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Selfish Knitting and IKEA for the Win

Since I am on the verge of finishing up (and showing off) a lovely sweater that should be done any day, I figured it was time to deviate from sewing discussion a little to talk a little about my knitting this year.

I am a selfish sewist, but I am not a selfish knitter. Usually.

Since learning to knit when I was about eight years old, I have done a lot of knitting for other people. My husband has had a few pairs of socks and at least one cap knit for him, as has my son (who is on about to receive a sweater for Christmas, as well!). Friends, family, and a handful of children undergoing chemotherapy, have been the recipients of a variety of knit goods. Until last winter, I had only ever knit myself one successful pair of socks, a small lace scarf, and a single, basic cap. I sew for me, and usually knit for everyone else.

Last winter changed that. I had made some cowls for friends for Christmas and had a ball of art yarn leftover that was interesting. I also had a six hour drive to Southern California to visit family. Since my husband does the majority of the driving, I thought randomly, “I should make myself something with this!”

Until that point, I had also never knit anything bigger than a scarf, so I made the obvious decision to design and knit myself a sweater. I like to make the DIY process as complicated as possible.

I decided to knit a drapey, open-front cardigan sideways and flat, in garter stitch, then stitch up the shoulders and pick up stitches to knit sleeves in the round. I wanted quick and easy for the first sweater I ever made, so I also used giant needles.

I finished the majority of the body during that trip, and then set aside my knitting to do everything else I do when I’m not knitting, and I didn’t pick the sweater back up again until September of this year. Several balls of yarn, and months later, I’m happy to report that my first sweater ever is a success.

 

I like to think of it as hobo chic. It kind of looks like a threadbare rag that someone living under a bridge is probably wearing, but at the same time I feel like it is actually pretty darn cute. I’d think I was just biased if I didn’t see commercially made cardigans like this and this, and (check out the price of) this one being sold. Hence, hobo chic. Mine is also super comfy and my kid loves to curl up inside of it like it is a big blanket we can wrap around the both of us, which makes me so ridiculously happy. It also gave me the confidence to knit my second ever sweater, which is just inches from completion, and pretty without any trendy hobo-ness to it.

Last winter, I also tried my hand at sewing a drape cardigan. I looked around for a good sweater knit fabric to use and couldn’t find any that was worth the price tag. It was during a trip to IKEA the same weekend I started knitting sweater #1 that I spotted a soft and interesting, and VERY inexpensive throw blanket that I thought I’d use to make a cardigan. It was woven, not knit, which only made the project even easier for me. I used this awesome tutorial (with a few minor changes like bigger front panels to create a longer drape) and wore that sweater throughout all of 2015, and will get some more mileage yet in 2016.IMG_7125 (2)


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Colors and Neutrals

Be forewarned: this one’s a little long-winded. Because color. 

On my quest to become a more organized sewist, and to not wastefully buy pretty fabric that never gets used (or worse: used but never worn!), I have been trying to be much more selective with my shopping and planning to begin with.

This sounds easy enough, right? The problem is that some fabrics are just not suited for garments, no matter how pretty they are. Or at least not suited for garments for everyone. As much as I embrace all beautiful things and every glorious color, I want to also feel like I look good. I love color and prints, and get inspired when I look at fabric, but I put a lot of time and love into the things I make and really don’t like when I’m disappointed by the end result. For years I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly what I was doing wrong. It turns out that a lot of it comes down to color and neutrals.

Because I love bold bright colors, I spent years assuming that eventually the colors would somehow work together to make a cute, but cohesive wardrobe. I’d see women wearing prints and try to mimic their ensembles. I actually used to take literal notes on the wardrobe of someone I went to high school with because her sense of funky, colorful style was inspiring (totally not creepy at all, right?).

The truth is, neutrals don’t have to be boring, but the wrong ones or too many of them usually are. Additionally, too much color takes away from cohesiveness. Really. Green skinny jeans that go with one floral blouse, one solid t-shirt, and one jacket, and absolutely nothing else in your wardrobe, are essentially useless. If you try to compensate by buying more floral shirts to go with the jeans you are on the right track, but missing out on some variety. If you try to compensate by buying an orange pair of skinny jeans to go with all the other floral shirts that don’t look good with the green jeans, you’re missing the problem. And if you are like me, you buy the green jeans and an orange sweater and a purple jacket, because they are really stinking cute, and are then heartbroken when they actually look bad with absolutely everything else in your wardrobe (including your shoes)! Don’t be like me.

The opposite can be worse,though. I tried to rein in my patterns and colors for a while and ended up with grey, oatmeal, and khaki solids that were boringly partnered every day. 

I went from one extreme to another, without considering  what actually looked good on me. I think I just saw myself as the universal blood donor of skin tones despite the fact that I’ve never once found a foundation, powder, or concealer that looked natural on me.

I’ve determined that, for me, it comes down to balance and a color palette. My color palette, more specifically. To start off, I went through a lengthy, and pretty nerdy, color study on myself to determine what colors actually look good on me using the directions from  this article. For some people, this may seem silly or overly complicated, but those people probably don’t have trouble formulating a wardrobe. I do. 

After everything is said and done, I’m very happy with the resulting color pallet. It reads a little duller than I’m used to, and a little winter-y. I’m not sure how I’ll summer it up, but at least I have a guide for knowing if something should look good on me, and can shop accordingly. The colors also go well enough with each other that things make or bought SHOULD be a little more universal in my wardrobe. *Fingers crossed.*IMG_7098

After I developed my palette, my next step was to cull my stash more using the palette as my guide. Here’s how that looks:

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These look good. 😉

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Some bolder prints I’m hoping work with the rest of my wardrobe.

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The one on the left is a stretch so it’s going away. The right one’s great.

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This sweater I’m knitting is a near-perfect match!

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Some good solids, though the green is iffy.

The final thing I don’t have figured out quite yet is how I’m going to balance prints with some good neutrals. Not necessarily boring neutrals, but some strong bones around which everything else can fall into place. I think items like my newly made purple pants are definitely a step in the right direction. Maybe this will finally be the thing that actually works intuitively.

Wish me luck! And do remind me if I seem to fall back into my terribly chaotic (or exceptionally boring) color ways!! 😉


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I’m Thankful For Some Warm Clothes!

It’s gotten chilly in Vegas.

I spent the last week hosting a big family Thanksgiving dinner, which was wonderful and went a million times more smoothly than I could have ever expected. Unfortunately, during the festivities, our heater broke. It has since been fixed (thank goodness for appliance warranties!) but  for a few days, it was pretty cold inside. Luckily, I had a little foresight. When it got down to 40 degrees outside and wind started knocking over patio furniture, I decided that I should probably make some pants.

Until about two weeks ago, I was pretty much living in running tights and leggings because I only own one pair of jeans these days, and they fit terribly. I still had the two pairs of linen pants I made a couple of years ago, but one pair was tucked away and the other has a little too low a rise these days. That pair has been seam ripped to add a more useful waistband and update the shape of the leg, and the other pair is out of storage and back in regular rotation.
And then I made this pair!IMG_7105 (2)

I decided to buy a pattern this time since my weight has gone down since I last made pants (20 pounds since August!!), and I wanted a slimmer leg without having to put the effort into shaping it. Since I liked the Colette pattern for the Wren dress, I decided to give another of their patterns a go. I chose the Seamwork Moji pants because they were simple, cute, affordable, and accessible. I wish I could say I made them exactly as the pattern was written, but I didn’t.  For starters, I used 1 1/2″ elastic instead of a drawstring in the waist. I know my hips. A drawstring would absolutely not work. I also discovered that, according to my dear friend Ariel, my “knees must be skinny!” When I sewed the leg seams, for whatever reason, it appeared like the knees ballooned out bigger than the thighs. They weren’t actually bigger than the thighs, but they seriously looked ridiculous. I graded the seams in near the knee area by at least an inch on each seam, and the problem was fixed.

And, because I’m apparently terribly predictable, I made them in linen.

I’m also really happy to report that I’ve lost enough weight (duh! 20 pounds makes a pretty huge difference) to fit into my favorite sweater! I got this 100% cashmere beauty for $7 on clearance seven years ago and haven’t fit into it, really, in five years. And it looks great with my new pants!

Now I just need to work on some seasonally appropriate footwear!