Category Archives: Sewing

An introduction

6
slow1

I knit this cowl to completion nearly three times before finally deciding it was done and binding off. After wearing it a few times, I think it needs to be smaller, so I think one more rip is in its future.*

I’ve been thinking about Slow Fashion October for the last year — every since Karen hosted the first one last year — and have been really looking forward to this month and all the discussion it is already generating.

I am such a big fan of the idea, but wow is it hard to write about/articulate. Despite a year of thinking about this in a fairly focused way, I have started this blog post multiple times and ended up deleting everything and trying again. A quick look in my WordPress drafts turns up multiple abandoned posts from this time last year, so clearly lots of thinking hasn’t helped me clarify my thoughts. Strangely, what actually helped was this short magazine piece about why we love Ikea furniture.

The story looks at how the rise in Ikea furniture (and furniture like it) has essentially created a class of disposable furniture. Pieces we buy because they serve an immediate need, look good, or are the right price, but are ultimately also pieces we don’t plan to keep, whether because we know our tastes will change or because we plan to upgrade in the future, or whatever. We don’t get attached to it, we’re annoyed but not surprised when it falls apart, and, in the end, we’re kind of excited about the excuse to replace it with something new.

Last weekend (before the above-linked article was published, let me add), after we got back from our honeymoon, L and I went furniture shopping. We were looking for a couple of specific items, and instead of going to Ikea, we drove out into the country to an antique store. We didn’t find quite what we wanted, but that’s fine, we’ll go back in a couple of weeks — nothing we need is desperate, and although we could go to a store and probably find it pretty fast, we prefer to wait, and we have the luxury to do so.

In a nutshell, that pretty much sums up my evolving slow fashion philosophy. I try really hard to invest in quality pieces whose provenance can be traced — my wedding dress was designed and sewn in Toronto, for example — but I do still sometimes just need a black t-shirt, which brings me to the mall. I am trying to make more of my own clothing, and where possible I try to use materials with ethical/traceable sources, but particularly with sewing (and as a fairly beginner sewer), there is a lot of waste. And, of course, there are financial implications to all of this, because I have the luxury of both time and money to be choosy about what I buy and how long it takes me to get things done.

As I’ve thought about it this more and more over the last year, I have definitely noticed my habits changing. I was never a big shopper, but I shop for clothes even less now, and when I do buy things I tend to spend a bit more for items that are locally made and that I know I’ll wear for years. I’m also much more particular about my stash, both of fabric and yarn. I have a lot of materials on hand, and I have been working really had to prioritize using what I have over buying new things.

And I’m a lot more comfortable with being slow. There’s very little I really need, so what’s the big deal if it takes me a couple of weeks to sew a new shirt, or a a month to knit a sweater? Being aware of that time commitment is actually really gratifying (though it used to be frustrating) because it tells me pretty fast how much I want something: Is it something I’m willing to wait for, or something I just want right now but will likely tire of later? If my excitement can sustain me through a project, that’s a pretty good sign.

Anyway. I’m not sure how precisely I define “slow fashion,” but for me a big part of it is about being thoughtful — thinking through what I need, being willing to wait for it (either because of the time it takes to make it or the time it takes to save for it), and then committing to keep it for a long time.

Have you been following Slow Fashion October? How do you define it (or do you even care?)

*I have been sitting on this post for a week now waiting to get a couple of pictures to post with it. But, that is not happening, and we’re away this weekend, so lest it end up just another draft, I’m posting it with just the one. More pictures next time, I promise.

Advertisements

Sloooowing down

8

Well. I really didn’t mean to disappear like that, but I think I just needed to take a step back. One of the funny things about having an online space is the feeling that you need to maintain it, and I get a little overwhelmed sometimes trying to find a way to balance everything in my precious free time. For the last month or so, I’ve been in total making mode, which for me means a flurry of activity with no time for documentation.

grinchtoes3

I finished these in April! It’s a Christmas colourway from Nomadic Yarns, but that chartreuse is bright enough for year-round wear, I think. (Details here.)

Sometimes, I take a break from blogging because I have nothing to show you, and now I have a ton of stuff finished and no photos! (I am going to work on that, though.) Actually, one of the nice things about this whole time has been not feeling any pressure to finish things just so I can post about them. Not that I really feel that pressure most of the time, but it has been really nice to just go entirely at my own pace. And, it turns out that my own pace is actually still pretty productive.

shirt

Scout Tee made in May. I’ve sewn a few things since then, but I don’t have photos yet, and I don’t need more excuses not to blog.

In the nearly two months since I last blogged, I’ve knit two sweaters (one baby, one adult, both started and finished in that time)  and sewn a dress and a skirt (plus several muslins). That actually doesn’t sound like a lot I guess, but it feels like just the right amount. No rushing, no stress, and a good balance between the two, which is something I’ve been trying to achieve.

I’ve written before about sewing can feel like a bit undertaking, but the more I actually just do it — whether it’s tracing and modifying a pattern, cutting fabric, actually sewing, or whatever — the easier it becomes to do it again. I’ve been trying to set aside a few hours each week to sew, and it has made a big difference both in the quality of what I’m making and in my confidence. When I started knitting I knit constantly, and got that confidence quickly; it has taken longer with sewing, but I’m finally starting to feel it.

warmest

Another long-finished project. These are socks for L, knit and tucked away for Christmas (which makes me feel so on the ball to say.) Details here.

But, I have missed writing here. So, just as I’m making time each week to sew, I’m going to try to carve out time to blog. The posts may be shorter that in the past, but hopefully they’ll be more frequent!

I made it!

2
mmm4

All images in these collages are pulled chronologically from my Instagram (which also details what the various patterns are). You can see how much better I got at selfies over the course of the month, though I clearly need to work on a more interesting pose!

Of the 31 days in May, I wore a me-made garment on 28 of them. That pretty much blew my stated goal out of the water, which is pretty exciting for me. That I managed to do it without also doing a constant cycle of laundry is even better, since it means the handmade part of my wardrobe is now at the point where, on any given day, I ought to have a handmade option clean and ready to go.

mmm5

Those baby-holding pictures weren’t posted on IG, but because I was busy hanging out with our nephew (and his wonderful parents) and friends, I didn’t take an “proper” photos that whole weekend.

The caveat to that, of course, is that it really only applies to tops. I am seriously lacking in dresses and skirts, something I become acutely aware of every time the weather warms up. I had an unofficial goal of wearing a skirt or dress at least once a week, and I didn’t quite make it. If we leave aside my New Girl skirt, which is knit in wool and short enough to require tights (for me, that is, everyone has a different comfort level), and my Endless Summer Tunic/Dress, which I also prefer to wear with tights, I really only have two handmade skirts! And, even including RTW options, I am sorely lacking in skirts and dresses that I would wear to work (and my office has a very relaxed dress code).

mmm6

Yes, I said 28 out of 31 days, and yet only 27 photos… That’s because 27 was easier, collage-wise, and because I wore my blue and white Endless Summer Tank (row two, photo 1, above) on the last day as well, and the photo is almost identical to the one above.

Luckily, that is something I can do something about! In my original post, I said I wanted to make two garments this month, and because a few things fell into place rather nicely, I actually managed to make four! All are shirts, but they represent three different patterns in four different fabrics (two Scout Tees, one in Nani Iro double gauze and the other in a Voile; one Endless Summer Tunic, sewn as a tank, in Liberty Tana Lawn; and a Southport Dress, also sewn as a tank, in rayon challis), which is pretty good, I think! And, it has just about filled in the holes in that part of my summer wardrobe, though another Endless Summer Tank or two wouldn’t go amiss (I’ve been wearing the two I have quite a lot!) I’d also like another knit summer top or two — I’ve been eyeing Vasa lately, and I could see myself knitting another Balta.

mmm7

The top fabric is Cotton + Steel Rayon in Zipline (purple) and the bottom one is a drapery-weight linen (or maybe a linen blend? I can’t remember)

Anyway, skirts! I am looking sewing up a couple of Zinnia skirts for the summer. I am thinking View A (with the button fronts) in the purple rayon, and View B in the floral linen, which I have a ton of and my well need to be lined. The two skirts I have sewn in the past are both ones I like, but I want to try another pattern, and I like how versatile Zinnia is. I also have a few summer dress patterns I’d like to try, but we’ll see how much time I have to sew.

MMM check-in

0

I intend to do a proper debrief/round up post about Me Made May at the end of the month, but given how quickly our free time is getting booked up, that might not be as prompt as I’d like (or it might — schedules can be tricky to predict). Anyway, with three weeks down I think I’m far enough into this thing to check-in. I’ll do it in point-form, so I can keep myself organized.

mmm1

One of my most-worn garments: My chambray Scout Tee. (This, and the other photos in this post were taken with my phone and grabbed from Instagram, in case they look familiar.)

1. Taking selfies is time consuming. I’ve been pretty good about posting daily photos to my Instagram (my planned wrap post will include photos, like last year’s if you don’t want to click through), but they take way more time than I thought they would! I do think my photos have improved since the first few days, but because of lighting/mirror restrictions in our new place, I’ve had to get better at turning the camera around, which has led to lots of similar poses and attempts to take photos of what I’m wearing without appearing to strain at the effort. Usually, that requires a few attempts, and it has not been a smooth addition to my morning routine, which is otherwise very organized/well-timed. It’s getting easier, but that first week or so involved a lot of rushing out the door at the last minute.

2. I’m not as self conscious as I was. It might be a weird thing for a blogger to say, but I’m not actually very comfortable putting myself out there on social media. This blog has always felt a little removed from that — public, but private too — and even here I don’t actually feature in many photos. I’ve still kept my face out of most of the MMM photos I’ve posted (this being the exception), but that’s been mostly about logistics (my arms are not long enough to get my face and my outfit in a photo, and I refuse to buy a selfie stick). The first week was kind of uncomfortable, if I’m being honest, but I’m getting over it.

mmm2

I can’t believe it was cold enough to wear my Epistrophy this month, but I was happy to have an excuse to mix up my options a little.

3. Beyond the whole daily photo thing, which isn’t even a requirement of MMM, I feel really good about the handmade items in my wardrobe. I plan to write about this more another time, but one thing I’ve noticed over the last few weeks is how much I like the clothing I’ve made for myself. That sounds like a weird thing to say, I realize, since what’s the point of making things if you don’t like them, but there are no guarantees: lots of things can go wrong and while in knitting you have the option to rip everything out and start over, that doesn’t often work in sewing. When I first started to sew clothes for myself, I was prone (like a lot of beginners) to settle — this version is so much better than my last one — and end up with items that demonstrated a lot of learning but not much style. Improving my technique has meant letting go of those early garments in favour of ones whose construction and fit and overall appearance I’m really proud of.

4. Documenting what I wear every day has given me a different way to think about my wardrobe. Me Made May offers a funny constraint: What you want to wear meets the limitations of what’s available. I guess that’s an everyday constraint no matter what, but when I run up against the what I want to wear/what’s available, it has forced me to really think about what it is I want to be able to wear on a regular basis, handmade or not. But, especially where handmade is concerned, it’s been interesting to see which items I wish were always clean, versus which ones hang in my closet unworn until I’m desperate (ie: it’s laundry day). In a lot of cases, there’s nothing wrong with the things I’m not wearing, but for whatever reason, they don’t interest me. MMM has offered a reason to embrace some of these items anew, which is nice, but it’s also forced me to think about why my favourite items are my favourites — whether it’s cut or fabric or fit — which in turn as informed my to-make list. Obviously, I want to try new patterns and fabrics, but if there are a few that I reach for the minute they’re clean, that’s probably a sign that making another, similar item would be a good bet (hence why I have so many Scout Tees, I guess).

mmm3

And, speaking of Scout Tees, here’s the original! Not the first one I made, but the first one that fit the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t sure about the print, originally, but I kind of love it now.

5. I have more handmade clothes than I realized. Last year, MMM was kind of a struggle after the first week or so, but this year has been so much easier. I have enough items that I don’t feel like I’m wearing exactly the same rotation week after week, though to some degree the cooler weather helped with that, since it let me lean on my knitwear a bit. I could use a more varied colour palette, but otherwise I have a pretty respectable number of pieces to choose from. And thank goodness! I prefer not to do laundry every few days, so having a bigger selection has taken that pressure off this year.

I’ll stop there, lest I start getting repetitive, but the main thing I think is that I’m having so much fun this year. I love clicking through to the hashtags to see everyone else’s work, and instead of feeling burnt out, I’m just so inspired. If you’re taking part, let me know!

It’s May, let’s do this

5

Since it’s already May 1, I’ll make this quick. (Technically, I already got started.)

Sibella! Full and proper post coming soon, but in the meantime, here's an shot of my handmade wardrobe in action.

Sibella! Full and proper post coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s an shot of my handmade wardrobe in action.

I, Angela of Pans & Needles, am signing up for Me Made May 2016 with the goal of wearing a me-made garment five days a week. I will endeavour to post a photo each day on Instagram.

A few caveats/details: When I say “garments” I don’t mean accessories, so socks and shawls don’t count. In addition to the clothing-specific part of my plans this month, I have a couple of other goals: First, I intend to blog every week! I know I’ve said that before, but in this case, I have a little backlog of finished items to write about, so if nothing else, those should see me through.

My other plan for the month is to actually make a couple of things. My knitting plans this month are all gift-related, but I do want to carve out some sewing time. I always get a little more drawn to sewing when the weather warms up, and this year is no exception. I have plans for a couple of tops, but since bottoms are a real hole in my hand-made wardrobe, I think I should probably plan to make a skirt too.

Are you participating this year?

Here & There: Making it happen edition

6
grinchtoes1

My current in-between socks are these very fun stripes. These were kind of supposed to be my Christmas socks, but I think the colours work year-round. (Yarn is the fantastic Nomadic Yarns Twisty Sock in Grinchmas.)

Every year I think, Finish it up February — yeah! This is the year I pull out my WIPs and get stuff done! and then, of course, some new project presents itself and I decide that it’s more important or more interesting and do that instead. This year, it was baby things — little gifts for a newborn and 1st birthday presents for Amber — and there is pretty much no way to make a case against prioritizing those, right?

Once those were done, I decided to use my time to pick up an old project (my current in-between socks) and finally start sewing something. Slow and steady has been focus this February, and even though that doesn’t offer the same kind of quick-hit joy as finishing a lot of things, I am finding it energizing to give myself time to really sink into a project with no immediate pressure to finish.

So, in lieu of exciting project photos, here are some of the excellent things I’ve read this month — often, truth be told, while knitting away on something or other.

  • In a knitting club, I found a cure for selfishness and cynicism: An essay about knitting (and knitters) and how generous the community can be: “You may think you know the kind of person who knits her own socks or sweaters, but trust me, you don’t. Gender, race, religion and country of origin mean nothing in the knitting world.”
  • This tweet (I won’t retype it, just click for second) is so, so funny. As a journalist, I know exactly how and why this kind of query would come about, but as a knitter, man, it makes me laugh every time.
  • A ravel of knitting words: Merriam-Webster explores the origins of 10 knitting terms.
  • How Christian Siriano is changing the red carpet: As a former Project Runway devotee, I can’t resist stories about its contestants design life. That Siriano has gone on to not only become a bonafide star, but also to use his talent to design clothing for women of all sizes, is fantastic.
  • Chris Rock answer VF’s Proust questionnaire: “What is your motto? ‘You can’t be great on the side.’ Whenever one of my friends starts telling me about the 12 projects they’re working on simultaneously, I always say, ‘Slow down. You can’t be great on the side.’ “
  • Visions of the Future: A few years ago, when we were in Boston, I went to the International Poster Gallery, which is a collection of old travel advertising posters (it is fascinating). JPL’s new poster series for various planets and moons reminds me so much of that, and I love that they’re all free to download and print as you like. I suspect a few will end up on our walls (my favourites are The Grand Tour, Enceladus, and Titan).
  • The health benefits of being lazy (need I say more?)
  • The Story of a Fuck-Off Fund: Julie linked to this last week and I’m reposting here: Every woman should have one of these (everyone, really, but women especially I think).
  • How do I become … a fabric designer: Well, obviously being a fantastic artist is a good start, but Vanessa Lawes’ story has more to it than that. Her work is gorgeous, though.
  • Five ways to kick-start your sewing mojo: A list I very much needed, even if only acknowledge that my sewing mojo needed a kick. (Karen linked to it in one of her best Elsewhere posts — seriously, each of those links is gold).
  • And, a couple of yummy-sounding recipes that I have yet to try, but want to: Chef’s Showcase: Curried Lentil & Apricot Soup (includes a great story about the chef, Ravi, who is Toronto-famous for his soups) and Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Blue Cheese, I see no way that that combination could be anything but delicious.
southport1

I am sewing again! This is/will be a Southport Dress. I’m most of the way finished the bodice, with the rest of the pieces cut and ready to go. I’m very excited to see how it turns out. More details later.

Fashionably late

8
karusellen3

Karusellen, off the needles and destined for blocking and then finishing (I can’t wait to sew on that pompom!)

The time has come! I know it’s late for the traditional intentions/goals/resolutions setting, but there are still 50 weeks left in 2016, so I think I’m safe. Anyway, without any further ado, here is where I see this year going, and what I want to prioritize as it unfolds, when I look out over the (mostly) empty pages of my calendar.

  1. More winter accessories: At the moment, I have one hat, one pair of mittens, and one cowl. I live in a place that gets approximately six months of cold weather a year, and probably half that time is really cold (-10C/14F or colder), so what the heck!? If I am going to spend half the year wearing mittens and hats and scarves and cowls, I feel that my hand-knit wardrobe should reflect that a little more. I’m just finishing my new hat (Karusellen, above), and have plans for at least one more. I’d also like to knit a couple pairs of mittens, another pair of fingerless mitts, and maybe a couple of cowls. These projects will also be excellent ways to use up the odd bits in my stash, which brings me to…
  2. Knitting up my stash: I actually think I did pretty well with this last year (11 of the the garments/items I knit were knit from stash), but I also think I added more to my stash than I knit, which is a problem. I don’t want to get rid of my stash by any stretch, but I think keeping the yardage at neutral is a reasonable goal for the year, and using up yarn I have rather than buying more of the same is just sensible.
    2b. Use what’s in my stash as a basis for choosing projects. In the past, I’ve tried to shoehorn my stash into projects I want to make, and that has not been a recipe for success (as a recipe for buying new yarn, though, it has excelled). This year, I’m going to try harder to think about what yarn I want to knit with, and then look for a suitable project.
    2c. NO MORE SOCK YARN. That’s in all-caps, because I’m yelling it at myself. I have a ton of sock yarn, and the rate at which I knit socks has decreased by quite a lot as I’ve started prioritizing larger garments. I have more than enough to see me through several years, so I can certainly go one year without buying more. This is my one hard-and-fast resolution, and I am going to be militant about it (aside from gifts, of course).

    next2

    L will get at least two more pairs of striped socks this year. The top yarn is one he chose, Zitron Unisono #1210, and the bottom two are Knit Picks Felici in Baker Street.

  3. Knit more socks for L: This is a pretty easy one even with the above injunction. I have lots of man-specific sock yarn in my stash (purchased with L in mind) and this winter he has really embraced hand-knit socks. He was always appreciative in the past, but maybe moving to a slightly colder city has had an affect — he wore the pair I gave him for Christmas for four days straight. And then picked out yarn for a new pair the next time we were in an LYS. So, yes, I would say he’s onboard, and there’s nothing like an appreciative recipient to encourage output.
  4. Spread my holiday knitting throughout the year: I desperately need to stop the routine I’m in of not starting anything until mid-October. It’s crazy, and stresses me out way too much. This year, I’m starting in the spring and want to be half done by September. Totally doable.
  5. Sweaters! I have yarn for four, and if I finish two I will be very, very happy. I’d like to knit at least one cardigan and one pullover this year (maybe two pullovers, if I get my act together early). The next week or two are for swatching, and then the fun begins.
  6. Actually sew: I get so in my head about how time-consuming and labour-intensive sewing is, and as a result I spend more time thinking about how much work it will be than actually just doing the work. It’s ridiculous, and the only way to stop that spiral is to just do it already. I was given the pattern for the Gallery Tunic & Dress and I have the fabric for it, so that’s where I’m starting. Today I plan to trace the pattern and cut the fabric. If I don’t get farther than that, fine, maybe the secret to sewing is not trying to cram everything into one long exhausting session. I really do want to sew, but I’m so intimidated!
  7. Stop worrying about productivity: It can be hard to read blogs or check Ravelry and see people who are able to churn out one or two finished garments a week (or, more astoundingly, seven or eight sweaters a year). The why can’t I do that? question sometimes rings in the back of my mind, and I just need to get over it. My life has changed, this year is going to be nuts, and I need to adjust my expectations accordingly. Even if it takes me a month to knit a pair of socks now, I need to remember that I am still knitting and am still producing, and when your time is limited things take longer. I’m sure I’ll still struggle with it, but I hope I can get better at practicing patience with myself.
  8. Be a better blogger! This is something else that stressed me out last year, for absolutely no good reason. Last year I worried too much about having the time to write a long post, or getting up-to-date photos, and lots of other (in retrospect) silly little things that kept me from actually sitting down and writing. This year, I’m not going to let those things get in the way. Blog posts not happening in the order I had arbitrarily planned? Who cares (hence this post coming so late). Photo not a 100% accurate representation of where I am in a project? Oh well! I have come to realize that, in order to blog during the week, I need to take the photos one day, write one day, and proofread/post on another day. That obviously means things won’t line up exactly, but that’s okay. I’m aiming to post at least once a week this year, so prepare yourselves for lots of in-progress knitting. When blogging was a habit, it was easy, and I just need to get it back into my routine.

So, there you have it! Ten things for 2016, and some of them already in practice. Not so bad, late start notwithstanding. I’m sure you’ve all already written about your own goals/intentions for the year, so please feel free to share them in the comments — either your top picks, or a link, or whatever. Sometimes letting others in on your plans makes them feel more concrete and attainable (at least that’s what I’m banking on).

next

Up next for me: The white yarn on the left is a gorgeous skein of 100% alpaca that my almost-sister-in-law (and her husband) gave me for Christmas. It’s from a local farm and the name of the Alpaca the wool is from is on the label! It is incredibly soft, and I can’t wait to turn it into a cozy cowl. The two right-hand skeins are Classic Elite Fresco (in Greystone and Superman Yellow) and they will be my Dala mittens.