Christmas Crafting: The Rest of the Gifts

Do you ever get in a weird sewing funk where nothing feels right, and you end up undoing more than you actually do? Ugh, I am completely bogged down in just such a funk, and I haven’t finished one single sewing project yet this year! Between yesterday and today, I think I unraveled the sweater I’m knitting at least three times, and am having to hold myself back from undoing it a fourth time. Last week, I literally hemmed the same sleeve about half a dozen times before I finally let it go. Seriously, what is going on????

So, good thing I have a ton of back-logged projects to blog about :P. Of course, having utterly lost my sew-jo, I’ve also mostly lost the desire to write about sewing, hence my lack of posts this week. So much for blogging twice a week in 2015! Hopefully it’ll get better…

Anyhow, today I’m just gonna dump the rest of my handmade Christmas gifts on y’all, and hope you’ll forgive me for the information overload. As I mentioned before, I decided to make most of my Christmas gifts this year, since I wanted to save money and I happened to have a lot of time on my hands. I managed to start early enough (before Thanksgiving!) that I actually didn’t get very stressed about it, and really enjoyed the process. So, here it goes!

Tea Wallets

A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a tea wallet as a gift, and it dawned on me this year that that would be the perfect gift to make, as I have a huge quilting cotton stash and lots of tea-loving friends! I used this tutorial to sew up a whole bunch, and gave them to friends, sisters, and my mom!

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(Recognize the fabric? ;))

Knitted Hats

This was the Christmas of knitted hats. I discovered that they’re the perfect yarn stash buster for all those single balls I had left from various sweater projects, and just went to town! First, I made a baby hat for one of my sisters-in-law, who is expecting her first child soon. I used this pattern, and knitted up the whole thing on Thanksgiving day while visiting family! And yes, I was the gal at Walmart who knitted while waiting in the pre-Black-Friday sales line while the boys shopped for electronics :P.

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When I was home in November, my sister had strongly suggested that she might like a hat for Christmas, so of course I got right on that! I used this fantastic free pattern to create a fun cabled hat that I thought would match her winter coat nicely. Since she is quite petite, I left off a full pattern repeat in addition to shortening each cable to mine rows instead of ten. It fits her great!

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I had a hard time figuring out what to give my dad, but I finally settled on a hat for him as well. Since I was in a cabling state of mind, I went with this pattern (also free!), knitted up in a reasonably masculine brown wool/acrylic blend.

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Lacey Mitts

For my other sister and my mom, I wanted to make them something fun and elegant (initially, I was going to do this for the above mentioned sister, but since she specifically requested a hat, I changed my plans!). I have a thing for fingerless gloves, so when Andi Satterlund’s Piperita pattern came out, I gobbled it right up! I love knitting lace, and they were a very satisfying make.

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Niece/Nephew Sewing

This year, I decided to go all out and make niece and nephew gifts! I inherited several little ‘uns thanks to my husband’s highly productive family, all of which actually live in CA, so I’ve had the chance to get to know them a bit these past few months! For my niece who is seven months old (now more like eight), I made baby leggings. I forgot to get a picture, but they turned out pretty cute, and got a lot of wear over New Years!

For my older niece and nephew, I made raglan tees. This was my first foray into sewing for kids, and it was a blast! I love how I was able to use scraps too small for adult clothes, which just serves to encourage my hoarding tendencies. Oops. 😛 Anyhow, the pattern I used was the Recess Raglan Tee by See Kate Sew. I appreciated the different styling options, and tried to personalize each tee so the kids didn’t feel like they each got the “same thing.” My nephew was wearing his last time I saw them, so I think it was a success!

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Stocking Ornaments

Last one, I promise! While staying with my family over Christmas, I realized I wanted to take some kind of small, token gift to my in-laws when we visited for New Years. They’re not big gift people, but I felt strange at the thought of showing up empty-handed. So a day or two after Christmas, I borrowed my mom’s machine and stole some of her quilting stash to make some crazy quilt ornaments! I just winged the design based on some Pinterest finds – it was super easy! In a nutshell, I strip-pieced several crazy quilt panels, used a template to cut two mirror-image stockings from each, and layered some batting in between. Now I kind of want to get back into quilting….uh-oh!

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If you made it this far, congratulations! And thanks for reading :). I’m sure I won’t make nearly this much every Christmas, but this year it was fun!

How about you – did you make gifts, or reserve your precious holiday free time for personal projects?

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Christmas Sewing, Hubby Edition

This year I decided to make the majority of my Christmas gifts, and since I’m no longer tied down to a full-time job, I mostly succeeded! My biggest reason for giving handmade gifts was actually to save money – since I’m not working as much this year, I thought it would be nice to use the extra time I have at home to avoid shopping as much as possible. I’ll be sharing the majority of my Christmas makes in another post, but today I wanted to focus on my gift to my husband. Unlike his birthday pants, these actually got done on time. In fact, I even had a week or so to spare! HA!

So, what did I make? I chose another Thread Theory design – you really can’t lose with them! – and made the Newcastle Cardigan. I had actually promised him the cardigan back in September, when I purchased the fabric for it, so I admit that turning it into his Christmas gift was sort of cheating. But, hey, it got me to finally sit down and make it!

The fabric is a pretty awesome double-sided knit from Mood Fabrics. One side looks almost like a rib knit, with thin, contrasting stripes running vertically down the fabric. The other side was a slightly darker shade of brown than the first side. I took advantage of this fun detail by making the main body of the cardigan out of the stripes, and the collar, cuffs, and button placket out of the darker side.

Fit-wise, this was a bit of an adventure. I’d never made anything for my hubby’s upper half before, so his “fit issues” came as something of a surprise! For some reason, I had been thinking, “well, he’s a man, so it’ll just fit right out of the envelope, RIGHT??” Wrong!!! His chest measured a size medium, so I started by cutting a medium. However, when I had him try it on after attaching the sleeves, the shoulders were WAY too big! Turns out my man has a very narrow upper back, which I never would have guessed. Since I didn’t feel like re-tracing my pattern pieces grading from an XS at the shoulders to a medium at the chest, I just shaved off 3/8″ at the armhole seam, which seemed to take care of it. Next time I make it, I’ll probably try doing it the “correct” way, but for now, it works!

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I think it’s rather snazzy on him :). In fact, he’s gotten compliments on both the cardigan and the pants. Not too shabby!

The buttons were fun to pick out. I actually managed to drag my husband to the fabric store to get them. (Obviously, I did not try to keep this gift a surprise :P) Since he has excellent taste and is somewhat picky about what he wears, I thought it would be best to let him select the details. He picked out German coin buttons, which I initially thought weren’t the best idea, but after sewing them on, he clearly made the right choice!

Button detail:

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Anyhow, this was a super fun project to make, and I hope to make many more in the future!

LBD Moneta to the Rescue!

It’s full-on holiday season right now, my fiends! And you know what that means – parties, concerts, and sooo many other special events that require the perfect dress. After wearing a RTW dress to my husband’s holiday office party last year, I swore to myself that this year I would sew my own. And in spite of some near-disasters, I succeeded!

I started out really wanting to make the Colette Dahlia dress as my holiday dress for the season, and had found the perfect bronze/black damask while in PA during my recent travels. However, the fabric turned out to be horrifyingly of grain (I guess that’s what you get for $4/yard…oops…), which then created all kinds of weird fit/drape issues with the raglan sleeves. At that point, it was four days before the annual office party, and I had nothing but a hot mess on my hands! Agh!!

I went to bed that night with my mind racing through ideas of alternate dresses. I was working full-time hours that week, so I had no time to fabric shop or anything. At the eleventh hour, I remembered a black Telio ponte that I had purchased at Eddie’s Quilting Bee several months ago, and realized it would make the perfect LDB. Although I had hoped to turn it into pants, this was an emergency, so I figured it was worth the sacrifice!

For the pattern, I turned to my TNT knit dress, the Colette Moneta Dress. I didn’t have time for any more fit surprises! I changed things up this time, though, by swapping out the gathered skirt for the circle skirt from the Lady Skater Dress, another favorite. I also added a total of 12″ to the bottom circumference of the skirt by slashing and spreading the pattern – I thought a little more fullness would make the dress just a tad more “special occasion-y”. The result?

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YAHSSSS

Ok, I promise I’m not high in that pic – the company was giving out rainbow sunglasses as party favors. I’m soooooo glad I ended up with this dress for the office party – it was the perfect combo of comfortable, flirty, and semi-formal, and I felt great the whole time. Oh, and another major plus – even after eating all the yummy food there, it was still comfy. Major win!

Here are a few outdoor pics so you get a better idea:

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Note about the photos – I took them myself! With my new tripod! HA! I’ve been determined to take better blog photos, and I think going outdoors helps a lot. And now I don’t have to drag my husband! (Granted, I know I still have a ways to go photography-wise, but it’s a start!)

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This is quickly becoming my go-to “dressy dress” this season. I went to see the Nutcracker at the San Francisco Ballet yesterday, and once again this was the perfect dress! I was especially glad I wore it when I had to walk back in the rain – it’s nice, sturdy fabric that I don’t have to worry about in bad weather.

I’m so glad I pressed on in the midst of failure, because now I have the perfect LBD. Huzzah!

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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. VoilĂ !

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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!

Home Sewing: The Adventure Begins

I am incredibly excited to announce that today’s post is brought to you not only by ready-to-wear clothes, but also by my sewing machine and local fabric store! My sewing machine, which had lain dormant at my parents’ house in PA since my undergraduate years, made the trip to Boston with me, and it has been my recent mission to revive my high school sewing skills. A few weeks ago, I discovered a fantastic fabric store right around the corner from the Ballet School, and was instantly inspired to sew again. In fact, I’m making another trip to Grey’s Fabric and Notions as I type! (Thanks to public transportation, I can multitask while travel!)

My latest project was a knit top. I didn’t really have any experience sewing with knits, even from way-back-when, so I was a little intimidated. However, after a great deal of internet research and q&a texts with my mom (an expert seamstress), I took the plunge, and here is the result:

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Pants: Banana Republic (they’re a beautiful aubergine corduroy, but you can’t tell from the lighting), Boots: Clark’s, Top: handmade, “Renfrew” pattern from Sewaholic

The pattern, by Tasia at Sewaholic, is perfect for the knits newcomer, and it was a breeze to sew. Took me two days, start to finish, which is why I need more fabric now! I’m super happy with the results. What do y’all think?

P.S. Any comments on the photo location? I know the lighting isn’t great…