Pomme

A quick entry on an exceedingly quick project. How quick? More than a weekend but less than a month. I know that I started it after I finished my Stone’s Throw cardigan, but before I started my next project at the beginning of February.

Normally I print out patterns to take notes on, but this is such a simple design that I downloaded the pattern to my phone and referenced it only a handful of times to make sure I got the proportions of ribbing and body correct and decreased the crown in a pleasing manner.

The pattern is Rocky Ridge Hat by Knox Mountain Knit Co., and it’s available as a free Ravelry download. The yarn is
Swans Island Washable Wool Collection DK, the leftovers from my cardigan. You can view my Ravelry notes here, but there’s precious little to say about it. I knit the adult medium size as written, including the length.

Can you believe this is my eleventh hat, but the first one with a pom pom? I know, me neither! When it comes to hats, I’m a fan of the whole genre, and I have no qualms about poms. In fact, I’m rather fond of them, and encourage them for others. But somehow none of my many beanies ended up with a dapper topper. Really, it was long overdue, and I’m glad the shortcoming was rectified.

This is also the first hat I’ve made that could be described as even remotely slouchy. Between you and me, I think it could have been slouchier, but the extra ease would have come at the expense of the pom pom, and that was a sacrifice I just wasn’t willing to make.

I foresee many more slouchy and/or be-pommed hats in my future. Until then, enjoy this ridiculous picture of my pom pom hype.

Stone’s Throw

For someone who waxes poetic about autumn at the slightest provocation, I am woefully unprepared for my favorite season. While I have a handful of rather dressy blazers and a quantity of hoodies that my husband loves to side-eye, all of my cardigans are lightweight and too close-fitting to wear with anything other than a camisole, meaning they function more like long-sleeved t-shirts than true layering pieces. Add to that the fact that all my button-ups save one are v-necks rather than a more traditional crew neck, making them unsuited for pairing with the basic cardigans you find at most retailers this time of year, and you can see how days with a 20-degree swing in temperature prove challenging.

Enter CustomFit, specifically the built-in design Stonington. V-neck? Check. Originally designed with a thicker yarn in mind? Check. Lots of stockinette for a classic look and a quick and relatively mindless knit? Check and check.

Caitlyn is leaning against a brick wall and wearing her CustomFit Stonington cardigan by Amy Herzog

The green of Caitlyn's CustomFit Stonington contrasts with the orange-red brick behind her

The yarn is Swans Island Washable Wool Collection DK in color Pesto. I got it from my beloved Warm ‘n Fuzzy during their summer sale in 2017. Although there were only eight skeins, it looked like they were in the original bag from the wholesaler, so I assumed they were all the same dye lot. They were not, but I did not immediately discover this fact, in part because I didn’t even wind the yarn to start knitting until April 2018.

By sheer coincidence, all of the skeins I grabbed for the back of the sweater were the same lot. It wasn’t until I was partway through the first front that I discovered I had six skeins of one lot (of a bluer hue) and two skeins of another lot (of a yellower hue).

I ripped back and decided to alternate skeins on the fronts and sleeves. There are noticeable stripes, but I think they’re softened somewhat by the semi-solid dye, producing an overall effect that resembles a tonal yarn to my eye. The difference in lots is obvious at the side seam, where the solid back meets the two-tone stripes.

A close-up up of the side seam of Caitlyn's CustomFit Stonington, showing how the yarn's dye lots differ on the front and back

A bigger issue than the dye lots, however, was coming up short on yarn to complete the sleeves. I searched online for more of the dye lot I needed, but the couple of shops I contacted either didn’t have the correct one or didn’t respond to my inquiry. At least one shop sold out of the Pesto color entirely while I was waiting for responses, increasing the pressure to find something before the yarn was no longer available.

I decided to gamble on a mystery skein from WEBS, which turned out to be a third dye lot. While certainly not ideal, it was close enough to one of the two I was using that I thought I’d go with it.

Unfortunately, even with a ninth skein, I was going to be a little short. (Well, slightly less than nine, as I’d failed to account for the yarn already eaten up by my swatch, lying forgotten in a knitting bag somewhere.)

At this point, you might well be wondering how I could have miscalculated the amount of yarn I’d need this badly, and why I didn’t choose a different pattern if I wouldn’t have enough. The truth is that CustomFit will estimate the yardage you need based on your swatch size and weight. I just…chose not to trust it. My experience with yardage estimates, much like fabric cutting layouts, is that they’re more than generous. I figured I’d squeak in just under the estimate with my nine skeins.

It’s at this point, in a bit a panic because many shops no longer listed this yarn at all, that I realized I should have turned to the Ravelry community from the beginning. After searching through other users’ stashes, I was able to find not one but two users with the dye lot I needed. About a week later, I had a tenth skein in hand. I ended up using less than one-tenth of that tenth skein, leaving almost a whole skein. Naturally, it became a matching hat—more on that another day!

Even after accounting for the time spent ripping, acquiring two extra skeins, and re-knitting, it’s hard to say why it took so long to finish this cardigan—long enough to cross the threshold into a new year. I could gesture vaguely toward blocking, seaming, knitting the band, and facing each side with grosgrain ribbon, but I’m not sure that was the reason? My notes, as usual, provide no clues.

I did spend some time trying to find worthy buttons. I came very close with one-of-a-kind marbled glass buttons at local knitting and sewing store Downtown Knits, but they didn’t have enough for my cardigan and weren’t able to source more. I looked around at a few other places, and ended up settling for plastic ones from JoAnn that I stitched on by hand. They’re an interesting shape, but I may yet switch them out if I find something else I like better.

The buttons on Caitlyn's CustomFit Stonington are green plastic and shaped like stylized dogwood flowers

Overall the fit is good but not really what I was aiming for. Amy’s original Stonington was designed to hit at the low hip, but I’d been chosen a slightly higher (but not high hip) hem; I definitely ended up with the same low hip fit she got anyway.

The sleeves also ended up a lot longer than I’d planned. I tend to shoot for about one inch past the wrist; these cover my palms and most of my fingers. I wear them cuffed, which looks okay but isn’t ideal.

These length issues are probably a result of the superwash yarn as much as my measurement set. I wet-blocked my swatch but laid it flat to dry. Instead, I should have hung it to dry with clothespins clipped to the bottom edge to simulate the weight of the sweater pulling on itself.

In terms of ease, I chose an average rather than close fit because that’s what CustomFit recommends when you plan to wear your sweater over a long-sleeved button-up or t-shirt. That ended up being more than enough ease for comfort, and I’d personally prefer a slimmer fit, especially through the back. Looking at the pictures, I could probably stand to narrow the shoulders a smidge too.

The back view of Caitlyn's CustomFit Stonington, showing wrinkles around the lower back

The less-than-perfect silhouette hasn’t once stopped me from wearing this sweater, and I really thought it might. I had a hard time choosing pictures because so many of them revealed how the whole thing is a little too long, a little too loose, and a little too straight for my taste. But when it’s on, so long as I don’t linger in front of a mirror, I really don’t notice. It’s warm, soft, and comfortable over the shirts I live in during the work week through the fall and early winter. It’s a fine alternative to a jacket when it’s chilly in the morning but temperate by lunch time.

The pattern is one I could easily see becoming a staple knit up in a bunch of colors. Not for me, mind you—I enjoy variety in my knitting if not my knitwear (I own an embarrassing number of identical v-neck pullovers in different colors), so I doubt I’ll make another one. But the idea of getting more mileage out of a knitting pattern is a nice thought. Right? Right.

Here are three more pictures that don’t show any useful details of the cardigan itself, but I like them too much not to share them.

More of a Bourbon Girl

Caitlyn is sitting on a stone ledge around a fountain. She is wearing her Henslowe shawl wrapped around her neck like a bandana.

Caitlyn is holding up her Henslowe shawl to show it has a wingspan of about 4 feet and a depth of about 1 foot.

A close-up of Caitlyn holding the Henslowe shawl to show the shape is a shallow, rounded triangle

This is the Henslowe shawl by Beth Kling. The yarn is a delicious fingering-weight merino single from Neighborhood Fiber Co. called Rustic Fingering. The color is Ramblewood, a warm reddish-purplish brown semi-solid. If my notes are any indication, there’s very little to say about knitting up the pattern: it’s neatly written and easy to follow, with helpful designer’s notes sprinkled throughout and a clear construction diagram. No head-scratchers here, just a soothing knit from beginning to end that yields plush garter stitch and an interesting lace.

Of course, I’m not sure my notes ought to regarded as an authority, since they completely neglect to mention when I started or finished my Henslowe. (Fortunately, I seemed to have had the presence of mind to create a Ravelry project at the outset.)

Why do I (usually) remember to write down the date I start a knitting project, but never the date I finish? It hasn’t been that hard to train myself to print off a new pattern and jot the date in the upper right corner of the first page. Is it so much harder to bind off the last stitch, breathe a sigh of relief, and then pause to scribble a second date under the first before putting everything away?

I mean, I guess I don’t consider a knit really finished until the ends have been woven in and it’s been blocked (unless it’s a hat; I don’t bother to block those), so I’d have to wait until that’s done for it to count. But if I can take the time to painstakingly set all those pins in place, then pluck them out again, how much longer would it take to pull out the pattern again? Especially since I’m going to have to pull out the pattern again anyway to transcribe my on-the-fly hard copy notes in Ravelry.

If I can set aside the time to pick an outfit, do my hair and makeup, shoot photos, transfer said photos from camera to computer for editing, and write a blog post, then why oh why can’t I write down a mere six digits (four if I’m feeling truly lazy)?

Sure, calendar days aren’t a great proxy for time commitment: I don’t knit every day, and even on days when I do knit, I seldom knit for the same amount of time. And that doesn’t begin to touch the amount of time spent eyeing a project up and down, admitting something’s wrong, succumbing to weeping and/or gnashing of teeth, tinking, and re-knitting.

In truth, tracking the dates is barely helpful to me, and useless to anyone else—so why do I even care?

The best answer I can come up with is that I like seeing the ebb and flow of this hobby. I like knowing how many things I knit in a year. I like being able to see when I’ve focused on a single project and when I’ve juggled two or even three projects (as was the case here; I knit this shawl from start to finish in the middle of knitting a cardigan). I don’t need to have something to knit all of time, but I definitely get restless and cranky if I go too long without a project. “Why do I feel out of sorts when nothing is really wrong?” has on more than one occasion proved easy to diagnose by checking the finish date on my most recent project.

Filling out every field in Ravelry also satisfies my inner completionist. And what knitting project is complete without an  overwrought explanation for its made-up and irrelevant name? The pattern moniker, Henslowe, and the color of the yarn reminded me of Hennessy, a cognac. I do enjoy cognac in cooking, but I’m not one to drink it straight—when it comes to liquor, well, I’m more of a bourbon girl.

Another Handmade Christmas

This is it, folks! This is the final post documenting things I made last year. After this, I can move on…to catching up from the first quarter of 2019…

I admire anyone whose holiday traditions—whatever holiday it may be—involves making gifts for their loved ones or community members. My gift-making ambitions have always grossly exceeded my available time, resources, and common sense, but in 2018 I managed to make a few little things for some of my favorite people.

Up first, and by request, bowl cozies! From top to bottom, these went to my sister, my mom, and my sister-in-law Heather and her wife Elaina.

Two bowl cozies with a yellow and grey floral exterior fabric and a solid yellow interior fabric

Two bowl cozies with a taupe and cream abstract patterned exterior fabric and taupe and cream dotted interior fabric

Two bowl cozies with light and medium blue tie-dye patterned interior and exterior fabrics

My mom saw these at a craft fair but didn’t see any in a fabric she liked, so she sent me a text suggesting they might be an easy and well-received gift. I used instructions from Happy Hour Stitches, but you can find the details on any number of sites—in fact, Helen’s Closet just posted a tutorial a little over a week ago in a new series on scrap-busting.

My sister’s bowl cozies were made with leftover fabric (you may recognize it from her casserole carrier from the previous Christmas); the others were made with fat quarters from JoAnn. I already had 100% cotton batting on hand, but I needed to purchase 100% cotton thread to stitch everything up, as polyester could melt or scorch in the microwave.

Each recipient’s bowl pair of bowl cozies was served up with a bag of soup mix.

Three pairs of nested bowl cozies, each holding a bag of pre-packaged soup mix

The other gift was for a secret Santa exchange among the members of my D&D group. By sheer coincidence I paired with Jorren, the amazing illustrator from the art exchange. He had been working hard on multiple projects leading up to December, including prints for a holiday pop-up shop and several commissions. I wanted to show my appreciation for his work, so I picked a couple of art-themed gifts: a graphic novel called Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu and a set of Pentel Arts Aquash brushes.

I needed something to round the package out, and Jorren had just debuted his freelance graphic design business, Mind Fuzz, so I got it in my head that I needed to put his logo on something. Trouble was, he wasn’t using the logo as his profile image, and I couldn’t very well ask him for a copy of it without tipping him off to my plan.

In ninja-hacker fashion, I found a photo that he shared of a t-shirt screen-printed with his logo and proceeded to manipulate it in Photoshop and Illustrator until I had a black-and-white vector image that I could scale and print as a template. I transferred the template to a remnant of black poly cotton blend, embroidered the outlines of the letterforms, and then sewed up the embroidered fabric into a sturdy pouch with a brass zipper. Ta-da!

A black zippered pouch with outline of the words "Mind Fuzz" embroidered in white in a circle in the center of the pouch

I followed instructions provided by Jedi Craft Girl, but as with the bowl cozies, there are countless examples of this and similar pouches online. My pouch is lined with the same black fabric as the shell and interlined with 100% cotton batting to hold its shape. The embroidery is regular old DMC floss in white, stitched up using a hoop and a crewel needle.

A black zippered pouch with the zipper opened to reveal a cleanly finished interior lined in the same black fabric

I ignored the dimensions in the instructions; they were too small for my purposes. My pouch is slightly smaller than I intended at 9 inches tall by 11 inches wide (at the top), but is large enough to fit Jorren’s preferred style of travel notebook, along with a handful of pencils or pens.

Just for fun, I had Justin put together a GIF of the progress shots:

No last-minute sewing, I didn’t drive myself crazy, and everyone loved their gifts—success!

First Foray into Lingerie

When planning my visit to the NYC Garment District last year, I knew it was important to not only narrow down the number of shops we went into but also to have a list of projects I was shopping for. As someone who is easily overwhelmed by choice on the best of days, I would have been mad to walk into a place like Mood without a plan.

My list looked something like this:

  • Spandex blend knit(s) for t-shirts, preferably at least one with navy stripes
  • A knit with a print other than a stripe for a top or dress
  • A solid rayon or bamboo knit (in a color from my palette) to make a Madalynne x Simplicity bodysuit
  • A stretch denim to make a pair of jeans
  • Lace and stretch mesh/power net to make a Madalynne x Simplicity bralette
  • Notions for the bralette and bodysuit

I struck out on the denim, but was able to bring home a lovely white stretch cotton sateen instead. I also picked up an unplanned-for white mystery fabric with alternating solid and sheer stripes. I was looking forward to making a pleated midi skirt inspired by one I’d seen at Express several seasons ago, but pre-washing the fabric completely changed the way it behaved and it may end up a total loss.

After finishing a couple of striped long- and short-sleeved t-shirts using the fabric from my haul, I decided to dive into the world of lingerie. Well, dip a toe in, anyway.

Front view of dress form displaying a lace halter bralette and high-waisted underwear with lace side panels

Side view of dress form displaying a lace halter bralette and high-waisted underwear with lace side panels

Back view of dress form displaying a lace halter bralette and high-waisted underwear with lace side panels

This is Simplicity 8228, a lace halter bralette and embellished high-waisted underwear from the Madalynne x Simplicity collaboration. I wanted to model these myself, because I think the best way to effectively judge a garment is on the body it was intended for. But the lighting inside my house is unpredictable at best, there’s nowhere private for me to take pictures outside even if it were warm enough, and—spoilers—I’m not thrilled with the fit I achieved, and I liked it even less after scrolling through the photos we took. My dress form isn’t necessarily doing the fit any favors either, as I haven’t padded it out to my actual measurements yet. (I have the kit for it, but I’ve been so focused on knitting during the tail end of winter that I haven’t gotten around to doing the work. It will probably take all of 15 minutes when I finally do, and then I’m going to feel like a real chump.)

Style & Size

For the bralette, I chose View A, the halter, which closes in the back with hook and eye tape. While View B, a pull-on racerback style, would have technically been the easier of the two designs to sew, I wanted at least a little bit of challenge, and I was concerned a bralette without closures might be annoying to get on and off (I nearly popped a seam on a similar RTW racerback bralette once). I measured as a 32D according to the instructions. That seemed reasonable, as I measure a 30D in RTW, and anyway 32 was the smallest band size available, so I didn’t have the option to size down (it seemed best not to tinker with the size on a pattern I’d never sewn, especially when I didn’t have any other lingerie experience to compare to either). For the underwear, I cut a size small.

Fabric & Notions

The stretch double galloon lace was a happy find at Spandex World; it was tucked away in the basement along with a small selection of stretch laces in other colors/patterns/widths. I had unthinkingly left my tape measure behind at the hotel and nothing was labeled, so I eyeballed this at 8 inches wide like the pattern called for. It’s actually only 7 inches at the widest point, making me sweat for a hot minute when it came time to lay out the pattern pieces. Everything just fit without needing any piecing, but the message was clear: this pattern isn’t nearly as conservative in its fabric estimates as most Big 4 offerings, so don’t chance it if you’re buying lace specifically for the project.

After being unable to find any green stretch mesh or power net at either Spandex World or Mood Fabrics, I remembered I had a plain white stretch mesh at home already, and I resolved to dye a length of it to match my lace. I thought might use mesh for the main fabric of the underwear as well as the bralette lining, but on sewing day decided to dye a remnant of cotton spandex leftover from some t-shirts instead.

For notions, I turned to Pacific Trimming. After hemming and hawing, I decided to buy white plush picot elastic and white hook and eye tape that I could also dye to match, but black channeling since it would be hidden on the inside anyway.

Dyeing

Because the stretch mesh, elastics, and hook and eye were wholly or primarily synthetic fibers, but the cotton spandex was primarily a natural fiber, I had to cook up two dye baths with Rit DyeMore and Rit All-Purpose, respectively. I was pleased with the color I got on the mesh, so-so with the cotton spandex, and disappointed by the notions. I knew different fabric compositions would take dye differently, but wasn’t expecting the closure to turn out a leafy grass green and the elastics to be neon.

Close-up of the hook and eye closure on a lace halter bralette

Close-up on the inside of a lace halter bralette showing the seams, elastic, and channeling

While it’s not the end of the world, it makes the whole thing feel less professional and more DIY, which is a real damper to the enthusiasm for trying something new.

Cutting & Sewing

I took the pattern’s advice to use spray adhesive to baste the lace and mesh together, but I must have missed the instruction about applying the lace to the mesh, because I tried doing it the other way around and ended up painstakingly re-positioning the flimsy, slithery mesh multiple times.

I followed the (rest of the) instructions to the letter, sewing the bralette entirely on my sewing machine and alternating between sewing machine and serger for the underwear. My stitching is a little lumpy and/or wavy in places, but the busy-ness of the lace covers a multitude of sins.

Construction & Fit

For the bralette, I have two minor complaints. The first is there are a lot of raw edges, and the only ones you’re instructed to finish are the cup seams, where you’re told to sew down the seam allowance. There is a note at the beginning about minding the seam allowance size “if you use a serger,” but there aren’t any instructions on when/where to use it. I’ve seen many people talk about constructing and finishing lingerie entirely without one, but perhaps that’s true more for a conventional underwired or padded bra. Using a serger on the halter seam, for instance, would have helped to make the whole thing feel a little more finished, a little more polished:

Close-up on the inside of a lace halter bralette showing a messy back neckline seam

Then again, maybe this is typical of RTW bralettes. I don’t own one, so I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to pop into a store and examine some seams?

The second minor gripe I have is the lace and mesh making up the frame aren’t sewn along the bottom. Elsewhere the lace and mesh are secured by stitching on two or more edges, but the bottom of the frame is open. For me, this means the mesh tends to wrinkle and roll at every opportunity, especially when I sit down. This might be solved by sewing a zigzag across the bottom of the frame above the scallops, although I’m concerned the stitching wouldn’t hold up to stretching.

Apart from these complaints, it does fit well enough, although ideally I’d prefer to go down a band size and up a cup size to gain a little more cup projection and prevent the band from sliding up or down.

For the underwear, I knew I was taking a gamble since I don’t normally wear a high-waisted style, but I thought it might be worth revisiting my preference, and there was always the option to wear it under dresses since it wouldn’t work with my pants.

I could not get the elastic to lie flat around the waist, even after removing and re-sewing it. I assume I stretched the fabric, the elastic, or both while sewing, even though I was trying not to. It’s definitely more pronounced on my form than my body, but the effect is the same: rippling and buckling.

Side view of dress form displaying a lace halter bralette and high-waisted underwear turned inside-out

Final Thoughts

After wearing the bralette a couple of times I realized I’m pretty attached to underwire. Sure, I don’t necessarily need it, but I like it and feel more comfortable with it than without it. Given that the pattern is designed to use channeling to shape and support the cups, it might be worth it to try making another version in a (hacked) 30D and adding underwires.

I thought about cutting the panties down to a mid-rise style, but the truth is that the cotton spandex I used is just too thick for comfort. They ended up feeling sort of like shapewear without any of the benefits. It was not a good call for underwear; I’d used the fabric for for fitted t-shirts and leggings—what was I thinking here? So even if I managed to nail the fit, I know I wouldn’t wear them.

On the whole, I’m more than a little bummed about the experience. I’ve mostly let go of the feeling I’ve wasted precious fabric—it’s not exactly one of a kind, and there’s always more fabric—but I’d hoped to get bitten by the lingerie bug and embark on a spree of replacing all of my tired old things with fresh, perfectly fitting handmade undergarments.

I’d sort of scoffed at the idea of kits, because in the trade-off between money and time I can afford to source materials myself, and as someone who prefers self-directed learning and doing things on my own, paying someone to figure things out for me doesn’t come naturally. But I’ve started to see how a kit is a good way to break into new territory of a hobby. And it’s hard to argue with how pretty they are!