Alex Shirt – 2018 Make Nine

The Sew Over Alex shirt as basic as it gets.

I can finally breathe easy now that I have a basic white button up in my closet. The last time I had something this basic was when I had to wear a school uniform in 2008. This shirt is much better than that uniform.

This shirt is relaxing. I mean, the Alex Shirt is a relaxed fit, but it genuinely calms my worries and soothes my anxieties. I feel like the missing piece has been found. With this basic white shirt, I can shine confidently. My wardrobe has entered a new realm of creativity. This basic has me feeling inspired.

The Alex Shirt is my perfect basic oversized tunic length shirt. Dressy enough for presentations and casual enough for chilling around the house. It has volume, it has sheen, it has drama, but mainly it is pure basic bitch button up.

The pattern was simple to follow. I did make a muslin. I was concerned that my size wouldn’t have enough room for my shoulders. However, I was pleasantly surprised and relieved when my first muslin fit well. I could move my arms back and forth and in circles without busting any seams. The oversized nature of this shirt made it a perfect fit for my unique shoulder situation.

The Alex Shirt is labeled as an intermediate pattern in the City Break Ebook. I’ve been sewing for a year now and label myself as highly adventurous. This pattern was my first shirt yoke, and it was 100% successful thanks to the Sew Over It YouTube tutorial.

The best part about this 100% cotton shirt is the fabric origin: a secondhand bedsheet. Though if you’ve been following my sewing journey it’s probably not surprising as most of my clothes used to be bedsheets. This one is a beautiful satin weave cotton with a high thread count. It’s absolutely luxurious to wear; smooth and silky, but still structured.

I made a couple of small changes. First, I chose to do a regular box pleat at the back, rather than an inverted pleat. I think this highlights the pleat as a central feature of the shirt. Second, I curved both the back and the front of the shirt hem. In the pattern, the back hem curve is exaggerated while the front has a straighter cut. As a petit person, I find shirts that land at tunic length feel more comfortable than those that stop at the hip, a curved front hem helped me accomplish this length without adding bulk to the sides.

I’m pleased to check another item off my 2018 Make Nine list. The Alex Shirt (along with my Mia Jeans) brings my current completed total to two. It’s only February, so I feel comfortable with my progress so far.

Happy Making!

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Logalong Plans and Progress

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When Karen Templer of Fringe Association announced the plans for a log cabin knit-a-long, I had mixed feelings. The log cabin style of knitting was never something that caught my eye, perhaps because I tend toward color minimalism – preferring solids to multicolored items. The log cabin construction style lends itself to items like blankets or scarves – anything square.

I knew if I wanted to join in this knitalong it would mean knitting a solid colored garment that incorporates the log cabin construction. Realizing that I have a baffling amount of sweaters (and more on the way), I knew sweaters were out of the running. I was left feeling sans inspiration for some time – without any confidence in my log cabin knitting plans – until early one morning I woke with the most brilliant idea. So brilliant that it takes a little extra explanation.

The Plan: Log cabin full circle mini skirt made of triangles.

I’ve been attracted to the look of full circle mini skirts this year (my logalong pinterest board has a few), especially those made of wool. They have volume and a little bit of sass that would really brighten up a winters day. While I haven’t found any patterns for a knit full circle mini skirt – I don’t see why it can’t be done.

Full circle skirts can easily be broken into triangular sections – like pieces of a pie.

But is a triangle even a log cabin thing? Yes it is my friends, quilters do it and so will I.

By using a circle skirt calculator for sewing, I was able to make some extra calculations to create triangular sections. But, in order to have room for the waist, I have to chop off the very tip of the triangles – making them trapezoids with triangle insides… a hyprid shape.

My original plan is to have 10 triangles 15 inches high with a 15 inch base. That will give me a very full skirt and a pretty short mini. I’m planning for the waist to have a little bit of negative ease (being knitwear and all) and adding a waistband (maybe with some cables?).

That said, I’m about five triangles down, and I’m starting to think I might prefer the skirt with a little less volume – maybe a 3/4 circle skirt – so I might stop with eight triangles, maybe even six, it all depends on if I can make the waist fit.

The Yarn: I chose to use Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the Old World colorway. I am so excited to finally be working with this yarn. I really wanted to see what it was like working with a wool that blooms after blocking – and I can confidently say it is everything that I’ve hoped and dreamed for. While knitting, the yarn feels stiff, scratchy, and sticky – however after a 30 minute soak in warm water it transforms into a drapey, soft piece of fabric. After knitting and blocking my test triangle I was so surprised by the change in fabric characteristics. I went from unsure that this design would even be possible to very excited and confident that it would work.

The Old World colorway is a navy blue tweed with flecks of bright red and turquoise. I know this skirt will fit in with my wardrobe color palate. That’s why I chose it. I’m actually using two dye lots (break all the knitting rules!) but since this skirt is made of pieces, I figure the difference won’t be noticeable.

The Log Cabin: While most of the log cabin knits I’ve seen are made of garter stitch, I chose to knit my triangles in stockinette. I was really drawn to Norah Gaughan’s Log Cabin Shawl pattern, especially her use of different stitch textures in the log cabin blocks. However, after a small test with alternating stitch textures, I realized my triangles were better suited for a very basic stitch pattern. The bit of inspo I did pull from the Log Cabin Shawl was the use of a ridge to separate between blocks (however, my ridge is way simpler than the one used in this shawl pattern).

While I’m excited about this skirt, I won’t fully know if the whole idea works until I seam the pieces together and try it on. I’m proceeding with fingers crossed and a general attitude of knitting recklessness.

2018 Make Nine

I’ve waffled over this post for some time now. The #makenine movement/challenge/thing really caught my attention last year around this time. It’s an instagram based movement started by Rochelle of Home Row Fiber Co. to focus on organizing the upcoming years projects. Her blog post summarizing the challenge is great: read it here.

I started thinking about this challenge as a way to knit and sew all my desired patterns this year. So I looked through my queue and plans and created two separate make nine layouts: one for knitting, one for sewing. Quickly, I realized this was overwhelming and unrealistic. My knit make nine had seven sweaters and two accessories – seven sweaters in one year! This past year I made four sweaters which felt very impressive. Also, I do not need seven new sweaters.

I took some time to clear my ambitious mind and consider what I actually need in my wardrobe. It’s not much – at this moment in time I have almost everything I could possibly want, with the exception of some needed pairs of shorts for summer and a basic cardigan (put them on the list!). I then turned my attention to ready to wear items in my closet that I could try to replace with handmade items. This list is a little longer – and propelled me into list making mode.

Here’s what I came up with:

  1. a loose boxy long sleeve tee with stripes
  2. jeans
  3. mini skirt
  4. high waisted shorts
  5. everyday cardigan
  6. some sort of blouse/button up
  7. overalls
  8. chambray button up
  9. sweetheart summer dress

That’s NINE THINGS! that I actually could use in my closet. Many of these – esp the jeans and button up – stretch my sewing skills (another goal of 2018).

Here’s the picture layout with potential patterns:

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  1. Bobbie by Pam Allen
  2. Mia Jeans by Sew Over It
  3. Rosari Skirt by Pauline Alice
  4. Lander Shorts by True Bias
  5. Marigold Cardigan (modified to be longer) by Cecily Glowik MacDonald
  6. Alex Shirt by Sew Over It
  7. M7547 Flared pants and overalls
  8. Archer by Grainline Studio
  9. B6453 Princess seamed dress (modified for less fullness in the skirt)

I probably won’t hold too tightly to these patterns (except for the two knit patterns – pretty stoked about those). These are guidelines to inspire me throughout 2018 to make items I need and will actually wear. Here’s to a year of inspired making!

 

Subtle Kitsch Christmas Sweater

I had no plans of knitting myself a Christmas sweater in 2017. But sometimes a newly released pattern catches your eye – and it won’t leave. That’s what happened with Andi Satterlund’s Julgran – a cute cropped sweater with a striking textured evergreen pattern. The word “kitschy” was thrown around quite a lot with this sweater. I would not readily use that word to describe myself, but that didn’t stop me from falling completely in love with this pattern. However, I had two sweater projects in the pipeline and no readily available options for ethical yarn, and not a lot of funds left in my craft budget. I tried to let Julgran go by telling myself I could wait until next Christmas to knit this amazing pattern. I was fine with this plan, until I found myself at the Perennial Clothing Swap staring at a lovely sparkly greige (that’s grey and beige) sweater from Ann Taylor Loft. It was begging to be unravelled and turned into Julgran – and I listened.

The fiber content is a lovely mix of rayon, wool, cotton, and rabbit hair (Does that mean angora? What else is rabbit hair?). The weight is probably on the lighter side when compared to the recommended worsted weight yarn. My excitement to have this sweater finished before Christmas encouraged me to skip the washing and stretching portions of the unraveling process, but even in my hurried state I managed to squeeze out a gauge swatch. My swatch produced a fabric that was a little loose, but still met the pattern requirements, this was good enough for me to jump into knitting.

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I found the knitting process to be absolutely wonderful. This is my first time knitting one of Andi’s patterns, and I now understand why other knitters describe her patters so kindly. I found the pattern and Christmas tree chart were easy to follow. I made a small modification – after the last sleeve decrease I knit four inches of stockinette the ended my now full length sleeve with four inches of ribbing. I used tubular bind off’s for the sleeves and body. I’ve used this bind off before to mixed results, in this project the edges tend to flare out. I’d really like to find a stretchy bind off that doesn’t produce any flare. I’m thinking the surprisingly stretchy bind off is next in line?

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My favorite part of this sweater was bedazzling the Christmas Tree. I was so very hesitant to sew anything onto my sweater. I want this sweater to be wearable all winter long – not just in December – and I thought adding any ornaments would limit my sweater’s wearability. But after finding some faux pearls at Perennial, and playing around with some designs, I decided that I set the limits of wearability – and if I wanted to wear this sweater after Christmas I very well could. So I committed and sewed on the pearls with some invisible thread. In hindsight I should have used a grey or light brown cotton thread instead of the plastic invisible thread. I reached for the plastic stuff without thinking about how many small little pieces I would cut in the process of sewing on small beads. I don’t have a good way to dispose of those small plastic thread clippings while I often save my cotton thread clippings to use for stuffing in toys.

The thing I love most about my Julgran sweater is that it is made of 100% used materials (the yarn, the pearls, and even the invisible thread). I do love the sparkle that comes with Christmas decorations, and with this sweater I can actually wear that sparkle with minimal waste involved. This sweater is also a great addition to my winter wardrobe. With the long sleeve modification, I can keep warm by wearing this sweater over dresses, high waisted skirts, and high waisted pants (#sewinggoals2018). This sweater took me 8 days to knit (WHAT, AM I CRAZY?). I met my deadline with room to spare. I love my subtle kitschy Christmas sweater.

Most of my Clothes Used to be Bedsheets

 

It’s true, most of my clothes were originally produced to cover mattresses. Other people’s mattresses. Now, those old sheets have become my arsenal of t-shirts and dresses. I love transforming bedsheets into everyday garments.

The Practical:

It’s already been established that I’m operating on a tight making budget. $40 a month doesn’t go very far for everything needed to make clothing. Plus, I’m a newbie. I’ve only been sewing regularly for nine months – and teaching myself no less. If I hope to get any better, I need to practice, which requires access to materials. Sheets have a ton of yardage. Thrifted bedsheets, which I can sometimes buy according to weight, are a perfect solution to a tight budget. Most of the time I can get a bedsheet for $1-3, and each bedsheet will make two items (50 cents a shirt! that’s even cheaper that fast fashion). But the practical is only one piece to this grand making adventure.

The Philosophical: Beyond the practical reasons for sewing with bedsheets.

When I use my hands to create a garment from a discarded textile, I give those materials new life. I honor the hands involved in producing those materials – from the farmer who grew the cotton, to the workers who processed the fiber, to the artists who compiled the pieces together. My transformed garment remembers all of their efforts. I’m remembering the nameless and faceless. I’m refusing to let their efforts be masked. I’m recognizing that behind every item is a collection of hands desperate to make a living because my community demands absurdly cheap materials. And by remembering them I can resist my own urge to demand the same. I consider making garments out of discarded items as a gentle but powerful act of resistance. I resist the structures of capitalism that equate human beings to energy – simply cheap resources to get the job done. I resist the culture of waste – that new is always better and the old is better off discarded. I resist the idea that making things by hand is useless and meaningless. I resist the concept that handwork is too costly and inefficient.

Each time I choose to transform a discarded item into an everyday basic, I am habituated to see the good in the unwanted and discarded. This act small act of resistance reminds me not to give in to the demanding voices of an economic system that feeds on cheap labor and easy access to anything I want.

Making from unwanted items satisfies more than just my small budget, it creates the space for thoughtful reflection and critical engagement with economics, culture, and capitalism. I’ve grown to love my practice of sewing from bedsheets. But it doesn’t end there, while the practical and philosophical reasons for sewing with bedsheets are necessarily entwined, I wonder what would happen if my craft budget increased? I’m committed to the philosophy behind making with used materials, but I don’t believe that used materials are the only answer to my environmental and ethical commitments. Used materials fit within my budget at the moment, but I’m confident that ethical options are available at any budget point. I know if I had the resources, I would gravitate towards newly produced materials that acknowledge and valued the work of farmers, producers, and makers.

I’m purely speculating. I don’t have the resources at the moment to buy new, and I don’t think I’m good enough at sewing to use new ethically produced materials without the fear of ruining them forever. So while I’m building my skills with needle and thread, I feel confident and comfortable with my choice to use discarded items.

All that from an old bedsheet!

Happy Making.

 

Uniform Cardigan

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I am so excited to have this cardigan in wardrobe rotation. It fills a massive gap – the everyday cardigan – that has been empty since last spring. Uniform is a versatile pattern by Carrie Bostick Hoge, one pattern with different lengths, waist shaping, sleeve details, and necklines to choose from. I choose the long, a-line cardigan with fitted sleeves, a regular neckline, and patch pockets. I also made the optional waist tie which really *ties* the whole look together.

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I used Berroco Remix for this cardigan. It’s an aran weight yarn made from 100% recycled fibers (nylon, cotton, acrylic, silk, and linen). I chose the “charcoal” colorway, black with white flecks, because I knew this would be the best option if I wanted a basic, wear every day kind of sweater. I am so glad I did. I don’t see this sweater going anywhere or losing its appeal.

This yarn is unique – to say the least. It has almost no memory; it’s very slouchy. It does, however, hold sleeve wrinkles (those folds around the elbow). The black with white flecks makes it a tweed yarn ( I think? Is a flecked yarn the only criteria for a tweed?). While I was knitting I noticed that sometimes I would come across these rough patches in the yarn, almost like a hard plastic and pieces of straw. This was a weird experience that I chalk up to the recycled nature of the yarn. Would I buy this yarn again? Maybe, I might buy the fingering weight version… I’m looking forward to the one day that a yarn company has a 100% recycled yarn that has a high twist and is great for cables. This yarn certainly doesn’t fit that. If anything, this yarn has really cemented my love for natural fibers.

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This sweater used to be a Portage Cardigan (coming up in tour de sweater). I made the decision to frog it after I was unhappy with the fit and appearance. What a relief – frogging this sweater and knitting it into this perfect basic number that actually fits has redeemed the yarn and the process, and maybe even garment knitting (was garment knitting ever really up for consideration? no… I’m obsessed).

I am happy to say that the sleeves fit perfectly! I think my days of too tight sleeves are behind me (I hope).

This sweater is pretty basic. Tons of stockinette, plus some garter stitch. I like the deep garter stitch sleeve cuff for the fitted sleeve option. It’s an unexpected detail that adds some interest during the knitting process.

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The pockets were a bit strange for me to put on. I chose to knit the patch pockets. But the pattern instructions were very vague about the location of the pockets and how to attach them. So I decided to graft the bottom and use mattress stitch for the sides. This proved to be challenging – black yarn and seaming are not a good combination, throw in some poor lighting and you have a total meltdown on the horizon.

By far my favorite thing about this cardigan is the waist tie. I have never knit a waist tie, nor worn a cardigan with a waist tie. At first I thought it would remind me of wearing a robe – something I’m not too fond of. Once I had bound off my last stitch on the cardigan, I looked at my remaining yarn pile (three balls of yarn left…) and thought, might as well try it out. This was one instance where branching out and trying something new really benefited. I could not imagine this cardigan without this waist tie. It would definitely be slouchy and baggy, and I think without the tie, I would feel swamped with all the slouch. But with the tie… the slouch is still there, but I feel like it’s all a little contained. I even considered knitting ties for every larger cardigan I make in the future… too much?

 

On Recycling (and a pair of socks)


The #slowfashionoctober Instagram prompts have me thinking about my craft as of late. I highly recommend checking out the feed here. The “what” prompt got me all excited about recycled materials. Even though the prompt was posted over a week ago, I’m still thinking about the meaning behind using recycled materials for my work. There are a lot of ways to be ethical/considerate in crafting. Sourcing locally, dyeing naturally, and organic wool are a couple that jump out at me. I love these options, but price wise they’re usually out of my reach. However, I don’t think cost has to be a barrier to conscious crafting. Recycling materials from items that already exist can really cut down on the overall costs of making. Buying a linen duvet cover from a thrift store is most likely going to be less expensive than new linen. And, with extra effort, quality materials can be found. But cost is only reason why recycled materials play such an important role in my life.

From the perspective of waste reduction, the best materials are the ones that already exist. According to this view, making my clothing from clothing that might end up in the landfill would minimize total waste. It’s a simple calculus that I find motivating and useful when I think about the impact of my hobbies on the earth. Of course, this is a very mathematical/economic way of thinking about making clothes.

Sometimes I like to be a bit more poetic. As I was knitting these socks I kept thinking about non-human recyclers. Just about every other creature on this earth might be better at recycling than us humans. Or at least every ecosystem has designated recycling systems built in. There are mammals, like raccoons and possums, who scavenge food waste. There are birds who build their homes from discarded items in the forest and the city. There are entire species whose job it is to break down plants and animals so they return to the earth. These decomposers perform essential roles by creating rich and fertile soil that is open and welcoming to new growth. Without these mammals, insects, and mushrooms, we would live in toxic environments.

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I wonder if there is a role for the scavenger and decomposer in the making community? We place much needed emphasis on sourcing thoughtful new materials, but do we pay enough attention to the back end of the process? What would it look like for makers to take note from the scavengers and decomposers of the world?

Just like every slow food devotee has a compost heap, would every slow fashion maker have a yarnpost heap?
Would we dumpster dive for materials that others have deemed irreparable?

Would we have competitions for most mended garment? Or item with the longest or most wears? Would we begin to keep note of these stats on our own clothing items?

Would we celebrate, rather than despair, when our friends frog a garment because it’s unworn and celebrate again when they knit it into something loved?

Would we start up new quilting bees for our fabric scraps?

As I think about the role recycling could have in maker communities I get excited. The ideas I mentioned above actually sound like a blast. I love making with other people, and all the more l reason to gather together in creativity!

I know that talking about material sourcing and waste can be a touchy issue. It’s so easy for me to feel guilty that I’m not following one of my slow fashion goals. But, it doesn’t have to be about strict adherence to moral-fashion guidelines. We are all creative people, and this isn’t a competition. The massive challenges facing our earth and communities won’t be solved through individualism. Working together to do our best which will almost certainly be imperfect is better than perfection alone. I think the best place to start is with a small idea and a forgiving heart.

Happy Making