Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pattern Testing: Mini Tania Culottes

This September, I had the opportunity to pattern test the Mini Tania Culottes, which are part of Megan Nielsen’s new line of girls’ patterns. I was thrilled, as I have long been an admirer of her patterns, and the mini versions couldn't be cuter. Initially, I had planned on pattern testing all three versions, but real life intervened and I was only able to finish version 3 before the feedback deadline. I picked that one first because it was the bigger and would therefore take the longest to sew, thinking that I could whip up the shorter versions too. Oh well. While this pattern is indeed a quick sew, my real job workload was such in September that my best laid plans were derailed. Luckily, the instructions were easy enough to follow that I was able to sew this together in fits and starts in the few stolen minutes I could find.

I totally wasn’t paying attention and didn’t realize that the pattern called for woven fabrics until it hit my inbox. While I have a small stash of garment fabric in woven and knits for myself, I only had knits on hand in my daughter’s colors. (She is very particular about what she wears and the pinker something is, the more likely she is to wear it.) Since the pattern indicated that you could also sew it up in knits, I decided to take a chance and just roll with it. I used Les Points Knit in Rose by Frances Newcombe for Art Gallery Fabrics, and it turned out well enough. However, if I ever made this pattern out of a knit again, I would use a lighter, flowier one.

While I managed to finish the culottes and submit my feedback by the deadline, it took me some time (and some bribing) to organize a photo shoot with my daughter. Therefore, please enjoy these pictures of Mini Tania Culottes worn in chilly, rainy November weather. I can’t wait until next spring, because I’m planning on whipping up some shorter culottes in woven fabrics. The pattern is easy, quick and clever and I love that it combines the functionality of pants with the cuteness of a skirt.

Disclaimer: I received this pattern for free in exchange for pattern testing it. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Mommy and Me Triple Luxe Cowls

Behold, my favorite crochet pattern to date! After finishing my Scarfie, I surfed the web until I found the Triple Luxe Cowl from All About Ami. It’s free, and calls for bulky Lion Brand Woolspun yarn, which is readily available at my local Michael’s. One of the things that initially drew me to this pattern was that Stephanie describes the pattern in simple, everyday language with lots of pictures before giving you the traditional “coded” pattern. Since reading crochet patterns is still a challenge for me, I found the explanations and pictures super helpful. I think part of my previous problems with crochet stemmed from the fact that my instinct is to stitch in the third loop, and without pictures, I didn’t notice that I was doing it wrong. For this pattern, you’re supposed to stitch in the third loop, so no issues there.

For the blue Triple Luxe Cowl, I read through the everyday language directions and set to work. I was so into it that I forgot to make the seam and crocheted the whole thing in one continuous round. I don’t think the jagged top is all that noticeable in the end. For this cowl, I used Lion Brand Woolspun in Royal Blue. It’s very snuggly and warm and I really enjoy wearing it.

While I was working on the blue cowl, my daughter requested one for herself. After some debate, we settled on pink. I wanted to use something a little softer than Woolspun for my daughter’s cowl, since she is so particular about what she wears. I returned to my trusty local Michael’s store and picked up two skeins of Loops & Threads Charisma yarn in Think Pink. While it is indeed softer, the stitch definition isn’t as good, so I prefer Woolspun for this pattern.

To make a child-sized cowl, I chained 90 instead of 120 at the beginning, and stitched 12 rows instead of 16. This time, I remembered the seam. Since I had already made the pattern once before, I was able to puzzle through the traditional pattern well enough. If I were to do it over again, I would make it even smaller, because this one has a tendency to slip off my daughter’s shoulders when she runs and plays. Nevertheless, my daughter loves her new cowl and wears it often.

I really enjoyed crocheting these Triple Luxe Cowls and have already started another one for myself. I am also now an avid follower of All About Ami and look forward to trying another one of her patterns someday. Her crocheted accessories seem distinctly modern to me. I consider myself a modern quilter, and I’d like to be a modern crocheter as well. However, I’ve had a hard time finding more modern crochet blogs to follow, and would welcome any suggestions you may have, dear readers. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy this pattern.

Monday, November 16, 2015

QuiltCon Compilation Quilt 2015

This past February I had the pleasure of attending QuiltCon. It was an amazing experience, and I walked away with an overabundance of inspiration. This quilt combines aspects of all four workshops that I took at QuiltCon 2015: Japanese Sashiko Stitching with Maura Ambrose, Emphasis with Carolyn Friedlander, Basic Improv Quiltmaking with Quilters of Gee's Bend and Off the Grid: Creating Alternate Layouts with Lee Heinrich.

I started the improv blocks in the Basic Improv Quiltmaking with Quilters of Gee's Bend workshop. The supply list called for old clothes, so I brought a couple of my husband’s old dress shirts and some coordinating quilting cotton scraps. There wasn’t a lot of structure in the class, so I left with a stack of improv blocks and no idea what to do with them.

While the improv blocks sat untouched in my WIP pile, I pondered what to make to enter in the QuiltCon 2016 show. I really enjoyed the 2015 show, and wanted to contribute something special to the next one. One day, it hit me: why not make a quilt that showcased what I had learned at the last QuiltCon?

First, a made a scrappy version of Carolyn Friedlander’s Emphasis block. You can find the pattern in her book, Savor Each Stitch. Paper piecing still isn’t my favorite technique, but I enjoyed taking a more improv approach to this one, in order to make sure that it played well with the Gee’s Bend blocks.

Using the dimensions of the Emphasis block as a guide, I trimmed down and built up my improv blocks into rectangles. I laid them out in an alternate grid, with the Emphasis block offset as an asymmetrical focus point, inspired by Lee Heinrich’s Off the Grid class. I made sure to make enough blocks so that the end result measured 37” square, just big enough to be too big for the Small Quilts category of the show.

After the top was pieced, the fun began. Using the circular motif that Maura Ambrose had taught in her Sashiko class, I hand quilted concentric circles one inch apart, using the middle of the Emphasis block as the starting point. I used a Sashiko needle and thread, and no hoop, just like in the class. At first, it was challenging to hand quilt a larger piece without a hoop. Once I got the hang of it, I loved it. Stacking stiches on the large needle made for quick stitching and the thread glided through the fabric in the loveliest way. Since I really wanted to finish this quilt in time to submit it to the 2016 show, I worked on it whenever I could, but I was a little bit sad when it was finished because I enjoyed quilting it so much. I already have plans for my next quilt using this technique.

In the end, I am extremely satisfied with my QuiltCon compilation quilt. I feel that it expresses the spirit of each of the classes I took. Even if it isn’t accepted into the show, it’s a wonderful souvenir of my trip and all that I learned. 

Update: Linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday at she can quilt and Finish It Up Friday at crazy mom quilts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mystery Fabric Hemlock Tee

After I made my first Hemlock Tee, I wanted to sew another one right away. During a trip to Pacific Fabrics, I hit up their knits section and found this rayon/lycra blend that didn't have a brand name written on the bolt. However, the color spoke to me, and it was slinky but still opaque. I decided to give it a try.

The Hemlock tee is a lovely, quick pattern, but this shirt took me over a month to sew. The slinky fabric just wasn't fun to work with, even though I was looking forward to wearing it. Once the calendar flipped to September, my motivation returned. I wanted to finish this so that I could move on to my fall sewing!

I wish I could say that I was happy with the end result. For a day, that was true. Wearing this shirt made me feel both comfy and confident. At the end of that one day, though, I realized that the fabric had already started to pill! Lesson learned: do not buy unbranded mystery fabric! Luckily, the pilling hasn’t noticeably increased, even though I wear this shirt often. However, I’m not going to let one disappointing fabric choice hold me back. I'm already planning my next Hemlock tee. This time, I'll use better fabric!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Basic Gray Staples: Mesa Tunic, Aurora Tank and Hemlock Tee

Back in August, I caught the garment sewing bug again. I happened to have a bunch of gray Robert Kaufman Laguna Jersey knit fabric laying around, so I grabbed a few new-to-me patterns and went to town, with varying degrees of success.

Mesa Tunic

I really enjoy the patterns from Seamwork and look forward to the new offerings each month. The Mesa Dress was an instant favorite. However, I’m trying to sew clothes that I’ll actually wear, and I knew that I wouldn’t wear a dress without pockets very often. Instead of adding pockets, I decided to shorten it and make a shirt instead. After reading comments on Instagram about the pattern running small, I cut out a size larger than normal, complete with grading out to an even larger size at the waist and hips. The end result was too big in the shoulders and somehow still too tight around my middle. It was worth a shot, but this shirt will be relegated to the pile of layering shirts that I wear under sweaters during the winter and never see the light of day.

Aurora Tank

I’ve been looking for a knit tank pattern, and the Seamwork Aurora Tank seemed like a good choice. It has a couple cute details: gathers on the straps and a pleat in the back. Also, I really like how the yoke is assembled. Even though I graded out a size at the waist and hips, it’s just a little bit too snug for my taste. I can see the potential though, so I look forward to trying it again sometime, grading out an additional size. This version is good enough that I wore it in public when it was just too hot to wear sleeves this summer. It also works nicely as a layering piece.

Hemlock Tee

After making two patterns that ended up being too tight, I decided to try a pattern that was one-size-fits-all: the free Hemlock Tee from Grainline Patterns. It was everything I needed it to be: quick to sew, loose and comfortable. For my first try, I omitted the sleeves, but I’m looking forward to making a few long sleeved Hemlock Tees now that the weather has cooled down.

Even though not every pattern turned out to be a winner for me, I’m really happy with my garment sewing efforts in August. I tried three new patterns and found two that I liked. Pretty good results, if you ask me.