Hibou Express

owls1Like many knitters, I remember seeing Kate Davies’ Owls pattern for the first time on Ravelry a few years ago and thinking it was both beautiful and fun, but also way out of my league. So I promptly forgot about it, and when I came across it again at a time when I considered I was a knitter competent enough to tackle it, I didn’t see myself wearing this shape anymore.

Then my favourite yarn shop closed its doors and I went and bought about half its stock in the closing sale for fear I would end up with Phildar as my only option again (okay, I know I’m exaggerating; Phildar is not that bad – I really like these three yarns for example, and their magazines – it’s just that I prefer having more choice locally).

Owls3Among my haul was this beautiful tweed yarn I had been eyeing for months even though I don’t even usually like tweed yarn. I had always found it too expensive, especially for a tweed yarn when I was supposed not to like tweed yarn (how many times can I write “tweed yarn” in one paragraph?), but there were the last nine balls with a nice discount, so this time I yielded to the temptation, without really knowing what I would knit them into.

This yarn being a thicker one than what I’m used to, I had trouble finding a pattern I liked that would suit it, but then, as you guessed it, my Ravelry search eventually led me to the Owls pattern again, and although I still couldn’t see myself wearing that sweater as is, I suddenly had the idea of simply cropping it! Now there was a shape I was sure I’d wear a lot!

Owls4It was really easy to crop the body of the sweater (you can read my Ravelry notes if you’re interested in how exactly I did it), and it made a fast knit an even faster one: can you believe it was knit in five days?! I couldn’t believe it either, but the thick yarn coupled to the fact that it’s a close-fitting sweater and that I cropped it made it my fastest knitting project ever, by far.

It took me two more days to sew on the 32 buttons. 32 buttons is a lot of buttons to sew, and I must say I was tempted to leave them off, as I had seen some people had done, but I had already bought them (what was I to do with 32 buttons?), and also once I saw how much cuter the owls looked with their button eyes, I knew they were worth the effort!

Owls5Other than that, I really enjoyed knitting this sweater and watching those cute owls almost literally flying off my needles! The only thing I didn’t like, but that’s a detail really, was that the pattern tells you to close the armholes by grafting some stitches you have put on hold… but that this was far from sufficient to close them! I don’t know whether I did something wrong (I don’t think so because I’ve read other people have encountered the same problem), but I ended up with two large holes on each side of the grafting of each armhole. I closed them up with a few stitches and this took no time at all and looks good after all, so no real problem here; I just found it weird that the method that was recommended in the pattern actually didn’t work.

Owls6Another word of warning, if you ever knit a cropped version of this sweater: the waist ribbing might look freakishly tiny before you reach the stockinette body. Mine was small enough to fit my cat! I freaked out a little bit, but I decided to trust my gauge swatch and go on knitting, and things started to look more normal once I had hit the body, which stretched the ribbing and made it start to look human-sized, phew!

Also about the size, if you want a close-fitting sweater and fall between two sizes like I did, I’d recommend going with the smallest size: according to the schematics, the size I chose is supposed to fit a 30-32’’ bust, mine is 33’’ and I’m really happy with the fit of my finished sweater, even with a few layers under it!

Owls2Though I’ve come to realise such a thick sweater doesn’t need that many layers to keep you warm. It’s one of the warmest sweaters I’ve ever owned. As a matter of fact, I have to make sure I’m never wearing anything too ugly or revealing under it in case I have to take it off or faint form the heat when I’m teaching!

The Black Zinnia

BlackZinnia5I’m not one to read those magazine articles that assume that every woman needs certain items of clothing in her wardrobe, such as a little black dress and other nonsense (I’m not one to read any of those magazines, period. Not anymore. You wouldn’t believe how much my self-esteem has improved since I’ve restricted my magazine buying to Burda and other craft related periodicals). It’s kind of ironic that I’m saying that when my last blog post featured what could obviously be described as a [shudder] LBD, but seriously, I lived without a LBD for most of my life and I didn’t feel the need for one like, ever!

BlackZinnia1Anyway, rant over I guess. What I wanted to tell you was that a black cardigan was one of the rare garments I felt I needed. I used to own a store-bought one that you can see here (I don’t know why I’m bothering linking to that picture: everybody knows what a black cardigan looks like, don’t they?), but it died and I’d been missing it sorely ever since.

BlackZinnia3There were a few pieces in my wardrobe, such as the dress you see in the picture I absurdly linked to a few rows above, that I always wanted to wear with a black cardigan. But it’s also so much more appealing to knit colourful yarn that boring black yarn, isn’t it? So each time I started a new knitting project, it didn’t even cross my mind that I could make that black cardigan.

BlackZinnia4

Smiling is for the weak.

Enter Zinnia. I don’t know why, but when I was perusing my favourite yarn shop (no link because it recently closed doors and I’ll be sad about it forever :-( ) to choose some yarn for that project, for once I was drawn to grey and black. The various greys that were available in the shop didn’t really please me, so I chose black.

BlackZinnia6And I am so happy I did! Not only was the black yarn not boring at all to knit (annoying maybe; it was a cat hair magnet! – not so much since I completed it, weirdly!), but I finished this knit two weeks ago and I’ve already worn it so often: it seems like a black cardigan does go with everything. I also like the way the textured stitch looks in black. I was afraid the dark colour would hide it, but it doesn’t and I think it looks great. The yarn is Drops Karisma, a superwash yarn which I’ll definitely use again in the future.

BlackZinnia7I really enjoyed knitting this pattern: the textured stitch kept things interesting yet it was very straightforward to follow. The lace diamonds, too, were a pleasure to knit: I placed markers between each repeat, which I always do when I’m knitting lace, and it made things easy as pie. You can find my Ravelry notes here.

BlackZinnia8When in-between sizes as is often the case with Andi’s patterns, I usually choose knitting a size smaller, which is best with all those close-fitting cropped sweaters I love knitting/wearing, but for this one I preferred going a size bigger since it was supposed to be looser-fitting. And I’m glad with the result: I can comfortably layer one or two long-sleeved tees under it, yet it doesn’t look too loose-fitting either when I’m only wearing one layer of short or 3/4 sleeves.

BlackZinnia9I should be back in not too long with another knit, and then with that skirt I started two months ago. Both are finished and just need to be photographed, alas we all know “just” photographing our sewing projects is even less of a small feat in winter than during the rest of the year!BlackZinnia2

Christmas Eve Outfit

Réveillon4It’s been a long time since I posted a finished garment, and here I am with some of the crappiest pictures I’ve ever posted on this blog, but they will have to do or I’ll never show you any of the last pieces I made, what with winter and its crazy lack of daylight…

I took these coming back from work yesterday around 3 p.m. (lucky me finishing so early! :-) ) and I barely had enough light long enough to take them.

Réveillon1So, this is the outfit I made to wear on Christmas Eve. Last year I made the dumbest choice by wearing this skirt which, although very comfortable for daily wear, became an instrument of torture after I had ingurgitated Christmas dinner. Which is why this year I decided I needed the most ample dress possible in order to eat as much as I wanted and not feel like my clothing was trying to kill me.

Réveillon2Enter my beloved modified babydoll Renfrew dress that could hold triplets and a whole turkey! I sewed the waist gathers the same way as for this one (this gathering method makes for a very loose-fitting waist), the sleeves are 3/4 like on this one, but I used a different method for the neckline: for once I didn’t use a band but simply turned under the neckline edge twice. I felt it was dressier.

Réveillon3The sleeves are wide enough for me to layer a 3/4-sleeved T-shirt under the dress for maximum Christmas (and cold weather in general) cosiness. I did not add pockets for lack of time, but I’ll probably add some in the near future because I keep reaching for them when I wear the dress, and of course I don’t know where to put my tissues.

Réveillon5The cropped sweater started its life as a whole nother project. I wanted a cosy sweater dress made from this glittery sweater knit I had recently bought, but when I tried it on I realised it looked positively awful on me! I have no problem wearing things that don’t make me look as thin as possible, or that make me look pregnant for that matter (I guess the outfit I’m showing you today kind of proves my point! :-D ), but I do wearing things that make me appear deformed! I put the dress aside, feeling there might still be a way to rescue it, and when I started thinking about my Christmas outfit, I immediately thought simply cropping it might make it the perfect companion to the little black babydoll dress I had in mind. And indeed it did!

Réveillon6

I must have been Captain Harlock in a previous life!

I also cropped the sleeves, which were about as unflattering as the rest of the dress when they were full-length. Since my fabric has mediocre stretch recovery, I put some wide elastic in the cuffs to prevent them from getting distorted over time. It does feel pretty stiff, which was weird at first, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

The original collar of the dress also stood very weirdly and/or didn’t suit me at all, so I simply turned it under and topstitched it in place. I was surprised by how good it looked after this simple transformation!

Réveillon7I have been wearing this exact same outfit a lot since Christmas, but I haven’t worn the two pieces separately yet, which is weird since a black dress and a neutral sweater (gold and silver are neutrals to me – I’m not even kidding!) shouldn’t be too hard to combine with the rest of my wardrobe. I guess I just like them so much together!

And a Cosy New Year!

MoutonAlpagaNo New Year’s resolutions this time; I have finally learnt my lesson: I hardly ever keep them and then I feel like a looser all year long…

Out of last year’s four resolutions, I only kept one, which was to make a drawing of each of my sewing projects. I filled my whole sketchbook (that’s 15 pages, glad I didn’t buy a thicker one!) and this was really fun to do, but I was still relieved when I reached the last page because this meant that at last I could focus on other drawings, and other drawing media!

I said I only kept one resolution, but one could say I kept one resolution and a half: remember my Stash Diet? I held on for six months, so there’s that! :-D But after six months it started not being fun anymore and I started to feel like it impeded my creativity instead of boosting it, so I decided to let go! Still, if there’s one thing this resolution brought me, it’s the fact that I took the time to count how much fabric I own and especially to make a record of each piece in a very useful swatch album! Now at least I know exactly what I own and I don’t run the risk of buying something I already have (unless it’s totally intentional like those striped jersey knits I keep amassing – you never have enough striped jersey!). It’s also really easy to match a pattern with a fabric now that I only need to open my album to check the meterage!

The last two resolutions I didn’t keep were making the skirt I had promised to sew for a friend (shame on me!) and… increasing my sewing/knitting production! Why did I even want such a thing anyway?! I have no idea what possessed me at the time, because I don’t see how 26 sewn/knitted items in 2013 (that’s one every two weeks!) were not enough! :-D

Anyway, I almost reached the same number this year! Here’s a compilation of my 25 creations of 2014:

2014

That’s:

– 15 sewing projects ( 8 dresses, 3 tops, 2 skirts, 1 hoodie, 1 elephant!);

– 7 knitting projects (4 sweaters, 3 cardigans);

– 2 hats (I only included those I made just for myself, not the ones I made for my collection);

– 1 pair of shoes (almost two, my second pair just needs a tiny finishing touch which I have been postponing for months! – and by finishing touch, I mean fixing a mistake :-/ ).

Antoine2The creation I have been wearing most often is without question my pair of shoes! They really go with everything, to the point that I’m starting to question the relevance of my extensive collection of shoes, and that’s saying something!

MostWornI’ve also been wearing my Renfrew dresses, Winter Heather sweater, Sureau shirtdress, Polka Dot skirt, Watercolour skirt, self-drafted summer sweater and Adelfa cardigan a lot. Oh, and my poor boyfriend’s hoodie, too: it turned out the sleeve bands were in fact too tight for him to roll up his sleeves past his elbows, so he kindly gave it to me and I’ve been wearing it non stop at home!

HollyburnHat5Those are the pieces I’ve been wearing most, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been wearing the rest: the only one I haven’t worn at all is my Hollyburn hat, which I kind of foresaw when I made it but you know, I had to make my vision come to life! ;-)

SmockCoronisDirndlAnd the things I made after the summer haven’t been included in the “most worn” category just because I have had less time to wear them than things I’ve made before, but both my Japanese plaid dress and the last sweater I knit have been worn quite a bit since I made them! And I’m pretty sure the dirndl blouse will get a lot more wear come spring!

Aubépine5The only garment I’m not happy about, even though I’ve worn it, is my Aubépine dress. I still love the pattern, but it’s now official: I HATE the fabric! I hate its shiny quality (it doesn’t show in the pictures, but trust me!), I hate the fact that the front bodice piece got distorted and now has all those creases and I hate the sweat marks (sorry!) that appear within five minutes of wearing because it’s a synthetic blend!!! I’m almost certain I won’t wear the dress anymore, but I’m still hesitating between two options: salvaging the silk lining for another project and throwing the main fabric away, or donating the whole dress…

I guess only one fail in a whole year is not too bad… I also have three UFOs though: these two and what’s more of a WIP than a UFO, a burda skirt I put aside because I wanted to sew myself an outfit for Christmas Eve (the dress and cropped sweater you can see at the bottom right of the picture compilation) but which shouldn’t wait too long for me to finish it.

I won’t make any promises though, because you know how it works! ;-)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Sketchbook: The End!

RainbowIt’s been so long since I last posted one of them, but I didn’t stop drawing sketches of my sewing projects. Some of them were missing their colours, others their little fabric sample, and the last two I still needed to draw altogether, but I finally got to drawing and finishing all of them, and the sketchbook is actually full now: there’s no blank page left!

EucalyptCentauréeI won’t be starting a new sketchbook for my next sewing projects, I think one is enough, but I’m pretty stoked that I stuck to at least one of my resolutions for 2014! I hope this won’t stop me from going on drawing regularly in the next year, we’ll see…

Carreaux DirndlI don’t have a lot more to say about these drawings or sewing projects (I’ll probably write a round up at the end of the year, to tell about which garments I’ve been wearing or not and why, like I did last year), so I guess that’s it! You can click on each drawing to see the original blog post about the finished garment in question.

AubépineI hope to be back soon with a new finished sewing project, it’s been such a long time since I last completed one! I’m working on two at the moment: a grey corduroy version of this skirt and a sweater dress that’s proving to be so unflattering on me I’m almost sure it’s going to end up as a cropped sweater instead!

Marinière With a Twist

Coronis1I don’t know whether it’s the gloomy weather or what, but I so haven’t been in the mood to take pictures of this project. It’s been finished since November 18 and I only (begrudgingly) took the pictures yesterday. I usually prefer taking pictures of my creations before I wear them for the first time because I’m afraid I’m going to ruin them and not get a chance to capture them for eternity or something, but this one has already gotten its fair share of wear before getting photographed.

Coronis4This means I can reflect more objectively on its qualities and flaws: I realised by wearing it that the sleeves, which I wanted to be long, have a tendency to creep up a little bit after a moment and not cover my wrists anymore. As you can see in some of the pictures, I mostly wear my sleeves rolled up, but still, I like having the option of real long sleeves, for when I’m riding my bike in the cold for example. Same with the body: I wanted it to hit exactly at my waist, which it does, but once again when I move it rides up a little bit and I have to readjust it. It’s not so much a problem when I wear it with a dress like I do in the pictures, but with a skirt I risk exposing what I’m wearing under the sweater. I still have enough yarn left, so I’m thinking of unravelling the ribbed parts, add one or two stripe repeats then reknit the ribs. Easy. We’ll see how long it takes me to get to it! ;-)

Coronis3

See how the sleeves creep up?

The pattern is Coronis by Emily Ringelman, from Pom Pom Quarterly #10 (best magazine name ever by the way) and it was really easy to follow yet pretty interesting to knit. You can take a look at my Ravelry notes for more technical details.

From afar it looks like yet another navy/white striped sweater, but there’s a twist! Look at this detail picture:Coronis7These stripes may look complicated, but they aren’t at all. You only work one colour per row, and the pattern is really easy both to understand and to memorise. The wool is Drops Alpaca, which I loved working with and love wearing. I already have another project in my queue using this same yarn.

Coronis5I completely messed up the gauge on this sweater: I suddenly decided my gauge (which I had checked beforehand) was too loose, so I unravelled what I had already knit and started over with smaller needles. I still don’t know what possessed me: when have I ever knit loosely? The answer is NEVER! I’m a tight knitter, have always been and will always be! It’s a good thing I had decided to knit this sweater with positive ease for once and ended up with a sweater with negative ease, instead of a too tight sweater as I would have if I had decided on a sweater with negative ease, which is usually my preference for that kind of cropped sweaters.

Coronis6Because of that impromptu change of needles, I had to knit way more rows to get the length I wanted, so I ended up with more stripes than on the original. And I’ll have even more rows and even more stripes when I add some length to the sleeves and body.

But I guess having too many stripes is not the worst flaw a sweater can have, so once I get to lengthening it I won’t have anything negative to say about it anymore! I really like the style and the fit and I think it will look very cute with quite a few of my dresses and skirts!

Coronis2

Brand New Leopard-Skin Formerly Pill-Box Hat

Leopard2During my millinery training, I made quite a few hats only to learn new techniques and not because I really wanted to make those particular hats. As a result I ended up with a small number of hats that I never wore and that were gathering dust (hats are dust magnets!) and… that started serving as nests for moths, eeew!

Leopard3
So one night I suddenly decided to take action and either simply throw away what had to be or clean and transform what I thought had potential.
Among the dusty wrecks was this leopard pillbox hat:

LeopardBefore
I thought the leopard print was fun (even though I hadn’t really chosen it when I made the first hat) but that print coupled with that shape looked too matronly to my liking and so I had never worn it, not even once. Come to think of it, I had never even taken the time to add the comb it needed to stay on the head.

Leopard4
I unpicked the petersham ribbon from the inside of the hat and washed everything thoroughly with warm water and soap. That’s what I did for the refashions of my collection and so far I’ve never encountered a problem with that method, be it with felt or straw.

Leopard5
Since the felt was already wet, there was no need for steam and I immediately shaped it on a block. I could have dried it with a blow dryer but I was in no hurry so I let it dry naturally for two days before I took it off the block. After that I added some millinery wire to strengthen the edge of the brim and I covered that with black bias binding, then I added the decoration (I guess all of my hats must sport either flowers or a bow of some sorts) and finally I sewed on the petersham ribbon inside (the old one was just a touch too short so I used a new length), and then I had a new hat!

Leopard6
It actually took me almost two weeks to finish the hat, but that’s because I did not work on it every day. Otherwise I guess it could have been made in two sessions, or maybe even one if I had used a blow dryer instead of leaving it to dry naturally.

Leopard7
Now we’ll see whether or not I wear this new hat more than the old one… Only time will tell! But one thing is for sure, now I store all of my wool hats (except for the ones I wear really often) in hat boxes. So much cleaner, duh!

Leopard1

Aubergine Aubépine

Aubépine1I had been wanting to sew the Aubépine dress in this fabric for a little over a year. I got the fabric at a swap last year and even though I didn’t like its colour, a very pale yellow, I thought it would be perfect for the dress once I had dyed it a beautiful purple.

BeforeAfterI was sure it was either all viscose or a viscose and cotton blend, but judging from the result of the dyeing, it must be a viscose and synthetic blend: the weft came out a perfect purple while the warp stayed the exact same pale yellow as before. Ah well I thought, it’s still a nice colour!

What I didn’t like (and still don’t) is that once dyed, the fabric got sort of a shiny quality. Not only do I not like that per se, but it also has the unwanted effect of emphasising each and every crease. And unfortunately, there are a lot of creases on this dress!

Aubépine2I knew the fabric was prone to distortion, so I had planned on using fusible bias tape to stabilise the neckline and armholes. But I didn’t have any in stock and I didn’t think to staystitch instead, so between the pressing and sewing of the tucks and darts and other manipulations, when I sewed the shell and lining together, the shell bodice had grown bigger than the lining bodice.

So while the lining is a perfect fit, the exterior fabric is kind of a mess. There are creases everywhere on the front bodice even after the most careful pressing. The back bodice is a little better except for a few centimetres at the sleeve seams.

Aubépine3Another bad choice I made was forgetting that the waist seam was going to be enclosed in the waist casing and using French seams there that were not only not needed, but that added bulk in the casing.

All of that is not bad enough that I don’t want to wear the dress, but it does make me a bit self-conscious at times, and then I have to remind myself that people who don’t sew won’t notice there’s anything wrong with my dress.

Aubépine4And the dress is so comfortable that it would be a shame not to wear it! I even replaced the drawstring with a piece of elastic for maximum comfort. For that I didn’t make two buttonholes at the front of the dress but only one buttonhole at the back of the lining, to be able to thread the elastic through the casing.

Aubépine5Except for the replacement of the drawstring with elastic, I followed the instructions to the letter. The step I dreaded most was making the tucks and this was actually a piece of cake. The part I found most tedious was basting the shell and lining waist seams together before sewing the casing: this took way too much time. Other than that, I really enjoyed the process of sewing this dress.

And I love the lining I used: it’s a beautiful silk that was a delight to sew and that is a delight to wear. I wasn’t keen on using the recommended cotton voile as a lining because of static cling with tights (it is a fall dress after all), and this silk is a perfect substitute.

Aubépine6As a matter of fact, the beauty of the lining, the fact that everything is French seamed and my issues with the outside bodice mean that the dress is almost prettier inside than outside!

Dirndl Blouse

Dirndl1The sewjo is back! I loved this dirndl blouse pattern I saw in the last September issue of Burda (magazine), and for once I didn’t forget about it and/or postpone it indefinitely! To tell the truth, the thing that motivated me to start this project and not another one was that I had just gotten this piece of fabric from a swap at Saki’s and it was such a weird shape that I didn’t want to bother trying to fold it neatly. I found it easier to start sewing it immediately! :-D

Dirndl3This was a pretty easy sew if not for the fact that I always have the hardest time understanding written sewing instructions. I’m not even going to try and blame it on Burda, whose language we know can be quite cryptic. This time the instructions were clear… I’m the one who couldn’t make any sense from them!

The thing is, I only understood what they were saying once I already knew what I had to do: so when I read a step in the sewing guide, I didn’t understand it, then once I had figured out what to do on my own, I came back to the instructions and thought: “So that’s what they were trying to tell me!”.

Dirndl4Not that you’d need that much handholding sewing this blouse; there’s nothing really complicated there. The only thing I truly needed the instructions for was the neck opening/facing. I have the worst spatial intelligence, so I had to resort to doing a paper simulation of that one in order to get it! Okay, please do not laugh, three paper simulations…

Dirndl5At least those simulations did help and I got a better result than I would have gotten had I dived right in. I just had to topstitch the neckline edge twice instead of once because there were a couple centimetres of the neckline facing that hadn’t been caught in the first line of stitching. I initially wanted to unpick this first line of stitching after sewing the second one, but I decided the two rows of stitching actually looked cute so both could stay.

Dirndl6Once I had understood them, I mainly followed the instructions. The first of the only two things I did differently was inverting two steps: Burda has you sew the sleeve hem first, then the side seams, but I prefer the finish of sewing the side seams first, then the sleeve hem.

While we’re talking about the side seams, I made the dumbest mistake there! I thought I was being clever by using French seams, but I forgot how curved those seams were: there was no way French seams were going to work! So I had to clip my beautiful French seams afterwards, not the perfect finish I was hoping for! I reinforced the underarm seams before clipping the seam allowances to avoid any unravelling.

The second thing I did differently from the instructions was drafting a facing for the top of the neckline. It was supposed to be left raw, which I didn’t fancy at all. That facing trick worked like a charm. No raw edges on any of my clothing, ever!

Vintage faux pearl button from my mother's stash.

Vintage faux pearl button from my mother’s stash.

I find this blouse really cute, it’s a style I’m very fond of. I love it tucked in high-waisted skirts, dirndl or not! Not that you could tell judging from the awful angle I took these pictures from, ahem!

I feared the weather would soon be too cold to wear such a light blouse, but when I put it on I forgot I was wearing a thermal cami and only realised that after taking the pictures, so I guess I can wear it with a cami under it and a cardigan over it and not have to wait for spring after all!

Dirndl2