Friday, April 27, 2012



It's hit full spring mode here in the Pacific Northwest.  Our apartment complex is lined in cherry trees, so there has been cherry blossom snow falling for the last few days.  Even though I'm really excited to be moving to Ballard, I'm also pretty sad that we're leaving our current place.  It's been a great place to live for the past year, and I would absolutely considering living here again if we ever move back to the Eastside.  The cherry blossoms are fitting for the last few weeks of our stay here, really: they're a symbol of both beauty and change, the fleeting joys of life.


That being said, things are ramping up soon because of our move, which starts May 1st - we have a little over a month to get all the loose ends tied up, but because we'll be trying to get all the moving and cleaning done (and I have a stack of knitting and sewing jobs to work on!) I'll probably be posting a bit more sporadically for the next month or so.  Then hopefully I'll be back with a new studio space, and exciting adventures to tell!

Hope everyone is having a happy spring!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Design Notebook: Black Dress

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One of my big assignments for school is to design, make a pattern, construct, and grade different sizes of a basic black dress that could be worn to a job interview or out to an evening event.  I did three sketches, and this was the one that won out in the end.  The other two were either too dressy or too boring, and I liked how this one struck a balance between polish and fun.  It actually started as a flash of inspiration as I was falling asleep one night.  I saw this dress in my head in a peacock blue, and practically jumped out of bed to sketch it before it was gone forever.  (I always think of really awesome stuff right as I'm falling asleep and think that I'll remember it in the morning.  I never do.  Hahahah.)

At least I learned from past mistakes, because I love this dress.  I don't have many sheath dresses in my closet, which is interesting because the shape tends to be pretty good on my body type.  I think that I shy away from dresses that don't have fullness at the hip to balance out my large chest, which is probably why I added pockets and an interesting waistband.


Last Saturday I went to check out a great local fabric shop with a friend from school, and they ended up having some really gorgeous black fabrics.  The one on the left is a heavy wool crepe, exactly what I was thinking of for a structured dress like this.  The swatch on the right is another 100% wool, a gabardine with a satin finish (if I'm remembering correctly), which I love because well... it glows.  It's not shiny like satin, but it definitely has a soft white gloss on its surface.  It's not quite what I'm looking for for the body of the dress, but the head of the school suggested using it as a contrast, maybe on the sleeves and on the waistband.  I really like the idea of playing with texture and light to add some subtle interest.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

WIP: Wayfarer Scarf

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Last week after I realized that my yarn was too skinny to keep on working on my current lazy scarf project, I had a fit of stash lust and grabbed some yarn that had been siren calling me for the last year or so: Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in colorway Thistle, a staggeringly beautiful shade of deep purple.  I had, luckily, bought a pattern to go along with my yarn, so I already knew what it wanted to be.

I cast on Thursday night.  The beginning was a little rough, but soon I was knitting away happily.  Then I hit the traveling stitch pattern, which threw me for a minute because I ended up wanting to change the increases a bit - but then that hiccup was resolved, too, and I'm left with miles of brainless garter and slipped stitch pattern to knit with what has to be the sheepiest, fluffiest, most beautiful wool ever to grace this planet.


Sometimes I worry that I've given in to some kinds of hype, because a lot of times I buy a yarn that I've been coveting deeply or have heard a lot about, and it ends up sitting in my stash for a bit before I get to knit with it.  In the meantime (sometimes years),  I'll buy a little more of it, because hey, I liked it the first time, right?  When I finally get to knitting the original yarn, I've amassed a little stashette of the stuff.  Usually, this ends in great happiness: I knit with the original yarn, and love it, and luckily there's more!  I haven't yet hit a bad yarn with this method, although I always get nervous that I'll absolutely hate something.

I had a near miss with Socks That Rock variegated sock yarn - as a new knitter, I had heard that this yarn was the best thing ever, so I bought a skein and tried knitting it up into a pair of Jaywalkers.  In the end I had to cast on like four times, and the stupid sock still didn't fit (as I found out way later, a problem with the pattern for my huge feet, not with the yarn) so I got disgusted with it, wound it back up and stuffed it back into the stash.  And then, for some mad reason, I kept on buying it.  Over four years or so, I accumulated five or six balls of the handpainted colorways, and every time I saw them in my stash I wondered what the hell I was thinking.

And then, one day about two years ago, I knit a pair of plain socks out of a colorway of STR that my mom had given to me.  And it was super nice - the colors were beautiful, the yarn was super soft and nice to work with, and the socks came out great.  And all of a sudden, what had seemed like a burden of too much sock yarn I wasn't sure I could work with, turned into a mini treasure chest.  All it took was a little time and a much better knitter than 18-year-old me.

Anyways.  The moral of that story is that Shelter is awesome.  I want to jump into a kiddie pool full of it.  And it will never, ever be a stash reject.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Stash Addition: Puyallup Handspun

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So last week, I was merrily working on Lumberjack's red scarf when I realized as I was knitting that my third skein of handspun was a little skinnier than the other two.  I did a few more rows, and it sunk in that the yarn was just a little too small to match the rest of the scarf.  I got worried, because the shop that carried the yarn is no longer in business, but a quick google search found the spinner's Etsy shop.  I messaged her, found out she did have an extra skein of the right color with a heavier weight and that she would be a vendor at the Puyallup Spring Fair - about a forty minute drive from where I live.

So Friday I made the drive down to Puyallup, expecting to walk in, pick up my skein from what I was sure would be the one booth of yarn in the whole fair, and walk out... and found a whole barn of roving, sheep, handspun, and spinners.  An hour later, the sun bright in my face and dizzy with yarn fumes, I left the barn with a bag full of a bag handspun.  I swear, stash bandits came in and forced me to pick up the yak/merino blend and hand over my credit card!  Really!

In all reality, I had several lovely conversations with the vendors, fondled a lot of really beautiful yarn, and snapped up a few extremely cheap and extremely gorgeous skeins of handspun.  The skein I actually went to the fair for ended up being just right, so I'm hoping to finish that project soon.

From left, there's Crown Mountain Farms Aris merino/nylon in the colorway Free Bird (hand-dyed but not handspun), Sunset Fibers handspun DK-weight blue-faced leicester in an unnamed dusty rose colorway, Sunset Fibers handspun fingering-weight merino in colorway Cowgirl, and Crown Mountain Farms handspun fingering-weight undyed merino/yak blend.

Sigh.  I love yarn, and I really love yarn people.  Who else would compliment your handbag and try to figure out the stitch pattern in your sweater in the same breath?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Noms: Brie & Prosciutto Flatbread


I'm going to go with another totally out-of-character post and talk about food.  I've already catalogued some of my feelings about cooking here; but in short, my relationship with cooking is an ambivalent one.  I love good food, and I also love making things.  But for some reason, these two interests have never quite come together.

It's also funny because I've had this particular disconnect in my life before: when I was a chemistry major for a hot minute back in college, I loved the chemistry on paper, but not in the lab.  It was fascinating how you could write out a reaction with two or three or five different chemicals - often toxic in their natural states - snap off a functional group there, form a double bond here, and boom: life-saving drug.  Simple, finite.  On paper.

But the realities of the lab aren't as elegant.  Waste compounds couldn't be ignored, they had to be taken to the giant brown flask that looked like something out of a horror movie villain's lab.  Reactions that should have worked, didn't; particles that should have gone into solution stubbornly sank to the bottom of their solvents.  Things that were so reasonable on paper got complicated in practice, and in the end, I wasn't cut out to be a chemistry major, no matter how much I liked those neat little reactions on the page.


So think I have similar feelings about cooking.  Whenever I try, I start with good ingredients and get excited and have this picture in my mind of what it should end up like, but I never really have fun with the process and the finished product falls short.  So I eat my disappointing casserole, or stir-fry, or whatever the hell it is that I thought was a good idea until I turned it into radioactive goop, and I make a mental note never to cook again.

Lumberjack's been trying to help me through this cooking fail of mine.  (The geniuses at Trader Joe's have been a great help in this department so far.)  I know from knitting that you just have to keep on practicing, but I also know through knitting that life's too short to voluntarily do things you don't like doing.  So I have a lot of mental arguments about the merits of Perseverance In The Face Of A Challenge versus Honoring Thine Own Inner Stubbornness, Which Is Pretty Well Entrenched And Doesn't Like To Be Poked.

And then, every so often, we make something together that is so simple and almost stupidly delicious that I feel a distant, faint shine of hope that someday I will not hate cooking.

This is that something.  We did leave off the pear - the pear we bought went rotten unusually fast - but the rest was spot-on.  I had to take pictures of it because it was so pretty.  Who knew I liked arugula?  Who knew brie melted and bubbled in such a cute way?  Why are you so delicious, oh little flatbread pizza?!

Okay, cooking, I'll consider going on a second date.  But I'm not promising anything.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Outfit Post: Who Says White is for Weddings

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I'm not sure which era this dropped-waist lace dress is supposed to hearken back to exactly (the lace screams Victorian, the dropped waist screams '20s) but when I saw it at a vintage shop a few months ago, it practically leapt into my arms.  It has a permanent marker stain on the back of the neck, which makes me think that maybe it was used as an old-fashioned wedding dress in a theater or something.

I don't care too much about the bodice of the dress, which is an unimpressive scoop neck with an ill-fitting lining and pretty unflattering armholes, albeit with a cute little trim around the neckline.  What really grabbed me about this dress is the use of multiple types of lace: one is dotted, one looks like standard craft lace, and two are finer strips of lace with cute little floral lattices and bouquets.  Although I'm not usually one for an unshaped bodice and a dropped waist, the bottom of this dress more than makes up for it.  It's pretty, swishy, and a blast to wear.


And sort of on that note, this dress, while beautiful, only enforces my resolve that the wedding dress I'm planning to design and make will be any other color but white.  White doesn't make me feel pretty, and I'm all about feeling like a knockout in a dress that I've made, particularly for my own wedding.  So, most likely, a pink dress it is!  Sorry white lace dresses, you're always gonna be everyday dress-up for me!

White lace dress: Who knows - thrifted with the tags cut out.
Cashmere cardigan: Cynthia Rowley, from Marshall's
Taupe pumps: J Shoes
Teeny llama necklace: Madewell

Thursday, April 19, 2012

WIP, In The Home Stretch: Zelda

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Egads.  After way too long sitting shoved in a basket, I finally pulled out my Zelda to finish it up about two weeks ago.  I steadily plugged along on the body, fixed some dumb mistakes I made the first time around, and cast off on Sunday night.  Then I cast on for the sleeve about a zillion times (my willpower to finish the thing was running on fumes at this point) and was finally successful the third try.  After that, the sleeve zipped right along - I cast off the first one Tuesday night, started the next one yesterday, and already have about an inch and a half.  Then is the fun part - the sewing, and the picking up of stitches, and the swearing and gnashing of teeth.

I'm really glad this sweater is turning out so pretty, because it has been a total pain in my ass.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Color Inspiration


So last Saturday was my school's annual fashion show. I helped out as a volunteer last week and a dresser on the day of the show, and I got to sit in one of the two shows. The whole thing was a great experience from start to finish: I got to see how much work goes into preparing for an event, from setup of the space to hair and makeup the day of the show, and my models, designers, and fellow students made a great team that was both professional and pleasant to work with.  Watching the show was even better, because I knew what went into making such a great night.


It also got me thinking about my line, which will hopefully be in the show next year.  And, of course, when I start thinking about my line, I start thinking about color.  It's my jumping-off point for almost everything that I do, and I have the handy tool of a spectacular yarn stash to get me excited about it.


So I pulled all of my tonal sock yarn out of its cubby and lined it up in a big rainbow.  It's funny to see trends in my color selections, like apple greens, gingery orange/browns, various shades of turquoise, dusty roses, and plummy red/purple colors.  I'm already having thoughts about my line, colors inspired by the '60s and '70s, Almost Famous, jet-set shift dresses and red corduroy, which is very different than I thought initially.

It's been a little hard to find magazine tears that embody that perfect balance of playfulness, femininity and edge that I'm going for.  Too often, femininity in fashion magazines translates as feather-light, floral and sweet with a weird combination of purity and Lolita-esque sexiness.  There are common aesthetic genres in editorials and advertisements: glam, femme fatale, waif, pinup... but none of them are quite complex enough.  It's frustrating sometimes, that I love fashion and yet hate some of the gender and cultural stereotypes that it keeps alive and well-fed.  Most likely I'll pull from multiple genres and hope that it comes out cohesive enough.  In the meantime, though, I'll distract myself with pretty yarn and thoughts of California in the summer - the weather in Seattle has returned to its usual cloudy grimace.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Repairs: Strappy Summer Dress


I bought this dress from my local boutique in Oberlin about three years ago, and it has some really sweet details: pintucks at the waist for shaping, surplice neckline, and full lining.  It was super fun to wear - it's a very comfortable, lightweight cotton, with about a tea-length hem.  Just perfect for late spring days.  Or, you know, late August, if you're talking about Seattle weather.


Considering the quality of the construction of the dress, I was surprised when the adjustable fasteners on the back of the dress, identical to the little ring and slider on bras, snapped after two or three wearings.  Years later, I'm still baffled why a company would make such a beautifully constructed dress and ruin it with cheesy findings.


But no matter - I'm gonna fix this sucker!  It's been sitting in my mom's house for the last two years or so, and I finally pulled it out and decided to give it a shot a few weeks ago.  After asking around a bit, I've decided that finding high-quality coated metal rings and sliders like you'd find on a well-made bra is going to more trouble than it's worth.  So instead, I'm going to chop the straps off entirely, adjust them to fit, and sew them down.

As I've been ripping stitches to get the dress ready, I've seen little black dots on the wrong sides of the fabric, probably used during manufacturing to make sure everything was placed right.  It's fun to note these kinds of little details - it's like being in on a secret code!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Outfit Post: Birthday Edition

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So yesterday was my 24th birthday, and Lumberjack and I went out for brunch and an afternoon showing of the Hunger Games.  And let me be the first to warn you: don't go to this movie wearing thick black eye makeup.  I spent a good ten minute of the movie tipping my head up and hyperventilating while crying so that I wouldn't have two matching black rivulets down my face.  The scenes with Katniss and her sister, and Katniss and Rue, and Katniss and... well, Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, so about every thirty minutes you're warming up the waterworks from her performance.  I thought it was a very good adaptation of the book - and I might even go so far as to say that it was better than the book, simply because the film used many perspectives where the book had only one.  It made for a very layered and surprisingly political film for young adults.

In other news (and rather big news at that) Lumberjack and I are moving to Ballard!  I've been commuting to school in Ballard from our little apartment in the 'burbs for the last six months or so, and although it's been working out fairly well, I know that the next year of school is going to get more and more intense.  Our lease here is up in June, so last week we started looking at listings, and went from viewing to lease in about two days!  Since I went to school in a small town and grew up in the suburbs, this will be my first time living in Seattle proper - pretty exciting for me!  We're both really excited to be able to walk to the grocery store and to walk or bus to all the great venues and restaurants in both Ballard and downtown Seattle.  And I love the 6-minute walk to school from our new place (!!!!!).  It's going to be a hectic couple of months, but I think it'll be a good change for us.


I had way too much fun dressing up today.  I wrestled my hair with a curling iron and massive amounts of hairspray, threw on a cute new dress from my Oberlin trip, and wore contacts and eye makeup.  It was super fun to run around in pretty dress, and luckily there was some sunshine too!

Mesh-yoke dress: Effie's Heart
Beaded black cardigan: Thrifted
Sequined hair flower: H&M
Black pumps: J Shoes

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pattern Now Available: Salt Creek


At long last, Salt Creek is now available for purchase on Ravelry!  A few weeks ago, I did a knitalong with the knitters at Smith's in Oberlin, which was a really awesome way to introduce the pattern into the wild.  

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Salt Creek is a slouchy unisex hat with cable and twisted-stitch detail as well as some super-nifty decreases on the crown.  It's a quick knit in about 220 yards of DK-weight yarn - you can use basic wool or amazing hand-dyes like Hazel Knits or Madelinetosh.  There are a few unusual decreases in the pattern, so I'd recommend this project to the adventurous intermediate knitter.


You can check out the full yardage and gauge information, or buy the pattern for $5.00 on Ravelry by clicking here.

And of course, thanks to my fabulous test knitters for being speedy and thorough with their notes and questions!  Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 12, 2012



This week I have off of classes, which made me think I was going to have lots of free time.  Nope!  This week has been full of volunteering at the school to help with the annual fashion show, running around getting supplies for various sewing projects, and swatching for some commission knitting.

The other day I took in some books I cleared out from a recent studio cleaning to my LYS, which does book consignment, and of course I had to pet some yarn while I was there!  And then I finally used my coveted 20% discount on a sweater's worth of Madelinetosh Sport in Corsage to make this sweater:

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Wildflower Cardigan, by Alana Dakos - from Coastal Knits


I love this color.  It's a pale pink with a little bit of excitement, a perfectly girly and romantic color for this sweet little cardigan.  I've been scheming for months how to use that discount the best way possible, and I knew that a Toshy sweater was just the ticket.  Since it seems like I should finish my sweaters-in-progress before jumping into a new one, I've been working on my Zelda blouse while watching lots of hours of Say Yes to the Dress.  It's like a trainwreck, but I can't stop watching...!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quick Tip: Serging Charmeuse

So today I encountered a problem while serging some scarves for my internship: serging charmeuse is all well and good once it's started, but the feed dogs will not pick up a corner of the stuff to get things going!  

Charmeuse is lightweight fabric with a satin weave, which means that it's got no heft to move things along, and slippery as all get-out.  The scarves that I'm doing are cut on the bias, which makes serging a little more difficult, but I imagine that the principle is the same whether you're working on the bias or with the grain of the fabric.

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Here's one way I figured out how to fix it:

1.  Make sure you have a right angle to start off with to keep things from getting snarled in the machine.  I cut off the tip of this scarf so that the long point wouldn't get caught up in either the needles or the cutting knife.

2.  Tear off a small piece of tissue paper - a few inches square is enough - and line it up with the cut edge  of the top of your fabric.  (And a word to the wise, aka not me: Make sure you've practiced on a swatch or two of fabric to get the tension right before jumping in!  I'll use the excuse that I don't have much charmeuse lying around my apartment.  Yeeeah.)

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3.  With the knife up, slide the two layers underneath the presser foot, far enough to catch on the feed dogs.  I found it helpful to cut a quarter-inch notch down from the top edge of my fabric that would line up with the knife.

This is where the magic happens - the toothiness of the tissue paper gets caught on the feed dogs and pulls things along, and once there's more of your charmeuse in contact with the feed dogs, they can keep things going by themselves.  They just need a little help to get started!

4.  Serge your little heart out.  No need to do anything special at the other end of the seam.


Ta-da!  A lovely serged edge.  I've been using a rolled hem with just 3 threads for this hem, which allows the fabric to move and drape without a stiff or bulky seam.

There is one last step though - right now there's a little flag of tissue paper where it shouldn't be.


Easy fix!

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5.  Gently tear the tissue paper away from the seam.

6.  Also verrrrrry gently, take a pair of long-tipped tweezers (such as the one that was handily included in my serger's little toolbox!) and tease out the remaining tissue paper from the seam.


And now you're finished.  For real this time.

And as always, there's more than one way to skin a cat!  If anyone has any tips or tricks for working with difficult fabrics like charmeuse - serging or sewing - please let me know!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Outfit Post: Pippi Tallsandal

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The weather yesterday was warm for Seattle, which is to say, about 65 degrees.  To normal people, that's still long pants weather, but I decided that sunny means warm, damn the actual weather.  I went on a supply run to the fabric store, got coffee and sketched for a while, then went in search of a set of Moleskine journals with grid paper, unsuccessfully.  It was nice to be outside in the sunshine, at least!  This outfit also made me feel like a teenager, what with the pigtails and comfy little dress.


These shoes are ridiculously comfortable, despite the sky-high platform.  Sometimes platforms make me a little too wobbly, but these ones barely feel like they have a heel at all - however, they still suck for driving, so I cheated and wore flats and then changed shoes at my destinations.  Although, I totally did an extremely elegant trip wobble wobble eep SAVE!!! in front of an unassuming man on the sidewalk, but I was too mortified to look at his face.  I must not get too cocky with these heels, methinks.

Hooded jersey dress:  Mystree
Yellow cardigan: Halle Brothers, thrifted
Llama necklace: Madewell
Multicolored sandals: J Shoes