Sunday, 26 February 2017

2017 Challenges: February

Time to reveal my February challenge garments! (See also: what my 2017 challenges are about and January's items)

Magazine Challenge: Striped top (Burda 03-2017-126A)

I feel like if you are going to pay for an annual subscription to Burda, you kind of owe it to yourself to make up some of the magazine's weirder and more baffling patterns every so often. Plus, the whole point of my Magazine Challenge was always to make garments that are at the more unique and interesting end of the pattern spectrum. Those are my excuses, anyway, for the fact that this month my Magazine Challenge garment is this wacky top pattern from the Plus section of Burda 03-2017:

Burda 03-2017-126A (Plus) top, images from Burdastyle.ru


The description in Burda is kind of hilarious. "A chic combination of the stripes results in a relaxed shirt with a waistcoat effect" it says. Um. What? I mean, first of all, does it really look like a waistcoat? I can't say that even vaguely came to my mind when I saw it. And then second, is a "waistcoat effect" even something anyone wants to achieve? I feel like if I wanted to look like I was wearing one I'd, you know, wear a waistcoat. Baffling. As usual, it's probably best to ignore Burda's commentary altogether.


Burda 03-2017-126A: My version, on Flossie, front view
As for the rest of the world's commentary, well, every opinion I've seen on the internet has recoiled in horror from this pattern/fabric combination, but I don't even remotely care that everyone else seems to hate it. As soon as I saw this pattern in the previews I knew I wanted to make it at some point this year. I hadn't really thought to make it during February as it's not really useful in the current season, nor even really in the spring. However, when it came down to it I was way more enthusiastic about making this than anything else this month so I plunged ahead despite the fact I won't get to wear it for a while. It won't come to harm hanging in my wardrobe until the weather warms up.

Despite my allegedly cast-iron resolve (actually more the consistency of jello) not to buy fabric for these challenges but to use things I already have, I had to buy something to make up this pattern. I desperately wanted to make the striped version (126A -- 126B is a plain single colour version) and didn't have anything suitable at all. In the end I picked up a one-off remnant piece of viscose morocain crepe on eBay. I knew the variable width stripe would make the pattern more complicated to cut, but I thought it would also be more interesting overall as well, which proved correct, in my opinion. The fabric itself is pleasantly floaty and should be cool to wear in the summer.

Burda 03-2017-126A: My version, on Flossie, back view


I made a size 44, as per usual in Burda tops -- this is a Plus pattern, so the 44 is the smallest size -- and made absolutely no modifications whatsoever. I usually do at least a small square shoulder adjustment with Burda but the shoulder line on this is super straight to start with, so there was no need.

Sewing wise, this pattern is rated easy and has only 4 large pattern pieces and a piece of bias binding. It definitely lived up to the easy billing, even though I did a little extra work because I decided to French seam throughout. In fact, by far the most time consuming part of making this top was laying out the pattern to put the stripes in the right places, especially since the pattern calls for the pieces positioned both on the grain and the cross-grain. And then just to complicate matters when I was pressing my fabric I discovered a small but awkwardly placed flaw that I had to work around!

Burda 03-2017-126A: My version, on Flossie, side view, showing my extremely non-matching shoulder seams

My main stripe matching failure is at the shoulder seam -- the front and back don't match at all. Honestly, though, I didn't even try. I was much more concerned to get the right and left sides to match and to fit everything on my, just barely adequately sized, piece of fabric. I had nothing bigger than a handkerchief -- in fact, nothing as big as a handkerchief! - left of my fabric at the end and even had to piece my bias binding, so I'm not even going to spare a thought for those non-matching shoulder seams.

Burda 03-2017-126A: My version, as modelled by me
The problem with the bizarre end of Burda's patterns is that I can't always tell how they're going to look on me because it's not like I own something similar. I am always a bit nervous when I hit the first moment when I can try it on. However, I actually really like how this looks on! :D I think it's quite striking and unusual even though when I stood still for the photos it doesn't seem to do much for my wide-shouldered body type. In motion/not standing stiffly the hem flares and floats a lot more and it looks more balanced.This summer I'll most likely wear it with navy or white linen trousers or shorts.

In conclusion: A+ Magazine Challenge item, patting myself on the back hourly for having decided to make it.

Wishlist Challenge: Stretch Lace Tank Top

Whereas some of my wishlist items are individual garments, I have a few things on my list that are like "figure out the perfect TNT [garment]". This is one of them -- I want to be able to produce pretty knit and woven tank/camisole tops with embellishment/lace/layering as needed. This particular version of that wishlist item is a stretch lace two layer top. The challenging aspect of what is otherwise a very basic garment was that I wanted to have a go at doing a lined (rather than bound) finish at the neckline and armholes.

February Wishlist 2017: Two-layer tank top in navy stretch lace and navy lycra
The pattern I used for this version is a very basic one that I first used around this time last year to make some simple lingerie type tank tops. It's from my one and only copy of the German magazine Diane Moden, the Spring 2008 issue. Of course, with my massive collection of magazines etc I had any number of similar basic patterns available. However, I quite liked the shape of the neckline on this one and I already had it traced, so I figured why re-invent the wheel.

Re-making the pattern with a piece of blue figured knit
I actually started by re-making the pattern, albeit with a modified scoop neckline, in a small piece of pale blue polyester knit that was lurking in my scrap basket. This served several purposes -- I wanted to check out whether a problem with the fit at the back neck I'd noticed with my previous versions was due to the pattern or my previous execution of the binding (it was the latter), I needed to replace a blue tank top in my wardrobe anyway, I was keen to use up this piece of scrap fabric that had been hanging about a while now, and I really wanted to sew something easy and very likely to be successful that particular day. This little top successfully ticked all boxes!

The original pattern, as you can see from this pale blue version, is bound in the usual way at the neckline and armholes. For a little help on the finishing of the navy version, I used a combination of the instructions for a similar Ottobre pattern, 02-2014-09, a V-neck sleeveless top with a partial lining, and this Sew, Mama, Sew blog post where the lining extends to the hem but the armholes are just turned and stitched rather than attached to the lining.

Lace layer clipped up to show the navy lycra layer below

Using this advice I got all the way through attaching the lace and lining together at the neckline and one armhole and then... I don't know what happened, my brain shorted out and I sewed the second armhole wrong not once but TWICE. If there is anything more exasperating that unpicking overlocker stitches in dark coloured thread from stretch lace, I haven't found it yet, unless it's doing it twice! Eventually I got my brain in order though and managed to finish off the second armhole. The lining hangs loose below the armhole and I hemmed the two layers separately, the lace layer slightly longer than the lycra layer.

Overall, I am quite pleased with this particular top as an individual garment, and also more or less pleased with it as an experiment in doing a two layer top of this type. Perhaps inevitably, since this is the first time I've done this kind of neckline/armhole finish, it didn't come out 100% perfect (or even 90%, if I'm being realistic) and I didn't do the fabric any favours unpicking that armhole twice, but it's OK and definitely wearable, especially as a lower layer. However, I'm not sure this pattern/finishing technique is going to be the TNT combination I was looking for. I want to try out some more ideas on the camisole front -- in particular I want to try out some woven patterns that include lace and are cut on the bias -- so I might return to this wishlist item later in the year.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Spring Planning

Irrespective of the fact that there's an actual snowflake or two falling outside my window as I type this, as of Monday I am switching over to sewing for Spring 2017. I've got a little list of things in my wardrobe that need replacing before we get into the warmer weather, some altogether new things to add to my wardrobe, and a handful of fancy ideas.

My plan for spring sewing therefore looks something like this:

Burda 01-2007-110 and Burda 08-2016-134
Outerwear: As always I have grand plans for outerwear which, you know, insert hollow laughter here, because I rarely accomplish them! Still, there's no harm in being optimistic I don't suppose. The jacket on the left will be in a camel twill with a leopard lining, and the one on the right is intended to be in a bright blue ponte with a teeny tiny stripe (not one I will have to match, thank goodness) and a bright blue lining.

Tops: I need a couple of fairly plain long sleeved woven shirts. I've tried a couple of patterns so far for woven button front shirts -- one from Ottobre and one from Kwik Sew -- with mixed success overall. I'm going to see if I can find a pattern and start the process towards getting a good fit with a fairly basic pattern. This type of shirt is a real staple for my casual wardrobe and I could really do with a TNT. My last attempt at a button front shirt was a disaster as I made it from a horrible shifty viscose, so this time I am all about the nice stable cotton fabrics!

I also want three more tunic length tops. This is something I started making in the autumn with a black tunic that I actually like a lot and have worn fairly often. So far I have some fabrics picked out, but I am dithering about patterns (as usual).

Trousers: I am going to make version 2 of the stretch Jalie 2908s I made last year, which were by far my most successful trouser attempt of 2016. I love my electric blue pair but this time I think I'll go for something a little more bland and use black stretch twill. My big sewing concern is to a much better job with the fly, because I made a total mess of it with the last pair!

Burda 10-2014-113 and Lichen by Yumiko Alexander (image from Ravelry)

Cardigan & Jumper:  On the left, a hugenormous cardigan from Burda 10-2014, for which I have earmarked a very lightweight grey/silver knit. On the right, my over-ambitious knitting project for spring/summer, a DK weight lace pattern jumper. I'm starting now, even though it's actually intended to be worn in the summer, because it takes me so long to knit anything. The pattern is Lichen, by Yumiko Alexander. I feel certain I will be extremely sorry I had this idea in due course.

Other: I need a couple of pairs of PJs and that is where I am going to start my spring sewing next week. I'll also be sewing my February and March Wishlist garments (February is fun so far! And I know what I am making in March as well.) and my February and March magazine challenge garments (I have picked February but not even traced it yet, and I have not made any decisions for March at all yet). I also have plans for two bags I want to make over the next couple of months, and I'm still working on my cross-stitch kit as well.

I am all excited about my sewing plans for the next few weeks now! I love a good seasonal plan, and I feel like there is a good mix here of repeats, easy things, long-term projects, things that need fitting work and more challenging sews.  Now all (!) I have to do is stay moderately well and also not get distracted by either (a) something shiny or (b) something other than sewing. :D

Sunday, 5 February 2017

A Gigantic Tote

I don't have a massive list of clothes I need right at the moment so I have taken to filling up my sewing time with non-garment sewing. I have a whole separate bag fabric and pattern stash that I haven't been dipping into much of late. Sewing bags is how I got started sewing but it took a definite back seat when I started sewing garments. Even so, I've been quietly building up quite a list of bag sewing ideas and now I have the chance to cross a few things off.

Jumbo Shopper with Inset Zipper, in brown faux suede and a patterned home dec fabric


At the top of my bag list was using a really nice piece of upholstery fabric that I bought at the craft fair I attended back in September. I had a few ideas, but what I really wanted was a pretty straightforward "big tote bag with a zip" sort of thing. As I only had a half metre, and a horribly crookedly cut half metre at that, I needed to make a colour block pattern. I therefore decided to make the cover pattern from this book, Sew4Home Bags and Totes, called the Jumbo Shopper With Inset Zipper.

I probably didn't really need a book because the bag is basically a series of giant rectangles and for sure I don't need hand-holding through making a squared bottom tote bag. In truth, I kind of ignored most of the instructions as a result -- especially the way they lined the bag (they used my least favourite technique -- dropping the lining in with a folded edge and stitching it into place -- and I used my actual favourite, turning through bag through the side of the lining). On the other hand, I did like and use (most of) the inset zipper instructions to good effect.

I used a pretty heavy duty metal zip for the inset zip
The other big difference between my bag and the pattern is that I used, for the first time ever, these stitched on faux leather handles. I've used pre-made handles/straps before but never the sort you stitch in place like that. On the plus side I think they look really smart. On the minus side, I didn't place them very well -- I should have moved them closer to the top -- and I also should have used a more substantial interfacing where I sewed them onto the bag. I'm a bit concerned the loose weave of the upholstery fabric may not perform well over the long-term with that stitching.

Light coloured lining inside, with a large sectioned pocket
Inside, I used a pale coloured lining and (again ignoring the instructions) put in a large pocket stitched into sections just the right size for my phone, a pen, etc.

Overall, this came out exactly as I'd hoped! It was a very simple sew, even for a bag, but I feel quite enthusiastic about making more bags this year. I had forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Bits and pieces

  •  Let's not talk about my fabric stash right now, OK? I know I was all "Who even cares if I don't have a minimalist fabric stash?" at the end of 2016, but I really didn't mean that I could go bonkers and buy a ton of fabric in January 2017. And yet, somehow... /o\ On the plus side, I am in love with everything I bought and will hopefully use most of it in the next few months, so whatever, maybe I will have a less ridiculous month in February.
  • I just this morning saw the preview for the new Ottobre Woman (02/2017) and I am MAD KEEN on it, which is all to the good because my reaction to both Burda and Knipmode February was a resounding meh. Both of them had some patterns I sort of liked but nothing that really jumped off the page at me, and Burda in particular is wildly unseasonal. Why so many sundresses in February, Burda? By contrast, based on the preview I'll probably end up adding half of S/S Ottobre Woman to my queue/Magazine Challenge list.
One of Vogue's new S/S patterns, V9243.  
  • We appear to be in a fashion moment where a large proportions of the new and trendy is revolting to me. :( I am SO VERY MUCH not into ruffles, and it's wall to wall everywhere in patterns and RTW at the moment. And not just, you know, some little dainty ruffly bits, but GIGANTIC FLAPPY RUFFLES. Apart from just not liking ruffles, I have practical objections: if you're like me and you wear layers 99% of the time you end up with weird and uncomfortably lumps of fabric stuck down your sleeve and fighting with the neckline of your jumper/cardigan. And of course I am super opposed to anything that adds bulk to my big shoulders and large bust because no, really, I don't need to look any more top heavy, thanks. The other big thing seems to be off-the-shoulder/cold-shoulder, which I actually DO kind of like... on other people. On me, with off-the-shoulder in particular, the bra problem looms large (the problem being: a bra is not an optional extra to my wardrobe and I haaaaate strapless).

  • I am ULTRA fed up with that blue jumper I finished knitting in January. This is going to make me sound really stupid, but I guess when I tried it on for a little while before I posted about it I was mostly concerned about the fit through the bust and upper arm. At the time, I decided it was wearable, even though it wasn't the loose/comfortable sweater I thought I knitted. Then the other day I actually wore it. After wearing it for ten minutes I took it off and got my measuring tape out. When I washed it, I lost **8cm** in length off the sleeves and hem!! Er, how did I just NOT NOTICE when I was trying it on before?! The sleeves in particular are now just FAR too short, and there is literally nothing I hate more in a jumper than sleeves that are too short. As I mentioned in my post, the yarn really degraded in the knitting process, so right now I am torn between just outright tossing the whole thing out as a failed project and frogging the jumper. For sure I wouldn't make another jumper from it, but I could make... something? I don't know. It feels so wasteful to just throw it away!
Half-finished lace-weight scarf; half-finshed cross-stitch; some of my drawings.
  • This post is turned out to be a lot of whining, so I am going to end with some positives: (1) I am actually making some progress with the lace-weight scarf I am knitting and oh my goodness, I love how soft and fuzzy it is! I am about halfway through the skein now and if I can keep up some momentum I think I might be able to finish it in February, even though it is such a ridiculous black hole of a knitting project. (2) I am also half-way through my new cross-stitch! (3) I am ALSO half-way through making a bag, which is turning out exactly as I imagined. More on that soon as I hope to finish it this weekend. (4) I started trying to learn to draw again (using some books) and I am again really enjoying it! I got distracted last year from a previous attempt to learn to draw, so I hope I can be a bit more consistent with it this year and make some progress. (5) I am on a countdown to starting the new drug treatment for my (chronic, rare) illness, and although I spend a part of every day muttering ihopethisworksihopethisworksihopethisworksihopethisworks to myself, I really just want to get on and try it and see if it DOES work. Even knowing it doesn't work would be a big thing after two years of waiting for this trial.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

2017 Challenges: January

Just under the wire, here are the garments I made in January for my two little 2017 challenges.

1. Magazine Challenge: Burda 01-2017-119 Draped front knit top

This month I had the least choice that I'll have all year for this challenge, since I only had my January Burda and Knipmode magazines to choose between. As it turned out, I was spoiled for choice as I liked several of the patterns in each issue. Eventually I settled on Burda 01-2017-119, a knit top with a deep cowl neck. There must have been something similar released somewhere by a designer because oddly enough Knipmode had a nearly identical top in their January 2017 issue. I went with the Burda top because I didn't like the waist on the Knipmode version and also because I preferred the neckline/shoulder on the Burda top.

Burda 01-2017-119 -- Draped front knit top (images from Burda magazine)

As you can see, the pattern includes a little camisole top to go underneath the main top, which I must tell you is 100% essential as the drape is VERY low. However, I didn't have enough fabric to make the camisole, plus I already own about 6 camisoles that I could wear with it, so I didn't bother with it. The camisole with my finished garment is just a plain RTW one I have owned for a while.

My finished top, on Flossie
I really liked the idea of the draped neckline coming from those shoulder yokes, and in theory I still do. In practice, ugh, this was so fiddly to actually do, with a lot of sewing to which my very drapey, very slippery poly/viscose knit was not well suited. It turned out OK in the end, but it's not the best sewing I've ever done and I had to do all kinds of little hand-sewn bits to keep the whole thing neat. Definitely not a knit top pattern for the novice with knits -- it's quite hard to make it look nice.

Other than the neckline, however, this was a straightforward sew. I made my usual straight size 44, and found it to be true to size. My fabric was a slightly weird width (about 140cm) and I got the top out of 1.8m with not quite enough left over for the camisole (though I didn't try very hard -- maybe I could have if I had juggled the pattern around a bit more).

In conclusion: Remember when I said that when I was stress buying fabric I ended up (a) buying some near duplicates and (b) buying a lot of blue and navy? This fabric is the perfect example of this problem. I already have a blobby blue dot top in my wardrobe! Still, I really like the colour and there is no doubt that the style with the deep drape is a bit different from the many plain knit tops in my wardrobe, so I am quite pleased with this as challenge garment and as an addition to my wardrobe.

February's pattern for this challenge might be a bit of a problem. I could use another January pattern, of course, and I may have to because I am not wildly excited about either Burda OR Knipmode for February. Burda 02-2017 in particular seems to be full of sundresses, which, no, it's February and I live in Manchester. Not going to happen. I might see what Ottobre 02-2017, which if Ottobre run true to form should be arriving in the next couple of weeks, has to offer.

2. Wishlist Challenge: Indulgent Purple PJs (Burda 01-2017-124)

Having described my Wishlist challenge in rather grandiose terms, my first actual Wishlist project is rather tame. The entry on my list was  for "indulgent PJs", a nostalgic recreation of a garment long since discarded. Many years ago I owned a pair of stupidly expensive wide-legged silk PJ trousers that I loved and washed/wore until they were literally threadbare along the entire inner thigh seam. I have been planning to recreate those PJs for ages, but never got around to it until now.

What makes my new PJs indulgent is mainly the fabric, and this is an extra win for me in that one of my other goals in 2017 is to use some of my older fabrics that I've been hoarding because they are "too good to use". I made these PJs from one of the oldest garment fabrics I own. It's a medium-weight, very drapey silk/cotton blend shirting (with a high silk percentage, I think 60%) in a shade of purple, and I bought 3m of it in April 2012. The photos below make it look quite shiny but that's quite misleading -- it has a very subtle sheen/changeant effect from the way it's woven but it's very soft to the touch and not slippery like silk satin at all.

The fabric was moderately, though not outrageously, expensive, and for years I have been pulling it out of my stash, petting it, and then putting it away again until I found the "perfect" pattern for it. I suppose I could have sprung for a piece of pure silk, but this fabric has such a wonderful texture and drape that once I thought of using it for this wishlist item, I couldn't resist the idea.


Burda 01-2017-124 (Plus) PJs
Pattern-wise, I wanted to make something with at least a tiny bit of trim and more swish than my standard Butterick 5704, which are plain, quite straight and, compared to this pattern, rather narrower. I had actually picked out an older Burda magazine pattern but when my January 2017 issue arrived I noticed there were a couple of PJ patterns to choose from in that issue. Since I already had the pattern sheet out to trace my January 2017 magazine challenge pattern I decided to just use one of those. Of the two patterns available in this issue, I picked the Plus pattern (01-2017-124) because I preferred the waistband. It is a simple, wide-legged, elasticated waist trouser with a piped cuff detail. I haven't put in any piping on anything for years, so this was also a teeny tiny piece of skill practice. I bought white satin piping rather than make my own as I only needed a small amount.

Purple cotton/silk PJs with white satin piping
I am always a bit fussy/over-the-top in my PJ sewing because I find that's the way to ensure they survive very frequent laundering. This pair was no different in that respect -- I french seamed every seam and I've got my preferred waistband treatment down to an art at this point.

White satin piping at the cuffs
As I had a good 3m of fabric, I did consider going the distance and making a matching top but I couldn't quite squeeze the pattern I wanted on to the fabric despite really playing pattern tetris for a while. The fabric was again relatively narrow -- about 135cm -- and so although the PJ trousers fit on fine there wasn't really room for the full width of a top. In the end, to get the most use of the fabric, I doubled up on the pyjama opportunities by also cutting out my TNT PJ shorts pattern as well (Ottobre 05-2011-02).

Ottobre 05-2011-02 "Sweet Dreams" PJ shorts
In conclusion: I said in my last post on the subject that my goal with my Wishlist Challenge was to make "star" garments. Well, maybe nobody will see or appreciate them but me but these are most definitely the new stars of my pyjama drawer! :D

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Finished knits & cross-stitch progress

I have finished not one but two knitted items so far this month! Sadly, one of them is very disappointing.

First, a moment of deja vu, in that I made a cowl for my sister-in-law in December for her birthday and now I have made an absolutely identical cowl for myself this month. I was able to do so because I had a total comprehension failure over the description of the yarn and bought twice as much as I needed for her gift by mistake. Luckily for me, her cowl turned out so interesting and striking that I immediately wanted one for myself anyway. It was absolutely no hardship to knit another, especially as the pattern (the free Gap-tastic Cowl pattern on Ravelry) is one I have now used many many times and could most probably knit in my sleep.

Deja Vu Cowl (pattern: Gap-tastic Cowl on Ravelry, Yarn: Universal Felicity in colourway Open Meadow)
Second, my latest jumper is finally finished... and I don't love it at all.

Finished Il Grande Favorito jumper in Drops Paris Recycled Denim, Dark Wash
The pattern is actually pretty great. It's Il Grande Favorito, by Isabell Kraemer, which can be found on Ravelry. I love IK's patterns -- this is my second of hers and I will probably use more -- because the knitting process is very clearly described and they seem to be very consistent in terms of the outcomes, as the many hundreds of very similar jumpers produced by Ravelry knitters to this particular pattern confirms. I have to admit is a very simple and straightforward pattern to begin with (much more so than my last jumper, the Wanderling, was). It's a stocking stitch jumper in the round, so once the initial complications of all the increase rows for the neckline and sleeves were done, it was just endless rounds of knit knit knit knit knit knit knit. It sounds dull but it's quite a heavy yarn and it's mindless, so you can make a surprising amount of progress with very little mental energy expended. I made two tiny changes to the pattern -- I added a couple of cm in length, and I made a small change to the cuffs by decreasing two stitches to make them narrower

Front view of jumper

Side view of jumper -- you can just about see that the back is slightly longer than the front (deliberately, I should add!)
The problem with the finished sweater is the yarn. I chose to use a cotton aran, specifically Drops Paris Recycled Denim, in the Dark Wash colourway, and I had no problem at all getting gauge.  In a skein, I liked the yarn very much -- it was soft and squashy and I liked the colour. However, I think yarn is already looking very jaded even before I've worn the sweater, which is not what you want at all from a jumper you've spend ages and ages knitting. It looks pilled and tired. The yarn is very splitty as well, and it's hard to keep it twisted together properly if you have to do so much as tink a few stitches, let along rip back anything significant. Cotton yarn always shows every flaw anyway and adding this splittiness on top makes it look a real mess in places. Ugh. Luckily it was inexpensive, but as with all knitting the real cost is the hours and hours of work that went into it!

I tried to photograph the pilled/fuzzy finish, but this is the best I could do

The other big problem is that in the time between casting on and finishing it my ever-fluctuating weight changed by about 1 size. This is, frustratingly, entirely my own fault, because I always seem to stall out at the sleeve stage. It took almost exactly a month to knit the body and neckline -- from the very end of July 2016 to almost the end of August -- and then it hung about sans sleeves until I worked up some enthusiasm to start up again in late December. If I had cast on in December I would have made it a size larger. If I had finished the sleeves in a more timely manner I could have worn it before my weight hit a peak (from which it is now declining, sadly never as fast as it goes up.) That said, the fabric also has that cotton yarn tendency to grow when it warms up, so maybe if I wear it it won't be so bad. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I am pleased with how even the stitches appear to be after blocking, which was not the case as I was knitting it!
I am really disappointed overall. It's only my third completed sweater so I know I shouldn't expect it to necessarily turn out brilliantly, but knitting anything is such a long-term investment of time that it really annoys me when it's very much less than successful.

Lace-weight scarf in progress -- Pattern is Groovy (sock & lace weight), yarn is Drops Silk & Alpaca Lace in black
However, I am not entirely ready to give up my needles, so next up for knitting I'm going to try to finish the lace-weight shawl that is my oldest (and now, only) knitting WIP. Lace-weight knitting is such a black hole though. I did two solid hours on the shawl last night and as far as I could tell I achieved absolutely nothing in that time. The shawl didn't seem to get any bigger and the skein of yarn never seems to get any smaller. However, the yarn is silk and alpaca and it makes the most delightful fabric so I do want the finished product! I think I'll soldier on with it for the rest of January but plan to cast on something new on the 1st of February if I don't finish the shawl by then. There's only so much time I can spend on the lace-weight black hole before it gets too much.

Time lapse embroidery! From left to right on the 3rd, 11th and 18th of January
Meanwhile, I have also been working on my new cross-stitch kit. I really enjoyed the two kits I bought and finished over Christmas and decided to buy a harder/larger project to work on more slowly the next several weeks/months. It was actually quite difficult to find a larger kit that was aesthetically interesting to me to the point that I would be willing to e.g. frame and hang it at the end of the project. I eventually found one that I liked, a Dimensions kit called Mason Jar Line-Up, and it's going pretty well so far!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

My 2017 challenge rationale

When I posted my goals for 2017, one of the things I said was that I was setting myself the challenge of making twelve things off my Wishlist this year, as well as twelve things from my various magazines for my 2017 Magazine Challenge. I know a lot of people do the Magazine Challenge thing, or some variation thereof, just as a way to make sure they actually use their magazines. I have to admit that, rightly or wrongly, whether I use my magazines immediately is not really a major concern to me, and therefore I wanted to write about why I picked these challenges for myself.

To briefly explain what the Wishlist even is: this is a literal list of dream projects that I've been keeping for a few years. I started it when I bought my very first issue of Burda, 06-2012, because I saw this jacket and instantly wanted one exactly like it:
Burda 06-2012-121 a.k.a the reason I started buying Burda magazines & started a wishlist
Unfortunately for me, when I bought that first issue of Burda I'd been sewing garments for about a month and was barely competent enough to make pyjamas. A four-dot Burda fitted jacket? There was not even a single chance I'd be able to make it successfully any time soon. However, never being anything but ambitious, I decided that it could go on a brand new list of 'things I would make one day when my skillset had developed some'.

Since then that list has gotten longer and longer. That jacket is still on it. I keep an actual text list of the patterns I am most drawn to in my magazines (because it's very easy to lose track of them if you have a big enough magazine stash) but I also have numerous Pinterest boards full of images I've pinned of RTW garments, things made by other people, even vintage and museum pieces that have something about them that catches my eye. I've also got a few things on my list -- and my January Wishlist entry is one of them -- that harken back to garments I once owned and loved and would like to own again, in some form.

The critical thing with the Wishlist though, is that pretty much everything on it is eye-catching -- distinctive, interesting, the sort of thing you ever only own one of -- and that's what I'll be trying to focus on when I pick my projects this year. It's also what I'll be trying to pick from my magazines for my magazine challenge. This is entirely due to how I assessed my wardrobe at the end of 2016. Although I think I've got to grips very successfully with right-sizing my wardrobe over the last couple of years, and with my colour choices for my wardrobe (about which latter more in a forthcoming post), I feel that my wardrobe overall has got a case of the blahs at the moment. I've been thinking since about November about how I could get rid of the blahs, while also working on my sewing skills, and continuing to put together a wardrobe in a somewhat co-ordinated and size constrained way.

What I've concluded is that I've been concentrating hard on having the right wardrobe staples and being able to make many of them for myself, at the expense of making the kind of one-off, unique garments that would actually make my wardrobe interesting. I have a horror of wardrobe orphans and/or making things that I never wear, but I think I've swung too far in the other direction and have been making things that yes, do all fit together nicely for the most part, but actually also don't really add up to a very interesting wardrobe. It's noticeable to me that when I did make things that were more interesting/different, they tended to rocket to the top of my "best things I've made" list and stay there. I also think a lot of my sewing choices have not been very stretching from a technical perspective. Since I've also been sick and not really able do everything I wanted the last couple of years I'm not too concerned with this latter, but I'm determined to try to forge on and learn new things if I can this year.

I guess that is what to expect then from my challenge patterns: more technically challenging, hopefully somewhat more interesting from a design perspective at times, sometimes more "inspired by..." things that I've seen and loved, or owned previously. I'll be trying to pick patterns, styles, fabrics and colours that fit in with my actual life and existing wardrobe, but that also have some kind of star quality to them -- the sorts of garments that really make an outfit, I guess, rather than just blending in to the background. With any luck, that Burda 06-2012 jacket will be one of them! But I've also got all kinds of ideas just waiting to be put into action. Sadly, though, January's entry though is rather tame, for reasons I'll explain when I post about it.