Tops, Bottoms, and More

I’ve been a busy sewer and knitter over the past four days.

Empire-Waisted Top

Simplicity 3750

Over the weekend, I finished my (first) muslin for Simplicity 3750, the empire-waisted top with a tie at the waist. I traced a size 12 at the bust and tapered to a size 14 at the hips. Now that I’ve put the top together, I understand much better how it works and how I can make it more effectively in the future.

For example, somehow before I actually made the thing I didn’t realize that the front panel and the bottom front panel actually join each other, with the tie lying on top of the two joined pieces. Now that I know, I can taper without fear.

And taper I fear I must, because I think I need to go down a size, perhaps all over. It’s difficult to tell for sure, because the top fits reasonably well as it is. However, I had to take 1.5″ seam allowances in the center back and the top still has a lot of extra fabric when I fasten the tie. Also, the side seams, which hang in the proper place when the tie is unfastened, pull back and seam off once the tie is . . . tied.

Additionally, I think that the front top piece is a bit shallow. The band hits me above the underwires of my bra. I’m considering slashing the tissue and adding 1/4″ so that the pocket for my chest is just a bit deeper. Funny, since I’m very small busted, but I do think it’s necessary.

So the question is . . . do I simply adjust what I have? Or do I go back to the tracing-board and trace a size 10 at top, grading to a size 12 or 14 at the bottom? I don’t want to end up with a top that is too small either.

Once I get this pattern fitted and “production-ready,” I have a lovely turquoise and brown-paisley cotton with a speckled brown fabric for the contrast belt ready to cut and sew up.


Colette 0003: Sorbetto Top (Image from Colette’s site).

As I was thinking about how to adjust my empire-waisted top, I printed, taped together, and traced the Colette Sorbetto top. I wasn’t too pleased with my first attempt at making a woven t-shirt (Simplicity 8523). Thus, I thought going back to the drawing board and starting a new, baggage-free pattern was a good idea. I like the fact that the Sorbetto has good reviews, and many of them. I like the fact that it is free. And I like the fact that there are now user-drafted sleeves available for download.

For this top, I traced a size 2 at top grading into a size 6 at the hem. Easy-peasey, if it works. I’ll probably sew this up today, after my shopping excursion.

New Look 6859 (Awesome Hubby’s PJs, Again)

Awesome hubby has asked for two more pairs of PJs, and has underlined the necessity of me making them by putting a hole into the knee of his last pair of store-bought ones. He does insist on sitting cross-legged on his exercise ball while bracing his leg under the lip of his desk. That is really hard on clothes, and since he often works from home his comfy lounging pants see a lot of use.

The other day, I staked out several fabric stores in the garment district, and now I have two different fabrics in mind to make new PJs. I’ll pick them up today.

New Look 6227 (aka Extravagance)

But this is the real reason I have to go to the Garment District. When visiting my mom in Ithaca, I (of course) went to Joann (again) and picked up some (more) new patterns (I’ll post them later). This is one of them:

New Look 6227. Everyone needs a cape, right?

I think I’m still a long way away from being able to make a jacket or coat. Heck, I haven’t even gotten to sleeves yet. But I think I could manage a cape. I want something eye-catching, so I was hoping to find some nice, deep green coating. I browsed, and I found what I wanted at Paron.

Unfortunately, “what I wanted” cost a gut-wrenching $33/yard, and the pattern requires three yards plus a lining fabric!

I came home sad and empty-handed, because there is no way I could justify spending $100+ on fabric for a cape that I could possibly mess up. At the same time, I am certain that this pattern is so simple in design that it is best to let the fabric “sing” for itself. All other options paled next to this coating option.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of the story. I thought to look online for coupons, and it just so happens that Paron is running a Groupon: $100 of fabric for $40. You better believe I bought that up fast. Now, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that the deep green coating is still there, waiting for me. Three yards of it is all I need.


Oh yes, I knit, too. I’ve been stalled for a while on all three of my projects, though. About three weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to pick them up again–and discovered that (of course) I’d put each of them down for a reason. I was having trouble with them. One of the three, a comfy cardigan with cables in brown washable wool from Smiley’s, was fixable, though. I’ve made tons of progress on it while watching Bones marathons over the last couple weeks. I think it’s going to turn out OK, if a bit larger than I had intended. If not, this yarn is so nice to work with that I don’t think I’ll mind redoing the whole thing!

It feels good to be making progress. Again.


Time Machine Tuesday: Boyfriend-Now-Husband-Scarf

My husband taught me (or inspired me) to knit. One of the projects he completed when we first started dating was a beautiful wool, basket-weave-patterned scarf.  It was breathtaking.

He still wears it.

I made a scarf for my boyfriend. Such a stereotype. At least it wasn’t a sweater, right? (September 2008)

Then, he lost it while traveling in Europe. I was so sorry that it happened that I ran out and bought a bunch of identical yarn (which I then didn’t use for years), thinking that I would make him an identical one.

It wasn’t long before I realized that I would never be patient enough to replicate that tiny basket-weave pattern–and certainly not as well as hubby had. So, instead, I got Patons SWS yarn in a nice, off-white/tan shade, took advantage of my new confidence with cabling without a needle, and knitted a Shifting Sands scarf.

If my memory serves me (because I didn’t put an end-date on this project on Ravelry), I managed to knit this replacement scarf and gift it to hubby just before he left for a ten-week stint working in the UK. If memory doesn’t serve, I finished it while he was gone and had it ready to present to him when he arrived home for his first NYC winter.

Years later, this scarf remains one of my favorite projects. It was a happy marriage of pattern and yarn: the SWS solid, with it’s light color and slight variation in ply-width, shows the cable pattern ideally. The pattern itself is simple enough, but looks breathtaking.

I can’t take credit for the combination; if I recall, I looked through the yarns previously used with this very-popular pattern and duplicated a choice that I liked. Nevertheless, I am glad that I learned from my first-scarf mistake (boucle yarn + patterned scarf = invisible hours of labor).

This photograph was taken after hubby had already been wearing his Shifting Sands scarf daily for three winters. It has now been five years, and there is some pilling that could be corrected with a razor. Obviously, the SWS yarn held up incredibly well. I’m sorry that the line was discontinued: it had some gorgeous colorways.

Everyone has heard about the curse of the boyfriend-sweater. Perhaps there is a “blessing” of the boyfriend-scarf. With a little cleaning up and a good wash, I think this Shifting Sands scarf could easily last another half-decade. (Hubby had better stick around a lot longer than that, though!).

Defining Personal Style


Which question mark expresses the real me?

A couple summers ago, just before I went to a major conference, I decided that I needed to spruce up my wardrobe. I needed to get away from my casual, comfortable style–a style that was as uninteresting as it was practical. I bought several style-on-a-budget guidebooks, went through the advice, and tried to pull together a fashionable look.

Or, at the very least, enough fashionable outfits to get me through a five day conference.

I was astonished by what a difference a few accessories, nice belts, some high-quality purses, and brighter colors made. Even something as simple as finding a pair of jeans that hit in the right spot made a big difference in my “look.”

Unfortunately, despite what I learned from those books, in the last year I have slid comfortably back into my jeans-and-tank-top with matching sneakers or sandals.

This evening, I came across an article entitled “8 Tips for Developing Personal Style When You Have None.” Jackie, the author, does a good job expressing the conflicting desire to “dress cuter” (or more stylishly) when it goes against a lifetime of habit and self-limitation.

Now that I am returning to sewing (and still on a budget), I am returning to those books, trying to pick out a flattering and limited color palate, and working up a wardrobe that will fit and flatter me.

Often, this means stepping out of my comfort zone. Two years ago, I bought saturated colors and patterns and belts that I never would have picked in the past (I was a neutral + neutral + neutral, no jewelry kind of woman). I was thrilled by the results. In fact, the only thing that disappointed me was the fact that the clothing (bought cheaply) lasted a shorter amount of time than I would have wished.

Over the next weeks, I’ll be re-reading style books, going through my sewing guides and reviewing my “look for / avoid ” chart and plan outfits that will make the most of what I have. It’ll be a slow process, but maybe–maybe–by the end of the year I will have a small collection of complimentary, custom tops, skirts, dresses, sweaters, and even, if I am brave, pants.

How do you find and define your personal style? Is it something that you had once, that somehow slipped away? Or have you never quite known for sure what would suit you and set you apart from the crowd (in whatever way you wish to be perceived)?

Time Machine Tuesday: First Cabled Project

For my last time machine post (a Friday, but Time Machine Tuesday sounds so much better, doesn’t it?), I showed off my lumpy disaster of a first scarf. Fortunately, I got better. Here is Exhibit B–My First Cabled Project.

First cabled scarf. It’s long finished, I swear (May 2008).

I started this scarf before going to visit my boyfriend in Edinburgh. I figured I’d want a nice, long, cozy scarf, so I picked the very popular Irish Hiking Scarf (free pattern!). Wary of spending a lot of money on a starter project, I bought Red Heart.

Now I know the anti-Red Heart folks are frowning, but really this buff fleck yarn is lovely. It looks nice, washes up soft, and I loved it so much that I bought a ton of it and made my first top down v-neck sweater out of it. I have never regretted buying this yarn, and have thought about getting it in other colorways.

Since I was going to be knitting on a trans-atlantic flight, I used Grumperina’s tutorial to teach myself how to cable without a cable needle. I have never regretted that choice, either; being able to cable without a needle has made knitting pretty cables much more portable.

It also meant that I’ve learned how to pick up and fix dropped cable stitches, which is not fun. In the balance, however, learning Grumperina’s method is well-worth-while.

What I learned with this project:

  • Picking the right yarn and pattern to match is essential.
  • Red Heart Buff Flecked yarn is pretty and washes well.
  • I can cable.
  • It is possible to make a scarf that is too long. This thing is massive. I must have zonked out on the plane.
  • It’s nice to be complimented on your crafty-work, especially when you are a beginner.

I still own and wear this scarf–and it looks just as good five years after finishing it as it did the day I wove in the last end.

I think that this scarf is so popular that there is no need to plug the pattern too strongly. It is a great standard and looks handsome in a variety of yarns. Honestly, I think the crispness of the acrylic yarn makes the cables stand out even better on this scarf than it would have with wool.

Time Machine Friday: First Scarf

Welcome to Time Machine Friday. This is where I will post images, descriptions, and reviews of things that I made–or tried to make–before beginning this blog. Here is Exhibit AMy First Scarf :

My First Scarf (February 2008). Ugly, but I still love the colors.

I knit this after my then-boyfriend-now-husband re-introduced me to the idea of knitting, which I’d first sort-of learned working backstage in the theatre during my teens. I picked up this boucle from a local craft store because I love turquoise and brown together.

Believe it or not, this is no plain garter-stitch scarf! Nor is it a regular ol’ ribbed scarf. Oh no. I wouldn’t do something so simple! So I very methodically did a diagonal rib. That, I figured, would look lovely and prevent the scarf from curling.

Well, it didn’t curl, but I was foolish to think that with the boucle the pattern would show up at all. Lesson learned!

Actually, because I loved the colors and this matched my coat, I wore this scarf quite a bit. I never was happy with it, though, because neither the yarn nor the “design” lived up to my expectations. The next time I knit a scarf, I made sure to pick appropriate yarn and a more interesting pattern.