Bordeaux Sweater: A Wardrobe Basic

Yes, I know. This outfit looks awfully similar to my last post. The only difference is the sweater, so that’s the part I’m wanting to talk about today. This is the Bordeaux Pullover from Valley Yarns. I knitted it from the yarn it was designed for, Colrain Lace. It’s a merino/Tencel 50/50 blend. It’s warm, but not too warm; soft, but not too fuzzy, and it has just a hint of shine.

3pc set 2.1

The pattern isn’t too difficult, but does have multiple cables at regular intervals, so it isn’t entirely mindless either. I can’t say I’d recommend it for a total beginner, since the directions are overall pretty minimal, but if you’ve made a sweater or two, you should be able to figure this one out. It’s knit top-down and in the round, so there’s no pesky seams to sew together when the knitting is complete.

3pc set 1

You can see the lacy texture of the pattern better in the back without the black Nettie fabric showing through. I admit to a bit of trepidation in making a sweater of lace-weight yarn, but with size 9 needles, it was actually pretty quick to knit up. This was my number-one go-to wardrobe piece through the entire summer. It was perfect to layer over sundresses in the mornings/evenings, and while black is probably the least exciting color to choose to knit with, it made for the perfect neutral. I wore it with this dress, this dress, this dress, and pretty much everything else I put on.

I mentioned in my last post how I thought the Tania culottes worked a little better with long sleeves, so here’s a pic of the whole outfit. The lighting was really weird the day we took these pictures, so my legs look even paler than usual (but still shapely)

3pc set 3

I wore this sweater so much this summer that I’m wondering about making another. Part of it’s appeal, though, is how it well it matches everything because of it’s neutral color. Maybe I’ll make an ivory-colored one.

Tania Culottes/Nettie Bodysuit: I Love My Legs

Nettie and Tania 1.1

Ever since Megan Nielsen released her Tania Culottes pattern, I’ve been curious to make a pair for myself. Like many separates patterns though, I had trouble visualizing what top I would wear with them. When Heather Lou released the Nettie bodysuit, then, it seemed like the perfect match. I planned to put these two together back at the beginning of summer, but it took me until August to get them finished. Then it took another month or so to finally get pictures of them.

Nettie and Tania 3.2

This is a bit of a different look for me. Personally, I love my legs. I’m not trying to be all vain by admitting that; I have plenty of other body hang-ups, but my legs are definitely not one of them. Just because I love my legs, though, doesn’t mean I think I need to have all of them exposed to everyone all the time. I prefer to keep my skirts below the knee. Shorts, however, are another matter. These culottes are something in the middle between skirt and short, so I’m okay with them being above the knee. The volume makes them rather prone to fly-ups, so I wouldn’t wear them in a windstorm. The bodysuit is a little bit of protection, but I’d rather not flash that portion of it if I can help it.

Nettie and Tania 6.1

The Tania pattern doesn’t go up to my size, so I graded up by drawing outside the lines of the largest size, about as much as the distance between the middle/largest sizes. That isn’t a very scientific way to alter a pattern, but it worked well enough for my purposes. I added about 3 inches to the length because I think as-drafted they would be too short for my personal comfort preferences.

I used a rayon challis from my stash for the culottes.The fabric stretched while hanging before hemming, and I did a better job evening it up on one side compared to the other. Only time will tell if this will bother me enough to make me eventually fix it.

Nettie and Tania 2.2

I think my Nettie is overall a little too big. I sized up as Heather Lou recommended, but then I used a 95% cotton, 5% lycra, (Laguna cotton, again) and it has good stretch and good recovery and probably didn’t need to be sized up. I think I’ll go with the originally recommended size for my next one.

Nettie and Tania 4.1

I’m not sure that the proportions of this outfit really work for me in the most traditionally flattering way. Maybe the longer length of the skirt compared to the original pattern as well as the short sleeves on the bodysuit aren’t really working together. I have thrown my favorite summer sweater on with this outfit (I need to post about that sweater) and it seems to work maybe a little better than the short sleeves here. I haven’t tried this outfit with tights yet, though as the weather cools down, I think I’ll need to. Overall I think I like it though. It gives me something different to wear as an alternative to my usual dresses or skirts.

Stash-busting stats: 41/50. 86 yards

A Trio of Lady Skaters

Snake Skater 3

Back at the beginning of summer, I made a couple of Lady Skater dresses for everyday wear. I had suddenly decided I had a significant lack of snake-print in my closet, so I bought this navy blue ITY knit. I added a few inches to the skirt length of the lady skater pattern, just like this other dress I had made last year.

I’m a bit annoyed by my print matching on this one. It isn’t mis-matched enough to look like I wasn’t trying, but certainly doesn’t match at the waist seam.

Snake Skater 6 Snake Skater 5

The side seams match prints nicely though.

Snake Skater 1

The Lady Skater dress is such an easy thing to wear during the summer that I made two.

Lady Skater 3

I gave them side-seam pockets which sometimes will work their way out of place and need to be tucked back in, but which are perfect to hold phone and keys for quick errands during the summer when I’m not wearing a jacket or coat with pockets.

Lady Skater 2

This fabric is out of my stash. I like the ditzy striped floral print of this ITY.

While I was thinking about these dresses, I realized I hadn’t ever blogged about this one from last November (as you can see from the old hair style). It’s also an ITY knit Lady Skater with a lengthed skirt. I wouldn’t necessarily have gone to the trouble to go back and blog it, but just look at the stripe-matching all the way across the sleeves. I have to show it off; not perfect, but so much better than one would usually find if looking for an everyday knit dress.

Stripy Skater 2

They match equally well across the back too.

Stripy Skater 3

It’s mostly matched along the sides too.

Stripy Skater 1

Only one of these counts for stash-busting, but it does count, so I want credit.

Stash-busting stats: 40/50. 84 1/2 yards

Can’t Keep My Opinions To Myself: Part 2

After last week’s post about things that annoy me in sewing blogs, I thought maybe I should go for balance and write about some things that I really like when I see them in sewing blogs.

1) I love when sewing bloggers use their local vernacular. Not necessarily that I go looking for non-English blogs, though between Google translate and pretty pictures, I don’t mind “reading” the occasional blog not written in English. Even in English, though, there are different terms for the same thing depending on  where one lives. Vest vs. camisole vs. singlet, for instance. My children’s favorite is British “trousers” vs. American “pants”. I happened to mention it one day and they all unanimously decided to call their jeans “trousers” from that point on. I suspect they’ve done that so they can giggle when people say the word “pants”, though they’ve never outright told me so. I don’t know why the vocabulary differences intrigue me so much, maybe because it’s one of those things that just shows up in natural writing or conversation, making blog-reading much less like catalog reading.

2) I love when sewing bloggers post pictures of themselves wearing what they’ve made. Inspiration can come from all over, so pictures of dresses on a hanger or on a dress form are not all bad. When the person who made something (or the person that something was made for) puts it on for pictures, though, that’s when the finished product really shows. This is where, for me anyway, sewing blogs trump fashion blogs. I don’t deny that it takes some skills to put together an outfit out of ready-to-wear and/or thrifted items, but I’ve noticed that in sewing blogs, more often the outfits that are put together look full and complete without having to add a different pair of shoes and a purse each time. One lobster brooch or maybe a hair clip is all they need to accent their outfits; shoes are just a bonus if we get to see them too.

Via Google Images

3) I love when multiple people sew the same thing. Whether it’s an interpretation of a theme, a color, or different versions of the exact same pattern, it’s fun to watch this kind of creativity. I know some people feel like they get tired of seeing too many of the same pattern all at once (usually I see this complaint in reference to newly released indie patterns, and usually from people who aren’t impressed by the particular pattern they are seeing). I actually really like this phenomenon, and if I do go through a phase where I’m not interested in seeing multiple makes of the same pattern, it’s pretty easy to skip those postings or to put them off until I’m more in the mood for them.

Via Google Images

4) I love when people spontaneously mention the tools they use in sewing. Not the sponsored-post/review kind of thing, but when they discuss their process and happen to mention specific things that work for them (or that don’t), that’s the kind of real-life information that can be usefully applied in my own experience.

5) I love when people call attention to things that inspired them. Links back to other bloggers, Pinterest, or even ready-to-wear sites all might be interesting. Yes, sometimes it can feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole if I start clicking through on multiple links, but it’s fun to see the connections between an inspiration project and what someone else makes. Not to mention that it’s a nice vibe that comes out when people get credit for their creativity and inspirational qualities rather than having to wonder if someone is trying to take advantage of them.

Via Google Images

6) I love when sewing bloggers get things “for free”. Not in that “they don’t even write about their own projects anymore because they’re so busy doing advertisements for other people and maybe they’ve totally lost their blog voice” kind of way (which in my opinion seems to happen most often when people start to get over-committed to multiple projects/sponsors, not necessarily because they’ve agreed to connect with one or two companies in an exchange). No, I’m talking about when sewing bloggers get access to materials or something else they wouldn’t otherwise probably have, and that makes them want to put forth their very best effort to show it off. Whether it’s working in extra-nice fabrics, working with interesting pattern techniques, or making the most of a challenge handed to them by someone else, those postings often have a little extra passion behind them, and that makes them fun to read.

Via Google Images

7) I love when sewing bloggers make and wear exactly what they want to make and wear. One of the best things about making clothing rather than buying it is the ability to break the “rules” about what is “on trend” or what one is “supposed” to wear for one’s shape and size. Being able to hone a personal style without having to worry over-much about arbitrary codes that might be governing whether the items being sought even exist is an interesting freedom, one that exercised well in the world of home sewing.

What do you think? Are any of these something you have a passionate opinion on (even if it isn’t the same as mine)? Any things I probably love but missed on my list?

BurdaStyle 8/2012 #152: Preppy Green Shirt

After some of my recent postings, this seems like a bit of an anticlimactic project. I know not everyone gets excited about seeing kid’s projects rather than women’s clothes. It’s nice to finally get it off my desk though; it’s been sitting around partly done for pretty much the entire summer.

Green Shirt 4

This is BurdaStyle 8/2012 #152 the same pattern as the flannel shirt I made Romeo earlier this year. Ordinarily he’ll be wearing this shirt with a suit, not jeans, but he was feeling lazy when I asked him for pics, so he only changed his shirt. He may regret that decision later; Pete just looked over my shoulder and suggested that he looks so sharp we should start sending him to school in this outfit.

Green Shirt 2

The fit is good, but the workmanship is not my best. Don’t look too closely at those sleeve plackets please.

Green Shirt 3

Workmanship aside, the fit on this shirt is so much better than anything I’ve found him in ready-to-wear in recent years. I’m not sure whether the ready-to-wear shirts I’ve bought him have had drafting issues as the sizes increase, or if they are purposely fit very loose at the neck to accommodate boys who only wear a dress shirt once or twice a year and aren’t used to wearing things that fit that snugly on their necks. Maybe it’s just because he’s slender for his size and they would fit an average boy just fine. The problem he has now is that he’s wanting to wear neckties that actually tie, and if the neck of the shirt is too loose, it doesn’t look right at all. His goal is to learn to tie fancy knots like his Dad (who likes to watch YouTube video tutorials to learn how to tie knots such as the Trinity knot and the Eldredge knot)

Green Shirt 1

The fabric is a simple cotton broadcloth. No drape, but lots of structure. Green has been Romeo’s favorite color for years, so I had bought this fabric specially for him and it’s been waiting around in my stash while I found a shirt pattern that would properly fit his physique.

Green Shirt 5

Stash-busting stats: 39/50. 82 yards.

Can’t Keep My Opinions to Myself

I don’t think I usually rant on this page. So far I’ve kept it to mainly finished sewing projects and the occasional side-track. In my mind, however, I rant frequently, and since this is a subject that I keep pondering, I’m going to let it spill out here.

I read mostly sewing blogs. I read blogs where they talk about other stuff too, but even those seem to be written by people who sew some of the time. I’m on Instagram and Twitter (as @carihomemaker). I’m on Kollabora, BurdaStyle, and Pattern Review *though not always as regularly as some). In short, I read a lot about sewing. In those reads, there are a few things that keep being said/done that drive me crazy. I’m not going to say I never say/do these things; I know I have at least for some of them, but they still drive me crazy, even when I’m the one perpetrating. Please, can we all agree to limit our use of the following?

Click for source. I really want to make these now.

1) “I just ‘whipped up’ this project.” Have you ever tried to whip cream or make a lemon meringue pie without the use of a stand mixer? It is really, really hard work. It’s much harder than throwing together a 12th Jalie v-neck t-shirt or a 5th Lady Skater dress. If you’re standing there with a cold bowl and a whisk waiting for something to thicken as your fingers turn numb, the last thing you’re thinking is “this is so quick and easy.” I don’t know what the better phrase would be to describe our quick-and-easy sewing makes, but whipping needs to go.

Via Google Images

2) “This pattern fits me perfectly with no alterations whatsoever which makes it the best pattern ever made and everyone should buy it.” I get the excitement. It’s wonderful when a pattern doesn’t need to have six test versions done before it can be made up for real. That feeling when you put something on and it fits like a glove with no pulling, tugging, or adjusting throughout the day? Incredible. If, like me, you happen to be 5′ 3″ and around 185lbs, then my rave reviews in this format may be helpful (or not, depending on your shape vs. mine). If you happen to be 5′ 9″ and 125 lbs, however, you’re likely to feel quite the let-down when you try to duplicate my experience. I’m not saying that we can’t rave about patterns or discuss how wonderful that it was we didn’t have to spend hours on alterations; let’s just agree that having a body that fits a particular pattern company’s drafting block is not the same as that company having amazing pattern drafting skills.

via Google Images

3) “A ‘pop’ of color” If you read through books or magazines from the 1990’s, you’ll see multiple references to a “splash” of color. Somewhere after Y2K the trendy phrase became “pop of color”. This no longer seems trendy, fresh, or even relevant. I don’t know what it needs to be replaced with. Until someone decides, could we just talk about the colors we are using without using a sad, tired cliche. If we must give a further description, maybe we could talk about them in relation to where they sit on the color wheel? Please, everyone, stop popping colors like they are balloons.

Via Google Images

4) “Sorry that all I have are these iPhone pics to post”. I’m not saying that we all need to have professional cameras and arts degrees to be bloggers. I’m saying that if someone is running a hobby blog and they choose to put up pictures from their digital camera or weren’t able to put on makeup that day, they shouldn’t have to apologize. If they are feeling self-conscious about something that has contributed to their pictures not looking like they usually do, it doesn’t bother me to hear the back-story, but they shouldn’t have to go as far as to apologize. They have done nothing actually wrong or offensive. If they are professional bloggers with sponsors, they might owe their sponsors an apology, but as far as readers go, it should be okay to skip the apologies and go straight to “look at this pretty thing I made.”

Via Google Images

5) “You should buy indie patterns because the people who design/sell them are nicer” Nicer than what? People who work for a larger company? Who could even know that? I’m pretty sure there are plenty of nice people working at all kinds of companies large and small. Actually, I think the problem is deeper than just the debate about buying from indie vs. long-standing, established company. If support for indie pattern companies is based mainly on them being “nice”, what happens if someone has a bad day? What happens if they get sick and can’t return e-mails with an immediate, sunshiny response? What happens if customer expectations are way out of line and the designer has to say “no”? What if that happens in a public forum? Is that designer no longer nice? Can we no longer buy from them? What if one designer’s line ends up hitting a trend and another person’s doesn’t? Does that make the one who ends up stopping their line wasn’t nice enough? Don’t misunderstand, I love trying indie patterns. There are some awesome options out there. I’ve had lovely interactions with indie pattern designers (I’ve never met one yet who hasn’t been nice). But when someone puts themselves out there with a serious business venture, I would like to see the support mainly focused on the beautiful products they are offering, including customer service as needed. Selling patterns shouldn’t have to be a Miss Congeniality contest.

Via Google Images

As the sewing blog world grows, so does the potential for drama. I’m not intending to try to stir up a lot of drama here, but I can’t guarantee that some of my own thoughts haven’t been stirred by reading other bits and pieces of drama floating around. Anyone out there who agrees with me on any of these? Is there something else out there driving you crazy that I should have mentioned? Keep it clean, and share your thoughts below.

Sewcialist Tribute Month: Like a Sewing Fanatic

This month’s Sewcialist theme was “Tribute”, sewing projects inspired by another sewing blogger. It should have been so easy to choose one, but it was actually quite difficult to try to narrow down the options seeing how many amazing and different sewing bloggers are out there now. I had to come up with some criteria to limit my options. I wanted to challenge myself, so I wanted to try to pick someone whose style is relatively different from my own. If I realize that someone has inspired a project, I usually try to credit them, so I know I have several past projects, like this one, this one, and this one, that were inspired by other sewing bloggers. I wanted to make sure to choose someone who hadn’t already inspired me with a project.

Tribute Dress 5

As I was trying to choose a muse, I began thinking about a particular question posed by Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic a few months ago. She had asked something to the effect of why aren’t there more sewing bloggers making up professional clothing such as business suits and such. I have a couple of theories about this, but the one that runs closest to my own personal experience is along the lines of how someone who is in a position to need really professional clothing on a frequent basis is also probably someone who is terribly busy with work and who thus may not have the time to also make their own clothing and blog about it on a regular basis. It’s easy for me to make excuses for not making more professional clothing; being a telecommuter, I don’t exactly need to wear a suit. On the other hand, if I had a professional event I needed to show up for on short notice, what would I wear? It seems prudent to have at least one option in the closet.

Tribute Dress 2Carolyn seems to be the reigning queen of sewing professional woman’s work-wear. (as an aside, she is also a plus-size woman, so incredibly inspirational for me on the fitting front too) She often makes dresses, usually some variation on a sheath-dress shape. She uses beautiful fabrics and various trims to create all kinds of different looks, despite the similarities in shape between many of them. She recently used Vogue 8972 for a color-blocked dress, and she often uses ponte knits. I thought I’d combine those elements and make myself a sheath dress of my own.

Tribute Dress 4I had this textured black knit (poly or poly blend) fabric as well as the black/ivory colored printed ponte in my stash. The print would have been hard to use on its own in a dress, but I love how it combined with the second fabric. in princess-seamed panels The varying textures made it possible to combine the two, since matching black fabrics is pretty much impossible unless they were designed as coordinates.

Tribute Dress 1The pattern wasn’t designed for knits, even stable ones, but I think it really worked out. It’s one of those patterns with multiple bodices to customize the fit, so I was able to work off the finished garment measurements rather than just body measurements. I lined the dress in black Laguna Cotton (cotton/lycra 95/5%), so it’s really comfortable and not at all see-through. One of my main peeves when wearing poly knits is how itchy they can feel, so lining the dress makes it much more wearable for me. I maybe could have done without a zipper, but I put an invisible one in the center back, as per the pattern, because I hate trying to wrestle things over my head, especially when I’ve already done my hair.

Since this is a sleeveless dress, if I were really going to wear this as business wear, I’d plan to wear a jacket or cardigan of some sort for coverage. It’s summer though, and since I don’t have any board meetings to attend, all my pics are bare-armed. Ignore the arms and just look at these Ann Taylor shoes that happened to match my dress perfectly.

Tribute Dress 6


Thanks Carolyn for being my career-dress muse, and for the ongoing advice on corporate dressing. Even when it seems the younger generation isn’t listening, on some level we are.


Stash-busting stats: 38/50, 80 1/2 yards