Ballerina (Cleo) Skirt

A young woman wearing a black fitted t-shirt tucked into a long green skirt with ballerina's practicing at the bar printed on it.

The thing about sewing is that in many ways it’s not that different from knitting. Ok, in many ways it’s very different from knitting. In fact other than using your hands to make something many of the tools and techniques are different. All that aside, in many ways sewing is not that different from knitting. Like knitting, sewing projects have a way of jumping out at me when they’re ready to come to life. Like knitting, I go through phases of zero inspiration, and then suddenly a pattern that I’ve seen a million times needs to be given life immediately. Mostly, there’s a strong desire to grab beautiful materials because you know that at some point you’ll be able to use your hands to turn them into something beautiful.

We don’t make the trek to Notion very often, though a wonderful shop, it’s an hour away. When you combine that with there’s a record shop in town for my husband to patron and a delicious eatery down the street, it’s a trip that very quickly becomes a treat. So you have to understand when I say that this ballerina fabric literally jumped out at me from their clearance section, you have to understand that I typically go in with a budget and a plan. I check the clearance section as a means of sticking to that plan, not necessarily for the “OMGOSH I need this to make this and I’m going to start it tonight” feeling that ensued when my eyes made contact with this green cotton poplin fabric.

In addition to the fabric, I also walked away with a copy of the Cleo Skirt by Made-by-Rae. The plan, as I enthusiastically informed my husband over lunch, was to merge the two different styles so that I’d have a long skirt with visible front pockets. A plan that went into action as soon as I could wash and iron the fabric.

The Cleo skirt came together incredibly fast and I love the stiffness that using poplin brings to the garment. Though slightly more of a summer fabric, I do plan on wearing this with a turtleneck, tights, and boots through winter. Another project that I not only want to make again but honestly fits so well into what I tend to wear day-to-day. Perhaps a woolen version is in my future!

There’s about a yard or so leftover, so stay tuned for another ballerina project! I think I have enough to make a t-shirt using the 100 acts of sewing pattern?

December Book Club: Station Eleven

Cover art for Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

If I had to summarize Station Eleven for someone while only having read the first few chapters, I would describe it as what it would be like to be a part of a traveling Symphony in a post pandemic world where most of the population dies. Now that it’s in my “read” pile, I think a better summary would need to include how one person can shape and connect the lives of many.

Arthur was not a great person, he cheated on his wives and had a hard time prioritizing the right things. Towards the end of his life, more than one person described him as if he was acting off camera/stage. It was as though during his pursuit of happiness, Arthur lost himself and his understanding of what could really make him happy. This isn’t to say that Arthur was a bad man, he had a way of genuinely caring about people and wanting to support them. No, Arthur’s issue seemed to stem from not really knowing what was important when it was important and a misguided quest for what happiness really was.

Despite dying early in the book, Arthur’s life shaped the story of the many characters that we encountered throughout Station Eleven. In some ways, this was for the better. Clark found himself realizing that he had been sleep walking his way through life after having dinner with Arthur shortly after his death. Kirsten turned to Arthur for comfort during her childhood and found herself comforted still by the comics that he gifted her. Miranda came into her own. Jeevan learned that he did in fact want to become an EMT (and eventually became a doctor).

In other ways, Arthur caused a lot of chaos in the new world by not being a good father to his son Tyler. You can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Arthur hadn’t missed so many of Tyler’s birthdays or had been able to move to Jerusalem before the pandemic. Would Tyler have learned to cling to the bible the way that he did? Would he have a world view to balance his mothers? If so, imagine how many people would have lived more peaceful lives.

Another thing that Station Eleven did was point out that there will always be people that try to support and grow from each other. People who do their best to take the ugly and make something beautiful. Just as there will always be people who are unable to see past the ugly, and it’s not that these people are lesser than the first group of people (although you do wish they’d rise to the occasion!), it’s that their version of doing the best that they can isn’t as outward facing. Where some are able to turn to others and raise them up, others are barely able to put their own oxygen masks on.

Station Eleven is what I wanted from The Stand. A story about people putting the pieces back together after trauma and learning how to move forward. There was just enough description of the pandemic to understand what has happening without the feeling of “ok I get it, everyone is dying”. I had a lot of reservations about reading this book in the middle of a pandemic, but honestly the pandemic was simply the spark that started this story.

Last October, I poured over a bunch of horror books and added them to my to-read list. Not because of Halloween (although maybe), but because I found myself rereading The Shinning yet again. Since adding Lovecraft Country to my to-read list it has become a show on HBO and the trailer reminded me that I should read it. I have not seen the show beyond episode one, so I’m coming into the story with a set of (mostly) unbias eyes.

Cover art for Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff.

The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, twenty-two year old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned Atticus’s great grandmother—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.

At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.

A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of one black family, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today. 

Leaves of Grass in Woolstok Light

As I write this post, I have to own up to still basking in the glory of finishing my second pi shawl. For starters, the stitch detail in this pattern is incredible, which means the project required a lot of focus to complete. AKA it required lots of counting, chart checking and zero distractions (not a project to work on while watching TV or participating in zoom calls). Next, it’s a deceptively large shawl where moving onto the next chart also means at least doubling your stitch count. This means that the further along in the project you get the longer it takes to complete a row, something that should have been obvious before I got started. Finally, this was a project with a deadline which means that the break I took from the project lead to a period of “you can’t knit anything else”.

A green lace circle shawl folded in half and wrapped around a young woman's shoulders

Leaves of Grass has been on my radar more or less since I originally joined Ravelry. It’s a gorgeous pattern that’s influences speak to my inner wood elf, and a pattern that I’ve owned for years before finally sitting down to knit it. If I’m being honest, this was not my original choice of project when I learned that I would have the privilege of working with Woolstok Light to help promote it as a Blue Sky Maker. Having worked a lot with Woolstok over the years, I actually planned on knitting a light weight colorwork sweater with the new yarn. As my sample skein sat on my craft table and I waited for the colors I picked out to come in, I found myself coming back to Leaves of Grass. Unlike Woolstok, Woolstok Light is a single ply yarn. This doesn’t mean it’s not usable for colorwork projects (check out the Bainbridge Tam and Cowl!), but it does mean that it had the potential to be beautiful for lace projects.

Minus using a needle that had me slightly off gauge, I’m very happy with the way this shawl turned out! Woolstok Light is spun with multiple colors of yarn that combine to create the color that you see. This technique provides a level of depth that you can’t get with yarns that have been dyed using a tonal technique or with single colored skeins. In addition to the stitch definition provided by the single ply, the shawl also has a light halo (which I love!).

A green lace circle shawl draped over a young woman's shoulders so that it hangs like a poncho.

My only word of caution, which is really a “here’s another use of this yarn”, is that I think it will felt very easily. I worked the final two chart repeats with (incredibly) hot hands and my final stitches along the edge did join together a little bit. Also, split splicing to join a new skein of yarn takes like three seconds.

I don’t see myself reaching for the Leaves of Grass pattern again any time soon (although I did seriously consider knitting on in a worsted weight yarn during chart C), but never is a long time and you never know!

Close up of a green lace circle shawl.

Trying something new: Oat Jam Bars

Over the summer, I made a plethora of blueberry jam after we picked blueberries. While the jam is delicious and not in danger of going off, we’ve eaten enough of it to want to enjoy it outside of the traditional ways that one enjoys fresh jam. After a failed attempt to make Jelly Donuts, and a lack of desire to try again without a stand mixer, I found myself wondering what other baked goods utilized jam as flavoring (besides jam cookies, naturally). Enter the Oatmeal Jam Bars I found on Pinterest, simple to make and potentially delicious.

Let me start by saying, these are incredibly easy to make. You’re basically whipping up a double batch of the crisp that goes on apple crisp and baking half of it for 10 minutes before adding the jam layer and the other half of the oatmeal mixture. So really, it’s a way to make a pie for anyone who doesn’t want to invest in the time required to make pastry.

If I were to make it again, I think using a tarter jam (and ok, less jam) would make the bars taste better as these were just a little too sweet for my liking. Also, not that I would add nuts, but the dish could be improved with a crunch… possibly line the bottom with a sugar cookie instead of the oat mixture?

Bottom line, we ate probably more than we should have in one sitting and I can see myself making this one again (perhaps with a few changes to the original recipe). I can’t make any promises, but I found a homemade pop-tart recipe that I may end up trying out next. Will report back if I do!

A belated “Happy Halloween”

No matter how you swing it, the best part about re-sewing the same pattern again is that you’ve already assembled the pattern. Like ironing your fabric before cutting, assembling the pattern is one of those steps that always takes longer than you think it should. So when I sat down on Halloween morning to make an Ilsa dress with Jade sleeves part two, I honestly anticipated the project having zero hiccups and only taking a few hours. In my mind, it would receive a lot of compliments while I handed out candy to trick or treaters and would have paired well with the denim jacket that I would throw on to stay warm. My machine, however, had a different plan in mind for the day.

Perhaps it’s my fault, perhaps if I hadn’t waited until the day of to sew the project things would have turned out differently. Even after all the time playing around with my tension settings, I still don’t really know what happened (but am tempted to try a new stretch needle next). This is all to say that no matter what I did, my machine wouldn’t stop eating my ghost fabric and the dress that I thought I was going to make is not the dress I ended up with.

After trying, testing, and failing, to fix the problem after a half-hour, I was left with hole-y fabric and a strong desire to rage quit. Each piece had been carefully cut so that the ghosts lined up playfully along the pieces, I didn’t have fabric left over to recut anything. The situation quickly reminded me of playing a hard challenge in a video game as a child where there was nothing to do but throw the controller down and turn it off. Except I didn’t have the ability to try again later, a few of my pattern pieces were beyond saving.

So instead of rage quitting, I found myself reaching for the 3-6 month Germanium pieces that I cut out this past June. These fit perfectly within the Ilsa pieces that were still intact, so I took a deep breath and prepared to start over.

The final dress is not perfect, in fact, I messed up the bodice construction and had to make a few modifications in order to compensate for it. Technical difficulties aside, I am happy with the final product. In the end, it felt more important to sit down with my machine and sew than it did to wear a ghost dress this year. With all the knitting I’ve been doing for Blue Sky Fibers and Wonderland Yarns, it’s been easy to walk by my sewing machine and let it sit unused. In the end, it felt good to persevere and produce something unique. This little dress may become a romper so that it’s more gender-neutral, however, that’s an adventure for another day!

Baby dress in size 3-6 months made out of blue fabric with large white ghosts on it.