The obligatory end-of-2011 roundup post!

But first….ooh, look, a finished sweater! (Minus the blocking.)

It’s certainly not perfect. The sleeves are a bit too batwing for my taste– I guess I measured wrong when checking the pattern to see if that was a good place to split off the sleeve, or it got too stretched out in waiting. I definitely need to work on my binding off–the sleeves are ok, but despite my googling to find a stretchier bind-off that I could understand, I initially couldn’t get the sweater over my hips at all. I actually had to unbind it and get my mom to do it for me, and it’s still not stretchy, but at least I can get it on now. I wish it was more fitted. But it’s a sweater, and I made it, and I learned some valuable things that I can take to the next time I attempt this sort of thing. (Like try it on a lot more often.) On the plus side, it’s cheery, it’ll work with those skinny jeans, and from the little bit I tried it on to test the bindoff today, it’ll be nice and toasty. I wasn’t sure I’d make my goal of finishing it by the end of the year, but since my day job is currently done, basically all of my students cancelled this week, and I’ve been trying to fight off a cold, I was able to knock out the rest of the knitting in a marathon session yesterday (along with watching Downton Abbey in its entirety.) So it’s done. Yay!

 On with the year-in-review: 2011 turned out to be a pretty big year for me and crafting! Well, they’re usually big years. But I made some pretty cool stuff, if I may say so myself.

Revisiting last year’s post, this is what I was hoping to do this year:
  1. Continue working on fitting. Considering that I made a pair of pants that fit, and a perfectly-fitting sheath dress, I’d say this is a win.
  2. Learn some more couture techniques. Little Black Dress, anyone?
  3. Get my fabric and pattern stashes organized. Not so much on the patterns, but the fabric was a win!
  4. Do some more reconstructions. I got 15 for the year, so I averaged about 1 a month. Not too bad!
  5. Figure out whether the Etsy shop thing would work for me. I did. It didn’t. Moving on.
  6. Rethink my scrapbooking. I haven’t posted much about that, but I haven’t totally neglected it this year– I reorganized my albums to a way that makes a little more sense for my current lifestyle, and I did actually finish a couple of pages. (They’d been in progress for a long time, but I’m still counting them.)
What I was not expecting this year: Knitting. Especially actually sticking with it for an entire year. And I got to the point where I made a sweater. Whoa.
I’ve been thinking about my goals for this year. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to keep it simple. My personal life has gotten a bit interesting lately, and I don’t want to put pressure on myself. So here’s what I’m hoping for 2012 in my crafty life:
  1. Continue chipping away at the fabric stash. And whatever other stashes.
  2. I have a handful of specific projects I’d like to sew. #1, the jeans. It WILL happen this time. #2, a jacket or two. #3, the Lonsdale dress I’ve been envisioning for at least six months. Aside from that, I want to leave things flexible for seasonal sewalongs and the like.
  3. On the reconstruction end of things, I’ve had an idea simmering in my mind for a couple of months now. Since I’m already an Anthropologie fan, I’m setting a little mini-challenge for myself. Once a season, I’d like to choose a garment from the current catalog, and make a recycled piece inspired by it. Perhaps even with a tutorial, if the interest is there. (I was originally thinking once a month, but again, I’m trying to avoid over-committing myself. And once every 3 months sounds reasonable.) Also, I’d like to reconstruct often enough to stay a part of the Refashion Co-Op.
  4. Continue working on my knitting. Specifically, I’d like to make something with a cable that actually looks like a cable, something with multiple colors in the same project, and at least start that afghan that will take me years to finish.
  5. Keep chipping away at the scrapbooks as I feel inspired to.
  6. Get better at picking projects that will help me make complete outfits. (I have a couple of orphan pieces that I still love and I want to wear them.)
  7. Make some more things for others. I can be a terribly selfish crafter.

The other stats:
What I made or reconstructed this year: 3 items of jewelry, 7 dresses, 1 jacket, 6 skirts, 5 wraps/scarves, 13 shirts, 6 bags/pouches, 3 hats, 2 pairs of handwarmers, 1 pair slippers, 1 pajamas, 2 pairs of pants/shorts, 12 “general household” items, which is kind of the catch-all for everything else (3 of which are ornaments that didn’t get photographed), a few random scrapbook pages that I didn’t count, and, of course, my first sweater!

Favorite project this year: Hands-down, the Anthropologie pants.

Thing I’m proudest of: Actually sticking with the knitting this time. Especially through that rough patch on the sweater. This says much about the improvement of my patience levels.

So that pretty much sums it up–happy rest of 2011 to all of you, and see you in the new year!

    Year-end crafting

    Now that Christmas is over and all gifts have been given, I can show the rest of what I’ve been up to this month.

    1. Herbal eye pillows. They’re filled with flaxseed, lavender, and peppermint. I got the idea and the basic instructions from this blog that I found while Google-searching how to do it. The pillows themselves are bits of muslin from testing out that little black dress at the beginning of the year, and I was able to use some 100% cotton scraps from several projects over the last couple of years. I made one for myself, one for my mom, one for the cousin that I got in the family drawing on my mom’s side (as part of an after-work relaxation kit–she’s a nurse, so she has to put in some long days), and one that I’m not sure what to do with yet.

    I usually make a necklace or two for my mom’s stocking every year as well. So here’s this year’s–she mentioned she didn’t have much gold-toned jewelry. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the chain is broken up here and there by some antique gold-colored freshwater pearl beads.

    I also got some lovely sewing and knitting (mostly)-related gifts this year from my family…

    New fabric! From left to right, 3 yards of a lightweight charcoal denim that absolutely has to become pants, a black/white/grey silky print (I think about 2 yards), and a yard each of 3 cotton prints for me to make a new bag, of this style. It’s kind of cool that I basically have an entire outfit here! I’ll just have to make sure to choose a pants and top pattern that will work well together.

     And I got new yarn! 2 skeins each of this really thin bamboo yarn (I’m guessing for socks)…

    ….and 2 of this lovely colorway of the Serenity yarn I like. For acrylic, it’s super-soft and I love their color palettes!

    A few other miscellaneous things: 3 knitting books (2 with some really lovely patterns, and one that’s a pocket-sized tips book), a tiny circular needle which I’m guessing is also for attempting socks, 2 pairs of scissors (a badly-needed pair of new fabric scissors, since mine are rather dull, and some pinking scissors so I can stop stealing Mom’s all the time), and a little pendant from my sis-in-law.

    Here’s the close-up– we both love Van Gogh, and I already had the “Starry Night” pendant. So this is the “Sunflowers”, of course. I love that it came with two little sunflower charms so I can make some earrings, too! (Sunflowers are my favorite flower, as you’ve probably figured out by this point.)

    So that pretty much wraps up the holidays. My seasonal retail job is basically done for the year, so unless my job hunt proves more fruitful over the next couple of months than it’s been so far, I’ve basically got no work other than my flute teaching until March. So I think a lot of my non-job-hunting/non-work time will probably be spent playing around with some of these things. I’m hoping to get that mock-up of the raincoat cut out this week. And I have one more holiday-related project up my sleeve, which must get done this week. I’m also planning on doing the traditional year-end wrap-up post at some point this week. But first, I need to figure out where to put all of this stuff…

    Dear sewing, I miss you….

    I literally have not done a thing related to sewing since last Wednesday, when I traced out the pattern for my raincoat. Between work, multiple eye doctor appointments for a minor emergency, practices and performances for a concert at my church, a cookie bakefest with my sis-in-law, and trying to get things ready for a family gathering of most of my female cousins today, I just haven’t had time to. And it’s starting to make me a bit twitchy.

    I did manage to get in some knitting time, at least, during those later-night hours when trying to figure out sewing directions is a bad idea but I can do nothing-but-knit-stitch just fine and brainlessly. So the Cadence sweater now has one sleeve done, and the second sleeve started. I tried it on the other night, and learned that I probably should have done more decreases in the body. It’s going to be pretty big. But at this point, rather than re-knit it, I think I’m just going to run with it, knit it longer, and wear it with my one pair of skinny jeans. I was commenting the other day that I needed some longer warmer stuff to wear with those anyway. And even though it’s alpaca and acrylic, maybe the blocking will help.

    So at least I haven’t been entirely uncreative. And I’m glad that I took up knitting this year for that very reason. But I still miss sewing.

    Maybe once Christmas is over…

    Reconstructing a reconstruction

    About 3 years ago, I took a velvety dress from Goodwill and chopped it off to make a quick top to wear for Christmas Eve services. I’ve barely worn it since–I was never fully satisfied with the look of it. So I finished re-reconstructing it last night–I’ve been slowly poking at it in between sewing Christmas gifts, painting ornaments, and knitting away on my Cadence sweater.

    I accidentally deleted most of my in-progress photos before a party, so this will have to do. Basically, I took off the black ribbon, and then cut the shirt around the same point because of course there was a mark from the stitching. I had to take in those princess seams a bit too on both the top and bottom, because it was still a bit on the overly loose side.

    I cut some strips from the remaining portion of the original dress, used the newly-taken-in top portion as a guideline for how wide to make each segment, and did some gathering where I joined them to add some interest/conceal the oddness of having a princess-seamed waistband. (Incidentally, don’t look inside the shirt here–it’s not finished well at ALL, but I’m not going to let it bother me for this one.)

    I think it’s an improvement over that black band. And done just in time for when I need a solid green shirt for Sunday. No pictures of it on me right now–I’ve been condemned to glasses for the week, since I somehow managed to scratch my eye or something from sitting at the computer with my contacts in and blinking funny. And I’m ridiculously nearsighted, so either I’d be squinting funny, or just look funny period. (I hate the way I look in my glasses, honestly.)

    Next up on the sewing agenda: the raincoat! My plan is to trace it out today, since I’m having one of those off-from-the-part-time days and only have a couple of lessons to teach later on. And I’ll be test-fitting it with the fabric that I’m actually planning on underlining the lining with. It’s less wasteful that way, and I don’t feel bad about marking up or piecing together bits of flannel that won’t be seen.

    I’d also like to work some more on the sweater, since I’m about 3-4 rows away from finishing the decrease section. I think I’m going to try it on after that, and then start working on the sleeves so I can make sure I can get those long enough to fully cover my arms before I determine how long to make the torso. I’m hoping to knock it off quickly, ideally by the end of the year, because I’m thinking ahead to yet another cousin’s wedding that will be coming up at the end of March. I don’t have to sew a dress this time, thankfully, because I think this one will fit the occasion and season just fine. But I would like to knit a shrug to go with it, since the end of March is still kind of cold for sleeveless. I’m thinking this one, which I’ve been eyeing ever since I bought that magazine just after I started knitting, in black. I just need to figure out what sort of yarn to use, since the called-for yarn is way too expensive and not in black anyway. I’m kind of eyeing this–I’ve had to handle 100% cashmere before and it was ok, though not great, so I think I can take a chance on 5%. And the silk will make it a bit warmer too. And I know I’m good with cotton. The price is still a bit higher than I’d like, but at least black is a very versatile color for my wardrobe, so it’s not like it would just get worn once. But I’m going to sit on that for a little bit, and see if I can find some time to run to the local yarn store and see what they have. After all, I still need to finish Cadence first.

    Don’t open till Christmas….

    I did some sewing this week.

    But I can’t show you yet, because it was either a refashion that I accidentally deleted the in-progress pics for, and need to re-take those before I can go any further, or Christmas presents.

    So here’s something shiny instead.

    Every year since we finished college, one of my friends and her husband have hosted an ornament exchange party. This year, for the first time, she decided to do a theme, which is “Winter Wonderland.”

    I had this ornament on my Pinterest board, and decided it would be perfect. And I found a box of these blue ornaments for half-price at Joann’s when I was there to pick up a few last-minute notions for the Licorice dress. I didn’t want to add those red streaks that were supposed to be cardinals, because it would be way too easy for them to just look like red streaks instead. And when I was talking to my mom about it, she suggested I do little crystals instead of the dots for snowflakes. (My mom is pretty brilliant as a craft sounding board.)

    I’m pleased with how they turned out overall. Though these were actually much harder to make than I’d anticipated. I had some acrylic enamel paint, which specifically said it could be used on glass, so I went for that. It took 3 coats of that, then 2 coats of regular acrylic craft paint, then one more coat of the enamel paint to get the paint to stop looking streaky! And I’m pretty sure there may be a crystal or two glued to my PJ pants from when I was finishing them last night, because they kept dropping out of the tweezers after I toothpicked the glue onto the back. And they’re so tiny, I know I didn’t find them all.

    I did 3 altogether– one for the party, one to keep, and one to give to my mom as a thank-you for the idea. I was going to do a fourth one to give to my brother and sis-in-law, but the fourth of the frosted-looking ornaments in the box has this huge flaw in the blue coating that leaves this dark, black-hole-like spot. So I’m going to have to figure out what to do with that, and the four shinier balls.

    Speaking of that party, I should probably be getting ready to go.

    One last Licorice post, and a FESA roundup

    Here we go…Licorice in real life! This was the only picture I ended up with from the party where you can actually see most of the dress, including the belt. In every other picture, my arm was conveniently hiding the belt.

    The verdict: Overall, I’m happy with how it wore, although it needs a little tweaking. Since I had to take in the darts more than what the pattern originally specified after my fitting muslin, the fabric was straining a bit at the center of each dart by the time I took it off. So I’m going to have to round those out a bit before I wear it again, and hope that the fabric isn’t already obviously damaged. I also need to add another eyelet to the belt, because despite having measured, it’s too big! Fortunately, extras came with the kit, so I can do that easily enough. I think I’d also like to add some kind of loop to the belt to hold the end in.

    Anyway, I got a lot of compliments on the dress, and people were surprised when Nicole told them I’d made it!

    The next day, along with some Anthropologie window-shopping, Nicole and I went to Gaffney Fabrics, which is pretty close to her apartment.
    And, well, after months of not buying anything without a specific purpose, I couldn’t resist picking up a few things. It’s the corduroy’s fault–the lovely shade of blue, and the velvety feel of the thin wales were screaming, “You think I’m gorgeous, you want to buy me, you want to make a cute jacket out of me….” (If you’ve ever seen Miss Congeniality, just picture Sandra Bullock doing her little routine in there at the end and you’ll get the general tone.) Anyway, the corduroy was already cut into a 2 5/8 yard piece, which I figured would be plenty for a cute little jacket. Maybe something like this? Or this? Or maybe go all Sgt. Pepper’s and make that Hikaru jacket that I’ve had saved on my hard drive since back when BurdaStyle patterns were free? The floral print is to be the lining of whatever I settle on–we found a roll of this satiny stuff in the basement, and the blue matched perfectly! I didn’t have to feel guilty about splurging, either, because they were having a post-Thanksgiving sale still going on and this stuff was rather inexpensive– only $2.99/yd for the lining, and only $1.99/yd for the corduroy itself!

    I’m not going to get to this one right away, of course– I’m in the middle of a reconstruction and I want to fix those darts while I still have the machine threaded with the right color, I’ve got a little Christmas present I need to make once the rest of my supplies arrive, and then the next priority is going to be starting the tracing and fitting process for my winter raincoat. It’s actually been fairly unseasonably warm around here for most of the fall, but the cold is finally starting to dig its claws in, and I’ve already missed having this on a couple of the colder rainy days so far this season.

    I’m looking at my initial Fall Essentials Sew-Along list, and I think that overall, I did pretty well! I didn’t get to the jeans yet, of course, and I still have the two coats on my list that are high priority.  My Cadence is still in the works, too. But I did finish the teal skirt from the “Fashionable Foundations” category, the knit top from the “Chic Chemises” (and I’d say I’m at least a third of the way done the Cadence), my one “Fashionable Frock” is in the bag (and the Licorice gave me an extra one to boot), the slippers from the “Tender Tootsies”, and the knitted hat from the “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, as well as a nice dent in a matching scarf. Plus Jolene’ bag, and finishing Shantelle’s scarf, and making a nice dent on my mending pile. Not bad for three months– especially since I had to re-knit the Cadence thrice!

    So, aside from the Christmas present, I think I’ll do the raincoat first, then the jeans, then the brown corduroy jacket that I’ve been meaning to do since last year. Though I’ll probably break these up with some reconstructing, since these are all pretty involved sewing projects. It’ll probably take me until February to finish all of these, but that’s ok. This new blue jacket idea that’s percolating will be better for an early spring jacket, I think, since the corduroy is definitely on the lightweight side. I’m hearing rumors of a spring sew-along, and I’m hoping it’s in the same spirit as the summer and fall essentials one, so we’ll see…