A (partial) wardrobe overhaul

newly altered clothingBack in April, I learned about Me-Made May 2014. I loved the concept but did not sign up. I knew that, with everything already on my calendar at the time, I couldn’t hope to finish any new craft challenge that month, no matter how humble a goal I set.

But I couldn’t shake the notion. I DID have plenty in my wardrobe that I didn’t wear. Most of those back-of-the-closet items were store-bought rather than handmade, but regardless, all were things I liked too much to give away even though they just didn’t work for me.

I tried to ignore everyone’s May goals while I kept reading all my favorite blogs. And among them I was regularly seeing new refashion projects on Carissa Knits or references to the Me-Made May challenge on Jennifer Lauren Vintage and thinking, wow! Why can’t I do/don’t I do/didn’t I think of THAT?!

So I gave in. But instead of “me-made,” I aimed for me-altered. And instead of “May,” I took a less ambitious beginning in May.

Here’s the result of my cheater’s take: I’ve returned three pairs of pants, five t-shirts, and two casual-but-nice tops to actual wearing rotation.

Now, don’t expect to be seriously wowwed. I don’t do high fashion, and most of the alterations are basic, especially if you have real sewing experience under your belt. But I’m satisfied knowing these favorite clothes are usable again, not just wasting my drawer space.

First up: Two pairs of casual jersey knit pants.

altered pantsThey were still soooo comfortable, and the perfect weight for our mild spring and fall weather, and they had these great deep pockets I loved. But they were looking S-A-D. The fabric had stretched in width from my last few years’ worth of yo-yo weight. But in the other direction, the fabric had shrunk, leaving the legs a good three inches too short.

The fix was so easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it long ago. I whacked another five inches off the legs and rehemmed. Capris! To fix the width, I laid the pants out flat and pinned, then stitched about an inch deeper all the way around the U, up one inseam, around, and back down the other. I took an inch deeper in from the seam up the rise, too, then finally trimmed off all the excess.

They’re still casual pants at best, especially given the fading they’ve done since they were new. But now that they’re properly fitted (I kept the weight off this time, yay and knock wood), I don’t feel frumpy when I put them on now.

Next: My old favorite jeans still felt good, but they were no longer fit for public wear given the state of their knees. Cutoffs–what could be simpler?

I didn’t want the shorts to fray so much that they got shorter, though, so instead of hemming, I ran a line of straight stitching about a quarter inch above the cut.

renewed shortsA few washes later, they look artfully frayed without threatening to get me arrested.

I’m convinced I’ll get years more wear from this denim now. (Bonus: I’ve already put part of those cut-off legs to use, too. Remember this project?)

Next, a stack of t-shirts that just didn’t fit. Who bothers to alter t-shirts, right? But these included one special-ordered for a family event, two that were gifts from my family, and two that are colors I absolutely love and wouldn’t want to replace.

Have you noticed how cheap some manufacturers have gotten with fitting? Women’s shirts are built exactly the same as men’s: a long box, with two smaller boxes tacked on for sleeves. No shaping whatsoever. They needed help.

Only trouble is, I don’t have a clue how to measure for a more appropriate fit. It finally dawned on me that I didn’t have to. I have one t-shirt that fits exactly like I think a t-shirt should, so I used it as a pattern over the boxy ones.

resized t-shirts

Pin, re-seam, cut, repeat.

I don’t have a serger, so to mimic serging on the side seams, I put in a straight seam, then went back and sewed a zigzag right next to it before trimming the excess.

I also learned (finally) a little trick that would have let me dare to sew jersey knit long ago if I’d known it: Sew first, then cut. That way, you don’t have to deal with any of that pesky curling. It made shortening these man-length shirts a cinch. I think I did an especially nice job faking the double-stitching along the lower hems, too!

t-shirt hems

So that took care of four of the five shirts. The last needed additional help. The neck was way, way too tight.

I was hesitant, but I went ahead and took my seam ripper to the neck binding. To my surprise, the tiny fold of fabric it has been sewn to felt like exactly the right size. It was only the binding that was too small. Also to my surprise, the fold stayed perfectly in position. All I had to do to finish was run a narrow zigzag over it.

new neck on top

Finally, I had two pretty pointelle knit tops that, unfortunately, suffered from the same mannish shaping as all those t-shirts did. I gave them the same hem and side-seam treatment, again using the well-fitted T as a guide.

With their button detail and slightly sweetheart necklines, though, I thought these tops needed just one more shaping touch.

pretty knit top

I’d never marked darts without the help of a pattern before, so this was scary. And I didn’t get them right on either shirt the first time. But in the end–whew! I can now say that I’ve tackled a bust dart and come out on top. (pun intended)

I’m not quite finished with the wardrobe overhaul yet. Since my darts were successful in those knit tops, I’d like to try to add a couple to my April-finished spring dress to give it a better fit, too, and maybe do the same on the top of a two-piece dress I made ten years ago but haven’t worn since. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to let the sewing machine take over my dining room table again just yet, though. More on those alterations some other time.

Please tell me I’m not nuts for putting this much effort into saving some old clothes. What lengths have YOU gone to refit/refashion/repurpose/otherwise save your favorite clothing?

Rub a dub, dub

crocheted and knitted dishclothsMore scrubbiness to report! This trio of colorful dishcloths has been my now-and-then project between other things the past few weeks.

Originally, all were destined for my give-away stash. Instead, I tossed the last couple threadbare ones from my own linen closet and stacked these neatly in their place. No regrets. I already have new yarn colors at the ready to make more of all three of these patterns. There will be plenty to give away.

The first finish, this ecru, is done in cotton yarn leftover from Grandmother’s stash. I can’t believe how this one spool of yarn has gone on. I’ve lost count how many dishcloths I’ve gotten from it now, and it wasn’t a brand-new spool when I got it, and there’s still enough left for at least two more besides.

ecru knit close-upThe pattern is Reversible Pips, which I knew I liked because I’ve knitted it before. I decided to make some minor changes this time. I live in a climate that welcomes mildew. Thin dishcloths that dry out super fast are a better bet than one that works up so very thick and heavy, like this pattern yields. So instead of size 8 needles, I used a pair of great big 13s, and I cast on only 30 stitches instead of 44. It sounds like a ridiculously drastic change, but I am very pleased with the resulting cloth. Despite being so loosely woven, it’s still very absorbent and has no shortage of scrubbability. (My spell-check says I can’t write that word. Pffftt, I say.)

This second finish may look familiar, too. Good eye, you!

crochet dishclothFor the same mildewy reason, I worked this Chic Chevron pattern a little more lightly (two hook sizes larger than called for) than I did it originally. I love the results. And that color! Doing dishes cannot be drudgery when I have this cheerful cloth in my hand. It’s Lily Sugar ‘n Cream “blueberry.”

The final one was a challenge–the best kind of challenge. The kind that makes you think and work in a little different way than you usually do, with nice results. The pattern is another of Jill’s Being Spiffy designs, Lemon Swirl.

round knit dishcloth

No, my color choice didn’t fit the description “lemon.” Ah, well.

I had done a dishcloth in the round before, but never a dishcloth that actually comes out round. I thought that alone made this pattern unusual enough to be worth a try. What I did not anticipate was how much extra patience it would take–and how little, apparently, I have.

I did not have two matching circular needles this size, so I worked from DPNs. No problem, right?

Well, I found out quickly just how much satisfaction I get from seeing a pattern take shape as I work. But on a set of 4 DPNs, you can’t see this pattern grow because the stitches remain so closely bunched together. I was able to spread it little bits at a time and peek, but I didn’t get the full effect of the lacy design until I’d finished casting off the first entire needle full of stitches. Here’s about the biggest look I got en route.

dishcloth in progressI admit, I had some anxiety about working all the way to nearly the end without knowing whether I would really be done when I got there. See, this is a pattern that requires a lot of counting. Often, if I count wrong, I notice when I see the mistake show up as a glitch in the design. And because I was using DPNs, this design was not on display.

The upshot was, I counted pretty darned carefully. I also checked my count at the end of every round, which–confession!–I hardly ever do ordinarily. Yet, as far as I can see now, I ended up with no pattern mistakes in the end other than the central stitches being a bit too loose. (Noted for next time: Cast on with smaller needles, then switch.) My husband listened to my monolog about this challenge and dubbed this dishcloth pattern “Blind Faith.” He’s got a point.

My compulsive checking and counting are no reflection on the quality of the pattern and design, which is precise and easy to read and yields a very, very pretty result. I absolutely love my finished Lemon (asparagus? watermelon?) Swirl. I will certainly be making more of these fun, pretty, unusually lacy dishcloths.

round knit dishcloth close-upThere was actually a fourth dishcloth in this mix. It is not mentioned here because it was a royal failure–but that disaster deserves a post of its own. Let us gaze again upon the happy ones!

knit and crochet dishcloths

Until I get around to writing that post, though, I’m always looking for a new dishcloth pattern to try. What’s your favorite, either in knit or crochet, or a combination of both?

Oink, oink

piggy toyWe dubbed this little guy Peter. He was a baby gift for a new cousin.

Isn’t Peter just the cutest? That curly tail is too much! You can find the free pattern here. Many thanks to Debi Y. for sharing His Oinkiness!

The yarn is another little bit from Tillie’s stash, which is kind of neat since my cousin’s family also knew Tillie’s way back when.

The yarn’s 100% acrylic, so Peter is completely washable and will dry very quickly, too. I thought that would be pretty important considering 1) a baby’s chewing habit and 2) the very humid, mold-friendly climate the family lives in. Quick dry is never a bad idea there.

 

more piggy

piggy 3

I had a bit of a hard time letting Peter go, he fits so perfectly in a palm!

 

I’m going to be doing at least one more baby gift, likely a toy, in the near future, so please do tell: What’s your favorite pattern for a knitted or crocheted baby item?

Ooo, hot pot!

scrap potholdersI’ve needed some new potholders for an embarrassingly long time. This project was long overdue! Turns out, I had fun and made a pair for myself and a pair for someone else, too.

 

 

 

 

For the first pair, simple flower appliques stitched on a heavy twill:

scrap applique flowerAnd for the second, mock-quilted broadcloth panels on denim:

mock-quilted scrap potholdersEverything I used for both pairs was a leftover. The denim came from my old favorite jeans (now new favorite shorts). The knees were nearly worn through and unusable, but on the back of the legs, the fabric had just enough wear to have softened without looking sad. I really like how it translated on these potholders.

denim potholders, back side

And the heavy double-stitching on the inseam was still in terrific shape, too–which made for strong, simple hanging loops!

The mock-quilted and appliqued cottons are scraps from several photo album and Halloween costume projects of various years. The batting fill (which has gone on forever since I bought a queen-size quilt piece!) is also a leftover from the photo albums and several other projects since then.

The tan twill, I bought on rock-bottom clearance five years ago, and then let sit in my closet for lack of a plan until two years ago when I used most of it to re-cover some bar stools seats and throw pillows. There’s still a good length left post-potholder, too. This grosgrain ribbon, believe it or not, was just packaging on a set of terrycloth washcloths. Can you imagine these pretty stripes being destined for the trash?! It just so happened that the stripes matched my other scraps, a match made in thrifty heaven.

repurposed ribbon and scrap fabric potholder

 

I have no shortage of scrap fabric, so I’m sure more potholders and maybe table runners, too, are in my sewing machine’s future. With so many bits and pieces around, there must be countless ways to mix and match these leftovers. What are your favorite ways to use leftover or reclaimed fabrics?

Afghan squares

flower tile afghan squareThere’s a good reason I’ve been absent for almost three whole weeks. Several good reasons, really, mostly work-related. “Busy” seems a wimpy word to cover it all, but it’s the truth!

The other truth is, while I haven’t had the time to finish the blog posts I start, I still have been doing the craft projects I blog about.

All in good time, I suppose.

For today, I’m keeping it simple. Just two photos–there’s one above–and easy on the words! Here’s my version of Flower Tile Afghan Square by Marta Chrzanowska. It’ll need a little light blocking, but you get the idea.

long view flower tile afghan squareThis square is Block 10 of Tamara’s afghan crochet along. It’s the first piece of this crochet-along I’ve done since my self-imposed afghan block break in March. I’m happy to be participating again and really like the look of this latest result! But naturally those compulsive tendencies have taken over again…to make this ONE block fit in with the join pattern in my head, I will have to make it 3 more times, in slightly different color order, just like I did the others.

Ah, well. It’s a pleasant kind of obsession.

I promise to finish all those other posts, and not wait three weeks to do it, either. But in the meantime, I want to hear from you! What are YOUR recent finish-offs or cast-ons or supply purchases?

 

Shhh! Some preview photos

colorful yarnI’ve been working on so many different things these past two weeks, I can’t even count them all. Some have been non-craft-related. Others are complete crafts, but I can’t share yet because they’re gifts in transit. Two others are ordinary but perfectly useful, and I definitely will share them. But not today.

Today, I’m so darned excited about another group of items that I just have to tell now. I can’t wait!

Remember the penguin clothing last fall? (There was a bunch–here’s another post, and another, and another.)

Well, after that holiday display opened, someone asked me to make her a hat like the penguins have. She picked enough yarn for two: this one and this one.

She loved the hats, and I really loved making them!

From there evolved the notion that I might consign “dress like the penguins” hats (in people sizes, of course) through the gift shop where the display appears. The manager of the shop was open to it! I’m preparing to talk details and take some prototypes to her in May.

So far, two of the sample hats are done,

stocking cap in crochet

Please excuse the creepy non-human model.

winter hat in knit

Please excuse the silly, backward-facing human model!

…and a third is in progress.

knitting in progress

I love this Premier Deborah Norville Serenity yarn. It’s so, so soft!

knitting close-upThe gift shop and display area are open the rest of the year, too, so I’m also working on a few non-holiday themed items. Want to take a guess what I’m mock-quilting in this shot? (Update 6/14: No spoilers here, but if you click this link, you can read about the finished projects!)

mock-quilting in progressThat particular work in progress is more of a random chance. I have no idea whether the manager is willing to take on more consignors the rest of the year–but as long as I have her audience, I’m going to ask! And of course I’ll have a few tempting samples there to show off.

It’s a small thing, and it’s by no means guaranteed, but just having the chance to try selling my handmades feels huge to me. I can hardly contain my anticipation. My fingers are happily flying through these prototype projects!

What about you? What facets of crafting have filled you with nervous happiness? Have you ever put your work out before the public? Tell your story!

Fight to the finish

spring dressI can’t tell you how happy I am to be done with this project!

It’s finished just in time for Easter, and the color and style should be perfect for the weather (fingers crossed the sudden cold snap tonight doesn’t hold out through the weekend).

But I tell you what, it was no easy task getting to the finish line.

This kind of dress really should be simple. And it is, to a degree. But sewing is one of those things I can’t do at all unless I have a big chunk of time set aside. I don’t have a separate craft room. The dining room table fills in. I can’t bother setting up the machine and ironing board, rolling out the fabric, etc., if I only have a few minutes to spend. As a result, it took me six weeks to complete this.

The pattern didn’t help, either. I’ll be the first to admit, I sew far more slowly from a pattern than I probably should simply because I’m not used to following someone else’s directions. There’s a lot of reading and rereading, stopping halfway to check the pictures, etc. Ordinarily, most of my sewing comes straight out of my head, sometimes assisted by a few hasty calculations and extremely rough sketches. Following a Real Plan is a whole different way of thinking.

But even if I were an old hand at patterns, I think this one would have annoyed me. I won’t say outright that the instructions had errors, but…is it really helpful to note that “actual finished measurements are 4 inches larger than measurement chart” AFTER the step for cutting the fabric is already complete? There was a similar short-sighted hitch in the zipper installation step, too, and a couple of places where a substep that had been spelled out in laborious detail previously was not mentioned at all, and I had to go back and redo after seeing that substep reappear somewhere else later. I put a lot of mileage on my seam ripper.

The bright side of all that hair-pulling is, the kinks are worked out now. I took my notes and am ready to use the pattern again. This fabric, pretty as it is, was just a trial piece. I held back my absolute favorite fabric from this freebie batch to use after I’d done a sample. And I am glad I waited!

In the end? This dress is just a little bigger on me than I’d prefer, but it still has a tailored look that I like. And the subtle stripes in the grain of the fabric turned out to be very well complemented by those long cuts.

DSCN3003It wasn’t a breeze getting there, but I’m calling this one a success! AND, I think I just may be feeling brave enough to take on an unfinished dress that has been sitting in my closet for 12 years (no exaggeration) because I met similar frustrations with THAT pattern. I’m thinking maybe I know what to do differently this time!

But I’ll gladly take advice! Those of you who sew frequently: Are those irritating editing glitches common in commercial patterns? Besides reading everything before doing anything, what’s the best way to sidestep those errors? And what’s your favorite spring dress pattern?

The proper tools

hook saversI told my friend Andrea that I kept losing my crochet hooks when I set a project aside, unfinished, for any significant time. (In reading other crafters’ blogs, I see I’m not alone in this stop-start habit, if not the loss of hooks.)

Andrea is an artist-crafter, specializing lately in jewelry. She told me she’d happily whip up some custom beaded hook savers for me–custom in that I’d mentioned I most frequently work with, and misplace, only my F, G, H, and I hooks.

I was thrilled when I opened Andrea’s package. Is this not a beautiful solution?

handful of hook savers

Half a dozen marker/savers, with only the letters I’d specified…

beaded hook savers

…and every one of them bright and shiny and a perfect pleasure to look at.

hook savers

I really like that Andrea used these particular lobster-claw clasps. They’re somewhat bigger than the ones you usually find on jewelry, much easier to work with my clumsy fingers. And they do get a good firm grip on the yarn. No slippery lost loops!

My children commented that the colors on Andrea’s hook savers made them think of candy. I would agree, they are delicious!

My hook savers were completely custom, but that’s true of many of Andrea’s products. Obviously she takes pride in creating exactly what a person requests.

Yep. That’s what I needed!

hook saver on cardigan

P.S. Yes, I realize that posting that last picture may seem to violate what I said in my last post about not showing any more WIPs until I had some more finishes to share. Well, here’s my defense. I didn’t talk about the WIP, just the marker attached to it. :)

Beyond hooks and needles, what are your favorite tools or accessories for crochet and knit projects?

Progress…

Lion's Mane 1…is slow on the crafting front lately.

But, though I still have another half-dozen things in various stages of completion, I have managed to finish off a few.

To left and below are my two versions of the Block 5 selection from the Moogly afghan crochet along. Isn’t it a pretty pattern? It’s Lion’s Mane by April Moreland.

 

 

Lion's Mane 2Of course with a name like “Lion’s Mane,” I had to feature the chocolate and caramel yarns of my afghan palette, right at the center. That made these two squares distinctly different from my previous blocks, which all started with navy or cream.

Before I’d finished with those blocks, the Moogly Block 6 selection was announced. I finally started–and finished!–my first of those yesterday. This pattern, More V’s, Please by Melinda Miller, is another winner.

More Vs close

All those Vs make a pretty, lacy frame around the central design–and also make those long rounds super quick to work!

More Vs PleaseThe next block of the crochet-along is set to be announced this week. I know it will be very, very hard for me to stick to this promise, but lemme go ahead and put it out there anyway:

I will opt out of Block 7 no matter how fabulous the design is!

That’s only because I’ve been doing at least two, but usually more, of each of the blocks I opted into, so far. Once I finish the other colors of More V’s that I’ve already started, I’ll have 16 blocks of the crochet-along complete. Note the goal at this point in the project is only 6 blocks. At this rate, I’m going to end up with enough blocks to slipcover my entire house. And no, I don’t want to slipcover my house! So. A little time off from this is in order.

Meantime, I’m still working those other projects, including plumping up the dishcloth stash. Here’s the latest finish on that front. It’s from this pattern at Being Spiffy.

ripple dishclothzigzag dishcloth close

The design came out really pretty. I like ripples! I did need to work another complete chevron per row to make the cloth wide enough to be practical, but I don’t think that’s a failing in the pattern. I’m pretty sure it was the yarn (Lily Sugar ‘n Cream in “country twists”), which is uncomfortably stiff and tight, even for cotton. I still think the colors are pretty, though, and it surely will stand up to kitchen use, so I won’t complain much.

That’s enough from me, for now. I intend to finish at least another piece or two before I show any more in-progress pictures! What about you? What’s newly off your hook, needles, frame, or presser-foot?

A well-appointed scullery

knit dishcloths and crochet scrubbiesMy last few days’ projects have been practical and mostly made from freebies or leftovers. Back to the hardworking theme!

I confess I’m not 100% pleased with this batch of scrubbies. I used a smaller crochet hook to compensate, but I don’t think these thinner worsted scraps worked out nearly as well as the thicker ones I’m more accustomed to. (Here‘s how dense the scrubbies should be.)

I’m also not sure I like how some of these colors pooled. Random usually works fine for me, but not this time around.

Some came out with no problems,

crochet scrubbies

while others are strange…or is it strangely appealing?

crochet scrubby

And a couple are just. not. right.

ugly scrubbies

Oh well. The handsome ones will go off to live with other families while the homely ones stay here with me. They still scrub. I can put them to work.

The dishcloths, though? Uniformly successful!

The first one’s from the old standard knitted dishcloth pattern everyone knows by heart. The yarn is what’s left of a large spool of cotton from Grandmother’s stash. Couldn’t tell you the brand or color–label’s been gone for years.

knit dishcloth

Next, one made from Lily Sugar ‘n Cream “sunshine.” The knit pattern (you’ll have to scroll down the page) is Sun Dishcloth from Designs by Emily. My pictures of this color wouldn’t come out, but the finished texture really does show the sun design plainly.

knitted dishcloth

Finally, a cloth made from some Peaches & Creme “gold” left over from a hat project several years ago. The knit pattern is Reversible Pips Dishcloth by Hannah Maier at KnitPicks.

knitted dishcloth

Don’t they make a nice bundle?

three knitted dishcloths

Just because it’s practical doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun to make, right? What are your favorite interesting, whimsical, or pretty patterns for kitchen items?

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