Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tin Can Knits Barley Hat

In a completely unoriginal move for a sewing blogger...I knit something! I sew because I love having control of my wardrobe, so it naturally follows that knitting would interest me as well. My husband bought me a beginner book two Christmases ago (!) and this fall I finally finished my first item!

This is the Barley Hat by Tin Can Knits. TCK has a great series of free patterns that are meant to teach and build upon one another. The first in the series is a scarf, which I started and never finished about a year ago. I felt ready to move on to the hat, though, and it was a great next step.

The real reason I was inspired to pick up the needles again is this yarn. It’s called Species, and it was released by my favorite company, Sloomb. They mainly produce cloth diapers and wool clothing, but over the summer they released yarn in some of their most popular clothing colorways. This color is called Carbon. It’s 100% Merino wool and crazy soft. It was a little splitty but I got used to it after a while of working with it (and I’m a noob so it could’ve just been me).

Not being primarily a knitter, it’s difficult for me to properly review this project! I do have Ravelry notes here. Unfortunately, as much as a I love this hat, it turned out way too big. I followed the size chart but I did not knit a test swatch (whoops) so it’s probably my fault. You can see that it ended up VERY slouchy, which is fine, except that it’s so loose it slides down my face. Whomp whomp. My husband tried it on and it wasn’t quite right for him either. I’m considering the unpardonable sin of purposefully machine washing and drying it in order to felt and shrink the wool. I do not recommend this process unless you’re really familiar with wool and know what you’re doing, since felting also reduces stretch. We’ll see...there’s nothing worse than working hard on something that doesn’t fit right.

I actually have another hat on the needles right now, with this same pattern, but it’s for one of my kids and it’s in a different yarn. I hope the sizing will be better. For now, I’m enjoying the learning process of knitting, and I really like having a portable project I can do on the go. My ultimate goal is to be able to knit sweaters and socks, the two things that are difficult to get right with sewing. Basically, I want to #makeallthethings.

Have you branched out to knitting?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

How to Fit Your Handmades into Your Wardrobe

Like a lot of people, I’m often pulled in by the “oooh shiny” phenomenon in sewing. How many times have you sewn something new, only to have it languish away in your closet? And how often is that because it doesn’t go with anything? I call these pieces “unicorns” although I’ve also seen them referred to as “widows” or “orphans” (too depressing for me, I’d rather imagine my closet full of mythical creatures!). Recently, I’ve tried to be more mindful about the new items I sew and how they’re going to work with my current style. I’ve developed a few steps to help eliminate these beautiful, but not-so-useful, unicorns!

Listen to the fabric
Everyone is different in the way they purchase fabric, but I think all sewists tend to buy faster than they can sew! Inevitably, we end up with stash fabric that loses its original purpose. We know we want to use it, but we can’t decide how. When I run into trouble is when I attempt to force certain fabrics to do certain things, just for the sake of using it up. For example...

...I bought this open knit jacquard many years ago, because it was cool. That was the only reason! I had two yards, which meant I COULD do many things: dress, cardi, skirt, top. But due to the open nature, I kept getting stumped. A top or dress would need lined. For years (literally) I debated about what to do with it. In the end, it was so simple! A lightweight, lacy knit could really only be a cardigan. Once I listened to the fabric, I had my answer.

Look for inspiration
After deciding on a style for your fabric, I find it helpful to browse photos of what your finished garment might look like. Going back to my example, I knew the fabric wanted to be a cardigan, but I couldn’t picture how a navy and white striped cardigan would fit into my wardrobe. What would I wear with it? I pulled up Pinterest and did a search for “navy and white striped cardigan”.

Most of my results were actually navy and white striped shirts with cardigans of other colors. But there were enough real-life examples to give me an idea of how to wear this particular style. Overwhelmingly, they were worn with plain colored shirts underneath, typically white or navy, or sometimes grey or black.

Next I asked myself, do I have these plain shirts? If I have them, is this a look I want to wear? Does the silhouette work for me? If the answers to these questions is no, then you have some more thinking to do. If the answers are yes, then you can feel fairly confident in moving on to choosing a pattern and making your garment. Pairing the right fabric to the right pattern is an art in and of itself, and it's not something I'm going to cover today. I will assume you've chosen the right pattern to meet your fit needs and to match the fabric you've chosen (you can see my full review of the cardigan sewing here).

Mix and match
Once you've finished your garment, don't just toss it on a hanger and wait around for the day you want to wear it. I admit, I'm completely guilty of this habit! After I finished my cardigan, I attempted to just throw it on top of an outfit, and I realized that it simply didn't work. I decided to slow down and invest some time into figuring out exactly how to wear and style this item.

I went back to Pinterest to remind myself of my original inspiration. I pulled out all my solid colored tops and tried different colors underneath until I found what looked best.

I paid attention to the necklines. I also swapped out different cuts and washes of jeans. Finally, I tried different shoes and various styling such as a half-tucked shirt, a fully-tucked shirt, an infinity scarf looped twice, looped three times, etc. I did my makeup.

Yes, this process took time and effort. I estimate I spent at least 30 minutes figuring out what worked, and why. I learned that the cardigan looks best with solid white or navy tops underneath, and with a pair of pants that have a decent amount of color contrast, to avoid looking like a big navy blob. I found a slight hole in my wardrobe, in that I could use a white tank top with some sort of embellishment along the neckline (the one in the photos is definitely too small).

Finally, after mastering your outfits you want to be able to remember them! I made sure to take photos when I liked a look. I ended up with three different combinations. It's easy enough to make an album on your phone, or you can use a more advanced process like the Stylebook app. A few weeks later I wore the cardigan again, and I couldn't remember how I liked it! I was so glad I had the photos so I could quickly find the pieces I needed to finish off my look.

Do you have any of your own tips for incorporating handmades into your wardrobe?

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