Me-Made-May pledge and epiphany

Over the last few years, I have enjoyed reading Me-Made-May and Self-Stitched-September posts on my favorite sewing blogs. I never joined because my wardrobe always felt inadequate somehow. But this year, I am ready. And so here is my pledge:

I, Alexandra, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavor to wear at least one me-made item each day for the duration of May 2016. I will take pictures daily, weather permitting, and post them weekly on my blog. I am hoping to identify any wardrobe holes and then fix them.

On to the epiphany. I’ve been playing with polymer clay. Especially making bracelets. I’ve made a few. Here are two examples:


The problem I have with these bracelets is that they are lovely up close and on their own. But when I wear them, the pattern nearly disappears. All that work, and you can’t even see it. I didn’t quite get it for a while. Then I thought, hmm, maybe I could just do a solid color. Ugh, can you say boring? But today, lookee here, I figured it out:

Bold pattern - bracelet and earring set

I need a bold pattern. No thin lines. No tiny flowers. No fine mokume gane. Bold colors. Bold pattern. Maybe circles, maybe not. Today I went with circles. And you can definitely see the pattern on this bracelet when I wear it.

May 1

I am super excited and already have ideas for other pieces. The black and white will likely be a part of most designs. The main color will change to coordinate with wardrobe pieces.

See you soon!

SWAP wardrobe finished

Or perhaps a better title would be “The Unintentional SWAP Wardrobe”. I didn’t start out sewing a SWAP (Sewing With A Plan). In fact, I started out without much of a plan at all. I just needed clothes. So I made some. And then some more. And then more still. Until I had more than enough to call it a SWAP.

SWAP 2016 - 1

This year, the rules (on Stitcher’s Guild) called for sewing coordinating pods. I was really short on tops so my pods are one bottom and two tops, plus more tops in the combo pack.

SWAP 2016 - 2

By some miracle, I hit upon the combination of a denim skirt with a short-sleeved top when I was sewing the 6-PAC. It was instant love and I started envisioning a closetful of colorful denim skirts, printed and solid-colored tops, and a few cardigans. So I had, well, if not a plan, at least a vision.

SWAP 2016 - 3

The combo pack is two garments that coordinate with both Pod 1 and Pod 2. Above and below you can see how this worked for my pieces.

SWAP 2016 - 4

The wildcards could be just about anything but had to follow the pod rules. I stuck with one bottom and two tops. The black skirt works with every top and the multicolor print top works with both of the other skirts. I’m not keen on combining the silver top with the other two skirts, but it works well with either cardigan. I think it would look great with a white denim skirt and together they may form the basis of the next 6-PAC.

SWAP 2016 - 5

For an unplanned SWAP (ahem!), this is quite a lovely collection, if I say so myself. I’m super excited! I haven’t been this productive in at least a decade, and the joy sewing has brought me in the last two months defies description. These clothes are very comfortable to wear and they are very me. I love them.

Happy sewing!

Mini wardrobe finished

Yay, I have clothes to wear! The mini wardrobe is finished. I suppose it counts as a Spring 6-PAC. Or rather, with two skirts, four tops, and a cardigan, it’s more like a 7-PAC. Anyway, here come the pictures and details:

Four tops with black skirt

The tops are all prints I ordered last year from Michael Levine but by the time they arrived, I was back to sewing solid colors. And so they waited patiently until the time was right. I had actually started with Jalie 3352, the dolman top pattern, because I wanted cut-on cap sleeves. But the neckline was just too plain for me and I decided I wanted some drape in that area. Enter Burda 6695 – exactly what I had in mind. It’s an easy pattern that takes just under 2 hours from flat fabric to finished garment. (Probably less if you’re not fiddly with your hems and such.)

Four tops with red skirt

I made only a few alterations to the pattern: shortened the back and lowered the back neckline to account for my erect posture and low neck base, and shortened the hem 1″ all the way around. I left the front neckline as it was because 1. I didn’t want to fiddle with the complex-looking piece, and 2. it’s going to drape anyway. Once I made the first top, I knew I had a winner so I just kept cutting and sewing.

The fabric that is mostly red is a poly/lycra ITY jersey. I actually made two tops using it, same pattern. It’s comfortable and feels nice, if a little bit swimwear like. The other three prints are rayon/lycra jersey. I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under that I never knew about this fabulous material. It’s awesome! I’ll be ordering and sewing up more.


The skirts are my own frankenpattern of BWOF 3/02 #125. I copied the shape of the part below the waist, then brought it in a bit at the waist using a curved ruler and some guessing. I used the existing darts in the back and left the front plain. The waist is finished with elastic. I was going for the same concept as Pamela’s Magic Pencil Skirt, only without her pattern and without any tapering at the hem.

The skirt fabrics are both denim. The black denim is a cotton/lycra blend from JoAnn’s. It’s very comfortable but it does seat out a bit after spending an hour or so in the car. I don’t mind it much; it was a test version that turned out very wearable. The red denim is a cotton/poly/lycra blend from EmmaOneSock and it’s awesome! It has excellent recovery so no seating out. I have ordered more.

Back views

For the cardigan, I wanted to use Simplicity 1945 view A but when I compared it to the top pattern, it was clear that the batwing sleeves were just much too big. So more frankenpatterning ensued: I took the BWOF 3/02 #125 for the back and most of the front, then merged the waterfall part of Simplicity 1945 into it. I think it worked out quite well. In the next iteration, I will bring the shoulder seams closer to the neck by a half inch or so, to keep the neckline from feeling too wide.

The fabric for the cardigan is a lightweight wool jersey from Elfriede’s Fine Fabrics in Boulder, CO. It feels like forever since I visited it. The jersey is perfect for this cardigan – just the right weight and warmth.

Well, this is all I can remember right now. I have a bunch of other fabrics in the queue, just waiting to join this mini wardrobe in the closet. I’m really loving all the prints and the comfy skirts so there will be more of them. I’m thinking about making some solid tops with patterned skirts to see if that works just as well. If not, I’ll go back to printed tops and solid skirts. We’ll see.

Happy sewing!

Checking in

I’m still here and sewing. Only “here” is no longer in Germany, but in Oklahoma. (For now, anyway. We had barely gotten settled into our new home when we got news about our next assignment, coming up in less than six months now.) When the movers packed up and crated my sewing studio early last December, I missed my machines dearly. And since I unpacked and set up the studio at the end of February, I’ve been giving them a lot of love.

Mini wardrobe

Above is a peek at my work in progress – a mini wardrobe that might blossom into a full SWAP because spring is in full swing here and summer just around the corner. On the right side is a black denim skirt, then three tops in colorful prints, and on the left you can see another print for a top, red denim for a skirt (which has become a reality between when I took the picture this afternoon and now when I’m typing this), and black wool jersey for a cardigan. I’m expecting a few more fabrics before the end of this week that will work well in this wardrobe.

I just wanted to check in briefly so you all don’t think I fell off the face of the planet. More soon.

Happy sewing!

Rethinking the wardrobe plan

Earlier this summer, I decided that for at least the next year, I want to work only with certain colors, and only specific hue angles within those. Here they are:

Color wheel

I’ll be working with the colors where my Bright Winter palette and my custom palette from John Kitchener overlap.

Now the question is how to plan a wardrobe around these colors. In the past, whenever wardrobe planning came up, whether as a SWAP, 6-PAC, wardrobe capsule, or one of those minimal wardrobe concepts, the idea has been that everything should go with just about everything else. In other words, totally mix-and-match. I’ve worked with it many times, making plans complete with pictures and fabric selections. But I rarely finished any of these plans. And when I did, I ended up not wearing several of the pieces. So it’s time for a rethink.

I am not a mix-and-matcher. I have certain outfits I like and wear often. I’d like to have some variation, mostly in terms of color, but not so the whole outfit is different. I love bright colors but I don’t wear more than one bright color at a time, preferring instead to combine each with black, white, and/or gray. I’m also not big on separates. So let’s say the base of an outfit is a black dress. What I need is different colored collections of accessories that work with this dress. A red collection. A yellow one. A green one. You get the idea.

Yellow collection 1

The beginning of my yellow collection.

Right now I’m working on the yellow collection. It started in June when I ordered a custom hand-painted scarf in yellow and black, and some custom-dyed yellow fingering merino yarn as well. When I started working on yellow jewelry ideas, it turned out that glass beads are not quite right. So now I’m playing with polymer clay. I have made a pair of earrings, a set of two bracelets, and a matching necklace. The black and yellow Cameo shawl belongs in this collection too, and I am currently knitting a tweedy cardigan in black, gray, and yellow.

I have yarn in all of my selected colors, and fabrics in most of them. Polymer clay colors are easy enough to mix up to match just about anything. Over the next year, I’d like to get a reasonable start on each of the colors – a set of jewelry, a scarf, and a cardigan or shawl (or some other shoulder warmer). I’m going to give it a good try to see if this way of wardrobe building will get me further than the mix-all-match-all way.

Stay tuned for some colorful polymer clay news.

See you soon!

Summer FO catch-up

Yay, it’s September! August was a busy and fun month, with traveling, knitting, and enjoying having my husband back from deployment.

Let me catch you up on my finished objects. First, the green Viajante:

Green Viajante 2Green Viajante 6

This is my third Viajante (pattern link). I just love the pattern. I made this one a little shorter and narrower at the pointy side. Probably not enough for a casual observer to notice but it does make a difference in how fast it works up and yarn yardage. I used Regia fingering weight, same yarn I’d used in the red version so there were no surprises. The color is actually quite green but photographs blueish teal. I don’t know why.

Next came my first beaded knitting project. I’d been watching Laura Nelkin’s Knitting with Beads class on Craftsy (fun and totally worth the money) and wanted a simple project to bead. Enter Jeweled Cowl (pattern link):

Jeweled Cowl 1

This is a lovely pattern – a loop knitted in the round, long enough to go around the neck twice. The yarn is a heavenly blend of cashmere, silk, and merino wool, light as air. There are 594 beads total. If I were to make it again in this cobwebby yarn, I’d use smaller beads so they’d be lighter. As it is, the beads weigh as much as the yarn in this piece. Probably not the best ratio. It will get plenty of wear so we’ll see how it fares with all those beads.

And last but not least, my black and yellow Cameo (pattern link):

Black and yellow Cameo shawl 1

I’d been admiring other people’s Cameos for a while and I finally decided to make one. Super easy pattern, garter stitch knits up fast, the striped section keeps it interesting, and the lace section adds some pretty. I absolutely love it and so I was crushed when the black yarn bled onto the yellow lace section during washing, right before I blocked it. I got as much out as I could, but not all of it. Myrna recommended Synthrapol so I’ll try that. If that doesn’t work, I’ll probably reknit the yellow section with new yarn so it’s nice and bright, and then use Synthrapol from there on out.

OK, that’s all I have for today. Next time I’ll tell you about my new discovery – polymer clay.

See you soon!

Yellow Dawn shawlette

This was a quick knit. After the red Viajante, I really wanted another project on the needles. Knitting has been really soothing for me lately, and it makes for a very productive way to watch Craftsy classes. Probably movies too but I’m not much of a movie person.

Composite - Yellow Dawn shawlette

Over the last few weeks, I’ve developed a serious interest in shawls, wraps, shrugs, and similar knitted pieces, and have been adding all sorts of beautiful inspirational pictures to my favorites on Ravelry. I don’t know much about wearing shawls, how the different shapes work, and things like that. So I thought I’d experiment for a while. That means there will be more shawls, hehe.

This one is pretty simple, with a stockinette stitch body, an easy lace border along the curved edge, and a narrow lacey border along the straight edge. It’s knitted in one piece, side-to-side. The pattern is called From Dawn Till Dusk shawlette and it is available free on Ravelry. I used a sock yarn from my local yarn store. It’s Regia 4-ply, a blend of 75% wool and 25% nylon.

The yellow is quite bright. It will be perfect with a black dress. Now I just need a matching yellow bracelet and probably also earrings.

I have another Viajante on the needles. This time it’s green and I’m making some changes to it so that it’s shorter and also narrower at the bottom. We’ll see how that works.

See you soon!

Cropped polka dot cardigan

Oops, I completely spaced coming back here to tell you about the polka dot cardigan. Because I’ve been busy knitting and watching Craftsy classes. I even have a knitted FO for the next post. Which I will write right after this one so I won’t forget again.

Polka dot cardi

But back to the cardigan. It’s a refashion project. It started out as a nice, but really too long and rather shapeless cardigan from Lands’ End. I love the polka dots. The length is fixable. It was supposed to be part of my SWAP. Oh well.

Polka dot cardi - original

See what I mean? Too long. Bottom safety pin marks where I cut it off.

I cut off some 7″ from the bottom so that it would end at my natural waist. Any longer than this and I would have had to take it in at the sides. This way I could leave the side seams untouched. I hemmed it using 1″ foldover elastic in black. I had also auditioned a slightly narrower white one, but it made the polka dots look ivory in comparison so that was a no-go. I also cut off the ribbing from the sleeves and finished them with the same 1″ black foldover elastic. This gave the sleeves a nice 3/4-ish length. I used the regular straight stitch – surprisingly, it has plenty of give. It’s not needed but it’s good to know it’s there.

I’ve worn this cardigan quite a few times before the heat wave. It’s such a happy little shoulder warmer.

Next up, I have a yellow knitted shawlette to show you. See you then!

Dress with decorative seams

Have you guys watched the Craftsy class Decorative seams with Katrina Walker? It’s been sitting in my queue for a while and I finally watched it while knitting the red Viajante. Seriously, knitting and watching Craftsy is awesome! Anyway, I digress.

Dress with decorative seams

McCall’s 6355 – not easy to recognize like this, is it?

Katrina’s enthusiasm is totally contagious. I mean, I’m knitting and watching and in my mind, I see dresses with all sorts of piping and trim details that I could make. The pattern that comes with the class is Vogue 1329 – a Kay Unger number that looks great on quite a few sewing bloggers. I cut up the pattern sheets and ironed them, and then dithered about making a muslin. In the end, I decided to use my TNT dress pattern (McCall’s 6355) instead. I really just didn’t want to start from scratch. Which is kind of funny because the other day I read Beth’s blog post where she basically says for her, starting from scratch means drafting a new detail and it’s easier to take a new pattern and fit it. For me, it’s the other way around – I’ll hack my TNT pattern six ways to Sunday but if I have to start with a new pattern, well, let’s just say all kinds of stars would have to line up just so.

Vogue 1329

I used some leftover bias tape to see how these lines would look on me. My approach was very scientific, hehe, standing in front of the mirror in the red dress and pinning the bias tape until I thought it looked right. That was also when I figured out that the armholes would need the contrast trim because it just looked odd without it. Then I put it on the dressform to make it easy to take measurements and such. The pattern work is really simple – just the front yoke and what is essentially a princess line below the yoke on the left side. I also raised the neckline to get a better proportion for the yoke.

Dress idea

You can just barely make out the white trim pinned to the left armhole.

The fabric is black Sophia double knit from Vogue Fabrics and white Swiss 4-way stretch from Gorgeous Fabrics. The end result is quite sporty looking in my opinion. Totally not what I was expecting – it just didn’t look sporty in my head until I put it on when it was finished. I like that it works well as a summer dress – it doesn’t require a cardigan or anything to give it interest, the white trim does that job. I’m also going to try making the front yoke and the left front panel in a contrast color, like the pattern envelope shows.

And that’s all I have about this dress right now. Next up is a little cropped polka dot cardigan. See you soon!



Red Viajante

Yay, a new knitting project! I liked my gray Viajante so much I decided to make another one, this time in bright red. I think more might follow, in other beautiful colors.

Red Viajante

I used Regia 4-ply sock yarn. It’s 75% wool, 25% nylon. On size 6 (4mm) needles, it works up to a lovely drape. Sock yarn rocks!

At one point I had to unravelĀ  a bunch of rounds because I had started the mesh lace too late, with too little yarn left. Unraveling allowed me to have a nice wide border around the bottom.

Red Viajante - front 3

The whole thing takes just under 200g of yarn and knits up really easily. I mean, it’s mostly the knit stitch. You start with garter stitch, knitting back and forth. Then you join it in the round, and just knit knit knit (and increase/decrease as needed) until you’re done. It makes for perfect quiet evenings. And once I figured out I could watch my Craftsy classes while knitting, things got even more perfect. Creating and learning at the same time – win!

And that’s all I have right now. Next up, a dress. See you then!

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