Bronze Brynja

brynja1This cardigan is one of my last finished objects, the last FO of 2016 in fact. I was wearing it today when, coming home from work, I realised how long it had been since I published anything on this blog, so I’m glad I’ve finally stopped caring about posting my projects in the order I finish them! Please excuse the crazy hair, I had just been rained on. OK who am I kidding, my hair is always crazy! :-/

brynja3The pattern is Brynja by Linda Lencovic, in PomPom Quarterly, Issue 11 (Winter 2014). FYI, it is now also available as an individual download. It had caught my eye when it first came out, and I immediately thought of it again when, about a year later, the lovely Aïda brought 19 skeins (yes, NINETEEN – no, I haven’t used all of them) of Phildar Sport’Laine (Bronze colourway), a discontinued wool/acrylic blend, at our annual fabric/yarn swap. The yarn slept in my stash for a little over a year, which I guess is not too bad compared to how long some other yarns have been waiting in there. It was very pleasant to knit with, and its only downside is that the 49% of acrylic mean that things can get a little bit sweatier than with my other, 100% natural, sweaters. Sorry if that’s TMI. It does not smell though, probably thanks to the wool content?

brynja4I did not find the instructions for the cardigan completely user friendly, which I’m thinking might have to do with the very limited space they had to fit in the magazine (4 very small pages, schematic included). There were also a couple mistakes in there, which had me unravel quite a few rows (details on my Ravelry). Mistakes/Small lack of clarity aside, it was still an enjoyable knit thanks to the AWESOME cable pattern. I mean, isn’t it gorgeous?

brynja6

The buttons were rescued from an old jacket by my mother. Merci Maman!

And so easy to knit and to memorise. Plus, no need for a cable needle. I loved seeing those cables take shape and I love the texture they give the finished cardigan!

brynja5However, when I first finished the cardigan and tried it on, I felt pretty meh about it, if not seriously disappointed. All I could focus on were the very low armholes, which I am not used to. I forced myself to wear the cardigan nevertheless, on a very casual day at work… and I fell in love with it! The low armholes can’t even be seen from the front, only from the back, and they do not bother me at all anymore; I actually like their relaxed feel! They don’t look that good when the cardigan is closed, but I always wear it open, so…

brynja7

Pockets! A bit small for the hands but perfect for tissues and chapstick!

My Brynja has now become one of my most worn cardigans (I know I say that about a lot of my knits, but it is true, I do wear most of them on a very regular basis – the majority of them never even see the inside of my wardrobe from about September to June). Its colour goes with a surprising amount of prints and other colours, which I did not see coming. By the way, did you know the name of this colour in French is “caca d’oie”, which means “goose poop”? Oh, the glamour! It’s actually a very accurate description of the colour, much more so than the one chosen by Phildar, isn’t it? But I didn’t think “Goose Poop Brynja” would make as catchy a title! 😉

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Le Quart des brumes

Quart1Woohoo, I can’t believe I’ve caught up on months of blogging slacking in less than two weeks! I have to say, being on holiday has helped a lot (who would have thought?), as well as setting myself a deadline.

I’ve kept the best for last: my Quart coat is by far my proudest sewing achievement this year! Proudest sewing achievement ever, in fact! I can see that it’s not perfect, and these pictures are particularly unforgiving, exacerbating each and every wrinkle and crease, also made worse by the fact that I have been wearing the coat every day since its completion, but I’m still very proud of all the work and time I put into this project.

Quart2I had been in dire need of a replacement for my Minoru jacket, whose pockets had literally started to disintegrate after three years of daily wear, so when I stumbled upon this olive green heavy water-repellent cotton twill at €3 a metre (!) at Tissus Passion last September, I didn’t think twice and bought 4 metres, more than enough for any coat or jacket. It didn’t take me long after that to choose Pauline Alice’s gorgeous Quart coat as a pattern, which I bought the very same day. The Venezia lining was in my stash.

I traced the pattern almost as soon as I got it, but then I got cold feet and sewed a few easy projects before finally starting on the coat for real in November.

Quart3This was my first time sewing a Pauline Alice pattern, and I like living dangerously so I didn’t make a muslin. I looked at the size chart and cut accordingly: a 36 for the bust and waist graded to a 40 for the hips. It’s alright for this twill coat that is not intended to be worn with a lot of layers underneath (usually a dress or a t-shirt with a hand-knitted cardigan or sweater, which is what I’m wearing in the pictures), but had it been a winter wool coat meant to be worn over thicker layers, I think it would have been a size too small at the shoulders.

Quart4Sewing the coat took me about a month, broken down in steps I could complete here and there. The only thing I found truly hard to deal with (had it not been near the end of such a long project, I’d have thrown the towel!) was attaching the lining pleats to the exterior fabric pleats: after a few trials and errors, I found it easiest to press the bottom of lining and main fabric flat to get rid of the pleats, and reshape the pleats once everything was attached. Other than that, the Quart coat is a loooong project to take on, but there’s nothing difficult to it.

Quart5I was impressed by the instructions, which I followed to the letter: I thought I’d need the step-by-step tutorial, which I downloaded from the website, but in the end I found the pattern instructions to be sufficient. I think there was only one step that had me stumped (step 36 for anyone making the coat – I thought I was supposed to start stitching at 4 cm from the bottom edge of the main fabric while you have to start at 4 cm from the bottom edge of the lining), but Mimolette helped me understand this one and I was back on track.

Quart8I bought the thinnest shoulder pads I could find at Veritas and made my own sleeve heads with some fleece from my stash. I used Karen’s e-book (which I had bought two years ago for that coat I never finished) to brush up on my bound buttonholes and everything went swimmingly. As for the buttons, they are probably my favourite part of this coat! I wanted some military buttons to go with the style of the coat, and when I couldn’t find anything I liked in any local shop, I had the idea of searching on eBay, where I found the perfect buttons, sold by someone living here in Brussels! They are Belgian army uniform buttons from WWI (big ones at the front, small ones on the epaulettes), and I love the touch of history they add to my handmade coat. Not to mention, I think they look so much nicer than what I had found in shops!

Quart7I was a little bit disappointed when I wore the coat for the first time on my bike because the sleeves suddenly seemed too short… Luckily, it’s nothing a pair of fingerless mittens can’t fix, and I think I was just spoiled by the extra long Minoru sleeves, drafted with a cyclist in mind. Something to keep in mind for the next time I make a coat or a jacket, but honestly, that won’t stop me from wearing this one to death!

Quart6

Doppelgangers

Chardon1The vermilion Chardon skirt I made two years ago is one of those garments I reach for constantly, both in summer and winter. So when I found this vibrant green cotton at Les Tissus du Chien Vert earlier this year, I thought it would make a perfect new glaring Chardon that I knew would get a lot of wear.

Chardon2I made this skirt in early May, so I can already tell you that it did indeed get a lot of wear, as did the t-shirt I’m wearing in the pictures, sewn a few days before. The t-shirt is also my second time using a pattern (and it’s also the same t-shirt I’m wearing in the pictures of the post about my first Chardon!), a two-piece tee (one front piece, one back piece) from this Ottobre magazine.

Chardon6I finished the t-shirt differently from the first time, by substituting a narrow neckline/sleeve band to the neckline/sleeve binding. Other than that, it’s the same as the first one, but serged instead of sewn by machine (except for the top stitching, made with a double needle). It’s also exactly the same kind of slinky rayon knit as the purple one, but two years of experience made it way easier to cut than the first time around.

As for the skirt, I decided to bind all of the seams with bias tape, and I have to say I was pretty proud of the result! I was afraid it was going to be too bulky at the pockets, but it isn’t, so I’ll definitely use this method again in the future.

Chardon3I did screw up somewhere in sewing the pleats, though, which are a little wider (and less deep) than they should be. At first I made them the correct size, but when I tried on the skirt before attaching the zipper, I felt like it was going to be too snug. So I let out each pleat by a few millimetres to gain a couple centimetres. And of course, when I tried on the skirt a second time, this time with the zipper, it was way too big at the waist! I unpicked the zipper, and since I couldn’t be bothered to unpick and redo the pleats for the second time, I simply cut off the excess at the centre back seam and re-inserted the zipper.

Chardon4Despite this silly mistake, I’ve been wearing these two garments a lot, both together and separately. The outfit I’m wearing in the pictures is the exact outfit I had been wearing all day at work, hence the wrinkled skirt.

I’m really happy with the finishing of both garments, especially of the inside of the skirt. It’s so pretty it almost feels like a waste to keep it hidden. It’s such a shame that I can’t wear it inside out… Or could I?

Chardon5

Minty Fresh Sweater

Mint1As an avid fan of cropped sweaters and cute collars, I waited for about three seconds and a half before ordering the Ondée sweater when it came out. I had been eyeing the Bluegingerdoll Bonnie sweater but had never clicked on purchase, but the adorable collar of the Deer&Doe one coupled to the fact that Deer&Doe patterns usually fit me pretty well made me glad I had waited.

Mint3I can knit the cropped sweaters I need of course, and it’s not like I was desperately looking for something to wear with my high-waisted skirts as I’ve read was the case for so many people, but sewing a top is still a nice change from spending a month or more knitting one. And did I tell you about the adorable collar?

Mint4I immediately knew I wanted to use this mint cotton (with a hint of elasthane) jersey knit, and white for the collar (a crisp white collar is always a safe bet), and the result is exactly what I had hoped for, yay!

Mint5The pattern was really easy to follow and fast to sew. Even the collar, which I thought was going to be more difficult than a classic T-shirt collar, was a piece of cake. I used my serger for everything but the collar, and a zigzag stitch for the latter. A double needle would have been my first choice, but my machine has been acting out lately every time I’ve tried to use a double needle, so after trying in vain different tensions and needles on fabric scraps, in the end I opted for a simple zigzag stitch, which worked like a charm.

Mint2I don’t have a lot more to say about such a straightforward project, but rest assured that this won’t be the last Ondée you see on this blog!

The First Fall Dress

Smock1I bought this fabric and the book the pattern is from during the same trip to Paris, three years ago. I immediately knew I wanted to pair the two together, yet every year I let fall pass me by without taking the time to materialise my project. So this year, when wondering what to sew next after finishing my Centaurée and thinking I’d like to sew something that would be evocative of the beginning of fall, this old idea sprung to mind.

Smock2A few years ago, the Stylish Dress Book series and other Japanese pattern books were very popular on the French speaking blogosphere (about as popular as Deer&Doe nowadays, to give you an idea!). Then they fell out of fashion to the point that a lot of people started frowning upon them, lamenting that the patterns were unflattering and that they made even the thinnest person look fat. Well, I beg to differ!

It’s true that most patterns in these books are all but form-fitting, yet I don’t think they are unflattering at all. Of course, they are not flattering in the sense that they make you look thinner than you are, but does looking good always have to equate with looking your thinnest?

Smock3One of the main real problems of the Japanese pattern books was (is?) that the darts are usually insanely high (the other one being that the sizes are very restricted, stopping at a mere 93 cm/36 ½” bust for the Stylish Dress Book!). But this pattern (SDB3 Dress H) doesn’t have any, so I didn’t have to make any fitting adjustments, phew! So I didn’t make a muslin, thinking the fit of such a loose smock would be forgiving.

This would have been such an easy project had it not been for my fabric choice. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into with the plaid matching, but I had not counted on the shifty nature of the fabric… It’s a cotton flannel; I had no idea those could be that tricky, but I swear it had a life of its own! Plaid + shifty fabric = four-hour-long cutting nightmare. I was so relieved (and so proud!) when I sewed the pieces together and every line that could match, well, did!

Smock4The only thing I’m not entirely happy about is the yoke: I chose to cut it on the bias (thinking yay, no plaid matching there, then oops, still have to match the shoulders and the button bands!) and added a lining that I cut on the straight grain to stop the bias-cut yoke from stretching out of shape. It didn’t work that well: the fabric is so unstable that it still stretched out a little bit, so it doesn’t sit flush on the shoulders. It bothered me at first (WHY can’t ANY project ever be perfect?!), but having worn the dress a few times already, I had forgotten about it until writing this article.

SDB3HI made a few small modifications other than adding a lining to the yoke. As you can (sort of) see above, the dress doesn’t normally have any button bands. I added some length (3 cm/1 ¼”) to the front yoke pieces so that they’d overlap and form the button bands. I had planned on sewing some buttonholes there, but when I tried I quickly realised that with that fabric and the fact that that part was cut on the bias, I’d better settle for snaps. And I have to say I really like the result! I loathe snaps for garments that are worn open, but for this dress, which is going to be worn closed at all times, I find them very convenient.

Smock5Other things I changed in my version are omitting the yoke ruffles and adding patch pockets. When was the last time I sewed a dress and did not add patch pockets? I think this is the third dress in a row that gets the same treatment… I should rename my blog Rue des Patch Pockets or something. So I added patch pockets. And I love them.

The last change I made was not to add any seam allowance at the hem (I wanted a short dress!) and finishing it with black bias tape.

Smock6I took the pictures coming back from work, which is why the dress may seem a bit wrinkled in places. It’s a very comfortable dress to wear, albeit a bit short. If I need to raise my arms (for, say, write at the top of the blackboard), I have to be careful to push up the sleeves past the elbows first, otherwise the whole dress goes up and I risk flashing too much thigh (or worse!). But I’ve worn it at work a few times already, and there have been no problems in that respect.

All in all it’s a very cosy dress, perfect for fall and winter. It took me three years before finally sewing it, but a pattern/fabric match that hasn’t changed in three years could only mean success. And despite the small problem at the shoulders, I’m really proud of the finishing work I did.

A Week Of Hats: Verlaine

Verlaine1As you may recall, the first hat I made for my Make Do and Mend collection was a winter hat. It used to be a beret, which I bought a few years ago in a thrift store because I liked its style and colour, yet never wore because it was in fact too big for my head.

Verlaine2As soon as I chose the theme of my collection, I knew I would be using this hat. I also knew the shape I wanted it to take, I just wasn’t sure how to embellish it. In the end I settled on the simplest of my ideas, which was to finish the edge of the brim with store-bought bias tape and to decorate the crown with the same bias tape and a cluster of the felt flowers (cut from the same felt as the hat itself) that were spread all around the original hat. I debated using shiny thread, either green or gold, to sew the flowers on, but once again I preferred to keep it simple and chose matching thread in the end.

Verlaine3These are the pictures I put in my presentation album, so they don’t show the inside of the hat, but I was able to reuse the petersham ribbon of the beret. There’s also a piece of millinery elastic attached inside the hat, which helps invisibly fastening the hat on the head.

Verlaine4To shape the hat I used a cylindrical block… and a table: once I had gotten the crown I wanted, I carefully shaped the brim on a table so that it would lay nice and flat. I had to be very careful not to distort the crown in the process. It would have been much easier to make the hat in two separate pieces, but I wanted to see if it was even possible to do it in one… and with a little bit of patience it was, so no regrets there!

Verlaine5I was going to write that I’m really happy with the result of this hat, but I’m afraid to sound like a broken record because I’m pretty sure I’m going to want to write that about all the hats of the collection! But seriously, it’s pretty thrilling to see your vision take shape and get to make exactly the hat you had in your head!

Verlaine6One more thing before I let you go, I gave each hat of the collection the name of a song by French singer Charles Trenet. He’s one of my favourite singers (yep, I was born an old lady!), one I usually listen to a lot while sewing/knitting/hatmaking, and so typical of the 1940s that I could not resist paying him that little homage. The song Verlaine is one of my favourite songs in the whole world, and I thought it suited this hat very well with its autumnal imagery.

Camper Tee

Camper1Pretty close, huh?

This isn’t my first project of 2014, but my last project of 2013, which I finished ten days ago, but couldn’t find the time to photograph in between holiday activities. You may have seen the sneak peek I posted at the end of the picture overview of my projects of 2013.

CamperFabricThe fabric is this adorable cotton jersey knit with a retro VW Camper print from de Stoffenkamer (not available anymore, I’m afraid). It was quite nice to work with in that the edges didn’t tend to curl and it was pretty stable, yet I almost lost my mind when cutting because the print was a smidge off grain, which made it impossible to both place the pattern pieces on grain and keep the campers horizontal. I chose to keep the campers horizontal because it really jumped out at me otherwise, yet I was afraid it would cause the tee to hang funny. But it’s actually subtle enough that it looks totally okay, phew!

Camper2With everything going on, I didn’t even try matching the pattern at the side seams of course, but I don’t think it’s obvious at all on the finished tee.

The pattern is Sewaholic’s Renfrew, which I cut in a size 4, one size smaller than my measurements, because I wanted it to be closer fitting, and I’m really happy with the fit. I omitted the hem band (stitched the hem with a double needle) and I cut my own neck and sleeve bands, in off-white cotton ribbing. The sleeve bands provided in the pattern were too wide for my taste, and the neck band seemed so hugely long I don’t know that it would have sat properly.

Camper3Other than that I made no modifications, that’s the joy of working with knits! Also, this was my first time using my new serger and I must say, even though it’s definitely not indispensable to sew knits, it still makes for a much cleaner finish.Camper4In any case, I can see myself wearing this tee a lot as I think it will look very cute tucked in my Hollyburn, Beignet and Chardon skirts. And I’m pretty sure that this is won’t be my last time using the Renfrew pattern!

Romancing the Blouse

Green1

Looks nice untucked…

I love green. A few months ago, I realised that, every time I had to pick between various colours of yarn or fabric, I chose the green one. A few random people also asked me what the deal was with me and green and why did I wear so much of it (people tend to ask me the strangest questions!). Maybe it’s just that a lot of people do not wear green at all, because it’s not like I was dressed in green from head to toe or every day or whatever, I swear, but still, it made me realise I should try to avoid adding more green to my wardrobe. I think it has to do with the fact that my everyday jacket and shawl are green, so when I add a green garment to my outfit, that’s already three green pieces.

Green2

Looks nice tucked in!

Anyway, after knitting my green Miette cardigan, I decided not to sew or knit any green piece for some time. But now it’s been long enough, I think I’ve earned the right to sew myself some green!

Green3I got this beautiful fabric from the great swap organised by Saki at the beginning of September. I first debated taking it home with me (I was on a green ban and it was synthetic), but its drape finished convincing me.

It was not easy to sew, but I must say I love the result! You can see that the shoulder seams are a little bit wavy, but nothing really noticeable unless you’re looking for it specifically. The worse with this fabric was the way the colour faded everywhere I put even a (silk!) pin, I’m not even talking about covering the buttons! Yet again, I don’t think anyone will notice but me.

Green4The pattern is the Sencha blouse by Colette Patterns, with a peter pan collar I drafted following Gertie’s very clear instructions (in her book, but you can find them here on video). The pattern itself was not difficult to sew at all (it’s beginner level), only time consuming because I had to sew a lot by hand: partly (the sleeve hem and back openings) following the instructions, partly (overcasting the side seams and stitching the hem) because of the nature of the fabric and because I don’t own a serger.

Green5I chose version 1 for the front (the plain one, so that I could add a collar), and version 2 for the back (I wanted, no, needed the button back), in size zero. I chose the size according to my measurements, without checking beforehand (a what? A muslin you say? Interesting!), then I realised after tracing and cutting everything out that, ahem, it seems like I put on a tiny bit of weight during my two months summer holiday where I stopped biking everywhere every day, oops!

Green6Knowing I had chosen this simple project to get back on my feet after my last project flew out the window (or down the trash to be exact), I was kind of bummed, to say the least. But I decided to complete the project nonetheless, after all I’m biking again, so it shouldn’t be too long until I lose that damn holiday weight!

Green7And, who would have thought, the completed blouse does fit! I’ve already lost part of the unwelcome weight (yay biking!), and my Sencha is closer fitting than many versions I’ve seen, but I really like it that way. The upper back may be a touch too tight, but here’s hoping it won’t be anymore after a few more weeks of biking!

Now all I need is to sew myself a jacket or a coat of a different colour (and knit an assorted shawl or scarf) to avoid the monochrome look!