Finally… socks!

knitting socks

Every crafter has a bucket list of things she or he has always wanted to try. Today, I can proudly cross an item off of my bucket list. It has been three months since I first wrote this post detailing my intentions to knit a pair of socks. And what a journey. Sock number one took two and a half months. Sock two took two weeks (it is amazing how fast the process goes once you know what you’re doing).  The process was only slightly complicated by the cat’s infatuation with my yarn ball.

knitting socks

They’re not perfect, but they’re mine. And I have all the memories from four months of knitting and purling row upon row of tiny stitches. The winter I was 25 will forever be memorable for all the cold mornings I stayed in bed to knit myself a pair of socks. Should I ever find myself in need of another pair of hand-knit socks, I know how to make them. Another tool in the toolbox!

The pattern I used was the Campfire Socks pattern (free on Ravelry- and I wholeheartedly recommend it). The yarn was gifted to me by my friend Adrienne, who also graciously answered countless questions (merci mille fois!). In the end, the cost of these socks is the cost of the $2 knitting needles from the craft store. Not bad for what was one of my longest running and most favorite projects.

knit socks

I love these socks. The thick railroad rib pattern gives them great stretch and recovery. The thick wool yarn is warm and cozy. I somehow managed to avoid the dreaded “holey gusset syndrome” after turning the heel (my favorite part of sock knitting), so these socks are solid.

I think I will stick with knitting; I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making these socks (perhaps more than sewing? Don’t tell my machine). And I’m sad to think that I will not have another knitting project to pick up after this. Any suggestions for sock or other knitting patterns? I’m considering trying to knit two socks at the same time from the toe -> up.

knitting socks

Does your smoke alarm work? Go check it. Right now.

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There’s something I want to talk about. And since this blog is the stage on which I rest my soapbox, I figured now is a good time to climb up and rant my little heart out.

Three nights ago I woke up to a house filled with acrid, white smoke. I was having trouble breathing but was so incredibly sleepy that I was tempted to just close my eyes and stop living. Sitting here now, writing this, I am glad I did not. When I noticed that my boyfriend lying next to me in bed was breathing at an alarmingly fast rate, my adrenaline finally kicked in and I got up. I shook him awake and went to wake up his roommates (fortunately, they were still out at a party). After convincing him to leave the house (he was as sleepy as I) and putting out the fire in the woodstove, that first breath of fresh air tasted like life. We spent the night on the neighbor’s couch. I stayed up watching him breathe until he stopped panting and I was sure he was okay. Then I fell asleep. It occurred to me to call 911, but in my smoke-addled state, it seemed like too much trouble. Days later, my voice is hoarse, my nose and throat still sting, and many showers later, my hair still smells like smoke. I’ve been chewing gum to erase the taste of smoke from my mouth and my cheeks have finally faded from the bright pink of carbon monoxide poisoning to a more normal color.

All of this would have been prevented if the smoke alarm worked, if those little batteries had been replaced. I am incredibly lucky to have woken up. I may sound glib or short but the experience shook me.

The past couple days I’ve been processing the stress of waking up and having to be the person who sounds the alarm and deals with the drama. I don’t like drama, but I do like being the solution. I know that I can deal with a crisis but I wish that damn smoke detector had been working. Facing my mortality is not something I wanted to do on Valentine’s day.

The next morning it turned out that a wind storm had damaged the chimney. The house is heated by a wood stove, and all that smoke, instead of being pulled up the chimney, was instead blown inside the house, where it collected for hours. And thus I had a brief brush with death, and with losing a man for whom I care deeply.

So this is a call to action for you, my dear reader. Go and make sure your smoke detector works. It is much more important than you may believe. Do it. Right now.

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Knitting and down comforters and other cozy winter things

knitting and down comforter

I know I said Richmond was warm, but that is only in comparison to Philadelphia. We still get frigid nights and freezing rain and even some snow. When I drive to work in the mornings, I wear the same puffy coat that was my armor against the cold up north, plus a hat. My breath steams and my hands find no respite in their gloves. When I come home, all I want to do is curl up under my down comforter with a cup of tea.  But once I’m there, my idle hands start to itch and my sewing machines call my name and I am torn between the coziness of my bed and leaving it for my cold sewing room. The bed always wins. The coat I started sits idle. My fabric stash grows. I can’t bring my sewing machines into bed with me, but I can knit.

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Do you remember my first sock? I’m still working on it. I’ve probably knit enough stitches to have three socks by now, but I keep messing up and having to pull out row upon row of tiny knitted loops. I want this sock to be wearable and warm. I’m enjoying the process so much that I don’t mind how slow it is going. Knitting is a necessity when I’m curled up for a cozy day.

sock knitting

The other thing that keeps me warm is my down comforter. Sleepovers in other people’s beds are never as satisfying in the winter if they lack a down comforter.  My comforter and I have been to college, camping, and on road trips together. It’s the best thing in winter. In the past, it wore a cotton batik duvet cover I made, but now it is enclosed in a grey silk hand-me-down from my grandmother pictured here. In years to come, maybe it will wear a duvet as luxurious as this one from Parachute home (don’t you just want to dive into that bed?). They make some really gorgeous, ethically-sourced, luxury bedding.

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When I have my blankets and my knitting (and maybe a book or two) and some tea sweetened with honey from my mother’s bees, life is good. The tea tastes like summer; curled up beneath the blankets, I forget about the cold for a moment.

books and tea

This post was written in collaboration with Parachute Home

Guitar-playing skirt for Denver

 

Half-circle midi skirt

It has been feeling like spring in Virginia lately. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and it’s been about 50 F outside. Perfect timing to have a little photoshoot with the roomie (her name is Denver). And to show you the skirt I made a season ahead of time! (just like those big fashion folks, yo).

There’s a bit of a story behind this skirt (as there is with everything I make/everything handmade). I recently discovered that Denver has a fabric stash. I, like every other sewist out there, understand the allure of the uncut bolt, just waiting for my hands to grace it with shape and form. But Denver doesn’t sew. When I inquired about the purpose of this pile of fabric and patterns, she replied that she had bought the fabric because she liked it, and “in case I ever learn to sew one day or someone wants to make something for me.” Around this same time, the coat I’ve been working on was getting me down. I needed to step away from my coat project, and Denver had already assembled all the necessary ingredients for what could be my next project. Perfect palate cleanser. Challenge accepted.

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A couple evenings later, I popped out this half circle midi skirt with waistband and exposed zipper. I drafted the pattern using her measurements and the BHL Circle Skirt App. I had heard about the app before but hadn’t used it- it was helpful. One weird snafu though was that the app kept telling me the measurements I was using wouldn’t fit on 45″ fabric, but I had no problem getting the pattern to fit. I used 2.5 yds of 45″ quilting cotton and a zipper salvaged from another piece of clothing. For the exposed zipper, I followed this tutorial. I used my serger to finish the center back seam and finished the top of the skirt with a 1.5″ waistband. The hem is a simple 1/2″ hem that I turned under twice while carefully ironing and pinning.

Exposed zipper

It was indeed what I needed to get my creative mojo back in action- easy, quick, and wearable. The other thing about Denver is that this girl lives in circle skirts. She is a guitar teacher, and needs skirts with enough volume to drape across her knees while playing. I foresee that this skirt will get a lot of wear.

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Button it up

Button down collared shirt in Chambray

I like a good button down shirt. For years, I’ve struggled to find one that would button without the dreaded boob gap- occupational hazard for many possessing a bust. This fall I sat down and decided to put the time into making myself a collared shirt that would actually fit.

And here it is. Those of you who know me know it’s gotten a lot of wear. It’s high time this shirt made it to the blog.

The pattern started out as a Built by Wendy pattern from a Sew U book from my high school sewing days. I made a muslin in a medium, but it needed a lot of tweaking. So much tweaking that I eventually drafted the arms and back of the shirt myself, and then totally re-drew all the darts on the front of the shirt. I widened the collar to give it a more relaxed fit and added gathers at the top of the sleeves (one of my favorite features in a shirt). There was thought put into adding some embroidered details along the front and around the collar of the shirt, but I ended up liking how clean the shirt looks without it. I made it in a cotton chambray with 10% stretch  from fabric.com. The buttons are from Joann’s.

Chambray button down shirt

I hadn’t appreciated till now how much work goes into all the small details of a button-down. The shirt has vertical darts in the front and back, as well as horizontal bust darts. There were some very enjoyable late nights in December where I stayed up pressing bias binding for the cuffs and researching the best way to attach a collar. LOOK NO BOOB GAP! Hallelujah.

Chambray shirt

I hope I’ll find time to make this shirt again this year. There are a few fitting tweaks I’d make, namely I’d remove some ease, bring the shoulders up (they’ve stretched out a little despite the twill tape I added, I’m not sure why), and interface the button band (which I didn’t do this time… oops). I’d also like to experiment with adding some vintage inspired details around the button band. For now, I’m really happy wearing this shirt!

Thanks to my friend Rayne for taking these pictures! You can tell how cold out it was by my clenched hands.

button down shirt

Year in review- best of 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR PEEPS!

This year was my first full calendar being a part of the blogosphere! If you have a moment, and aren’t to tired of reading round-ups, here is a year in review post of my favoritest/craziest/weirdest projects. Click on the link below each picture to read the original post. Thank you to each and every single one of my readers for being a part of Hoopes Park Studios. I love you gals (and guys)!

Bikini

One of the most unusual (and something I’d never dreamed I’d be able to make) projects this year was the bikini I made this summer. Here’s how it looked in the pool.

PJ pants for my dad

Best loved project for a family member award goes to these rad zebra PJ pants for my dad that have gotten a lot of use.

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This summer I was a sewing MACHINE (pun intended)! I did a ton of upcycles, including the above top and these dresses.

lumberjack dress

By far my favorite dress of the year was my Lumberjack dress

Fit and flare dress tutorial

…And the most popular dress I posted was this fit-and-flare tutorial.

fabric swap

I got to whip out my fabric paints and design a printed fabric for a multi-national fabric swap.

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My most worn summer top that I made (I cranked out a whole bunch) was this little tank top.

inseam zippers

This inseam zipper post and tutorial was one of my favorite to write. I loved getting to do some very specific, niche alterations for a prosthetic leg.

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And last but not least, I tested the Senna dress pattern for Lindsay Woodward. It was my first pattern test and quite a lesson in the steps involved in pattern drafting. Kudos to all you pattern designers- it’s a tough job.

Runner up projects to those shared here include my wrap around dress, a lined tote bag, and this celtic knot tutorial.

I’m so excited to share all my current projects with you in the upcoming year. Stay tuned!

Making buttonholes less scary.

bound buttonholes

Last night I stayed up late working on my coat. I had been avoiding the bound buttonholes, and by “avoiding” I mean that the buttonholes were the first step in the instructions but I totally skipped them and then put the coat together without the buttonholes. Because they were scary.

Bound buttonholes are these really fancy buttonholes that are “bound” by fabric instead of thread (like most buttonholes). They require intense manual dexterity and sewing finesse. It’s like teensy weensy sewing origami. So of course I was scared of them.

Last night I reached a point where I couldn’t sew anything else on the coat without the buttonholes, so I forced myself to jump in. Watching this video before starting really helped. I did a trial run on scrap fabric and quickly realized that using my coat fabric for the buttonholes wouldn’t work. So I went searching through my scrap bag (so happy I didn’t get rid of that thing when I moved!) and found black twill leftover from this project. Being more lightweight than brown velvet coating, it did just the trick. And when I finally dove in and made 4 buttonholes on my actual coat, they turned out pretty nice.

*sigh of relief*

 

Maternity Belly Bands

maternity belly band diy

25 years.  The time when you move on from college and start feeling truly settled in adulthood. Also the time when some of my friends decided to start having kids. Which means I get to start sewing for pregnant friends (yay new projects). This amazing photographer friend of mine (she took all these pictures this summer) will soon join the ranks of phenom moms, so I made her some belly bands. Worn over jeans that won’t button or under a shirt that has become too short, they help extend a non-maternity wardrobe and accommodate a growing belly far into a pregnancy. They’re like wearing only the bottom portion of a long tank top.

I used 1/2 yard of a rayon/spandex blend for each band (this tutorial from ABM shows how to make a belly band). Using a fabric with good stretch and recovery is key for this project- you want a fabric that will fit snugly but expand with a growing belly. The green measures 24 inches around and is slightly larger than the white (22 inches). She texted me Friday to say they arrived in the mail and they fit- I hope she gets lots of use out of them!

Oh and here’s a picture of the white one on my (non-maternity) dress form:

maternity belly band DIY

The other woman (is knitting)

knitting socks

I started knitting.

Back story: When I move somewhere new, I’m on the hunt for new friends. I happened to befriend a seamstress who makes reproductions of historical garments. She compiles entire outfits, including corsets, shifts, dresses, and bonnets, for civil war and other reenactments. Looking in her closet was like peering back through time into my little girl princess fantasy. I just about choked on my spit with awe, because she sews everything BY HAND.

And then I saw the socks that accompany these outfits. Hand-knitted, dense, warm wool socks. It just so happens that learning how to knit socks is an item on my creative bucket list. After I recovered from my near conniption, I asked her to teach me to knit. This generous friend of mine gifted me some yarn and a couple hours of her time to talk me through the anatomy of a sock.

So now there’s another woman in my life, one who takes me away from my sewing.  Her name is knitting, and she is addictively zen. The going is slow, but I hope to have a finished pair of socks in a few weeks.

Phlox Tunic- my version

Phlox tunic pattern

Long sleeves in winter. Hanging over my hands long. For me, they make the difference between being sorta warm/sorta itchy and actually forgetting that it is freezing outside.  Especially when worn under a sweater. So of course I was happy when asked to be a tester for Lindsay Woodward’s new tshirt pattern, Phlox. And I made the long sleeved version.

Phlox tunic pattern

It’s definitely a decent pattern and well drafted. The shoulders and sleeves fit nicely, the neckline is a good depth, and the sleeves taper to your wrists.  I would recommend sizing down if you want a tighter fitting tshirt. I made a size 6 in a rayon/spandex blend but ended up taking in the sides and the sleeves of the shirt by a few inches. Next time I make this tshirt, I’ll probably make a size 4 and use a less stretchy fabric. For all you petite gals, I’d recommend shortening the body by about an inch, depending on how long you want your shirt to be. The pattern is on sale now until 12/17, and it’s a great pattern for an advanced beginner. Phlox rox my sox off!

Another neat feature I added to my shirt was the thumb holes in the cuffs (tutorial here). Boy oh boy do I love how warm they make my hands.

Thumb hole tutorial

In other news, coat fabric has been found, ordered, and arrived last night. I’m excited to get started. Thanks for all your tips on where to look!  I just moved to a more permanent housing situation, and coat sewing is first on the list after I get settled in.

 

 

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