Let the Holidays Begin!

I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that we’re already in the post-Thanksgiving holiday stretch…but we are! I experienced several “firsts” this Thanksgiving – I spent my first major holiday away from home, visiting the in-laws instead, and saw my first Boston Ballet Nutcracker last night! I had a lovely time getting to know my “new” family even better (which involved assisting with the production of eight pies – eight!!), and the ballet was absolutely breathtaking.

Boston Ballet is doing their second run this year of new choreography by the artistic director, Mikko Nissinen, and it is definitely worth seeing. Last night was opening night, so there are still plenty of performances left – go see it!! Highlights include a dancing bear and a ridiculously challenging male variation in the Trepak (Russian dance). I especially loved the mouse/soldier fight scene – it was very clever and entertaining, and provided and fresh and humorous take on the story. Have you bought your tickets yet???

As a part of my job at the Boston Ballet School, I came in this morning to play for the students’ warm-up class in preparation for today’s performances. While working the Saturday after Thanksgiving is a bit of a pain, I love that I get to be a part of the performance process. And, of course, I wanted to dress comfortably! Here’s what I came up with:

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Top: handmade “Renfrew” top by Sewaholic, Pants: Banana Republic, Cardigan: handmade from a pattern off the Lion Brand Yarn website, Boots: Clark’s

Super comfy, almost like wearing pjs! I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but the pants are an aubergine corduroy – I thought this would be a good matching solution for this challengingly-colored top. I made the sweater ages ago and thought I would never wear it, but it’s been getting a lot of use lately since it’s super warm! I got the pattern from the Lion Brand Yarn website when I was in grad school, and it’s made of Lion Brand Homespun yarn. Very easy and quick to knit.

So, welcome to the holidays, y’all!

Attack of the Frankenpattern + Meet my new sewing friend!

This weekend was full of new experiments! I cooked up my first “Frankenpattern” (i.e. a combo of two or more different patterns) in my “lab” – a combo of the Lady Skater Dress and the cowl version of the Renfrew Top. I love both patterns, and when Sarah at Grey’s Fabric and Notions told me about this particular combination, I knew I had to try it. Voilà!

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Dress: handmade “Lady Skater Dress” by Kitschy Coo with cowl from the “Renfrew” by Sewaholic, Tights: Anthropologie, Belt: Ann Taylor, Boots: Clark’s

I love many things about this dress – it’s warm (thanks to the cowl and longer sleeves and skirt) and it was super easy to make! I didn’t have to make any alterations to add the cowl – I literally just cut the whole Lady Skater pattern minus the neckband and cut the Renfrew cowl instead. Of course, I sewed both shoulder at the same time, since I wasn’t adding the neckband piece. One note – I did match the shoulder seam notch on the cowl pattern to the shoulder seams of the dress, which meant stretching the cowl a little through the back. I did this to take in extra fullness through the back neckline – usually, the neckband takes care of that part, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t have a gaping neck in the back. Not bad for my first Frankenpattern!

My second big experiment this weekend was – drumroll please – my new serger!!

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Meet the Pfaff Hobbylock 2.0, purchased at Grey’s over the weekend. I was timid about making such a big investment, but it’s already paying off! Since I sew soooo many knits, I knew I probably needed a serger, so I took the plunge. And I love it! Of course, it’s taken some getting used to, and there was a lot of frustration at the beginning – the first thing to happen when I got it home was that the threads broke and I had to re-thread the whole thing – agh!! But I learned a ton from my initial disasters, and now my serger and I are becoming fast friends. One thing that helped a lot – it turns out my mom is a Pfaff serger expert! Yes, really. She used to teach serger classes at her local fabric store before they closed. So after a frustrating first attempt at a garment (which I will show you later, after I’ve recovered from that trauma…), I got a private serger lesson via Skype. Totally awesome!

So, my new dress was also made on the serger. It was super fast and not nearly as intimidating as I has feared!

One other comment before I leave – Grey’s Fabric and Notions is pretty much my favorite place in the world. If you live in Boston, or near Boston, and need fabric, sewing machines, or anything sewing related, I highly recommend them! They have a wonderful fabric selection and the staff are suuuper helpful and knowledgable. Enjoy!

All the Rage

Several months ago while on a shopping/research excursion with my mom, it dawned on both of us that peplum tops are pretty much the “in thing” right now. We thought the fad probably wouldn’t stick, so I figured I didn’t want to invest in a style that might not last long. However, many months later I’m still seeing them everywhere! I always thought they were cute, so I decided I wanted to join in.

And you know from a few posts ago that the Lady Skater Dress is the “in thing” in the sewing world right now. Taking things a step further, Lady Skater Modifications are super “in,” too. So, peplum top + Lady Skater Dress + modifications = all the rage – amiright??

Anyhow, I’ll cut to the chase. I used Amanda’s Lady Skater Peplum Tutorial to make my own peplum top, using the Peplum 3.0 skirt mod. Le voilà:

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Top: handmade “Lady Skater Dress” peplum top by Kitshy Coo, Pants and Belt: Banana Republic, Boots: Clark’s, Cardigan: LOFT

This is another wearable muslin, made from the scraps of my first Renfrew top. It’s kind of amazing how little fabric this takes! Of course, I didn’t have enough fabric for long sleeves, so I’m wearing short sleeves when it’s 40 degrees out (oops…), but it was a good pattern test. I think for my next one I’ll make the bodice and skirt an inch longer each – what do you think?

Since the fabric I used doesn’t have a ton of stretch, I shortened the armband pieces by an inch on the sleeves to keep their shape. I probably should have done that for the neckline, too, but didn’t remember at the time. I’m also still trying to decide if I like the size I used for the sleeves – I’ve been making a size 3 top, but I’m wondering about a size 2 armhole and size 3 everything-else. More experiments to come!

Blast from the Past

I probably should have saved this post for tomorrow since apparently “throwback Thursday” is a thing, but I couldn’t think of anything else to wear, so here we are. I made one of the pieces of this outfit while I was in grad school several years ago – can you guess which??

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Dress: Banana Republic, Sweater: handmade “Autumn Rose Pullover” by Eunny Jang, Tights: Savers, Boots: Clark’s

If you guessed the sweater, you were right! I still kind of can’t believe I was crazy enough to make this. It was knitted on size 0, 1, and 2 needles – so, basically, toothpicks – and I was changing colors literally every few stitches. When I described the process to my husband this morning, his response was, “oh, so that’s why you didn’t date in grad school!” Ha, very funny, sweetie :P.

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It took me about a year to make, but I’m super proud of it. And, of course, now that I’ve been remembering the process of making it, I want to do another crazy colorwork project. It was a ton of fun!

One other comment about today’s outfit: my tights are lined with fleece. This is pretty much a dream come true for me, since I love wearing skirts and dresses but HATE having cold legs. I found these while on a discount shopping spree with my mother-in-law in NH. They’re made by a company called “Leg Impressions.” I want one in every color…

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If at First You Don’t Succeed…

So you know how I keep complaining that it’s winter here? Well, today it’s spring :P. Seriously – 65 degrees and humid. I didn’t even have to wear a coat this morning. So weird! Not that I mind; I got to pull out one of my spring skirts! Yay for denial…

Since I’ve been in such a sewing frenzy, I managed to complete yet another project this weekend. I had enough fabric leftover after the dress to make a top. However, I already have two grey knit tops – one long-sleeved and one sleeveless – so I wanted to make sure this one was different enough to justify making it. I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out a new pattern and use this as a “wearable muslin” (i.e. an experiment that hopefully works out well enough to wear). The pattern I tried out was the Côte d’Azur top pattern by Hot Patterns. This was my first pattern from that company, and I had read variable reviews about the fit of their garment, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out. Here’s the result:

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Top: handmade “Côte d’Azur top” by Hot Patterns, Skirt and Tights: Anthropologie, Cardigan: LOFT, Boots: Clark’s

Yes, those are yellow stockings….I keep trying to come up with a clever Twelfth Night reference about them, but so far have come up dry. Anyhow, I’m very glad I made a muslin of the top! Not because it fit poorly – the fit is actually great – but because I made a stupidly obvious mistake that almost ruined it! I did the front gathers wrong – I misread where the gathers end, and ended up gathering way too much. I then tried to make some alterations to fix what I thought was a fit problem, which involved me cutting the fabric, so that when I finally figured out what I did wrong I couldn’t go back and do it the right way. Argh! I managed to make it work, though. The hem is kind of wonky, but when it’s tucked in you don’t even notice it. I really like the finished product, so I can’t wait to make it again *correctly*! I think I want to make a dress version of it for spring…real spring, not this faux get-your-hopes-up-but-it’s-actually-winter spring 😛

Skating Time!

Sadly I haven’t gone ice skating yet this year, but whenever I do I’ll have the perfect dress – my new Lady Skater Dress by Amanda from Kitshy Coo. This pattern came out in June, and I’ve been reading so much praise for the dress from other bloggers that I had to try it! And it does not disappoint – this is definitely my favorite dress pattern so far, and I plan to make many, many more!

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Dress: Lady Skater Dress by Kitschy Coo, Belt: Ann Taylor, Tights: Banana Republic, Boots: Clark’s

I’m really liking the fit, but I did end up having to make one alteration – I shortened the top by about 2.5″. When I put together the dress with the top as-is, my prominent tummy and bum were, yet again, a problem…grr! But I quickly realized that raising the skirt up would allow the fullness in the skirt (a nice, swishy partial circle) to cover up those problem areas. So, after a little seam ripping and cutting, the problem was fixed!

I’m starting to develop a new understanding of and appreciation for my body shape now that I am sewing more. I’m getting a better sense of which patterns works for my shape and which don’t. And just because a particular cut isn’t flattering doesn’t mean I’m “fat”! It just means I need to make a change or two (or maybe look for a different pattern). This is helping me find a healthier, more realistic way to think about my body. And now I realize why I love high waists and full skirts so much!

Stuck on Repeat…

I know I just wore this skirt two posts ago, but I have several good reasons!

1. It’s warm
2. It’s comfortable
3. I’m (hopefully) going to the fabric store today on my break, so I can show it off!

And everything else I’m wearing is different, I promise…

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Top: Banana Republic, Sweater: LOFT, Skirt: handmade “Chardon” by Deer and Doe, Tights: Gap, Boots: Clark’s

Another thing that has been “stuck on repeat” in my life is my sewing/crafting. I’m becoming more and more obsessive about it, to the point that it’s starting to feel a little out of control. So, a new goal of mine is to find balance in my sewing “habit.” I’m also curious to know – how do others create balance with this sort of thing? Do you have a serious hobby (not necessarily craft related – anything) that you find yourself struggling to keep in balance? How do you do it? I would love to hear other people’s stories!

The Battle Begins…

…in my long and arduous war with winter. Yes, I know it’s technically still fall, but with temperatures remaining stubbornly in the 30’s today, it sure doesn’t feel like it anymore. Plus I’ve heard Bostonians referring to this season as “winter” for about a week now, so I think I’m allowed. From now on, my only wardrobe goal is warmth. I don’t even care if it’s cute anymore – anything to keep my ears from feeling like they’re about to freeze off!

With that in mind, I bring you today’s look:

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Top: handmade “Renfrew” from Sewaholic, Blazer: Ann Taylor, Pants: LOFT, Boots: Clark’s

Not my most exciting outfit, but it does meet my current criterion! The top is a thick cotton that stays nice and warm, the blazer is 100% wool, and I’m wearing long underwear under those pants. The blazer is one of my favorite winter wardrobe items – it’s made from a fine knit, so it actually serves as both a sweater and a business-y jacket. Win!

Let the battle begin!

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Flannel to the Rescue!

It just keeps getting colder here in Boston!! So this week, instead of sewing more knit-fabric garments, I finally came to terms with the dropping temperature and decided to sew a flannel skirt. I made another Chardon Skirt with one of the beautiful cotton flannels that recently found its way onto the shelves of Grey’s Fabric and Notions. I have to confess, as much fun as I’ve been having sewing with knits, it was a nice change to sew with a heftier, more stable fabric that doesn’t change shape on you every few seconds!

The finished product is nice and warm, and was also super quick! I didn’t line this one, so it only took me one cutting session and two sewing sessions to complete (to compare, my first Chardon took me almost a month!). Oh, and did I mention it has *pockets*? Here it is in today’s outfit:

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Top: Banana Republic, Jacket: Anthropologie, Skirt: handmade “Chardon Skirt” by Deer and Doe, Leggings: Banana Republic, Boots: Clark’s

And without the jacket, so you can see the pleating and belt loops:

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And lastly, at only $10 a yard, this skirt cost me under $30 – compare with this similar skirt from a high-end retailer that’s over $100. I’ll take that!

Winter is Coming!

Sorry, I couldn’t resist a little Game of Thrones reference, since today’s post is about preparing for the cold. One thing I realized when I moved to Boston was that I really needed to find a proper scarf! Since I’m a knitter, though, I felt guilty just buying one when I could make it, which inspired my latest knitting creations – two cowl-neck “scarves”. I chose cowl necks because they will keep my neck and chest warm without adding extra bulk under a jacket or coat. Also, my mom got me the patterns as a gift, so I had to try them out! Here they are:

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Pattern: Shawl Collared Cowl by Alana Dakos, Yarn: “Homespun” by Lion Brand (color is “Edwardian”), Buttons: from Bead + Fiber, my local yarn and bead shop

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Pattern: Zuzu’s Petals by Carina Spencer, Yarn: merino wool from Dirty Water Dye Works, a local yarn maker, also purchased at Bead + Fiber

I love both of them, and usually end up wearing one of them pretty much every day. In fact, yesterday was warm enough that I just wore the cowl without a coat!

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I know that colder days are coming, but I think I’m ready!