Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon

This past Saturday I ran the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon with Lauren. Ever since I started running over two years ago, I've been wanting to participate in a Rock 'n' Roll race. Although slightly pricier, this race series seemed to be very well-designed with fun tech tees and awesome swag. Since I seek out races with cool souvenirs, this series obviously had to be on my bucket list. After moving to Philadelphia and finding out that the city is home to a Rock 'n' Roll event, I had to sign up for this race.
For the past three months, Lauren and I have been training consistently for the Philadelphia Marathon in late November. Our ultimate goal is to run well and PR at this event. However, we still wanted to run the Rock 'n' Roll half marathon a month prior. Because our true goal race is actually the marathon, we agreed that we would push ourselves to PR, but not kill ourselves trying to finish this half marathon in under 2 hours. Leading up to this half marathon, our PR was 2:13:47. Before the race, we decided that we would be content if we just PR'ed, but perfectly happy if we finished in under 2:10.

During races (and most training runs), I like to run without knowing my pace. Since I train and race with intervals (run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute) and my watch shows my distance, I have a good idea about my overall pace, but I do my best to ignore it and not do the math in my head. I've found that I have a much better run (both time-wise and emotionally) if I run without this added stress. I encouraged Lauren to do the same, and instead find a comfortable pace with our legs versus our brains.

At the San Francisco Marathon I went out a little too fast and wasn't able to keep that initial pace up throughout the rest of the race. For this half marathon though, Lauren had to keep reminding me that it would be better for us to not be "crazy legs" the first few miles, but rather keep a consistent pace throughout the entire race. I did my best to not take off at the start, but it's pretty hard when you don't know your pace. I started at running at a fast-comfortable pace and hoped that we could keep it up. When we signed up for the race in February, we listed our expected finish time slower than what we were now actually trying to achieve. Because of this, we ended up needing to weave in and out of other runners in our assigned wave group. Luckily there were so many wave groups that there were only a small amount of people in each group, so bobbing in and out of people wasn't too hard. Combined with trying to find that perfect comfortable pace, we chose to skip our first walk break.

Even running in California you'll often find me wearing long sleeves and pants when most others are dressed for warmer weather. Bring me to the East Coast in the middle of Fall, and I'm even colder. Even though I made sure to wear warm clothing, I was still freezing the first several miles of the race. Not once did I regret wearing pants, a long sleeved tee, and gloves. In fact, I couldn't feel my legs or feet at all the entire race because they were so cold. That actually probably helped though! Since this race was held on Halloween Day, we had to dress up. Neither of us have ever dressed up for a race before, and we didn't want our outfits to get in the way of running, so we found the most minimal Halloween costumes. Earlier in the year my mom sent us M&M t-shirts from her trip to Las Vegas, so we put our shirts to good use and dressed up as orange and green M&M's!
The first three miles of the race took us out into Center City, around City Hall, and back to the Art Museum. We used these miles to find and settle into a comfortable pace. Miles 3-5 were essentially an out and back route. This was personally our first Gatorade stop. Since we both carried handheld water bottles, we didn't stop at any aid stations for water. However, we did pick up a cup of Gatorade at about every other aid station. At mile 5 City Fit Girls, the run club we joined a few months back, had their own little cheer section. They handed out candy to us, and those Swedish Fish for me and Peanut Chews for Lauren, gave us that boost of energy we needed to make it through the next section of the race. Seriously, that was a game changer! Miles 5-9 were run along the eastern side of the Schuylkill River. Lauren and I run all of our long runs on this part of the course, so we were very familiar with it. Lauren commented on how boring this section was while pretty much everyone else was praising its beauty. While I completely agree with Lauren, I think being so familiar with the route actually helps us have a better race. Because we've trained so much in this area, we know exactly where all the twists and turns are, and had a good idea of how much further we needed to run to make it to the next section of the race. This section was slightly curvy, and knowing the layout of the road helped us run the tangents a tiny bit better. 

Reaching mile 9 meant that it was time to cross the bridge! This was a huge sign of relief because I knew that as soon as I crossed the bridge, it was time to run back to the Art Museum on the western side of the river. Mile 9 was also the only aid station with fuel, so I grabbed the first Gu I could reach- strawberry banana. Not my favorite, but definitely not the worst either. Although I wasn't hungry, I knew I needed to eat something (I had two other Gu's of my own with me, just in case). I gulped that Gu down like a champ, trying to distract myself from the banana flavor, and kept moving. Miles 9-12.5 weren't so bad. I heard lots of people encouraging their friends to keep running, and saw several people completely burnt out and walking to the end. Both Lauren and I were still running and following our intervals, so I took this as a good sign. Apparently around mile 12 Lauren told me she needed to go to the bathroom and I didn't say anything which she took as, 'I'd be mad at her if she stopped'. I honestly never heard her though, so she kept powering along, waiting to use the bathroom at the finish. I still had absolutely no idea what our pace was at this point. We passed the 2:15 pace sign around mile 10, and since they started at least one wave group before us, I knew we were on track to run under 2:15. I was still hoping to finish in under 2:10, but I really didn't know what to expect. The final mile of the race dragged us across the MLK Bridge. I was so excited at this point! There were so many people cheering all the runners and walkers on, we saw the City Fit Girls cheerers again, and the finish line was in sight! Lauren suggested we skip our last walk interval and just run to the end. Literally right before the finish line was a little hill, but we powered up that hill and sprinted to the finish line. As soon as we stopped our watches, Lauren turned to me and asked if I looked at our overall time yet. I hadn't, but I quickly did and couldn't believe it!
Our official time was 2:02:23, that's a 9:21 overall pace! As I was looking at the official race results, I looked at my splits, and it turns out that we ran a pretty consistent race. Our first two 5k's, and the 5k between mile 10 to the finish line were all run in 29 minutes each. A race doesn't get much better than this! Although we didn't finish in under 2 hours, we still met both of our spoken race goals. We PR'ed (by 11 minutes!), and finished in under 2:10. This race proved to us that a sub-2 hour finish is definitely possible, and that will be our next half marathon goal!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Slow Fashion October Thoughts

Even though I didn't really participate in Slow Fashion October nor have I completed any of the unofficial prompts, this whole movement has made me think a lot about me personally, as a consumer: what I choose to wear, buy, and make help define who I am. While I'm not anywhere close to having a closet full of handmade clothing, I like the idea of being conscious about the quality of the items I own.
I should begin by mentioning how full my closest is, it's stuffed actually. Because of my lack of space and in an effort to watch my spending, I haven't gone "shopping" in over a year. That is to say I haven't gone on a shopping spree in a long time. I have definitely bought new clothing over the past year, but I can guarantee that most months I didn't buy any apparel or accessories. There have been times where I truly needed new things, and times where I really, really wanted a particular item that I have gone shopping with specific articles in mind. In the past, I would go shopping to cure boredom, find a top that I liked, and purchase it in several different colors just because I could. This worked alright for awhile because my size was always changing which gave me a good reason to clean out my closest often. But now that my measurements are pretty consistent, going on shopping sprees isn't the best way to spend my time or money.

I don't mind the idea of frivolous shopping like that if I was able to afford new clothes all the time and if I had the space to store said items. However, currently my budget doesn't allow me to go wild while shopping, and I have an insanely difficult time saying goodbye to my beloved belongings so I never free up closest space for new clothes. A few months ago I did go through my closest and got rid of a few items, but I still have a long way to go.
Although my shopping habits have significantly decreased throughout the past year, I did sew for myself a lot more than I ever have. Over the year, I sewed myself several tops and dresses mostly out of fabrics I already had stashed. Some of these tops and dresses are made a lot better than others and therefore get worn more often, and others I refer to as practice pieces which are okay too. I like the idea of making things for myself to get the best fit possible, so that it's essentially tailored to my own body. I also (usually) enjoy sewing; create a garment out of a flat piece of fabric is just amazing to think about. Choosing the exact shape, adding details, and just fine-tuning pieces are things I really appreciate in handmade clothing that it makes me want to have a completely me-made wardrobe.

Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I love looking at all of the hand knit items. It makes me so giddy just thinking about how people wear complete outfits made solely by them. I want to be that person! I have tons of scarves and shawls that I've knit for myself in the past, and they get worn a lot during the winter. I also have several pairs of socks that either I or Lauren knit for me, that I appreciate a lot more than I had before. This summer I knit my first sweater and I received a hand knit sweater from Lauren recently, both of which will be worn a lot in the next few months. I feel like I'm really starting to understand the joy handmade items bring to people, and I'm loving it. I now want to knit tons of socks in the prettiest (neutral colored) yarn to keep my feet warm and pretty!
Even though I sadly haven't sewn at all this month, I've thought a lot about what I want my overall wardrobe to look like. What if some random person were to come over to my apartment and look inside my closest, what would they think? Does what I own and wear successfully reflect the real me? Probably not. In the past I would buy clothes (and yarn and fabric) because the colors were so bright and pretty, but in reality I much prefer to adorn myself in grays, white, navy, browns, and black clothing. Although sometimes boring to look at, I love wearing neutral colors and I need to remember that for future clothing items.

Although shopping and spending lots of money is fun, I rather have a smaller wardrobe where I absolutely love everything in it, than one full to the brim with so-so items. Quality over quantity. Because I still have tons of fabric and yarn, I don't plan on buying anymore soon, even though the majority of what I have doesn't adhere to my style. I want to use a lot of what I have before I go and store more stuff into my already crammed apartment. Whether I use what I already own to make stuff for myself or friends/family, I want to make a good dent in what I have in an effort not to hoard anymore stuff that goes unused. Additionally, I don't have any grand plans to buy much ready-to-wear clothing in the near future. I know there will be times where I see something I love that I can't stop thinking about that I just need to buy, but for the most part, I have everything I need already.
Months ago the capsule wardrobe idea seemed like something that I would like to incorporate. But I never moved past the idea stage, mainly because of the storage issue. Although I have a long way to go, I want to work towards having the perfect (for me) wardrobe. I know the first step is letting go of many items I already own, and I'm very slowly working on that. Achieving that perfect, mostly me-made wardrobe truly excites me though and motivates me to make changes. As the girl who considered shopping a hobby in high school and spent many weekends hanging at the mall with friends, greatly cutting back on this habit already seems like so much progress. Right now for me, the concept of slow fashion means creating special items for myself that I love to look at and wear, while honing in on what exactly it is that I need/want to complete this wardrobe. Eventually, perhaps I may get so good at this that I take it one step further and want only fabrics/yarn produced in socially responsible places, but for right now I want to focus on the garments themselves.
I have a running list of what I want to sew out of each fabric I have, and what I want to knit out of many of the yarn skeins I own. While I want everything to already be done, I know that part of the excitement in having a handmade wardrobe is in the making itself. I'll take my time and make each item perfect for me instead of adding yet another okay garment to my closest. It feels great to get all these thoughts out of my head and onto something a little more tangible!

All of the pictures in this post are of my Tribal Print Pretty Blouse. The first half are in-progress photos, and last two are of my completely finished top. I started sewing this blouse at least five years ago and never finished. Earlier this year I picked this project back up, unpicked all the seams, and started over from the very beginning. I wasn't happy with what my original top was going to look like, so I began again. It's all a process.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival: Sunday

We arrived back at the fairgrounds Sunday morning around 8:30, unsure of whether the gates were going to open at 9 or 10. You would think the Sheep and Wool Festival's website would clearly announce the times of the event, but even on Ravelry, I found that many people were having this same issue as me. Anyway, we showed up hoping to be able to enter at 9, but soon realized the gates didn't open till 10. Instead of being miserable in the cold, we camped out in the car for another half hour before braving the chilly line. While we were passing time, we looked at the program we received on Saturday which come to find out, clearly states on the front cover that the fairgrounds don't open till 10 on Sunday. Go figure!

Once we entered the festival, despite the freezing temperatures, I could already feel like this was going to be a much better day. Don't get me wrong, I loved being there on Saturday, but there were easily half the amount of people there than there were on Saturday. It was so much easier getting around and we were able to spend a lot more time in all the booths without getting pushed out of the way. This made for a much better experience.
Since we really didn't see any of the animals on Saturday, we spent all of Sunday morning petting and taking selfies with the sheep. I surprised myself by enjoying this so much. The barn wasn't that crowded, and the sheep had such big personalities! A lot of the sheep came right up to us, begging to petted.
Even though we loved the falafel the previous day, we decided to try something different for lunch on Sunday. Another vendor offered a grilled tofu banh mi and pumpkin soup that were both labelled vegan. I knew that if I didn't at least try the sandwich, I would regret it. At this point it was snowing a tiny bit and we could no longer stand sitting in the cold. We thankfully found a small bench right inside the entrance to one of the warehouses and ate our lunch there to stay warm. The sandwich was pretty good, although the pickled fixings should've been drained more before being added; the bread was a little too soggy for me. I could've done without the pumpkin soup as I was expecting it to be savory, and was really surprised when I tasted my first spoonful of sweet soup. In my opinion, the falafel was the best vegan meal at the festival, but I really appreciate having multiple options.

After lunch, we did some shopping. We spent the previous night going through our Ravelry queues figuring out exactly what we wanted to knit so that we could purchase yarn for specific projects. I knew I wanted to get enough yarn to knit a sweater, and after seeing everything at the festival on Saturday, I decided that I wanted to knit a cabled, loose-fitted pullover sweater. I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted to buy my sweater quantity of yarn, it was just a matter of choosing the color. I really liked the "Twist of Fate Spinnery" booth because their yarn offerings seemed simple, in a very good way. I was into their natural colored yarns, which made picking out my exact skeins even more difficult. For most weights of yarn, you had the option between 100% wool, or 50/50% wool/alpaca. Per Lauren's advice, I picked the worsted weight 50/50 blend in a medium gray colorway. Even though they don't raise their own sheep (which would've been awesome!), their yarn was super soft, clearly labelled, and relatively affordable. I don't have a specific pattern picked out yet, but I'm really excited to knit a true Rhinebeck sweater!

On Saturday I also found sparkly sock yarn that I was pretty sure I wanted to buy, I just needed to decide on the color. I've been skeptical of sparkly knit-ware, but I figured socks are the best way to get a good feel for the trend. I picked a skein from the Starry Skies Collection in the Purple Dancer colorway from the Carodan Farm Wool Shop and was even happier when they added a free mini wooden ruler with my purchase. It's the little things in life!

For the entire weekend I had been contemplating buying a pen and ink print from Gene Matras to add to my slowly growing art wall. I loved his work, but my favorite prints were those of sheep. Although I like sheep, I love pigs even more and he just happened to have one pig print. Then again, I also really loved his Winter landscape prints. There were just so many good things to choose from.  After going back and forth for so long, I finally decided to go with the pig print and I'm so glad I did! I've already framed the beautiful print and I'm anxiously waiting to hang it up!

We planned on leaving by 3 PM to make sure we returned the rental car on time. Since it was so cold and we saw and bought everything we wanted, we left even a little earlier than that. Thankfully there weren't many cars leaving at this time, and we were able to quickly exit the parking lot. Driving in the daylight was much more scenic than the previous morning's dusk experience. I loved seeing all the red and yellow leaves!
I had an amazing weekend in Rhinebeck and truly loved every moment. Since it was so cold, I even got to wear both of my sweaters at the same time, fingerless mitts, and a shawl! I hope that I'm able to attend the festival sometime again in the future, and thanks to this trip, Lauren and I unanimously decided that we want to go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool event in the Spring!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival: Saturday

Last weekend I finally got to experience all the glory of Rhinebeck! Lauren and I decided that for our birthdays this year, we would gift each other a trip to the Sheep and Wool Festival. I didn't do much research about the event prior to our trip, but I had been to Stitches West in the past, so I thought I had a pretty good idea how this yarn festival would be. All throughout the summer I had been looking forward to embarking on this trip, and the actual event definitely held up to my expectations and then some!

Basically, there were really only two big things we needed to figure out before our trip: transportation and lodging. Since neither of us brought our cars when we moved back East, we typically rely on public transportation or simply walking to get around everywhere. Obviously we couldn't walk to New York, and we didn't want to have to deal with multiple forms of public transportation and not having a way to get around once we actually made it to Rhinebeck. So, we decided to celebrate turning 25 and rent a car for the first time. As for the lodging issue, by the time we finalized this trip, all of the hotels in the area had been filled for months. Kind of as a last resort, we tried Airbnb and rented a room from a very nice lady in Hyde Park. Since we would only be there to sleep and shower (we arrived at 9 PM on Saturday and left Saturday at 8 AM), I was able to put most of the fear of staying in a stranger's house with the stranger there mostly behind me. As far as our stay there went, everything went well and I had very little contact with the hostess which was just fine by me.

Anyway, we showed up at the car rental place at 4:30 in the morning on Saturday. We wanted to get an early start with the hope of making it up to Rhinebeck before the gates opened. I was shocked at how many tolls there are in New Jersey, and stressed out about not having exact change. Luckily between Lauren and me, we managed to successfully pay all the tolls. We made a bathroom stop as soon as we crossed into New York, and loaded up on quarters for future tolls as well. Even though we had plenty of snacks in the car already(!), we just had to try Dunkin Donuts' hash browns at 6 AM. They were really delicious, by the way!
We made it up to Rhinebeck with plenty of time to spare. Our parking spot was even super close to the entrance, and we were easily two of the first 50 people in line. Although we still had to wait in line in the cold for an hour, it was worth it. Even tough we were some of the first people who entered, the festival grounds quickly became swarmed with people everywhere. Since we didn't have anything specific we needed to buy, we chose to start in the middle, and work our way back to the front. This worked well for the first half hour, but then there were people everywhere. It was so busy the entire day that it was difficult to get a good look at the booths. However, being the stubborn people we are, we made it through all the barns to complete our first look. I was in search of pretty, yet neutral colored sock yarn and a sweater quantity of yarn. Since nothing really jumped out at me, I wanted to look at everything first before deciding exactly what to buy. I set a budget for myself and I really wanted to stick to it.
Before going to Rhinebeck one thing I did research were the food options. Both Lauren and I were really excited to try Aba's Falafel, so it made choosing falafel platters for lunch a no-brainer. Although the line looked really long and many people weren't happy about that, the line actually moved relatively fast. Plus, I really don't mind waiting in line if I'm about to be rewarded with an amazing meal. The falafel was amazing as expected! Unfortunately, there wasn't any inside seating so we had to sit in the cold, shivering while polishing off our lunch. Honestly, the worst part of the entire trip was the weather. I wanted to show off my hand knit sweaters while I was there so I didn't bring a jacket. Although hand knits are warm, they aren't warm enough in 40 degree temperatures! Right after lunch we warmed ourselves up with hot apple cider which helped for awhile.
Afterward, we headed to the remainder of the buildings, which were basically warehouses. The first one housed random food/wine/non-fiber handmade items for sale. Reading reviews on Ravelry, I wanted to try maple candy. So as soon as I saw that booth, I made Lauren stop. They sold little packets with three tiny maple candy pieces. We each bought a little bag and immediately sampled one. We were hooked. If you ever get the chance to try them, you must! They melt in your mouth and are incredibly sweet, in a good way. Obviously I had to buy more for Christmas presents.

It was in the last warehouse that I purchased my first skein of yarn for the weekend! We walked by "Into the Whirled" and Lauren started talking about how cool their yarn is. I was easily persuaded, and had to find the perfect colorway. I picked the "Quoth the Raven" colorway in the Pakokku Sock base because I loved neutral black with little pops of blues and purples.

Lauren found the Amity Batik Farm booth that makes various sheep themed batik fabric and prints. Since she loves all things sheep, I picked up a note card to give to her for a future present with the cutest sheep on the front.
We stayed till closing as we wanted to soak in as much as we could on our short weekend trip. It was a mad house getting out of the parking lot though. Thankfully we had plenty of snacks to entertain ourselves while we waited. We also decided to grab dinner in Rhinebeck in the hope that most of the traffic would be gone, before heading over to Hyde Park for the remainder of the night. I never even thought to make reservations anywhere, and after being turned away from Aroi (Thai food), I was worried that this would be common at all the other restaurants in the area too. Lauren suggested that we go to the Japanese restaurant close by, so we quickly scanned their menu and headed in. I had high hopes for Momiji, but I wasn't that pleased with the service. The food was good; I ordered a cucumber roll and a sweet potato roll, and both were great. However, it took way too long for our order to be taken, and even longer for them to bring out our food. They weren't that busy, so it was frustrating having to wait so long.

After dinner we made the half hour drive to Hyde Park. I had a hard time finding the house in the dark, but once we were sure we made it to the correct address, we became acquainted with the landlady and went to sleep soon after. We wanted to wake up early enough to be back at the fairgrounds before the gates opened again. We had a lot more shopping we wanted to do, and we wanted to make sure we would plenty of time to see the animals.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mermaid Cross Stitch

In addition to the nightgown I sewed Marissa for her birthday, I also made her a cross stitched mermaid picture.
For the past few years, Marissa has liked all things mermaid. Hopefully that still holds true, since I bought her a mermaid card too. Anyway, this year I wanted to cross stitch something for her since I've knit and sewn her multiple things in the past. I figured it was about time she add a cross stitched mermaid to her collection of Courtney-made items. What are sisters for? Side note: for my birthday this year, she sewed an apron for me! Marissa has never really been into sewing before, but I'm excited she's taking an interest in it now.
I wanted this to be a more modern looking mermaid, but I had trouble finding a suitable pattern. So I went rogue, and attempted to write my own. Using graph paper I sketched out a mermaid, and let each square box represent 3 rows and 3 columns. I cross stitched the majority of the mermaid using this rough pattern, until I got to the mermaid's torso. At that point, I lightly penciled in the rest of the mermaid. I realize that this isn't how cross stitching is supposed to be, but it's what worked for me. I had a hard time figuring out how to cross stitch the hair. I wanted the mermaid to have a head full of beautiful flowing hair, which is a lot easier to achieve on paper than it is when you're constricted to square boxes. So continuing my rebellious streak, I used elongated straight stitches to create a head full of hair. It turned out better than it would've had I stuck to traditional cross stitches, but I still wasn't able to achieve that long flowing hair I imagined.

I thought the mermaid needed more texture. So, to add some pop, I added a tiny flower to her hair. To the mermaid's bust, I added back stitches to create a simple seashell pattern. I also wanted to mimic the look of scales on her tail, and so I used more back stitches here. I think these little details added a lot of depth to the overall picture, and I'm really glad I took the time to do this. 
In my mind, the rock is significantly smaller in relation to the mermaid, but I rolled with it and made it work by adding boats and a whale on the side. I was hesitant to include them as I thought they would take away from the mermaid, but I think they make the picture a lot better. How cool is that shiny gold boat, by the way?
I was intending for the mermaid to fit easily into a 5x7 inch picture frame, but soon realized that wasn't going to be possible. However, it fits wonderfully into an 8.5x11 inch frame. Normally I would've gone with a light brown or white frame, but since her new(!) bedroom has black accents, I stuck with that color scheme.
I'm glad I went ahead and tried making up my own pattern because I had a very specific vision for how I wanted this mermaid to look. For now though, I think I'll stick to published patterns that other people have already created. It's a lot less stressful, and so much more relaxing to work on a tried and true chart. Even though it's not perfect, I hope Marissa enjoys it!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Striped Knit Nightgown

First off, happy 24th birthday to my favorite sister in the world! 24 is a good number, Marissa! Since it's her birthday and she should've received her presents by now, I thought it was perfect to share her first handmade item on her actual birthday. I decided to sew Marissa a nightgown, something pretty basic and comfortable to sleep in.
I approached this nightgown as if it were a simple empire waist dress with a fun bust and a simple skirt. I loosely designed the top of this dress made up of two separate breast/cup pieces attached to two straps, with an elastic casing on the bottom. I have no experience in bra making and so had no idea what the cups for the bust should look like. I sketched out a very rough idea and went with it. Because the fabric I chose is a little bit sheer, I decided to line the top with the same fabric, basically making that part reversible. I cut the straps extra long, and since I had plenty of fabric to work with, I attached the straps so that they criss-cross in the back; I won't tell you how many times I had to redo this because I kept sewing them on twisted! Criss-crossing the straps also makes the top more supportive, I think.

I made a casing for the elastic 1 inch from the bottom of the bust piece, using 2/8 inch elastic. Surprisingly, this was my first time making a casing like this and although it was time consuming, it was so simple. Once the bust portion of the dress was "done", I tried it on and it was huge. Even though Marissa's bust measurement is larger than mine, there was no way she would be able to fill out the cups. Not only were the cups too big, but there was too much fabric under the arms, and the straps were way too long.
To fix all of these problems without having to start completely over while still making a finished garment that I'm proud of, I decided to rethink my original design. While wearing the bust piece, I played around with the excess fabric, and came up with a good solution. Twisting the the bust pieces several times, where they meet the straps, made the cups slimmer at the top. The resulting gathers at the top of the bust pieces were extra bonus details. The only problem now was the massive unsightly seam where the bust pieces meet the straps. I wanted this "fix" to look intentional. Instead of cutting off the excess fabric from the straps, I wrapped the extra fabric around the large seam several times. I folded down the raw edge on the back side, and hand stitched it in place so that it wouldn't be visible on the front. Although time consuming, I love how this turned out!
For the skirt, I cut two pieces of fabric- each 20.5 in. wide x 25 in. long. To make sure the skirt would be long enough, I had to piece the skirt together with the stripes going vertically. This contrast (the stripes on the top are horizontal) has really grown on me since. I sewed the two side seams, and then gathered the top of the skirt with basting stitches. I then sewed the skirt to the top with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, later cut down to 1/4 inch. I hemmed the dress so that it hits several inches above my knee; Marissa is an inch shorter than me so I think this will be a good length for her.
The nightgown is so soft! I hope Marissa enjoys wearing it to sleep, and even more so, I desperately hope that it fits her well. Happy birthday! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Laylow Shawl KAL

I say this all the time and here I go announcing it yet again: I love meeting up with my knitting circle every Sunday afternoon. I look forward to it all week! This knitting group started out as simply a knit along for a shawl. The KAL was open to everyone, but for those that are local to Loop, they were welcome to meet at the yarn shop every Sunday afternoon to knit with other yarn enthusiasts. For our first KAL I made the Melodia shawl. Most people wanted to stick with the flat shawl/scarf patterns, so the Laylow pattern was selected for the second round of the KAL.
The shawl is designed to use two different colors of yarn: a large main color, and a small border of another color. Because the border section is narrow, it doesn't require much yardage. I wanted to use leftover yarn from a previous project in attempt to clear out my tub of yarn. Because I had plenty to work with, I selected the remainder of the green yarn from the Three Color Cowl I knit earlier in the year. I went through my stashed yarn to find a complementary color for the main body portion of the shawl. Unfortunately, most of my stashed skeins are sport weight, and since this patterns calls for fingering, I didn't have what I needed on hand. I wanted to pair this dull green with a light brown neutral, and Loop had exactly what I was looking for. I went with Tosh Merino Light in Antique Lace- Lauren thinks that it is more gray, I think it's brown. Whatever the color though, both of us chose this colorway for the body of ours shawls, and it works well with my dull green and her rich purple.
This was my first time knitting dropped stitches, and I was really hesitant to do so at first. I wasn't sure I liked the look of them, thinking the loose stitches just weren't my style. I went ahead and included them like the pattern requested, and I'm happy I did. The dropped stitches add depth and texture to the otherwise simple garter shawl. It's still not my most favorite look ever, but I definitely don't hate it either.

I tend to like larger scarves/cowls/shawls, and I didn't want small yet significant amounts of yarn leftover. So, I decided to extend the pattern and added three extra 6-row repeats to the body. Since I knit the body larger, I also increased the border section by 7 rows. Doing this, I was able to use up the majority of both colors instead of wasting significant yardage. I also love how much larger and fuller my finished shawl is. I can easily wear my shawl wrapped around my neck like a scarf- my favorite look! Wearing my shawl this way, it's a lot fuller in the front which I think I'll really appreciate in the winter.

The pattern suggested and gave instructions for the lace bind off. I didn't question the pattern and went ahead using this method, although I wish I hadn't. At least for me, this bind off isn't stretchy at all so I had a difficult time blocking my shawl. The bind off has no give whereas the rest of the garter shawl does.

Loop has taken a break from hosting KALs, but Lauren and I keep coming back every Sunday to knit and enjoy company with our established knitting circle. They've recently received shipments of Knitterly Things Vesper Sock yarn, and many people in the group have taken a huge interest in the self-striping colorways. I'll be working on my socks (knit two-at-a-time, magic looped) in the Crossroads colorway for awhile!
Yarn used: Tosh Merino Light in Antique Lace, and Dream in Color Jilly in Bitter
Needles: Size 3 Knitter's Pride Cubics circular needles with a 40 inch cable