This is very late, but I have a pattern out over at Knitty. This sweater was inspired by my move to New York last year. I suddenly needed warmer clothes than I ever had before, but the winter is beautiful and worth being a little cold for.
This is a sweater for curling up on the couch with your sister and a mug of hot chocolate to watch the snow through the window. This is a sweater for cold Vermont mornings, helping your best friend move into her dream home, and wishing she could find the box with her quilts in it. This is not a sweater for actually going out in the snow without a coat on. That would be crazy.
I’ve said this before, but perhaps the best part of living somewhere with seasons is knitting winter clothes. I don’t really like the cold, but I do like turning soft, colorful wool into cozy gloves and hats. There’s a store in Sydney, Morris and Sons, that makes some of the most beautiful yarn in all my favorite colors. While I lived there I only ever bought the lace weight to make light scarves, but when I went back to Sydney in June I stocked up on Morris Empire in heavier weights (they do ship internationally, but it’s more fun to buy your yarn in person where you can see the colors and pet the yarn).
I wanted to make something simple that showed off the two colors. I went with a garter stitch button band, closed with a big tan button (which perfectly matches the coat I will wear them with when the weather gets cold enough!) and stockinette hands. I liked how they came out so well that I made a second, fingerless pair in Blue Skies Alpaca Metalico (photos to come) and wrote up the pattern. It’s available as a Ravelry download.
Last weekend David and I went out to the country, where it’s really autumn. It wasn’t quite cold enough for gloves, but I brought them along anyway because I’m excited about them (you know how it is with your most recent project) and took some pictures around the autumn leaves. Autumn makes me feel like I’m in a storybook – real trees can’t possibly be those colors.
I hardly ever use patterns – I’m not very good at adjusting them so I usually find it’s easier to make an entirely new pattern that fits right than to adapt one. But every once in a while I forget that. Most recently, I made these shorts for my sister Isabel’s birthday from Kwik Sew K3854 view B. As usual, I sort of wish I’d just made my own pattern. I made the smallest size, which according to the listed measurements should be much too small for Isabel, but ended up having to take it in quite a bit at the waist. This was somewhat difficult on the side seams because of the odd pocket construction. Why don’t the listed measurements describe the actual dimensions of the finished garment or a person who could wear it? Or at least come within three inches. I don’t understand how they can be so far off. But despite the challenges in making them, I’m very happy with the way they came out and so is Isabel.
Bias tape is a wonderful way to finish an edge, particularly weirdly shaped edges that you can’t or don’t want to line. It gives a nice clean finish even along curves that are otherwise difficult to deal with. You can make bias tape from the fabric you’re using for something subtle or use a contrasting fabric to add a bit of interest. You can buy bias tape in solid colored cotton, but it’s easy to make yourself and if you do you can have so many lovely colors, patterns, and materials. Continue reading
When I was working on my 1920s dress, I sketched several things that incorporated this skirt from Modern Pattern Design*. I didn’t end up using it, because the scallops didn’t suit the geometric embroidery on my fabric, but I still think it’s a fun design element – maybe someone else has a project for it. The diagram shows how to modify a straight skirt to introduce flounces. (This is probably obvious, but in the diagram cb labels the center back and cf the center front.) The diagram is a bit confusing, but the concept is simple: if you put a circle skirt into an uneven waistband, the fullness will be unevenly distributed, creating flounces.
* A wonderful 1942 pattern drafting book by Harriet Pepin. A copy is available online.
On Sunday I went to the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island with Kristin and Ashley. It was quite fun to pretend we’d gone back in time, to sit on the grass with our picnic and listen to music, to dance a bit, and most of all to admire everyone’s outfits.
This dress was a quick project I made in Brattleboro while Prima was working. Another old sari, bias cut and designed around the decorative edging, with serger binding in red thread. I love the fabric and I had fun playing with the decoration. But something went a bit wrong with the center triangle. The embroidered pallu at the end of the sari was narrow, and I wanted a long thin triangle anyway, one that would extend from the v-neck to a dropped waist and be no wider than my hips. But I wanted the squares of the embroidery to line up, so the angle of the center panel changes after the first square, making weird little corners. Also, the central triangle turns out to be a sort of awkward shape anyway – if I did it again I would have the triangle extend all the way to the hem and give up on keeping the top square intact. But the embroidered sari fabric makes up for a lot and I do like a dropped waist. It may not be particularly flattering, but that’s not it’s purpose – it’s an exaggerated, playful style that’s more about having fun than about showing off your body. And we did have fun.
I also decorated my hat to match! I bought a cheap paper cloche from the hat guy on the corner, ripped off the hideous polyester band, made a new one from a bit of silk left over from my dress, and clipped it in place with a feathered hairpin.
Late afternoon light glittering on this field was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. You can almost see in these photos the way the air above the field sparkled and the grass glowed. We came here at the end of my last day in Brattleboro, and it was a perfect end to a wonderful weekend.
My dress is less than perfect. I love the fabric: a cotton lawn printed with art deco pansies. I’m happy with the back, which is low but bra friendly, and the general silhouette. The neckline is ok, although I had to put a pleat in the front after I cut it out too wide, but I think that fixed it. The problem is the elastic waist. The dress really isn’t big enough on top to warrant an elastic waist, and it’s a struggle to get into, especially when you’ve decided you need an outfit change out in a field with a couple of friendly strangers asking where you’re from. It really needs a side zipper, and someday I may add one.
Photos by Prima.
“Let me show you something ridiculous I made,” Prima said when I arrived in Brattleboro. “It’s not going in the shop, it’s just something I made for myself, but I love it. Look at that, isn’t it absurd!” She showed me this beautiful red bra made of swimsuit fabric with a bit of lace at the center and matching shorts. Not your average swimsuit, but quite a lovely thing, and something I think others would enjoy. I insisted on photographing it so she could list it in her shop, and it got us thinking about what inspires our best work, what sells, and what is worth working on.
I always think Prima’s craziest projects, the ones that she makes for herself because she loves them, are her best work. As a shop owner, she worries about whether anyone else wants to wear a swimsuit that looks more like lingerie, and that’s definitely a reasonable concern. But she had so much fun making this swimsuit, and I think that comes through. When you love what you’re making you pay attention to it in a way that is difficult to force – you notice all the little details and have an intuitive sense that the peach elastic band should peak through in the center. So my vote is that she should list the clothes she wants to make for herself and not worry about designing specifically for her shop.
There’s no question that you should make the things you love, because it’s just fun to do so. But what about when you’re designing for a shop? How important is it to think about what other people want to wear? Prima and I decided last weekend that for her it might be better to just make the things she wants to wear and hope that someone else will have as much fun in this lacy red swimsuit as she does.
One of my favorite sights in Prima’s neighborhood is this beautifully carved front porch on an abandoned house. I wish I’d taken some pictures of the trim at the top and the second story balcony above it. They’re beautiful, although badly decayed. It started to rain while we were taking these photos and I insisted on staying under the shelter of the porch until it stopped, which worried Prima who thought she might fall through at any moment. Probably a reasonable concern.
Prima’s dress is the latest in this series. You can find it in her Etsy shop.
Vermont is very into its covered bridges. Prima took me to a lovely bookstore overlooking a river, where we failed to find a copy of her favorite book for me to read, but did find a surprisingly large collection of books with titles like Covered Bridges of Vermont. At the time I was a bit annoyed with the covered bridges for taking up shelf space which could have housed the book we were looking for. But a few hours later when I saw the bridge crossing over our swimming hole I understood. It’s a pretty cool bridge.
This skirt is similar to the other one I brought to Vermont. The skirt is only a third again the size of my hips rather than twice as large, making for a less fluffy skirt. But the basic construction is the same. It does have a wider waistband which requires a dart at each side and one or two in back and it closes with two overly enthusiastic hammer in snaps rather than a button. I regret the choice of snaps: I like this skirt but I want to take it off some day.