2019 In Review

One of the highlights of my 2019 was how I grew as a crafter. In June I went to a jeans-making retreat at Fancy Tiger Crafts and while there was no flash of knowing I was changed, I can see since coming home the difference it has made in my sewing. I made underwear and overalls, both of which I would have assumed were beyond me. But I made jeans! So I can figure out underwear (which, it turns out, are actually really simple!). This was also the year I began to feel more comfortable making pattern adjustments – grading between sizes and shortening pattern pieces.

Above are the 16 projects I completed and shared here this year (there are 3 more done but not blogged, but that’s a different story). I have sewing, knitting, and crochet projects. I’m sure this is the first year in my crafting life that my sewing projects outnumber my knitting, and I suspect it will continue that way in the future.

As I sometimes touch on, I am living with chronic colorectal cancer. This year I received 21 doses of chemotherapy, will continue to get treatment every other week for the foreseeable future. Every stitch I hooked and sewed and knitted this year was with cancer in my lungs and bones. These pictures are celebrations on days that I felt good. I think crafters in particular know the joy that comes with finishing the creation of a tangible thing and while I will never lose that, I want to value the days where I make nothing but carbon dioxide as I exhale.

I’ll be back soon with some thoughts and goals for 2020. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along here. If you want to keep up with my health, I have a cancer blog I update (more) regularly (than this one).

FO Friday: Ballerina Bun Covers

a young ballerina in a coral leotard jumping in a leap

Pattern: Ballerina Bun Covers by Crochet by Jennifer

Yarn: ArtFil Belle in a pink, Indigodragonfly DK Matter in Diplodocus Words, and Suburban Stitcher Merino DK in Tandoori

Hook: USG (4.25mm)

Ravelry Link: here

Started: August 11, 2019

Completed: September 1, 2019

the profile of a ballerina with a blue bun cover on her hair

There is a feeling of intense pride when your child sees an item in a store and announces, “My mom could make that.” When shopping for this year’s ballet gear my daughter saw a crocheted bun cover and after bragging about my skills, requested one for herself. I am not an experienced crocheter, but I didn’t want to say no to her request so I made good use of the internet’s resources and made it happen.

back view of  ballerina with a pink bun cover and one leg bent at the knee with foot behind her

Going through my stash at home my daughter couldn’t decide between three different skeins, so I offered to make her multiple covers. My crochet skills definitely improved as I went – on the first one I failed to notice the pattern switching from rounds of double crochet to single crochet, while the last one I was able to whip up in under 30 minutes without needing to look up any of the stitches. The pattern recommends finishing with a ribbon laced through the holes at the bottom, but instead I chose to crochet the final round onto a hair elastic. That has worked really well in practice – I can secure the cover mostly with the elastic and just use a couple back-up bobby pins to keep it there.

the back of a ballerina with a pink/orange bun cover

I made a wild guess as to how big to make the covers and ended up doing 3-4 rounds in the section you vary to adjust the size. That works well for her current modest bun, but it would definitely have to be bigger for someone with more or thicker hair. These are easy to make and I would happily make her a whole new set next year to match her new leotard color or accommodate her growing mane. Have you made anything to impress your kids with your crafty skills?

FO Friday: A Spell For Waning

a white woman in an orange cardigan wear a pink and red cowl

Pattern: A Spell For Waning by Jill Draper

Yarn: Jill Draper Makes Stuff Kingston in Hasbrouck Ave and Abeel St

Needles: US11 (8.0mm)

Ravelry Link: here

Started: September 5, 2019

Completed: October 13, 2019

close up of pink and red cowl with woman's hands

One of the yarn companies I return to over and over again is Jill Draper Makes Stuff. I love that she uses domestic wool to create interesting yarns. I think I’m also drawn to them as a native upstate New Yorker – so many of the yarn and color names are familiar to me from my hometown of Ithaca, NY. Last year at Rhinebeck I was thrilled to take home some of Jill’s new yarn Kingston, a woolly, heathery wonder. I cast it on this fall and was able to make this pattern in time for this year’s Rhinebeck. Is there a name for knitting up last year’s festival yarn for this year’s festival? There should be, because it always feels so satisfying to accomplish!

close up of pink and red cowl with woman's hand

I chose this pattern because I love garter stitch. And when it is knit with three strands held together it is especially squishy and textural and delicious. In this pattern you start holding three strands of one color and gradually replace one strand at a time of a different one to create a subtle color gradient. It makes a lovely effect, and combined with the subtle shaping to create a fold to warm your neck, adds up to an easy pattern with lovely details.

The only negative thing I have to say about this project is that when I finished it I realized I would never wear it here because it’s far too warm. Luckily, Rhinebeck is a magical place and it found a home with my housemate Marissa. She is a fellow garter stitch lover and has never made herself a cowl. It will get lots of love around her neck in the Northeast, which makes me very happy because I believe wool wants to be worn. Do you like to give away knits to loving homes?

FO Friday: Yanta Overalls

white woman indoors in pink overalls

Pattern: Yanta Overalls from Helen’s Closet

Fabric: Plaiditudes brushed cotton in Ivory & Pink Herringbone

Size: 14 graded to almost a 16 at the waist

Started: October 16, 2019

Completed: October 16, 2019

3/4 view of view woman outdoors in pink overalls

These were panic overalls. In the week before this year’s Rhinebeck Sheep & Wool Festival I looked at the weather and got nervous about being warm enough. So three days before my flight I decided that I needed to sew myself something warm and cozy; I armed myself with this delicious brushed cotton and the pattern that day. I gave myself two days to sew, but was pleased to find they came together in just one. And on the Sunday of Rhinebeck when it was cool and wet I was so so glad to be in my newest make.

the back of a white woman in pink overalls

I cannot recommend this pattern enough. The instructions are super clear not just in how to construct the garment, but also in what sort of pattern alternations you might want to make before beginning, as well as how to assess proper fit. On these I graded the hips out not quite a full size, as well as shortening them at the middle. There are three shorten/lengthen lines – on the bib, in the middle, and on the leg. Due to my height (5’2″) I would normally have shortened at all three, but I left the bib alone because my cup size is larger than the one drafted in the pattern, and at the legs because the pattern is drafted to be a little cropped and I wanted full length. All of this advice I got from the pattern and it was spot on, I am really happy with the fit.

As mentioned above, these came together super quickly. There are certainly things you can nitpick, but for me these feel like one of my best sews to date. Between the fitting and how nice they look, I definitely felt like I leveled up as a sewist on these. Even at the beginning of this year I would have felt like overalls were a stretch for me, but I was totally able to conquer them.

close up of the bib of the pink overalls showing the torso of the white woman

I haven’t worn overalls since middle school and had forgotten how incredibly comfortably they are. I also love how many pockets they have. The top one is the perfect width for my phone, though in practice I don’t use it much for that because this fabric doesn’t have great recovery and it leaves the pocket looking sad and saggy when I take my phone out.

white woman indoors wearing pink overalls making a silly face

As I mentioned in my earlier post about my underwear 🙈I wear a medical device on my belly that changes in size throughout the day. I had stayed away from loose overalls like these because I was sure that they would make my device noticeable. But instead I have found they are one of my most discrete items of clothing, you nearly never see the bulge of the device at all.

These are definitely going to be one of my favorite makes for the year. I threw them together for Rhinebeck both for warmth and because in many ways it is a big fashion show. I wear them every week until I inevitably spill food on them and am forced by shame to wash them. Anything you thought was a risk – for your silhouette, for your skills – that turned out to surpass your expectations?

FO Friday: Twitch Sweater

a woman in a yellow and white striped sweater stands in a field with her back to the camera, one arm blocking the sun from her eyes

Pattern: Twitch by Kim McBrien Evans

Yarn: Shibui Knits Staccato in Brass and Ivory

Needles: US1 (2.25mm)

Size: 1

Ravelry Link: here

Started: September 17, 2018

Completed: July 27, 2019

a white woman in a yellow striped sweater stands in a field facing the camera with her hands in her back pockets

Twitch was one of those patterns that sent me straight to my LYS so I could cast on immediately. I loved the panels of different lengths and widths covered with differently sized stripes. My original goal was to finish it in a month and bring it to Rhinebeck 2018, but I knit so much I injured myself and had to take months off of all knitting. Value your fingers over a deadline, y’all! Once I healed up I was able to get back to this project at a much more reasonable pace and debut it at Rhinebeck 2019.

close up of the yellow striped sweater, showing half the front torso and an arm akimbo

You can see my only modification in the picture above. After spending a weekend sewing that I realized my sleeves were too tight and it was throwing off the fit of the entire sweater. I did not have it in me to take off and reknit the sleeves, so instead I decided to work with the sweater design and make an inset stripe. I knit a 1.5″ wide white stripe, which was easy to knock off and insert at the underarm seam without touching the sleeve cap. It was exactly what I needed to be able to wear the sweater comfortably.

top down photo of the yellow striped sweater showing off the seaming junctions

I really love all the stripey junctions across the sweater and how beautifully they all line up. The designer did an incredible job of thinking that through and it makes an exquisite FO. The sort of thing that makes even fellow crafters say, “Did you make that?” I did and I love it.

Have you ever been so enthusiastic about finishing a project that you hurt yourself? Did you learn your lesson or do you still get caught up in deadlines?

Rhinebeck Recap 2019

a sheep tilting its head at the camera

Another year, another New York Sheep and Wool Festival (aka Rhinebeck) in the books. I love my annual opportunity to spend a few minutes in person with people that I usually communicate with online. It is also fun to be surrounded by people who love making as much as I do – it is a place where you can stare at someone’s sweater and they understand it comes from admiration. Being among your people is deeply comforting.

a flat lay of books, jerky, a tote bag, lotion, a spray bottle, a needle, washi tape, and two necklaces

As always, I enjoy the shopping opportunities that Rhinebeck provides. This year I brought home:

  • jerky for my husband
  • When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles for my daughter
  • two necklaces from Jennie the Potter
  • Vanishing Fleece by Clara Parkes
  • Knitting Outside the Box: Drape and Fold by Bristol Ivy
  • rose face spray
  • washi tape
  • a nålebinding needle
  • my favorite lanolin lotion from Long Island Livestock Co
  • a mud-dyed tote bag(!!)
  • Making a Life by Melanie Falick

The tote bag and rose spray and needle were from my swap partner, as part of our house swap. We draw names on the first night and give a gift to our partner on the last night. She totally nailed my color palette and my favorite scent.

close up of two silver necklaces

The Jennie the Potter necklaces are particularly special. I bought one of these for myself 5 years ago and have worn it nearly everyday since. Whenever I go out of town I leave it with my daughter, so she can feel close to mom when she is far away. This year on the first night of Rhinebeck I got a panicked phone call that my daughter had lost the charm – she kept sobbing how sorry she was. It was so sad that this object I meant to bring her comfort instead stressed her out, and I was really thrilled to see that Jennie had them in stock this year. I got two so my daughter and I can each have our own. And amazingly, on Sunday night she managed to find the missing charm, so now we have three of them. Plenty to make sure anyone who wants one has one.

the head and back of a sheep with black wool

It was another wonderful year at Rhinebeck, and I look forward to attending next year.

FO Friday: Plantain Tee

white woman facing camera in magenta tshirt and jeans

Pattern: Plantain Tee from Deer and Doe

Fabric: Lightweight jersey in magenta

Size: 50

Started: August 10, 2019

Completed: August 10, 2019

white woman facing the camera in magenta tshirt and jeans

This summer I realized that one think I was lacking as a sewist was a go-to t-shirt pattern. I wanted something to allow me to quickly whip up some basic tops. I was drawn to the scoop neckline and slightly flared shape of the plantain tee and decided to sew one up!

white woman at 3/4 angle wearing magenta tee and jeans

Just as I hoped, you can make one of these tees in a few hours and it’s perfect to toss on with jeans or leggings. I made this version as a straight size 50 with no mods, and I will definitely want to make some changes to my next one. I’m planning to go down a size, and also narrow the shoulders so the hit me at the right place – you can see in the photos that they’re a bit dropped. I would also shorten the sleeves an inch, as I think that would be a better proportion for me.

white woman facing away from the camera in a magenta tee and jeans

It is finally starting to cool off here, so I am planning to make a couple long sleeve versions this fall. I’m hoping that this will become my go-to but I am thinking I might try some others. Do you have a favorite t-shirt pattern I should try?

FO Friday: Swing-y Tank

a white woman in a knitted blue tank faces the camera

Pattern: Tarmac Tank by Anna Maltz from Pom Pom Quarterly Issue Summer 2018

Yarn: YOTH Best Friend in Oyster (trim color) and Mint.

Needles: US2 (2.75mm)

Size: 3 (37 3/4″ bust)

Ravelry Link: here

Started: September 10, 2018

Completed: September 10, 2019

white woman in blue knitted tank leaning against a wall with her back to the camera

In my continued quest to expand my warm weather me-made wardrobe, I made this swing-y tank out of a cotton/wool blend. It’s so pleasant to toss on in the worst of the heat and still feels cute. If you’re going to sweat on your clothes, natural fibers make it a more comfortable experience.

a white woman in a blue knitted tank with her side to the camera

My one complaint about the pattern is that the armholes are much too big. I had read this in the project notes on Ravelry, but entirely forgot to compensate for it when I was knitting. Since taking these photos I have been wearing it with a cute bralette like my Josephine Swing Top and I am finding I like that look better. The oversized armholes definitely are not going to keep me from wearing this top a ton!

white woman in a blue knitted tank with her back to her camera and her face turned towards it, too

I really like how the stripes worked out. I’m not sure how well it reads in the pictures, but this tank is knit from a pale blue grey and a mint-y blue in single row stripes. I like how it reads as solid-colored from a distance and the colorwork is only visible once you get nearer.

Are you a fan of colorwork with colorways of similar values? Let me know!

FO Friday: Josephine Swing Top

a white woman in a blue lacy bra and a white woven tank top with pale yellow and neon pink dots on it from behind with her face turned to the camera

Pattern: Josephine Swing Top from Yarn Exploder

Fabric: Nani Iro double gauze in Neon Meadow in the Peach colorway

Size: M/L

Started: August 8, 2019

Completed: August 9, 2019

a white woman in a blue lacy bra and a white woven tank top with pale yellow and neon pink dots on it facing the camera

A wonderful thing that has happened for my sewing life this year is that my very talented best friend, Jacki Schaefer, has started designing sewing patterns. Between our shared climates, lifestyles, and tastes, it means that I have access to a great new source of patterns that are right up my alley.

a white woman in a blue lacy bra and a white woven tank top with pale yellow and neon pink dots on it from the side looking at the camera

A flowy tank in double gauze fills the Texas wardrobe need for items to wear when it’s too hot for clothes. I have to leave the house with something on, and this top is cool and breezy in a way that doesn’t add to my summer discomfort. I like to style it leaning into the fact that my bra will be visible by wearing a pretty bralette I’m happy to show off.

a white woman in a blue lacy bra and a white woven tank top with pale yellow and neon pink dots on it with her back to the camera

The sewing of this top was incredibly easy, save for a nightmare of my own making. I zipped through the two side seams and the hem and wanted to finish my delicate double gauze neck and armholes with coordinating bias binding. My first run I somehow managed to make bias tape that wasn’t cut on the bias. My next run I decided to make 1/2″ bias tape so it wouldn’t make the straps much narrower. This was a mistake. Once your 1/2″ bias tape is double folded each edge is 1/8″ and that is not a fun seam allowance in the fabric. I ended up having to use Wonder Clips to hold everything in place and continually tuck bits of fabric under with my seam ripper tip just before sewing. I still have a bunch of places where the edge wasn’t caught and the binding is sticking up. Next time I think I will double the width of the straps so that I can use a thicker bias tape and finish my edges more comfortably.

Oh, and I decided to be proactive and make a bunch of that too skinny bias tape so I’d have it on hand for future projects. So I have about 20 yards of it hanging out I need to find a different use for. Any suggestions?

FO Friday: Marie-Josée Undies

Two pairs of underwear folded in half on a wooden background.

Pattern: Marie-Josée Underwear by Jalie Patterns

Fabric: Leftovers from my stash. The blue is from an Ebony tee and is more structured, the green is much drapier, maybe a bamboo blend?

Size: Z

Started: September 4, 2019

Completed: September 4, 2019

the lower torso and upper legs of a white woman in green underwear.

Making my own lingerie has always felt like a big sewing milestone, and I was pushed to cross it by the recent release of the Jalie Marie-Josée underwear. What set this pair apart? They come with an optional pocket for an ostomy bag. I have an ileostomy and was excited to see a pattern come out designed for my body. I have tried commercial ostomy underwear and been disappointed, so I was hopeful that making my own would be more satisfying. Happily these have worked out beautifully for me!

Inside out blue underwear showing pocket for ostomy bag.

The pocket sits at the front of the undies and is cut so that it can accommodate a bag on either side of your torso, and while I’ve only tried it with my bag mostly straight up and down, it feels like it would easily fit a bag at 45 degrees for those that wear it that way. The pattern suggests doing the pocket piece in power mesh, but I chose to use fabric instead because I didn’t want to feel my bag against my skin through the mesh. I was thrilled that once they were one they really stayed put over my ostomy appliance.

Torso and upper legs of white woman in blue underwear with ostomy bag hanging out over undies.

I really like these for wearing under dresses. It helps smooth things out and hold the bag in place so it doesn’t flop around as I move. It’s much more comfortable that simply tucking the bag into my underwear against my skin.

The bum and upper legs of a white woman in blue undearwear.

I am planing on seeing how many more pairs I can knock out from my knit scraps, a drawerful of these undies is definitely in my future! If any ostomates have questions about fit, my flange size, etc. please do reach out as I am happy to share!