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January 7

Lumberjack Man Sweater

Happy 2016!

While I’ve been busy sewing for myself and doing all sorts of house work, here I am leading off the year with my very first project for Felix which I’ve been calling Man Sweater.

Lumberjack Sweater

Left to Right: Meg’s Josh, my Felix, and Michelle’s Mike

Update: My Ravelry Project Page with Detail Notes on Knit Alterations

Felix has actually never wanted me to sew or knit him anything.  I know right?!  He’s had this fear that if I took the time to make him something and he never wore it, that I’d be angry.  (This is probably correct. My Felix is a smartie.)  So he just wanted to stay out of the fray and buy his clothes instead.  He’s only wearing this now because I was the one who wanted to knit this up for him.

Of course Meg, Michelle & I saw this pattern (aka the Lumberjack Sweater) pop up on Ravelry and we mutually agreed this would be a great sweater to make for the men in our lives.  The pattern seems easy enough for a first-time man-sweater maker.  (Hint: this is an incorrect assumption & more on that later!)

Lumberjack Sweater

Felix and I picked out the yarn for this sweater when we were in Paris from a shop called Lil Weasel.  It was a charming shop and the price of yarn was quite reasonable to boot.  They have both a yarn shop and a fabric shop right across the way from one another (yarn is reasonable, fabric not so much).

Lil Weasel

I should add there’s a lovely little cafe/wine bar next door that I visited not once but twice, if you happen to be in the area yourself.

Since this was Felix’s first time actually looking at yarn in any serious kind of way, I picked out the type and he simply picked the color.  Felix overheats quite easily and rarely wears sweaters to work, even in the winter months.  But since our house does get quite cold, I knew he’d eventually wear the sweater.  Not wanting him to get too hot in it, I decided on a Rowan 50/50 mix of wool & cotton.

Rowan Yarn

Felix is a man of simple taste.  His wardrobe consists of various shades of grey, black, browns, and the occasional colors – in muted tones of course.  So it seemed to make the most sense for him to pick out a nice grey that he could layer easily & I knew he’d end up wearing it more comfortably than a brightly colored knit that I might have preferred.  But believe me, he’s slowly getting introduced to some new colors.

Michelle is experienced with knitting for her husband, Mike.  But for Meg and myself, this was our first hand-knit man sweater.  I can’t speak for Megan, but I felt like I was starting all over from scratch about how to ‘fit’ a garment.  I felt like quite the newbie knitter.

Lumberjack Sweater

Lumberjack is a top down, raglan style sweater.  The neckline stitches are picked up again later on and the collar is worked into the sweater (1×1 ribbing).

I measured Felix’s chest and waist and picked my size accordingly, with the correct gauge of course.  I cast on and started working on the sweater to the point where you divide the sleeves from the body & work the body in the round.  He tried it on and it was awful – a joke!

Lumberjack Trial Lumberjack Trial

It was waaay too large even though I was on gauge and picked the ‘correct’ size.  I ended up frogging the entire thing and sizing down two sizes.  I worked to the same point again – but the second time there were just too many stitches on the sleeves for his arms while the chest and back area were alright.

Frogging back once more a few inches, I slowed down my raglan increases (aka fewer increases) on the sleeves while keeping the increases on the front and back body the same as the pattern.

Third time is a charm I guess.  Kinda sorta.

Lumberjack Sweater

I still feel like there’s too much pooling at the armpits – but I continue to be told that’s just the way a raglan sweater fits.  It’s a personal preference thing.

We all met up last weekend to take photos at the Lincoln Park Conservatory.  It’s the perfect location for photo taking as its bright, just like being outside but warm enough inside in the winter weather.  I’m sure I’ll be going back here for photos of me in my stuff soon.

Lincoln Park Conservatory

Coincidentally this is the same place Meg, Michelle, and I came for our first knit photo shoot in December of 2013.  How the time flies!

Ingenue Team

It seemed only fitting that we had the guys pose for us, now that we were on the other side of the camera.

They’re goofballs – look at the progression of Josh in the middle.  Laughed so hard I cried going back over these images.

Lumberjack Sweater Lumberjack Sweater Lumberjack Sweater

Lumberjack Sweater

They were good sports about all of this.  But we did pay them off in chocolate and hand knit sweaters.

Once the sweater body is joined in the round, there ceases to be any shaping to the body whatsoever.  Michelle advised me that there should be some decreases to create shape and was scoffing at the pattern pretty hard at this point.  I followed suit and decreased like she does for Mike.

Well… I ended up frogging the body back a great deal also.  I should have known better here though – Felix is shaped nothing like Mike or Josh and he really doesn’t need any decreases from chest to waist as he has a much shorter torso and is a bit thicker as well.  So this one was on me.

But back to the pattern instructions…

The instructions for the body of the sweater are just plain odd.  What I mean is that the length given is so loooong.  Yes, Felix does have a short torso and didn’t need as much yarn.  But Mike and Josh are tall with long bodies.  They didn’t even need the full length that the pattern suggested we knit.  I bought yarn according to the size and the shop was 1 ball shy of what I needed.  Yet I still have 3 left-over skeins!  It’s such a waste.  It’s not like I can fly back to Paris and return my extra skeins.  I know Michelle also has 2 extra balls of yarn from this sweater and her yarn was much more expensive than mine was and Meg had like 4 left over and her guy is the tallest of the three!  In short, it’s just not right.

Lumberjack Sweater

One alteration I made was to add in some short rows near the hem of the body of the sweater, in the front only.  I know Felix won’t like me saying it but he does have a bit of a tummy (it is post-holiday season after all) and needed a bit of extra length here.  Adding length to the whole body would only accentuate the difference between his front and back – the sweater would be too long over his butt yet alright over his stomach.  I decided to add around 6 extra rows to the front of the sweater – nothing too dramatic that you would even notice.  I could have added a couple more, but I didn’t want it to be dramatic that someone could tell there were short rows added.

Lumberjack Sweater

I would consider myself to be an Intermediate-to-Advanced knitter.  I know how to do color work, cables, and alter most of my patterns to suit my preferences.  I don’t really feel daunted by too many knits at this point and kinda feel a bit bad-ass even noting this.  :D

But this sweater is not for a first-time sweater maker as the designer would have you believe.  Sure it’s an easy knit.  But when you have to pick up stitches from the provisional cast-on and the stitch count is not the same – a newbie knitter wouldn’t have enough confidence to figure out why and how to fix it.  The designer has you lifting a bar to increase for the first raglan increases right off of the provisional cast on edge (which I blindly followed) and when you pull out the provisional edge to work the collar – these stitches basically disappear.  So you can’t ever get the stitch count.

A designer would have also added in some waist shaping to accommodate for an average-shaped guy and also wouldn’t have us purchase 2+ skeins of yarn needlessly.

As a now-seasoned knitter and sewer, I think I’ve come to expect a higher standard for my pattern purchases.  Which honestly I think is a good thing.  I expect patterns to be designed professionally and with little errors.  Of course there will be the random mistake here or there – I’m human after all and I get that this happens.  But I can’t honestly sit here and say this is a sweater you should all run out and make as your first man-sweater when I know better.

This leads into a whole different discussion and I know I’ve opened a can of worms on this one: Higher Standards & Honesty.

I can go on and on about this topic & probably will do so at some point in the near future.  But too often do we sit back and think “It’s probably just me” or praise something to the public while complaining in private.  I think this is a dangerous habit I’ve been seeing within the crafting community as of late and I think it’s dangerous and I know many of you are with me on this.  We just want to be positive and supportive and if we have nothing nice to say we don’t say it at all.

It’s great that we want to do this for each other – it’s what makes me love this community of creators.  But honesty doesn’t have to be mean and honesty doesn’t mean we don’t support one another.

Okay I’m placing a lid back on this one for the time being.  But feel free to comment if you like either about Felix’s first hand-knit sweater, how handsome these guys are, honesty in the crafting community, or anything really.  :)

Lumberjack Sweater

Cheers & happy knitting.

December 3

Fabric Suggestions??

Hey there.  Just a quick post today to ask you guys for some suggestions of fabric.

Before I get ahead of myself here’s the backstory:

My mom has always wanted a beautiful chenille bathrobe – but she is very picky.  Over the summer she purchased a lovely french blue & white, vintage chenille bedspread.  Now she’s a great seamstress too… but she has somehow commissioned me to turn the fabric into her bathrobe.  It’s becoming her Christmas present so it’s a win-win.

My labor and time are precious to me – but I’m happy to make her something she’s always dreamed of & can’t find in the store.

This is the pattern she settled on:

Advance bathrobe

We’re I’m modifying a few aspects of it in order to turn it into the bathrobe of her dreams.

This is where I get to the crux – With all of this bathrobe scheming for my mom, I went and bought the very same bathrobe pattern for my very own!  I couldn’t help it.  heh

I’m intending on making a bathrobe for myself during the same time I’m making my mom’s bathrobe.  I figured why not?!  Plus it will keep me motivated to finish.

But…. I have no fabric for it.  I’m planning on making the full-length version and will also be lengthening the sleeves.  As far as fabric goes I’m really open to any suggestions you have.

I just want something feminine but also warm for the winter.  And I also don’t really feel like adding a lining to it.  But that’s the only criteria I have.  (Just NO fleece please!!!)

 

Thoughts anyone??  I’m pretty open to suggestions & could use some help on this one.  Just don’t know where to start.

December 1

A Mill-End Sale

A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of stopping in at Lorna’s Laces Mill-End Yarn Sale.

Yarn Sale

My friend/coworker/knitting buddy Maria is apart of Chicago Knitters Group.  She invited me to come along to the sale but I already had a hair appointment scheduled for the same time and sadly declined the invite.  It was rsvp only and you had to be escorted into the space, so I knew I would never make it in time.

On a whim I decided I was going to drive over to the sale to see if Maria was still there shopping around, after my hair appointment since I got done earlier than I expected.

Yarn Sale

I knew it was close to my hair salon – but I was kicking myself pretty hard when I discovered it was in the same building, just one floor up!

Sheepishly, I entered the studio space looking for Maria.  She wasn’t around but I was warmly welcomed to come and look around, shop, and take photos.  I need yarn like a hole in the head – but who can say no to an impromptu yarn sale?!

Yarn Sale

Dyes:

Yarn Dye

Some undyed yarn stock:

Stock Fibers Yarn Bins

Dying vats/bins:

Yarn Dying Vats

Studio Space, looking back at the front door:

Lorna's Laces Studio

Freshly dyed yarns:

Freshly Dyed Yarn

Isn’t that a pretty mix?!

Yarn Sale

Yarn Sale

I don’t normally purchase yarns with multiple colors in them, I prefer semi-solid or solid dyes.  But I couldn’t help myself.

Coincidentally, I remembered I actually needed to shop for some worsted weight yarn.  I maaay have utterly shrunk my Channel Cardigan to the point its unwearable.  Stupid me thought I used a superwash yarn that was safe to go in the washing machine.  I was wearing it every evening and then I went and felted it in the wash.  So I went and bought this as a replacement yarn:

Yarn

The colors are a bit rubbish here in the photo – but suffice it to say its a mix of dark grey, some reds, purples, and hints of green – in a pretty way.

It’s a bit out of my comfort zone, but I thought I’d give it a try.  Its kinda silly, but I’m now on the hunt for a car-coat style cardigan pattern to pair with this yarn.  Just something huge, comfy, and warm I can wear in layers around my house when it’s cold during the winter.  What’s even more silly is that I kinda just feel like making another Channel Cardigan…

I also purchased this yarn to make into a pair of socks.  It was just so pretty I had to have it.

Yarn

This one is pretty true to color – its a blend of dark, smokey purple, lilac and greys.  You can tell I had a hankering for purple that day.

Thanks again Maria for inviting me to this sale!  :D

November 23

Remembering Quincy

This is such a hard blog post to write… Felix and I had to put our bunny Quincy down this past Friday.

Quincy Hugging

I think many of you follow me on instagram and have heard this sad news already, but I wanted to share it officially with everyone.

Back in July, I picked Quincy up from our bun sitter’s house on Sunday afternoon.  It was clear something was wrong; Quincy couldn’t sit up without assistance and it looked like he had a stroke or something.  At that point we thought it was the end.

Luckily, it wasn’t.  We were able to get some extra meds for Quincy’s E. Cuniculi which flared up and started taking him to get acupuncture treatments to relieve his arthritis.

Quincy Acupuncture

Acupuncture was the best thing to happen to Quincy.  It helped relive so much discomfort he was having, due to his old age of 12 (at a minimum – he’s adopted so we don’t know officially).

These last five months with him has been ‘bonus’ time.

Quincy

Quincy started having more bad days than good days.  During the last 2 weeks, Quincy wasn’t able to really sit up on his own or even hop around by himself.

We sadly knew it was time to make the decision.

Phineas and Quincy

I just hate that I had to make the decision to let him go.  As Quincy’s caretaker, I know that it’s my job to make this decision, as it was a quality of life issue.  But I really hate that I had to make the decision, ya know?!  I feel like it’s not mine to make, in the grand scheme of things.

Quincy’s appetite and mind were never lessened by his physical ailments.  He was always happy to have his meals and treats in the evening.  This is also what made it so hard… Besides his arthritis failing him, he was alright.

Quincy Weigh-In

During Quincy’s hard times, I always got closer to him, as he solely relied upon my assistance to sit up, help with eating, and cleaning him up after any accidents.  Phineas didn’t seem quite as attentive as he usually was – so I imagine he knew.

Precariously-Perched Quincy

Quincy was laid to rest in my front yard on Friday morning.  Friday was a sad, sad day.  I spent pretty much all weekend sitting around, dazing off watching movies and doing a bit of knitting.

Quincy and Phineas

My focus is now taking care of Phineas now that his buddy is gone.  They were inseparable.  I don’t think he knew what was going on Friday, but he seems to be slowly aware that Quincy isn’t coming back and is a bit more lethargic than he usually is.  Its just so sad…

Phineas

Quincy was a great addition to our household and gave us so much joy.  He will be sorely missed.  If you made it to the end, here’s the best, silly video of Quincy for your enjoyment.

Felix wrote a wonderful tribute to Quincy over the weekend and has some great photos and a few videos too if you want to see some more.

So sorry to have to convey this sad news.  A heartfelt *thank you* to all of you who sent me kind thoughts over the weekend (via Instagram) – they were much appreciated.

November 3

Effortless Linen Dress

One of the last projects that I was able to make for my Paris trip is this easy, breezy linen dress.

IMG_8133

I bought this navy & white linen at Fancy Tiger Crafts this past spring when I happened to be in Denver for a work conference.  I’ve longed for a rustic, looking linen dress and I bought it with that idea in my head.

Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday (1953) starring Gregory Peck

Audrey Hepburn, Roman Holiday (1953) starring Gregory Peck

I wanted my dress to feel like something Audrey Hepburn would wear in Roman Holiday – simple, chic, and perfect to wear while having an adventure.

Rodin Museum

The bodice, sleeves, and skirt of my dress all come from different patterns and I created the waistband piece and fit it accordingly.  I call this pattern hacking – but Ms. TaniaSews so cheekily reminded me that its your “design” not a hack job.

The bodice is from a 1960’s dress, skirt is from a 1950’s dress, and the sleeves – I can’t remember.  They’re my to-go-to sleeve that I always leave out as it’s perfect for my armscye; I believe I modified it from a 1940’s blouse pattern though.

The Rodin museum garden turned out to be a great place for sneaking a few photos of my dress.

paris2015-Day8_15

I probably could have stood to hem my dress a bit shorter… I know I have a propensity to made my hems longer rather than shorter, but I think it’s the effect of my height.  Sometimes when I’m looking in the mirror, the angle is off and it appears that I have more length than I do, resulting in slightly longer hems.  #ShortPeopleProblems

Linen Dress

The skirt is in between a full circle and a half-circle skirt, perfect for swishing along the boulevards of Paris and Bruges.

Linen Dress

I love center, lapped zipper insertions.  I nearly do them on all of the dresses I’m able to because I love them so much.  I stitch the one side down and then pick-stitch the remaining side by hand.

Linen Dress

Now the hem looks fine in these pics – what the hay??  I’m guessing it’s my photographer’s height that is throwing off my own hem angle.  Ahh well…

Linen Dress

As you can see, the linen takes on a different color depending on the lighting conditions.  Sometimes it’s very navy blue and other times it’s more rustic looking.

paris2015-Day8_12

Rodin Museum

It was perfect to wear on my travels and it has a spot in my regular wardrobe now for work.  It’s a breezy summer dress and now it’s turned into a great transition piece for fall paired with a cardi and brogues.  All in all, it’s a simple dress, but I love it so much.

October 27

Eiffel Tower Dresses

It’s no secret that Meg, Michelle, and I are friends and we meet up for knit nights at a local cafe.  So of course we’re always pondering and dreaming about fabric, patterns and the like.  It was very natural of us to say “Wouldn’t it be amazing to go fabric shopping in Pairs?!” as we drank our evening tea, knitting needles in hand.

I casually mentioned it to Felix that night and he giggled – and said what any good husband says at these moments.  Something along the lines of “Sure, whatever you want.  I can come too, right???”

We met again the following week or two and the conversation started to shift from dreaming about Paris to thinking about how we could pull it off and actually all go together, for real.

Knitting at the Eiffel Tower

In all of our scheming, we found that we all wanted to make a wardrobe staple: the shirt dress.  Michelle had settled on the McCalls 6696 dress pattern and I remembered I had that one in my pinterest pattern faves.  So we just all decided to use the same pattern.

McCalls 6696

This is probably my favorite photo from our shoot.  At the time M&M didn’t realize I wasn’t jumping with them, as they were too busy smiling for the camera.  I am making my classic Liz-grumpy-face, as I am rubbish at jumping anywhere above 3 inches off the ground.

McCalls 6696

I picked my fabric, a stretch cotton sateen, solely because I liked it and it matches the exact same hue of my hair.  I’m pretty certain Meg’s is from her stash as she’s been Konmari-ing her place and Michelle’s is from an Estate sale score.

McCalls 6696

Michelle made her dress first, and warned of how large the collar was, along with the bodice.  So even before I made my muslin I took off 1/2 inch from the bottom of the collar’s edge and shortened the bodice by an inch or so.

McCalls 6696

After making my muslin I reduced the gathers at the center back of the bodice – let’s just say significantly (at least 1″ – most likely more).  It was just way too poofy for my thick cotton sateen – so I converted the gathers to one box pleat.

McCalls 6696 Detail

I also have to admit, this was my very first collar stand.  I’ve always shied away from patterns and blouses calling for a collar stand.  I’m not sure why I was nervous about it, but I just followed the instructions and it came out perfectly.

I didn’t even think about pattern placement when I was doing the bodice – but the white section that is on my right… ahem… bodice is less than ideal.  Perhaps you didn’t notice it before, but I’m sorry, that’s probably all you’re going to notice now that I’ve pointed it out.

McCalls 6696

Friendly dogs in the park; I love that frenchie in the back getting his ear scratch on.

One of the things I did not like about this pattern is that it’s impossible to make changes without ripping out the entire bodice.  The waistband goes all the way around, so you have to unpick the front button band, unpick the waistband, then adjust the side seams and possibly the waistband length.

McCalls 6696

 

If I make this again, I’m going to have to modify the waistband piece so that I have side seams in it.  My weight fluctuates too much to not have a place to make adjustment dresses.  The only way this works is that the cotton sateen has some stretch in it so it expands and contracts as I ate my daily-Parisian macaron.

Felix & me.

Felix and me

 

It’s been a while since Felix has been shared on here – but doesn’t he look nice in his new clothes?!  But then again, I’m pretty biased.  Oftentimes, Felix or I am taking pictures of something or one another, but we never seem to get ‘couples’ shots, so it was nice to have our picture taken together.

This is my favorite one with Meg & Josh:

Meg and Josh

 

And Michelle & Mike:

Mike and Michelle

As I’m getting back in the swing of blogging, I’ll have some more to share with you soon about Paris and what I’ve been up to these past few months.

Felix & me

Cheers!

July 14

A Floral Faux Leather Robson Trench

Oh boy, where do I start???  Back in… I dunno May let’s say, I saw the most fabulous fabric on Emma One Sock, this beautiful faux leather.  It looked like art, like beautiful painting.  I ordered a swatch in an attempt to see what I could make with this fabric, as I haaad to have it.  After discovering it was waterproof, I figured why not a Robson Tench coat?!  Well then it sold out.

I waited at least a month and a half for EOS to get more in stock.  I was a good seamstress and took that time to make up a muslin to ensure I didn’t over-purchase the faux leather (which I did somehow anyways.)  And as soon as it was back in stock I snagged that sucker up as fast as I could.  But don’t worry, I didn’t buy it all as it’s still in stock if anyone else gets inspired.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

I worked my muslin in a cotton twill that I had originally bought to use as my Robson fabric, but I fell out of love for it.  With those fabrics I fall out of love with I’ll either donate, swap, or use them for muslins.  I ran out of the blue twill at on the side panels so I substituted in regular cotton muslin.

Robson Muslin

The fit was fine – a bit shapeless but the tie belt is what creates the shape, imo.  In reading lots of reviews of the Robson Trench pattern, most said to move up the pockets (which I did) so I made sure to mark them on my muslin, although I still think I could have moved them up a tiny bit more.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

I had originally cut an 8 at the shoulder, 10 at the bust, and maybe a 12 at the hip line.  I ended up taking in the princess seams at the front arm area as it was a bit too loose there.  I also ended up reducing the hip area back from the 12 to 10 as it was flaring out just a bit too much for me.

This is still one area I’m not 100% sure on – the lower half in the back.  I know I need room to sit, but I wanted it to be a bit sleeker in the back – it’s a fine balancing act: ease vs. fit.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

Don’t get me wrong, I love the faux floral leather – but I think a whole entire coat out of it would have been a bit much, ya know?!  So I purchased some coordinating black faux leather from EOS to use as contrasting pieces to break up the floral print a bit.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

I found some black vintage buttons from Soutache – my go to place for buttons in Chicago.

Buttons

She has a wonderful collection of quality buttons along with some vintage finds – so I always make it a point to stop in there first to see what I can find before going to my local Joann’s for buttons.  I really scored big there as she happened to have the same vintage button in both the larger and smaller sizes – perfect for the coat front vs. the smaller arm band buttons.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

Totally lightened up the photo so you could see the button (above).

I want local places like hers to stay in business so if I know I’ll be up on the North side of the city, I take whatever project that warrants buttons over there.  I always rationalize the slightly higher price with better quality & my thought of ‘If I’m spending all this time to make something wonderful I might as well finish it off with killer buttons.’  But I will add – I always shop my stash first.  Okay… I’m done with my button rant.  heh

Lets talk fabric & construction, shall we?!

When I got all my yardage in the mail I was such a happy little camper.  I was draping it on myself, when I was starting to notice just how drapey it really was.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

It drapes as well as any fine linen rayon blend but it was thinner in density, not your usual faux leather.  I suspected this was going to be an issue with the trench so I decided to underline the entire coat.  I paired it with all manner of fabrics, but in the end I decided to interface the entire thing in this medium weight weft, iron-on interfacing.  Don’t ask me why I had enough interfacing for a whole trench coat in charcoal grey – but I did.  So I cut out the whole trench for the second time in the interfacing.

I wish I could say interfacing it was easy – but it was not.  Too much steam and the faux finish got a ‘leather ripple’ look and too little steam meant it didn’t fuse properly – so it was tricky and I had to re-fuse a few sections.

After this, I decided I also needed to fully line my trench.  I cut out the trench for a third time in bemberg rayon in black (yay for stash busting!) and pretty much cut out the same pieces as the outer, except I had to do some clever piecing for the back neck facing & the front facing sections.

Floral Faux Leather Robson_Insides

The most time consuming part of my Robson was really the cutting and fusing of all of these pieces.  Putting it all together was really a breeze.  I found that even if I only had 20-30 minutes of sewing time an evening, I still felt like I had accomplished a great deal since there are all manner of small pieces to put together (belt, epaulettes, storm flaps, etc.)

New tools of the trade for faux leather:

Faux Leather Tools

My face powder & a lighter.  Let me explain…

I used a walking foot throughout my assembly for the faux leather along with a size ’70 microtex’ sewing needle.  The leather portions like to grip on metal surfaces so you can’t simply stitch the faux leather up like you do for normal fabrics.  This means that your normal sewing feet are out.

I didn’t have a teflon sewing foot – but that would work also.  I found that even when I was doing top stitching my walking foot wasn’t cutting it.  One sneaky trick folks like to do is put a dab of vaseline on the seam and it creates a nice slick layer in which to stitch.  Not having any vaseline in the house nor did I want to try that out (ick) – I came up with the next best thing – my face powder.

I’m not sure what it is about my face powder, but it almost feels like it has some silicone in it or something.  It’s very smooth to the touch so I thought, why not try it on my trench.  I tested it in a small spot and it was genius!  It stitched up perfectly without any residue left behind.

Lighter Trick – This trick I learnt in a leather working class I took this past winter.  Basically if you have poly in your thread when you burn it, it shrivels up.  Not wanting to waste all my time pulling threads to the inside of my coat to make knots (plus its hard to do on layers of faux leather), I simply burned the bits down which also made the seam super secure.  Now… I don’t think I need to tell you not to use this on your cottons, linens, silks, etc.  Faux leather & leather only folks as it’s not going to ignite immediately & burn your sewing room down like the other fabrics might.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

Felix and I took these photos over at the University of Chicago campus.  If you’re sneaky you can see I’m wearing my Blue Swirls dress underneath.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

It’s such a lovely campus and I think I’ll be heading over there a lot more this summer to explore as students are thin on the ground during summer break.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

I had to say, I had to wait for a chilly day in order to model this trench coat.  With all of the layers I’ve added as well as being made in a faux leather, this is not the 70 degree-rainy day jacket I’d choose.  It’s more of a 45-50 degree cool day (with or without rain) when I’d choose to wear this out.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

After having made this one, it’s actually got me itching to make a second one in a more light-weight & waterproof fabric for the warmer days.  Perhaps I’ll get around to it next spring…

Floral Faux Leather Robson

This trench is the first item I checked off on my Paris Wardrobe List for this fall.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on Instagram, but I’m taking a trip with Felix & a few close friends to Paris in early September.  So of course it means making new, fun clothes and I’m so excited to be traveling again.  Unfortunately, France is having a heat wave and I fear this trench won’t be making the trip with me.  Ahhh well, I’ll have my own fair city to wear this trench in soon enough I’m sure.

Floral Faux Leather Robson

This was a funny moment – I scouted out another photo spot in the midst of taking photos in an already cool spot.  University of Chicago is filled with such cool old buildings (they wouldn’t like me saying it but it reminds me of Hogwarts.)  #Sorrynotsorry

University of Chicago

Most images courtesy of my honey, Felix.  *Thanks*

Floral Faux Leather Robson

Feel free to ask me any faux leather or Robson trench questions in the comments also.  Cheers & happy sewing.

July 9

Blue Swirls Dress

I’m back once again, this time with my first iteration of the McCalls 6713 dress.  Like I said in my earlier post, I’m all about the blues this summer.

Blue Swirls Dress

I kinda posted out of order on this dress as this is the first make of M6713, and is a bit more true to the pattern.

As you can kinda/maybe see, the fit on the bodice is a bit different than in my Painted City version.  In this blue swirls dress, the neckline is the same height.  What’s different is that there is 1/2 inch less fabric in the side seam – which makes it more snug.  I should note that this blue dress is the fit as is dictated by the pattern for my size.

On the Painted City dress I added 1/2 inch to each of the bodice fronts – which means more neckline drape – or a more relaxed fit.  I lengthened the bodice on the Painted City dress by 1/2″ or 3/4″ or so, since I felt like the blue one was a bit high for my true waist.

Painted City Dress

Additionally, the neckline on the blue dress was stitched with clear elastic from shoulder to side seam – I wanted to prevent gaping.  I went a bit overkill on the gape factor and it resulted in a much more fitted & higher neckline than the Painted City version.

Blue Swirls Dress

See no gape.  :)

It’s really small differences between the two dresses, but when I wear them they feel so completely different on.  This blue one is much more structured and modest, whereas my City dress is more relaxed & breezy.

Blue Swirls Dress

Fabric once again comes from Emma One Sock.  I was able to buy this piece as a remnant or roll end – which means discounted prices.  *Woot*  I love that she has clearances & discounts updated on nearly an every day basis.  And no… I am not endorsed by EOS in any way, shape or form.  Although…. I would be happy to swap fabric for creations. *cough cough*

Blue Swirls Dress

Part of the issue with not getting a swatch first in this fabric was that I thought these swirly bits were much, much smaller.  You can imagine, I really had to work hard on my pattern placement of these circle swirls.

Blue Swirls Dress

Couldn’t have them placed over my booty, boobs, or vagee.  As a result I had to cut very carefully and I felt I wasted a bit more fabric than I normally would have.  But it all worked out quite nicely, no?! :D

Blue Swirls Dress

I can’t act – ever!  This is my *nonchalant* look as I pretend to knock on this awesome door.  It’s a side door to a church in the University of Chicago campus – but I don’t think this one is being used for a church.  Not 15 mins later did a gal come out of the door… Really glad I didn’t knock for real.

As I have loads more items to photograph, it’s been quite nice to venture out and explore our new neighborhood some more.  It’s given us quite the opportunity to walk around and check out the campus or a new-to-us park.  We’ve been so holed up, working on our house and yard that we haven’t really explored our own neighborhood as much as we ought to have been this past year.  But we’re getting there.

Next up: Faux leather Robson Trench!  Can’t wait to share it with you guys.  :D

July 7

Painted City Dress

After I learnt that sewing with knits isn’t all that I built it up to be, I couldn’t wait to make more – all the things!!!  I’m still waaay behind on posting up my Renfrews – but instead I decided to  jump forward and share my my newest knit creation, the Painted City dress.

Psst… you can always find what I’m up to via Instagram.

Big City Knit Dress

This pattern is McCalls 6713, a faux wrap dress for knits; I made mine up in view A.

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Painted City Dress

This is actually the second version of this dress & I did a few tweaks.  I made the bodice longer by 1/2″, and also raised up the neckline by about 1″ so I wouldn’t have too much gaping.  Everything else is pretty much the same as the pattern.

Big City Dress

Since knits are ohh soo new to me, I didn’t have any knit fabric in my stash or patterns to use.  I’ve been really avoiding them in the past.  And as it turns out, I’ve been picky about adding new patterns to my stash since I have so many along with a very limited storage area with all of the home renovations we’ve been doing.

Big City Dress

I have a new found love of Emma One Sock and all of the rayon/lyrca knits that she has.  I feel like that’s the only place I’ve been doing any fabric shopping in 2015.  Once I spotted this fabric early this spring, I knew I had to have it.

It’s a print of buildings splashed with color, hence ‘Painted City’ dress.  I feel like it’s not my ‘normal’ but I continue to branch out and have fun with my fabric purchases.

Big City Dress

You’re probably going to see many more photos of me in this location.  This is Nichols Park and is located just a few short blocks away from my house.  One of the things I love about Hyde Park is how many parks & nature areas we have, not to mention being so close to the lake.  I’m now a 10-ish minute walk away from Lake Michigan, it’s wonderful.

Big City Dress

That’s all for today.  Hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July weekend.  :)

June 19

Front Yard Renovations

I doubt you remember… but my front (& back) front yard was riddled with day lilies.  Riddled.  I got so sick and tired of them that my mom and I went and removed all of them, at least 5 mega lawn bags were filled with just day lilies from my front yard.

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Seeing the fresh ground, ie soil, was so wonderful and refreshing.  I loved it so much.

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But slowly I got quite aggravated by seeing just dirt (and weeds… So many weeds.)

I went from being annoyed by day lilies to being annoyed by seeing plain old soil.  Our house looked like no one cared about it.  :(  Doesn’t it look kinda shabby?!  The dirt wasn’t as nice and dark looking but got dry and icky like.

Front Yard _ Before

It was time to take action!

I know absolutely nothing about gardening or plant care.  I generally kill most of my indoor plants – due to under-watering or sometimes over-watering.  In all things plants, I turn to my mom who is most handy with them.

My mom’s basement:

Mom's Basement Plants

My mom is a trained chemist and also has a biology minor & zoology major.  She worked at a soil testing facility for several years, so she knows a thing or two about soil & plants.  heh  Not to mention, she grows all of her own plants from seeds (or clippings) and has a dedicated plant room in the basement of her house.  Oh and she also makes her own potting soil that has over 20 ingredients every spring along with a herbicide that is nontoxic and safe to put on edible plants.  So yeah…. my mom is plant crazy.

My mom was only too happy to help to put together a plan for my front yard.  And by “help” I mean she did all of the initial planning work and I just told her what plants I liked or didn’t like.

My mom put together a plan of my front yard – including the plant types as well as the layout.

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After debating, we decided to ditch the ‘grass’ in the front yard – thinking it would turn into a space people to let their dog’s ‘relieve’ themselves – I live in the city after all.

My mom knows how little I know of such planty things, so she picked out perennials that don’t require a lot of maintenance, plus they work well in my part-shade front yard.  She put together a perennial shade garden of sorts.

Last fall my mom and I went plant shopping.  We hit up 3 plant nurseries in the burbs and got nearly everything we wanted.  I only know of my favorite flowers/plants so I made sure to add them to the shopping list for the front, given that they would be happy living in part shade: Hydrangea, ornamental Japanese maple tree, & moss.  All the other plants were my mom’s doing: Painted Ferns, lots of Hostas, Astilbe, Bleeding Heart, Evergreen, decorative cabbage, mums and so much more I forgot.

Plant Shopping Plant Shopping

My mom took care of my plants during the week while Bob installed a spigot for watering in the front.  And come the following weekend, we got to work planting & beautifying my the front yard.

Assorted Plants

As I unloaded the truck full of plants & mulch, my mom went around and dug up the plants that needed to be moved.

First thing we did was place all of the plants in roughly the place they were to be planted, to see how it all would look.

Front Yard Layout

After we had things laid out, we just got to planting.

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I felt like such a dunce in this.  Planting a plant is like the most basic thing, but I had to be shown how.  And it took me a few plants to get it just right.  In my defense, the base of the plant was not supposed to be flush with the ground, but up a bit.  We were laying a layer of mulch on top of everything, so we needed to account for that extra space – hence keeping the plants a bit higher, above the ground level.

My mom brought over two things to add to the soil as we planted: bone meal & cow manure.

I grossed out at the fact I’d have to touch manure, but really it was all cleaned and not smelly or mushy at all.  It just felt like compacted soil really, so I got over it quickly.  The manure was to put back nutrients in the soil and the bone meal is a fertilizer – ie adds nitrogen to the soil.  The bone meal is mainly for the bulbs (Tulips & Hyacinths) we planted which will come up every spring.

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My mom planned on having a *feature* in the front yard – like a large planter or yard decoration of some sort along with a fancy stone pathway.  Not having either of these things purchased, we improvised.  I had a small bird bath in the backyard that wasn’t really being used so that became the feature.  And in all of my gardening (ripping up the day lilies in the front and back) I’d unearthed a lot of old bricks; this became our pathway.

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I watch first, mainly to learn & figure out what’s happening… then I help out.

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We broke for a late lunch & I was literally pulling my mom away because she didn’t want to stop working. heh  When we came back out, we planted up the remaining plants (filling in gaps and whatnot).

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Plant layout

Then it was time for the mulch.

Black Forest Mulch

I’ve never cared for mulch, but boy… when it went down it just made everything look so pretty and professional looking, it really cleaned everything up.

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We leveled the birdbath, set up a piece of sculpture (ie old building facade) in the corner, and mom found a piece of granite stone that I’d tossed outside from my basement (long story…) and put that in the garden too since she though we were missing a cool rock.

Before:

Front Yard _ Before

After:

Front Yard After

 

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Doesn’t it look so much better?!

After (early this Spring):

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After (taken just today):

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It just rained so there’s some particles on the mulch.  But we’ve had a really rainy spring/early summer here in Chicago – so you can see how much my plants are loving it & thriving.

Besides the plants filling in, I feel like my japanese maple tree grew by at least 6″ so far.  It looks so much taller than it was in the fall.

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Over the winter, I lost 2-3 plants which was sad, but I’ve already filled in the empty space with new ones that my mom gave me.

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I can’t even tell you how happy I am with my new front yard.  It looks so nice, I think it even makes the house look nicer.  My mom and I shared a nice moment enjoying all of our efforts and how pretty it became – It was so lovely having this all transformed in just one day.  And I have to say, all of my plants look pretty happy too.  :D

Follow-Up:

I’ve had to go outside and water nearly every day to keep the plants from going into shock & so they can winterize themselves (since I planted all this in the fall). I find it a major snooze to water… but I guess it’s a small price to pay for the pretty space it’s become.

As an update: I haven’t watered at all in 2015!  This yard is low maintenance!  I’ll have to water when it gets hot in the summer, but that’s about it.  No pruning, no trimming – everything is fine as is.

On the plus side, every time I’ve watered, I generally see people stopping to admire or chat with me to tell me how nice it looks.  I still don’t feel like I can take all of the credit since my mom was the architect of the yard, but I did do half of the manual labor and paid for it all.  :D

I’ve met a fair amount of my neighbors already, but since the yard is done, suffice it to say I’ve met loads more.  Felix has apparently gotten a lot of nice complements on it too.  :)

Upcoming work is the back yard!  That is even crazier & more overgrown than the front yard was, if you can imagine…