Plain White BasicInstincT

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The Pattern

I’ve been wanting to make a simple t-shirt for a while in order to learn some knit garment techniques. I had been eyeing a few different patterns but came across the Secondo Piano BasicInstincT, which is FREE (with newsletter subscription). I cut an XS.

The pattern consists of front, back, sleeve and neckband pieces. The instructions were very clear and the diagrams were very helpful. In the instructions, the word instructions are grouped together and are not directly next to the corresponding diagram. While the written instructions and corresponding diagrams were very clearly labeled, I still found myself getting confused as to where I was in the instructions. Diagrams and instructions for matching stripes are also included. Obviously, my fabric is a solid colors so I didn’t get to test out those instructions.

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The Fabric

I got this white stretchy mystery knit (jersey???) from my mom’s fabric stash when I was home in December. It’s slightly thinner than I’d like for a white t-shirt, but I had chosen to use this fabric intentionally as a test garment.

The Construction

Despite the very clear instructions, this was the most difficult thing I’ve sewn in a while.

  1. My walking foot:
    As it turns out, my walking foot is messed up and seems to push the foot off kilter as it sews. I broke a few needles trying to make this shirt. After I gave up on using the walking foot, things started moving along better. I still don’t know what’s wrong with it or what to do about it. Luckily the walking foot wasn’t super necessary for this project.
  2. Twin needle:
    Thank god for the internet, because I read about a million posts about sewing with twin needles, with THESE TWO being the most helpful. I set my needle thread to the highest tension possible on my machine and hand wound wooly nylon to use in the bobbin.

I topstitched and hemmed using the twin needle. The top stitching on the shoulder seams for this t-shirt is just awful. I had to redo them a million times and they still turned out awful, most likely do to my messed up walking foot.

I basted the neck band and then sewed it with a 3-step zig zag. I thought about serging it, but I wasn’t all that confident with my neckband-attaching-skills and I figured unpicking a 3-step zig zag would be easier than unpicking a serged seam. By this point, I had figured out that my walking foot wasn’t working properly. I topstitched the neckband using the twin needle with a regular foot and am thrilled with how it turned out.

Other than the neckband, I sewed everything together directly on the serger. I hemmed the the shirt using some heat n bond, which someone on my instagram stories had recommended it for getting flatter / even hems. I think it worked because the hem looks A++.

COST

Pattern: Free! Secondo Piano BasicInstincT
Fabric: Free!
Notions: $5.53 for the stretch twin needle and $7.17 for the heat n bond

Conclusion

This project is arguably the “simplest” item of clothing I’ve ever made but definitely one of the most challenging things I’ve made. I’m glad I finally tried the twin needle and I’m excited to make more knit garments with a more “polished” finish than a zig zag.

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McCall’s 6465: Easy Peasy Shift Dress

I’ve been wanting a shift dress for a while and finally got around to making one!

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The Pattern
I’ve had McCall’s 6465 in my stash for a while now. The front of the dress has bust darts and the back has no shaping. The neckline was finished using facings. I wish there were darts in the back, but I won’t complain about how easy and fast it was to make this dress!

I started out with the view E length, which looked way too frumpy. I ended up just pinning the hem up to a mini skirt length, which ended up being at the cut line for view B without the color blocking. For such a loose fitting dress, the short length was pretty necessary to balance everything out. Next time I’ll probably lengthen it by an inch or two… Raising my arm is basically out of the question with the current length of the dress.

My measurements put me at a size 12 and I cut a size 4. I wasn’t sure what size to cut since Big 4 patterns come with so much ease but at the same time I wanted the shift dress to be loose and breezy. I’m happy with the size 12 fit for this dress though. The dart location is perfect and I am super thrilled about that. My last make with bust darts was my willow tanks and the darts were a bit low. (Still need to do the patter adjustments so that I can start making more willow tanks…)

The Fabric
I got this fabric, a black chambray with stitched +’s all over, at Firecracker Fabrics, a local fabric shop here in Pittsburgh.

I didn’t think about trying to lign up the +’s when I was cutting out the fabric. I probably could’ve done a better job of making the neckline look a bit more symmetrical with the + placements. TOO LATE. I don’t think the asymmetry too obvious though. Also with the stitched chambray, I have accidentally ripped a few of the stitches out… It’s kinda sad but I guess that’s what happens when you don’t make something and can’t stop wearing it.

Fun fact: When I went home to visit my parents in Taiwan in the winter, I actually found out that my mom has basically the same fabric in a different colorway and brought it back with me. She only has about a yard of it so I will have to find a pattern with low yardage and make something with it.

The Construction
I more or less followed the instructions given. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was how to finish the seam under the facing. I initially serged it but ended up clipping the curves so I clipped right through the serged seam. Otherwise, all raw edges were finished by serging.

During my first try at setting in the sleeve, I had done a BEAUTIFUL job setting it in, only to realize I had sewed the sleeve to the body with the wrong sides facing each other. I had to rip it and out and redo the sleeve. Luckily, I was able to set it in nicely without too much problems. Turns out putting in the two rows of easing stitches really helped! Yay for directions that are actually helpful!

My main regret is forgetting to add an inseam pocket. Since I had serged the side seams together, I decided not to pick it open to add the pockets. I have some (lofty) goals of adding patch pockets to the front, but seeing as I have 3 more projects cut out, it’s unlikely I’ll get around to adding the pockets.

Cost
Pattern: $1.99 from Jo-Anns
Fabric: Stitched Chambray from Firecracker Fabrics, $24.75

Overall a great make. I will probably be wearing this dress ALL THE TIME this summer.

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Striped Winslow Culottes

I had been thinking about making these after seeing so many cute versions on insta but 1) I already have so many patterns that I still have yet to use and 2) I wasn’t sure how I felt about culottes. I finally bit the bullet after seeing so many variations of it during Winslow month on Helens closet.

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The Pattern

I bought the pdf pattern and printed it myself and taped it together. My printer had some issues printing it and after a few tries and som googling, I realized I needed to print the pdf as an image.

Other than that initial hiccup, everything went smoothly. The pattern is incredibly clear. I skipped tacking down the pockets, which was an optional step.

I cut a size 6 as indicated by my waist size. The fit is perfect for every day life but for certain things (dancing) I prefer a tighter fit. Another thing I noticed — the crotch of the pants is very low. I’m not sure if it’s because I need to size down so that the waistband sits higher up. Picking the right size for a pattern is still my number 1 struggle! HOW DO I END UP WITH SOMETHING THAT’S NOT TOO BIG? (Or too small?) I can’t figure it out!

The Fabric

So, when I saw the Coram top in this post on Dandelion Drift, I thought “this is exactly what I want for my culottes!” They were from Jo-Ann’s and so I quickly went online and found the fabric. I bought the last two yards that the Jo-Ann near me had. Honestly, the quality of this fabric is pretty terrible. Even as I was cutting it, I noticed some defects in the fabric. After just one wear, the fabric is already starting to thin out in some spots. So disappointing!

The Construction

This was my first time sewing with rayon. I researched sewing with rayon the night before I cut out the fabric. After reading all the “working with rayon challis!” websites, I was so stressed out about cutting and sewing rayon that I had dreams about cutting rayon. I tried to be careful about not shifting the pattern pieces too much while I was transporting them from floor to machine to ironing board etc, but it probably shifted all over the place. Oh well.

The instructions for the pattern incredibly clear, so putting everything together was really straightforward. I love that the places where I need to finish the seams are all indicated clearly in the pattern. When using big 4 patterns, I sometimes forget to finish the seams until after a seam allowance is tacked down by another line of sewing. It’s really frustrating. This was incredibly clear and I managed to actually finish ALL OF THE SEAMS. Hooraaaaay!!!!

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The $$$

Pattern: Winslow Culottes by Helen’s Closet, $11.20
Fabric: Striped rayon from Jo-Ann’s, $15.58
Notions: Invisible zipper from Jo-Ann’s, $3.99

I promptly wore these culottes to a dance event right after I finished making these. I LOVE them. I’m so happy I got this pattern and am really excited to make more versions of it. I will definitely size down for the next version.

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Driftless Cardigan: My (Not-So)-New Favorite Cardigan

I finished this cardigan at the end of January and have been wearing it basically wearing it every. single. day. Anyone who sees me regularly is probably wondering if I’ve thrown away all my other clothes because this is all I wear. I’ve worn it all over Pittsburgh, to SF, Disneyland, Michigan, Phoenix, and DC in the few months I’ve had it. I love it so much!

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PATTERN
This is, of course, the Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan. I made View B, which has the split hem and is longer in the back.

I had made a huge list of patterns to get during the Grainline Studio Thanksgiving sale. This cardigan was definitely NOT on the list. While I had seen many cute versions of this cardigan, I wasn’t sure if I wanted an oversized cardigan, which is completely unlike the rest of my cardigans, which are all a bit more fitted (aka perfect for my old corporate job). I ended up ordering it on a whim. So glad I did!

FABRIC
This was my first time ever shopping for and sewing knits so I really didn’t know what I was looking for. I ended up finding this plushy gray knit from the sale section at Jo-Ann.

CONSTRUCTION
Since I had read on many reviews of this pattern that people had directly serged the seams for construction, I decided I was going to do that too. BAD. IDEA. I am definitely not very good at using the serger yet and the number of places where I had gaping holes that I had to redo is a little embarrassing.

The other area I screwed up a lot is the attaching of the neckband. The neckband seam of both the left and right sides do not match up with the waist seam of the left and right pieces. Also, both sides of the neckband are a bit shorter than the length of the garment, whereas they’re supposed to be a tiny bit longer according to the instructions.

I had intended on adding buttons to this cardigan. I even bought the buttons for it! I’m too terrified to try attaching the buttons though. I have never made a buttonhole and I’m too scared to try now! I’ve been giving this shirt so much wear even without buttons I think it’s unlikely I’ll ever get around to adding the buttons.

Another thing I’ve failed to do is add the thread chain to hold the pockets down. It would be nice to have since I’ve pulled my pockets inside out a number of times. But let’s be real here… I’m probably never going to get around to adding it.

COST
Pattern: $11.20
Fabric: $10
Total: $21.20

I think I really lucked out with my fabric choice since the dark color seems to hide my many many mistakes really well! Despite how awful the construction of this garment is, I absolutely LOVE it. In fact, I’m currently wearing this cardigan on a plane typing all of this up!

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Floral Simplicity 1318 Kimono

I ordered this cotton voile from Miss Matatabi in 2015. It is so gorgeous and before I cut it up to make this kimono, I could often be seen draping it over myself and twirling in my apartment. I was just too scared to cut it up! I finally decided to turn it into a Simplicity 1318 kimono after going through and cataloging all of my patterns last November. (Organizing, aka procrastinating from real work).

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THE PATTERN

I made Simplicity 1318 view C. I cut a size S. I probably should’ve cut an XS. I am still trying to figure out this excess ease thing with Simplicity patterns. I seem to either go too big or too small and never just right.

THE FABRIC

The pattern envelope called for 2.5 yards of fabric. I only had about 1.6 yards. I couldn’t fit the facing of the neckband and had bought a different fabric to use for the facing. I decided last minute that I would just piece the remnant fabric together to make the facing. Definitely the right choice! I love the floral facing and I think I would’ve been really unhappy with a pink facing.

This was my first time working with a fabric that was so lightweight. I did some research and some people suggested using thinner thread. I didn’t have any on hand so I just used regular thread. I did, however, use a thinner needle (70/10, I believe) as suggested on the internets. The fabric frayed incredibly fast and I had to be very careful not to over handle it.

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THE CONSTRUCTION

I french seamed all of the seams since the fabric is so lightweight. The only issue I had with this was at the underarm portion. I ended making a tiny dummy sleeve to see if the french seaming would work. I ended up just snipping the seam at the underarm corner. I still have no idea if that was the right thing to do and am a little terrified that it will just fray from that corner.

The facing was attached by hand sewing. I really should’ve pinned the facing down as I sewed it down because one side of the back-of-neck facing is stretched a little funny. At this point, I doubt it’ll be fixed… I can’t even imagine ripping out the hand sewing, and then having to redo the whole thing. It just seems too awful.

THE $$

Pattern: 1.99 from Jo-Anns (from my stash)
Notions: 1.19 for the thread
Fabric: ~10 from Miss Matatabi (from my stash)

Conclusion: I love this fabric and I love how flowy it is. I’m not sure I love how long the high-low hem in the back is. If I ever get around to it, which is unlikely, I plan to shorten the rounded hem so that it hits just under the butt rather than mid-thigh. I’m so glad this fabric is now an item of clothing and I can actually wear it!

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Two Willow Tanks

I made two Willow tanks! I had tapes and cut these patterns out while I was preparing for my qualifiers. It was miserably cold out while I worked on these tanks, but I couldn’t wait till it got warmer. (It did trying on the tanks while working on them to be a bit of a pain…)

Pattern: the ubiquitous Grainline Studio Willow Tank

I got this during the Thanksgiving sale. Right before I got this pattern, I had just decided that in 2018, I was going to practice my sewing basics (sewing a straight line, properly pressing, cutting fabric, etc). Some sort of high-neck tank/shell + cardigan was my basic uniform when I was working. Turns out this is also a great grad school uniform. I figured if I was going to churn out a million copies of the same item, this pattern would be perfect!

WILLOW 1: Triangles
The first Willow tank I was made using quilting cotton from Firecracker Fabrics. I know I’m not supposed to use quilting cotton for garments but I love triangles! I saw this fabric at the store and just had to have it. I cut a size 4 and didn’t do any adjustments. I finished the edges on a serger.

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WILLOW 2: Sparkles
My second Willow tank was also made with quilting cotton from Firecracker Fabrics. I found a yard of this remnant chambray with metallic bits woven in during Small Business Saturday back in November. After the success with my first Willow, I expected smooth sailing with this Willow. Nope!

1) The sparkly bits of the chambray made the seams really scratchy on my skin. I had serged all of the seams, but then decided to bind all the seams with bias tape. I love how the tank looks inside, but it took FOREVER.

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2) When I tried the tank on, I immediately notice that the bust point from the darts was way too low. In hindsight, the dart placement was probably off for the first Willow tank, but the lighting in my apartment is terrible and I just didn’t look super closely. Anyway, i took in the shoulder seam by about 1/8″ (or maybe a little more? honestly, I just eyeballed it). I tried it on and seemed to still be able to move my arm around in the now slightly smaller arm hole. In my next iteration, I will probably attempt to raise the dart.

I love how this Willow tank looks. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Just not on me. The fabric color is ~gorgeous~ but it doesn’t look right on me.

COST
Pattern – $12
Thread – $1.19 from Joann
Fabric – Sparkly chambray: $9.50. Triangles: ??.

I definitely plan to make more Willow tanks in the future. I want to make a cropped Willow, a lace Willow, and who knows what else! Hopefully I’ll be able to successfully manipulate the darts so that the next version is perfect.

Feeling toasty in my Sew House 7 Toaster Sweater

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It’s been so cold and rainy/snowy here in Pittsburgh. After seeing a ton of Toaster Sweaters floating around on the internet, I just had to make one for myself. I had been hoping to finish making this for the Lunar New Year but didn’t end up finishing it until early March.

PATTERN

I got Sew House 7 Toaster pattern through IndieSew. I’ve had an account there for a while but haven’t ordered anything yet so I decided to try getting something from there. I only got the pattern for Toaster Sweater #2 since I love the style of it and didn’t find myself as drawn to Toaster Sweater #1. I also considered getting the licensed Simplicity 8529 pattern.

Maybe I’m a bit of a stickler, but the way the boxes were drawn for the print-at-home pattern made me so mad. The boxes weren’t perfect boxes, lines peeked out of the boxes and some information on the pattern was so close to the edges of the paper that it was easy to miss or accidentally cut off. I wish more care had been put into drawing boxes for the print-at-home pattern.

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Another problem I had with the pattern was the self facing portion of the pattern. In the instructions, it says to press it first because it would be difficult to get it to lay properly after sewing. I pressed along the fold line specified by the pattern piece, but the curves of the self facing didn’t match when I folded along the fold line. However, the diagrams in the pattern suggest that they should meet. I kinda just fudged my way through it. I can see the pressed line from the front of my shirt, which I don’t think should happen. The high boat neck doesn’t sit the way I think it should based on all the versions I’ve seen out there either.

FABRIC

I ordered this french terry from LA Finch Fabrics during a 30% off birthday sale. I can’t remember who the birthday sale was for but I found out about it from A Maker Heart‘s Instagram stories. Turns out french terry isn’t all that toasty! I’m planning to start a little “fabric rolodex” to keep track of different types of fabrics.

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CONSTRUCTION

I followed the instructions and sew-along simultaneously. I actually had to borrow a friend’s sewing machine to do the self facing/neck portion because my tiny sewing machine does not have the option for a super-narrow zig zag for double-stitching. I serged to finish the side seams, sleeve seams.

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Hemming this shirt was a BIG struggle. My first attempt at hemming was a fail because  wasn’t straight enough. My second big lesson from this project: unpicking stitches from knits is a PAIN! My second attempt at the hem, my bobbin ran out of thread halfway through. I ended up having to unpick the entire hem again. The finished hem looks OK. There’s a bit of a ripple (?). I tried to press it out but the ripples don’t seem to want to move. My suspicion is that i may have stretched the fabric a bit while hemming it and the fabric relaxing is causing the ripples. No clue. Will need to figure this out for future knit garments.

COST

Pattern: $10
Fabric: $12.50
Notions: $0
Total: $22.50

Conclusion: I really like how this top looks. I love the high boat neck and side vents/mitered corners. The overall construction was difficult for a few different reasons. I definitely plan to remake this pattern. Hopefully next time I make it, I’ll be able to figure out the neckline struggles.

Notes for next time:

  1. Lengthen by 1 or 2 inches.
  2. Figure out how to hem knits properly.
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Rust Red Lou Box Top

Thanks to jet lag, I woke up early on Monday at 6AM… NOT my usual wake up time. I’ve been thinking about all the things I wanted to make while I was home for the holidays, and so I immediately got out of bed and started cutting fabric for new shirts! Here is my first make of 2018, a rust red Lou Box Top!

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Pattern: Lou Box Top from Sew DIY

Crew neck & straight hem in XXS

As per usual, I didn’t properly read the size guide, which places me in XS/S. I cut an XXS and realized I was supposed to cut an XS/S. But after checking the garment ease, I decided XXS was probably going to be fine… Hooray for loose fitting clothes! I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve made things too small (or too big… honestly, picking things the right size is a BIG struggle for me). I thought about adding the front pocket, but decided against it mostly because I expect to always wear a necklace with this shirt… and also cuz LAZY.

The pattern is very simple. I didn’t have too many problems with it, other than my inability to read sizing instructions. I followed the instructions from the PDF, which was very clear. I liked that the pattern told us to  stitch a line to do the folds for hemming. This is probably the most even hemming I’ve ever done.

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Fabric: 

Mystery fabric from Joann!!! I bought it pre-grad school, so it’s been sitting in my stash for a while.

I had such a hard time pressing this fabric! I wasn’t sure how hot to set the iron since I have zero recollection of what it is. But with low heat, the wrinkles wouldn’t go away and I couldn’t get the seams to press open. I ended up using a pressing cloth on higher heat. I have no idea if that’s the right thing to do and should probably look it up at some point.

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Serging: 

In hindsight, I should’ve just French seamed the whole thing, but I was excited to use my serger. My mom gave me her serger over the summer because she never uses it. I serged the seams for this shirt used a random combination of red and brown thread that I also received from her.

Sooooo… my serged seams are a little wonky looking. I had a lot of issues with tension at first, and couldn’t get the seam to look even. I eventually settled on 4 – 4 – 4 – 5 for the tension, which seemed to result in an even looking seam… THAT IS, until I finished serging all of my seams and realized the right needles was skipping stitches! At that point, it seemed a little silly to rip out everything and start over so I just continued. I still have no idea why my serger was skipping stitches. According to the internet, the most likely causes are incorrect threading or that my needle, which I replaced right before I started, is incorrectly inserted.

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Cost:

Pattern – $7.80 (got it during a sale in Nov)
Thread – $1.74 from Joann
Buttons – $1.50 from Joann
Fabric – No clue

Overall, I’m not in love with this top, but I can see myself getting a lot of wear out of it anyway. It’s not pressing properly so the seams are bouncy and the curve portion under the arms bunches up weirdly. I might try this pattern again with a more drapey fabric or a drapey knit.

 

Six completed items in 2017

I’ve decided that I’m going to start chronicling the things I make in 2018. But first, here’s a wrap of of the things I’ve completed this year! There are six items: two simplicity 1366 shirts, two skirts, a ruffled top, and a pair of socks.

Gingham Simplicity 1366

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I started this shirt pre-grad school in 2016, but had a really hard time attaching the sleeves. I set it aside and then ended up packing it away along with all of my other craft supplies when I moved to Pittsburgh. I finally pulled my craft supplies out in February of this year and finished this top in April.

Notes: I cut a size 8 for this shirt (my third Simplicity 1366), even though the sizing chart on the envelope puts me at a size 12. The insides of the shirt are fully French-seamed. The fabric is from JoAnn and was really cheap because the JoAnn that I got the fabric from was closing so everything was on super sale.

Gingham Gathered Skirt

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I had intended for my gingham simplicity shirt and this gathered skirt to be a two-piece set to wear together. After I finished making both things, I realized that the shapes of both pieces along with my fabric choice do not work together at all. I wear both items individually and that works great!

Teal Simplicity 1366

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Fabric: Teal dotted cotton from Fabric Outlet SF. I picked it up from the clearance table for $4.99/yd or so

I accidentally cut the sleeves wrong and since I only had a yard of fabric, I didn’t have much to work with and ended up having to give up on the sleeves.

Total Eclipse Socks

Yarn: Fingering weight yarn from Smoky Mountain Spinnery in Gatlinburg, TN
Needle:
Size 2 magic loop
Pattern:
Smooth Operator Socks

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This is my first knitting project in 10+ years! I made a scarf once in middle school and haven’t tried knitting since.

I went to Tennessee over the summer to see the total eclipse. The day before heading to the path of totality, I realized I probably needed an activity to do while waiting for the eclipse to start. I happened to come across Smoky Mountain Spinnery in the Gatlinburg Arts and Crafts Community and decided I would try sock knitting. I ended up spending most of the time trying to figure out how to cast on and didn’t actually start knitting the sock until I returned to Pittsburgh.

I completed sock #1 on September 19 and finished sock #2 on November 5. The sock foot is slightly too short and the leg portion is too wide. Next time, I’m using a smaller sized needle, as the pattern calls for. Either way, I am so excited about my handknit socks! I still feel weird about wearing them out but they are working out nicely as socks to wear indoors, especially now that I’m home and the tile floors are really cold to walk on.

Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt

I saw so many cute versions of the Marilla Walker Ilsley skirt and tried to make one using a weird polyester (?) from JoAnn. It turned out terribly. Things that went wrong:

  1. Fabric choice: The weird polyester was too see through.
  2. Rounded hem: Apparently, a rounded hem is more difficult than I had initially expected. All four rounded corners of my skirt have different radius and end at different points at the side seam. It just looks bad…
  3. Elastic waistband: The elastic twists inside the elastic area, which is incredibly annoying.

I’ve worn a couple times while doing laundry. The skirt has pockets, which makes it great for holding quarters while I run up and down to the laundry room. I might revisit this pattern in the future. Next time, I will definitely add a drawstring (or fake drawstring bow) to it.

Blue Simplicity 8335 Top

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My newest and last completed make of 2017! I finished it on a Tuesday and immediately wore it out salsa dancing on the Thursday of that week. I was honestly a little worried it would rip on the dancefloor since the shirt was a little snug, but it turned out ok AND I got a compliment from a stranger (and I wasn’t even fishing for compliments!!).

I cut an XS. This was 100% definitely the wrong choice. I should’ve paid more attention to the size. I think with the usual numbered sizing, I remember that the sizing is nothing like RTW sizing. But with the XXS – XS – S – M – L etc. sizing this pattern uses, I forgot to actually check the measurements. I realized XS was too small after trying on the sleeves and let out the seams by half of the seam allowance. That seemed to be enough to make the shirt wearable. It’s unlikely that I’ll make this pattern again. The shape of this shirt is so distinct, I don’t think I really need another one like it. However, if I were to make it again, I would definitely cut an S.

The fabric is from JoAnn. I bought it pre-grad school, so it’s been sitting in my fabric bin for a while. It has subtle woven dots, which makes the solid color a little more interesting. I still have a few more yards of this fabric so I’m excited to make something else with it!