Progress? Progress!

Remember this promising sliver of knitting?

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I’m not surprised if you don’t—it made its first and only appearance all the way back in January. January. That was six months ago, friends. Egads. (So much for this being a year of knitting productivity…)

I stalled out sometime in April after I completed the back and started the front. Fingering-weight stockinette doesn’t make for particularly speedy knitting, but it’s mindless enough that I can work on it while watching TV and riding in the car. No, what strangled my enthusiasm for the project was not the pace, but the prospect of weaving in all. those. ends.

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I hate weaving in ends. Every time I sat down and knit another stripe, I created two more ends to loom on the horizon. Just look at them, promising hours of tedium—and no doubt frustration—as I try to figure out where to put all of them without any stray colors cropping up where they don’t belong.

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But, fueled by my Me-Made-May pledge (which came about in part because of this very project), I finally made a concerted effort to drag this project toward the finish line. Over the course of four weeks, I knocked out the front and started in on the first sleeve. (Interestingly, it doesn’t bother me to be on Sleeve Island, and I’ve yet to experience Second Sleeve Syndrome on a project.)

To help combat the tyranny of ends, I used one of TECHKnitter’s strategies for weaving in as I go on the front and the sleeve. It slows down the process of turning a row and joining a new color, but I’d like to think it’s preferable to the interminable and uncertain job of dealing with all the ends at, well, the end. But I’m withholding full judgment until I can seam everything and put it on—I don’t want to actually recommend this approach until I know that it won’t come apart or create unsightly lumps or bumps on the face of the fabric.

Meanwhile, I’m itching to move on to other projects. With consecutive days of 80-degree temperatures and 90-degree days on the horizon, I won’t be sporting this sweater any time soon—except for blog photos, of course. 😉

FO: Spring Gym Clothes in Aqua

For Christmas 2014, Justin encouraged my renewed interest in fitness by gifting me a complete gym kickstarter kit that included a Fitbit, a Camelbak water bottle, and a pair of athletic leggings with matching wicking T-shirt. The clothes, which replaced the ratty cotton-spandex yoga pants and novelty tees I’d worn to the gym all throughout college, were a huge upgrade in terms of comfort and performance. They’re easily in my top 5 most used gifts, and they’ve held up really well over the last year and a half—in fact, they’re still going strong—but they have two drawbacks. First, the leggings are from Under Armour’s ColdGear line, which means they’re lined with microfleece for warmth and thus not the most suitable for spring/summer wear (even though that wear takes place in an air conditioned gym). Second, they’re just one set, which means I have to wash them at least once a week if I don’t want to offend fellow gym-goers with my rank aroma.

I’d been eyeing a few different options from major athletic brands online and crossing my fingers for a sale, until, on a quick trip to JoAnn to pick up some notion or other, I casually spied some pretty space-dyed polyester-spandex described as a quick-drying performance fabric (still available here at the time of writing; don’t trust the color in the shop photo).

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I tried to talk myself out of it, but in the process only managed to stumble upon the same fabric in another colorway (also still available here; again, don’t trust the color in the shop photo) as well as a complementary solid black (I believe this is the one). Deciding this was a prime opportunity to vote with my dollars and show JoAnn there’s a market for apparel fabric and specifically athletic fabrics, and also determining that this was probably the one time where it actually would be cheaper to make my own clothes rather than buy them, I brought home a couple of yards of each.

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Lightweight leggings and a fitted tank are perfect for the warmer days of spring. The tank top is New Look 6285 View C and the leggings are McCall’s 7261 View D.

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Let’s talk about the tank top first, since it was a much more straightforward project.

N6285 isn’t marketed as an athletic pattern, but the basic design works for both my casual wear and exercise needs, and the color-blocking possibilities immediately caught my attention. Coordinating gym separates are something I’ve longed for since my (broke) college days—who doesn’t feel more motivated by a matching gym set? It may not be readily apparent from the envelope art, but View C has an hourglass silhouette while Views A and B are straighter and looser. Since my current gym t-shirt is on the relaxed side, I thought it would be fun to try a more fitted top to see which I prefer.

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I cut a straight size 6 based on the finished measurements; a size 8 would probably work just as well, but cling a little less around the stomach. The pattern is drafted with 3/8″ seam allowances, which is perfect for serging. I jumped straight to assembling everything on my serger rather than basting/sewing with a zigzag on my sewing machine first, which resulted in three places where I failed to catch all of the layers. But a little hand-stitching followed by more careful topstitching made those places practically invisible on the finished garment. In fact, I’m pretty pleased with how steady my topstitching came out, even if the neckband is a little wavy.

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The top is a little longer than I expected, but the length combined with the negative ease keeps everything anchored nicely around my hips, even when I’m running, so I don’t think I’d shorten it on future versions. The straps also seem a wee bit long: the armscyes don’t quite expose my sports bra, but it’s close, and even though that doesn’t really bother me, I think I’d like to take them up a bit just so the yoke, the widest part of the bust, and the armscyes are sitting where they’re supposed to. I wish I had thought to topstitch the yoke seam, but I’d already sewn everything together by the time the idea occurred to me, so I’ve filed it away for next time.

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Now, let’s talk about those leggings. I’d made two pairs of cotton-spandex leggings using McCall’s 6173 View B (unblogged, because they’re vanilla black leggings), so I initially assumed that these athletic leggings would be built from the same block, and that I could simply transfer the minor fit changes I’d made previously to this new, slightly more interesting variation. A quick look at the tissue proved that this was not the case. In fact, I have this sneaking suspicion that the M7261 leggings aren’t designed from a knit block at all, but instead use a woven trouser block. Based on the observations below, see if you agree with me:

  • M6173 is sized XS–XL, whereas M7261 is sized 6–22
  • M7261 has a completely different front and back crotch curve than M6173
  • M6173 is graded such that the sizes are nested with no overlap, whereas M7261 is graded with overlapping size lines
  • Most if not all of the reviews on Pattern Review complain that M7261 run large instead of being fitted like one would expect for a pair of leggings

Pretty fishy, right? Luckily, I had the two patterns to compare as well as the reviews to help me choose my base size and modifications. Unfortunately, McCall’s was not about to let me off that easily, as they did not see fit to include the finished waist, hip, or inseam measurement, nor did they mark the location of the hipline. I found myself muttering “Seriously?!” over and over as I tried to line up the pieces to determine the correct size. I cannot for the life of me figure out why none of this information is printed on the envelope, in the instructions, or on the tissue, since ALL of this information was essential to creating the pattern. Surely it’s in a spreadsheet somewhere?

I ultimately chose to make the size 6. Because I’m only 5’2″, I shortened the legs by a total of 4″; to keep the balance of the contrasting sections, I subtracted 2″ at the lengthen/shorten line and another 2″ from a line I drew on the bottom leg piece (specifically, a line drawn at the same distance from the leg seam as the provided length/shorten line is located). Since I’m not a fan of pants that sit at my natural waistline, I lowered the front rise by 1.5″ and the back rise by 1.25″ based on the fit of my RTW running leggings, which sit slightly higher than my regular pants and hit between my natural waist and the top of my hip bones.

Then, I painstakingly reduced the seam allowances of every piece from 5/8″ to 3/8″. Ostensibly this was for ease of serging and because I hate waste, but in reality I might just be some kind of masochist. I’m not sure if I redrew some of the notches in the wrong places, or if I made the mistake of matching edges when I should have been matching notches, but my seam intersections are hit-or-miss.

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The verdict on all those fit changes? Good, but not great. As soon as I pulled on the finished leggings I could detect a bit of camel toe happening in the front and a valley forming along the center back seam. It’s not terribly noticeable to others, but I can definitely feel it. The obvious solution will be to copy the crotch curve from my other pairs of McCall’s leggings, which don’t have these issues. The fit is also a little too snug throughout, especially around the bum when I squat/do leg presses, but I think this can be easily solved by tracing off the size 6 with its 5/8″  seam allowances, but sewing them at 3/8″ instead.

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A few people on Pattern Review noted that the waistband doesn’t stay put. I didn’t think it would be a problem at first, but when I move around, it definitely has a tendency to roll. I thought maybe it was just a result of using a very light material under too much tension, but after re-inspecting my RTW running leggings, I realized that they do, in fact, have an elastic sewn into the seam at the top of a wide waistband. I’m definitely going to incorporate this feature into my next pair.

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The real test, of course, comes from wearing the ensemble for exercise. I’m happy to report that this outfit’s maiden voyage to the gym did not result in any split seams, unexpectedly see-through fabrics, or other forms of abject embarrassment. In fact, although I said the fit was good but not great, a lot of the nit-picky fit issues weren’t that noticeable once I fell into the rhythm of jogging on the treadmill. That’s not to say the issues aren’t worth fixing, but it just goes to show that just because a garment doesn’t bear up under minute scrutiny doesn’t make it unwearable or even all that uncomfortable. And that gets me pretty pumped to sew up another set so that I have more options on gym days.

Revisiting Wardrobe Architect, Part 3: A Capsule and A Spring Sewing Plan

Edit: After sleeping on it, I realized that I hadn’t shared my list of garments because I was embarrassed that others would think it greedy to want so many pieces of clothing. But hiding the list didn’t make it go away, and if I don’t share it here, I won’t have a record of what I was thinking and planning at this place in time. It will be interesting to look back in a season or a year and see what things remain on my must-sew list and what things were only passing fancies. So, I’m adding in my list where it should have gone in the first place. 

Each time I’ve tried to take a second run at defining a capsule wardrobe, I’ve ended up with a list far too long to reasonably be called a capsule. Even though I’m of the mind that my capsule isn’t about limiting myself to a set number of items for a season, but rather about building a foundation of remixable pieces that work throughout the year, once I start adding up all of the combinations of garments, materials, and colors/prints I’d like to have, the list quickly balloons.

Instead of fighting it, I’ve decided to embrace it and see where it takes me. I’ve made a list of all the garments I’d like to have in my closet, and broken it down according to items that will work best as casual pieces, items that will work best for special outings and the more polished work look I’d like to achieve, and items that will work equally well for both.

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Items marked with an asterisk are ones I don’t currently have and would need to make or buy. I have a lot of black work attire already, but going forward I want to avoid adding any more black to my wardrobe, since I find it very harsh with my skin tone and would prefer navy, brown, or grey. Cardigans in every color of my personal rainbow will be a key addition since I’m so often cold, and I’m optimistic that I can knit them all myself. I’ve combined items wherever I’m not picky about cut or color, such as t-shirts and skirts.

For the late spring/early summer, I’ve prioritized about a half dozen based on fabrics and patterns I already have. Instead of queuing them in a particular order, I’ll let myself pick my next project from that pool as the mood strikes. When I’ve gotten through those projects, I’ll go back to the original list, add or subtract garments based on changing needs or tastes, and pick another half dozen to work through. Groundbreaking stuff, huh?

Want to see the fabrics?

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From left to right, the fabrics and their intended projects are:

  • Nicole Miller Ditsey Eden in Black – Faux wrap dress – Simplicity 1653 (View B)
  • Sew Classic Rayon Spandex Knit in Potent Purple (I think) – Empire-waisted surplice dress – McCall’s 7116 (View D)
  • Lightweight Cotton Polyester Jersey in Navy with Skinny Red Stripes – Relaxed t-shirt and/or tank dress
  • 100% Cotton Interlock in Kelly Green – Blazer – Simplicity 1421 or Simplicity 2446 (Fingers crossed I have enough fabric for this, since I bought it with a completely different project in mind)
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Blue Floral – Skirt or dress?
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Poppy Floral – Skirt or dress?
  • Stretch Cotton Sateen in Blue-Purple Floral – Skirt – Butterick B4686 (View A) (To show off the border print)
  • Featherwale Cotton Corduroy in Navy – Skirt

I wish I could link to more of the fabrics, but with the exception of the first two, they came from Hancock Fabric’s going-out-of-business sale. I also wish I had more specific patterns nailed down for the skirts/dresses, but I keep waffling. Pencil skirt? Flared skirt? Sheath dress AKA bodice with pencil skirt? Fit-and-flare dress AKA bodice with flared skirt? If I thought I would actually wear crop tops (and could get away with it at work—we’re not that casual) then I could have it all. Instead, it is decisions, decisions. But! they’re decisions I’m looking forward to making instead of dancing around with a faint sense of anxiety. I’m excited to adding the finished garments to my wardrobe, which is definitely a step in the right direction. Finally.

Revisiting Wardrobe Architect, Part 2: Colors and Patterns

When I looked at colors and prints the first time around, I understood the value in narrowing things down to a “manageable” number, and several more experienced capsule creators recommended choosing palettes based on the seasons. Seemed reasonable enough, so that’s what I did. But I had a rather difficult time narrowing things down, and some of my decisions ended up being driven more by a desire to create a balanced, restrained palette than by what I was likely to wear, and trying to plan actual pieces based on this less-than-ideal palette required a degree of mental acrobatics that’s laughable in hindsight.

This time around, I didn’t restrict myself to planning for the upcoming season alone, which only makes sense when I think about how I tend to drag out individual projects. (Staying on top of sewing for the seasons is something that I can only dream about right now.) Instead, I just gathered all of my favorite colors to wear in one place:

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I’m sure I’ll continue to favor the darker, jewel-like tones in autumn and winter and the lighter, brighter tones in spring and summer, but seeing them all together will remind me of how things fit together, and maybe encourage me to consider less common color combinations (for me, at least) and seasonal switch-ups.

Even with such a large palette, I don’t intend to limit myself strictly to these colors, but I suspect that most purchases will easily include at least one of them. I’m also prepared to continue refining it as time goes on. I’ve already added purple back to the mix, because even though I have a hard time pairing it with other colors, I just can’t quit it. (I know that it naturally allies with yellow, but that gives me uncomfortable flashbacks to my high school’s and university’s spirit days—no thank you.) I’m also skeptical about how much lime green and powder blue I’ll actually end up with, but only time will tell.

Prints didn’t change much, but it was fun to put them all together in a fun little swatch:

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Stripes, dots/spots, checks/ginghams/tartans, and large-scale florals were all clear recurring themes in my inspiration images. I especially like the unexpected pattern mixing that can happen, like a flowered skirt with a striped t-shirt. While I could certainly see myself picking up the occasional abstract, geometric, or even animal print, I think these will be my go-tos.

With inspiration, color, and pattern now more closely aligned, I feel much more confident that I can put together a plan and start to build a wardrobe. With any luck, some real live sewing and knitting might start happening around here again!

Revisiting Wardrobe Architect, Part 1: Inspiration and Silhouettes

In March and April of last year, I examined how the clothes I like (and don’t) make me feel, what clothing shapes I gravitate toward, and what combinations of shapes are most comfortable and “me.” While I felt like I did a pretty good job of responding to the prompts, answering honestly, and collecting inspiration that actually resonated with me, in hindsight I see that somewhere along the way there was a disconnect between the style that I aspire to and the style represented by my capsule selections. My proposed capsule was too bright, with too many repeated colors and not enough pattern or texture to break it up. It felt too casual, instead of channeling the sleek put-togetherness that my inspiration images embodied.

At the time it was easy to overlook (and later shrug off) these shortcomings on the grounds that it was more an exercise than a concrete plan—that I was challenging myself to venture outside my style rut, not committing to making those precise pieces. While it’s true that I wasn’t locked into sewing what I’d sketched out, having a guide that was more puzzle than passion meant I didn’t have much more direction on actual garments than I’d started out with. As a result, I made a few questionable fabric purchases, added more patterns to my collection, and continued to waffle between potential projects because I wasn’t particularly excited to sew the things I’d laid out for myself and there was a lingering division between the clothes I wanted to make and the supplies I had to make them.

Now, a year later, it feels like it’s time to step back, reconsider, and figure out where I went off track so that I can create a sewing queue and wish list that I’m genuinely motivated to tackle.

To kick things off, I revisited my inspirational collage. Since we’re already well into spring, I removed the more autumnal and wintry photos and replaced them with warmer-weather pictures; I may bring the old ones back in a separate collage when it comes time to make fall/winter sewing plans. I also culled photos where the silhouette didn’t seem like 100% my style or the colors weren’t my favorites. That’s not to say I’d never sew or wear anything like them, but I wanted my collage to showcase only outfits that I would wear pretty much as-is—distilling all of the available inspiration to a style concentrate, if you will.

The result looks like this:

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I had the hardest time choosing dresses, no doubt because I wear them so infrequently. I don’t dislike dresses, but in the spring it’s often chilly enough in the mornings for tights but hot enough in the afternoon to make them oppressive, and in the summer there’s the constant tension between sweltering temperatures outside and frosty air conditioning inside. Suffice to say that always-cold me usually plays it safe by wearing pants. But I’d like to change that, because rotating in the occasional dress makes me feel a little more feminine and, ironically, like I made an effort, even though they’re usually less effort to style than a pair of pants.

Speaking of pants, let’s talk about those palazzo pants. They represent the biggest gap between the image shown and the finished items I’m looking for, mostly because it can be so hard to find a specific, illustrative image online when you already have the perfect vision in your head. But when I was a kid, I had a pair of rayon challis trousers in sage green with tiny white flowers to wear to a semi-formal summer event outside. They had wide, straight legs and a narrow elastic waistband, and the material and drape of the fabric made them wonderfully comfortable in the heat and humidity of high summer in Virginia. I wore them with a sleeveless white button-down shirt that knotted at the front waist and a pair of white sandals. I remember feeling very glamorous in this outfit, and that’s a feeling I’d like to recapture. Plus, matched with the right top and shoes, I think it can work equally well for work or play.

In terms of silhouettes, I think these images capture my preferred looks exceptionally well; they represent not only my my favorite colors and moods, but also the specific combinations I’m drawn to. They also neatly illustrate one of the principles of fashion that I picked up from (of all places) a dressing room ad, and have since found works very well for me: pair a loose top with a fitted bottom and a fitted top with a loose bottom for instant visual interest. (Not everything fits this mold, nor does it need to for me. But if one of my outfits is feeling off, it can sometimes be remedied by swapping out one piece to create this appealing contrast.)

If I had to sum up my silhouettes, then, they would be:

  • Skinny trousers with a draped blouse (blazer optional)
  • Skinny jeans with a relaxed tee or tank top
  • Flared skirt with fitted t-shirt and cardigan
  • Flared dress with cardigan
  • Wide-legged pants with a fitted tank top or slim-cut blouse

When it comes to tucked versus untucked shirts, I generally favor untucked. The exception is probably tucking a t-shirt into a skirt or palazzo pants; for those instances, I’m thinking I may pick up the Closet Case Patterns Nettie Bodysuit. For shoes, I tend to wear heels to work and to go out to restaurants or movies, and stick to flats for casual Fridays and errands. I love the look of skinnies with heels—they make me feel taller and feel inexplicably chic—so I’ve been wearing that combination more often lately. I’m still on the hunt for a pair of flat sandals that aren’t unbearable to walk around in all day when I want to look cute during a weekend excursion, and I’d love to save my running sneakers for the gym and get a pair of cute, casual sneakers for casual days when it’s too cool, wet, or walking-intensive for sandals. Accessories are a moving target, but statement jewelry and smaller, colorful handbags are on my list, and I’m in dire need of an attractive pair of sunglasses.

My first inspiration collage brought a sense of relief that maybe I had a burgeoning sense of style after all. This one brings a spark of real excitement, because I can actually see myself making pieces to create outfits like these, and I already can’t wait to wear them and show them off. That’s how I want to feel about my handmade wardrobe.

Have you ever gone back to an inspiration board or a sewing/knitting/design plan to refine it? Did it change a little or a lot? What effect did this have on your craft?

On Me-Made-May 2016

Do you remember when you first heard about Me-Made-May? Do you remember what you thought, how you felt about the idea?

I can’t recall which year it was, exactly, that I first stumbled across this month-long making-and-wearing challenge. I don’t remember which blog I saw it on first, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Zoe’s. It may have been a daily or weekly check-in post, or an end-of-month wrap-up. I don’t think the event was actively running at the time. In fact, come to think of it, it may not have been a Me-Made-May event at all—it may have been Me-Made-March or Self-Stitched September, two forerunners of the annual tradition we know and love today.

It’s strange to me that I can’t remember it, because I do remember how intrigued I was by the whole affair, how readily I soaked up page after page of outfit photos and introspections. I loved seeing the real clothes that real people wore to their real jobs, real family dinners, real vacations—clothes that they had made themselves. I deeply admired their commitment: commitment to finishing what they started even when they had to rip out the same seam three times; commitment to sitting in meetings next to coworkers wearing luxury labels and not feeling faintly embarrassed; commitment to exposing the fact that they “cheated” on their pledge or that they will never, ever sew their own tights, even if they could, because they just don’t to want to.

When I discovered Me-Made-May, I hadn’t sewn any garments for daily wear, just costumes and props for various dress-up holidays, parties, and events. (Truth be told, I’ve sewn very few garments since then, and that weighs on me. But we’ll come to that in a minute.) I knew you could, of course, and it was a thing that I wanted to do, but I hadn’t really seen anyone do it in a way that was meaningful to me. I understood that buying something off a rack in a store was a relatively recent development in the history of human fashion, was aware of the decades of where even the less-well-off might have clothing made-to-measure by a tailor or dressmaker, had heard stories of people’s grandmothers and mothers making their own or their children’s clothing, but I hadn’t seen anyone of my own age, of my own lifestyle, make more than the occasional garment. I’d never seen anyone attempt to systematically build a wardrobe.

And I wanted very desperately to be that person. While I’ve had my share of ill-fitting and poorly made garments that made me crave a custom fit, what really drove me was the desire to be able to say “I made this,” not just about an apron or a taken-in dress, but about the trousers I wear to work and the t-shirts I wear to the grocery store. And I wanted very, very much to participate in a community that challenged—and rewarded—this. I wanted to be able to post daily outfit photos, each with the implicit caption “I attempted this and succeeded. I didn’t just dress myself today—I crafted my image with my own two hands.” I wanted to be embraced, and celebrated, along with the other Me-Made-Mayers. I wanted to belong to a group of people who seemed so very, very cool.

Each year since, I’ve thought about participating, but lamented the fact that I have nowhere near enough things to wear, even if I committed to just one piece a few times a week and wore the same pieces multiple times. Whenever I thought about remedying this problem, I quickly succumbed to what I perceived as a lack of necessary skills, then a lack of appropriate patterns, then a lack of suitable fabric. Now I have a fair amount of all three, and it’s clear that the only thing I truly lacked was the sense to make good decisions, and the nerve to follow-through and just do the thing already.

This, then, was going to be my year. In my mind, I quietly committed to spending March and April steadily sewing up a few versatile pieces so that this year I could get in the game. I resolved not to do any frantic, last-minute sewing, but to try to make sewing each week a habit. I acquired a few more patterns, treated myself to some fabrics that I was really excited about, and set up a queue of projects in Trello (thanks for the idea, Camille!). The only thing stopping me this year was me.

And then life went sideways. At the end of March, Justin’s best friend fell into dire straits and very much needed an opportunity for a fresh start, so we invited him to live with us for a couple of months while he reestablishes himself. Suddenly everything stalled or had to be put on hold. Our plans to paint and furnish our guest room were suspended because it was abruptly occupied. Our desire to seek out and adopt a dog was deferred, because our new resident has a small dog of his own that’s living with us, and we didn’t want to bring a new pet into the mix. My hope of creating a dedicated sewing space was stifled, because the guest room is currently off the table and our office is too crowded with displaced items from the guest room to admit more furniture.

To add hardship on top of difficulty, tax season was not particularly kind to us. Purchasing a house, which we’d been told many times was a huge boon from a tax standpoint, turned out to be a burden this past year. We don’t regret becoming homeowners—not by a long shot—but we definitely felt an unexpected pinch this April, which further prevented any new home or craft supply purchases while we bounced back.

And, because I have an amazing ability to kick myself when I’m down, I recently resolved to go back to working out at the gym. It’s a positive change that I can absolutely see the physical and emotional benefits of, but it’s eating into my free time, especially since the gym is in the opposite direction of my house. Taken all together, I started to feel as though I had neither time nor resources to do anything at all that I really want.

If this all sounds like a lot of whining to you, you’re absolutely right (and I appreciate you sticking around this long in spite of it). The realization that, once again, I can’t participate in Me-Made-May the way I want made me rather miserable, and, quite frankly, miserable to be around. But after a good, long wallow, I’ve finally realized that I can still make a pledge. It’s not an official one—I want to save that until I can do it properly—but it’s what I can manage this time. I credit it in no small part to Gillian at Crafting a Rainbow, who with her own pledge managed to penetrate my thick skull with the radical notion that the most important aspect of Me-Made-May is thinking critically about wearing clothes, and that if circumstances don’t encourage a lot of wearing, there’s still a great deal of value in thinking about handmade. With that in mind, I’ve figured out what I need most right now, and what I can reasonably do, and what I want to say:

I, Caitlyn of Practice Makes Pretty, sign up as a follower of Me-Made-May ’16. I endeavor to revisit my Wardrobe Architect journey, revise my ideal palette and silhouettes, and develop a sewing plan that more accurately reflects my sartorial aspirations. I further endeavor to put this plan into action during the month of May by sewing, mending, or knitting at least three days each week.

Now, I’m not the best with intentions. (Hello, passel of New Year’s resolutions that I’ve made no progress on to date!) But if there’s one thing that motivates me, it’s a deadline, and May won’t last forever. Peer pressure is also hugely underrated for its ability to effect positive change, and I cannot thank the sewing community enough for how much it inspires and drives me to become the person I admire in others. I’m not sure I can (or ever will) contribute anything meaningful to this amazing online community, but you all have given so much to me, and I appreciate it. Thank you, every one of you.

FO: Cary Depot

While I’m continuing to make slow progress on the striped sweater I started on New Year’s Eve, the fingering weight yarn and the frequent pauses to change colors mean that even if I knit for an hour or two at a time it doesn’t feel like I’m gaining much ground. I’m trying to keep pace with Amy Herzog’s Deep Winter Knit-A-Long (note to self: actually join the KAL thread on Ravelry instead of just lurking), which means that I have until the end of March to finish up. In the meantime, I desperately needed a little quick gratification so as not to completely stall out, so I turned to my Ravelry favorites and my little pile of leftover yarn. And wouldn’t you know, I managed a hat out of it!

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The pattern, Glenna C’s Union Station Beret, has been in my favorites for ages, along with both of her Urban Collection bundles and a handful of standalone patterns. Glenna’s penchant for cables comes through in many of her designs, and when you’re looking to increase your cache of warm winter hats you can’t go wrong with squooshy wool cables. The yarn I used is the remnant from my Courant sweater. I can’t decide if I’ll wear the two together or not—as much as I like matching, that seems like it would be a bit much.

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My version ended up a beanie rather than a beret by accident: I cast on with the correct size needle, but when I went up two needle sizes, I referred to the US size rather than the metric size. The 0.5 mm difference combined with a lighter-than-called-for yarn and a firm gauge resulted in a hat with no extra room for slouch.

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I was a bit bummed at first, and I considered re-knitting it since I still had yarn left. But I ultimately decided that I wanted a hat more than I wanted a beret specifically, and ripping out the entire thing sort of defeated the purpose of an easy, motivation-boosting project anyway. Wearing it out proved that I made the right choice, and I’m glad to have another hat in rotation for the remaining cold days of winter.

In the spirit of playing around with pattern names, I’ve dubbed this Cary Depot after the train station in our town. We can hear the trains trundling along and sounding their horns from our house. I know some people dislike the idea of living anywhere they can hear traffic noise, but I’ve always lived near transportation hubs—a commercial airport for my childhood home, and train tracks for both my college and first post-college apartments—so I find it comfortingly familiar.

Plus, who can resist an opportunity to play around with a bronze conductor statue?

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Project: Cary Depot
Pattern: Union Station Beret
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK in Velvet