Dark night of the crafter’s soul

Dark night of the crafter's soul

Saturday was one of those days. You know, when nothing is working right: technology, interpersonal relationships, spatial reasoning. The kind of day where the last thing you should do is try a new-to-you sewing maneuver, right? And yet, I was feeling way behind on my Archer for Summer of Basics, which was still at the state you had seen it last Monday. My goal for the weekend was to attach the sleeves, sew and finish the side seams, topstitch everything, and hopefully get the collar and/or the cuffs attached. The first part of that went fine, amidst assorted other turmoil — sleeves, sides, topstitched. Then I decided it would be better to tackle the cuffs than the collar, given my suboptimal mental state. Why did I think that? I have no idea.

It did not go well.

Remember that quote I included in Elsewhere on Friday, about being willing to be bad at something in order to get good at it? Normally, lately, I’m totally feeling that way about sewing. I’ve been sewing at beginner level all my life (having peaked in the 8th grade and then regressed from there), did more sewing last year that the previous couple of decades combined, have gotten very good at bias facings and precise edge-stitching and whatnot, and I’m now really committed to enduring the discomfort of expanding my skills. But on Saturday, following several days of doing a series of other things I’m either not yet or no longer good at, it was brutal to be so stymied by my first cuff. (Or at least my first cuff since that 8th-grade popover anorak. I wonder if my mom still has that pattern somewhere — that just occurred to me for the first time.)

There I was, already steeping in frustration and stress over so many other things, reading the pattern instructions and the tutorial, scouring the internet for other blog posts and photos that might provide me with the crucial details I couldn’t get my brain around — failing to find those clues anywhere — but still feeling like I had to press on. So I tried to fumble my way through it … and … nope. And I just about lost it.

The thing is: It was not a big deal. It was just a few minutes’ worth of sewing that wasn’t right. The stitches could be ripped out. No harm was done. And yet I tortured myself (and Jen!) over the course of a couple of hours, between the googling and the trial-and-erroring and the stomping around on my beloved walking path (ruining a perfectly nice outing with my husband), and the texting with Jen, trying desperately to understand what she was telling me even while telling her my brain was in no mood to do so.

I always say to myself and others: walk away. If something’s not working, don’t make yourself crazy. Don’t send hate mail to the pattern designer — it’s probably not their fault. Don’t light the project on fire. Just put it down, walk away, sleep on it. It will almost certainly look different in the morning. No matter how urgently I wanted to get it figured out and have a win for the day, I eventually had no choice but to take my own advice.

There was a great photo in the #fringefieldbag feed recently, by @disorbo, whose caption read: “A little post mountain bike knit. After a ride, I like to remind myself that there are things I know how to do relatively well.” I thought of that as I plunked down on the couch Saturday night for what would normally be knitting time, but I knew it would be unwise. There was no way I was risking messing up my fisherman, and in the dark place I was in, I felt fully capable of screwing up even the grey stockinette thing. So I just sat there, like non-knitters do. It was terrible!

It did keep me awake, the cuff failure. I woke up turning the task over and over in my brain, sorting through the fog. And I got up, and I tried it again, and it worked.

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PREVIOUSLY in Archer: Queue Check July 2017

Queue Check — July 2017 (Summer of Basics)

Queue Check — July 2017 (Summer of Basics)

Ummmm … grey cardigan? What grey cardigan? That poor thing has definitely not seen the light of day since my last Queue Check. No, it’s been all about the Summer of Basics dynamic duo up there, my vintage fisherman sweater and my first button-up.

I can’t believe it, looking at where it was a month ago, but the sweater currently sits at 4 parts all now at underarm height, so it’s time to start the yoke decreases. Thank heaven! Even knitting the parts round-robin style like this, the stitch pattern has gotten monotonous — as amazing and simple but oh-so-repetitive as it is — and I’ve been dying to get to the shaping. It will speed up from here, but I’m still nervous about getting it blocked and seamed and neckbanded by the end of August since I’m only working on it in the late evenings and allocating any weekend time to sewing.

The lovely Archer button-up is proving to be way more fun than I could have expected … so far. I’ve got the front/bands, pocket (made up my own), back/yoke all assembled, sleeve plackets sewn (ok, that part wasn’t so fun) and one sleeve basted on. My goal for yesterday was to have both sleeves attached and the seams serged. (I’ve decided to serge them, because I want to use my serger!) So I’m slightly behind schedule and gonna have to pick up the pace. The hardest parts are all still ahead of me — the collar and cuffs — and I don’t know how long to expect them to take, but I still need to fit SoB piece #3 in here, so I need to get this one wrapped up!

Speaking of which, you were all immensely helpful with the pants suggestions last week, and then on Saturday morning I totally scored at Elizabeth Suzann’s garage sale — the most exciting bit of which was some light army-green cotton canvas (garment weight) which I’m hoping will become my pants for piece 3 — I just need to commit to a pattern purchase. But all of that said, I’m still reserving the right to claim one or both of last week’s tops/tees as my third SoB if it comes to that! I sewed them in the time frame and they are definitely basics (and were under original consideration, even) but I don’t want to let that fall-back prevent me from trying to get the pants done. I can do it!

And for the moment I’m trying to not even think about what comes after any of that.

• Sweater is a 1967 pattern, Bernat 536-145, in Arranmore
• Shirt is Archer Button-up in sold-out fabric

(Porter Bin from Fringe Supply Co.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: June 2017

2017 FO-6 and 7: Grey pullover + striped muscle tee

This post is a little long, so I want to note up top that the coveted army-green Porter Bin is back in the shop today as of 9am CT, along with another special treat. And you can also now find the army Porter at these fine stores!

2017 FO-6 and 7: Grey pullover + striped muscle tee

Technically, this is a premature FO post since these two garments aren’t 100% finished yet — they both need their topstitching, and the striped one needs a hem — but I’m so excited about them I couldn’t wait to share. Why?

I serged them!

You may recall I bought a serger in August* of last year and it’s been in the box ever since. In my defense, I hadn’t sewn at all, anything, between last August and the beginning of June. These are two of the four garments I cut out when I had a little cutting party one Sunday a couple of months ago, thinking if there were stuff ready to sew, I might actually sew again. And I did proceed to sew the white linen top that got cut that day, but the other three (all knits) have sat at the end of my ironing board, neatly bundled and so very appealing, but just … waiting. I think the whole reason I wasn’t sewing is I didn’t want to sew stuff — knits especially — on my regular machine when I had a serger, but I didn’t know how to use the serger and didn’t have time to figure it out. So instead of that purchase increasing my sewing productivity, it brought it to a screeching halt.

At long last, this week I scheduled time to go back to Craft South and take the lesson that came with the purchase of the machine. I showed up for my serger lesson on Wednesday without my serger, because that’s the kind of day I was having — the kind of day where I would normally prohibit myself from sewing, because sewing and a foul disposition are the worst possible combination — but I wasn’t letting anything stop me from finally getting that machine out of its box and learning how to use it.

Bob brought the machine to me, Michelle showed me how to thread it and use it and, clumsy and fog-brained, I fumbled my way through the afternoon. And within a couple of hours, bam!, two knit tops with serged seams. Homemade tees and sweatshirts here I come!

. . .

The grey top is a modified Hemlock Tee identical in process to the black wool gauze one I made last year, so all of the pattern modification details are in that post. The only difference (at the moment) is I haven’t decided whether to hem the sleeves like before or leave them rolled like this, but they’ll likely stay as is. The fabric is a dense grey wool knit that I got at Elizabeth Suzann’s fabric sale a couple of years ago; this was a bundle of scrap pieces I paid $10 for and used maybe a little more than half of for this top. It’s a little wonky — I think I even cut the pieces with the grain going different directions — but it’s totally fine and the simple alt-sweatshirt I’ve been needing.

Pattern: Hemlock Tee from Grainline Studio (modified)
Fabric:  unknown grey wool knit remnant
Cost: free pattern + about $6 fabric = $6

The striped sleeveless tee is my second Adventure Tank View B, following the black one last year, which was the first (and only) knit thing I’d ever sewn. Having now sewn one on the regular machine and one on the serger, it’s crystal clear how worth it the serger is. This is also the same fabulous organic cotton-hemp as the black one, only in an awesome ivory-and-black stripe, and my gold star moment of the day was that I had cut the front and back with perfectly matched stripes and managed to keep them aligned as I sent them through the serger, breath held, teeth gritted. And look how symmetrical the bands are! (I needed that, since I was definitely not wowing anyone with my mental sharpness or sewing acuity.) The last remaining kit-of-parts from my cutting party is this same tee again but in the grey wool knit above, the rest of that scrap bundle, which will be fantastic for transitional weather and for layering. So that will be my third of these, but definitely not my last — I love this pattern so much.

Pattern: Adventure Tank (View B, muscle tee) from Fancy Tiger Crafts
Fabric:  striped hemp jersey bought for $20/yard from Fancy Tiger
Cost: reuse pattern + $20 fabric = $20

. . .

By the way, speaking of sergers, this post on the Grainline blog came at the perfect time! That tip about only buying one cone of the contrasting color is pure genius and will no doubt save me a ton of money. Thanks, Jen!

Happy weekend! What are you up? And don’t forget about the Porter Bin

*I keep saying I bought it in October for some reason, which might have been me trying to trick myself into thinking it wasn’t as bad as it really was?! It was 11 months ago, wow.

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The white linen shell

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Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Hot Tip: Knit all the parts at once

Knitters will always tell you about socks and sleeves: knit them two-at-a-time so you don’t have that dread feeling of starting over with the second one. I feel the same way about ALL the parts. As much as I love a seamed sweater, I don’t enjoy starting back at the cast-on edge 4 or 5 times, especially once I’ve gotten into the rhythm of a chart or stitch pattern. So no matter what I’m knitting, I’ve become a polygamist: I rotate between the pairs or component parts rather than knitting them in the ol’ serial monogamy fashion. (Same for a top-down sweater — you’ll usually see me moving back and forth between the body and sleeves, advancing them all gradually.)

In the case of this fisherman sweater, I’ve now blocked a half-sleeve (as previously discussed) and the partial back, so I can see what’s really happening with my stitch gauge between the two (their being quite different, due to the differing stitch patterns) and make decisions about the respective sizes of the body and upper sleeves before I get to the underarms. So each time a piece went into the bath, that was a perfect chance to cast on the next one!

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Count, don’t measure

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Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

You know how sometimes the thing you’re dreading turns out to be BIG FUN? Such was the case yesterday, when I finally started on the Archer button-down shirt that drove me to propose the Summer of Basics Make-along. A shirt like this is the hardest thing for me to fit — any woven, set-in-sleeve shirt that suits my big shoulders will inevitably be too big in the body and in the upper sleeves as a result. Which is why I want to make my own, and also why I’ve been dreading it. This is also a garment that involves cutting out and assembling 19 pattern pieces. (My average is more like 3.) So never have I been more committed to the traditional muslin process. Meaning, after tracing them off onto my beloved Swedish tracing paper, I cut the five key pieces (left front, right front, back, yoke and sleeve x2) out of muslin so I could assess and adjust the fit. As a starting point, I cut a straight size 14 after comparing the shoulder measurements to my favorite flannel shirt.

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

Upon stitching together the yoke/back and front pieces, and setting in the right sleeve, I was thrilled that — ta da! — it actually fits, with very little fiddling. I’m ok with the ease through the body; my only issues were that the sleeve was a little big (not terribly, but why not tweak while I can?) and too long: It hit perfectly at my wrist before a cuff was factored in. So I laid the left sleeve back on the pattern, sloped the sides down from a 14 at the underarm to a 10 at the cuff, and shortened it by 2.5″, then sewed it on. The difference in the upper arm is subtle but meaningful, but it’s a much better width at the cuff than the 14 was. To make sure I’ve got the length just right, I cut out the cuff and pinned it on, and I’m officially good to go.

That was surprisingly painless. So now it’s time to cut all 19 pieces out of my beautiful blue cotton-linen chambray. The thing is, I’m so excited about this shirt now, and know I’ll want to make several, so I almost want to cut them all at once and have them waiting in the wings for gradual future production.

Sunday Funday: Fitting my Archer muslin

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Queue Check — June 2017

Queue Check — June 2017

I’m in Kansas right now — I came for a family reunion and have stayed for a funeral.* My eldest aunt, who had been ill for a very long time, succumbed just at the moment when eighty-something of us had already come from near and far to be together, which was characteristically polite and organized of her. May she rest in peace. So I’m about one-third of the way into the first sleeve of my Bernat fisherman sweater (in Arranmore) for the Summer of Basics and already there’s Squam dock time and this precious family visit knitted into it. And if that weren’t enough, this is the most joy I’ve ever gotten from two sticks and a ball of string. I crave it when it’s not in my hands and love working every stitch. (My top three Joy of Knitting projects — pure pleasure in the stitch patterns and the yarn in my hands — are this, Gentian and Channel.) Having charted out the vintage written-instructions pattern and seen what is happening, which is quite straightforward, I have no need to look at either the pattern or the chart and can just knit away at this happily, with just the right amount of brain detachment and engagement, watching the textures develop. It’s true love in every way.

I even made a tiny mistake in the very first cable cross, and left it, so that’s out of the way!

I did make some more progress on my so-called Summer Cardigan (in Balance) before casting on for the fisherman, but at this point it’s going to be impossible for it to get my attention. Hopefully the same won’t be true of my Archer shirt for #summerofbasics, which I plan to cut the muslin of this coming weekend.

*Hence the lack of response from me on Friday’s Q for You answers, but I have read them all and hope to respond when I have a chance — great conversation as usual.

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: May 2017

2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

Despite my careful planning and copious outfit projections, I’ve actually been struggling a little bit to get dressed so far this summer. For a few reasons: A) I haven’t replaced my ankle boots yet, which dampens my enthusiasm for all the dress-based outfits I want to be wearing. My poor old boots are just way too shabby. B) Many of the outfits in the rundown hinge on garments that are either still WIPs or that need to be mended, refashioned, lengthened or shortened, and thus aren’t actually available to be worn. And C) I really just want to wear my black linen pull-on pants every day, and I do! Yesterday, blessed with a few hours to spend in my sewing room, I decided the best thing I could do with the time was tackle the fix-it pile and get a couple of existing garments back to usefulness. So instead of cutting out the muslin of my Archer for Summer of Basics, as I had planned:

  1. I shortened my black linen slip dress to knee length and added patch pockets (which you can’t actually see in the photo, but I swear they’re there!), and
  2. I mended the 3″ tear in the side of my precious old camo pants.

Which means all of the above and below are now actual wearable outfits:

2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

2017 Remake-1 : Black linen slip dress + more camo mending

Please excuse the lack of a better (or modeled) dress photo — it was a seriously dark and stormy day. I’ll be sure to include it in a future FO post!

For details on the garments pictured, see my Summer closet inventory. And the more recently added black linen Sloper sweater and white linen shell.

Also, while at Squam I had the pleasure of chatting with Renee of the new-ish East London Knit podcast. Man am I fidgety when you point a camera at me! But if you’re interested, you can watch it here. Thanks again to Renee for inviting me on!

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PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The white linen shell

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