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.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Easy finished things

My sewing week was divided between (a) sewing really easy things; and (b) getting ready to sew one of the jackets I picked out for Spring.

Simplicity 1733 cover and line drawings


First, on the easy side of things, a cardigan. In my Spring plan I said I'd picked out a pattern from Burda 10-2014 for this. Alas, it turned out I'd made a mistake writing down how much fabric I had and I was 40cm short of the (serious fabric hog) requirements of that Burda pattern. After a brief dive into the pattern stash, I came up with the alternative of View D of Simplicity 1733, an older (OOP) Khaliah Ali pattern that I originally bought for the twist front top/dress view.

Simplicity 1733 view D in grey, front view on Flossie
I made a straight size 16 with no adjustments. Construction was extremely quick and straightforward, although I must admit I deviated substantially from the instructions. I pretty much never want to set in sleeves with a knit, much preferring to sew them in flat, and I am even less likely to set in sleeves if it's a raglan pattern.

Simplicity 1733 View D in grey, side view on Flossie
I am particularly pleased with my fabric/pattern combination. My knit is quite slinky and the cardigan therefore drapes rather nicely. It's probably more of a decorative layer than a warmth-imparting functional piece, insofar as the knit is almost sheer and not exactly warming. I think that suits the pattern though -- I wouldn't want to make it up in a bulkier knit because it's really quite voluminous. On the other hand, it was the work of the devil to hem the thing because the fabric will NOT take a crease at all, in any way, and there were what felt like miles and miles of hems to do. 

Ottobre 02-2016-05 "Fog" sweater, appropriately in grey. (Technical drawing from Ottobre magazine)
Due the pattern change, I had an unexpected excess of fabric. In the interests of efficiency and my overlocker being threaded in the right colour already, I decided to see what else I could sew immediately. After some pattern Tetris false starts, I settled on a repeat of Ottobre 02-2016-05, a simple layering top with a hi-lo hem that I have made once before. I again left off the side zips because when I am ever going to unzip the sides of a knit top? Never, is when. This is one of those "I didn't know I wanted this until I made it" garments, I think, so I'm pleased I came up with the idea.
A green tote bag for spring (pattern is Daphne by artsycraftsybabe)
And finally, my last easy project of the week was this tote bag in spring-like shades of green, which I made more or less on a whim on Saturday.

The rest of my sewing time this week was taken up with working through the early stages of the first of my outerwear projects of this year, Burda 08-2016-134. As of this morning I've got all the pieces cut out and I just have to summon up some enthusiasm for applying a ton of interfacing before I can get started sewing next week. More on this soon, no doubt, and probably a lot of progress shots on my Instagram this week as well. :D

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

February round-up

In February I made and blogged about a gigantic tote and this month's 2017 Challenge garments. Here are the other things I've been working on this month that didn't really merit a whole blog post to themselves and/or are works in progress:

Spring PJs: Burda 8271 capri length PJ bottoms
1. Pyjamas: These two pairs of PJs, being easy repeats of a pattern I have used several times before, Burda 8271, were the first items I ticked off my Spring Plan. The only interesting thing about these is that the version on the left is made from a fabric with an embroidered border, which I rather like.

Lichen sweater back piece -- not yet blocked

2. My spring plan also included starting to knit a lace patterned sweater, and I accordingly cast on the pattern I'd chosen on the 15th. I fully anticipated that I'd struggle with this pattern because I've only ever finished one knitting project with a lace pattern before and I found that very hard going. However, this sweater has been going absolutely swimmingly, much faster than I expected, and I love the fabric that the pattern produces. I know there is one small mistake in the lace pattern in the back piece (shown completed above), but I can't even find it any more so I don't care. I've also finished the (short) sleeves already. With only the front left to do, barring a sudden reversal of enthusiasm I should finish this in March, way ahead of schedule!

My cross-stitch kit as of 28/02/2017

3. I am also still working on my cross-stitch kit. At the beginning of February I was almost exactly half way through, and I've made quite a lot of progress since then. Again, barring a sudden downturn in effort, I suspect I'll finish this during March as well. I already have plans for what to move on to in terms of stitching projects.

My sewing plan for March is to continue to work on the things I picked out in my plan for my spring wardrobe, plus of course my Magazine and Wishlist challenge items. This week I'm working on a couple of easy knit items, but I'm also tracing/preparing to start sewing one of the jackets I want to make for Spring! Outerwear WILL HAPPEN!

On a personal note: I had hoped to start my new drug treatment in February but sadly it's been a non-stop story of increasingly aggravating delays. Still no date for when I'll start but surely (surely!) even these profoundly inefficient people will get their act together soon!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

2017 Challenges: February

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishlist Challenge: Stretch Lace Tank Top

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

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

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

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

Lace layer clipped up to show the navy lycra layer below

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

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

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Spring Planning

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

My plan for spring sewing therefore looks something like this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 5 February 2017

A Gigantic Tote

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 3 February 2017

Bits and pieces

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

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

Sunday, 29 January 2017

2017 Challenges: January

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Finished knits & cross-stitch progress

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

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

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

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

Front view of jumper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 8 January 2017

My 2017 challenge rationale

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Goals for 2017

Welcome to 2017! :D

I know that a lot of people hate New Year's resolutions and honestly, I totally get that. Who wants to take up running or give up long-held habits or go on a strict diet of lettuce leaves and cottage cheese in January, when the (northern hemisphere) weather is horrid and everyone is grumpy anyway? Ugh! And then often you end up having to listen to other people's horrible New Year resolution plans. Is there anything worse than the kind of griping, miserable smoking cessation/crash dieting talk that happens in workplaces in January? Even more ugh!

That said, as you've probably realized if you've been reading this blog for more than about a minute, I'm really into making plans and setting myself goals. Despite my sympathy for anti-NY-resolutioners there's something about the blank slate of the first of the year that I can never resist. Fortunately, there are no lettuce-leaf-and-cottage-cheese resolutions here!
First, a couple of targets to keep me on the straight and narrow with my spending and stash:

1. Money: (a) Stick to my 2017 budget. Last year, as I've described, I went over budget by quite a bit, which was disappointing. This year I've given myself the same absolute value to play with, which hopefully I can stay within. I'm going to try to be really careful about not buying fabric to soothe myself when I feel stressed as that was really the root of my overrun in 2016. I'd like also to (b) keep my envelope/PDF pattern spending at the same level as it was in 2016. I feel like the limited budget for patterns I gave myself really made me think about how I spent it, which was all to the good.

2.  Fabric Stash: For the last few years I've picked an arbitrary, much-smaller-than-my-actual-stash-size number as my ideal stash size, with the plan in mind that one day I'd reduce my stash to some glorious, minimalist level. Then every year I've totally failed to get anywhere near that number. Clearly that's a complete waste of energy, plus it just makes me cross with myself for totally manufactured reasons. Moreover, I am not even sure any more why I became convinced that having a minimal stash was intrinsically better, other than that I moved house twice in 12 months in 2013/2014 and got really fed up of carrying the boxes around. I'm sure there are people who love their minimalist stash and have excellent reasons for having one, but at this point I don't think it's for me. So this is my official notice: I'm giving up that whole idea. At the same time, though, I am starting the year with 217.8m of garment fabric and I do think that's a bit too much. I spent most of last year at or around 200m and I was pretty comfortable with owning that much. So, my main stash goal for 2017 is a simple one: (a) reduce my stash to under 200m and then stay at or under 200m for the rest of the year. 

I'm also going to try to buy-to-use more than buy-to-stash (even though I also failed at this last year). This is really about making sure I'm mainly buying fabric I can actually use right now, for the life I really have, and not being tempted into buying e.g. velvet and chiffon. My goal is therefore to (b) use two thirds of what I buy in 2017 during 2017.

Finally, I am not a dragon, or a magpie. I do not need a hoard, nor do I need to collect shiny things for the sake of it. Therefore, my last goal is to (c) use some of my older "favourite" fabrics and try not get so hung up on whether my sewing is good enough to do them justice. I have some great fabrics that I love -- surely though it would be even better if I turned that fabric into garments, no matter how imperfect, that I could actually wear rather than just folded fabric I pet every so often.

My other plans for 2017 include two little challenges I'm setting myself. I was really pleased with my 2016 wardrobe but I think that if it had a shortcoming it was that it shaded towards the bland. I feel like the last couple of years I've spent a lot of time working out how to sew some of my wardrobe essentials, but it's not left much time for projects that are more about personal style, wardrobe accent pieces or things that capture current trends that I like. So, these challenges are both intended to give me room to experiment a bit more in that direction:

3. 2017 Magazine Challenge. In my review of 2016 I said that I'm pretty relaxed about the fact that I have a lot of magazines in my collection that I haven't used, and that is still true. However, I thought it might be fun to try to use the magazines that arrive during 2017 more actively. I often really like, for example, some of Burda's more complicated, trendier or wackier patterns, but it's easy to just think "I'd like to make that one day!" and then forget about it. Not this year! From a pure mechanics perspective, I'm going to go for a very casual version of this challenge, aiming to make one thing each month from any 2017 issue of any of my magazine subscriptions (Burda/Knipmode/Ottobre). I'm not going to lock myself to the using the specific issue of the month because both Burda and Knipmode sometimes gallop ahead of the season (see: the February Burda previews, which seems to be full of sundresses!). My guideline for myself is that I want try to pick the kind of patterns that are quite different from my wardrobe staples, and/or that involve me trying out a new skill or technique.

4. 2017 Wishlist Challenge. For the last few years I've been rather casually maintaining a list I titled my Sewing Wishlist, where I've tried to keep track of ideas that I've had for things I really want to make "some day". A lot of this list is made up of patterns, RTW garments, and ideas from my occasional Pinterest pinning sprees that are, I think, quite interesting and different from my wardrobe staples. While I've been concentrating on building up my wardrobe to its current state the wishlist ideas have, with one or two exceptions, for the most part stayed just that: ideas. This challenge is about making 2017 "some day" for at least some of those ideas. I am therefore going to try to make at least 12 things off my wishlist in 2017.

On top of these grand schemes, I've re-organized my usual sewing queue for the start of a new year. I've quite a list of necessaries slated to sew in the early spring, as well as one or two wardrobe holes that I already know I'll need to plug later in the year (I'll be making shorts for sure this summer, for example). However, in this current mid-to-late winter period there are only a couple of little things I need to make to maintain my wardrobe. I've therefore got my January/February queue stacked with all kinds of non-garment things. I'm still infatuated with cross-stitch and I bought a (terrifying!) new kit to start soon. I've got a whole list of bags I want to make that I've been putting off for ages that I want to get started on. I've also several knitting projects on the go that I want to finish, including my Il Grande Favorito jumper. I tried hard to finish that by the end of 2016 but I was stymied by a last minute series of disasters (had to rip back the second sleeve, broke my circular needle and had to order a new one, etc etc). Plus, of course, I'll also be making my magazine pattern and wishlist challenge projects as soon as I decide on them.

As usual for this time of year then I have big big plans! :D How successful I am will depend in large part on how everything else in my life is going, and on this subject I have major news. I am going to start a trial of a new medication in February that may (or may not) improve my health situation very significantly, albeit probably quite slowly, over the course of 2017. If it works -- and it's a big if, unfortunately -- it could mean I will be able to pick up many of the threads of what I considered my normal life that I had to let fall 3.5 years ago when I first became ill. I'm starting this year crossing every digit and appendage that I have, hoping that in a year's time I'm writing about sewing for a very different life than I am now!