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.

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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 appeal to 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! 😀 ), 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!

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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!

After the Before

Refashion1Finally, after a lot of work (and a few tears) here’s the outcome of the refashion I posted about! I’m beyond happy with the result, but, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the work in progress almost ended up in the trash…

With a week off of work, I thought I had plenty enough time before me to make it in time for the contest, but I had forgotten that my boyfriend and I had planned to spend a few days at the North Sea. This led to me spending hours on end sewing on my free days, hoping to finish before I left last Wednesday, which I didn’t. I came back Saturday evening and spent my whole Sunday sewing. I was pretty sure the dress would be finished by Sunday evening, and it would have been if I hadn’t made the most stupid mistake. I carefully gathered the skirt and attached it to the bodice, finished the waist seam with the overlock stitch of my sewing machine, trimmed said seam to 5mm… only to realise that the left side seam of the skirt, instead of corresponding to the left side seam of the bodice, was corresponding to the left front princess seam of the bodice! It looked awful, made even worse by the fact that I had added side seam pockets on the skirt: hello, kangaroo pocket!

Refashion2I had to restrain myself from cutting the dress into a billion little pieces out of rage and, following the wise advice of my boyfriend, I took a small break, ate something and, when I came back with a calmer mind, decided to unpick and redo the waist seam. It made me lose a lot of time, which meant that I couldn’t finish the dress on Sunday and had to do it on Monday evening, after coming back from my millinery course at 10pm… But I did finish it, and I was able to take pictures on Tuesday despite the gloomy weather, so everything’s well that ends well! To think the deadline for the contest was originally Sunday evening… It sure was lucky that they moved it to Tuesday! 😀

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Pockets!

Now, enough dwelling on the negative, let’s talk about the dress itself. Doesn’t it look nicer than the original? 😀 I cut the whole original dress apart and used the pieces as fabric for a recently acquired pattern. The pattern is from this adorable Belgian sewing book I recently purchased. Here’s the original design as pictured in the book:

Februari

Click on the picture for the source

I changed the asymmetrically pleated skirt for a simple longer gathered skirt that used less fabric and, as I mentioned above, added side seam pockets. I also replaced the lining with bias binding at the armholes and neckline (and it was a real pain to sew that bias binding properly: next time I’ll use the lining and avoid a lot of drama) and I used the same bias binding to sew the hem (I used the same method – and the same binding but in black – as for my Chardon skirt). Contrary to the neckline and armholes, the hem was easy to finish that way, and the stiff binding makes the skirt stand out as if I was wearing a light petticoat, yay!

Refashion4I found the pattern a touch difficult to trace (I had trouble figuring out which lines belonged to which pieces), but I don’t really know whether to blame the pattern sheet or the lack of light when I traced it, and everything ended up fine in the end, so no real complaint here.

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My invisible zip isn’t really invisible, ah well!

And can you believe how cute that pattern is? I mean, did you notice? Not one, not two, but THREE peter pan collars, I die! And the fit is simply wonderful. I didn’t take the time to make a muslin (oops, here’s that broken record again), but I first basted the whole bodice together to check for any fitting issues beforehand. And, I couldn’t believe my luck, it fit almost perfectly!

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The two top collars are made from some cotton remnants I had in my stash.

I used French seams everywhere except on the waist seam: I don’t know who is responsible for the misconception that you can’t French seam curved seams, (probably the same person who spread the belief that sewing knits is difficult!) but it worked perfectly on the princess seams… and on the side seams with pockets! I used this tutorial for French seaming the side seams with pockets and it was a revelation. To think of all the times I thought I had to choose between side seam pockets and French seams…

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The polka dot bias binding.

Despite the drama, I now have a dress I LOVE. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to wear it to work, but I know I’ll be wearing it a lot outside of work. And it’s so cute and comfortable, I’m pretty sure I’ll sew another version in a less crazy fabric, one that I can wear at work without the risk of mesmerizing my students with colourful tulips mixed with what, come to think of it, kind of looks like marijuana leaves…