Cardigan refashioned

As I had mentioned in one of the recent wardrobe posts, I had a red cardigan that needed a bit of refashioning. It was nice, I mean it’s cashmere and soft and feels lovely, but it was also kinda boring. Okay, really boring. You know, the kind of cardigan that looks perfect on a tall, classic, elegant woman. Which I am not. I am a yang gamine so that cardigan was not speaking to what John Kitchener calls my “high-spirited” essence. Ha! No problem. At least, it’s nothing that a good pair of scissors and some double fold bias tape couldn’t fix.

I present to you, my refashioned cardigan:

Before and after

It looks even better worn with a simple black dress and a jaunty scarf.

It started out life as a regular Land’s End cashmere cardigan. I took it in a total of 2″ at the waist, cut off the buttons, buttonholes, and bottom ribbing, and turned the neckline shape into a V (or is it Y?). The bias tape is cotton – the leftover Kona cotton from my husband’s quilt. I finally used the super-duper Clover bias tape tool that I bought years ago and now that I’ve seen what awesomeness it does, you can bet there will be other bias tape projects in the future.

See you soon!

Wardrobe from scratch – part 3

We left off having completed step 13, the second round of accessories, and had what looked like a reasonable wardrobe. I mean, I probably could have stopped there and done just fine. But there are more steps in Janice’s plan so let’s work through them.

Step 14 is leisure wear. In other words, clothes to wear at home. This is a good place to add some colorful pizzazz. I already have the two pairs of pants – one is a cotton woven wide-leg style, the other a stretchy knit yoga style. I’d need to make the two tops. In reality, I need a separate capsule for homewear so I will leave these out of the subsequent slides.

Step 14

In step 15 we’re adding a versatile dress, an accent cardigan, and a pair of shoes. Janice made them on the warm weather side, with sleeveless dresses and sandals. I already have a dress in this wardrobe plan and it’s a long-sleeved one so I’ll add a sleeveless one here. I was debating between a really neat black and white houndstooth and this solid black one. The black one won because I already own it. I really love the idea of a houndstooth dress though so it might make an appearance next year. We’ll see. No sandals for this fall/winter wardrobe. Instead, I’m bringing in my knee-high boots – they’ll see plenty of wear. Rounding out this selection is a red cardigan, which I already own. It will require a slight refashioning but it’s definitely serviceable.

Step 15

In step 16, Janice looked for a “core of four” in each of the neutrals – two tops and two bottoms that can make four outfits. I can do that with the black pieces. The gray capsule only has one bottom so I’m going to add another skirt here but not in gray. I won’t wear gray pants so there’s no use putting them here and the only skirts I wear are pencil style so adding another gray pencil skirt won’t lend this wardrobe further versatility. But a black and white houndstooth skirt would be perfect here.

Step 16a

I am also seriously short on white items so I’ll add a white sweater and a white cardigan. I don’t own any of these three items and will have to make them.

Step 16b

Below I included the three new pieces so the white section looks more in balance with the rest. It’s starting to look like a really large wardrobe but there are only 23 garments and that includes two coats.

Step 16c

This wardrobe is just about done so in step 17 we add some finishing touches. Let’s take another look at the garments in the picture above to see if there are any obvious holes. Janice is aiming at 24 pieces. I’m good with what I see, but will add a black leather skirt and a ribbed V-neck sweater because these two together were one of my favorite outfits last year. The black short-sleeved tee shirt looks like an anomaly here, among all the sweaters, but for now I’ll keep it. We’ll see how it works out in real life.

Step 17a

I have separated the clothes from the shoes and accessories to get a better idea of how things look. I think the wardrobe is looking pretty good now.

Step 17b

Step 17c

In step 18, Janice checked her wardrobe plans against her Common Wardrobe to ensure nothing was missing. The Common Wardrobe has too many pieces I wouldn’t wear so instead, I’m using this step as a reality check. First, there are two dresses and five cardigans I’d wear with them. It sounds like ten different outfits but in reality it’s only five different looks because the sleeves or lack thereof under the cardigan won’t make any difference. Depending on the weather outside, there will really be only one reasonable dress choice on any given day.

Then there are six bottoms and nine tops that work well with them. Each top goes with at least two bottoms so that’s another 18+ outfits. I also have the black T-shirt here but the chances of it being worn without a cardigan on top are practically nil. There is a bit of crossover between the two groups in that I might wear the pants and jeans with the white shirt or the black T-shirt and a cardigan, but we’ll see how realistic that is.

Step 18

So, pretty decent wardrobe plan, I’d say. I’m going to give it a try this fall/winter and see how I fare. There are a few pieces in this wardrobe that I will need to make or buy:

What to make and buy 2

Pretty cool, right?

See you soon!

Wardrobe from scratch – part 2

In the previous post, I left off at step 7, with enough garments and accessories to get through at least two weeks without completely repeating an outfit.

Step 7

I thought in this post I’d get through the rest of the steps but, umm… no. It will require at least one more post. It takes forever to find just the right picture, in just the right color, and just the right shape, to represent what I have in my wardrobe or want to add to it. Let’s just say that going through this exercise, I have gained a whole new appreciation for the work Janice does on The Vivienne Files.

Anyway, moving on to step 8, we’re going to add two tops and a necklace. I chose a light gray cashmere jewel neck and a darker gray cotton blend turtleneck, both of which I already own. The necklace is my peridot torsade.

Step 8a

Step 8b

In step 9, we add a skirt with a top and shoes. In Janice’s lineup, this is the first skirt and fairly formal and the blouse is on the formal side as well. As in, “important occasion”. I already have a formal-enough gray skirt in this wardrobe  and tops that work with it, so I’m going with polka dots and bright color. I’ll need to make both of these pieces (and my fall 6-PAC is starting to take shape). The shoes are a pair of Ecco maryjanes I already have.

Step 9a

Step 9b

In step 10, the idea is to up the casual factor in the wardrobe and so we add a casual jacket, top, and shoes. I already have a black parka and a pair of black Keds. I’ll have to make the sweater (probably knit rather than sew).

Step 10a

Step 10b

Step 11 is where we start adding personality to the wardrobe, although I think I might have started on that earlier with the polka dot skirt. Anyway, here we add a complete outfit – three pieces that work together. Some of Janice’s variations show a three-piece outfit, one shows three pieces that can be paired together in two different ways. I chose the latter and added a dress, a cardigan and a shawl. I wouldn’t wear the cardigan and the shawl together, but each works well with the dress. I already have the long-sleeved black dress and the green shawl. I’ll have to knit the cardigan.

Step 11a

Step 11b

In step 12, we’re looking for an attractive, versatile winter coat. My 12-year-old black coat is getting threadbare and will require replacement soon so I chose this red double-breasted one because I like the shape and the details. When I make it, the trim will be black to match the buttons and it may have a hood so it’s more practical in rainy/snowy weather. The boots are my existing Ecco, and I’ll knit a black or dark gray cowl to keep my neck warm.

Step 12a

Step 12b

Step 13 is round two of accessories. It calls for another handbag and because I don’t actually like to change handbags day-to-day, I chose to add a tote that already lives in my closet. It’s very useful for carrying larger items that don’t fit in the handbag. Then two pairs of earrings, a necklace, a brooch, and a bracelet. I’m not much of a bracelet person but I think I would wear this one. I already own the peridot earrings and the starburst brooch, and I’ll need to buy the red earrings and necklace, and the green bracelet.

Step 13a

Step 13b

It’s getting pretty crowded there but there are still a few more steps to go. I’m liking the look of this wardrobe very much, and especially the fact that I already have most of the pieces. My sewing and knitting plan is shaping up quite nicely (I’ll make the garments and purchase the jewelry). I’m sure I’ll have to add to it in the steps that follow, but here’s how it looks right now:

What to make and buy

How are your wardrobe and/or sewing plans coming along? Please share in the comments.

See you soon!

Wardrobe building from scratch

Janice over at The Vivienne Files has been posting awesome articles about wardrobe building for years. Her latest series, Starting from scratch, is pure genius, beautifully illustrated and with excellent explanations of what, why, and how. There’s also a very lively discussion related to her articles on the Stitcher’s Guild. I’ve been waiting every morning with bated breath to see what the next step brings. Last night, I decided to see how it would look in my own wardrobe and what I might need to sew this fall and winter.

The first step is a pair of dressy pants. I already have one. It will need to be replaced soon but for now, it will do.

Step 1

Step 2 is a versatile, comfortable pair of shoes. For me this would be my Ecco Kiev. I love them.

Step 2

Step 3 adds a cardigan and a tee shirt. I have these already.

Step 3

Step 4 adds jeans and a shirt. Jeans in the neutral color, which means I’d have to make them. So I’ll be on the lookout for some nice black denim. The shirt already lives in my closet.

Step 4

In step 5, we add accessories: handbag, earrings, watch, bracelet, necklace, scarf – whatever works. I’m not big on wearing bracelets so I didn’t put one here, opting for a necklace instead.

Step 5

Step 6 adds accent color tops (one each) and a scarf. I already have sweaters in these colors so I added them. Janice shows tops that can be worn under cardigans, which I might try in a future version of this. The scarf is also one I already have.

Step 6

In step 7 we add a top and bottom in the second neutral, and a pair of shoes. Janice shows a pair of pants but I prefer skirts so that’s what I chose. I would need to make this. For the gray top, I have a cardigan that will work well. Janice shows the shoes in the second neutral color but all my shoes are black and that’s not likely to change anytime soon, so I added a pair of Munro pumps I already own.

Step 7

Now we take a brief pause to see what outfit options we have and whether this is the direction in which we want to go. I put these together and I like them, although I don’t really like sleeves on sleeves so the white shirt with a cardigan is not my favorite option. I’m not sure if I want to rethink the white shirt or just not worry about wearing a cardigan with it.

Wardrobe building pause

And this is as far as I’ve gotten for now. Janice has plenty more steps and I’ll work through them in the next few days. I want to be ready with a good plan when the fall 6-PAC sew-along starts on the Stitcher’s Guild.

Are you following along with Janice’s posts and looking at your wardrobe with new eyes? Please share in the comments.

See you soon!

Finished: quilt for my husband

It’s finally done! I put the last stitch in the binding this afternoon.

Quilt - whole

The pattern is Big & Bold by Cozy Quilt Designs, and the fabrics are mostly from the Deep Sea collection by Timeless Treasures. I made the queen size, substituting a wide solid border for the two narrower ones in the pattern.

It’s been a fun project because 1) it’s for my husband, 2) I love the colors, and 3) it’s different from what I usually sew. That said, it will be a long time before I do another quilt this size again. This one is 95″ x 95″ and let me tell you, quilting it was epic. Seriously, E.P.I.C.! And I only quilted straight lines on the diagonal, 2″ apart.

Quilt - quilting pattern

Still, with half or more of the quilt rolled up and supported by my left shoulder, I had a heck of a time maneuvering the whole thing through the sewing machine. Yes, my regular sewing machine. If you’re thinking right now that I must be crazy, let me assure you, I thought that too several times during the quilting process. It did get a little easier once I figured out the logistics of it. After that, it was sheer determination, hehe.

There are more than a few areas with crooked or wavy stitching. I was going to fix them but my husband said not to worry, that he didn’t even notice. And really, who else is going to be close enough to his bed to examine the stitching on the quilt? I let it be.

Quilt - crooked quilting

I am seriously proud of the binding. First I had to look up in a quilting book how to do those corners when I sewed it on, but now I know. And I love how they turned out.

Quilt - corner 1

It’s quite a bit of hand-stitching to go around the whole quilt and it took almost the whole last week, sewing maybe an hour or so every day. It’s such peaceful work, too. Very enjoyable. It totally made up for the epic undertaking that was the quilting.

So, now that that’s done, maybe I can start working on some clothes.

See you soon!

Gray Viajante

I don’t have a whole lot of pictures but I wanted to share this project with you because it was fun and easy and I love how it turned out. There haven’t been any knitting projects here lately, boo!, but at the end of June I finally felt inspired to pick up my needles once again and spent a fabulous week of knitting this lovely shawl. I used Cascade Heritage in charcoal. It’s a 75% wool, 25% nylon blend in fingering weight, 437 yds/100g. Easy to knit, doesn’t split, and produces a soft drapey fabric. I am in love with this yarn.

Viajante 1Viajante 2

The original is much longer but when I looked through the finished projects on Ravelry, I didn’t like how it looked on people in that size. So I made mine shorter. I was going for roughly two feet on the short side so it would cover my shoulder but leave most of my arm exposed. That would give it a nice diagonal line across my body without overwhelming my smallish frame.

Viajante blocking

It really has an interesting shape, doesn’t it?

I used two skeins of yarn, with a few grams left over. I could have continued the lace mesh but it’s such piddly work that once I had what I figured was enough length in the mesh, I bound off. I wanted a nice stretchy bind-off and found a really cool one. It’s easy and goes quickly. I’ll be using it again.

Modifications: on the short side, I used a centered double decrease (sl2tog, k1, psso) – it looks much nicer and doesn’t ladder. I only decreased every five rounds to prevent it from becoming a long narrow piece. I don’t want a chimney on my neck. On the long side, I increased by knitting into the center stitch three times: knit through the front loop, place marker, knit through the back loop, and then through the front loop again. This does require that you take the marker off the needles completely in order to knit this stitch but after a few rows you find a rhythm and it’s easy.

*** Update: here are pictures of the increases and the centered double decreases.

Viajante - decreases

You can see I started out with the decrease specified in the pattern (on the left side of the picture), then switched to the centered double decrease about 15 rounds in.

Viajante - increases

Pretty increases, right? No laddering at all. And it’s so easy too.

See you soon!

Bright-colored dresses

Back in April I posted about my black and lime green theory. It involved a simple sleeveless dress and a coordinating collared cardigan. That was the hypothesis anyway. But the more I worked with the four pieces, the more I felt like something was a little off. It took a while to put a finger on it but I finally realized that I didn’t care that much for the open neckline on the dress when worn alone. So my second hypothesis was born: collared dress and collarless cardigan.

Front 2

I closed up the neckline just a bit from the really wide and deep tank top style, and added a foldover stand-up collar. This is really pretty easy – it’s right about 1.5″ finished so I measured the neckline and cut a 7″ strip on the crosswise grain to that measurement. The 7″ allows room for turn of the cloth and seam allowances. I actually made a paper pattern piece to make cutting out easier.

The pattern is my good old TNT McCall’s 6355. It had the length, side seam shape, and armholes already worked out so the neckline was the only alteration. After making the first one of these to test the neckline, I promptly made it again in two other colors so now I have it in lime green, bright kelly green, and turquoise.  I took all three on our trip to Florida and practically lived in them there. One piece dressing – it just doesn’t get any better.

Front 3

To stay warm in the arctic A/C, I carried a black cropped cardigan. I had originally planned to make a black collarless cardigan as part of this collection but I ran out of time before the trip. So the old RTW cardigan would have to do. It was perfect for my needs.

And a quick preview of the knitting project I had mentioned:
Viajante 1

I’ll save the word soup about it for when I have more pictures, should be in the next few days.

See you soon!



What a crazy busy three months! Between traveling, schoolwork, and some personal stuff, it’s been near impossible to keep up with blog reading, let alone writing. But things are settling down some and I can fill you in on the few projects I’ve managed in that time.

So, when we left off, I was on the first step of testing my black and lime green theory. The next step brought some changes to the dress pattern and then the fabric rainbow caught my eye and more dresses were born.

New dresses

I’ll go into the details in the next post but I think my black and lime green theory might be morphing into a black and bright color theory. We’ll see how it shakes out.

It’s always fun to travel with my in-laws because my mother-in-law quilts and knits so we visit any yarn and fabric stores in the vicinity. In Panama City, we visited Quilting by the Bay – totally fabulous. I was ready to move in :-) Anyway, in that store I finally found the perfect fabrics and pattern for a quilt for my husband. I’ve been promising him a quilt for several years now but we’ve never found the right fabrics. Well, the stars must have been aligned just so that day because the store sample was close to perfection. Of course, I couldn’t resist adding my own touch (of green, hehe). Here’s the top before adding the border:

Quilt for D - wip

It is now layered and ready for quilting. I can hardly wait to get it all finished. I might be farther along on that if it weren’t for a sudden urge to knit that gripped me last Sunday. So instead of quilting I’ve been knitting. I’ll show you when it’s finished.

See you soon!

Black and lime green: testing a theory

Between all the forum talk about outfits vs. uniforms, happy repeats during my Project 333 experiments,  and the takeaways from my recent Style Essence consultation, I’ve been developing a better idea of just what I want to sew and wear. And I think I found the right formula. A sleeveless dress and a coordinating collared cardigan. (I think the collar is important as it not only elevates the formality of the look, but also provides an opportunity to add color, like a built-in scarf.)

Composite - green dress

I made two sets: one in lime green, the other in black but with a contrasting collar and cuffs on the cardigan. All four pieces are from M6355, which by now is a TNT pattern for me. I used Sophia double knit for its ease of sewing, care, and wearing. No lining, no zippers. This is still a theory that needs to be tested, but if this really is THE formula for me, then future versions will likely be lined and possibly made in drapey wovens. And for cooler weather, the dresses might have sleeves. We’ll see.

Composite - black dress

Spring came early this year (or more like, winter never really got started here) so I expect to have a lot of opportunities to test my new uniform. In the pictures above, my absolute favorite combination is the green dress and black cardigan, so I think I will start with that and make a few more sets in the next few weeks, for more color options.

It’s funny, actually, because I expected to prefer the one with the green cardigan and black dress. Something about having a bright color on the bottom half of the body just didn’t seem right. But to my surprise, it looks good both in real life and in the pictures, so I’ll stick with it for now.

See you soon!

High-spirited classic romantic

Last year, I went through the exercises in the Triumph of Individual Style book and documented them here. I had learned quite a bit but there were things that I couldn’t quite put together. Kind of like puzzle pieces that don’t appear to fit anywhere until somebody shows you where and how.

So in January, I booked some time with John Kitchener of PSC. He offers what he calls a Style Essence consultation, which I figured would help me connect the dots. And it did.

According to John, my style essence is 30% high-spirited, 25% classic, and 25% romantic. These are my main three style drivers, and almost perfectly balanced. Together, they account for 80% of me, so we’re talking complete outfits that need to reflect this. The other 20% is equal parts dramatic and natural, but with such a small percentage, we’re looking at details rather than whole garments.

High-spirited in John’s system is the yang side of gamine, so playful and fun without getting into the cute and naive territory. I am currently expressing this by using bright color, like lime green, cherry red, or turquoise, worn in a large block (with black or gray). The more I incorporate bright colors into my daily wear, the happier I am. I plan to explore my high-spiritedness in choice of buttons and some details, like narrow trim at the edge. It is always visible in the form of my haircut (short pixie). I call this part of me cheerful.

Classic is smack-dab in the middle, a perfect balance of yin and yang. It is visible in the neutrals I choose, the smooth-faced luxurious fabrics, clean lines, and simple symmetrical shapes. Classic, elegant footwear is an expression of this side of me as well. I call it polished.

Romantic adds yin. For me, this means fabrics on the drapey side of the spectrum, waist definition, skirts and dresses rather than pants when possible, and soft, rounded details (shawl collar, waterfall neckline, etc). I call it feminine.

It is this last bit, the romantic/feminine, that I couldn’t quite place even though it was staring me right in the face. I could see in pictures that some things just worked but could not figure out why. Now I know. Funny how the real me came out in what I wore even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it.

Front view 1

The above picture shows the shape and proportions that I think are correct for the polished and feminine elements. The skirt is an old self-drafted TNT, the cardigan is new. It’s missing the cheerful element because I didn’t have the right color fabric, but it serves well as a wearable prototype. I have two more cardigans almost completed (need buttons and buttonholes) that bring in the cheerful bit. I will show you those next time.

See you soon!

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