Sunday, March 29, 2020

My first hand knit sweater: Snoqualmie by Michele Wang

It's been a couple weeks since I've written a post... and the whole world has changed. It's pretty rare that anything other than being very busy will affect my desire to sew, but when the world started turning upside down, all I wanted to do was knit and watch Next in Fashion. 

Also contributing to my knitting binge was the sudden cancellation of the family ski trip I had been planning for months. It was looking like a go, I had even talked to people at the ski lodge to book lessons and they had been sure they would be open... and then everything very suddenly shut down. Therefore, lots of time to knit. 

So, I finished my first ever sweater! You can also find me on Ravelry here for all the knitty details.

This is the Snoqualmie by Michele Wang for Brooklyn Tweed. Quite honestly I never would have considered such a project if it wasn't for Heather Lou's Snoqualmie knit along. I thought cables would be really difficult and I'm not a great knitter, but Heather is very convincing. Of course the sew along was from 2016 but it stuck in my head and when I was looking for a new project this summer, I decided to go for it.

I cast on this summer during our annual camping trip to Cape Cod last July. I very unimaginatively chose to use the exact yarn and colorway that the sample was made in. The sample just looks so perfect to me that I couldn't conceive of another variation.

I loved working with Brooklyn Tweed's Quarry. I looked long and hard for a substitute, but I couldn't find anything like it, anywhere. I also was influenced by comments on how the lightness of the yarn was key to keeping the oversize cable design from being too heavy. So I just relented and got Quarry, direct from Brooklyn Tweed. It is not like any other yarn I've worked with and I love the rustic quality and the light squishyness of it. It has a wooly feel and isn't super soft like some other yarns, but is surprisingly non-scratchy. I read all of the complaints about how easily it breaks, but I'm not a tight knitter and I hand wound all of my balls so I didn't have any of those problems.

I really enjoyed cabling. I used a cable needle for most of this sweater, although there was a point where I lost the cable needle and I had to try cabling without a cable needle for awhile, and that was okay. However I preferred working with the cable needle so I got another one. One of the things I love about cabling is that the sweater becomes very visual, and I could tell right away if I made a mistake or lost count. One thing that has driven me sort of nuts with top down knits is keeping track of all the stitches, and I hate counting! I also love tonal patterns and texture, so cabling was really satisfying to my eye.

The other thing that really surprised me is that I loved knitting a sweater in pieces. Top down seems to be all the rage, but the shape of the sweater is difficult for me to conceive as I am working on it and I'm never sure whether I'm doing it right. Also at a certain point they get huge and you end up carrying around a whole sweater everywhere you bring your knitting. Then you are knitting endless rows for the body of the sweater and figuring out where you dropped that stitch is nearly impossible and that's when I tend to lose interest and stuff the project in the back of a drawer somewhere.

However, knitting the pieces gave me more manageable goals-- finish a front, YAY, etc. Also, for someone who has sewn many cardigans on a sewing machine, the pattern pieces made visual sense to me. I've read about knitters knitting all the pieces and then not wanting to sew them together, but I didn't mind that part at all, it was sort of exciting to see them all come together.

As a total newbie to this kind of knitting, I did have some setbacks. When making the back and still sort of learning the pattern, I ended up ripping rows at a time and re-knitting. I was also tricked by the instruction to knit until the armhole was a certain length-- I figured that one would measure the armhole on the curve with a tape measure, because one sometimes does this in sewing to fit a sleeve to an armhole. Apparently that was not what was meant, but I didn't figure out why it looked so strange until I went to block it and pulled out the sheet with the measurements... it seems that one was meant to measure the armhole by the length of the vertical rise. Well, why didn't they just say that? I guess real knitters understand this kind of instruction. So I ripped back and added the requisite length to the armhole, and all was well.

I also had a very difficult time making the fronts match. I finished the left front on our trip, and then set down the project for a few months, and when I came back to it during the holidays, my gauge was totally different. I knit the right front, ripped, and knit it again, and it still didn't match. So then I ripped the better part of the left front and knit that again, and it wasn't perfect, but it was much closer.

After that fiasco with the fronts, I decided to knit the sleeves at the same time on a long cable. This worked beautifully for me... sort of cumbersome, but much better for consistency. Next time I'll probably try knitting the fronts at the same time too, because apparently I'm a very inconsistent knitter.

The pattern is really thoughtful, I enjoyed following it. I really appreciated the glossary of terms and descriptions of how to do specific techniques. The tubular cast on is gorgeous and so professional looking. This was one area where I was unable to interpret the pattern instructions, but this video by Very Pink was super helpful. I also thought the selvage edge and the instructions on casting off for cables to be very helpful in providing a nice finish. I loved the buttonhole instructions, very cool. The one thing I didn't totally love was the way the collar is attached such that the join is visible on the inside when you wear the cardigan open. I guess the idea is that it is a buttoned cardigan and that edge is supposed to be on the inside. I actually have been looking at the Rowe by Michele Wang and the collar on that one is knit double width, folded, and stitched down to hide the seam. However with a bulky yarn like Quarry that wouldn't work so well, so perhaps this is the best solution afterall.

The wooden buttons are from Etsy, Supplies and Sundries in Iowa, they came super fast and they were perfect.

The fit is quite roomy! It isn't meant to be a fitted sweater, and I was totally going for the idea of a big, cozy, easy fit. Therefore I love it! I do worry that it will stretch out over time though... and since I'm such a loose knitter, I feel that there is rather a lot of danger of that. If I was to make this again, I might size down one size.

I am super stoked to have finished this in less than a year, and in time to wear it on chilly spring mornings. I'm wearing it now!

Stay well everyone!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Stretch Wool Persephone Pants

These are my first ever lined wool slacks, and I'm in love! The drape is gorgeous, the texture is sophisticated, and no wrinkling. Why has it taken me so long?

One reason is that I haven't been sure what kind of fabric I should use for a wool pant. But when I saw these by Tipstitched posting for Fabric Mart, I was instantly in love. It is a dark navy medium wool suiting with 5% lycra. The fabric was 70% off... this was a case of effective marketing in action, because I instantly bought 2 yards, and I've never bought anything from Fabric Mart before. My order came quickly and they sent a very generous cut, almost 4 yards, with a note saying that I had gotten extra because it was the end of the roll. After making these pants, I think I still have enough to make another pair.

I decided to take the risk and prewash, since I will almost certainly wash at home. I also figured the lycra mixed in would help prevent felting. However I dumped too much wool wash in, and it wasn't the kind you can leave in, so I ended up running multiple rinse cycles. Then I threw all caution to the wind and tossed it in the dryer to dry. After all of that, it shrank about 18 inches in length. I've since bought some Euclan (no rinse wool wash) and I never dry me-mades in the dryer, so I hope not to shrink it further after sewing!

I was pretty sure that a lining would be preferable for me, since I love wool but the feel of it rubbing between my legs is not ideal for me. It's a stretch wool, so I wanted a stretch lining, but all of the stretch woven linings I could find were poly and I don't like poly next to my skin either. After some searching I settled on a stretch rayon challis from

I used my Persephone Pant pattern that is modified for stretch (ie, a size down from measurements) and with a fly extension for a zip fly that I used for my Stretch Denim Persephone pants.

None of the pants patterns that I regularly use have instructions for lining, so I sort of just winged it. I just cut another set of the same pieces from my lining, minus the fly extensions. I sewed them separately from the wool outer fabric, then basted them in place at the waistband and the fly, thinking they lining would end up being tacked down somehow in all of the sewing of the fly. (I was wrong, btw!)

What should have been a simple and straight forward zip fly that I've sewn at least 5 times turned into a mess of unpicking. I got cocky and didn't follow the Ginger Jeans instructions, thinking I knew the steps. Well, it finally got all sorted out with a functioning zipper, but I can't say it's the prettiest fly I've ever sewn.

After the fly was sewn, I realized the lining was still not firmly connected. In the future I think I should add the fly extensions to the lining, so that they would get properly attached in sewing the fly. But as a stop gap measure, I folded the raw edge under and sewed the lining to the pant at the folds of the fly. Not the most elegant solution, but on a dark navy pant, the extra stitching doesn't show, and on the inside it is hidden by the fly.

I used the navy wool for the back piece of the pocket, and the white lining for the front piece/pocket facing. It was a bit of a trick trying to keep the white lining of the pocket facing from showing when I sewed the waistband, it required sewing about 1/8 of an inch over the edge of the pocket and then pulling the top edge of the pocket out of the way. It is however nice that the pockets end up enclosed inside the lining.

The waistband is interfaced with medium weight fusible cut in the maximum stretch direction. The waistband facing is made from the rayon challis lining fabric, interfaced with light weight knit interfacing to give it a little more body and durability.

The lining is shorter and hemmed with a simple double turn of the fabric. The wool is hemmed with a deep 2.25 inch hem done with a machine blind hem stitch.

I'm glad I went through the extra effort of lining, the pants feel smooth and soft inside. I also think the lining helps smooth out some of the extra bumps and lumps, and it makes the wool hang so nicely. 

I'm loving these pants! The stretch makes them so comfortable. I'm wearing them for the most spring-y day yet this March, but there are some cold days yet to come and I think they'll be gorgeous with my gray trench coat

Have you made lined pants? What method do you use?

Monday, March 2, 2020

Pietra gray Pietra pants from Closet Case Patterns, with modifications

Finally complete-- my Pietra Pants! As y'all probably know, I'm a huge fan of Closet Case Patterns, but these were a bit of a struggle for me. 

I have yet to meet an elastic waist pant that I like the look of, I've sewn up several that have ended up in the pajama drawer. But after seeing so many happy bloggers and instagrammers showing off elastic waist bums that looked just fine, I thought that perhaps Closet Case had perhaps worked some magic...

The pattern, as usual, was a pleasure to sew. Since I know Closet Case patterns tend to fit me right out of the envelope, I sewed these up without a muslin, to my measurements. My fabric was a stone gray (pietra!) medium-heavy weight linen from They came together quickly, with the neat construction typical of Closet Case, facilitated by their fantastic instructions.

The fit was perfect, as usual. The front view was gorgeous, love those pockets!

However, when I spun in front of the mirror, I was instantly horrified by the back view. The baggy butt was there, in all its fabric glory. Most likely the effect was intensified by my fabric choice... light gray moderately heavy linen (7 oz) certainly does not have a flattering gather. The thought of elephant skin jumped into my head, and would not leave. The pants got wadded up and buried in the bottom of my project bin.

I thought about taking a photo for before and after purposes, but could not muster the energy to wrangle a rear end selfie. And dear audience, no matter how much you might say that the rear view was really not that bad, the image of a pachyderm was not going to be easily dislodged.

After working my way through several other projects, glimpses of gray started taunting me, and this weekend I finally hauled the dreaded baggy butt pant out of the bin and went to work. Closet Case actually does have a tutorial addressing both the addition of a zipper and the removal of excess ease (on the side of the pant) for certain fabrics that don't play well with gathering, and I took these to heart and went even further in my hack-job modifications.

I unpicked the entire back of the pant, and took (very approximately) 1 inch out of each back side seam, 2 inches out of the center back, and made 1 inch darts over each buttock. I shortened the back waistband to fit the new dimensions of the rear of the pant. I added a side seam invisible zip. It was still was a little loose... so I added the elastic back into the rear waistband.

And the result...

I love the result, for me it is a good compromise between a bit of comfort ease in the back and a tidy rear end that I'm not going to be constantly hiding under untucked shirts and tunics. 

Now that my difficulties are behind me 😉, I love the taper of the leg and the huge front pockets. I might need more of these, especially with spring rolling around. I think if I try to sew these again, I might lay out the rear panel of the Pietra over the Jenny trouser pattern to see a hybrid of some sort might work. 

So happy to finally get my Pietra fix. These are on their way to become a favorite in my wardrobe (with modifications!)

Readers, how do you feel about elastic waist pants? I love the look of some of the RTW elastic waist pants out there, ES Florence pants come to mind, but I have no idea if I'd like wearing them. Do you like the look, or do you tolerate them for the comfort factor?