stash, sustainability, and little dresses

To me, an outstandingly successful make is a trifecta of: using materials suitable for the design, both of which suited to the recipient (which honestly, is most often me). In addition, I get really excited when I can use a piece of material to the utmost of its capacity. Sewing a skirt with barely any scraps left over? Love it! Knitting a little hat with colorwork using up the last little bits of four different skeins of yarn? Makes my heart patter! There is something thrilling about getting the most out of a skein of yarn, or a piece of fabric (or honestly – the contents of my fridge even!) which often is a driving force in my making.

This all ties in to sustainable living as well. Zoe of “So, Zo…” actually had a recent post about unsustainable sewing that touched on some of what I have been feeling lately. For me I guess it started with the Kondo-ing of my belongings prior to my move a year and a half ago. I purged some, I kept the things that gave me joy, and I had a pretty intense feeling of having enough. I have enough clothes. I have enough craft supplies. I have enough books. I have enough yarn, and I have enough fabric. I have no need for any more.

Now, this doesn’t mean I haven’t bought more fabric in the last year and a half – I definitely have. But there has been a slight shift, where I am quite selective and buy only cuts of fabric that I truly can picture making into a garment I love. Up until that point I have definitely bought fabric without a plan, because – you know, it might come in handy some day! Not every piece of fabric I come home with nowadays has a plan, but I am much more sure of my abilities to turn it into a successful garment.


And here comes the intersection of the fabric and the pattern, or design – and the recipient. I think part of maturing as a creater is to understand what materials are suited for which purposes. A slubby and thin t-shirt knit is not going to make a good knit blazer. I have mentioned several times before about having “conversations” with my fabric, figuring out what to do with them. What I am trying to do, is to figure out the window of suitability – to call it that. What garments will be a successful match with this fabric? Will the seamlines and structure work with the pattern of the fabric – and with the sewing pattern? I am approaching pretty much my entire stash with this mindset now. Not only looking at how I can best pair a fabric with a type of garment, but how I can get the absolute most out of the cut of fabric that I have a available. It is like a creative challenge on top of the creative challenge of sewing!

At the moment I am finishing up a maxi dress with a large scale palm print that I first thought I would make a t-shirt of out. I fell in love with the fabric in the store, rolled out a few yards and draped myself in it in front of the store mirror, and realized the print was too large to make sense in a short garment. I bought the fabric thinking I might make a jump suit was born, before realizing some months and a muslin later that the fabric doesn’t quite have the heft needed for something pants-like. A maxi-dress however lets the jersey float, as well as showing off the print. Cutting out the dress I had to piece both the back bodice and skirt, and the skirt is every inch of length I could manage, but I *loved* making that pattern puzzle piece and cutting it all out, and you know why? Because I believe in the matching of fabric and pattern, and also because the scraps left over were tiny. I used ALL of that fabric!


All of this is to explain why I am so damned pleased with this little toddler sleeveless dress. I picked up a little remnant pack at my regular fabric store, and was really pleased with the colors and prints of the cuts – one piece has already been turned into cloth napkins, while others are perfect for little lined zippered pouches. Then there was this piece of soft cotton measuring about 100 by 60 cm. Not large enough to make anything useful for myself, and big enough to have potential for something more exciting than… lined zippered pouches. The daughter of a good friend came to mind, as I thought the print and colors would be up her alley. Looking through my one magazine with kids’ patterns (Ottobre 6/2012) I found a cute sleeveless top. The front bodice is pieced, the gathered piece lengthened as much as possible, and the fullness of the skirt is a little less than planned. But I managed to be left with just tiny scraps again, and I think the shape, and color, and print of the dress will suit my favorite little 3 year old so well. Trifecta. Sewing bliss.


DSC_7877Other things about this tiny dress that makes me happy: I didn’t have to rethread the serger, the contrast bib is from the softest corduroy remnant in my stash, the sewing looks awesome also from the inside, I had perfectly matching warm grey bias binding on hand, and the three buttons from my stash were the last of their kind.


icelandic cabin sweater

I am really in to colorwork knitting at the moment, as well as stashbusting (always!) – which has resulted in this beautiful sweater! For once I have actually completed something seasonally appropriate as well – I do have a tendency to finish summer dresses in the winter and mittens in the summer.

Telja sweater (8)

Longtime readers might think the yarn or color looks familiar, and they’d be right. This is actually the Modum knit jacket from my final collection at design school. I loved designing and knitting this jacket, and the final result – but I did  not love using it (it totally dwarfed me, and not in a cool Berlin-based artist way that I could pull off). Not that you have to use everything you ever make, but this was such gorgeous yarn in one of my absolute favorite colors, that it seemed such a shame to let it stay unused as a jacket. So I frogged it!

Pattern: Telja from Knit.Love.Wool (my ravelry notes here)
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in color Hayloft, and assorted small quantities of yarn I had laying around.
How much yarn is left: Of the Shelter yarn, almost 50 grams. Of the other yarns I just borrowed a bit from full skeins, so there is plenty left of most of it.
How will I use the leftovers: Shelter yarn will be part of a Baby Sophisticate jacket for a new little dude I get to hang out with every so often, and the wild sheep yarn is going to become a traditional Norwegian “kofte” – I am looking at maybe the Fåvang from a book I own.

Telja sweater (9)

Telja sweater (3)

What more do I want to say about this? I changed some things from the original pattern. I skipped the colorwork sections on the sleeves and hem, and I did a rib neckline instead of the i-cord finish. I thought the neckline looked a little open, so I wanted to close it in a little bit, and to my eyes this finish looks more traditional. I knit the colorwork section twice actually – after I dutifully made a swatch, calculated from that, realized the yoke was too big, and ripped back to knit it again pretty much exactly as patterned. Oh well!

Since deciding to knit an Icelandic style sweater from my past project I have pictured this on a cabin trip in the mountains somewhere, hiking, maybe skiing, playing board games and sitting around a fire. Now I’ve been invited to a cabin weekend in November, and I can’t wait to put this sweater to use in what I picture being its proper element! In the meanwhile, it works *just fine* around the house too. My 120-year old apartment building isn’t exactly draft free.

Telja sweater (4)

Telja sweater (10)

Telja sweater (1)

I really enjoyed the colorwork section, and seeing how the yoke was shaped through clever decreases. And, I like the stranded inside almost as much as the outside! It feels similar to a neatly sewn garment.

So, the yarn! Some thoughts on Shelter. I love, love, love the color and the depth and intensity of it. It was really cool to learn about how they blend the colors, by adding different percentages of base colored roving, then spinning them together. Almost a bit of pointillism, in yarn form! It is quite sticky, which made it actually not the most pleasant (or at least, smooth) yarn to work with, and still on this second pass I was picking out little bits of twigs. On the upside it spit-splices like nobody’s business, and it has a really nice pine-like smell that I remember from last time I knit with this. I was amazed that the smell was still there after 6 years of storage and washes and things!

Telja sweater (5)

It’s a gorgeous sweater, in my opinion, and I really liked knitting it. My favorite part of this project though has to be getting use out of something that was just lying around. I feel a season of stashbusting and mindful making coming on!

unwearable muslin & moving back

DSC_7792edLiving room window sill tableau.

Well, that was a long break, wasn’t it! My previous post (on bra-making – there is a tie-in to this post if you wait for it!) was from November last winter, nearly a year ago. What happened?

Work happened! This past year was my first full year as a teacher (8th grade! All the subjects! Ok… well, English, art, social studies, Norwegian), and it was… intense. And hard. And while it didn’t drain me of creativity or the desire to create, that force was redirected into creating lesson plans – which I’ve actually absolutely loved. I just haven’t really had as much output on the tangible creating, in the form of sewing and knitting and such.

Another change is that I’ve wrapped up my sole proprietorship, one that I had for six years. I never really settled into freelancing as my main income, and now I am so focused on and enthusiastic about teaching that I don’t feel the need to keep this as a side venture either. The blog-hosting fees is something I can’t write off as a business expense anymore, which gave me guilt for paying for a blog I was barely using, which somehow turned into feeling like writing here was a chore rather than an outlet for something I wanted to share. So I’m relieving myself of the guilt by quitting the self-hosting, and moving back here, to whence I came from. I am glad you are here. :)

Now for some pictures, since… well, pictures!

DSC_7793 copy

DSC_7795 copy

I made another bra! The fabric might look familiar, since it is made using remnants from my floral Bettine dress. A lot of thought went into pattern placement here! The bra pattern is the same as the previous one (which is still going strong and getting regular use!), with one significant change. I have adapted it into a three piece cup, with horizontal piece on top, and the bottom still divided through the apex. The previous attempt felt not as rounded as I wanted, so this was an attempt to remedy that.

Why an unwearable muslin though? The foam for the cup is different from last time, and significantly thinner. The bra feels a little floppy, actually. Also, in lieu of proper channeling I used some lining material and fashioned a channel for the wire. I don’t know if that is the only culprit, but this bra itches! Like… I couldn’t wear it for 10 minutes without wanting to take it off! It is awfully pretty though.

DSC_7796 copy

List to myself of things to further tweak or do differently:
– Use firmer foam. Soft bras are not my thing, as my unused Watson also indicates.
– Move the strap placement in an inch or so. The straps are sitting awfully far out now.
– For the three-piece cup, pinch out 1/4″ or so along the top of the vertical seam. The bottom of the cup has too much volume.
– Perhaps try a three-piece cup with a vertical section on the outside of the cup, and the inner cup divided horizontally? I think that might function to push things in from the side, and towards the center.

DSC_7794 copy

Alright, so there we have it! A bra that turned out not wearable, and a move back to wordpress. Peace out. Or, something. :D

first foray into bra-making

Well, I’ve joined the ranks of bra-sewers! I am so intrigued by the fact that making your own bras is a thing, and that regular people can actually do it! I mean, I’ve known for years it is possible, reading the posts and seeing the enviable results of sewers like Lauren, Novita of verypurpleperson, and Norma of orange-lingerie. It just hasn’t felt like it is achievable – until I have now achieved myself. Behold, one Watson bra, and one knock-off.



First off, I have had tremendous help from reading Lauren’s posts on bra-making. This one breaks down the materials and notions needed, and the two-part post showing step by step how she sewed a Boylston bra is just gold. My Watson experience plus these posts totally gave me the confidence to attempt sewing a bra using a traced pattern with no instructions.

Watson bra
 Miliskin fabric, lining, hooks and eyes, plushback elastic (3/8″ and 5/8″), and strap elastic from a Blackbird fabrics kit. Lace fabric remnant from stash, rings and sliders from old, dead bra.
Pattern: Watson bra from Cloth Habit, and Grace panties from OhLulu (love this pattern! Success every time).


Starting with a Watson bra and a bra-making kit was a very conscious choice on my part to make it easier on myself. The Watson pattern for being a simpler style with a lot of hand-holding, and the kit from Blackbird fabrics so I could skip making by brain hurt from figuring out what to get and where (I just postponed that brain-hurting, since I later decided to try other bra-styles, which needed other kinds of supplies). I actually made two Watson bras, but I’m only showing the one that is wearable. The other ended up in the trash after I salvaged the hooks, eyes, rings and sliders, because really – it was way too small and just not happening. The measurement chart in the pattern put me at a band size 32 and cup size E. I cut a size 3o E (don’t ask me why… mismeasurement?), which as mentioned, was too small. Next attempt I did a size 34 E, which is actually a full two sizes up both in bandwidth, and in cup-size. The fit was much improved. There is some bagginess in the upper part of the cup, which looks like it has to do with shape, or volume distribution, but the cradle part of the cup is fine size-wise.


A lot of people have mentioned the comfort and relaxed style of the bra. I can totally see that, and I was really swayed and optimistic about the longline style, but I am getting some migrating throughout the day where I keep having to pull the bra down. Something isn’t quite working for me, and to be honest I don’t think I will try to figure it out. I tend to prefer underwire padded bras, or none at all, so a Watson-style bra honestly will get limited wear from me. It was a great project to get started though, to get familiar with the construction methods, the materials, and fiddly nature of sewing bras. For the second version I tried a few things differently than from the pattern, notably sandwiching the side/back portion between the miliskin outer fabric and the stable lining, to get a clean-looking inside. I also cut a couple of strips of the lining, and used them to finish the seams where the cups attach to the cradle. It worked beautifully and makes the insides look all professional and lovely!


Speaking of professional, I can’t get over how good this next bra looks like on the inside. I mean, look at this!



Grey balconette bra
 Fabric from stash, lining and powernet from Blackbird fabrics kit. Foam from MakeBra in Finland, plush back elastic (5/8″) from B-wear in Sweden, FOE from my stash (originally from SewSassy) hooks, eyes, rings, sliders and strap elastic from an old, dissected bra.
Pattern: Traced from an old Change bra, this one.

My preferred bra style is a padded balconette type bra. Almost all my bras right now are from Change, and I have found two of their styles in particular fit really really well. So – since I’ve read that a lot of people end up tweaking and testing and muslin-ing their bought bra patterns, and even recommend tracing a well-fitting bra, I decided to start at that end. I took apart the most tired of my well-loved bras, and traced and cleaned up the pattern. The underwire came out and got reused, since there wasn’t really anything the matter with it. It is really a lot of fun taking these little pieces of fabric, putting them together, and bam! You’ve engineered underwear!



The pattern I traced is a fairly classic t-shirt bra, with one vertical seam. It has padded straps, sort of like the Boylston bra, which I really like. Since the straps are set quite wide, it feels like a balconette style, though I think it is a tad more coverage than typical balconette bras. The original had a thin synthetic jersey kind of fabric (I really don’t know my bra fabrics yet) covering the foam cups, and the same fabric for the bridge and cradle. It also has a seam at the narrowest point under the cup, meaning that I would either have grey cups and black bridge and cradle, or grey cup and bridge, and black cradle, or grey everything – layering the thin jersey over the bridge lining and cradle as well as the cups. I thought grey everything would look the least weird, so I went for that! Of course, I didn’t have fold-over elastic (FOE) in grey, so I used the black I had on hand. It made for a pretty sporty look I think.

Construction wise I followed Lauren’s excellent tutorial, as well as checking out my dissected old bra. The Boylston bra doesn’t have FOE, so I had to diverge a little there, in finishing one bra cup seam before attaching the cup, and the other after. The strap elastic is also attached straight down, as opposed to becoming the finishing on the top edge of the cradle, leading to the hooks and eyes. I messed that bit up so it looks less professional in that spot, but the function is still fine.


I was hoping for a pretty bang-on fit since I copied the pattern from one I knew worked well. At the same time, I’ve seen plenty of people mention that changes in fabric really affects the fit. For a first attempt with a foam cup this bra is pretty damn good, with one area of improvement. While the silhouette from the side is nice and rounded, looking straight down it looks a little pointy. I thought there might be an issue of not enough length from left to right, but I made up a foam muslin after some pattern changes that only seemed to make it worse. My next attempt will be to turn the cup into a three-piece pattern, so volume and curves can be distributed along several seams. Theoretically that should improve things – realistically I am bracing myself for quite some trial and error here! If anyone has experiences they want to share, please do!

For my own sake, I will jot down the changes I’d like to make for the next version. I’m thinking the small remnants I have from this floral Bettine dress would make a fun bra!
– Eliminate the seam directly under the cup, and have one at the side seam instead. That seems more par for the course when I look at other bra patterns.
– Get rid of the tiny dart at center front – I think it’s there to cover the ends of the FOE. I’d rather have a continuous elastic, or a bow to cover up the raw edges.
– Move 3/8″ – 1/2″ from the cup to the band at side seams.
– The slinky jersey has much more stretch than the foam, and since I cut them the same size the jersey is loose. If I cover foam cups with stretchy fabrics I should reduce the pattern for the stretchy fabric with at least 10%.

– Remember to attach the strap elastic to the bottom edge *before* the picot edged elastic. Then do the top edge of the cradle before securing the strap elastic to the top.
– Attach underwire casing before FOE elastic on the front/top edge of cup, to attach casing all the way. Secure ends with zig-zag, cover with FOE.

grey_bra-1A reapeat picture. But I don’t care – I’m proud!

barcelona cabled mustard socks


One of the first pairs of socks I ever knitted (the second pair, I think?) were these mustard ribbed socks. I made them in the fall of 2007, and probably used them every week – sometimes every day – until they were falling apart beyond repair and I retired them in my pre-move tidying frenzy. They served me so very well, and while visiting Barcelona last October with my teacher-study-friends, a skein of mustard yarn came home with me. It was time for the second generation of mustard socks!

Yarn: Discontinued Greta and the Fibers Socks, fingering weight and hand dyed, color 45
Pattern: “No slouch socks” by Elinor Brown. Ravelry project page here.
Techniques: Knits and purls and tiny cables. Also, kitchener stitch for grafting the toes.



This yarn smells really, really good. Not strong, just.. fresh and flowery and wooly. Like really good wool-wash. It’s not lofty, and has a lot less give than I would expect from a wool blend. It feels smooth and has some luster, and a density that reminds me of a single ply rather than the 4-ply it is. At the same time the yarn feels sort of hard, I think due to the lack of give, and I ended up knitting quite tightly with high tension. Still, the finished socks don’t have much spring or bounce to them – they almost feel kind of flat.


The heels were an interesting adventure! I spent more than three months on these socks from start to finish, and a lot of it was procrastinating about how to solve the heel and toe. You see, the pattern I chose – “No Slouch Socks” – assumes you have your own preferred heel and toe solution. The pattern mentions this up front, so I don’t feel deceived, but it was a lot more work on my end when I decided not to go for the easy solutions. I thought the undulating cables and neat rhythm of the ribbing + cables deserved something more than my usual heel flap and plain toe, so I took to researching.

There is something called a Welsh heel, which sounded interesting to me. I’m pretty sure that is not what I ended up knitting, but it inspired me to try decreasing and increasing in a different way. All the details or on my ravelry project page – I  won’t even try to make sense of it here. It made sense to me in the moment, and now almost a year later, I’m baffled. I really like the diagonal lines though, and the making of stitches along a “back seam”.


The toe was equally an experiment, as I wanted to continue the pattern all the way. The first few pictures also sort of show that I did a really narrow saddle of 6 stitches across the front of the toe. I remembered using the technique on the Seamless hybrid sweaters I’ve made, and it worked reasonably well. Very fiddly! The toe area is a little looser than I’d like. I could (should?) have done down a needle size and ended up with a stiffer fabric, but I think this kind of yarn just won’t plump up regardless.

Like the first pair, I’ve had these socks in pretty constant rotation. They are pretty! The good thing about them being so thin is that I can wear them with a lot of my booties, like the ones (well, the one) in my previous post. These socks have also brightened up my post-surgery plastic sandal wearing days, and are peeking out from the hiking boots I wear every day now – still the only decent outdoor shoes my swollen toe can fit into.

While I am practicing patience regarding the shoe situation, the remainder of this pretty-colored, lovely-smelling yarn is being made up into gorgeous colorwork mittens in this pattern, paired with some scrumptious brown alpaca. I am most definitely getting enjoyment out of my souvenir skein!


chicago cowl

I guess I’m continuing the trend of city names and travel themes in recent blog post titles! My previous post was about the Sydney jacket (of which I have one more cut out of charcoal wool felt, ready to get assembled, yey!), and now the cowl I knit from the souvenir yarn I treated myself to this summer, visiting Chicago.


Yarn: Malabrigo Arroyo yarn, sports weight and hand dyed, color 048 Glitter
Pattern: None. Ravelry project page here.
Techniques: Knits and purls


As cliched as it is, I have to start with mentioning that the weather here has been *amazing* lately. We’ve had weeks and weeks of almost all sunshine and blue skies, and for a city that might just out-rain Seattle, that should be saying something! It also meant I could take advantage today of my mid-day stroll to the university campus for an essay feedback meeting, and take some pictures in the university museum garden. I absolutely love that this garden is in my neighbourhood, and I absolutely love walking through it every chance I get!

If you’re wondering what the deal with the singular shoe is, I had toe surgery a few days ago. Scheduled, and successful, and now recovering nicely. It also explains why I’m not at work in the middle of a Wednesday! I’ll be clunking along with the open sandal for a few weeks, and I’m taking the opportunity to show off some gems from my knitted sock collection. These are the socks I knit with souvenir yarn from my Barcelona-trip last year, which is probably a good project to share next. Oh, and my souvenir knits match. I guess I’m consistent! :)


chicago_cowl-9The cowl kind of matches my eyes!

The cowl is simple enough – about 90 or 100 stitches, knit in the round, until I ran out of yarn. I really wanted a slightly narrower cowl that would stay closer to my neck, but I did not like the pooling that happened at around 65-70 stitches, so I went back to a larger circumference. And man, do I love the color. The variation of the greenish-yellow burnished gold layers so beautifully that I want to climb up into a tree with the changing leaves and be one with the tree. Or something like it. The color is just the best! (and…. not a stranger to the blog. I have so many projects with this mustardy color, not to mention the very header of the blog!)

As for the stitch pattern I think it is some variation on a brioche stitch (though I’m not quite sure what a brioche stich even is, so don’t hold me to this!). When knit flat every wrong side is knit, so purl bumps appear on the right side. Then the right side is done with alternately knitting a stitch and knitting into the stitch below. For the cowls knitted in the round I’ve purled every other row to achieve the same purl bumps on the right side.

I’ve used the same stitch pattern in this yellow cowl, the sweater I made in fashion school, and while not entirely the same, this honey cowl (now lost! Sad face.) used a similar slip/skew construction that breaks up color variation in a fun way. It’s pretty stunning in plain yarn too – I just finished some unselfish knitting, making a sweater where the whole back is in this squishy yummy pattern. I look forward to sharing some better pictures than the cell phone ones on the ravelry page, but all in good time.


Finally, a picture of a small piece of the lovely museum garden. I’m so glad I get to walk through parks every day on my way to work, or school, or downtown!

Anyone else playing camouflage with the pretty fall leaves nowadays?

sydney jacket in bergen


Fabric: About 1.3 meters of boiled woven wool, 1.5 meters wide. I was gifted the fabric some years ago by a sweet fellow sewist, and I’m so glad to finally have found the right project for this dusty colored wool.
Pattern: Sydney jacket, from Tessuti fabrics.
Techniques: topstitching.

sydney_jacket-1Feeling just a *bit* awkward posing with my tripod, on the street in my neighbourhood this past extremely windy Sunday afternoon. Yep, just me and the brunch crowd hanging around!

Oh, man – I love this jacket. It’s maybe not the most year-round kind of jacket, but damn, I feel stylish in this! I’m not quite sure what to say that hasn’t already been mentioned by the many, many bloggers who have made this jacket already since the release last year. I will try. I mean, words usually have to be dragged out of me, so I hope you all are aware of what sort of sacrifice this is for me. (I kid. I have so many words inside me. Just in general I mean.)

sydney_jacket-2I was too impatient to steam the jacket before wearing it out!

The construction is, as noted many places, a little different, but in a fun way. The seams are all overlapped and topstitched down. I ended up doing double rows of stitches just to make the seams more secure, plus I think it looks nice. Starting a Saturday morning in a mad dash of inspiration, I was not about to leave the house to buy me some fabric-matching thread, so I made do with what I had. I chose a warm sable kind of color, which I think went well with the dusty rosy mauve of the wool. It certainly does not match, but it’s not exactly a contrast color either – it just gives a bit of dimension!

This was not a difficult jacket to make. I spent three leisurely hours (including some unpicking and a snack break) one morning after realizing this fabric in my stash was a perfect fit for the pattern I assembled and cut the previous night. I was on my way to pull out a thicker grey felted wool when this softer boiled wool just sang out for my attention. What could I do but obey? Based on other bloggers notes about the roominess I decided to cut the petite size, with the added 1 cm length of the size small. I’m happy with the ease I have in the finished jacket – I certainly wouldn’t want it any larger (I’m 5’4″/164 cm for reference). I have to say… as soon as I put it on I knew that grey felted wool is coming out after all. I want another one! So cozy and warm! I mean, it won’t really hold up to cold days or superwindy days, but I most definitely felt the added warmth of wearing this jacket!


I can’t get over how pulled together, slightly artistic and cool I felt wearing this. I’m not even sure I know what I think this word means, but I felt chic damnit. There. I said it. Now – go make yourself one of these. I’ll be back soon with some knits I’ve finished, in my favorite color ever. Oh, the suspense! ;)