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Reinventing a Must Have Sweater

This knitting story begins with the yarn.

Worsted weight wool, to my thinking, is not unlike rice or pasta. While perhaps not the most exciting gauge or fiber, it nonetheless provides the makings of many a substantial, satisfying knitting project. I like to keep a certain amount of worsted weight yarn on hand in much the same way that rice and pasta are always stocked in the pantry; they are my staples. Two years ago now I ordered a sweater’s worth of an admirable staple yarn from the WEBS annual sale. I like the combination of softness, sturdiness and stitch definition of Berroco Vintage, and the warm, autumnal color Chana Dal. It’s a nice yarn for cables. I am sure that there was a clear plan for this yarn at some point, but I’ve thoroughly forgotten what that might have been by now. Almost two year later, though, I have landed upon a sweater pattern/yarn combination that feels like a good fit.

Well, I got at least one decent knitting picture in.

Well, there was at least one decent knitting picture.

It has been some time since I last made a sweater for myself, so I wasn’t in a rush to use any old pattern. But late this summer, I got the itch for cables for some reason – densely knitted, complicated, twisty cables. At some point in my Ravelry trawling for a good, cable-heavy sweater pattern, I came across fibrenabler’s “On the Bandwagon with the Must Have” sweater and fell in love. I adore a clever saddle-shoulder construction in a sweater; they always seem to fit better across the back and to hang nicely without shifting around. The saddle-shoulder means that the cable pattern on the sleeves can continue up the shoulders to the neckline and even along the back of the neck.

... and then this happened.

… and then this happened.

One advantage of using this particular sweater for inspiration is that I already have the referenced patterns on hand. This lovely sweater is an adaptation of the Paton’s Must Have Cardigan pattern which was released way back in 2002. I suppose it tells you something about how long I have been knitting that I picked up a copy of the Paton’s pattern booklet way back then. According to fibrenabler’s project notes, she also used Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “Seamless Hybrid with Shirt Yoke” sweater recipe. I say “recipe” because Elizabeth Zimmerman doesn’t really do knitting patterns in the way that most patterns are written – they are closer to recipes with notes on appropriate ratios and suggestions for variations depending on the preferences and available materials of the knitter. EZ (as she is sometime affectionately referred to by knitters) wrote several brilliant, practical, and helpful “knitting theory” books in the 1970s and 1980s that I was fortunate enough to stumble across relatively early in my knitting career. If you have any interesting in knitting at all, I cannot recommend them more highly.

My polite request that she move has given great offense.

My polite request that she move gave great offense.

But anyway, back to the sweater! Knitting takes much longer than your typical sewing project, so this is very much a Work-In-Progress. Working in the round and from the bottom up, I have knit the torso to where the armholes should begin… I think. It looks kind of short the longer I look at it? I need to measure the length against some sweaters that fit me well. I am currently working on the first sleeve and knitting it flat. Most of the particulars of adaptations and the mechanics of how this thing will fit together will need to wait for a later post (once I figure it all out!). But for now, I will be giddily watching each cable crossing slowly form.

And here we can see the cat has settled in with no intentions of moving ever again. This peasant understand she only knits by the generous forbearance of her Cat Tyrant.

And here we can see the cat has settled into her new nest with no intentions of moving ever again. This peasant understands that she only knits by the generous forbearance of her Cat Tyrant.

A White Linen Blouse: Vogue 1440

Vogue 1440

Thanks for braving the drizzle to take pictures, Mom!

The Big Four pattern companies – Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue – release collections of new patterns several times throughout the year. Because I am a sewing nerd, I always enjoy looking through the new patterns, over-analyzing the designs, and figuring out unusual constructions (… and cringing at terrible fabric choices, etc). The first time I saw Vogue 1440, I barely noticed it. A sweater/jacket thing is the focus of the main picture of the pattern, and I’m just not that into sweater/jacket things. But once I took a good look at the line drawing for the sleeveless blouse, I was obsessed. Do you see that brilliant, perfect triangle yoke? Do you see it?? I am still excited over the unusual design elements in this top – the crisp collar that relaxes into a gracefully shaped, tunic length blouse and the solid, tailored yoke.

Vogue 1440

With a pattern like this, though, the right fabric is absolutely essential to a wearable result. I knew I wanted a white blouse, but finding a shirting that was heavy enough to be opaque and drapey enough to work with the design was a puzzle. Linen always seems like a good idea. It is cool in summer heat and conjures images of lazy days and effortless dressing. Yet the reality of sewing linen is more often wrinkly (and not attractively so) and stiff and scratchy. It takes years to soften up linen properly, and I do not have that kind of patience. This is why I was pleased as punch to find the lovely Brussels Washer Linen on It is mostly linen and has all of linen’s best qualities, but the rayon blend helps control the wrinkling, makes the fabric smooth and soft right away, and gives it fantastic drape. I have basically been looking for this specific fabric since I learned how to sew without knowing it.

Vogue 1440

The only modification I made to the pattern was to take in the side seams considerably, maybe four inches in total? The fit is still roomy, which tells you how much I was swimming in it before. Vogue 1440 involves some unusual construction and lovely finishing details – I always learn something while sewing a Vogue pattern! The shaped hem is finished with a narrow bias facing which eases in beautifully (need to remember that trick), and there is a very polished hidden button placket.

Vogue 1440

Of course, the yoke was the most exciting part, and sewing that bit wasn’t pretty. Just before making this blouse, I had been working with sewing patterns that fully spell out each step of construction, so I forgot that Vogue patterns assume a certain level of knowledge from their sewers (-ists?? seamstresses? seamsters? help!). Vogue patterns, at least the more advanced ones, tell you what to do, not necessarily how to do it. At one point when I was sewing in the yoke and the yoke facing, I thought I was looking at a how direction and not a what, so I wrestled with the pieces until I realized that my current interpretation of the directions required breaking all the known laws of physics. But fortunately, once I got my head on straight, the directions were clear enough to follow.

Vogue 1440

This was a fun sewing project to puzzle together, and working with the Brussels Washer Linen was a pleasure. If I made this pattern again, I would move the top button about one inch north, but it is still very wearable as is.  I’m beyond thrilled with how this blouse came out, so I may stop with this one. If I ever do revisit Vogue 1440, I would definitely make it up in a color and maybe shorten it a bit. The tunic length was an unusual choice for me, especially for summer, but it is cute with jeans or khaki trousers and pairs nicely with an open cardigan. The blouse is beyond comfortable to wear and allows you full range of arm movement which I find very important. You never know when you might need to fly a kite or conduct an orchestra.

Belated Baby Sweater Blogging

Where did August go? And can I have some of it back? Really, I am excited about the beginning of a new school year, but one more week of August would have been helpful. And really, considering how much I dislike August heat and humidity, you can understand how much another week would have been appreciated.


This post features my favorite kind of summer knitting – a tiny baby sweater! With a baby sweater, you get all of the fun and satisfaction of completing a sweater, but the project is also small, lightweight and easily transportable for the vagaries of summer adventures. This particular cardigan was knit for the daughter of my roommate in undergrad, so of course, it had to be a shade of her favorite green. The yarn used to make this sweater is Berroco Comfort DK in Seedling, and the pattern is Grannie’s Favorite by Georgie Hallam. This is a new pattern for me, but one I have considered trying for some time. The simple lace at the neckline and cuffs makes the knitting just interesting enough to be engaging, and the top-down construction allows sleeve length and sweater length to be easily adapted. The pattern includes a wide range of sizes and variations, all of which turn out adorably, judging by the projects posted to Ravelry!


The only real adaptation I made to the pattern was in the way the sleeves are knit. The pattern calls for knitting the sleeves in the round, but I knit them flat and seamed them instead. Generally speaking, I try to avoid working on double-point needles, especially on such a small circumference. They always make me feel like I spend more time switching needles than I do actually knitting. In this case, it was faster to knit the sleeves flat, and the seaming is only visible if you are looking for it.


This pattern will almost certainly be used again. It is a quick, versatile knit, and I am particularly charmed by the simple lace elements. And goodness knows, there are no end of babies to knit for!

Citron Mimi Blouse

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Here we find a second Mimi Blouse from Tilly and the Buttons’ Love at First Stitch. I am still in love with the Chelsea collar and the neat fit at the shoulders! This blouse was made with a cotton voile which is a much more summer-friendly fabric than flannel.

citron voile mimi blouse front

I love wearing and working with voile, but finding budget-friendly voile can be a trick. This pretentiously named fabric is “Bromley Voile Arbor Citron,” and it comprised my inaugural order from Yes, I have surrendered to the siren call that is online fabric shopping. I love the range of fabrics available (especially apparel fabrics), and if you are careful, you can find quality fabrics in a price range that won’t break the bank. Yet at the same time, I find nothing can substitute for actually handling a fabric before purchasing it. Also, digging through actual piles of fabric is undeniably more fun than scrolling. My best advice is to get your hands on sample swatches whenever possible – it helps to know what you are getting into!

citron voile mimi blouse back

Still, I am gleefully happy with this voile – it was very reasonably priced, the pattern and colors are interesting, and the quality of the fabric is good. The buttons were originally intended for a different project, but they work nicely here with their simple shape. There were two extra buttons on hand, so I added them on to embellish the sleeves. Both the sleeves and the hem have two rows of top-stitching.

citron voile mimi blouse sleeve

Speaking of those troublesome sleeves…. With the other version of the Mimi blouse, the only fit issue was some tightness at the sleeve hem. For this version, I added two inches of width at the underarm seam and thus revealed that I still think more like a knitter than a seamstress at times. You see, modifying fullness at the seams is standard practice in knitting. Sometimes patterns use “full-fashion shaping” in which increases and decreases in the number of stitches are made deliberately visible, and I would say there has been more of this sort of design in the past decade or two. BUT for the most part, in knitting, shaping is concealed at seams whenever possible, simply because it is easier to add there and more discrete. Now when you are knitting, the fabric you are creating has built-in stretch. This means you do not need to be much concerned about additional fullness ending up in the right place – the garment adjusts to fit the body.

Here, have some silliness - this is getting technical

Here, have some silliness – this is getting technical

In sewing, you adjust fullness at the seams too, but as I have learned,  you need to be much more careful about how that fullness is distributed because even fabric with good drape does not behave the same way a stretch fabric will. All of which is to say, I added two inches of fullness to the sleeve hem at the underarm seam as drawn in this picture, and it was not a very good idea. The resulting sleeve tends to bunch up, and when I move my arms, the sleeves still feel a bit constricting despite the added fullness. It is not bad, but I over-analyze everything – why would I stop here?


Now as I was adding width to the sleeve hem willy-nilly, I had a vague awareness that this was not the proper way to go about things. I read enough sewing blogs and old sewing books for fun that I really do know better. But on some level, I have never been entirely convinced that I needed to make adjustments for fit the way all those fussy diagrams suggested. I mean, all you need is the correct circumference on a garment at any given point on the body, right? Wrong. You can cheat some, but I am learning that woven fabric is not a particularly forgiving Overlady.DSCN2018

So instead I have altered the sleeve pattern piece using the “slash and spread” method. Typically, you would just slice the sleeve pattern vertically at the middle, but there is some complicated folding going on there that I do not want to mess with. Instead, I split the sleeve on either side of the folds and separated the bottom edges to add in the desired width. As you can see from the phantom sketching and the first pattern picture, you end up with a rather differently shaped pattern piece. You can see the final version below.

DSCN2019So now we all know what I should have done! The blouse fits well enough as it is that it’s not worth ripping out the sleeves to fix. The altered sleeve pattern will just have to wait with its brethren until the next time I make a Mimi blouse with short sleeves. I am toying with the idea of making a long-sleeved version first, possibly stealing the sleeve pattern from the Bruyère pattern? We shall see. In any case, I have plenty of projects lined up first, a dissertation to write, and a rather cheerful blouse to wear.

The Blue Bruyère Dress

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When last our intrepid seamstress met the Bruyère Shirt on the sewing table, the cozy, plaid Bruyère Dress resulted. Today we find another Bruyère Dress, this time made in a blue cotton pique with a few modifications.


In order to resolve the odd, no-woman’s land placement of the waist on the plaid version of this dress, I lengthened the waist band by one inch and lengthened the bodice itself by one inch as well. Arguably, it was only necessary to lengthen one of these, as lengthening either one or the other would have gotten the waistline on the dress to meet my actual, natural waist. Still, I wasn’t sure where everything would fall until the entire dress was together, and by then the look of the longer lines through the waist had grown on me.


The lower waist did create one complication  – the waist pieces now extended long enough that they hit the top of my hips. Combined with the more tightly woven pique and some overly generous seam allowances, the waist on the dress was suddenly super snug and not particularly comfortable. This was partially remedied by using more narrow side seams, but the dress does still encourage good posture…

There is always more to learn when it comes to fitting, and next time I will remember to factor in the other dimensions when I adjust length.

The shirting fabric used in this dress is stiffer than in the flannel version and gives the dress a more polished look. It always amazes me how much a simple change in fabric can affect the outcome of a garment. This fabric and the buttons came from the now defunct PA Fabric Outlet (Why did you have to close???). The more tightly woven cotton pique made the sleeve cuffs and the collar much more crisp than in the soft, flannel version, which I think is an improvement.


This dress hasn’t seen much wear yet as it is rather warm for the humid DC summer, but I suspect it will become a favorite when the weather cools.

Is it fall yet?

Mimi Blouse in Plaid

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In my previous post, I talked about some gray flannel plaid fabric – cozy, lightweight and loosely woven. All of those qualities make it a delight to wear and suitable for clothing that can be worn into warmer weather than is typical with flannel. Of course, those lightweight, loosely woven qualities that make it comfortable in a wide range of temperatures also make the flannel miserable to work with, particularly when your cutting surface is an uneven, carpeted floor. Surprisingly, the carpet pile makes it easier to slide the scissors along without disturbing the fabric, but flannel sticks to carpet like the Dickens.

Also, there is the Mostly Benevolent Overlord to contend with…

What can I say? Cutting out sewing projects is always an adventure.

The end result of this particular sewing adventure is a short-sleeved blouse with an unusual Chelsea collar and gathered sleeves. The easy fit makes this blouse breezy in the DC heat but also works neatly tucked into a skirt. The pattern for the Mimi Blouse comes from Tilly and the Buttons book, Love at First Stitch. I continue to be impressed by the patterns from this book – the designs are clean and stylish, easy to wear, and fun to make. The pattern directions are admirably clear and helpfully illustrated with extra attention given to potentially new sewing tasks and techniques. I am slowly sewing my way through all the patterns in the book.

plaid mimi blouse 1

According to the fitting charts, I am between two sizes, but because of the Mimi Blouse’s generous cut, I chose the smaller size. I’m very happy with the fit. The only issue I ran into was that the sleeves were rather too tight around the bicep – a perpetual problem for me. To solve this problem, I simply made a very narrow sleeve seam and did not reinforce the hem facing, but I would definitely widen the hem on any subsequent Mimi blouses. The blouse is wearable, but the sleeves are still more snug than I would prefer.

plaid mimi blouse 3

The folded sleeves are interesting, but I can’t decide whether I love the unusual and flattering collar shape or the soft gathers at the shoulder more. Really, I just love the way this garment sits and drapes from the shoulders. Shoulders can be tricky to fit, but they make such a huge difference in how an entire garment hangs.

plaid mimi blouse 2

The pattern book suggests a number of variations, and given how comfortable and wearable this blouse is, I can see many Mimi blouses in my sewing future. Perhaps, after making up some short sleeve versions, I might try for a long-sleeved one? I am currently very charmed by the paired button arrangement on this version, and of course, matching plaids brings me more satisfaction than is entirely seemly.

plaid mimi blouse 4

… or is that seamly?

Bruyère Dress

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Ah May, that gentle season when the semester ends, the weather warms, and the time and mental energy for blogging returns. While warm weather is upon us, this post concerns a dress meant for colder weather that was sewn this past winter. The pattern in question is the Bruyère Shirt from Deer and Doe patterns – I clearly decided to lengthen the shirt into a dress, but that was the only real modification made here.


I don’t tend to wear tunic-length garments very often, but I loved the fit and the lines on this pattern. Fortunately, the shirt pattern lends itself very easily to this sort of modification. I simply extended the existing skirt pattern pieces to 20 inches and squared off the hemline. Of course, if you decide to make a dress out of the Bruyère Shirt, learn from my mistakes. Those button placket pieces? Those should probably be lengthened too or your dress is going to look very silly.


One benefit of getting behind on blog posts is that the additional passage of time makes for more opportunities to wear a garment and figure out its quirks before writing about it. After a good bit of wear this winter and spring, I can confidently say that I like how this project came out.  The fabric is a loosely-woven, lightweight cotton flannel that my mother sent me. While the fabric was murder to cut out because the plaid kept skewing, all the careful cutting was worth it because the plaids match everywhere and look quite sharp. The flannel makes this dress cosy, soft and perfect for wearing on cool days with tights and boots.

Multiple occasions for wearing this dress, however, have only confirmed my initial suspicion that the high waist would annoy me. The waistband of this dress hits me in the odd, no-woman’s-land above my natural waist but below where an empire waist would sit. This may have happened because I over-generously french seamed the waist band to keep the plaids in alignment. I am unsure. In any case, the next time I make this pattern I will most likely lengthen the bodice. Other than this small adjustment for fit, this pattern is a delight to sew. The sleeve placket is fussy – they always are – but the outcome is very neat.


In case you are wondering (though you probably aren’t), it is rather difficult to get a picture of shirt cuffs and/or plackets without verging into the ridiculous. Frankly, I think the “I Dream of Jeanie” option above was the best we could hope for because the cat? Was absolutely no help this time.


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