and by machine; topstitching along the long front and back edge of the facings; making the front neck deeper and shallower; pressing in a crisp edge, pressing it out again; and finally, topstitching a few random sigils to keep everything in place in the best arrangement I could manage.

After a day of wearing, I realized moving my head around an average amount crushes the front funnel neck anyway, and the fit wrinkles either hide inside of the use wrinkles or merge into mega-wrinkles. It’s moot.

Somewhere there’s a fabric with enough body to stand up at the neck and enough drape to move gracefully across the mysterious hinterland of my upper chest, but is it 95% cotton, fleece-lined, and $13.50/yard? Probably not. Weird neck aside, I loved sewing this fabric. It was so cooperative and just beefy enough (also, beefiness will never not hit me as the most hilarious sewing qualifier). I used a stretch stitch on the shoulders, sides, and cuffs, and a straight stitch on the hem, and it was fine with both.

The fabric is quite malleable, but it has a low recovery. This pattern actually calls for 5/8” seams throughout, but I used ¼” seam allowances on the sleeve and side seams, so my S bust graded to a M waist might be more like an M graded to L when all is said and done. I like the balance of the width and the length and I really appreciate that it has a set-in sleeve, as I’m feeling distinctly cool towards drop shoulders lately. I asked Professor Boyfriend what era he thought it was referencing and he Zoidberg-scuttled away because he thought it was a trap, but it’s an honest question. I definitely feel a bit past-y, but I’m not sure when!

I’d love to learn how to read and fix these wrinkles before I make another Toaster #2, but I still like this one. It’s fuzzy inside, actually warm, and the color is different enough from the rest of my wardrobe that it goes with practically anything. You’ll probably see it again in a week or two!

In the meantime, I might go use my actual toaster and make some hot buttered toast. Mmm. Always a good idea!

Pattern: Sew House Seven Toaster #2 sweater

Pattern cost: NA

Size: S bust, M waist, with ¼” sleeve and side seams

Supplies: 1 5/8 yards Kaufman Trainers French Terry Fleece in Woodrose, Hawthorne Supply Co., $24.92; thread from stash

Total time: 3.75 hours

Total cost: $24.92

Time and Money 3

You like numbers? Baby, we got numbers.

If you ever close-read someone’s blog searching for clues about how much they spend on their hobby (“HOW much Liberty lawn went into the bottom tier? IN TER EST ING”) , search no more. I’ve been recording my expenses in detail since 2017; this is my third January with a blog, so my third entry in the series here (here’s 2019, and here’s 2020). My sense was that I had a spendy year but that wasn’t actually so. I bought some pricier fabrics, but also some cheaper ones, which balanced out. I also sewed fewer items overall.

Plus, I’m living the phrase ‘an embarrassment of riches’ – I hadn’t realized quite how generous my friends and family had been until I saw my gift and gift-card total tallied, so now I am blushing but also feeling very loved (and they know what I like!).  

Other people spent around $30 total more on my hobby than me! Eek! I could have thrown my knitted sweater into that pie chart, but I kept that expense separate, as I do the expense of blogging, leading to this discomfiting but not disagreeable outcome.

I spent less than $40 a month out-of-pocket. !!! So little for the amount of fun I had! It’s more like $75 per month when including other people’s money, which was more in line with my sense of my spending, though it’s still a not-too-expensive way to enjoy myself for lots and lot of hours. More on time later.

As always, this represents the lion’s share of my clothing spending. I bought a pair of Docs this year and have been wearing them nonstop since (high recommend!). I also spent around $20 on clothes from Goodwill for my Halloween costume, since they weren’t garments I wanted to sew or keep long-term. I was Messy Neighbor from Untitled Goose Game; Professor Boyfriend was obviously Tidy Neighbor. My real-life neighbors and actual human children spent the evening alternately pretending to be terrorist geese themselves and screaming at our trick-or-treaters to say “HONK” instead of “Happy Halloween”. It was a wonderful evening, well worth the Jackson!

This year’s spending is also lower because I made fewer garments, though at least one took a lot longer than average (my quilted jacket). That jacket represents 49 of my 224 total sewing hours, or 21%.

Over the year I sewed, on average, around 4 1/3 hours per week, or about 1 network drama per day. I sewed the kind of stuff I usually sew!

The oh-so-helpful category ‘other’ includes 1 skirt, 1 jumpsuit, 1 pair of overalls, and 1 set of pajamas. ‘Pants’ is mostly trousers, but also a pair of shorts. This was a high-knits year, partly because I sewed 3 True Bias Marlo sweaters, probably my most successful new pattern of 2021. For the second year running I sewed 0 dresses. That aligns well with how I dress – I’m pretty sure I also wore 0 dresses, Halloween costume excepted. I’m currently inside my new skirt, though. I used to wear skirts all the time and they might be on their way back into my life. We’ll seeee!

I recorded 4 giveaways/refashions this year. First, the bib of my Kwik Sew overalls somehow became mangled in the wash, so I took it off and altered the legs into cuffed shorts, but the center-back lapped zipper sans overall straps/bib made it look like the wearer’s butt was on backwards, so those are adios. My Seamwork Natalie top and McCalls jumpsuit are perfectly functional garments, now hopefully getting more use in other homes. Finally, I am so ready to chop up these breeches. Not in a spirit of vengeance. Vengeance is a pleasant extra. Failure rate: 4/33 projects, or 12%.

12% isn’t terrific, but it is improving. I’d love to get that number under 10%. Heck, I’d love to get it to 0%, but sometimes new stuff isn’t going to work out and I’m not manufacturing spaceship parts here. I can live with 12%.

Time for fabric talk!!

I used cotton for 26/33 projects. Almost 80%. It really IS the fabric of my life! I just divide it into substrates here so the chart is less boring. That denim/corduroy slice? Cotton denim, and cotton corduroy. That oilskin? Treated cotton. Linen/linen blends? Blended with cotton. The wool? Okay, that one’s not cotton. I also used way more polyester than normal (4/33, 12%), all from Sewfisticated, all for low-stakes projects. I wear the heck out of one of those tees and one sweater, but I’m not wild about the other two, and I really don’t like sewing poly (so many skipped stitches!), so I don’t expect to see that number grow. 27% of my projects had stretch; 73% did not (imagine how much more interesting that would be if those numbers didn’t add up. Now THAT would be news).

The average cost per make was around $30, but my actual out-of-pocket per make was around $13.

8/33 projects (24%) used leftover fabric. I approve. I don’t stash, but I do save scraps, and using them up feels good. I’ve instituted one new category for my spreadsheet for 2022: leftover yardage. I’m very interested to see how often I overbuy, and by how much. And then stop doing it!!

33 projects averages out to 2.75 per month, but as always I had seasons with more and less time to sew.

I actually sewed a lot in February, but I didn’t finish the project until March – quilted jacket again! I didn’t sew much in August because we (and everyone else) were trying to make up lost time socially. However, I suspect that I will have some free time this winter. Blergh.

As always, feel free to peruse the whole spreadsheet at your own pleasure, for an EXTREMELY limited definition of pleasure. And if you’ve got data, drop me a link! I love knowing this stuff.

I’m wishing everyone a safe and happy (AND BOOSTED, YOU ABLE PRO-SOCIAL COMMUNITY MEMBERS, YAHOO) new year! And safe and happy new clothes, as desired!

Never Again Into These Breeches

Let’s start with the big questions. What, uh, what are we looking at here?

It’s a pair of navy blue velveteen jodpur-style breeches.

Cool, cool…and why?

Okay so listen, typically I enjoy getting dressed. I like picking a sturdy cotton pant and trying not to forget sunscreen. But I don’t like getting dressed up! I’m bad at it, and I never feel like myself, even if objectively I look gooood, so now I’m trying to bridge that gap with an Event Pant. I was hoping to wear this outfit to our annual, recently reinstated, Christmas party (hence this blouse again), and maybe even to a wedding we’re attending in February.

I lurked this (overpriced) SisterMag pattern for a while, but my recent urge to sew slightly sillier clothes pushed me over the finish line. It was also an excuse to try spray-painting snaps, which I was curious about – it wasn’t madly effective, since they started flaking as soon as I installed them, but I’m glad I tried. Unfortunately that might be the only thing I’m realio trulio glad about.

Immediately post-download I was discouraged by the pattern’s quality. The back crotch curve was so shallow it was almost flat, never a great sign, and there were very few notches anywhere. At least the AI file was unlocked so I could edit the back crotch curve and add seam allowances before printing (you’ll see my adjusted back crotch curve in the diagrams below).

Then, there’s two pieces referred to in the directions – welt piping and a back pocket bag – that don’t have pattern pieces provided. Well okay, I thought, maybe they give dimensions somewhere, they’re just rectangles, but no. I could have measured the flap piece, found a tutorial, and worked it out, but I figured side seam pockets were sufficient in an Event Pant so I skipped them. My back ‘pocket’ is just a flap. Actually, it’s just TWO flaps. One flap per side. Two flaps > one flap!

Calling the direction ‘directions’ is generous, by the way! A sequence of words is provided. It’s Sphinxlike. That didn’t always bother me – I was always going to sew the front fly the way I like to sew front flies, ditto that for the waistband – but I was really confused about the placket on the leg.   

Now I like being prepared. I recently read an article about projector sewing in Threads that included the suggestion “make changes on the fly!” and it gave me chills (every time?? You have to remember your adjustments EVERY TIME??? But the paper remembers!). So using a small handful of denim scraps, I decided to sew a lower-leg muslin.

Good thing, too, because it emerged that not only did the lower-back-leg piece need seam allowance, it needed additional placket allowance on one side, or it wouldn’t be an underlap at all. There were no directions for accomplishing this seam/placket, and I don’t mean there’s bad ones – I mean that step is skipped entirely. But here’s how I eventually worked it out.

1. Add seam allowances to all pieces. I used 3/8”. Also extend the underlap (lower back leg) by ¾”, doubling its original width. Add a fly extension, if desired.
2. Sew together the upper and lower back leg, but stop and backstitch 3/8”* from the outseam edge, leaving the seam allowance free. *Or whatever the width of your seam allowance is.
3. Finish the horizontal seams separately (I trimmed mine with pinking shears).
4. Fold over 3/8”* to the wrong side. Fold ¾” to the right side.
5. Avoiding the unattached seam allowance of the upper back leg, sew across the underlap extension 3/8”* from the top edge.
6. Turn the extension right-sides-out. If you plan to topstitch, wait until you’ve sewn the hem. I recommend turning the corner similarly to above, like in this faced hem tutorial. If you don’t plan on topstitching, the buttons/snaps will hold the layers in place.
7. Stay stitch 3/8”* from the inside corner of the front leg. Clip into the corner, stopping at the stitching line

8. Sew the outseams together, backstitching at the snipped corner.
9. Finish the outseams together, again stopping at the corner.
10. Fold over the top seam allowance of the front leg placket to the wrong side. Fold over edge seam allowance to the wrong side, then again by the width of the placket. The outer folded edge of the front leg placket will be continuous with the outseam line. Again, if you plan to topstitch, sew the hem first. After the inseam is sewn, you can finish the hem as linked above in step 6.

And, the result. Not perfect, but good enough, and worth sewing the scrappy denim version.

I also wanted to make sure the leg wasn’t too snug around my calf (it wasn’t). And then I realized I could put the muslin on my leg, take the measurement from the horizontal back leg seam to my waist, and then check the pattern to see if the leg was my preferred length. And it was.

So in many ways I was prepared. I was not prepared, however, for how violently I hate wearing these.

Maybe the fit is wrong, maybe that calf is supposed to be tight-tight-tight so the bottom leg never shifts at all, but my whole self rejects the way it feels when I sit down and the placket slides over my knee. I don’t know where it’s supposed to go – over? Under? Allemande left? But no matter what, it’s uncomfortable and impractical and it drives me fully flipping bananas. Just to comprehensively justify my rage – like, these are jodhpurs, maybe they’re for sitting on a saddle, not in a chair – I even posed like I was riding a horse (“HEELS DOWN!”) and proved I was, indeed, justified. They were still enormously uncomfortable.

“Ah ha,” you might be thinking. “It CALLS FOR buttons. These are snaps. This sounds like a snaps issue.”


The snaps don’t help, in that sometimes they unsnap themselves and when I bend down to re-snap my right leg a snap on my left leg bursts open, and then I become a first-act romantic comedy heroine trapped in an endless loop. But the snaps are useful, too, in that the only time these pants are remotely comfortable while sitting is when I undo the top two (visibly straining) snaps of each placket and let my knees pop out. Yep. Velvet breeches, a wind on my knees, that was the dream.

So I would like you to scroll up to those ad hoc button placket directions and do whatever the digital equivalent is of throwing them into a fire. Do not make these pants. I am the old sailor. I am Banquo. Heed me.

And the thing that’s really sending me up the wall is that I love the fabric, and it was a gift, and a pricey gift too! And I wasted all this time and money and all these resources! The only fix I can think of is making the pants into shorts, but blue velveteen puffy bloomer shorts??? Do I want those? Does anyone? Or maybe if I rip out the inseams, a miniskirt? I can’t guarantee *I’ll* get more use of it that way, but I’m looking to maximize this garment’s likelihood of finding a new home. To be clear these breeches do not get to be on my body in their current incarnation ever again. I’ve thrown away the pattern!

And this raises another question: what should I wear to that February wedding? Nerts.

Pattern: SisterMag breeches

Pattern cost: $9.06

Size: 44; scooped back seam 1/2″, added 3/8″ seam allowances, plus additional 3/4″ allowance for leg underlap

Supplies: 3 yards Kaufman velveteen in Navy, $56.97, Ryco’s; zipper, Sewfisticated; spray paint, Tags, $4.85

Total time: 8 hours

Total cost: $70.88

Something Unexpected

So, I knit a sweater.

Did I knit it particularly well? No. But did I knit it *quickly*?


I cast on in early November 2020, mindful that we might be going into another lockdown (we didn’t, but I tucked away a couple hobby-acorns for quarantine winter just in case) and I finished it last month, late November 2021. Most of the sweater took me that first year (extremely non-continuously); the sleeves took me the last two weeks. By then, I was VERY ready to be done. I spent 54 weeks as an auto-hostage, but now I am freeee and I’ve learned a lot! These were my starting assets:

Your brains I could knit and purl (in the simplest sense)

Fezzik’s strength YouTube, baby

My steel Access to skilled knitters

Particularly Eloise Narrigan – will it surprise you to hear that in addition to being the toppest-notch illustrator and a brilliant friend, she’s also a meticulous and amazing knitter? I picked the No Frills Sweater pattern for my first project after running it by her. She mentioned that the short rows on the back neck were a promising sign that the pattern would be solid, and I immediately formed a religion around that casual comment and now judge all sweaters by whether or not there’s short rows, and nothing else. Actually, the part of the directions that challenged me the most were those about shaping the short rows, but she did some invaluable translating from knitting pattern to plain English and it turns out it was a simple idea expressed in a way I found confusing (basically, make each row longer than the one before).

I was frightened of reading the knitting pattern, but it was okay. The hardest part was working out which yarn to buy. After lots of back-and-forth math between grams and yards I decided that instead of using two strands of madly expensive yarn, I could use one strand of nice in-budget DK yarn, and I bought 8 skeins of Cloudborn Highland DK (100% wool) in Ocean from Webs. I knit a size M and I have a full skein leftover.

I very nearly bought cute stitch markers, too, but I stifled the urge. In the meantime I used jewelry jump rings. My first, shockingly basic piece of learning: the marker goes on the knitting needle, not the stitch. So that’s roughly the level of ability I started at.  

I want to talk quickly about the two kinds of skills I used during this process, ‘learned’ skills and ‘loaned’ skills. The skills I actually, thoroughly learned while working on this sweater include: the magic loop method. How to join yarn. The inscrutable K2tog tbl. How to weave in ends. How to block a sweater. How to get your boyfriend to help you wind yarn into a ball by telling him it’s what a courtly gentleman would do.

My loaned skills, skills I could perform after (or while) watching a YouTube video, but not on a permanent basis, were a cabled cast-on, joining in the round, left- and right-leaning raglan stitches, German short rows, a backwards loop cast-on (I honestly don’t remember what this one was for), a tubular bind-off, and what ‘pick up and knit’ meant. All those linked videos are novice-recommended – clear, performed slowly, not too chatty.

My missing skills, which are still missing, not available in video format, and pretty fundamental, are: reading knitting. As in, looking at a loop on the needle and understanding whether it’s a knit or a purl stitch, and any other information contained there. And possibly more importantly, ripping out mistakes without going all the way back to the beginning. I can just about pick up a dropped stitch, but that’s it. Often I found my mistakes by knitting past them, then looking at the formed fabric and realizing “that’s a funny spot”, at which point it was already too late for my butterfingers to fumble back. This is why I have one lumpy learner’s sleeve and one pretty good sleeve.

It took me ages to realize I was getting yarn caught on the needle while magic-looping and then knitting the decoy stitches as though they were real ones. Definitely a rookie mistake. On the other hand, knitting anything was going to be a challenge, and I’d rather sail out of a challenge with a lumpy sweater than a lumpy scarf.

Here is my not-so-good armpit! Here’s my better one! Capital ‘I’ for Improving, Lia!

Maybe some wiser eyes can help solve some lingering knitting mysteries. For example: why do the short rows have this feathery texture, and the body of the sweater doesn’t? Knitting is knitting, surely?

Also, how did I manage to switch the ‘right’ side and ‘wrong’ side of the collar halfway through, and how is that a k1/p1 rib HAS a right side and a wrong side? Shouldn’t they be the same? Yet I have tight braids on one side and open braids on the other. I prefer the look of the ‘wrong’ side, unfortunately. Actually I find this k1/p1 rib to be a bit thready and wimpy looking but I’m definitely not at the stage where I can change a pattern. HAHA no no no.

Mysteries or not, it’s done! Finishing was a rush (and also about damn time). I thought weaving in ends was going to be a pain, but I realized triumphantly ‘this is just sewing!’ and it felt quick to me. This sweater had no seams to sew, so once I was done, I was done – except for the 48 hours of cold wet sweater taking up my table, but you’re s’posed to, so I did.

So, like, do I knit now? Um…this is comfy, this is warm, this took me a year and much woe and it made my brain and my fingers creak and it’s a ridiculous way to form a garment and it takes far too long and I’m free now and oh yes I bought more yarn. So, I guess, sort of.

Look for another in about a year!

Pattern: No Frills Sweater pattern

Pattern cost: $6.61  

Size: M

Supplies: 8 skeins of Cloudborn Highland DK in Ocean, $35.71; needles (US 3 16″ + 40” circular, US 6 16″ + 40” circular), $27.52, WEBS

Total time: 11/12/2020 – 11/27/2021 (no way I recorded hours)

Total cost: $69.84

Ivory Patina

As per my plan, I’ve made the short-sleeve view of the Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse.

But this isn’t the slubby rich recycled mahogany silk I had my eye on at all! It’s old rayon!

Ah, old rayon. As shifty as new rayon, but with that classic I-lived-in-your-scrap-box-for-four-years flavor. We’re still without a washer; I was fine casually pre-washing my first Patina blouse’s poplin in the bathroom but my respect for silk might cross the line into fear of silk, and I just couldn’t see myself throwing it into the tub and hoping for the best. So I raided my scraps for something! Anything! pre-washed to sew, which is how I ended up using such an unfavorite fabric here (the unfavorite-ness is also why the scraps have lasted this long).  

This was made from two different rayons – one length was leftover from a blouse I made from fabric purchased at Walthamstow in 2017, and the other length *may* have come from a fabric swap around the same time. They’re not a perfect match, but they’re not bad. The yoke and the undercollar are a slightly brighter shade of ivory, but I can live with that, especially for the price tag (my favorite, the bubble).  

I’d mentioned wanting to take pictures of an alternate facing/yoke construction, but in white fabric without an obvious wrong side, that seemed like a fool’s quest. Luckily it turns out Peter of Male Pattern Boldness has already done it! The neckline of the Negroni shown there is a different shape, but it’s the exact same technique. Here’s the first part, assembling the shirt body and inner yoke/facing unit; and the second part, putting it all together with some very fun and satisfying burrito sewing. I left the small part that I couldn’t sew by machine unsewn, so you can see how small it really is.

See that fingertip-sized gap next to the facing/yoke seam? That’s it.

And using this technique means no visible topstitching on the yoke, though it’s ordinarily covered by the collar anyway.

I absolutely prefer this method. It’s easy to reshape the facing pattern piece, too; just overlay with the shirt front and trim as shown, below.

That little leftover can go right into the recycle bin. Huzzah.

This is the ‘lowered neckline’ variation, 1” lower than the standard draft. I find this depth a little more becoming than the standard. The pattern also has instructions for lowering another inch, or raising the ‘v’ neck higher, but this is about right for me. The collar is wobbly though! Oh woe! It’s not the draft, it’s the rayon. I interlined it with white linen, but that was shifty and grow-y too, and even though I moved the collar pieces carefully and sewed them first, the long outer curved edge stretched out pretty badly.

There was a ruffly clown-collar vibe to the finished shirt. Based on hope, not science, I plugged in my iron and chuffed steam at the collar in hopes of shrinking the edge. I don’t use the chuffer often though so I actually just sprayed the whole thing with surprise brown spots. WHAT FUN. Since a new washing machine didn’t magically appear as soon as I flavor-blasted a white shirt, I stuck it under a cold shower with some dish soap then threw it in the dryer. And, um, something along the line there worked, because the collar is definitely improved. I feel like a very lucky bunny.

The dart is a little low. Also, I realize now, the tip needs pressing. Next time my ironing board is out I’ll gather my courage, roll up a towel, and go for it.

I forgot to take pictures of my first version untucked, but here’s some of this one. Wrinkly, because my go-to is tucking in, and also because I’m tireless in my quest for gritty realism or something. The untucked silhouette is actually not too godawful!

I’m feeling good; I got to sew, and I got some aged fabric into use, even though it was kind of a pain in my neck. The rayon really can’t support the weight of the collar that well, even with my interfaced v-neckline, but it does gather nicely. And you can’t go too far wrong with a white blouse! After all that monkey business with the steam, I like it. It’s a bit everyday-pirate, but that’s not necessarily a problem.

If I kind of blur my eyes and blend the collar into the shirt, the Patina looks like a decent plain v-neck woven blouse base. I bought it for its slight costume-y elements, but I might keep making it for relentlessly sensible reasons. Two steps forward, one step back!

We took these pictures on an unseasonably warm day in November, by the way – it feels like another universe now. I don’t do much Christmas-specific sewing, but Christmas BAKING is very much on. Cinnamon & chocolate! See you soon!

Pattern: Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse

Pattern cost: NA

Size: M, lower neckline

Supplies: scraps of rayon, from stash; thread, Michael’s, $2.39

Total time: 5.5 hours

Total cost: $2.39

Common Quail

Heyyy, I actually sewed a new pattern while it was still new! I really enjoyed dressing as a vaguely interwar pseudo-intellectual for Halloween, to the point where I’ve decided to start layering some more vintage-inspired pieces into my wardrobe. When I saw the Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse I pretty much went “that’ll work!” and mashed the buy button.

This was my first time sewing a Friday Pattern Company pattern. You’d have to force me kicking and screaming into their breakout hit gown but I’ve only heard good things in general. I was surprised, though, that this pattern used 3/8” seam allowances throughout, since this is a blouse that calls for fine lightweight fabrics. I added ¼” to the side seams and shoulder seams, so I could French seam those later, but otherwise cut a straight size M.

Right off the bat I was impressed by the accuracy of the fabric requirements! I like that it didn’t overspend my money or generate much waste. I needed every inch, as in I had about a fingernail-clipping’s worth of excess length after laying out all my pieces. The layout would have been a little more flexible if I hadn’t increased the seam allowance, but no regrets. My only scraps are funny shapes and sizes. I spent more than I intended to on fabric, by the way; I went looking for quilting cotton to make a wearable muslin before investing in cotton lawn, and came home with this gorgeous organic poplin. Oops not oops.

Ch-ch-changes: I staystitched the front neck as directed, but also applied this tricot interfacing along the edge. I wanted to make sure it would support the weight of the collar. I’m in love with that 1” roll; it makes it so much easier to do the right thing.    

However, instead of using interfacing in the collar, I cut another layer of fabric from my scraps. I pinned it to the wrong side of the top collar and treated them as one piece until it was attached to the bottom collar. Then I trimmed the extra layer of fabric ‘interfacing’ to right beside the stitching line. When turning right-side-out, that teeny-tiny overhang of fabric helps push the seam to roll to the underside. That’s my theory, anyway. 

By the way, I placed the cost of my free-floating button purchase on this make, because I ended up really liking them together. These are the same buttons that saved my bacon when mending my Halloween skirt. I’m learning all the wrong lessons about buying notions without a plan!

I also removed about 5/8” of fullness from the sleeve at the front shoulder.

Doesn’t that sound wonderfully deliberate and official? Actually what happened is that I traced the sleeve piece the same way twice, but luckily caught my mistake before cutting. I retraced one of them flipped over and was still congratulating myself on my perspicacity when I cut on my new line to the shoulder point and on my old line away from the shoulder point. Yeeks. I noticed before I got to the single front notch, so I was able to compensate slightly, and my mess-up would (hopefully) be hidden in the gathers. I cut the second sleeve the same wrong way because I thought it was important that they match.

It’s a full sleeve, so it’s still perfectly comfortable to wear, but if it looks off at all that’s why. I can’t really tell. There’s one strange function of this shirt which is that my sufficiently long, loose sleeves ride up to my elbows at the slightest movement; possibly because of my front shoulder ‘adjustment’?

Also, the universe decided I should eat my words on the subject of continuously bound plackets, since this pattern calls for them. Plus I don’t mind not doing a thing, but I don’t like feeling like I can’t do a thing.

I was a little confused by the official directions, which tell you to press under both edges of the bias piece, but then only show one edge pressed, so I turned to the internet. I followed this Sewaholic tutorial and uhhh…I think I made this kind of placket into a boogeyman. At least in crisp, stable cotton, they’re actually fine.

I think I even have them opening the right way (50/50 chance)! I’m calling that a win!

In general the way the directions are expressed and the accompanying illustrations are good and clear and easy to follow. (The encouraging clip-art on the pattern pieces gave me a jolt though. “WHAT IS THAT PATTERN PIECE FOR?! Oh it’s a cartoon sewing machine.”) However, I sometimes disagree with what the directions actually say to do. Most notably, I hate the facing finish on the back neck. It’s hard to sew well and I firmly believe there’s a better way. If/when I sew another Patina blouse I want to try using the Negroni directions, which join the front facings to the inner back yoke. I’ll try to take pictures if I do.

The drafting, however, seems spot-on. My collar is sitting a little higher than the sample because I thought I was sooo smart and I understitched the curved part of the neckline seam, instead of just the straight vertical parts as directed, so it’s being tugged up a little. But the collar still curves really nicely. And most impressively to my mind, this shirt stays put! I can raise my arm parallel to the floor before the hem even starts to rise. And the neckline doesn’t budge. It doesn’t gape at the back, it doesn’t pull to the front. It parks! I’m impressed. 

I’m not really sure what era this top hails from, style-wise – the 70s do the 30s? But I dig it. I wouldn’t mind giving that deeper neckline a whirl. There’s some $$$ recycled silk I’ve had my eye on for a while, and though I don’t think I’m owed a new holiday outfit every year, it would be pretty ideal.

I’ve been making fewer items this year, so while my cost-per-item is definitely up (gosh this blouse cost a bit), my overall spending is down. Which sounds like a possible excuse for silk to me…

Pattern: Friday Pattern Company Patina blouse

Pattern cost: $11.20

Size: M

Supplies: 2.25 yards of Charley Harper organic poplin in Sierra Range, California Quail, Gather Here, $37.15; buttons, Etsy; thread, Michael’s, $11.86

Total time: 8.75 hours

Total cost: $60.21

Plaid Granville

I’ve been meaning for a while to add a home-sewn plaid flannel shirt to my closet. This isn’t the shirt of my dreams, but it’s going to get a lot of wear.

This is a Sewaholic Granville with the same fit modifications as my other Sewaholic Granville. It’s a little less successful in this thick fabric, as it’s kind of occupying an awkward middle ground between indoor shirt and overshirt; in retrospect, I’d push it wider. I love the fabric though, a black-and-ivory Kaufman flannel. This may have wet my whistle for sewing an actual overshirt. Kaufman does staggeringly beautiful speckled flannel solids now!! I saw the olive in person and it’s gorgeous, plus this substrate is so satisfying to sew. Even though this Granville isn’t perfect, it’s cozy and I enjoyed the process.

I mostly rolled right along and followed the directions with no wacky diversions. As they were last time, the sleeves are really too long. Excellent for tucking cold fingers inside but not so good for washing dishes. This was a bright-but-cold finger-hiding day. I’m wearing them unrolled as a rule, partly because this is a heavy flannel for chilly weather, but also because I feel I earned it. I put in the time to get those sleeves right!

Slightly embarrassing after my recent tough talk about tower plackets, but I messed these up. Or not these, precisely, but their predecessors. I attempted to pattern match and got it exactly reversed – an ivory stripe on black, and a black stripe on ivory. I finished the shirt and actually wore it a couple times that way. Then because new sewing is on pause (I can’t pre-wash fabric right now) but that sewing mojo has to go SOMEWHERE, I sat down on a quiet Saturday morning and did it all again.

Luckily, because I sewed the cuffs in this way, I could unpick them without removing the button or worrying about the buttonhole. I unpicked and discarded the old placket pieces, and whip-stitched the cut line on the sleeve shut. I also unpicked the sleeve seam to just above the elbow (twice, because it’s French seamed) so I could spread the cuff end flat.

Time to cut a new, hopefully matching placket. Obviously my original system didn’t work, so I did the one thing I skipped amid all my mental contortions of figuring out the plaid the first time: I Googled it. It’s actually pretty simple. This tutorial is even from the Granville sewalong. I probably should have done that earlier! This time it went smoothly, though this fabric is a little too bulky for a pristine finish. The little buttons at the top are just for show.

I also sewed the hem a few times. First I sewed it exactly as written, but that left just an awkward flash of white at the center front, and I’d prefer to end on a dark horizontal stripe. So I unpicked the hem, straightened the front curve so no ivory would show when folded, and sewed it again. Then I realized I had cut one of the fronts slightly askew and the plaid was asymmetric. So I unpicked the longer side, trimmed it, and hemmed it again. Then I decided I didn’t like the look of cream thread topstitched on the black front edge there, so I hand-picked the hem with grey thread and unpicked the machine stitching. And here it remains!

If I get seized by another re-sewing mania, my next target would be the collar. I folded the button bands a little too much, so they’re wider than designed (for some reason my math was off on the day I cut). I should have shortened the collar piece slightly to compensate, but I didn’t think of it, so it ends a little too close to the end of the collar stand. This isn’t a big deal when I wear the shirt open, but if I want to button it all the way up the plaid lines diverge at the neck where it pulls apart to make space for the collar.

I’ve been considering adding flaps to the chest pockets, too. I don’t think it looks right to cut rectangular plaid on the bias, so I cut the pockets on-grain and pattern-matched the fabric underneath as far as I could. It diverges slightly because it covers the dart ends, so the bottom edge of the pocket isn’t quite parallel to the horizontal stripe anymore, but they’re still blending in pretty well. So what I have here is two fairly invisible pockets that I don’t put things in, because who uses chest pockets. Flaps would give them a little more context. On the other hand, do I need to draw focus to my invisible unused chest pockets, or am I just going loopy due to lack of new projects?

You might notice my total sewing time seems a little short for all the monkey business mentioned above. That’s because those changes were made after I wore the shirt in public, which means I mentally filed them under ‘mending’, and I don’t record mending times. If some sort of sewing authority ever audits my process I’m gonna be in trouble!

Are you enjoying our transition to long dark cozy evenings? It’s the stay-homiest time of year! I hope you’re gaining some quality sewing time. And I hope I’m gaining a washing machine soon, so I can sew new stuff too!

Pattern: Sewaholic Granville shirt

Pattern cost: NA

Size: 12, modified fit

Supplies: 3 yards Kaufman Mammoth Flannel in Ivory, Ryco’s, $33.00; thread; Ryco’s, $3.25; buttons from stash

Total time: 7.5 hours

Total cost: $36.25

A Murder Is Announced

Professor Boyfriend and I have participated in a weekly game night for years, but this year for one week only we hosted a murder mystery evening instead. It was partly for Halloween but mostly due to A Murder Is Announced, because we held it on Friday, October 29th, just like the mysterious notice in the book!

I was given the character of Sally, an authoress, and initially I thought I’d just wear this McCalls dress, but then I had a rummage through my mending basket and got a better idea. I’ve had this brown Kaufman flannel half-circle skirt lying there unworn for ages due to a youthful indiscretion – I tried to install an invisible zipper on the bias and the back seam was unwearably wobby. It took me months of wear to notice, but once I did, I realized my rear looked like a ski slalom. Then I crammed the skirt in the mending pile for mumbledytum years.

But change was finally a-coming. I removed the waistband, unpicked the back seam to about an inch above the finished hem, and took out the zipper. Happily I didn’t have to touch the hem itself!

Then I was pleasantly surprised to see the fabric itself wasn’t stretched all out of whack. The zipper had become permanently distorted, though, and I didn’t have another one. Here’s where I had to use my little grey cells, mon ami. Some context: this skirt is pre-spreadsheet-era, meaning it’s at least 5+ years old, so as you can imagine I didn’t have any leftover scrap fabric hanging around. Also, my washing machine is broken (and has been for several weeks) so I haven’t been buying and can’t add new fabric. Also also, it was the Tuesday night before the Friday of the party. Also also also, the original waistband closed with a snap I was unable to pry out, so instead I had to snip off the ends, making the already-scanty waist piece (see: my measurement of 5+ years ago) now comically small.

So I winged it!

Improvisational button fly time. I grabbed some buttons from my recent regretted button-buying binge and, HUZZAH, even though they weren’t suitable for the planned project I ordered them for, they were perfect here. I ‘drafted’ an extremely sketchy fly shield from a mostly-coordinating scrap by guessing at a length and width, folding it in half, and sewing the bottom shut. Then I sandwiched some snipped-up hair elastic button loops between the shield and the original back seam allowance. I also left the bottom half-inch or so of the shield piece free and unstitched, which matters later.

 Next, I folded under and topstitched the opposite seam allowance, but only parallel to the seamline.

The only part that required a little finesse was re-sewing the center back seam. I folded the bottom free half-inch of the fly shield out of the way and sewed the back seam shut until I bumped into my new stitching. Then I overlapped the button side over the now-extended fly shield and sewed a short horizontal bar to join the two layers at the base. Voila, button back!

I used another piece of scrap fabric to extend the original waistband piece. Does it match? Nah. Does it matter? Honestly, also nah. Professor Boyfriend and I have a saying we rely on in times like these: “It’s better than good. It’s good enough!”

For a finishing touch, the day before the murder, I Googled “how to sew a beret” and about an hour after that I had one of those too!! I used Erika Bunker’s tutorial on the We All Sew blog, and it was excellent. My only meaningful change was to add seam allowance to the inner circle (the head hole circle). I also folded my ‘stem’ in half and attached it flat instead of sewing it into a loop. This beret was the perfect use for a scrap of wool that was too small to wear but too nice to get rid of! I lined my wool with cotton, because it’s what I had around. I love it.

It was surprisingly easy to find everything we needed to host the evening lying around our apartment – this poison bottle is a vintage vanilla extract bottle I use as a bud vase, my cigarette holder is a metal straw with paper curled inside, and I bought my brooch at a pawn shop at the tail end of my Victorian phase (the pawn shop has been a patisserie for years, which shows how long I’ve been living in Somerville).  

My new-old skirt is still a little snug, but it served its purpose. Much like the pockets, which, while low, are large enough and sturdy enough to contain a murder weapon. I walked around with a Lewis chessman in my pocket all night but was still framed for murdering an industrialist with a hairpin. Nom d’un nom d’un nom! I think I’m a beret person now, though! I’m going to wear it in real life!

And as long as I’ve got you here, how perfect would Navid Negahban be as a post-Suchet Poirot!? He’s my dream casting. Pipe down, you Malkoviches and Branaghs! Hercule has arrived!

Now it’s time to pick your weapon!

Welcome to November. Don’t get murdered. 🙂