Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Another tunic (Knipmode 01-2017-13)

Finishing up with this season's Almost Pyjamas garments, I had thought to make another two tunics. In the end I've only made one. I've had a change of heart about the second pattern I'd chosen and as I hadn't cut it out yet like I thought I had, I've pushed it further along my sewing queue for now.

The tunic I did make is from Knipmode 01-2017, pattern 13 (also available on their website to buy).

Tunic modelled shot and tech drawing from Knipmode 01-2017

My attention was caught more by the technical drawing than by the modelled shot, which is rather bland. I really liked those interesting shoulder seam/darts, and the overall shape of the tunic with the curved empire waist seam.

My version, modelled by Flossie and me in my hall mirror again.
I used a lightweight purple ponte with a sort of leafy pattern on it in black and lighter purple. I am not usually very keen on florals, but this one is marginally more subtle than most. I originally bought it online thinking I would make a cardigan, but when it arrived I discovered that the wrong side is bright white. I needed to sew it using a pattern than keeps the wrong side completely hidden.

Knipmode sizing is a little bit different to Burda/Ottobre but this is also quite a voluminous pattern. The back, in particular, has a LOT of ease built in. If I were making a more fitted style I would in theory want a Knipmode size 44 through the bust at least, but I went with a size 42 with this garment and I really like how it fits. The slightly unusual shoulder/sleeve arrangement makes it hard to generalize about the shoulder fit (a topic in last week's post) from this pattern.

Sleeve/shoulder/front dart detail; the dreadful zipper insertion
I made zero fitting or design changes, except to leave the zips off the pockets. I never intended to do the zips, seeing no point to them, but if I HAD, the zip installation on the front would have put me right off anyway! The tunic on the whole went together well except for that zip, which went in very very badly.

I translated the instructions using a mixture of Google translate and the (very) few words of Dutch sewing lingo I've picked up, and they mostly made sense with only a little thought here and there. However, the zipper insertion instructions did not translate at all well. I puzzled over the results I got from Google translate for a while, but I still don't really understand what the original instructions were. Luckily, I had been looking at a tunic with a very similar zipped neckline in Burda just a few days before, so I decided to follow those instructions instead... except then I screwed up a critical part of it and made my life 100% more difficult than it needed to be. The final result is exceedingly substandard and home-made looking, which pains me. I mean, it's fine in the sense that the zipper goes up and down and from a safe distance it's not entirely horrible, but still: ugh. Luckily this tunic is part of my Almost Pyjamas wardrobe and won't be too in the public eye much at all.

Zip aside, I'm pretty happy with this tunic, and also to have used another Knipmode pattern! I am encouraged by this experience even with the troublesome zip (which would have been fine if I had just not independently made a major error), and I feel more than ever that I mustn't talk myself out of using my magazines just because there's a couple of extra steps involved in making things.

Next up on my sewing queue is a jacket. Yes, I know I always say that and then shock, horror, no actual outerwear is forthcoming. However, things are getting really awkward now. I have so much outerwear fabric! I still have no actual outerwear to wear as I've refused to buy myself a new coat when I have so many outerwear sewing plans! I have actually successfully made a coat (my red raincoat, which I have worn frequently even though it's totally the wrong colour for most of my wardrobe), so I know I can do it! I have no excuse, in other words.

Monday, 6 November 2017

The 2017 Edition of Almost But Not Quite Pyjamas, plus Fit as a problem

Last autumn, I decided to experiment a little with the leggings-and-a-knit-tunic look for days when I am mainly at home. I wanted some new options for the sort of outfit that is Almost But Not Quite Pyjamas: perfectly respectable to wear if I have to answer the door or run to the corner shop for something, but equally OK to nap in. I didn't want to invest too much time/fabric/money in the experiment, because I wasn't sure how much I'd wear what I made, so I bought two pairs of inexpensive RTW leggings and made four also inexpensive tunics to go with them (see here and here).

A year on, I can conclude that this experiment has been quite successful, inasmuch as it's become my preferred outfit type on days when I don't plan to leave the house. In fact, I wore out the cheap leggings (they went sad and saggy) and two of the tunics are now looking shabby after frequent washes. When I was planning my sewing for this autumn/winter, expanding/replacing this part of my wardrobe was therefore top of my list of things to do. I bought replacement RTW leggings, but picked out four new-to-me knit tunic patterns to go with them. Here are the first two: (please forgive the photos, my main camera is having a problem so all I had was my phone)

Ottobre 02-2010-11 technical drawing, and my version on Flossie

First, an older Ottobre pattern, 02-2010-11, which is (bafflingly, as usual) called the "Journal" tunic in the magazine. It's actually two garments -- a three-quarter sleeved surplice bodice top and a longer sleeveless underdress that peeks out from underneath at the neckline and hem. This pattern has actually been on my To Make list for a long time, so I was pleased to actually get around to sewing it up.

Underdress on its own, and me wearing it
The underdress is extremely simple: the front is gathered above an empire waist seamline and attached to a skirt, but the back is just a flat bodice piece and skirt. The pattern calls for a turn and stitch neckline and armholes but that is not an edge treatment I like much, so I bound it the way I do t-shirts. Other than that, I did a small square shoulder adjustment but otherwise made up a size 44 as per the pattern sheet.

Why did I bother to take a photo of it on me? Well, empire waist has always been a problem for me in the past. In RTW I could NEVER get anything to fit where the seam didn't end up bisecting me more or less at the bust point due to having a large, slightly low bust. The seam position on this underdress isn't too bad, but it's still not quite in the right place! Something to think about if I make it again, for sure.

The two layers on me
The upper layer is very slightly more complicated to make as it's gathered at the shoulders and has the cross-over front, but it was still pretty easy. I again used a size 44 with no alterations except for the square shoulder adjustment. The neckline on this is hemmed first, and I was relieved my fabric didn't stretch out during the cover-stitching process. Actually, in general I made my life more complicated than it needed to be by using a very drapey, floppy viscose knit fabric that didn't really respond well to handling. The front turned out OK, but the back neck, which had a facing that I turned into a binding, not so much. I think if I made this again I'd try for a slightly firmer fabric just because I think it might hold up better to the manipulation required to put this top together. This drapey soft viscose is lovely to wear but not ideal to sew.

This was one of those projects where I went back and forth as I was making it on whether I liked it or not. I wondered if the print of the fabric was too childish. I wasn't sure if the empire waist seamlines were going to fall in the right place. In the end though, I really love it, with one major caveat that I'll come back to at the end of this post.

Burda 12-2016-112 technical drawing and my version as modelled by me in my hall mirror

My second tunic is a very simple short dress pattern from a fairly recent issue of Burda, 12-2016-112. I have to admit I ignored this pattern entirely when this issue came out as it's at the more basic end of Burda's designs. There's nothing much to it, but it seemed to me that it was a nice shape, and handily the pattern is suitable for either knits or wovens. The only real ~feature, however, is the rufflecuffs, which I loathe. I wear a cardigan or sweater like 90% of days, and I find it incredibly annoying trying to shove an extra half metre of fabric down my cardigan sleeve. That was easy to just omit though.

Burda 12-2016-112: Front and back view on Flossie
I made one other big change: I omitted the centre back zip as I was using a knit and cut the back on the fold, mainly because I didn't want to do stripe matching on the back. (Even though the side seams turned out perfectly! I even managed to match ABOVE the dart -- which to be fair was a total coincidence. I usually just work on matching below the dart since everything above it is usually hidden by my arm, but on this occasion it happened to work out perfectly. AND I matched side to side across the sleeve and bodice. Stripe matching win!)

The change to the back piece sacrificed a fair bit of back shaping but I thought the trade-off was worth it. Other than that, though, this dress is pretty much as written for a size 44, with only my usual square shoulder adjustment, and missing off the flouncy rufflecuff.

Stripe matching like a boss -- I can barely see my side seam in this photo! :D
The only tricky part with this was the v-neck, which was faced. I had two problems with this. First, and irrevocably, the neckline stretched a little when I was sewing one side of it (why one side and not the other?! Who knows!) and as a result the finished neckline looks slightly wonky. I didn't realize until I stepped back and looked at the finished garment so I didn't have a chance to fix it. I don't love this at all, but I am hoping it's the sort of flaw I forget about as I wear the thing.

The second problem was just: facings. I don't love them. I don't even like them. I came to absolutely despise the ones on this tunic because they would NOT stay put on the inside of the garment. I did everything I know how to do to make it work -- trim, clipped, understitched, pressed, stitched in the ditch at the shoulder seam, you name it. I ended up topstitching the thing in place. It doesn't look bad, but it's not the pretty clean finish on the technical drawing. I think I can lay the blame on my bulky, bouncy ponte knit fabric. Maybe using a different, lighter fabric for the facing would have been better.

I haven't worn this one yet, and my big qualm about this dress is how comfortable this ponte fabric is going to be. Fit-wise it's OK, if a little bit tight across the biceps, which is something to fix if I make it again. The sleeves are tight in a knit: they'd be unwearable in a woven. The fabric itself though is a bit polyester-y and scratchy. I'm wondering whether it's going to be very comfortable to wear.

The elephant in the room though with the outcome with both of these projects is that I really SHOULDN'T be using a size 44 straight off a Burda/Ottobre pattern sheet. Yes, the things I make fit, for the indifferent definition of 'fit' that 'similar to the fit I can achieve from inexpensive RTW'. I've fallen into the lazy habit of just using a size 44 (or the equivalent) because it addresses what is always my biggest fit concern in general with reasonable success. Above all I want to make sure that I don't draw even more attention to my large bust by having my tops gape or pull at the bust line. At the level of the bust point, a Burda or Ottobre size 44 works out well for this.

The shoulder width problem illustrated -- the line on the left is where the shoulder seam fall. The line on the right is the point of my shoulder
However, I'm really NOT a Burda or Ottobre size 44 at the shoulder. In the splodgy paint print tunic above, you can see how the shoulder seam is falling down my arm. Several of the patterns I've made up using the lazy 'just make a 44' sizing choice have ended up too big at the neckline and too wide at the shoulder, sometimes by quite a substantial amount. In knits, over-sized and loose-fitting garments, which collectively account for the vast proportion of my sewing over the last 18 months or so -- the same 18 months where I've been lazily making straight size 44s -- the problem isn't so obvious and doesn't tend to bother me too much when I'm wearing the garments in question. I will absolutely wear both of these tunics and I probably won't register the fit problems too much.

I have a LOT of woven projects in my queue, though, and very few of the handful of woven garments I've made have been successful from a fit perspective over the same 18 month period. Part of the reason I haven't made many wovens is that I know I need to work on fit before I start cutting into the fabrics I've been hoarding for those projects for a while now. As regular readers will know, the last 18 months have also been very difficult health-wise, so I've not really had the wherewithal to get stuck into a major fitting project. However, I'm now sufficiently fed up with the poor fit I'm achieving that I think I'm going to have to work on it properly.

In the very short term, I have two more knit tunics lined up to sew that are straight from the pattern sheet. I am sure they will have the same fit problems at the shoulder and neck, but it's too late to worry about it as I already cut them out. For other things I have lined up for the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, I am going to need to add a lot of fitting steps to the sewing process I think.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Some progress, at least

October has been, on the whole, very dull. The weather has been mostly grey and wet, I have recovered disappointingly slowly from last month's major health setback, and in general very little worthy of note occurred. I didn't sew at all the first two weeks of the month as I really didn't feel well enough to do anything that wasn't lurk miserably under a blanket most of the day. However, the second half of the month was MUCH better and I was much more able to do things.

I decided that in order to get back into a sewing routine I would pick out all the least taxing projects from my autumn/winter queue, in terms of physical and mental effort required. While this approach was very successful from getting-back-into-sewing point of view, I have to admit that it makes for very dull blogging. Honestly, most of my 2017 sewing output so far has been deathly boring even to me -- I'm hoping the end of the year improves a bit!

Top row: StyleArc Estelle cardigan in green ponte, Butterick 5704 PJs in checked shirting. Bottom row: Burda 01-2017-124 PJs (simplified) in hideous red fabric and my t-shirt sloper in green.

Briefly, then: the four things I made this month were:

1. Another StyleArc Estelle cardigan, in dark green;
2. A green three-quarter sleeve t-shirt using my basic t-shirt sloper;
3. A pair of my TNT long PJ trousers, Butterick 5704, in a blue checked shirting fabric,
4. A simplified version of the wide-legged PJ trousers I made at the start of the year (Burda 01-2017-124), without the piping or separate cuff pieces. I described these on Instagram as hideously ugly and seriously UGLY! Yet, I love this pattern and the fabric is silky and delightful to wear, so I don't really even care that the colour is a revolting tomato-y red, weirdly tie-dyed and overall fug. :D

I think I am going to retire the StyleArc Estelle pattern for now as I've made it six times. I've loved the ones I've made and they've all been in constant rotation. One of them, in plain black, I wore out in under a year and it has already gone in the recycling. Two of the others are likely to follow shortly as the fabric is starting to look shabby. As much as I like my remaining Estelles and the pattern in general, though, I think I'd like to make a different pattern now.

The only other thing I have to say about making these four things is that I briefly came to loathe my recently purchased overlocker while sewing the knits. I was having SO MANY problems with it. It kept missing stitches and the thread kept breaking, so I was having to rethread the loopers every few minutes. You know how it is when you're ill and tired and not at your best overall; little annoyances seem a thousand times more dramatic and difficult than they really are. Well, I was so much in that state of mind that I was literally crying over the stupid overlocker because it just wouldn't WORK. I felt like I had tried EVERYTHING -- different thread, different tension settings, completely rethreading the machine a million times, checking all the settings, etc etc etc. Then, paging through the instruction manual "Troubleshooting" section, I realized I hadn't tried one of the most obvious things of all: changing the needles. Two minutes of effort to do that, and hey presto, everything worked perfectly again. I felt like such an idiot! /o\ The only positive is that I got a LOT of threading practice and could now probably thread that machine in my sleep!

Overlocker-related dramatics aside, now that I am back on track a bit I have been making plans for November. First up, I want to make some more knit tunics to go with leggings for lounging around the house. I've got four new-to-me patterns all picked out and ready to start tracing, fabric and notions lined up and ready, and I'm keen to get on with those garments. I also picked up both my cross-stiching and knitting. And, over the course of several of the recent lurking-feebly-on-my-sofa days, I did a little more fine-tuning of my wardrobe plans and spreadsheets, which I will probably write about a bit more soon. One of these days I might even post my years-in-draft post about my colour choices!

Monday, 2 October 2017

Well, that was a month all right

I seem to have settled on a sort of once-a-month blog post approach, though that truly wasn't my plan for September. I actually started the month quite well, and fairly quickly worked through the first part of my "Autumn Essentials" sewing list: two pairs of my standard mid-season PJ pattern (Burda 8271), and two pairs of easy ponte knit trousers (StyleArc Barb, which I made once before and then wore to the point of exinction). I continue to be very happy with and impressed by my new overlocker, which chomped merrily through the task of constructing those ponte knit trousers.

Here are surely the least interesting photos I've ever posted showing those projects:

Two pairs of Burda 8271 in brown satin and black cotton
Two pairs of StyleArc Barb in grey and navy ponte

I had finished all that by mid-September and was lining up my last couple of simple-and-necessary autumn garments. Then I started to feel significantly more ill than I have been for a while. And then I got sicker. And then finally about ten days ago things came to a head and I ended up in hospital. Recovery so far has been pretty slow. No matter how therapeutic I would find it right now to sew and stop thinking about being ill for a while, I'm just not up to it. Just the thought of wrestling with patterns and fabric is exhausting right now, no matter how familiar and simple the patterns in question.

My plans for October, therefore, are pretty loose. If I feel better at all, I'm going to try to get a couple more simple-and-necessary things made, and then move on to some more knit tunic type things to wear with leggings. If I don't... well, I won't.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Bags, a wadder and plans for Autumn

I've been a bit distracted from crafty things this last month by (a) the continued roller coaster of my recovery; and also (b) the landscape gardeners hired to come to do major work in my garden in June actually turning up and landscaping my garden. On the plus side, the garden landscaping is now DONE and it looks fabulous, and I get to do the really fun part of buying plants and putting them in the ground. :D On the minus side, there was a week in there where I was dealing constantly with workmen, which has to be one of my least favourite things in the world, and I got almost nothing done about anything else at all.

As it happens, I didn't have too much left in my Summer 2017 sewing queue. Wardrobe-wise I had already plugged all my major wardrobe gaps bar one by the end of July. The one thing I really needed to make and didn't even start on was shorts. Luckily (?) since the temperature has rarely gone above 18-20C (that's about 65-68F, or "not nearly hot enough for shorts") and it's rained with great frequency for most of the last month, I can't say I suffered for their lack! I did have some wishlist type items that I considered working on this month, and I even got as far as tracing/cutting patterns in a couple of cases. In the end though, I neither had the time nor felt well enough to make anything complicated this month, so I have shelved all of those projects for another summer.

What I did make was, (a) a bunch of random little things that I have no photos of and that you wouldn't care about if I did, like a needle book and a thread catcher bag and similar small items; and (b) two bags. This latter is very timely since the very first things I sewed back in August 2011 were bags. Happy 6th Sewing Anniversary to me! :D

A "Daphne" Tote, in an over-sized floral
First, I made one really simple tote bag that was really all about the fabric. I had a small piece of this designer home dec fabric in my stash for years waiting for me to use it for a tote bag. The big multi-coloured flowers fit perfectly on this pattern (which is the Daphne Tote, by artsycraftsybabe, available to buy on Etsy and Craftsy). This is one of my favourite basic tote bag patterns because it's a really nice shape and size, and it takes very little time to make.

The second bag I made was marginally more complicated. I decided to use the last of a large piece of red fake suede fabric I had to make a shoulder bag with (purchased) plastic handles. I woke up the other day with a brainwave and decided it would be really interesting to quilt the fabric. I therefore dragged out my quilt batting and sewed an easy diamond pattern into the fabric.
Left -- one quilted outer, one as-yet-unquilted above it. Right -- the quilting on the finished bag
The pattern is a free PDF, the City Tote from a blog called Stashmania, that doesn't seem to be available online any more. I've made this pattern once before and I carried that bag for ages, so I knew it worked for me. I used red plastic handles I bought aeons ago, and a cotton print with butterflies for the lining. I also added a plastic bag base, which I sew into the boxed seams between the lining and outer. This gives the bag some shape when you have stuff in it and makes it less sad and saggy. I do like how this turned out (although if I'd thought about it, I might not have tried to pleat quilted fabric!) but I don't know that I LOVE it. It turned out OK though, and I do like the extra weight that the quilting gives it.

Outside and inside of the finished red fake suede City Tote
My final summer project was to look at the blue ponte blazer using Burda 08-2016-134 that I started back in March. I left it then with only one sleeve set in because I felt very dubious about the fit and how it looked on me. I decided to put it away for a few months and come back to it. This month I finished the sleeves and did one or two other little things, up to the point where most of the outer was done except the patch pockets. I am still really proud of some of the sewing. I really worked on the lapels to get all the seams perfectly rolled to the inside and all the top stitching really neat. That said, I tried it on a LOT and tried to tweak the fit for a while, but in the end I went with: no, this is not worth finishing. I hate wadders, but there was no point to keeping on fighting with this and throwing more resources (time, lining fabric, etc) when I already knew it wasn't really working.
Wadder ponte jacket (Burda 08-2016-134)
Fit-wise, you can actually see the problem a bit on Flossie -- there just seemed to be an odd pouch above the bust between the shoulder seam and the lapel. I do have a somewhat lower bust than the Burda draft, but your boobs would need to be attached to your collarbones to fill out that space. The pattern had a armhole princess seam so I tried to see if there was a quick fix by reshaping that seam/adding shoulder pads/etc but didn't have much success.

On the style side of things, I liked the IDEA of this cutaway style, where the lapels meet at centre front but don't overlap, and then below the lapels the shape cuts back over the abdomen and hips. In practice though, I didn't like it very much on me. I felt it looked less like a deliberate style decision and more like I was wearing a jacket that was too small for me. I made a size 44 and by Burda's measurements I'm currently a size 42 at the hip. If anything I therefore had more ease than the designer intended. IDK, it just didn't work for me.

This experience has given me a couple of specific pointers for the future: (a) it's definitely better for me to make a muslin of something like outerwear where there's a LOT of time and materials involved. I mean, I don't really care too much about this fabric, because it was an inexpensive ponte knit that I bought as a remnant for about £2/m. But if I am cutting into wool or anything precious, I don't want to make a fit/style mistake like this too often! And then there's also the interfacing I used and the buttons and lining fabric I bought for the jacket that now have had to go into stash and... you know, it all adds up. Also (b) I think I need to go back to the drawing board a bit with woven fitting. For a while now I've been using Burda size 44's more or less straight off the pattern sheet or with some minor alterations, but I'm increasingly dissatisfied with the shoulder width and some other little fitting issues that seem to crop up over and over. So that's something I've added to my autumn/winter plans.

Speaking of which, it's time to move on from summer sewing for me! My Autumn planning has three parts so far. First up: Boring But Necessary which I am going to be working on fairly immediately. This is half a dozen basic items for my wardrobe that I need to replace for the new season, using mainly repeat patterns. Not the most exciting sewing, but also all straightforward and hopefully quick and trouble free. Second: Loungewear, mainly knit tunics to wear with leggings, for which I will be using mainly new-to-me patterns and several from recent magazines. And third: A Whole Pile Of More Interesting Things. This is all the "nice to have but I don't NEED it" sewing that I'd like to do -- some fitting work, some wishlist type patterns, and so on. I'll be back with more specifics on that when I've worked my way through the more necessary parts of my sewing queue!

Monday, 24 July 2017

The perils of an ill-timed sneeze and other stories

A few things to share from this month so far:

First, a Wishlist Challenge entry! Back in April 2013, I made a top with a printed viscose fabric that I loved. It was a simple New Look woven tee pattern with a dolman sleeve and a scooped neckline. I decided to french seam it but, as this was right back near the start of my garment sewing adventures, did so sufficiently ineptly that sections of the seams shredded after about the third wash.

The original top that I made in 2013
This would not have been a total disaster, except past!me decided that the thing to do would be to disassemble the top by violently unpicking the side seams so that they ended up badly shredded but then cutting through the bias binding at the neckline, etc. rather than unpicking it. Er. What? Why?! At any rate, I squirreled the remnants away in the hope that I would find a way to make use of it at some point in the future, and put "find a way to use that pink floral viscose!" on my Wishlist.

Plan A: something like this Burda pattern (06-2017-123A)
I was inspired to get on with this item on the list by one of the Plus patterns in the 06/2017 issue of Burda. I couldn't actually cut the pattern out of the fabric that I had, but I decided I could definitely make something similar with the pieces I had plus some plain ivory viscose. This had the advantage also of allowing me to cut off the raggedy remains of the previous seams. So, that was Plan A, with a mental note to possibly come back to this pattern and make it up properly in the future.

Alas, Plan A was not successful, for the most ridiculous of reasons. I was nearly finished, and it actually looked great, but then disaster struck. As I was overlocking a shoulder seam, I suddenly sneezed violently and I guess in the process pressed hard on the foot pedal of my overlocker. The whole overlocking situation suddenly got out of hand and I ended up cutting a MASSIVE hole in the fabric near the shoulder. Let this be a lesson to all of us: if about to sneeze, remove your foot from the foot pedal!

Plan B: Burda 05-2015-124
After sneezing some more and then nearly committing violence because after all that work I couldn't believe I'd done something so comically stupid (because no, seriously, who creates wadders by SNEEZING?) I moved fairly swiftly on to Plan B. Plan B involved a pattern I'd previously earmarked as a possibility for this project, Burda 05-2015-124. This is a regular sized pattern, and I made my usual size 44.

This is one of those patterns that it would be really easily to just completely ignore in Burda. The styling of the modelled version is really not to my taste, and the line drawing kind of looks like nothing -- a box with sleeves. But, as is often the case with Burda, it has some great little details. The seamline at the bust creates a nicely shaped dart. The hemline shape is also really pretty. In a drapey viscose fabric, it doesn't look nearly as boxy on as the line drawing.

Burda 05-2015-124 made with remnants of the pink top + contrast ivory
Sorry the photo is so dark! As you can probably JUST ABOUT see, I had to retain the stripe in the lower body section down the side seam from the Plan A version of this top, which is not part of this pattern. I don't think it's too intrusive, but I really had no choice. I also managed to squeeze out enough bias tape to do a contrast binding at the neckline. The only thing I don't really like about the finished top is the neckline. I just omitted the keyhole neckline because I dislike them, but I thought the width of the neckline would fit easily over my head anyway. However, I forgot that I find Burda necklines are often too wide and/or too low, and this neckline is just a LITTLE too wide. If I cut this again, I will have to alter that.

Despite sneezing fits, this was eventually a success, and I am really pleased to have this fabric somehow back in my wardrobe!
Burda 06-2017-126 (images from Burdastyle)
Next, I was idly flipping through my copy of Burda 06/2017 I'd left out from when I was formulating Plan A, and decided to move right on to a Magazine Challenge and make up 06-2017-126. I know, it's yet another wacky top from Burda, but look how adorable the model looks in her top! And I rather like the weird little back drape! 

My sad attempt at Burda 06-2017-126
 However, did mine turn out that cute? No. No it did not. I had every possible problem with it. The fabric fought me every step of the way and point blank refused to go through my overlocker (why, I don't know, I tried for a solid HOUR to get it to work, but the thread snapped after 2-3 stitches no matter what settings I tried). I moved to my regular sewing machine and a stretch stitch, which was better, but then I discovered, 75% of the way through construction, that I had attached the upper and lower back pieces incorrectly, and much unpicking, recutting and redoing followed. Then I screwed up the neckband had to unpick it. I was just thinking about how to rescue the neckband when little seeds of doubt about that back drape feature and the knit fabric I had used made me decide to try the top on, neckband problems and all and... no. A WORLD OF NO, in fact. It didn't drape nicely as in the image, it just sort of sat there and looked like a misplaced lump of fabric in my centre back. Ugh. Sad to say, this went straight in the recycling bin.

To be fair to Burda, most of these were problems of my own making, but if you happened to want to make this top, I STRONGLY recommend a VERY slinky, drapey knit. Mine seemed drapey enough when I picked it out for this pattern, but it really wasn't. Also, this is again what I would call a typical Burda neckline, which is to say: very deep and very wide. If I had finished it, I would have had to wear something under it.

Summer PJs
In desperate need of a unicorn chaser, the next time I went into my sewing room I decided to make something VERY EASY. Thus: summer PJs. The bottoms are my TNT Ottobre sleep shorts (Ottobre 05-2011-02), and the top is a men's tee pattern, Knipmode 07-2017-22. I like my sleep tees large and baggy, and women's patterns are always too fitted for me to be comfortable in to sleep. I tried a simple pattern off the internet previously without much success, but since I had this Knipmode pattern available I decided to use it. I really like it and will use it again, although I need to bring the neckline in a little (again!) It's a very dull entry in my Magazine Challenge for this month, but hey, it's a pattern from this year's magazines! Good enough for me!


The last piece of July's news is that, after a couple of little windfalls, I decided to go mad and replace my overlocker. My old one was second-hand from eBay. I bought it in 2012 for £50, and I've used it a LOT, so it didn't really owe me anything. Recently, I've been getting a bit frustrated with it for various reasons. I was idly looking to see what there was in my price range on my preferred vendor site for sewing machines, spotted a discounted ex-display model and, well, you can guess the rest of the story!

New overlocker!! And my first project with it, a StyleArc Estelle cardigan in a reversible black/grey knit
Once I learned how to thread the machine and practiced a bit to get a feel for it, I wanted to actually make something. I have next to nothing left in my summer sewing queue and no knits at all, so I dragged this unseasonal project forward from my autumn sewing queue: yet another StyleArc Estelle cardigan, this time in a two-sided knit, dark grey on one side and black on the other. Having made four of these previously, I could really focus on getting to know the overlocker while I sewed. It came out really well, and was definitely a good pattern to pick to practice with the new machine, because it has a bit of everything -- long straight seams, curves, a couple of little fiddly bits. I probably won't wear it until autumn, but it won't come to any harm hanging in my wardrobe for few weeks extra.

Overall, I am SO PLEASED that I upgraded my overlocker. The stitch quality is MUCH better, it's a LOT quieter and it's easier to use than my old machine. It isn't particularly easier or faster to thread, but there's nothing particularly complicated in the threading either. It's a little different than my old one, but not so much that it wasn't fairly obvious what I had to do. I did have a couple of false starts with the threading, but honestly, if you can thread a new-to-you overlocker right the first time then I am just going to start shouting WITCHCRAFT! WITCHCRAFT! at you anyway.

And.. that brings me up to date! :D This week I am working on bags, and cutting out a pattern for my August Wishlist item because I want to put some serious thought into pattern placement on my fabric. That wishlist entry and finishing up a jacket are all I have left in my summer queue, which is timely since I plan to start sewing for autumn in mid-August. More about all of that in due course!

Monday, 3 July 2017

One last thing I made in June & a mid-year goals update

First up, I squeaked out a last little project in June, this wearable muslin woven raglan tee in white and black:

Woven raglan tee, Burda 10-2014-135
Last year, right at the end of summer, I made a green and white raglan tee using a Burda Plus magazine pattern. At the time, I said I kind of liked it, but maybe not the boat neckline. So far this summer I've actually worn that top quite often, but I still don't think the neckline is the best style for me. However, I had also picked out this raglan top pattern from the Burda October 2014 issue as an alternative I wanted to try, and hey presto, here it is. This is more or less a test version of the pattern, made with a bargain basement fabric buy (the black and white print on viscose, which was about £1.50 per metre) and a scrap of white viscose (the remnants of the same fabric I used for the sleeves of the green & white top, which was itself a bargain buy).

Burda 10-2014-135 line drawing
It's a very straightforward pattern, as you can see from the line drawing - just three pattern pieces + bias binding - including sleeves with a dart in the sleeve head. The only deviation I made from the pattern as written is (obviously) that I cut short sleeves instead of long sleeves.

I'm always a bit wary of pleats and gathering above the bust (or below the bust, or really anywhere near the bust) because I think it tends to make my large bust look even larger which: no, thank you very much, that's the last thing I need. However, the pleats on this top are actually quite small and not too poofy.


This is from the Plus section of the issue, and I made my usual size 44. The fit is mostly good, except it's a bit tighter through the sleeves than I like. I feel like I should have expected that from the line drawing, though, looking at it again now. When I make this again I will definitely want to fix that. Also, the neckline ended up a tiny bit wider than I wanted, and flirts with revealing bra straps. That's easy enough to fix in a second version, though.

Overall, I'm calling this a win for a wearable muslin.

Second order of business: it is somehow the middle of the year already, and it is therefore time for an update on my goals for 2017, which I wrote about in detail back in January.

1. Money: (a) Stick to my 2017 budget; (b) keep my envelope/PDF pattern spending at the same level as it was in 2016.

My budget goal is well in hand. Although I went a bit overboard on spending right at the beginning of the year I then had a couple of very quiet months for buying stuff, mainly because I was too sick in the spring to even want to look at fabric shopping sites (!!). The net result is that I am quite a bit under budget for the year at the halfway point.

Some of the patterns I've bought so far this year (the line drawing second from the right is the StyleArc Sadie Tunic)
I have bought a few patterns, but again, I'm on budget for the year so far, and I've been trying really hard not to buy stuff unless it legitimately adds something new to my pattern stash. Well, and also shirtdresses, despite my immense shirtdress collection (and lack of any actual shirtdresses, which is a whole separate problem...).

2.  Fabric Stash: (a) reduce my stash to under 200m and then stay at or under 200m for the rest of the year; (b) use two thirds of what I buy in 2017 during 2017; (c) use some of my older "favourite" fabrics

(a) As usual, my fabric stash reduction outcome can be summarized with: /o\. I bought 39m of fabric in the first half of the year, and only sewed 30m. Therefore, not only am I not under 200m in total, I actually have more fabric than I had in January! I really must do better on this. I have yet again gone through my stash and my sewing queue and tried very hard to match fabric I already own to things I want to make, and hopefully I'll have a better result to report at the end of the year.

(b) This is better measured over the year as a whole because I tend to buy ahead of the season, but currently, I have used about 25% of the fabric I've bought so far in 2017.

(c) I have actually made an effort to use some of my older "favourite" fabrics! I can't say I've made a major dent in the deepest, most "precious" layers of my stash, but I have made some impression on it, for sure. I've actually been combining it a bit with my Wishlist Challenge (see below) as both the PJs and one of the maxi skirts I made came from "precious" stash.
 
3. 2017 Magazine Challenge. Make one thing each month from any 2017 issue of any of my magazine subscriptions (Burda/Knipmode/Ottobre) and
4. 2017 Wishlist Challenge make at least 12 things off my wishlist in 2017.


Magazine challenge projects so far this year
I've only managed to make a couple for my magazine challenge so far this year, mainly because March/April/May was so rubbish healthwise. My two garments were: a draped front knit top from Burda 01-2017, and a striped woven top from Burda 03-2017. I am not sure if I will manage to catch up and make 12 items this year -- it kind of depends on how inspired I feel by the remaining magazine issues this year. As usual, I was less than excited by the summer Burda issues, but August is looking good and (although we have the inevitable dirndlapalooza to wade through in September) the last quarter of the year is often the best with Burda. The A/W issue of Ottobre should arrive in August as well, and I need to actually go through my recent Knipmodes in more detail -- it was just another thing that got pushed to one side while I was ill. I do have a pattern picked out from Burda 06-2017 to make this month, so that's a start.

Wishlist challenge projects so far this year
On the wishlist side of things... honestly, it's not worked out the way I hoped so far. So far, I've ticked off three entries in my list: indulgent silk PJs, two-layer lace knit tank, and brightly patterned maxi skirts. Not that I'm not happy with those things, but this is not the exciting, skill building, one-of-a-kind stuff I was really dreaming about when I put together my wishlist challenge originally. That said, I probably haven't really been up to exciting, skill-building (a.k.a. difficult!) sewing for most of the year so far, but hopefully that should improve as my health continues to improve. I'm not sure if I'll catch up and make 12 things this year, but I've definitely made sure to include wishlist items in my plans for the rest of the year.

Overall, given the circumstances I was working with in the first half of the year, I am pretty happy with where I am on my goals for this year. Now that I am much better I'll hopefully be able to kick quite a lot of things back into gear, both sewing-wise and all sorts of other things. I'm hoping to have a much busier, more interesting and more productive second half of the year now that I feel more or less human most days. In the immediate future though, I need to get cracking on some pattern tracing so I can get started sewing my way through my July queue.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Back in the saddle

Thank you to everyone who left comments on my last post. I usually try to respond to comments straight away but my success rate in doing so the last few months has not been good. If I don't get around to replying straight away it always seems weird to come back to responding to them a fortnight later. So, yes, sorry for not responding, but your thoughts are honestly much appreciated!

Leaving aside the state of the world (which is frankly awful) on a personal level my news is almost all good (again!). I suddenly started to feel better about a week after my last post and over the last 10 days have started to feel as well as I have all year. Things are definitely looking up! :D As a result of feeling so much better, I resurrected quite a few of my summer sewing plans and got stuck in.

As I often do, I eased myself back into sewing by working on some easy knits with familiar patterns, starting with two t-shirts:
Two easy tees. Pink is Cosy Little World Jasmin; Red and white is Ottobre 02-2013-02
I actually cut the pink tee out a month and a half ago on a rare good day but then never felt up to doing anything with it. The pattern is the Cosy Little World Jasmin Tee, which was a pattern I used for the first time last year and made three times. I still love the two blue tees I made with this pattern and wear them often (the third one I made using a cheap white knit and, even though I pre-washed the fabric, it shrank and distorted horribly the first time I washed the finished tee, boo).

The red and white tee is made using a pattern I was obsessed by in 2013/2014 but haven't made since January 2015, Ottobre 02-2013-02. It's a really nice little kimono sleeved top that is intended to catch and puddle at the hip. I added a little rolled over cuff to the sleeves.

Neither of these came out perfectly -- the pink has a little mistake in the neckband, and I managed to just catch the tiniest snippet of the fabric of the red and white one in my overlocker blade and had to do a little repair. I would have preferred if they had come out perfectly, of course, but I'm not going to worry about invisible-from-a-metre-away mistakes on inexpensive t-shirts.

StyleArc Estelle cardigan in a slightly weird hole-y knit
My last easy knit for the summer was made using a slightly weird olive green knit. I dithered about what pattern to use but to be honest it should have been a no-brainer. I absolutely love the StyleArc Estelle pattern, and have worn the three I've already made to death. This version probably doesn't have quite the same all season usefulness that the previous three versions have had, seeing as how it's full of holes, but I still think I'll get a lot of use from it this summer. The hole-y fabric was actually the cause of my only problem making this garment, insofar as it took a very long time and three complete re-threads of my overlocker to find the right tension settings at which it would actually, you know, sew the damn thing together and not snap the threads/stop stitching/snarl up. I got there in the end, but not before I earnestly considered what would happen if I flung either the overlocker or the pieces of my cardigan out the window of my sewing room.

My new cross-stitch kit is underway
Next up: Garment-wise, the next thing I want to make is a couple of fairly straightforward woven tops. I need to spend some time tracing patterns though before I can get started with anything properly interesting (and I promised someone I would trace a pattern for them as well, so I must get on that ASAP). I've also started my new cross-stitch kit, the very first little bit of which you can see above. More generally, though, I am just sort of picking up the threads of the rest of my life that I let fall in March-May, so I feel busy busy busy all day at the moment after months of barely getting out of bed. Time passes so much more quickly when you have stuff to do, so I'm really enjoying it :D

Friday, 26 May 2017

May

So, I'm not going to lie to you, May has been brutal. This post is, unusually for me, mostly not sewing, and the first two paragraphs are about the recent events here in the UK, just to warn you.


I live in the suburbs of Manchester, which of course has been in the news this week for the absolute worst of reasons. I wasn't directly affected by the bombing at all -- didn't know anyone at the concert, haven't been to that venue for years, don't live or spend time in any of the areas where there has been subsequent police action. It's profoundly shocking that such a terrible thing happened anywhere at all -- it shouldn't be worse just because it happened in my home town or in a place and event of a type that I know intimately. Somehow it is, though. I find myself asking how someone capable of such a callous act could co-exist with me: walk through the same streets as me; go to places -- like the university the bomber attended -- that I am familiar with and that I thought I understood. I've been to so many music events, been a part of the normal aftermath of a show so many times. I've been that teenager in the centre of Manchester at the end of a pop concert, shrieking and clutching at my friends, ears still ringing from the sound system. I keep thinking of all those little girls coming out of the Arena, how elated and joyful they would have been at that moment after seeing their favourite performer live. It is unimaginable to me that someone could move through that crowd of happy children and go through with this act.

The only thing that has comforted me the last few days is reminding myself that it was, it seems, a tiny number of people that planned this and just one man who enacted it. By contrast, literally hundreds of people immediately responded by trying to help the victims, help people caught up in the chaos, help each other make sense of what was happening. They did that for no better reason than that they were there, things were happening, and that seemed like the right thing to do. Thousands more rushed the next day to do small things -- offer to give blood, donate money, leave flowers and attend vigils to mourn strangers. In the end, in my city, like most places, the people whose innate behaviour was to try to do good, helpful and kind things vastly outnumber people who commit terrible acts.

Other than the shock and horror of the last few days, the rest of May has been brutal mainly because of my health situation. On the one hand, the news is actually terrifically good: my new medication is definitely working, and the medium and long-term future is much brighter for me as a result. On the other hand, the short-term experience is grim. The withdrawal from my previous medication is absolutely grueling, much worse than I anticipated. Not only are individual days really hard, but the cumulative effect of so many weeks of withdrawal is that I feel like a wrung-out dishcloth.

As a result, most of May has involved me gradually stopping doing things that I just can't keep up at the moment. I dropped pretty much all my hobbies and even my social media interaction, even the things that I usually more active on like Insta and Twitter. I did next to nothing crafty -- I cut out a t-shirt early in the month but I can't seem to summon up the energy to rethread my overlocker or work on it so it's still in pieces. I didn't knit this month, or start my new cross-stitch kit or really do anything else at all. I didn't even really read or pay that much attention to my sewing magazines this month. Pretty much I am on hiatus from, well, everything.

The good thing is, this is all temporary. I have adjusted my expectations of what I'm going to sew this summer down to "nothing, or maybe one or two items if I am lucky". I'm hoping that I'll start to feel better in time to think about sewing for the autumn.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Blah, or a round-up of a miserable April

Just once, I would like to get to explain an extended absence from my blog with some fascinating tale of adventure and excitement. Alas, I've been absent from public life in general for most of April because, as usual, I've been sick as a dog. On the plus side, I am (VERY cautiously) optimistic about the long-term success of the drug trial I'm on. On the minus side for the last few weeks I've basically just had ALL the side effects, ALL the time, which has been thoroughly unpleasant and not at all conducive to doing anything creative or interesting most days. I'm not really feeling much better now, in fact, nor am I likely to for a while longer. However, I'm starting to get into a bit of a rhythm with dealing with it and I'll continue to try to squeeze in the odd hour of sanity-preserving activities, like sewing, whenever I can.

Here's a quick round-up of the things I've managed to finish in April:

1. Maxi skirts. Amazingly, around the middle of the month I managed a little bit of everyday sewing. These are actually my Wishlist Challenge items for April (I missed March, I'm going to try to catch up with an extra later in the year). For ages I've had a variety of photos, of which this one is a good example, pinned on Pinterest of patterned/border print summer maxi skirts and have wanted some for myself. I went so far as to buy a highly patterned navy/blue fabric with the specific intention of accomplishing this in January 2015. Then at the beginning of this year I bought a second, border-printed piece of fabric. This month I decided that this summer I actually really wanted those skirts to actually exist rather than be flat pieces of fabric and I got on with making them:

Simple gathered waist maxi skirts
These are really the simplest skirts in the world. They're a no-pattern Giant Rectangle, with a hem and an elastic waist in a casing. The blue skirt on the left is almost 3m wide at the hem as I used two complete widths of the fabric. The border print on the right has a total of 2m gathered at the waist, as the border ran along one selvedge and I had a 2m length of the fabric. I probably prefer the wide hem for walking/moving about, but on the other hand, even though the fabric is a very lightweight poly/viscose twill, there's quite a lot of bulk at the waistband of the blue version. Unfortunately the blue print turned out to be totally off grain, which made matching the side seams much harder than it needed to be, and then as it turned out there's SO MUCH fabric that even looking for the side seams is mostly an exercise in futility so that was a waste of effort anyway!.

Regardless, I am pleased with both my skirts, and hopefully when the weather warms up they will be a part of my comfortable, easy summer wardrobe. I am hoping to (but not all that optimistic that I will be able to) knock out a very easy April Magazine Challenge item in the next few days. All the tracing etc feels like a lot of effort right now though!

2. I finished my cross-stitch kit! As a reminder, I started this back at the beginning of January, and I actually finished it on the last day of March. Here's the finished thing: (click image for a larger view)

Finished Mason-Jar line-up; close up left hand side; close up right-hand side; very close up far right; back

I thoroughly enjoyed stitching this kit, which is called Mason Jar Line-up by Dimensions, and recommend it highly. It did take quite a bit of time and I got fed up of switching between the many, barely perceptibly different, shades of aqua blue every so often. However, I'm very pleased with my finished piece of stitching. I do plan to frame and hang it at some point but eh, probably not until I feel better.

I had thought to move on to something different and more original on the embroidery side of things rather than do another kit straight away, but actually these kits are a pretty good level of activity and degree of creativity for me at the moment. I therefore decided to order another kit just as I finished this one... and then it turned out to be coming from Hong Kong and still hasn't got here, so I have actually nothing new to report at all!

3. Knitting. I started April by deciding to frog the disastrous blue jumper that I finished mid-January. Then I wondered what to do with the frogged yarn. I came up with the idea of knitting a small rug for the bathroom, based on a blogger I read doing the same thing and really liking the one she made. All I can say about the outcome of that is: NOPE. In the end, I pitched the whole lot into the recycling, much as it pained me to do so. Sometimes things just don't work and can't be recovered, and this was one of those times.

Purl Soho Seed Stitch Wrap in two shades of Drops Merino Extra Fine (Purple and Light Purple)
I was therefore in the market for a new knitting project. I decided I needed something ULTRA easy and brainless, because I am not up to dealing with complicated patterns at the moment. I'm currently therefore just under a third of the way through this extremely easy Purl Soho Seed Stitch Wrap (Ravelry link to free pattern), which is going to be (a) enormous and (b) ridiculous. I kind of love it already. I admit I originally bought the yarn (which is Drops Merino Extra Fine in colourways Purple and Light Purple) for something else entirely, but I don't care, this is a perfect use of it under current circumstances.

And that's pretty much it for April! Hopefully May will be better and I'll manage to work on some more interesting and challenging things. (Honestly, though, I think be prepared for this blog to be All Simple All The Time for the next couple of months at least.)

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Stalled

So, I guess that whizzing sound was March flying past. I didn't really leave much of an impression on the month. It actually started out reasonably well (I sewed some easy knits and finished up the lace sweater I was knitting) but since the middle of the month my crafty endeavours have been more or less a series of false starts, with intervening periods of being sick and miserable (again, with more of the same old same old.) I'm disappointed not to have managed to get my March Wishlist and Magazine Challenge garments done, or even started really, but I'm going to try to catch up in April. I'm really excited for the things I wanted to make in March but the Wishlist thing in particular is just a little bit more complicated than I could manage while I didn't feel well.

Stalled out on Burda 08-2016-134
One thing I did make a start on, but then stalled on completely, was this ponte knit jacket from Burda 08/2016, pictured here in its current state: one sleeve basted in and the main part of the bodice done. I've stalled because, well, (a) sick and miserable, but also (b) I got to this point, which is a degree of done at which I could try it on and have some reasonable idea about fit and how it will look on me and went: meh. All my enthusiasm promptly drained away. I'm sure I'll get back to this eventually, but if I'm honest, the prospect of working on it is not inspiring me to get back into my sewing room. (Although, not to blow my own trumpet, but I DID do a really good job on the lapel/collar!)

In a less sick and miserable interval, I also moved my clothes around for the start of spring and did a bit of a clear out at the same time. The majority of my discards in this most recent wardrobe purge fell into the "worn to death" category, which is exactly what I hoped would happen this year.  Because I'm a dork who keeps track of what I wear, I do know I got what I consider to be a good amount of wear out of most things. There were a couple of exceptions on how well things wore but they were mainly down to the fabric degrading more quickly than I thought it should. I have definitely developed an aversion to cheap viscose knits, which start to look jaded much too quickly.

However, in my continuing efforts to perfect my wardrobe I also discarded a pile of things that I just really don't like. I'm not particularly into the whole Maria Kondo 'does it spark joy' thing but lately I've been feeling exasperated by the fact that sewing for myself hadn't prevented me accumulating clothes that I actively dislike. I don't think I have to capital-letters-LOVE everything I own and wear, but I'd like to be feel at least moderately positive about everything. This time, I culled a dozen things that are probably perfectly serviceable, but that I just haven't been able to make myself like. I did spend a little time thinking about WHY I disliked each of them, particularly the things I made myself, so I could avoid the same mistakes in the future. I concluded there were two problems that I can do something about:

1. Fabric choice. Some of my fabric choices were, for me, inherently poor, e.g. this polycotton shirt I made a couple of years ago. The fabric was definitely more poly than cotton, which made it easy to iron but unpleasantly hot and sticky to wear. There were also a couple of cases of "wrong fabric for this pattern", e.g. this shirt I made last spring. That gathered neckline really needed a softly draping fabric rather than the crisp shirting I used. I feel like the latter is something you really learn from experience, so I guess that was my opportunity to learn!

2. Poor pattern choice for my body shape/figure and/or fit problems. Basically, I either need to embrace the muslin/fitting process or I have to learn to live with the idea that some things are just not going to work out and that I'll have sacrificed "good" fabric to an experiment. The saddest example here is the New Look 6303 top I made in December. It was just all wrong on me and I never wore it, and I couldn't see I would ever wear it, so I have abandoned it. There were also two things I'd made that had fit problems that I thought I could live with and that I'd wear the garments anyway. However, completely predictably, in reality I almost always choose to wear something that fits better. Go figure.

This purge shook up my wardrobe a little so I really need to spend some quality time thinking about what I want to sew next (apart from my Challenge garments) and also whether I want to just move on to filling in my most urgent Summer wardrobe gaps rather than try to fill any remaining Spring gaps, which are mostly just nice-to-haves rather than real essentials.

My forward planning is made a bit complicated by the fact that I am FINALLY on the new drug that I have mentioned several times! \o/ \o/ \o/ I've been taking it for a week, and I won't know if it's working for at least another week, and even then not conclusively. This doesn't stop me agonizing endlessly over whether or not I feel any different/better/worse of course!

Looking ahead, though, one of the downsides is that if this treatment does work I will spend most of the next 8-12 weeks struggling through the worst part of a drug regime change. I mean, it will be worth it, but at the same time I wish it were over already, ugh. I guess I'm just thinking that I do have to be realistic about what time I'll have to sew and what kind of projects I'm going to want to work on in that time (from past experience: nothing too complicated or frustrating).

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Finished knitting: The Lichen sweater

Increasingly, I feel like I enjoy the process of knitting much more than I like the things I knit. I absolutely loved the making of this sweater. I am more or less meh on the sweater itself.

The Lichen sweater, in blue linen/viscose yarn
This was an ambitious knitting project for me. My only previous experience of knitting a pattern with a lace component was the partial lace patterned scarf I made a couple of years ago, and the actual lace sections in that went very wonky indeed. Also, my last sweater did not turn out well enough that I was filled with enormous knitting confidence. I jokingly said, when I mentioned this sweater in my Spring planning post, that I suspected I would deeply regret this project, but in fact, it all went remarkably well! In fact, it went so well, and I enjoyed the knitting part so much, that I finished it in under a month and completely screwed up my knitting plan for the spring/summer!

Lichen, image from Ravelry
The pattern I used was the Lichen sweater, by Yumiko Alexander (Ravelry link), a DK weight short-sleeved lace patterned sweater. You also get a second version of the pattern in the instructions, "Smoke", which is essentially the same sweater but in 3-ply and without sleeves.

As far as the pattern itself is concerned, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The actual text of the pattern is lamentable. The author's first language is not English and the pattern doesn't seem to have been edited by a native English speaker. The instructions are all over the place. The way the lace pattern is described is not what you might call crystal clear, and although it wasn't hard to figure out what the author meant I ended up writing out the pattern again myself just so I had it available to me laid out in a way that was clear and easy to follow.

It was probably an advantage that I am a pretty novice knitter, because I just do what I'm told in the pattern. It is obvious from some of the comments about the pattern I read on Ravelry that more experienced knitters considered parts of the pattern to be very unorthodox and found themselves overthinking what they were doing. The flip side of this is that at times the text assumes you pretty much know what you are doing with statements like "for the neckline decrease 3 stitches every other row for 8 rows". This is really not enough information for me with my level of experience and I had to ask a more experienced knitter friend to walk me through which decrease stitches to use and where to put them in the lace pattern and then write it all out.

In spite of all of these pitfalls, I think this sweater has the least errors in it of anything I've made so far. It's not error-free, but the one place it went really wonky was in the uppermost corner of one edge of a sleeve, meaning that you would literally have to be staring at my armpit to see it.

 I have said a couple of times I really enjoyed knitting this already, but I really did! For me personally, because I'm not very experienced at knitting, I couldn't do my usual read & knit thing, or watch TV and knit. Pretty much every time I made a mistake it was because I took my attention off what I was doing. I also counted my stitches about four bazillion times in the process of making this, which was how I was able to do the two biggest pieces -- front and back -- without any significant errors. A couple of times I was in danger of going completely wrong but because I counted my work back so often I caught my mistakes before they became big mistakes. So, this was really hard work for me, as knitting goes, but I had a great sense of accomplishment as the lace pattern took shape on my needles.
The lace pattern, post blocking
This pattern -- and my purpose, a summer sweater -- is really suited to a linen blend. Linen yarn turns out to be harder to source than I expected -- it seems to be either cheap and have very mixed reviews, or very expensive. I also think this sweater would look gorgeous in a silk yarn with a shine to it, but, not at all unexpectedly, there was nothing of that type in my price range.

I ended up buying a bundle of the discontinued yarn Rowan Lenpur Linen from someone de-stashing. It is a linen/viscose blend DK weight, in a sort of inky blue colour called Creek. (I am sure that is a very poetic name but it's totally misleading. Every creek I've ever seen has been a murky brown/green.) It's a little fuzzier in texture than I expected for a linen yarn-- presumably because of the high viscose content -- but it was very nice to knit, and only went splitty if I really poked at it.

With the arm held out to the side to show the (immense) amounts of ease this sweater has

So why am I a bit indifferent to this sweater overall? Mainly, because it ended up much too long. I chose to make the longer version of the sweater but it ended up MUCH longer than advertised even though my gauge swatch was dead on for length after blocking. Actually, I was worried it would be too short! I think either my yarn "grew" or the swatch just wasn't reliable. On the width, I knew I was out by a certain fraction from gauge and simple math told me how big it would end up being -- and it ended up exactly that bit. I am fine with the width. It is an intentionally draped/over-sized sweater and honestly with so much ease built in the odd inch over barely registers. The length, I don't know, it's just not quite a good length on me.

Don't be deceived by the apparent shape of the side seams, it really is just a rectangle.
About halfway through making this I was absolutely certain I was going to make another straight away and was eagerly looking for a yarn fibre content/colour combination that I liked. Now I'm not so sure. I've moved on to a temporary, quick project while I think about whether I really want another sweater like this (although I would definitely make the next one shorter, and also possibly narrower.

In conclusion: a great knitting experience, but not the greatest actual garment from it. I am feeling a bit disillusioned with knitting as a whole, and for now I've decided not to buy anything at all and just whittle down my (already very small) stash and work on my WIPs for a little while.