Friday, 17 April 2015

Completed: Muse Patterns Natalie Top

After loving my Jenna Cardigan by Muse Patterns, I really couldn't wait to try another one of their patterns! This is the Natalie Top and Dress, a pattern for knits with gorgeous 40's-inspired gathering, which I made when I was home for Christmas. 

I promise I'll have some more spring-appropriate stuff on the blog soon! I went home for reading week and made a couple things for spring while I was there, but don't have pictures yet. It definitely feels like the wrong weather to be posting about a black long-sleeved top now, since I've been wearing short sleeves and skirts without tights for the past week here in Montreal! My only complaint is that the gorgeous weather makes it difficult to force yourself to study for exams. Only three more to go...

I chose this pattern kind of spontaneously, because I was planning on using this fabric to make another Bronte top, but then I realized that is was really sheer! I guess I wasn't paying attention when I bought it, because it was expensive for a solid bamboo jersey knit. I bought it from a local fabric store where I bought a remnant of the most amazing bamboo jersey I've ever worked with, and when I saw more bamboo jersey in the store, I assumed it was the same! Turns out it's not - this is much thinner and much flimsier. So disappointing! 

Anyways, I needed a top pattern that was a little more forgiving and didn't have any negative ease over the bust, so that it wouldn't end up too sheer. This was perfect - the gathers meant that it wouldn't be too sheer at all!

I really love the dress variation of this pattern, but since I only had a metre of fabric, I didn't really have a choice. I'll probably make the dress this summer!

I'm not a huge fan of PDF patterns, but this one came together pretty easily and quickly. I cut out a size 30 with long sleeves. Since the Jenna cardigan was a little wide at the shoulders, I took in the shoulder seams by 1/4". I also raised the V-neck by 1", which I reduced to closer to 1/2" or 3/4" when I actually sewed it. I omitted the ties in the back, because as much as I love them, I find them really uncomfortable when you're sitting.

This top took a little big longer than some knit patterns, but still not long at all. You need to interface the triangle in the middle with woven interfacing, and then do all the gathering around the bust and attach it. A note for next time: I sewed one with the gathers on the bottom, and the other side with the gathers on the top, and one side looks way nicer than the other. I just can't remember which! I'll sew some samples before making this again to see. I don't think it's too noticeable though, especially from a distance and in black.

The only thing that I found a little more difficult with this pattern was getting the V-neck to look right! I seem to remember attaching the binding was fine, but the topstitching took me a few tries. It still doesn't look that great, but there's only so many times you can rip out topstitching in jersey before going slightly mad.

I'm really happy with the fit of this top - it's super flattering! In the end, I didn't need to take in the shoulders, and I'll probably add the 1/4" back on next time, but other than that, the fit is great. The triangle in the centre sits a little lower on me than it does in the pictures, but I don't have a problem with that, and I'm not exactly sure of the best way to fix that because of how the pattern pieces go together. I'm happy with it how it is, so I probably won't bother!

Looking at these photos, it does bunch up a little in the back, but I think that's mostly because it's getting caught on the waistband of my jeans, which is too big (I think I need to make myself some Ginger jeans).

Overall, though, this top wasn't my best make, even though the fit is great - mostly because of the fabric. It was so flimsy that it shifted a lot when I was cutting it, and one of my sleeves ended up off grain. I also managed to get a hole in one of the sleeves before I even finished it! I sewed it up and put lots of fray-check on it, and so far it seems to be fine. But seriously...

I also found it really difficult to hem, even with Stitch Witchery, a walking foot, and a twin needle, which is my go-to hemming technique for knits. It stretched out a lot, and ended up a little ripply.

What's a little different about this top from other tops that I've made is that I can't really tuck it in, which I usually do for all my tops. Because of that, I can't really wear it with a skirt, which is too bad. Nonetheless, this top got a lot of wear, especially when it was -20 degrees in Montreal, because I could wear it with jeans and merino base layers underneath - perfect for when I needed a break from all the huge sweaters!

I'll definitely make this pattern again, probably as a dress for summer. I'm really impressed with Muse Patterns - the instructions are great, and the patterns seem to be very well drafted. I also love that their newer patterns come one size smaller than the Jenna cardi did, so I don't have to size down (always a plus!). 

Thanks for reading! You probably won't see much of me until after exams. I have an exciting (but very busy) couple of weeks ahead - in less than two weeks, I'll be done my first week of university, and I'll be moving out my residence and into my first apartment! See you all in (me-made) May!

Top: me-made (Muse Patterns Nathalie Top)
Jeans: Guess

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Completed Knit: Marion Cardigan

Allow me to present my favourite finished project ever: my first handknit cardigan!

Despite learning to knit when I was really young, I never really thought of knitting anything other than accessories. Sweaters just seemed so daunting!

After finishing my Pseudo Shibori Scarf though, knit with 3.5 mm needles and kidsilk, I felt like I was ready to tackle my first sweater. Unfortunately, my tendinitis hit just after finishing the scarf, so I didn't knit at all during my grade 12 year. After I graduated, I slowly got back into it, and found that I was okay so long as I didn't knit too much at once. 

I knew that I wanted to make a cardigan, and I've always loved all of Andi Satterlund's patterns, so it wasn't hard to pick out a pattern. I ended up going with the Marion cardigan, because it was mostly stockinette (aka simple), but had enough shaping and cables that I would learn something new and not get bored. 

When I first downloaded the pattern and read through it, I almost gave up then and there. I had no idea what so much of it meant - short rows, cables, picking up and knitting, yarn overs... it was pretty overwhelming!

I ended up just looking up videos on every stitch that I wasn't sure about, and practicing until I felt reasonably comfortable with all the stitches. I'm glad I picked a relatively simple pattern, because it still felt like I had so much to learn!

The yarn I picked is Colour Adventures Sweet Aran, in the colourway Midnight Blues, which I bought from Wool and Wicker in Steveston. It's 100% superwash merino, and comes in lots of colours. The yarn itself is a little pricey, but I didn't need very much so it didn't end up being too expensive overall. I don't know if I would buy it again because since then, I've found cheaper yarn of a similar quality, but it is quite nice to work with, and really comfortable to wear!

I also bought a set of interchangeable needles, which is a great investment if you plan on making lots of sweaters (like I do!). It makes it really easy to change the cable length as needed, and you never have to transfer stitches to holders - instead, you just take off the needles and screw on these little stoppers at the ends of the cables. When I was knitting the upper front and back, I used a 24" cable, then switched to 32" when I connected it all. When I knit the button band, I went up to 40" (or possible 47", can't remember). For the sleeves, I bought a second set of 5 mm tips, and used both circular needles with 24" cables. I tried to use the magic loop method first, but I found it really awkward to use for the short rows at the sleeve cap.

Since the yarn is hand-dyed, it recommends alternating skeins, which I did throughout the body. At first, I didn't know the best way to do this, so I just tied a knot and knit with a new strand every 2 rows. About 10 rows in, I realized that I would have way too many ends to weave in if I kept going like that! Instead, I just kept all three skeins attached and just picked up a new one every two rows, similar to the way I imagine you would do colourwork (although I've never done colourwork, so I can't say for sure). I didn't bother alternating skeins when I knit the sleeves because I wasn't sure of the best way, and I honestly don't notice any difference, so I probably didn't need to have alternated skeins for the rest of it. Oh well! 

Over the summer, the knitting went pretty quickly. I made lots of mistakes and had to frog a lot, but I kept going pretty steadily until I finished the main body of the sweater. In September, though, I pretty much stopped working on it altogether. I did actually find some time to knit, but I couldn't figure out the short row shaping at the shoulder. I knew that I needed a solid chunk of time to sit down and figure out what I kept doing wrong, and I just never seemed to have that time. Instead, I worked on a hat in little bits and pieces, and didn't really touch the sweater until I was home for Christmas break.

Once I figured out the short rows, the sleeves went really quickly, and I finished this within a couple weeks of the start of the winter semester. 

The next part that took me forever was, of all things, buying buttons! I really wanted to go to Rubans Boutons to find them, but when I finally found an afternoon free to go to Rue St. Hubert, it was one of the coldest days in February! I literally just ducked into the first store I saw that sold buttons, and found some that matched surprisingly well. They're nothing all that special, but the colour is a perfect match, and I like the simpler buttons because they keep the focus on the cables.

It took me so long to buy the buttons that I actually started wearing it without buttons for a while! I think it looks good unbuttoned as well, but you can see the cables better when it's buttoned up, so that's probably how I'll wear it most of the time.

I am so proud of this cardigan, but it's definitely far from perfect! First of all, it could be just a little bigger. Despite swatching and measuring my gauge, my gauge when I actually knit this was a little tight, and I never checked it along the way. It's still very wearable and comfortable, but if I want to wear anything bulkier than a camisole or thin t-shirt underneath, it's a little snug. 

Second of all, I really need to work on casting off loosely. The cast-off edges at the bottom edges of the body and the sleeves are tighter than they should be, and this makes the sweater ride up a little. You can see that in the photo below.

Another part that I need to keep looser is the part between the two needles that I knit the sleeve on - I was so worried about it being too loose that I overdid it a little, and ended up with a little bit of a ridge going down my arm where they stitches are way too tight. I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who notices, but if you look closely you can see it a little in these pictures. 

Overall, though, I'm really, really happy with this cardigan! I love the colour and really suits my style. I've already almost finished my second sweater - hopefully I'll have it finished while it's still cool enough to wear it!

Ravelry notes are here.

Thanks for reading, and happy Easter!

Cardigan: Me-made (Marion Cardigan)
Camisole: Mom-made (self-drafted)
Skirt: upcycled from an old dress

Friday, 13 February 2015

Completed: Charley Harper Print Bronte Top

Can I just start by saying how much I LOVE this fabric? It really makes the top! The print looks like a quilting cotton (which I love), but it's actually the softest most wonderful organic cotton interlock knit. It's a complete DREAM to sew with, and so comfortable to wear. The print is by Charley Harper, and I bought the last of the bolt at Spool of Thread last summer - it was a little pricey for cotton knit (around $20 a metre), but sooooo worth it.

I mean, polka dots and birds. Come on. 

This print makes my day every time I wear it. I didn't exactly have the greatest week - my foot was inexplicably sore and swollen to the point that I missed quite a few classes because it hurt to walk to them, and I was seriously struggling to finish some choreography for my dance group. It didn't help that I had my first midterm this semester on Thursday, and a couple of stressful labs this week. Wednesday was probably the low point - I barely slept because of my foot, I couldn't make it to any of my classes, I wasn't feeling very good about my impending midterm, and I hadn't finished a dance that I was supposed to teach later that evening. 

BUT, I wore this top, and it cheered me up. That's the power of great fabric.

I'm now taking a short, but well-deserved break. My midterm went well, I managed to finish all the assignments that I put off when I was studying for it, and I'm catching up on my missed classes. My foot is feeling much better, and despite whatever was wrong with it, I managed to finish teaching my dance, and I'm really, really happy with it! I'm really enjoying having the chance to do my own choreography - seeing it come together is so satisfying!

Speaking of my dance group, we are in the midst of fundraising to pay for the theatre that we're renting for our spring show! We have to pay a certain amount upfront, and then the rest we pay for with ticket sales. Since we're a new dance company at McGill this year, our funds are pretty limited! We've been busy with bake sales and plenty of other fundraisers, but we've also set up a crowdfunding site for anyone who wants to support us from afar. If you're interested in helping us out, every little bit counts, and I would appreciate it SO much! (You can also check out our YouTube channel for videos from our winter showcase if you want to see the kind of things that we do!)

Anyways, enough about dance and my stressful week - on to this shirt!

This is actually my third version of this pattern, the Bronte Top by Jennifer Lauren. I made two short-sleeved versions last summer and haven't blogged about them yet! (I'm terrible, I know.) I really love the pattern - it fit me quite well right out of the (digital) envelope, and it's so quick and easy to make. The yoke detail stops it from being a boring knit top, though! 

I cut a size 8, like my second version. According to the sizing charts, I'm a size 6, but I found it to be a little tight around the armholes. I don't like my knit tops super snug anyways, so I just sized up, and the fit is pretty near perfect! The only change I made to the fit of this one is that I graded out a little at the hips - I find that my first two tops ride up just slightly. I added on about 2" total at the bottom, and this gives it almost more of a bell shape when it's untucked, because the fabric is pretty sturdy. Although I'll wear it tucked in most of the time, I love the shape of it! I would probably not grade out quite as much if I made it in a drapier fabric, though.

While writing that, I realized that I completely forgot to get pictures of it untucked... you'll have to take my word for it!

I thought that long sleeves would be too overwhelming for this print, but I didn't want short sleeves, so I made 3/4 sleeves by folding up the pattern where two pieces of paper were taped together, and this ended up being the perfect length!

I hesitated about the contrasting binding, because I thought it might be too much, but I'm glad I went for it - I really love it! It was just some cream-coloured bamboo jersey that I had in my stash - the same stuff I use to line my Moneta dresses. It really highlights the style lines!

Since I've made this before, it came together really quickly. I won't go much into detail about the construction, since it's pretty much the same as my other knit tops and dresses - I sewed all the seams on my serger, and I hemmed using a twin needle and Stitch Witchery. Like with my previous two versions, I took a 1 1/2" hem, turned up once, rather than a 3/4" hem turned up twice. I just used a simple straight stitch for the topstitching, which is what I did on my other two, and I haven't had any problems with broken stitches. 

That's about it for this top! It's a pretty simple make, but the fabric is fantastic, so it's probably one of my favourite me-made tops ever. I got an email a while back from Spool of Thread saying that they have more Charlie Harper knits in stock - I might try to pick some up (if there are any left) when I'm home for reading week!

By the way, I also made the pants I'm wearing in these photos! They are another project I finished last summer, but haven't had a chance to blog about yet. They were my last project before leaving for Montreal, so I never managed to get photos of them until I visited home for Christmas. They should be up on the blog soon!

Thanks for reading!

Top: Me-made (Jennifer Lauren Bronte Top)
Pants: Me-made (soon to be blogged)
Belt: bought from a craft market

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Completed: Cowl Neck Renfrew Top

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make Sewaholic’s Renfrew Top! I’ve seen countless versions of this top on various blogs, and I’ve been really happy with all the other Sewaholic patterns that I've tried! When I went to the Sewtionary launch party during the summer, there was 25% off all Sewaholic patterns if you were wearing something made from one. I wore my refashioned muumuu Pendrell blouse and my denim Hollyburn skirt, and picked up the Renfrew pattern!

The pattern calls for a medium-weight knit, so I chose this royal blue organic cotton and bamboo double knit that I bought at Dressew (of all places! It really wasn’t where I was expecting to find organic cotton). Compared to Montreal, it was a little pricey at $15 a metre, but I got this top out of under 1.5 metres, so I’m not complaining.

I chose view C, the cowl neck variation, with the long sleeves from view A. I cut a straight size 0, which usually fits me pretty well in Sewaholic patterns.

From cutting to hemming, I finished this top in an evening! The instructions were well-written but brief, as is usual for Sewaholic patterns. I didn’t follow the instructions too closely, since I’m pretty familiar with how to put together a knit top, although I did noticed that the instructions say to sew the cowl with the wrong sides together. The picture, however, shows it with the right sides together, which is the correct way. It’s not a new pattern so I was a little surprised to find a mistake in the instructions, but I might have just bought an older version that hadn’t been corrected yet.

I wasn’t sure if I had any ¼” twill tape to reinforce the shoulders, so instead I used ¼” clear elastic, which I bought lots of for Moneta dresses but don’t use anymore since I prefer the 3/8” stuff.

I sewed all the seams on my serger, and my regular machine seems to have recovered and did a nice job on the topstitching around the cowl. I used a straight stitch rather than the recommended zigzag, because I find that it actually had enough stretch when it’s topstitching a seam that’s already been serged – I used a straight stitch for all the topstitching on my Bronte tops and haven’t had any problems with broken stitches.

Since I tuck in most of my tops, I wanted a less bulky finish at the bottom, so I hemmed it instead of using the band. I didn’t add any length; I simply omitted the band and the length was perfect. I finished the edge with my serger, turned up 1”, pressed with Stich Witchery, and hemmed with a twin needle. Unfortunately, I didn’t use a walking foot so my hem is a little ripply, but since this will usually be tucked in, I’m not too concerned.

I originally hemmed the sleeves this way as well, but I found that they were just a touch too short, and a little too wide, so I cut off the hem and added the cuffs a couple days later. I like them better, I think!

The fit on this is pretty good, but not perfect. I need to take in the shoulder seams about ½”, maybe more, and if I make a version without the cowl, I’ll need to take in the neckline a little since it’s pretty wide. I’ve seen some people recommend making it a size down since the fit is roomy, but I was already making the smallest size and I didn’t really want to size it down. I think I’m reasonably happy with the fit, though! It’s really comfortable and still looks good tucked it – I actually prefer my shirts to be a little blousy at the waist, otherwise they ride up and get wrinkly.

If I wear it untucked, though, there's some pooling of fabric at the lower back. I might look into doing a swayback adjustment for next time.

I will definitely be making this again! I can see why it's such a popular pattern - it goes together so quickly, and I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of it. I just wish I had enough of the wool I bought it Montreal to make a wool cowl neck version, but the cowl takes up a fair bit of fabric, so I don’t think I do. I’m also planning a Renfrew-Moneta hack to make a cowl neck dress - I just love the cowl neck!

Top: Me-made (Sewaholic Renfrew)
Skirt: Not sure of the brand, refashioned from a dress to a skirt
Belt: Bought at a craft market
Tights: Smartwool
Boots: Steve Madden

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Completed: Muse Jenna Cardi

When I first saw the Jenna Cardi pattern from a new(ish) indie pattern company, Muse, I was very intrigued! I wear cardigans all the time, so they are definitely a gap in my homemade wardrobe. Most of mine are pretty nice wool cardigans that I’ve found at thrift stores, but I still like the idea of making my own. Knitting cardigans is another story completely… they’re fun, but they sure are a lot of work! (Spoiler alert: I actually just finished knitting my first cardigan! It still needs buttons, and then once I find a way to take some pictures, it will be up on the blog!)

Anyways, I really wanted to try out this pattern, and I figured that this lightweight acrylic sweater knit that I bought in Montreal would be a good fabric to try it with. (I’m not sure exactly what to call the fabric – it’s not really what I think of as a sweater knit but it’s definitely not a jersey, so I’m sticking with “lightweight sweater knit”). I usually stay away from synthetics whenever I can, but I loved the print on this one, and it was second piece of my $5 fabric bundle from the by-the-pound bin at Stretch-Tex. It also went really well with the fabric I used for this dress, so it made a lot of sense to make a cropped cardigan that I could wear with it!

I decided to go for variation B with the shoulder yoke detail, even though it wouldn’t be super visible with the print. This was intended as a wearable muslin, and I knew I would want the yoke if I made it in a solid colour, so I wanted to try it out. I made it waist length, and I originally cut out the full length sleeves (although as you can see, they became ¾” sleeves when I decided that the print was too overwhelming for long sleeves).

After taping together the PDF pattern (which went quite quickly, since it’s designed so that you only have to print out the pieces specific to the view you’re making), I sized it down one size. The second and third patterns from Muse are available in my size, but this one wasn’t! Sizing it down was really straightforward though, so I’m not complaining.

Muse patterns are designed for a height of 5’ 10” (!), so being only 5’ 2”, I figured I would need to shorten this quite a bit! I held up the pattern pieces and compared them with a cropped cardigan I already own, and decided to shorten it 1½” from the main bodice (I left the band as-is). There were no shorten/lengthen lines on the pattern (something that might be a good addition for future patterns, especially since they’re designed for someone tall), so I just cut it about ¾ of the way down the bodice, overlapped it, and smoothed out the edge.

This went together pretty quickly and easily until reaching the button band. I sewed all the seams on my serger, and lightened the pressure of the presser foot on my regular machine for the topstitching. When I got to the button band, I realized that I forgot to shorten that piece to make the shortened bodice pieces. This would have been an easy fix, although instead of doing the logical thing and also shortening it by 1 ½”, I just held it up to the edge and cut it where I thought it need to be cut, without taking into consideration that it doesn't stretch after interfacing it, whereas the rest of the cardigan does. My button band ended up just a little too short, so I had to take in the seam that attaches the bottom band to the bodice a little, and now it’s just a bit too short in the front and I find myself tugging it down. In retrospect, I probably should have just re-cut the button bands since I had enough fabric left over.

That wasn’t the worst part about the button band… while topstitching it, my machine had a bit of a temper tantrum and I ended up unpicking quite a bit. Let me tell you, unpicking black topstitching on a black sweater knit is NOT easy! This was probably the longest step in the whole construction because of it.

I used my Singer buttonhole attachment for buttonholes, which worked quite well… until the last one. And of course, I always start buttonholes at the bottom, thinking that they’ll get better as I go along. So, the one it messed up was the very top one! You need to go over the buttonhole twice with it, and the second time, it was completely crooked! I think the bulk where the binding and the button band seam overlap might have caused it to shift while it was doing the buttonhole. I was going to unpick it and redo it, but then I remembered what a nightmare unpicking the topstitching was. In the end, I just used a lot of fray check and used some hand stitches to fix it up, and I think it’ll stay in.

The buttons were vintage from my Grandma’s stash, and I really like them! They’re maybe a little flashier than my usual tastes, but I think they suit the fabric. You can't really see them that well in any of these photos, but they're black, shiny, and shaped a little like gemstones.

Buttonhole issues aside, I’m quite happy with this cardigan! There are a few things I would change in terms of the fit, but it’s very wearable and very cute. I think I shortened it a bit too much, and for my next version (which I’ve already just about finished), I only shortened it ½”, which I think is better. This one looks good with a dress but is a little too short to wear with a skirt or high-waisted jeans. The shoulder seams where also a little too wide in this version, so I took them in a touch. If I make it again with ¾ sleeves, I’ll lengthen them just a little. I’m not sure how they compare to the ¾ length pattern piece, but I just chopped off the long sleeves where I thought it would look good. I like how the length looks, but the seam hits right at the crook of my elbow which isn’t the most comfortable. 

I would also probably make the cuffs a bit snugger. If you look closely, they are actually slightly different sizes, because I when I originally cut it out, I thought I was making it with full sleeves, so I cut the cuff for that variation. But I made the mistake of only cutting out one! By the time I realized this and had to cut the second one, I had already shortened the sleeve, so I cut a cuff for the 3/4 length sleeve without thinking, and didn't realize it until after sewing it on, so that one's a little bigger. I actually prefer the full length sleeve though, and might take it in a little further for a snugger ift.

Overall, I’m seriously impressed with Muse Patterns! As I said, the PDF was easy to put together, and the instructions were very well-written. I love that the designs have little vintage details, but are still very wearable, and I LOVE that they’re designed for knits. I’ve already bought and made the Nathalie top as well, and I’m really happy with that one too. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Cardigan: Me-made (Muse Jenna Cardi)
Dress: Me-made (Colette Moneta Dress)
Tights: Hue
Boots: Steve Madden