Sunday, May 21, 2017

Selfish Sewing: Three Grainline Tees.

With Me-Made-May upon us once again, I am participating but struggling a bit because I barely sewed for myself at all last year, so most of my me mades are more or less in tatters. One of the purposes of Me Made May is to reveals serious holes in your sewn wardrobe. Well, that's easy for me! I need everything! Ha!

Okay, realistically, I need more blouses to wear under suits, and I need more simple t-shirts.

At the beginning of May, I started scribbling out some plans for selfish sewing, and I've made some progress with those plans, although never as much as I'd like! My plans included several new tops, including some knit tops, all in creams, to help beef up my me-made wardrobe. Thus we meet here, with a (not all that exciting) blog post to share some very neutral t-shirts!

The first t-shirt is a Grainline Hemlock Tee with short sleeves, using a burnout ivory stripe from Stonemountain. This fabric has been in my stash since last summer, yay stash busting!

In addition to the obvious short sleeves, I did a little split hem on this one, following the idea of this tutorial, but with some obvious differences in hem-distance.

This is my third (?) Hemlock tee, and I really love this (free!) pattern. In my experience, Hemlock Tees look great untucked or tucked into a skirt for work. I do always take off a significant amount of length in the body, but I am in love with the neckline (even though it sometimes slides to show bra strap). There's not much to say about this pattern, except that it's dope! Try it out!

Next up, two Grainline Lark Tees! Two V-NECK Lark Tees, actually! I decided to tackle the dreaded v-neck, finally! This was my first time sewing a v-neck t-shirt.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Do not try to do a v-neck for the first time on a striped knit, especially a drapey rayon one like this with tiny stripes as well as normal stripes. BAD IDEA. I had to cut off my first v-neck and try again with a new neckline and even so, it's a tiny bit wonky, which you can see if you zoom in above. But, luckily, not terrible in a normal wearing environment.

This is another Stonemountain fabric, one of those really lovely but really difficult and shifty fabrics. Another problem with v-necks - the Lark tee instructions have you sew the v-neck with your sewing machine. But this is exactly the kid of fluid, grabby, shifty fabric that my sewing machine hates most of all and basically devours. It was pretty impossible. I ended up serging the neckline despite the lack of precision and it's a freaking miracle that I didn't totally butcher it, but the sewing machine was also no bueno.

Which brings us to Lark V-Neck Tee, take two, in a really lovely ivory organic cotton/lycra from Stonemountain. This one has cropped sleeves, perfect for a hot day in the garden. I didn't think I liked cropped sleeves until I made the Lark last year, but this is a GREAT sleeve. 

I thought, after the stripey version, that V-Necks in a solid color - well, that was going to be no problem. Obviously it was the stripes that made it difficult, right? Um. Well, let's just say it also took two tries for this neckline, and it's noticeably lower than the one above because I had to cut off more and improvise a new neckband piece. And the final version is still visibly wonky if you zoom in. UGH!

I've concluded that v-necks are legit hard.

Somehow, this does not reduce my desire for more v-neck Lark tees, though! I am totally feeling the v-neck right now. It's casual and relaxed in exactly the right way, and shows off my necklaces perfectly! I suppose this might be a skill I can develop with practice, right? I mean, there was a time when any knit neckline had me terrified! I can do this. Eventually. Maybe.

Also seen here, my Moji Pants, which I had to literally cut off my leg last summer when I broke my foot (think swollen leg in plaster cast, moji pants digging into said swollen, tender appendage; it had to come off). The shredded, ripped open pants sat in my "to-mend" pile for a year. I was convinced they were toast. I think the fact that they had felt so tight when I had to cut them off made me think they would definitely be too tight when I sewed them back together. With Me-Made-May, I was inspired to tackle my mending pile and simply sewed them back together with scant seam allowances, as best I could. And they are fine! Thank goodness, my normal ankle circumference is less than broken foot proportions, and you'd never even know the difference. Also, thank you past, injured, reasonably stressed out Inder for using a seam ripper to cut the pants off rather than the giant shears. Excellent mending win!

Have you been sewing things for yourself this month, just to provide something to clothe yourself with? Dish!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Crocheted Spring Wreath.

(Sorry if you saw this come up briefly in your feed in draft form! I hit "publish" instead of "save" by mistake!)

Sometimes you just have to drop everything and crochet a big pile of flowers, ya know?

I have a subscription to Mollie Makes magazine, and follow their blog and Instagram feed. It's a British crafty magazine with a fun, retro-inspired, colorful aesthetic, which I discovered through their excellent books (crochet, patchwork, embroidery). Each magazine comes with a little kit that you can make, and there are often softies and other kid-oriented projects. Maggie enjoys looking through each new issue as much as I do! It was because of Mollie Makes that I discovered and started following Crochet by Red Agape's blog and instafeed as well.

In late March, Mollie Makes and Crochet by Red Agape released, day by day, free patterns for the flowers to make this crocheted spring wreath. Each pattern was only available for download for 24 hours. After six days, if you kept up, you would have everything you needed to make the whole wreath.

This came at the perfect time for me. Work was seriously stressful there for a couple months. I do realize that being a lawyer is an intrinsically high-conflict job, but that's why I became a transactional lawyer, right? I am a peacemaker and compromise-broker at heart, and when the conflict and negativity gets really intense (as does happen sometimes in local government!), it gets me down! I needed a fun distraction. After making mini-wardrobes for the kids, I was feeling a bit burned out on garment sewing. Crocheting keeps my hands occupied while watching television and relaxing, and these flowers are very portable and quick to finish. The wreath is one of those lovely, campy, fun things that serves absolutely no practical purpose and is therefore the perfect antidote to a stressful month!

Each day of the series, I looked forward to reading the next blog installment and downloading my pattern. I went to Michael's and stocked up on cheap Lily Sugar & Cream yarn. This is a chunkier yarn than what is recommended for this pattern, and gave my flowers an especially chunky, homely look, but it worked. I had to vary the colors a little but that was actually fun. It does tend to snag and split a lot while you're working with, though. Since then, I purchased some of the DMC Paintbox Yarn that is recommended, and I must say it's a lot nicer and easier to work with! But alas, it's not available at Michael's!

Naturally, it took me a lot more than six days to make this wreath! It actually took me almost a month of crocheting in free moments to finish it! With a big push, I finished it just in time for Easter.

The pattern is no longer available for free, but you can purchase it here, on Ravelry.

The flowers are affixed to a foam wreath that is covered in single crochet. You basically crochet a scarf-like object and then sew it onto the wreath. The first wreath I bought was immediately snapped in two by my kids, who I think were pretending it was an inner tube? After that I guarded the second one much more closely!

As you can imagine, with this many small pieces and different colors, weaving in all the ends took almost as long as the crocheting!

Maggie loved working on this project with me, and (in addition to assisting in the destruction of a foam wreath) periodically helped me to categorize and count leaves and flowers. She made several of the pom-poms (with my help) and she helped me arrange the flowers on the wreath when everything was ready to go. I think I've shared that Maggie spends most of her time at our play-based preschool in the art room, making things? That one takes after her mother! I am happy for her - a passion for creating is a wonderful blessing in life!

But both kids were completely taken by the little bees, which were my first foray into the world of arumigumi-style crochet. I have promised to make them a couple of bees just to play with! I think the bees are what first drew me to this fantastic pattern, and they are indeed adorable! I ended up affixing the flowers and bees to the wreath with florist's pins (you could also sew or glue the flowers in place), and the black pearl pins were perfect for bee eyes!

In addition to being fun and relaxing, this is a great learning project for a beginning crocheter. I learned a lot of new stitches and techniques and improved my basic understanding of how crochet works, in really easy and manageable chunks. If you can make a granny square and read a basic crochet pattern (warning: the pattern is in UK terminology, so I had to adjust to that and look up terms as appropriate), you can make this wreath. I promise!

This was a really FUN project, and I was super delighted with the final product, homely and camp though it may be! I'm not going to try to pretend that this is tasteful or low-key or minimalist: it is none of those things, but what it is is exuberantly happy! This was such a joy to work on and put together, and provided a soothing and joyful distraction during a pretty heavy-duty month for me!

Lately, with renewed interest in "mindfulness," I'm seeing lots of craft books with titles like "Crochet Therapy," and "Crafting for Mindfulness," or whatever. It's like people are just now discovering that crafting is a soothing, sanity-saving activity and that it promotes good mental health! I'd like to think I was hip to that trend before it was even a trend, right? Ha! So, I'm happy to say that work has calmed down a bit since March (knock on wood), but if you ever feel really stressed out, may I suggest making something lovely, fun, and completely useless? It really is the best form of stress relief.