Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rainbow Baby Blanket

Last January, a new little nephew showed up and it is my intention that all new members of the family receive a handmade item from me.*  Since he was arriving in January in Iowa and would be living in an old farmhouse about a half-mile outside of town, I decided whatever I made would need to be very warm.  Enter the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket (ravelry link), made in Cascade 128 superwash.  It's been awhile since I crocheted a blanket, but the pattern was easy and uses double crochet which is what my fingers naturally want to make whenever I crochet for some reason.  

My ripple blanket, often
co-opted by Cate or the cat.
The Ripple blanket is an old crocheted blanket standby, and always reminds me of the 1970s.  My mom loves making them and I think we all have one.  She's never made a circular one, though, so I wasn't too worried the new baby would end up with two of the same blanket (quelle horreur!)  The original pattern called for Borocco Comfort in pastel colors which I substituted for Cascade 128 superwash in bright rainbow colors because wool is warmer than cotton/acrylic and I prefer bright colors for babies.**  I ran into a problem when I couldn't find an orange that I liked and so went with variegated red/orange/yellow instead.  I then added the variegated green because I thought it might look odd with just one variegated yarn.  The Cascade 128 was lovely to work with--a nice squishy yarn that made for a very snuggle-worthy blanket.  Cascade calls it a bulky-weight yarn but I think it's more of a heavy worsted or aran-weight (I also think their worsted is more of a dk weight).  The middle three colors on the blanket are all 1 skein each and the rest are 1.5-2 skeins.  I basically stopped when the blanket seemed "big enough" and got sick of double crochet.  It's a little less than the width of a queen size bed in diameter (which is 60 inches wide).


Pattern:  Rainbow Ripple Blanket; instructions were quite easy and I memorized the pattern quickly
Yarn:  Cascade 128; squishy and cuddly-soft
Hook size:  H
Made for:  nephew
Find it on Ravelry: here

The new parents were most appreciative of the blanket and have decided to give it a place of honor on the back of the living room recliner during he warmer months.  

*Unfortunately, sometimes intentions are all the little one gets because life gets in the way of knitting/crocheting/sewing and by the time I finish, the baby is starting kindergarten.

** And, it's called the Rainbow ripple blanket and who ever heard of a powder blue, pink, mint green, and pale yellow rainbow?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Colette Pastille First Muslin

Now that we are in spring, I have been feeling more inclined to sew.  Fall and winter are for knitting, spring and summer are for sewing.  I made a denim Miette (from Tilly and the Buttons; more on that later) and now I am working on the Pastille dress from the Colette Sewing Handbook*.  I just finished my first muslin and it is the epitome of why you should start with a muslin:  it looks terrible.  Baggy, the waistline is wrong, I may have cut out the wrong size bodice and the hips look funky.  It is so fugly, I was tempted to abandon the idea of making the Pastille altogether.  Half an hour later, though, I remembered why I started sewing this dress in the first place, even though I really have little need for a sheath dress:  I need to practice sewing.

I'm a firm believer in developing new skills and common sense says that the only way to get any better at them is to practice.  With every other skill I've cultivated, I have understood that I will need to practice before I will be any good at it, but with sewing, however, common sense seems to fly out the window.  I want to be good at it right now and if I'm not, I don't want to do it.  I've been trying to figure out why I'm so resistant to the idea that I will need to make an unspecified and probably rather large number of terrible garments before I will be able to make lovely ones and I think I've come up with a couple of reasons.

1.  Fabric isn't cheap and making a garment that goes straight into the trash feels like throwing away money.  I know some people obtain cheap fabric by buying old sheets or fabric at flea markets, yard sales, and second hand stores and all I can think is:  those people must have more time than I do.  I have yet to find old sheets at the goodwill near me, much less fabric yardage and so would need to visit several of these stores many times in order to get the cheap fabric and frankly, it's hard enough for me to find time to do laundry frequently enough to keep my family of three people in clean clothes.

2.  The only way to know if I have been successful in my sewing is to try the garment on.  This involves a whole lot of time looking at myself wearing something awful.  It's like going jeans shopping with the added downer that it is my fault the garment doesn't fit.  A dress form would likely help, but I can't afford one at the moment and I live in a very small apartment.  I think I might have to throw out the vacuum cleaner in order to have space in the closet for a dress form and since we have wall-to-wall carpeting and a toddler, that would not be a good idea.  Leaving a dress form out all the time is not an option, even if I could find a spot where we weren't tripping over it (see also:  destructive habits of a three year old).

If only I had a set of disembodied
hands to help me with fitting.
So, the only way to get better at sewing is to spend money and put on clothes that make me look like I'm wearing a sack.  Oh, and become a contortionist in order to do things like "pinch out fullness" on my muslin while I'm wearing it (I'm looking at you, swayback adjustment).  Recently, I've decided that I'm just going to have to suck it up, swallow my pride, and just make a bunch of ugly, ill-fitting garments so that I can one day make beautiful, well-fitting clothes that I love.  To that end, I decided to start working my way through the patterns I already own using the fabric I already own.  I'm fairly good at making an A-line skirt and a Renfrew-style t-shirt, so now it's time to work on woven dresses and tops.  Once I feel pretty confident about those, I might even start working on making that most dreaded of all garments, the Waterloo of home sewists everywhere:  pants.**

Before tracing the pattern for the Pastille dress, I took my measurements, added a little ease, and compared the end result to the finished measurements of the dress and chose what size(s) to trace.  Based on measurements, it seemed like I needed one size for the upper body and then grade out to a larger size for the waist.  Trying on the muslin, my waist looks rather baggy and sad, so clearly I added too much to the waist.  Also, the front waistline of the bodice was about an inch above my actual natural waist and the back waistline appeared to be nearly two inches below my natural waist.  After doing some Google searches on the Pastille dress, I found that many people have also had too much length in the back of their muslin and one or two have also had the front of the bodice be too short at the same time.

So, my current plan is to throw out my first muslin and start the second one by first tracing a smaller size bodice.  Then, I'm going to actually measure my torso from my shoulder to my waistline going through my bust apex and measure paper pattern at the same point (something I should have done in the beginning) and add length to the bodice front pattern piece.  For the back, I'm going to attempt to get my husband to measure my back length.*** Then, I'll again measure the paper pattern piece and shorten it accordingly.  For now, I'm not going to mess with the skirt, just fit the bodice. Once I have a nice fitting bodice, I'll work on the skirt which I anticipate will need a swayback adjustment.


*Funny story:  my copy is signed twice!  I bought it from the Colette website so it came to me signed and then I got a chance to meet Sarai at a book signing/meetup in Oakland and she signed it for me in person

**And by pants I mean trousers, not underwear, although I've got a bunch of old t-shirts sitting in a pile, waiting for me to make underwear out of them

**As a scientist, you would think something as simple as taking a tape measure and determining the length of an object would be relatively easy for him, but as soon as you make that object a living thing, he gets confused (to be fair, he's a physicist, not a biologist, so living things confuse him--think of him as a cross between Sheldon and Leonard from Big Bang Theory).