My First Featherweight Cardigan

I finally have my basic lightweight cardigan that I have been longing for!

My #MeMadeMay18 goal was to complete the cardigan of my dreams. I had exactly one handmade cardigan in my wardrobe (my uniform) and was in desperate need of a warmer weather layer. The Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig is one of the most popular patterns out there, for good reason as it’s wonderfully basic and altogether simple. The Featherweight Cardigan was my perfect match.

The yarn I used was recycled from a pink 100% silk sweater originally from Eileen Fisher. I found this sweater at a thrift store for $6 – yarn this quality for a price I could fit into my $40 monthly craft budget. The color is a dusty rose pink that blends in well with my collection of pink handmade clothes. Unraveling this yarn was a little tricky, the silk caught regularly during the unraveling process. However, the best part was washing process – when the yarn magically released all it’s memory. Silk is basically magic in a fiber.

The silk did present a few challenges during the knitting process, but I chalk these troubles up to my lack of experience working with silk (or linen for that matter). It seems like a fiber like silk or linen, without a lot of fluff or squish, behaves totally differently than something like wool (duh Jaime…). I found that this difference is most obvious in ribbing and bind offs which I mention a little below, but also I found a big difference in gauge and transparency. I swatched according to the pattern gauge (22 sts and 36 rows = 4″ which I got on a US 6 needle), and found that my swatch was far too open to be a wearable sweater. I actually ignored this for a while and spent a week knitting up my cardigan until it smacked me in the face. My sweater would have been see-through, almost a mesh like fabric. I find that I prefer silk, as well as linen and cotton, in tight gauges (unless transparent is the goal of course). I chose to jump down to a US 3 needle where my new gauge was 32 sts and 40 rows in 4″. I did some magic gauge calculation to determine that, with my new gauge, I would need to cast on the 45.25″ size to fit my 35″ bust. These extra calculations took time, but it was worth it as now my featherweight cardigan is perfectly wearable.

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Another tricky aspect of working with silk was choosing the right bind off. This yarn reveals all, so I wanted a bind off that would both be elastic but also have a smooth finish. I chose to use Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off for the sleeves, a k2tbl bind off for the hem, and a crochet bind off for the collar. Overall, the crochet bind off, though not elastic, looks the best, while the k2tbl looks quite bumpy and loose (though not enough for me to change it).

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Challenges aside, this sweater is going to be a staple in my warm weather wardrobe. I love the drape and the color; it elevates my casual wardrobe just a touch without putting it over the top. I have plans for another featherweight soon out of a more standard yarn choice – hopefully long with stripes – but I’m ready for some more engaging knitting at the moment so my second featherweight isn’t immediately on the horizon.

 

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Pink Trapeze Dress

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I’m finding my stride with dress silhouettes. This trapeze dress hack of Simplicity 8335 is maximum flow.

I wanted to make a dress appropriate for a summer wedding, and I gave myself about three weeks to do it. While three weeks would be a generous amount of time for my typical sewing speed, final paper season cut my sewing speed in half, and then in half again.

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I changed two things about Simplicity 8335. First, I extended it into a wide a-line shape dress that would hit just above my knees. Second, I removed the sleeves and created a more appropriate (flattering) sleeveless cut around the armholes.

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The first change was easy, I laid the pattern on a piece of old fabric (on the fold) as if I were to cut out the pattern. I then drew a line from the arm hole edge to the selvedge edge. This line was long enough to extend the length of the pattern by about 20 inches.

I made the second change by tracing a ready to wear sleeveless shirtdress I have in my wardrobe on top of the new pattern.

I also took about 1 inch off the center of the front pattern piece – there was just a little too much volume and the neck wasn’t laying flat against my chest.

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The biggest element of this dress are the appliquéd flowers. After sewing most of the dress together, I noticed a stain on the back of the dress towards one of the side seams. I chose to cover this stain up by creating a cascade of flowers down the stained side of the dress. The flowers are cut from an vintage bedsheet and appliquéd with a various simple stitches. I used a running stitch, chain stitch, and blanket stitch in three different pinks to apply the flowers. Appliquéing was a lot of work. I spent about a week sewing these flowers on this dress. In the end, I’m very proud of it. It also moves like a dream – it just floats behind me when I walk.

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I would have loved to do some more complex hand stitching on this dress, however I had to be honest with my abilities and my time crunch. Basic stitches were the only way this dress would be completed in time for this wedding. I do, however, look forward to the slow advance of my embroidery skills.

I’m at the end of a crazy semester, and my imaginative language skills are lacking as a write this, but I did try to express the great joy that making this dress brought me over in this ig post.

A Monster for Baby Francis

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My wonderful friend from my PhD program is having a baby! So to celebrate, I knit her this sweet monster baby toy. This is Gort from the Big Book of Knitted Monsters by Rebecca Danger.

Toys like these monsters are my favorite way to use scraps of yarn. I use larger leftovers for the body and those small offcuts for the stuffing. Unravelling thrifted sweaters produces a surprising amount of yarn scraps – some of the scraps used to stuff Gort were from 2015.

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Speaking of stuffing toys with scraps, I once heard an experienced toy knitter say that the only reliable way to stuff plush and full toys was to use poly-fil (or some sort of polyester batting) specifically for toy use. I’ve never used polyester filling for my toys. I’ve stuffed with lambs fleece, roving, and mostly scraps of yarn and fabric. I have never had a toy collapse or grow lumpy. I prefer to use scraps as it saves them from the landfill and serves a wonderful purpose.

The body is stripped with worsted weight yarn – the dark blue hails from my mother-in-law’s stash while the light blue marl was from a wedding blanket I knit in 2015.

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I decided to embroider the facial features on this monster to make it baby safe. The embroidery process was a bit nerve-wracking, but I pulled myself together and tried my best to plan it out. I think this little toy has a friendly face, perfect for small ones. Though, I did have a bit of a crisis immediately after finishing the face as I feared it could come across as terrifying. Thankfully, everyone who saw the monster disagreed and thought it was adorable and said it was overreacting.

This little monster is going off to meet it’s new family this afternoon! I’m hoping it will fit right in and be a loved for many years.