In which I am a Christmas Elf

December 23, 2019

Hey everyone,

How is December treating you all? As more and more lights appear on people's balconies, in windows and in gardens, the holidays are almost there. With it, the weather is finally suitable for wearing all my knits again, and my diet is doing a test of how much cinnamon it can incorporate. I had a nice wrap dress ready to show to you! While I think the dress itself is best suited to early autumn and spring, I feel it has proper Christmas elf attire feels to it so I thought it would be great to make her my last pre-christmas post to go up here!

(Also, if you are inclined to worry, don't mind the state of my arms, these photos where taken on a very mild day. Alternatively worry about climate change which causes so many mild days this year.)

Wrap dresses are not a style I usually go for, in fact I'm pretty sure this is the first one in my adult life. I feel like a lot of them are not super suited to my shape. Normally I'm pretty firmly in camp "bollocks to that, just wear what you like" but that train of thought kinda hits a wall when you try to make things work for you that are - very clearly - not drafted for your body shape. It's one of the reasons why I've been waffling over making the Kielo wrap dress for, oh I don't know, years? I have seen a lot of beautifully made versions, making me want to make one too, but I was never sure if it suits my body and so far I've not seen many versions that convince me that it does. Anyway, all that is to say that it massively helps to have models and/or testers that show a diverse range.

This, however, is the Reggie Dress by Seamwork, a brand that I feel has been a trailblazer in the sewing community in terms of inclusive size ranging as well as showing a greater diversity in models. While that is not to say that there aren't things they could improve upon, I still appreciate them for doing it from the onset. Seamwork focusses on no fuss everyday type of wear. This is the second seamwork pattern I made, the first one was the Jane that I made last year in a effort to make more basics. While I think that overall goal had been successful, the Jane has not been worn so much so I thought I'd give the brand another shot with this dress. 

I wanted to make this wrap dress since it came out a while back. Like most of the dresses I like to wear it is quite a basic, easy to wear, no fuss dress but with a bit of added interest from the wrap, the bow and the puff sleeves. Similarly to the Myosotis I made a few months back, it is meant to fit slightly oversized, so it has a generous ease built in. Another feature is the empire waist, which I think might be one of the reasons this dress works so well for me. Part of why I struggle with wrap dresses is, they have to fit well in the bust area, which can be a problem if you are either significantly smaller or larger than the bodice block used.  Another reason why I wanted to try this pattern was because the model used in the photos made me think that it could also work for me (YAY!).

I used a very similar fabric as the sample dress, the only difference mine being red-white gingham instead of black and white. I bought this fabric when I just started my dressmaking journey and then didn't really know what to do with it. In the Autumn I decided that my next make was going to be with this fabric, when I started brainstorming about what pattern to use my mind went to the Reggie. This order of things is quite unusual for me, I am almost never a fabric first, pattern second sewist, but I think it worked out beautifully here. So what you do need to know is that this dress is a fabric eater! Like this might be super obvious to you, because it is a wrap dress, but you'll be making 3 full sized skirt panels. If you have your heart set on a fabric in your stash that won't cut it with your yardage, there is a members bonus that replaces the wrap with a gathered skirt.

The only thing I changed was take of length of the skirt, which given that I'm short, is quit a usual mod for me. Normally this goes super smooth, but in this case I had a mild drama moment where I cut off more length than I intended. I don't know what went wrong, but I essential cut it to the length I wanted it to end and not to the length - PLUS - seam allowance. To solve this as best as I could I decided to hem the skirt with bias tape, like you'd do a shirt (so the bias tape ends on the back of the hem) instead of the double turned hem. In this way I only lost some mm of skirt length to the skirt finishing, whereas other wise it would be a couple of cm. I'm happy with the skirt length now, which I think is about the same as in the sample. It's on the short side, but I think that works well to balance out the fullness of the dress.

Ok, so my only regret with this dress is that I didn't put in pockets. There are no pockets in the pattern, and I didn't know if there was a reason in-seam pockets might not work with wrap dresses (can you tell I'm a wrap dress noob?) so I didn't add them myself. Turns out there is no reason whatsoever, and I could have just put them in there. We'll see if it annoys me enough after having worn it a couple of times. I might yet take a seam ripper and put them in anyway.

Because it is December and I had to go full Yule Nisse on you, I paired it with this red-white store bought colourwork cardigan that I think I've had for maybe 8 years? I try to make my clothes work for as long of the year as possible, which means I layer dresses such a these a lot. I think it might be something I want to show more often. I know it is helpful to see full detail shots of sewn stuff, but I also greatly enjoy see sewist share outfits with how their makes work in everyday life. I noticed that looking back I really like seeing my orange Mysotis paired with my knits for the posts on Love Note and Heart. I didn't even think about it at the time, cause I'm used to always having to style knits with other things, but I don't do it the other way around with sewn stuff. 

I'm quite taken with the end result. It has some features that had you described it to me, without me seeing the pattern. I would probably have passed on the project all together; wrap style, puff sleeves, no pockets. But I'm glad I went with it. It's a playful, and styled like this a bit whimsical, but should I in the future want to ooze less Christmas elf vibes I think it could be styled in loads of ways, and I have some ideas of stuff I want to try once it is more weather appropriate. I'm not wishing the days away though yet, I love winter.  Sending warm thoughts to you, and wishing those who celebrate the festive period in whatever way a loving time.



Orkney's Second Winter

December 06, 2019

Hey Makers,

I hope this last month of the year is treating you well. I'm enjoying these frosty days and witnessing the change of autumn to winter. Autumn held on long this year, and while most trees have now lost their leaves they held on exceptionally long (it even made the news here!). While most trees have barren branches these days, and some swapped their leaves for twinkle lights, my balcony tree has only now started to turn yellow and letting go of her leaves! 

I thought this would be a good time to squeeze out a post and finish my unintentional series of catching up with the previous autumn/winter's projects. I knit this Orkney cardigan in the autumn last year, and finished her just before the year's end. I posted quite a few progress photos and updates on my instagram at the time but never followed up with the finished thing. Reasons for that are mostly the same as what happened with the Riddari sweater I made: in other words, my move and my cat's illness drama that happened around the same time. So it is time to put my memory muscles to work to remember the details of this project and then I will be, dare I say it, up to date with all my big knitting projects!

Orkney had been in my queue for ages, ever since it was published in Rowan's Autumn-Winter magazine back in 2012. Back then I thought the design was gorgeous but felt too intimidated to start knitting it. Even when I had substantially more colourwork under my belt and had confidently made my first allover I was still a bit daunted by it. After I finished both Windermere and Unst however, I really couldn't come up with any excuses as to why not to cast it on. So I made the decision to, at last, go for it (imagine Etta James singing accompanying this post at your own leisure).

In regards to the colours for Orkney, I had a different approach than I had with  Unst where I overhauled the entire pattern palette. For this cardigan I used some of the same or similar colours that are also used in the pattern, and only changed those that weren't speaking to me. Partly this was because I used stash yarn, originally bought for a different project and wanted to work with what I had as much as I could. Another reason is that felted tweed has a more limited colour palette so there are less colours to play around with to begin with.

I used 13 colours, as did the original design. However, I swapped some colours here and there in the patterning for various reasons. Sometimes it was because I preferred a different colour in that motif or I wanted to go for a different mood. Once I swapped a colour because I was afraid I would otherwise run out of one of the ribbing colours (it was a close call, but didn't happen). Once it was because I was knitting in a darkened room while watching a film and found out that I used a wrong colour in one of the pattern bands - I like living on the edge with my colourwork! Since I liked how it looked (and to be honest, the colour I was supposed to use was very similar) I just finished the colourwork band like that.

This was the first time I used Rowan Felted tweed. I can hardly believe how many years of knitting it took me to get to this yarn, which most Rowan fans consider a true workhorse yarn. I am usually more drawn towards yarns with only one fibre or a mix of two fibres, whereas felted tweed mixes wool, alpaca, manufactured fibres/viscose. I do get it now though: this yarn is really nice stuff, it feels great and knits up beautifully. If you have a sensitive skin, you may well get a lot of enjoyment out of a yarn like this.

Downside of this yarn is that it has a smaller colour palette (although, for Rowan yarn line standards it is almost a big range), much smaller than other renowned colourwork yarn brands such as those from Shetland, Iceland and Norway. Felted tweed also has a more muted colour palette, so if your into colours with more of a bang you might struggle to get a nice selection here. I wouldn't really call the colours super heathered, but the tweediness gives it a beautiful and more complex effect. I feel the overall colour range leans more towards pastel colours (there is one true red, where there are at least 5 different pink colours). Because of this, and because I limited myself to largely use what I already had, I had a harder time to get my colours to spark when used in combination and sometimes feel that the overall effect dulled and washed out the colours a bit. One of the interesting things about this pattern is that sleeves and body have different patterning and use different colour combinations. Instead of mirroring each other, they echo each other, which made playing around with colours even more interesting. It equally made it harder to go wild with colours cause the colours need to work together on a larger colour range and the overall effect needed to be cohesive.

I did like knitting with the yarn and I think some of the colours are really beautiful so I can see myself using this yarn again in the future. I have quite a lot of leftovers so I will use those at some point anyway. But largely because of the more limited palette, and colour focus I don't think this will ever become a huge workhorse yarn for me.

The cardigan is worked flat in the pattern but as I usually do with colourwork garments that are worked flat, I converted it to be worked in the round. Orkney was no different, I put in steeks for the centre opening of the cardigan, the armholes and the sleeve caps. I put in 5 steek stitches per steek.

I went up an needle size and went with needle size 3.5 and 4 instead of the recommended 3 and 3.5 needles.  Additionally I went up a size from the regular size I wear. I extensively read the project notes on Ravelry and almost all of them either mention that they increased their size because they were cautioned for it or people saying they wished they did. In any case, with such a strong consensus that the cardigan was a bit snug in its sizing, I followed suit. After Unst I wanted to make an allover with more added ease for a different fit, so I'm happy with my decisions to achieve this.

 One of the things I often do with Rowan and Marie Wallin patterns is to make a paper copy of the chart which I then colour in pencil as I go along for a smoother knitting experience. I do this with any colourwork pattern that has black and white charts and recommend doing this if knitting from symbol charts bothers you. If these charts are the reason you never knitted a Rowan pattern for example, this is a small "trick" that will perhaps make it a lot more accessible for you.

I added a ribbed button band, because I prefer that look. I thought it a shame to break up the fair isle patterning with buttonholes and buttons. I went back and forth a bit whether to do it in corrugated ribbing, like the neckband, sleeve and hem ribbing. In the end I wend with a single colour rib band, again after comparing some projects on Ravelry.

One of the good things about posting about a project after you've finished it for a good few months is that I have a more complete insight of how this cardigan works in my actual life. A year onward, I can more easily identify some of the aspects that I would do differently were I to make this cardigan again. So, one of the things I would change is the neckline shape. I didn't noticed this in the pattern photo, because it's worn open at the top, but it is more open than I anticipated and also more square. Anyway it is not a huge problem, but it doesn't combine as well with with some of the stuff in my wardrobe so in a redo I'd change that for a round neckline. I would probably also lengthen the garment a smidge. The current length is neither cropped nor normal/regular length but sits somewhere in between that. Don't get me wrong, these are relatively small things that irk me a bit at times, but I've been wearing it a ton nonetheless.

So, there we are. All the knits that had been waiting in the wings are blogged, ravelled and out on instagram. On the one hand it feels a bit weird to no longer have this list of knits that I still needed to post about in the back of my mind any more, but I'm mostly relieved to have them done. I'm not super hung up on instantly putting my makes online or only counting them 'done' after I have -ha, as I amply have proven over the past year- but it is nice to share them with you all (I mean, otherwise what is the point of me having this blog?) and I know some of you had been wondering about the WIPs on my instagram, so here they are.

Pattern: Orkney
Designer: Marie Wallin
Source: Rowan Magazine 52
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed

Enjoy the fairy light season!

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