Yarn and I do not have a great working relationship. You might say it’s tangled. I remember knitting two items as a teenager (with my mother doing the ‘specialty’ tasks like casting on and decreasing stitches). One was an orange orlon cardigan, and the other was a fantastically bulky and gruff ‘manly’ turtleneck sweater for my first ‘boyfriend’. Does anybody *not* knit a sweater for a boyfriend?? His mother, who actually liked me, ruined it in short order by, apparently, hanging it on a line to dry after washing it. I didn’t take knitting up again until two years ago, when I went to my local knit shop and took two courses. The first was an intro in which we knit scarves and hats, and the second was a sock-knitting course. I knit a perfectly fine hat in a lovely teal-coloured wool in the first class, but then realized I don’t like toques! I gave the hat away, in an uncharacteristic act of generosity. When I found some strange kind of unrefined and undyed yarn in a thrift store — it looks kind of like straw with hairs sticking out of it — I decided to try again. This time I knit little holes around the edge and threaded a leather thong through them. Not bad. Not sophisticated, but not bad. I’d found a big ball of yellow and pink spotted wool at a thrift shop which I used for the socks. They look lovely, I couldn’t have asked for better. But when I wear them I really feel how they don’t clasp my foot as store-bought socks do. I keep them in my drawer and admire them more than I wear them. Then I knit a sweater on my own. It called for a little waist shaping, and I thought I was being clever when I altered the shaping to fit my high waist. Now I have a bulky wool sweater that looks like it has an empire waist. Not good. Then I knit three quarters of another sweater with a whole pile of yarn my mother donated, at which point I realized the sweater was ALL WRONG. It seems you do need the right number of stitches both horizontally and vertically in the gauge. I put everything including a brand new complete set circular needles away. But this winter when I was travelling I spontaneously picked up some balls of lovely baby merino wool and started knitting a scarf that’s wide enough to be a shawl. I love it. And I realized I like knitting. Knitting allows me to empty my mind. And believe me, I really do need regular de-cluttering above the neck. So I pulled out two balls of sock wool that I had bought two years ago. It was a bit pricey, but I loved the look of it. Such a soft red, I thought. There were no pictures of how the yarn knit up, but I love red as an accent colour, and this seemed like such a soft red, a baby red if there could be such a thing. I figured if I could remember how to knit socks, and remember how to read the pattern, and remember how to knit with four skinny needles, it would “prove” I was ready to return to knitting. I did remember all those things, and was able to confirm by watching youtube videos. Now that I look at the ball I don’t see it entirely the same as I saw it before I knit it up. I swear it looked like a soft, warm, soothing baby kind of red. I thought I’d get an irregularly patterned red sock. Here’s what I got. Look at that horrible rusty orange. And what’s that awful spotted green doing in there? I didn’t see those colours in the ball!? And the stripes are so rigidly regular. I wanted spotted, not stripped. This is not my sock. This is some country grrrl’s camping and hiking sock. Pout. So what to do? Well, first knit the second sock. I’ll just pretend I’m a country girl next time I hike into town to catch an opera. Then look for a good sweater pattern and STICK WITH IT. No adjustments, no creative touches. But that’s so not me ….
Well, it had to happen eventually, given that my goal is to create a completely hand-made wardrobe. It was time to try underpants. A few months ago I was reading a post by a fellow blogger who talked about the underwear she was making based on a free pattern from SoZo You Think You know. She even dared to model them. They looked like the sort of thing I would like — basic and sturdy, rather than flirty and feminine. My apologies to any readers who like lacey and flimsy confections — you may want to browse elsewhere for now 🙂 So when I stumbled on SoZo a couple of days ago, I decided it was time for me to try downloading a pdf pattern file, and why not start with a small, easy one?
It’s a good thing I did start small, as the pattern came out missing bits, which I drew in by hand, more or less guessing measurements. Turns out the instructions showed, but did not say in words, that one had to set one’s printer to landscape orientation, rather than portrait. Anyway, I made a pair, and then discovered I’d made a total beginner’s mistake — the fabric on the back is inside out. Sheesh. Other than that, they’re not bad.
Not perfect though — just a little smallish. So then I examined the diagram that came with the instructions and realized the printer problem. After reprinting and cutting I made a second pair. I used left-over fabric from a t-shirt for the first pair, but I used an actual tshirt for the second one. It was a t-shirt I’d been given once, and would never wear, not even to sleep in at night. The colour! Here it is.
I have to tell you that I was thrilled when I tried these puppies on. They fit perfectly, and without binding anywhere. Can you believe the elastic that I found for the waist? I did make a couple of small changes to the pattern. I added an inch in height, so the pants ride a bit higher. And I angled the side seams so the leg openings would be a bit bigger without adding to the waist opening.
So, are they sexy? I think so, in a boyish kind of way. I was tempted to take a picture of myself wearing them, in, you know, low-light conditions, with maybe a gauzy curtain between me and the camera.
I can’t wait now to find bits of bright and bold cotton fabrics to make more of the sort of thing you just can’t find in stores, at least not where I live. This is gonna be the new older babe intimate apparel collection!
I would also like to add that I would love to see other sewists’ hand-made underwear. Or lingerie. Anybody up for posting about their patterns and fabrics?
I continue to experiment with fabrics I find at thrift shops, yard sales, and in remainders and roll-ends bins. The experiments are not always successful, as I never know what the fabric actually is, and sometimes I suspect it’s there because it didn’t get manufactured quite successfully (as in the lovely/horrible fabric of my Marcie Tilton trousers).
I’ve been fondling a large piece of what appears to be heavy-weight unbleached linen from a thrift store, wanting to make some kind of robe-like thing with it. First I washed it. That was a disaster. The chunk of fabric had been cut into. The picture above is unravelled warp and woof threads that I had to cut off after the washing. There was a lot of it. Then I had to try to heat and pound the now stiffened and wrinkled fabric back to the soft and smooth ‘hand’ it had when I bought it.
This is also a story about backtracking and backtracking away from my original intent. I had in mind a kind of jumper — something sleeveless you’d wear over a blouse or t-shirt. I didn’t want to design my own, so I went looking for patterns. There were none. I looked for dress patterns that I could alter a bit. Eventually I found this, boring looking thing that had panels. I wanted panels, something made of blocks. What I didn’t realize was that these panels curved for the bosom, making the item semi-fitted. I threw in the towel and decided just to make the d*mn dress. Did I mention I haven’t worn a dress since … wait for it … 1979? Yup. I’m not sure why, since I have worn skirts from time to time. It’s not that I don’t like things that hang from the shoulders — I love robes, caftans, tunics, shifts, on both men and women. The biggest beef I’ve had with both skirts and dresses involves stockings and footwear. When I’ve worn skirts it’s been primarily in the summer, when I wore them with bare legs and sandals. But stockings? I grew up in southern Ontario, snow and sub-zero temperature weather, at a time when girls had to wear dresses to school, apparently in the name of decency. I’m not sure how mini-skirts and stockings and heeled shoes got designated more decent than jeans. Anyway, I had to walk the proverbial ten miles through snow and sleet to school everyday and “nylons”, as they were then called, do nothing for warmth. And they’re uncomfortable. So are pantyhose. So forget it. For, like, 40 years.
Two things have changed. Tunics and leggings. When I was standing in St. Peter’s Square in Rome over Christmas, I looked around to see what the women were wearing. This is what I saw in the most fashionable city of the world: thousands of women of all ages wearing tunics and leggings. Not a pair of pants in sight.
So, I haven’t sewn a dress. I’ve sewn up a tunic, which I can wear with leggings and tall boots in colder weather, or with sandals in milder. To balance the sackcloth look of the tunic body, I combined it with the slinkiest velvet (another remainders bin find).
Since this dress was made up of panels and yokes, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to use two contrasting fabrics. And to add pockets. The only change I made was to shorten the hem, and narrow the bottom of the tunic (since this fabric was not going to drape, I added structure instead). Oh, I also eliminated the seam up the back. It wasn’t necessary, and the back yoke is in two pieces, which now abutt the single centre back piece. I really like the drop shoulders of this pattern, and whether you like the sackcloth- like quality of the main fabric or not, I think this version is a lot more attractive than what the pattern envelope shows.