Why Do We Fight Ease?

I am lucky enough to know many talented knitwear designers, as well as many talented knitters. And for the most part the only thing that separates those groups is that one publishes patterns and the other doesn’t. But there is one topic that I have found these two groups tend to treat differently – garment ease.

What is ease? Ease is the difference in size between the finished object and the person wearing it, generally measured at the bust. So positive ease means the garment is larger than the person’s bust, no ease means they’re the same size, and negative ease means the garment is smaller.

Generally, I see designers embracing ease. They publish patterns with many inches of positive ease and encourage their customers to knit with the designed fit. And I see so many knitters nervous about following the suggested ease. They feel like they’ll drown in an oversized garment and knit smaller sizes they feel comfortable with.

I think many knitters are uncomfortable with ease because they think a larger garment will make them look fat. They find it scary to make a garment as big as an oversized one. First of all, this belief is false and oversized garments do not automatically make a person look larger. And second of all, so what if they do? Why is it so important to signal thinness?

The other thing I think knitters who reject ease end up rejecting is comfort. Garments with more ease are literally easier to move in. The word “oversized” immediately conjures images of sweats, worn while lounging. Don’t we all deserve, and need, more comfort in our lives? It is such an act of self-care to spend time crafting something that will bring you comfort each time you wear it.

There are many wonderful styles of clothing in the world, and I want more of us to consider positive ease as part of our sartorial playbook. It can look put together and fashionable just as much as close-fitting clothing – that comes down to proportions and fit in specific areas like the shoulders. I want us to worry less about looking fat in our clothes and focus more on how they make us feel. I want us to clothe ourselves so we can move freely and feel enveloped in comfort. I want us to be at ease.

FO Friday: Cat Tank

Blonde girl in black tank top with white cat faces on it has her back to the camera and her face turned to it smiling.

Pattern: based on bodice from Building Block Dress by Oliver + S

Fabric: Cat-finity by Alexander Henry

Size: 8

Started: May 29, 2019

Completed: May 29, 2019

Blonde girl in black tank top with white cat faces stands in front of white tiled wall with arms stretched out.

“Mama, will you teach me how to sew?” are words I have been dreaming of hearing my daughter utter. So when she actually said them earlier this summer I leapt at the opportunity to make something together! I had earmarked this cat fabric for her as soon as I bought it, as she is deeply obsessed with our pet cats. After I showed it to her she drew a simple tank as what she wanted to make, and within a couple hours we had a finished product!

Blonde girl in black tank top with white cat faces stands sideways to the camera and grins.

I used the bodice in her size from the Oliver + S Building Block Dress book as my base. Once that was traced I flared the bottom to be as wide as I could get from my >1 yard cut of fabric, as well as lowering the neckline based on my preferences. I loved centering the start of the cat spiral on the front and while it isn’t what I would have planned, I think it looks cool to have all the big cat faces on her back. Once the fabric was cut we sewed together 😍 – my daughter controlled the pedal and we pushed the fabric through together. Once we had sewed the side and shoulder seams she declared it complete, declining to finish any of the raw edges. I wasn’t going to get in the way of her artistic vision, so that was that!

Blonde girl in black tank top with white cat faces stands with back to camera and hands on hips.

Since finishing this top my daughter has consistently reached for it as soon as it is clean from the laundry! She hasn’t requested that we make any more clothes together, but I am hoping that she asks again soon and we can sew something else wonderful for her. Maybe a trip to the fabric store together would pique her interest.

Jeans!!

Blond woman wears shirt that says Ableism Is Trash and blue skinny jeans.

Pattern: Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns

Fabric: Tencel denim from Cone Mills

Size: 14

Started: June 28, 2019

Completed: June 30, 2019

Blond woman half turned with her behind facing the camera. A redhead motions towards her behind.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to go to Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver to take a jeans retreat with Lauren Taylor, aka Lladybird. These jeans are now my favorite item of clothing and I wish that I could wear them every single day. They’re so comfortable and it feels so dang cool to know that I made them.

A pair of jeans laying on a railing showing off lightning bolt stitching on the back pocket

The retreat took place over 2.5 days. Lauren, the instructor, came prepared with samples of the jeans in every size in the pattern, so the first task was to try them on and figure out the right size for me to make. I fit the straight 14s really well and my denim was similar in stretchiness, so I decided to make them as is. Some of my classmates got notes from Lauren about fit adjustments they’d want to make as they went on, so we’d each come out with a pair that works for us.

The front of a pair of jeans, showing a lightning bolt shaped bar tack.

As you can see, I had fun adding lightning bolt detailing to my jeans. I added some decorative stitching to my back pockets, and then echoed that in one of my bar tacks on the front of my jeans. There is a lot of room for fun little detailing like that on jeans, which I had not appreciated beforehand. I didn’t go in with a plan beyond the back pockets, but it turned out that my top-stitching thread didn’t make nice bar tacks so I used some other thread in the studio and that led to some little touches. I enjoyed it happening organically and plan to approach my next pair the same way and let inspiration strike while I sew.

The inside of a pair of jeans showing the pocket fabric.

While I fit a straight size well I did make a few adjustments to the pattern. Once my legs were stitched together I lopped 2″ off the bottom. I ended up hemming them at that length even though they’re still long enough to cuff 2″ because I expect them to shrink in length with subsequent washes. I also adjusted the shape of the lower legs. I think because I didn’t remove length at the lengthen/shorten line the calves of my jeans were much looser than the rest. I removed ease from the knee down to make the fit the same along my leg. Next time I’d like to remove my length from higher and see if that helps. Finally, I made pocket bags rather than pocket stays to accommodate the extra space I like to have around a medical device I wear on my stomach.

Now that I have sewn jeans once with an instructor I feel like I could definitely do them again on my own. I look forward to my next pair! Have you ever sewn jeans? How was your experience?

FO Friday: Aomari Twist Top

Pattern: Aomari Twist Top by Papercut Patterns

Fabric: Soy Jersey by Pickering International in Chili

Size: L

Started: January 26, 2019

Completed: January 27, 2019

My wardrobe is short on long-sleeve tees, so I was happy to find the Aomari Twist pattern for one with some visual interest. It is a quick sew with an interesting construction, to get the keyhole twist to work. Although I love this top in theory, in practice I am not enamored with my FO for a couple reasons.

I wish I had taken the pattern company’s advice that “drape is king” more seriously. I used a soy jersey for this and I just don’t love how the twist falls when it’s on. I also wonder whether I would be happier with it a size down. It feels big and sloppy when I’m wearing it. Due to the construction it is difficult to take in without taking apart the entire top and I just don’t have the energy for that. It is a good top for days I get my chemo – it leaves my port easy to access and then if I like I can turn the shirt around and hide the pump I leave attached to. I do like the reversible nature, too, I wear it backwards as often as I do forwards.

My other big complaint is the sleeves. As you can see in some of the pictures, they come down past my wrists. I am happiest in a bracelet length sleeve and I find these annoying. They’re too loose to stay up when I push them up. The pattern as written finishes the sleeves with a band and I have the top in my mending basket to add that band, I wonder whether it would make the whole top feel a little neater if I felt like the sleeves fit better.

Overall I still find this a promising pattern. There’s a sleeveless version for wovens, and I might do a summer version in a smaller size and give it another shot. Have you ever remade a garment in a different fabric or size and loved the later version more?

DFW Fiber Fest Recap

I am very lucky that my job affords me the opportunity to attend a lot of fiber events, but one experience I’ve never had is going to a big event as a yarn civilian. So, when I saw the teacher line-up for this year’s Dallas-Fort Worth Fiber Festival I decided to take the plunge and sign up. I had a full weekend of classes (7 of them!) and managed to sneak in some marketplace time as well. Here’s some of what I learned during this lovely weekend.

These are my swatches from Knitting for Speed and Efficiency with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (bottom) and My Aching Wrists with Carson Demers (top). In the former class I learned a ton about the history of knitting before we talked about how we can improve our personal knitting rate. It was interesting to take at this particular time in my life as a sick person, because the disability community talks a lot about not measuring our worth in productivity and my brain was really trying to figure out how to hold onto an interest in knitting quickly with not feeling like it reflected on me. I learned that I knit 28 stitches per minute, which is mid to top of the average range for North American knitters: 10-40 stitches per minute. We talked about a very efficient way to knit if we’re willing to learn a new technique, as well as ways to increase speed in our current knitting style. You can’t really practice both, you have to pick one, and I’m still undecided which I’ll do when I’m done with one of my current projects and am ready to take on a speed-practice one.

I put these swatches together for the picture because they both show the same tendency – when I start practicing a new knitting technique my gauge gets smaller. I am a very loose knitter, often needing to go down 3 needle sizes to get gauge, and I finally learned why in Carson’s class. When I make a stitch I do so on the shaft of the needle, so my stitches are the diameter of two of the needle size, not one like it would be if I formed the stitch on the tip. I don’t have a problem with being a loose knitter so I’m not sure if I’ll attempt to change this practice of mine, but it is nice to understand why I have to knit on such tiny needles.

I also took my first two weaving classes this weekend – Knitting for Weavers with Deborah Jarchow and Saori Weaving with Kathy Utts. Above are my samples from the former class. It was such a great set up – there were half a dozen different types of beginner looms in the class. We each warped the one in front of us and wove a sample on it, and then moved around the room and tried out other looms we were interested in. It is amazing how different the models can feel in your hands, and how tiny style differences make using it harder or easier for your body. During the entire time we were warping I was thinking how glad I was that I took a class and didn’t just buy a loom, because this activity was not for me. And then the moment we started weaving, as I saw cloth being created in front of me, I had such a visceral reaction – I was part of an ancient textile art, sisters with the Goddess Arachne. Now that the fumes have worn off I’m still not sure I’ll take it up as a hobby, I don’t know if I have the mental energy to properly learn a new kind of making, but I also don’t know if the siren call will overwhelm my senses at some point.

My favorite class experience was definitely Saori weaving. I love everything about the philosophy – it is about creating imperfect art and knowing ourselves in the process. Sitting at that loom felt so good, as did playing with techniques and making up my own. The Saori way is to machine wash your weavings, which puts fear in my stomach but I am going to do anyway to really go through the process. After that is done, I cannot wait to hang this piece that I love in my office. It’s definitely not in my budget to buy a Saori loom anytime soon, but I may visit the local studio and take some more classes.

I can’t believe it, but I didn’t take any pictures while I was there! So just imagine a picture of a great marketplace full of interesting vendors. I also really liked the hotel/conference center set up – they’re across the street from each other and right next to a bunch of restaurants. My favorite was Nosh and Bottle, a deli/market. I had one of the best sandwiches of my life there and will definitely eat there again next time I’m in Dallas. Maybe for next year’s show? If so, hopefully I can convince some of my knitting group to come with me!

FO Friday: Tacara Dress

FO Friday: Tacara Dress

Pattern: Tacara by Seamwork

Fabric: Tencel French Terry by Pickering International in Heather Grey

Size: 14

Started: January 26, 2019

Completed: January 26, 2019

In November I had the pleasure of visiting Fancy Tiger Crafts for the first time, and I went in with the plan to hit their fabric section hard. I am happy to support online fabric stores, but there’s nothing like getting to touch the bolt in person to help you pick a match for a pattern. That was certainly the case for this fabric – I wouldn’t have looked twice at this on a website, but in your hands this tencel french terry is incredible – soft and cozy and delightful. I had wanted to sew Tacara since it was first released, and this was perfect for my vision of a thick, snuggly fabric.

The pattern was super quick to sew up and my only modification was to remove 4” from the length (hi, I’m 5’2”). One change I wish I had made was to place the pockets higher – I have to slouch to get my hands into them currently. Next time I will try to remember to try on the dress once the shoulders are sewn so I can check pocket placement in the mirror.

One fun thing about this pattern is that I was able to borrow a coverstitch machine while I was working on it. I had never used one before, but it sure does make my hems look gorgeous. I normally use a narrow zigzag on my knits, but I think I’m going to get serious about saving up for my own coverstitch to be able to add that touch more often.

Today is the first day of a cold front here, so I’m looking forward to snuggling up in my new dress!

#yarnlovechallenge Time!

#yarnlovechallenge Time!

Hello! I am excited to let you know that for the 3rd year in a row, Mary Heather and I will be hosting the #yarnlovechallenge this February.

Participating is easy! Post a photo on Instagram inspired by the daily prompt, and tag it with #yarnlovechallenge and #yarnlovechallenge2019. Using the tags makes it easy for others to find you and your posts, and we repost some of our favorites on the yarnlovechallenge Instagram account. It’s fine if you don’t post everyday, just join us when you can!

I really hope you’ll join in this year!