Creative Yarn Entrepreneur Interview

Marie Segares of The Underground Crafter has a wonderful podcast called The Creative Yarn Entrepreneur. She contacted me to do an interview, and I jumped at the chance to talk about the "business-side" of what we do.

Check out my interview here:

I'd love to hear your comments, thoughts and any questions you might have - please comment below!

And a big thank you to all that have made it out to the pop-up. It has really been a pleasure so far, and I look forward to meeting those that are yet to visit.

Drop Spindle? Huh?

I admit it. I'm stubborn and sometimes it takes awhile for me to come around. My first attempt at spinning was with a drop spindle, and as I've recounted before: it was disastrous. I concluded hastily that spinning was not for me. But after some inspiring conversations with a good friend (Leila Raabe), I got into spinning, but starting with my Ladybug.

It was less than a month ago that I became inspired to try drop spindling. Another friend pointed out an article in the latest PLY Magazine called Spindle 7. "Michele - you have got to check out this article - it's about drop spindling on your train, the 7!!"  Huh? Drop Spindle? 7 train? I was utterly confused.

I quickly did a search and found Robyn Love, the fiber artist behind the Spindle 7 project. I watched the 7-minute long video and was not only inspired to try drop spindling again, but a newfound pride in my boro, Queens, and my train, the 7 started to emerge.

Obviously learning how to drop spindle has been much easier now that I understand the concept of spinning. But like different methods or crafts, the attachment and relationship to the material and final object touches upon a different part of the person, and dare I say, soul.

I've been using a top whorl drop spindle and what I find so interesting is the direction in which the fiber flows into yarn. At a wheel, it happens quickly, and on a horizontal plane. One basically feeds the yarn onto the wheel, pushing it away from them. Using a drop spindle, it happens slowly, and on a vertical plane. It looks and feels as though the fiber is pouring down onto the spindle like warm liquid right in front of your eyes. It's fascinating to watch, and even more fascinating to do.

As you most likely know, I've opened up a pop-up shop focusing on yarns and fiber. A customer asked me why I decided to open and what I hoped to achieve, and while my knee-jerk response is "to make money", that really isn't true. I feel strongly about the qualities of working with one's hands and it has meant the most to me to share materials I love and crafts that allow us to get in touch with ourselves - like drop spindling.

Stop by the pop-up this Saturday, November 8th at 2pm to meet Robyn and learn how to drop spindle with one of the best fiber artists of our time.  (We also have copies of PLY Magazine's latest issue which includes the Spinel 7 article.)  A rare opportunity!

3 hats are better than 1

As much as I love designing garments, I can't deny the appeal of a quick knit.  And to me, nothing is faster than a hat.  Generally knit in the round, using very little yarn, a knitter can usually knit up a hat in an afternoon, yet wear it all Winter and be warmed.  Quite the trade-off.

What better way to show-off a yarn that may not be familiar to some? I decided to design a few hats showcasing one of my favorite yarns we'll be carrying at Gauge + Tension this Fall, Jones & Vandermeer's Clever Camel.  

J&V's Clever Camel - colors (from top left, clockwise): Classic, Naked, Poppy, Neat Navy, Carbon, Snowden Grey

J&V's Clever Camel - colors (from top left, clockwise): Classic, Naked, Poppy, Neat Navy, Carbon, Snowden Grey

It is 100% Baby Camel and so incredibly soft that it's hard to resist. When I first knit up a swatch, I couldn't tell the difference between it and cashmere. The only difference I could tell was that it was just a touch heavier. Cashmere's lightness is legendary, so I wasn't surprised. And camelids tend to have a heavier, silkier hair to them, even if just the fluffy under coat from a baby. But the micron counts are similar between the two, so in the hand you'll probably not notice a difference.

Although I don't claim to have a wool allergy, I do sometimes get the itchy forehead if I wear a wool hat all day. Why not a couple of super soft Clever Camel Hats:

Torti in Snowden Grey

Torti in Snowden Grey

Torti is a take on my Tortillon pattern knit in Lana Grossa's Chiara. Although a lovely yarn, they stopped distributing it in the States to my disappointment. The Chiara is much thinner than the Clever Camel, so I redesigned it for worsted weight yarn and made it a touch bigger too.

Torti in Snowden Grey

Torti in Snowden Grey

I also designed a slouchier hat for those not interested in a beanie-fit hat.  I liked the idea of using the color Poppy for Galeo.

Galeo in Poppy

Galeo in Poppy

If that Chevron pattern looks familiar, it's the same one used on my Warren Street Cowl. A quick and easy knit, the set could make a lovely holiday gift or a little something for yourself.

Last, but not least, Paffuto. Of course, I needed to design something that could work for the men in our lives. I picked Quince & Co.'s Puffin because of its softness and bulky weight. Maybe I'm a selfish knitter, but it's nice to be able to whip up a quick hat even faster with heavier yarn.

Paffuto in Peacoat

Paffuto in Peacoat

Paffuto is a little boxier in shape giving your hair a little breathing room under there. Although 100% wool, the unplied Puffin is incredibly soft to the touch and I got no itchy forehead when I wore this around.

All three of these patterns are available on Ravelry for download, and hard copies will be sold exclusively in-store at , and Torti and Galeo online at Jones & Vandermeer.

Autumn, finally.

Back to school, blah blah, leaves changing, blah blah, apple picking, whatever... let's not get bogged down with all that stuff that comes along with the Autumn Season. Let's get right to it and talk about what we're all thinking: knitting! Am I right? You've been poking around Ravelry instead of Facebook more, sniffing around your stash and discovering those gems you bought last season, reading blogs like this one and planning out what you'll be knitting and the yarn you'll be buying as your budget for Rhinebeck keeps going up and up. I know. We're all there.

Absolutely nothing makes me happier than saying goodbye to summer... and hellooooo Fall! This Fall is especially exciting. I have probably said this before, but I think THIS ONE is my favorite collection: BT FALL 14. It's here. I love it.

The Design Team's inspiration for this collection was the Fisherman Sweater. I salivated at the very thought. Cables, cables, cables! That's all I could think about. But how to make them more modern? What's the twist, no pun intended, that I could put on a cabled sweater design. Many would argue that the options are infinite, which they are. But, I know when I'm dealing with something as traditional as the fisherman sweater and cables, I get stuck in my own brain. The same images of the same sweaters keep popping up in my head. In fact, as you're reading this, we're probably picturing the same sweater: off-white, aran weight, honeycomb or lattice down the middle, twisted rope cables on either side, crewneck, boxy fit...

Anyway, I started out swatching some cables, churned out some that I liked and put those aside while I decided on some silhouettes I wanted to use.  The shawl-collared cardigan, of course. Something oversized and comfy; something that could have been stolen from your Dad or boyfriend; something to wear while sipping tea in front of a fireplace; something to throw on to check the mail or walk your little special someone to the bus.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

Because of the oversized nature of this cardigan, Bellows, I liked using Shelter held doubled to give the fabric enough oomph.  It also makes stitches more three dimensional, and the two strands really make the knit-purl patterning stand out.  And it's "cable-light".  Just a few repeats up each front, and down the sleeves.  The rest is easily memorized and perfect TV knitting.

One swatch I had knit up really stood out to me.  i was determined to use it, but it took a while to figure out what kind of silhouette I wanted to use.  I wanted simple shapes to really show off the stitch pattern and make it the focus of the design.  The "arrows" or upside down V's at the base of Ondawa was the swatch I built around.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

I really love Ondawa - the smaller scale cables and texturing really gives this piece a carved look. The front and back pieces are identical and are rectangles. No shaping whatsoever. The cropped silhouette was my attempt at making it modern. I know it's a hard one to actually wear though. But you can easily make the front and back longer to suit your taste. Just don't forget to add more yarn - cables and twisted stitches tend to eat up quite a bit. 

And then there's Shackleton. This scarf is lush with a big monster cable motif running up the middle.  Like Bellows this is also knit with Shelter held doubled. I love its magnified effect.  The cable motif really looks blown up.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

And last but not least, Rowe. What's Fall without a cardi-coat? I started with the large center cable on the back.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

And auditioned quite a few smaller motifs to use alongside, and down the fronts and sleeves.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

I love the thick bands of 2x2 ribbing that frame this piece. And instead of trying a tubular bind-off along the collar/placket, it's knit twice the length and folded under and crocheted down. It gives this cardi-coat some nice weight around the opening, making up for its lack of closure. I can't wait to wear this one around town. I'm thinking I may need one in Fossil, too.

So that is my interpretation of the Fisherman Sweater. I tried to design for all ages, tastes, styles and physiques, so I hope you'll find something to your liking!  Happy Autumn and happy knitting!

Eternity + Moo Cotton

I heart wool. I love everything about it, down to the sheepy, lanolin smell of raw fleece. Occasionally I cheat and work with some other animal fibers. But very rarely, do I work with a plant fiber. But when I came across Jones & Vandermeer's Moo Cotton, I was intrigued. It is worsted weight and is 80% cotton and 20% milk protein fiber. Upon first touch, it feels like suede. It is by far the most interesting cotton blend I've come across. Personally, I find mercerized cotton too slick and shiny. Other cottons just feel dry. Maybe it's the milk protein that gives this yarn its unique feel. And after doing a little research on milk protein fibers, I found that it's naturally anti-bacterial, absorbs moisture and today it is considered environmentally friendly to produce. Sounds good to me!

The Heathered Grey color of the Moo Cotton immediately reminded me of my first Eternity Scarf sample knit in Rowan Lima. In an experiment to test Moo Cotton's stitch definition, I knit one up.

Eternity Scarf in Moo Cotton, color - Heathered Grey

Eternity Scarf in Moo Cotton, color - Heathered Grey

Well, I'm pretty sure it passed my test.  It's so incredibly soft and drapey without compromising any of that stitch definition.

And, these pictures were taken AFTER I threw it into the washing machine and dryer.  Now that, I can't do with my precious wool, can I?

I've edited the pattern a teensy bit so it only takes one ball of Moo Cotton, and will have the printed copy at GAUGE + TENSION exclusively. Of course, you can always buy the PDF version of the pattern on Ravelry here. I simply left out a few rows of the stockinette and a repeat of the horizontal cartridge rib.

Stop by GAUGE + TENSION this Fall if you'd like to feel this yarn for yourself. It's really special, and perfect for those with a wool sensitivity, get too hot wearing animal fibers or for babies and kids.

First with miniSpinner

Here's my first yarn with my miniSpinner. It's about 132 yards of aran - bulky weight yak merino. I love it! And it definitely seemed to spin up faster, even though all I did was take away the treadling with the miniSpinner. I don't think it actually made me faster. Just perception I suppose.

50% Yak / 50% Merino

50% Yak / 50% Merino

My first impressions of the miniSpinner are very positive. I really love it - its small size and smoothness, and how it makes it feel so easy to sit down and spin a little.

Up next - some "Polwarth Lux" from Spirit Trail Fiberworks that I bought at Sheep & Wool years ago. (Can't remember for the life of me what makes it Lux... silk? Cashmere? *shrug*)

Spin me right round

I've been eyeing a Hansencrafts miniSpinner for years now. My first attempt at spinning was with a drop spindle, and that did not go well at all. (It especially didn't go well for the poor innocent drop spindle that I broke over my thigh, then threw its pieces at the television out of frustration.) But I moved on and eventually bought a Schacht Ladybug.  I love her, I do.  But for my apartment, she's quite stately.  So when I first witnessed a miniSpinner in action on youtube.com, I was mesmerized.  I had no idea these things existed!  Tiny and motorized!  And then I was able to ogle one in person at the Sheep & Wool Festival... and then at Madrona.  I was beginning to be a miniSpinner stalker. I kept watching youtube.com videos over and over telling myself I didn't need one. Well, I finally lost that argument. This beauty was delivered today. (I even ran down to the lobby to meet the mailman. I think I made his day.)

Hansencrafts miniSpinner - Maple wood with Woolee Winder.

Hansencrafts miniSpinner - Maple wood with Woolee Winder.

In addition to what comes with spinner, Hansencrafts threw in a little BFL from Abstract Fiber, and a beautiful Orifice Threader!  What a treat!

I had initially debated about which wood to get - there is quite an extensive selection - but I decided to go with the economical maple wood.  It also happens to be the wood that fits in with my decor.  It's really beautiful.

Aside from its obvious qualities, I just love the scotch tension knob. My ladybug wheel's scotch tension is a little wonky.  It works just fine, but it doesn't feel very finished.

And to change bobbins couldn't be easier with this metal clip. Press it down and the side of the spinner falls flat. Voila. It's perfectly thought out, and such good quality. Everything feels sturdy.

Best of all, it can sit right on my desk!

Just shove that keyboard aside - who needs that anyway?!

At The Wheel

People are often surprised when I tell them I don't find knitting to be relaxing. Maybe my idea of relaxing is different than theirs. Even before my work became my knitting, I never felt at ease during or after a few hours of knitting. Often, my mind races with ideas or the next thing I want to cast on. Even as I work away on miles of stockinette, I feel engaged and focused on each stitch. I find if my mind wanders, so does my knitting. "Oh!  How did that happen?" are the words most likely to come out of my mouth if I'm talking while knitting, drinking while knitting or watching tv while knitting. I can't even listen to an audiobook.

Spinning, however, is so meditative that you'll often find me falling asleep at the wheel. (Thankfully, it's not life threatening.) Something about the drafting motion, the spinning of the wheel, the treadling and the soft clacking sound of the flyer completely hypnotize me. Even though I find my spinning much more even if I'm not looking, I can't seem to tear my eyes away from the fiber.

While I haven't made too much time for it in the recent past, I'm going to try and spin for at least a few minutes every morning. I can't think of a better way to wake up.

Here is some 80 merino / 20 cashmere freshly washed and skeins.  It's definitely overplied... but I'm happy with it! We'll see how wonky it is when I knit it up.

80/20 Merino Cashmere from Crown Mountain Fibers

80/20 Merino Cashmere from Crown Mountain Fibers

Venta: An Exclusive for Loop

Wow.  Apologies for that super long tease.  Exactly one month ago, I had posted a teaser pic for a design that I am finally able to announce. Yipee!  Presenting, Venta - a shrug with a simple lace pattern designed especially for Loop in Philadelphia using their exclusive Madelinetosh colorway, Susquehanna.

When Loop approached me to design something with Susquehanna, I was tentatively excited. So excited to be working with them again, but tentative since Susquehanna is a color way out of my wheelhouse.  When Craig sent me some skeins to play around with, I admit it - I had to sit with them awhile and take it in. I've gotten used to working with rustic and neutral colors, occasionally striking out with a fluorescent lime green every so often... ok, once. So, I had to make friends. Craig left the "what" to me - socks? shawl? It's hard not to derive a sense of water when looking at Susquehanna. I started picturing an attendee at a beach wedding with this thrown over their shoulders, or walking along a dock jutting out onto a gorgeous lake at sunset. Anyway, I wanted something easy to throw on, not too warm for these summery months and could be worn over a pretty summer dress or anything that needs a layer.

Of course a shawl was the first thing on my mind, but Craig simply stated, "I feel like I've seen so many lately." That's all I needed to hear. He was right. So, my mind wandered to a little cardigan, but then it started to get complicated. I didn't want to do a whole garment. And who wants to knit a whole garment in the summer when you're knitting while traveling, at the beach or in the country. Alas, a shrug. Something in between the two.

It comes in two sizes since the silhouette is so versatile.  When my friend kindly agreed to model it for me she thought the sample size was a bit too roomy for her.  (She's 5'2" with a 34" bust.) So I made the sample size the larger one and sized down for the other size.

(By the way, when my friend agreed to model she also decided she needed to make a dress to wear... which she did the night before.  Isn't it pretty?  It's using Nani Iro double gauze fabric, of which we are both mutually obsessed.)

To keep it airy, light and interesting to knit there's a bit of "lace", or more like openwork along the arms and back.  

If you follow this blog, you may remember the Staple Dress I made out of some amazing lawn fabric.  That fabric was quite the inspiration for the pattern, and the inspiration for the name.  The print of that fabric is called La Venta, and when I was trying to come up with a pattern name (not my forte) I really loved the idea of paying homage to such a wonderful fabric.

I do hope you enjoy it! I know I sometimes struggle with what to knit in the summer, and if you feel the same I hope this fills that void for you.

To purchase the pattern, head on over to Loop here.

Read all about it from Loop's blog, and purchase the yarn here.

Loop is also offering the pattern for free with purchase of the yarn for the project until August 31st!

Two mentions

When scouting out pop-up locations, I was lucky enough to have run into two renters at the location we decided on.  Both renters were so helpful, kind, enthusiastic and encouraging about the space and our idea.

Shop Reverie was the first tenant I popped in on.  Such cute clothes, super fun and young.

Oranbeg Press was the second and their creative display and evocative artwork and literature was really something else.

Check them out!

Gauge + Tension

I've been working myself into a lather these past few months putting together a project that's got me leaping out of bed in the mornings.  A good friend and I will be opening up a pop-up yarn store this Fall!  We've named it Gauge + Tension and it will be located in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.

Some of you may know that my life with yarn began when I wanted to open up a store. I had always wanted to have my very own store and had dabbled in quite a few different options, never quite finding the right one for me. When I settled on the idea of a yarn shop, I had decided to learn as much about knitting as possible and that's when a completely different path appeared before me.

But for the past year or so, the bug had bitten me again. I live in the western most part of Queens where you wouldn't believe the growth that's happened over the past few years.  It has changed completely since I moved here close to 6 years ago.  Just north of me is Astoria and Sunnyside, a very well-developed part of Queens rich in history.  And just south of me is Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For the past year I've rented out a studio in Greenpoint and have fallen in love with the neighborhood. It is just north of Williamsburg, but has managed to retain an "old school" feel.

Why this geography lesson?  There is a very obvious lack of yarn stores in these neighborhoods - a problem that needs fixing straight away! I had inquired about retail spaces in my neighborhood, but felt already priced out. So why not a pop-up?!

And. Here. We. Are.

We'll be located at:  110 Meserole Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11222

Open weekends in October, November and December (excluding Rhinebeck, of course.)

Hours to come.

Our irresistible yarn assortment to come.

Stay tuned!!

Brooklyn Tweed's First Kids Collection!

Designing for kids is something we at BT had talked about for what felt like ages. When the time finally came to pull designs together for this collection, we were not short for ideas. Our inspirations came from our own children, our nieces and nephews, and things we fondly remembered loving when we were children ourselves. Designing this collection was such a wonderful change of pace. We were able to let loose, have a lot of fun and design with a lightness of heart.

Personally, I wanted to take the opportunity to play with different types of construction.  Petal, is worked top-down, back and forth in a seamless yoke construction.  This was only my second top-down design, so it was an interesting puzzle for me to work out. But having long recognized the benefits of top-down knitting, I knew a children's garment would be a great opportunity. Since kids grow at such different rates, the idea of being able to customize the length was really appealing.  And this you can only do on the fly when knitting top-down.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

Wyatt is knit in the round from the bottom-up where the sleeves meet the yoke and continue in the round with raglan shaping and then back and forth once it splits for the buttonband opening. As you probably know, I'm a huge fan of knitting flat and seaming together pieces. But something our team discussed was how these kids designs should really be an easy knit. Kids grow at an alarming rate and if your design takes too long, it may not fit them by the time you're done. Something I've, unfortunately, experienced.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

But of course, my love of the traditionally seamed construction reared its ugly head!  Arlo, a unisex cabled cardigan, is knit flat and seamed together - a traditional construction for a traditional sweater.  I know I would have loved this little cardigan when I was a kid.

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

© Jared Flood / Brooklyn Tweed

Every time I look at the pictures from this collection, I get a big grin on my face.  Usually not a nostalgic person, I can't help but think back to my childhood, back-to-school shopping and spending time in front of the fireplace on snow days. Although summer is not traditionally high knitting season, I can't help but want to cast on for the special little ones in my life so they'll have something handmade in her back to school wardrobe.

Staple Dress + Cotton Voile from J&V



Emily, of J&V, and I started chit-chatting about my fabric conundrum after I posted about my black scrubs and my Easy Tee which I love, but is simply not flattering.  I had this conversation with a number of friends who sew, and I think I'm left even more confused now than before. I simply have to keep experimenting between fabric, fiber and silhouettes.

In her ever supportive and optimistic way, Emily decided she needed to help me on this voyage and when I proposed trying the voile with the Staple Dress she generously offered to sponsor this experiment and had me pick out which print from Cloud 9's Palos Verdes line I wanted to use.  While they're all beautiful, I went with the La Venta print. 

Staple Dress.jpg

We also decided that the voile was way too thin to be worn alone with any decorum. So I'll be lining it with some plain voile from the same collection.

Voile without lining.

Voile without lining.

I've never lined anything before, so this'll be... interesting. But I figured this has got to be one of the easiest silhouettes to start with.  It's basically a long tube with some shaping and openings for arms and neck.

Technical drawing on back of envelope shows the two variations.

Technical drawing on back of envelope shows the two variations.

I've also never worked with voile before, so I was curious.  I did a little reading online and this is what I've come up with. Voile and Lawn are very similar in that they are both semi-sheer, evenly woven and are generally made of cotton, linen, silk or wool. Lawn fabric is made from threads that have been combed first to make it super smooth and silky in feel. (Immediately I thought, "Oh, it's like a worsted-spun yarn!")  They're both very crisp, and I don't know if that's a characteristic of the weave, or if it's a treatment applied to the fabric once it's woven.

Because of voile's delicate nature compared to something like quilter's cotton, I found some advice on what needle and thread to use.   A cotton machine embroidery thread was suggested, so I bought some Mettler 60 wt. cotton embroidery thread from Rose Rushbrooke. And I made sure I had some 70/10 machine needles.

While I was prewashing the fabric, I decided to get started on the muslin.  After trying it on, I found it a bit snug in the armhole, and that I'd rather the top of the sleeve a little longer. (I am not a fan of my upperarms.) So I extended the shoulder line, and brought down the armhole and reconnected those new points.

Larger armhole by lowering the opening point.

Larger armhole by lowering the opening point.

As a knitter, I'm so used to the front and back armholes being the same, I forgot that these pieces would be different. Anyway, I repeated the process of what I did on the front to the back instead of simply copying the front line onto the back piece.

When I grabbed the fabric out of the dryer I made note that it did shrink a bit.  But there was no color bleed at all.  And, the crispy stiffness was gone.  The voile was much softer than I originally thought.  A nice surprise.

I used my new pattern pieces to cut into the voile, and used tailor's tacks to mark.

I had been struggling with pins and chalk and erasable markers to mark my fabric - I found it so annoying. The markers wouldn't show up on all fabric, and chalk would sometimes just wipe away. Thread however just stays put and it's really so much easier to apply. I used Pam Howard's Speed Tailor Tacks method I learned from her Craftsy class along with the thread she suggests. The thread is a japanese cotton hand basting thread and it's the perfect weight, comes in nice bright colors and is so smooth. It's brilliant. (And what knitter can resist thread that comes in a skein?!)

So after a lot of thought, this was my approach to this dress to include lining:

1)  In addition to cutting out the fashion fabric, I cut out the front and back pieces in the lining material.  

2) Sewed shoulder seams for dress, and then for lining, separately.  I think I should have done sewn them together, but it turned out fine.

3) Sewed together at neckline, right sides facing.  Then, understitched lining to the seam allowance.

Understitching at neckline.

Understitching at neckline.

4) Using the burrito method (starts on Step 5), sewed the lining to the fashion fabric at armholes one at a time.  This burrito method is brilliant, and much like the "Yoke Trick" that Pam Howard uses in her Tailored Shirt class.   Understitched the lining to the seam allowances for each armhole. Got a little fussy getting under there, but worked out fine because the armholes are large enough.  If I had followed all of Blithe's instructions I would have sewn the shoulder seams together.  Oh well, next time.

5) With the lining and the dress laid out separately (not tucked into one another), I sewed up the entire side seam from the bottom of the dress up to the bottom of the armhole, and then onto the lining fabric and down to the lining's hem. Per the pattern instructions, I stopped for the pockets on both the dress and the lining.

6) Sewed up the pockets per the pattern instructions, and sewed down the seam allowance around the pocket opening of the lining as a sort of finish and slipped the pockets through the lining's holes. 

7) Finish off the lining hem shorter than dress, then hand stitched dress hem to lining. I love hand stitching, especially for hems.  They're the part of the garment that needs to have the most fluidity whether it's the bottom of a dress or trousers.  Whenever I use a machine to tack down the hem it always looks so stiff and seems to not hang naturally.  That, however, could be my machine sewing skills or lack thereof.

Catchstitch at the hem.

Catchstitch at the hem.

8) Shirred at each side through dress and lining for waist shaping. 

So here is my dilemma. I'm not sure I like the shirring. I don't know if more shirring would help.

Single line of shirring on either side at the waist.

Single line of shirring on either side at the waist.

I could shirr all the way around, or just the back with a few more rows. I didn't originally want to shirr all the way around because I don't like the potbelly-paunch you get below it. I already have a stupendous potbelly so I don't need help exaggerating it.  A friend has convinced me that an elastic may be a softer way to add some waist shaping. So I may try that. I may add a casing to the inside of the lining and slip in a 1"-1.5" thick elastic in there and see what happens. But it may need something. I don't wear belts, so I don't think that's a solution for me.

I'd love to hear your input on the shirring.  You guys a big fan of it?  Will keep you posted on what transpires!

 

Kneglected Knitting

I feel a little guilty. I just took a quick look back and realized I haven't really talked about knitting in a long time. It appears as though I've abandoned my first, true love.

The unfortunate reality is that so much of my knitting is work-related, and I don't like spoiling the excitement of new releases. But, occasionally I do get to cast on for a personal project. And the one currently on my needles is Carrie Bostick-Hoge's Uniform Cardigan.

To give you an idea of the pace at which I'm going, I bought the yarn, Quince's Owl (totally amazing), in early February at Knit Wit when I made the trip to Portland, Maine.  

And, this is how far I've gotten:

Piddly progress on my Uniform Cardigan.

Piddly progress on my Uniform Cardigan.

It was my first trip to Portland and I was completely smitten. Not only did I get a chance to meet Bristol (Ivy) after months of e-mailing, IMs and texts, but I was reunited with my original BT buddy Leila (Raabe) again and got to hang out at the Brooklyn Tweed Warehouse. Glamorous, I tell you!

Bristol was kind enough to set up a lunch so I could meet some Portland-based designers. Carrie, Clara Parkes, Hannah Fettig, Jerusha Robinson and Cecily Glowik were all there. I mean... c'mon. I could barely eat. I felt like a squib at a Ravenclaw's table. I tried staying calm which meant I kept stuffing my face with food so I wouldn't say anything stupid. I hope I succeeded. Now they just think I'm a quiet little piglet. And what made the trip the ultimate dream was that we ran into Pam Allen when we were done. I'm pretty sure i just stood there and smiled, dumbly. Oh, and I may have "run into" (stalked) Clara at the local coffee shop and got to hang with (stare at) her for a bit. But, now I'm just bragging. Back to the Uniform Cardigan.

I mean... seriously? Could she have gotten it any more perfect?  

© Carrie Bostick-Hoge

© Carrie Bostick-Hoge

After purchasing the pattern, it took me a good long while to figure out the combination I wanted to make. There are several options:

The length - long or short?

The fit - A-line, straight or shaped waist?

Pockets - inset, patch or none?

Collar - straight or shawl?

Sleeves - straight/fitted or bell?

The pattern is loaded up with photos of all the different combinations and I hemmed and hawed until I settled on something super simple. Long, straight, inset pockets, straight collar, straight fitted sleeves. I figure if I wanna get fancy, I can always do another one.  (Yeah, right.)

© Carrie Bostick-Hoge

© Carrie Bostick-Hoge

This Owl yarn is to die for. It's like buttah. The alpaca makes it really smooth and glossy, but the wool gives it the oomph and body. I swatched on a few needles, and liked them all - from 5's through 8's. Luxurious and rustic all at the same time.

Quince & Co.'s Owl Yarn in Tawny.

Quince & Co.'s Owl Yarn in Tawny.

Soon, very soon, I'll be announcing some new knitting pattern releases. Until then, I intend on unleashing my senseless torture upon you with more of my adventures in sewing. Stay tuned!  

The Easy Tee

While wandering through the candyland of sewing blogs, I was introduced to "Me Made May". A movement of sewers have come together since 2010 and they dedicate themselves to wearing their handmade clothes all throughout the month of May. Wow!! I wanted to do this! Of course 99% of my handmade clothing is of the wool knit variety, so May isn't really the ideal time for me to be sporting them. So I've been trying to take this opportunity to beef up my sewn handmade garments so I'll be all ready for May '15 and hopefully one day not just May, but all year round.

I came across this blog posting from Miss P for simple kimono tee. After my recent run-in with a set-in sleeve, I was so very attracted to this particular silhouette. I'm also in desperate need for more simple, throw-on and go summer shirts.

Starting with her template of creating a rectangle and working from there, I came up with a slightly altered version. Here is the schematic I ended up using for my final easy tee:

© mishi2x Designs LLC

© mishi2x Designs LLC

These are the personalizations I made from Miss P's template:

  • I raised the back neck so it's only 1" deep.  I didn't want the shirt to shift forwards and backwards while I was wearing it.
  • I extended the shoulder seam out 1" so that the top of the sleeve is a bit longer.
  • And then I followed her example and made it a wee bit of an a-line.
  • I also added the curved detail at the side seams, like her photos.

After I drew up my schematic, I took out my pattern paper and made two pattern pieces, one for the front and one for the back and added 1/2" seam allowances all around.

_MG_2838.jpg

And then I chose a chambray fabric for the top. Like my previous blouse this ended up being a bit stiffer than I had expected, but I'm hoping it'll soften up once I wear and wash it more. I prewashed it, ironed it and got to cutting.

I serged around the necklines, both on the front and the back. I know you're supposed to do that after the shoulder seams are together so you have one continuous circle for the neckband. But I've noticed in some of the japanese sewing books I have that they have you finish each piece and then assemble. I thought I'd give it a try. It's easier to finish off half a circle, than a full round anyway.

I marked my seam allowance in chalk so I had something to follow at the serger.

Serged along that line - making sure the leftmost needle is on the seam line, not the blade.

Using the serged seam as a guide, I folded it over to the wrong side and ironed.

Thermal Thimbles - one of the greatest inventions!

Thermal Thimbles - one of the greatest inventions!

If I may mention now - those blue things are called Thermal Thimbles and they are an absolute must. I was tired of burning my fingers when ironing and I had bought some gloves that hair stylists use when using heating products. But I had no control over the fabric. So when I saw these on Nancy's Notions, I gave them a try and am a total convert. Not only do the protect you fingers, but they give you additional grip so you can more easily manipulate fabric while you're ironing.

Once I ironed them flat, I edgestitched them down for a clean finish.

The downside is now you've got these shoulder seams that aren't tacked down.

So I hand stitched those down for just about an inch or so using a straight hem stitch. I'll have to try the more traditional way next time. But it did make for easy serging along the neck.

I sewed up the side seams, serged those to finish. Serged the armhole openings, turned those under and topstitched about 1/4" in.

And then got to the hem... I didn't really know what to do with that curved bit. I could just hem it all the way around turning it up, but it got a little funky right at the side seam. So I opened up the side seam about an inch up, and serged each bottom hem separately - front and back.

Then I turned those to the wrong side and edgestitched those just like the neck. Since I had ripped open the side seam, I had to close it back up again. I did a few backstitches about 3/4" up to leave a little opening at each side seam. If I had thought that part through a bit more it wouldn't look so odd.

The Oddity

The Oddity

Maybe if I stitch up and around the opening it'll seem more deliberate?  *shrug*

And that's it! The serged seam may not be the most elegant, but I love it.  Fast, simple and does the job. I happily used it on every seam.

Serging happiness

Serging happiness

The Easy Tee

The Easy Tee

OK, I have to get back to my Breton Tee that has been languishing. I'm going to give that back shoulder/neck binding area one more go, and if I still can't figure it out, I'm putting one big neckband all the way around. And, I think I need to try this Easy Tee in something less austere like a Nani Iro fabric, or in a Liberty print.  

 

 

Practice makes...

...me nuts.  

When I started making a living from knitting, other interests had to become my hobbies.  I needed a refuge from knitting and designing knits.  Over the years, I had picked up quilting and spinning along the way.  But I had always wanted to become more adept at sewing garments. I've bought almost every Craftsy sewing class that's out, and I began signing up for classes at FIT.

What I forgot is how frustrating it is to learn something new.  It is incredibly humbling to have to start from the very beginning.  Only now am I at the point where I feel like I know enough that I can ask questions.  I know enough now to know I'm doing something wrong.  Sure, I've dabbled with things like the Robe Cardigan and some pajama pants.  But nothing more complicated than a few straight seams.

So after taking a Sewing I class at FIT (I'm embarrassed to say I didn't have time to finish my final project), I felt armed with enough power to take on a blouse project.  Over the years I've amassed quite the fabric stash, one that rivals my yarn stash, and a pile of sewing patterns so extensive I dedicated a filing cabinet drawer to them.  (Those Joann sales are phenomenal.)  

I poked around my drawer of patterns looking for something appropriate for the summertime and came across this Butterick pattern #5826:

Butterick 5826; View C

Butterick 5826; View C

I didn't want anything complicated, so without any buttons or zippers, I deemed this one perfect. I took out some Robert Kaufman Cotton Lawn fabric out and thought it would be perfect.  Well, it wasn't.  Lesson #1 - Lightweight doesn't mean drapey.  The cotton lawn is very lightweight so I thought it would flow nicely.  Well, what it doesn't do is flow.  It's fairly stiff, even after a few prewashes.  And, this blouse needed a lot more drape.

And because of its stiffness, I had to make a last minute adjustment.  The center front has "flaps" where you're sewing the seam with the wrong sides together so the seam allowance, essentially, is flapping out.  Well, lemme tell ya - if your fabric doesn't flow, that simply looks ridiculous.  I wish I had gotten a picture of that but I was so disgusted by the fabric that just stuck out, I immediately ripped out the seam and sewed it together with right sides together and then top stitched the flaps down.  It's still awkward because now there's sort of an unwanted thickness running down the front.

Photo May 19, 9 54 48-2.jpg

Also, gathers don't gather very well with stiff fabric.  So they're crunchy-like and sort of stick out awkwardly too.

At least, I like that it's black, and I like that it's short-sleeved and light enough for me to wear in the Summer.  But, honestly, it sort of looks like I'm wearing scrubs.  Definitely not a good fabric/pattern pairing.

Oh - how could I almost forget: set-in sleeves are the devil's spawn. I had to use a thousand and one pins and I still got a few little tucks here and there on both caps. I know if I keep practicing it will get better, but I wanted to throw my sewing machine out the window during the process. And there are a ton, seriously A TON, of blog postings, videos and other bits of online advice on how to achieve perfectly set-in sleeves. What they don't mention is that you just have to practice and keep at it, and practice some more. Here are links to a few I found somewhat useful:

Crafty's blog:  I like the sewing in the alley thing. I just hope to reach a point where I'm not using so many pins.

See Kate Sew: Kate mentions easing in the sleeve cap while it's flat instead of in the round. I still find it incredibly frustrating to sew something that's longer onto something that's shorter with no gathers or tucks either way.

Diana's Sewing Lessons: Diana mentions sewing the line of basting right on the seam line. I didn't try that yet, but is an interesting idea. Her example is of a trench coat, so maybe with thicker fabrics? Will have to try next time.

I also read conflicting advice on whether or not you should have the sleeve on top or the body while sewing. I like having the sleeve on top so I can see the fussiness.

After all that, I'm now taking refuge from my hobby with my work.  But before Me Made May is up, I wanted to squeeze one more sewn garment into the mix.  Next up:  The Easy Tee. (No set-in sleeves!)