Cross Stitching My Heart Out

Of all of my crafting hobbies, cross stitch is the one I started first way back in fifth grade.  My mom, who is my crafting hero since she got me started with pretty much every one I currently do, was kind enough to keep me supplied with Aida, DMC floss, and embroidery hoops while I stitched every horse related pattern my allowance money could buy.  In college, thanks to the Internet, I discovered a bigger world than the Leisure Art and Cross My Heart booklets I could find locally and so started my infatuation with Mirabilia.  I bought all four of the seasonal Queen patterns with the idea that I would have all four on the walls shortly thereafter.  Well, I massively underestimated how long it would take me to stick with a project and finish it, but 16 years later I have half of those patterns done.  Not framed or anything useful, but completed and able to get out of my cross stitch project box.

I started Summer Queen while still pregnant with my daughter, who is middle school aged, and sadly, this was 99% complete two years ago, but got set aside in the shuffle of moving, and finished yesterday with maybe ninety minutes of messing with Mill Hill beads. As an aside, I love the effect that the beads create, but oh I hate putting them on the project. This may be why I don’t get my Mirabilias done as fast as I would like.

I love that Spring Queen takes me back to my fourth year at school, when I would pick her up at 8 in the morning and get some stitching done before my classes which that year all seemed to start at 9:30. I finished her in a mostly respectable span of four years, and she’s been parked in a dark box for the following twelve. Both projects are stitched on 32 ct Belfast Linen in white that I bought at the same time for what to a broke college kid felt like a ton of money- $33 dollars for two 20″ x 27″ cuts. I think I washed Spring Queen when she was done, but the linen is noticeably more yellow than Summer Queen, so Spring Queen will be getting a bath tomorrow.

Framing is the most annoying part of any cross stitch project because they never fit into the ready made frames and mats from Michaels, and if you get them to custom cut a mat, it’s insanely high priced. I have spent enough on custom framing in my life to know that my Mirabilia projects deserve it but that I not get them done due to cost, so I’m going to try my hand at framing them myself. Foam core is on its way to my house now and I have a mat cutter and point driver on hand just waiting to put both of these ladies in frames.

Found this horse project from junior high and the Aida is really stained on the left side where I used to death grip my embroidery hoops. It’s already been re-washed with dish soap and no joy so I’m thinking it’s time to spot treat with Oxy-Clean. I have several of its peers already in cheap Wal-Mart frames, so I kind of want to get this one in one too because I do love a wall filled with cross stitch pictures.


Pants fitting fun

I started working with the Closet Case Patterns Sasha trouser last weekend and finally got to a good fitting stage today.  Unfortunately, I want to tear my hair out.  So instead, I thought it would be fun to compare the fit of those out of the envelope to two other pairs of slim fitting black pants I already own.  It’s not pretty.

Black photographing as terrible as it does, I have cranked up the exposure on all of the pictures, my apologies

First up to bat are a pair of Andrew Marc black ponte pants in size 6 that I got from Costco for less than $20 and zero trips to a fitting room. They are comfortable to wear, but over the course of the day the knees bag out, which isn’t so bad, but the growing waistline that creeps down my torso is. These pictures are fresh out of the dryer, so the tightest fit they have.  If I could have something like this in a stretch woven without the jeans-like styling of the back, I would be thrilled.

Next are the reason I wanted to try the Sasha pattern in the first place- Sloan trousers from Banana Republic in size 4. They looked good if a tad tight that day in the fitting room, so I got two pairs in the ankle length because they were perfection in length and made my butt look good. Tossed them in the wash without noticing the dry clean only care instruction and whelp, they’ve never been the same since. They are a touch too short now for me as I don’t love a cropped length and are tight. So stupid tight. Oh well. That’s why I figured I could just sew up a pattern that’s pretty much a duplicate for the Sloan trousers if you look at the Closet Case Patterns website.

These have the worst visible panty lines, how?!

As it stands now, these are a wreck. I cut a straight size 10 as those are dead on for my waist and hip measurements right now. And really the hip measurement seems to be working out. Too bad it’s the only part that is working out. Yeah, yeah, I know about making muslins. Find me cheap muslin fabric with 20% stretch across the grain, and I’ll work with it; otherwise, I’m stuck taking measurements and hoping it’s for the best. These are not slim fitting on me below mid thigh, which is disappointing. The waistband gapes pretty badly through the small of my back, so I’m going to have to dart it as I don’t have any extra fabric for cutting a new one. Live and learn, right? But that pales in comparison to the crotch and back curve. It does not fit the shape of my body in any way, shape, or form. Now, go back and look at the RTW pants. No threat of cameltoe at all, whereas the Sasha does have that issue. The back length feels too short, but measuring it, it should be enough. So why isn’t it? That’s where the fun starts.

Sloan (top) and Andrew Marc (bottom)

The Sloan’s flyshield did not want to cooperate for photography purposes, but I hope that you can see some vestige of the front curve.  More importantly, look at the back curve.  There is a good sized scoop down.  Heather calls it the low butt adjustment in the fitting guide blogposts at Closet Case, but I’m wondering if it’s just more of a standard draft in ready to wear.  My jeans don’t do this, but they have longer back lengths instead (1 inch longer than the Sasha for a size 4 Levi’s midrise and 2.5 inches longer in the size 6 CK skinny)

Indeed, my jeans have this exact back curve, but definitely more length, which makes sense for a jeans fit. So my first order of business for fixing the fit is to fix the order of construction for the inseam and crotch seams (they should look like the BR Sloans and not like a pair of jeans) and then start scooping out under the buttocks so that there is room for them. I think that there is technically enough length but because there is not nearly enough negative space for my body, the back length is getting pulled down to make that space. I don’t know that it will fix the back waistband, but I’m kind of hoping it does before I decide how much of a dart it needs. Now, onto the front crotch. Notice how straight the Sasha compared to the two RTW curves? I’m grateful that the front doesn’t look worse on me, honestly. Hopefully, I can have a happy post sometime this week with a great fitting set of pants, but in the meantime, I feel like I learned a lot about what I need to do to make these work.

Georgetown Cardigan

Time for a brief crafting digression. I started knitting during the winter of 2010-2011 because the December 2010 issue of BurdaStyle had a cute scarf in it. I figured I could make it, so I did (it helped that it was a simple 4×4 ribbed scarf). Naturally, thrilled that I had added another skill to my crafting repertoire, I did what comes naturally to any good crafter- I built a stash. I skipped the big box craft store phase and went straight for the local yarn shop. Furthermore, its presence right by my preferred grocery store meant I always had an excuse to drop in. Initially, I tried to stay away from hoarding yarn and contented myself with buying books but that didn’t last long. One afternoon during the summer of 2015, I was browsing the yarn and propped up nicely on the front counter was Hannah Fettig’s Home and Away. I love everything about the aesthetic of this book. Comfy warm sweaters, pretty Maine pictures, it’s like catnip for my knitting soul. From the first flip-through, I knew that I was going to make the Georgetown cardigan. I picked up the yarn December 2015 when I was stress shopping before my sister-in-law’s funeral, and this winter I finally did it.

The pattern is designed to be knitted either mostly seamless with top down sleeves or all in pieces and then seamed together. Well, I don’t like to follow directions, so I did the body mostly seamless, and then knit the sleeves bottom up and then sewed them to the body of the sweater.  I didn’t consider the fun of not seaming flat which is how it’s normally done, but it came together very nicely. On the whole it is not a complicated design but the 17,000 stitches in 1×1 ribbing for the collar did feel like it took forever (it didn’t- whole sweater start to finish was 2 months).

I had only six skeins of yarn to work with, so 1176 yards of worsted weight. This is the same yarn I used for the ribs and cables hat I posted three years ago. I still love knitting with it. It’s a sturdy feeling wool on the fingertips and extended knitting sessions would leave a touch of lanolin on the needles, but the quality is consistent, it’s domestic grown and milled, and I like it. The pattern said 1200 yards needed for the size 34″ bust. Well, my bust is a smidge bigger, but it’s an open front garment, so I swatched and then cast on for my sweater figuring it would work out okay in the end. I really thought I was going to be playing yarn chicken at the end to finish this, but no. I have an entire skein left over, so I could have made the size 38″ and had the intended positive ease. Oh well, I made the best decision I could with the information I had going into the project.

Overall, I like the final sweater, but I have learned some things that I would consider for my next sweater. The only shaping is a set of increases and decreases right along where the side seam would be if I had knitted in pieces. Those are fine, well and dandy, but I have a massive amount of extra fabric over the small of my back where I don’t need it, and could stand to have a bit more on the front. Also, the sleeve caps are whack. This pattern has the decreases worked as k2tog and ssk two stitches in from the edge of the sleeve. This made seaming easy because it was a vertical edge to a vertical edge. Problem arises that visually the sleeve starts past the decreases, out on my arm, so I think it doesn’t look as cleanly tailored as a set in sleeve ought to be. That one is just my personal take on it. Also it was weirdly puffy at the top and I was getting gauge, so I’m not sure why this happened. Others on Ravelry had noted that same issue with the top down sleeve so I don’t know what’s going on with the sleeves in this pattern.

Happy things from this project, the weird bent tip needles you see in YouTube videos demonstrating mattress stitching are life changing. I always dreaded seaming because I could never easily find the little stitch ladder and it would take forever. Having a needle that gets into the stitches and exposes the proper stitch makes the entire process go faster and more pleasantly. Love that I got a pack of those. Once I got the sleeves into the sweater last night and put it on, I have been loathe to remove it because it is so warm and snuggly feeling. Yay for successful knitting endeavors!

Meanwhile on the sewing front, I have the Sasha trousers from Closet Case Patterns cut out and ready to sew, but I keep finding excuses to not sew them (like needing to rethread the serger-lame!). That’s for Future Me to worry about though.

Now I’m knitting for my kids too

I wish I could say I were sewing, but no. I’m knitting and not even for myself. I have multiple projects on needles that are mine but my youngest gave me the sad face about needing a scarf and I couldn’t really tell the first grader no, could I?

The pattern for the scarf is the Irish Walking Scarf, a free Ravelry download. I had made this previously when my oldest was the same age as my first ever cabling project. Alas, I used only one skein of yarn, so it’s a touch short once the kids get bigger than third grade (I have small kids though) and I don’t want to have to knit yet another one of these in two years.

Fortunately (or not depending on how much yarn stash bothers one), I had two skeins of this bright green Cascade Pacific that has been aging in my house for four years. My youngest picked it out then when he was obsessed with green because Percy was his favorite character on Thomas and Friends. He’s sort of outgrown Thomas and it makes me sad. At least he still loves the color green.

Once I had knitted up one of the two skeins I realized that I wanted to make a matching hat for the scarf. The cabling pattern is a classic so how hard can it be. Famous last words. I eventually found Jason’s Cashmere Hat, which is written for a man with aran weight yarn. I need this for a kid in a DK weight. Hmmph.

After double checking the sizing from another kid’s hat pattern I made using the same yarn, I decided that the pattern would work as written and cast on. It only took two days to finish and overall I like the design. My only quibble involves the crown decreases. There needed to be at least two more rounds because as written, you break yarn and thread through 24 stitches to pull it closed. Naturally with that much yarn involved it doesn’t close all the way properly.

Once the hat was done, it simply a matter of joining the half-used skein to the scarf and continuing on until the yarn ran out. I have been knitting for only seven years, and I am still terrible at joining yarn. This is the first project where I have used a back join, and it was life-changing. Okay, maybe more like knitting-changing, but it was painless, which my overlap joins never were.

Of course because I was knitting for his little brother, my middle child wanted me to finish the sweater for the knitted doll I made for his sixth birthday. The poor doll got mauled by one of the dogs at some point, so back surgery and emergency arm reconstruction ate up my day yesterday. Thank heavens for extra yarn in the doll kit.

The back patch ended up a touch lumpy, so I’m happy to have the sweater properly finished. I have been putting it off for two and a half years because I had never done colorwork and assumed I would mess it up. I have no idea why I thought that way because it was easier than I expected and kind of fun too. I just need to finish off the dog from the kit and I can call it complete. Yes, I am indeed trying to finish knitting UFOs and use up stash. At least I can do a scarf in six days instead of six months like before. After this, I think I should get back to sewing for me.

I sewed for my dog

I am not awesome at sewing for my kids and here I am having made something for my dog. I may be rolling my eyes at myself to be honest. However, it’s been a pretty cold winter so far and my whippet puppy trashed her sweater so she needed a replacement coat to get through this season as she is still growing.

Because one dog isn’t enough, and two is too low, it’s Three Dog!

The two bigger dogs are wearing Chilly Dogs coats made in Canada that are amazing for sighthounds. Regular dog coats tend to fit wonky on them and are too drafty for dogs with minimal coats and minimal fat, and these are miles better. Unfortunately for the puppy, I’m not springing for one until she’s full grown aka next winter, and she needs something for today. I traced the outline of the red coat to get a general shape idea. The Chilly Dogs coat does not have a back seam, and uses darts to shape around the hindquarters so to get the same shape, I have a back seam instead.  The front end is totally different as I did not even try to duplicate the shape of the chest piece on the other coat in favor of a simple seam and clearance for her legs as she loves to run and I did not want to restrict her movement.

Human, stop with the pictures already, I want to go back inside already

As a quick and dirty project, I skipped any closure on the center chest as the neck opening is plenty large to slip over her head. I used a yard of fleece I had hanging in stash from when I made a crate liner for the first puppy. That liner lasted 48 hours. Let’s hope the coat endures longer. It’s from Jo-Ann so not the best quality fleece, but I only say that because the percentage of the store they dedicate to fleece annoys me irrationally. I decided to make it double layer for warmth and static (so much static by the way!), but didn’t want any seams open on her back. Flat felling was just not going to happen for this project; so once I had the two layers wrong side together, I decided to quilt them together, ineptly. I have never quilted anything before and I could not make anything make a mark on this fleece, so I was sewing blind when doing this. Note to self, now I get why people quilt the fabric first before garment construction. My original plan was to use bias binding on the fleece, but the fleece, the bias tape, bias binder foot, and my sewing machine all laughed at that. I quickly reassessed and ran a serged edge instead. Yeah, the gray thread does not match, but that was what was already threaded up and I just wanted to be done at that point.

Broke a needle on the Velcro- I knew better than to use a size 70 needle on this stuff, but did it anyway

The Velcro closure has the hook side on the left side of the coat and the loop side coming over from the right under her belly. I assume that the fabric is not covering all of her torso and I wanted the soft side on her skin. Not a lot to say about the project other than that. Other than I am never sewing for my dog again. Once is enough!

This is the closest thing to gratitude I’m likely to get

Vogue 9266 Dress

Earlier this year, I was feeling totally down on my sewing hobby. The pattern and fabric stash was (and still is) out of control, and nothing called to me to be made despite having gaps in my wardrobe. Then someone’s make of Vogue 9266 popped up in my Facebook feed, and I had to have it. So much so that I did not even wait for a pattern sale. Nope, I fished this one out of the pattern cabinet and paid the 40% off list price. Then despite the amount of fabric I already own, I could not find that perfect match. Enter the Black Friday sale at G Street Fabrics and this gorgeous wool crepe was perfect for my project.

This is one of the Very Easy Vogues, which really only means not a lot of pattern pieces. In this case, the dress is a front, back, and sleeve. The shaping is created through fisheye darts through the midriff and neck darts into the funnel neckline. This paralyzed me as the fit needed to be spot on before cutting. High necklines are an issue for me and frankly, I have not had a lot of luck with darts in the past few years. I figured I would whip up a muslin or two and be on my merry way.

Ha! Seven muslins are in that pile

This was the first time I have struggled with a full bust adjustment. I normally do the slash and spread as detailed in Fit for Real People, but it creates a horizontal bust dart that I did not want. I figured it would be a simple matter of rotating it into the fisheye dart, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t make it work. Out of desperation I decided to use the pivot and slide method from Pattern Fitting with Confidence by Nancy Zieman. I have never used that method before but my needed width additions would preserve the original proportions as I did not need extensions or adding a dart. The muslins were a pain to do but I got a lot of practice at doing darts. To check the neckline fit, I would baste 5/8” from the cutting line, turn under the seam allowance and topstitch 1/8” from the basting stitches, and trim off the excess. I picked up that bit from Catina on the formalwear forum at Pattern Review back when I made that ballgown two years ago. I was able to get the front fit squared away relatively quickly, but the back was a mess. I took out length here, added there, pinched out a swayback then had to add again for my derriere and nothing was working. I finally accepted that I have a high round back but was ending up with insane excess length below my shoulder blades. The pivot and slide was making the back too wide over my shoulder blades and so I was getting folds of fabric everywhere. I guess it’s a good problem to have, with things too big but I was having difficulties figuring out how to get rid of fabric without adversely affecting the fit of the front. So here is what I ended up doing alteration-wise:

  • Back- removed 1/2” length upper back, 1” swayback tuck, 1.5” wedge added above the hipline, 1” high round back rotating half of that into the neck dart, 3/8” narrow shoulder
  • Front- equivalent of 3/4” FBA, 1/2” wedge for length in abdomen, 1/4” hollow chest tuck, same narrow shoulder, 3/8” forward shoulder adjustment, and lowered the neckline 1”

Did I mention it was 30 degrees out when taking these pictures?

On the whole I am happy with the fit, but I did not properly account for how much looser it would feel with the wool crepe vice the cotton muslin. I was actively trying to preserve the proportions of the fitted dress per the ease chart, and in the bust, it is. However, through the waist in particular, it’s big (close to 4 inches of ease above my actual measurement). The muslins were not like this at all, so I think it’s just how my fashion fabric behaves. It also means that my super curvy back seam no long looks super curvy, ha ha!

I got a level hem and the side seam mostly perpendicular to the ground

The side seam wanders a little bit under the arm, which the dressform picture shows better as I have too much room in the front for once, and too little in the back under the arm. The forward shoulder really helps with letting the sleeve hang properly after I messed with the sleeve cap like this person did.

The only real design change I made was to change the back vent from a slit to a kick pleat. I can do an unlined one like a champ, but I have completely forgotten how I made them in the past and couldn’t find the pattern envelope and directions to recreate it. The interwebs are amazing and I followed this tutorial to get what I wanted. There is a little bit too much fabric right at the stitching line across the top of the vent, but otherwise, it’s spot on. I wish the pattern out of the envelope had had this detail, but at least it’s easy enough to do on my own.

All told, I’m very pleased with how my dress came out. These are some of the better darts I’ve made in ages, and this project helped point me in new fitting directions that I hadn’t really considered before. I love higher necklines but was convinced that I just couldn’t wear them, so I was thrilled to learn just how easy it is to change for me. I will say, I think I will skip the narrow shoulder next time as I keep mistaking the armscye seam for a falling off bra strap and I think I brought it more aggressively in than I needed. Other than that, my dress is comfortable, warm and exactly what I wanted for winter. Now time to make that matching jacket!

Poor hound started shivering during this

Steeling myself to cut the good fabric

I have been sewing up a storm this week. Unfortunately, none of it picture worth yet because it’s seven(!) muslins of my Christmas dress. Honestly, muslin #2 or 3 was probably good enough to go with, but my wool crepe was $30/yard and I’m terrified of messing up the project. Which means, it’s now December 21, and I have nothing to show for a week’s worth of messing around. On the plus side, I did sew on that button for my husband’s coat. Agh!