Knitting · Making · Uncategorized

Acrylic: My Poor, Misunderstood Friend

Let me start by saying that I love wool. I’m the type of person that will literally make a day trip of going to see a single breed sheep farm and drag others along. If I had the funds I would gladly spend all day buying all sorts of amazing, soft, luxurious alpaca, goat, sheep, and any other fibre animal’s greatest offerings.

However; I do not have the funds. I try to keep wool in my life- I’m always cold so wool house socks are a particular must. I love a good wool hat or scarf. Wool is the quintessential example of you get what you pay for. I’ve held wool that I swear was just spun cloud. I’ve also held wool that I swear was Satan’s nail clippings.

I’ve also seen some truly tragic acrylic. However, as technology improves it’s getting better and better. Besides some people having moral issues I’m not going to get into today, there’s also the issue of allergies. More than anything though I find the biggest champion for acrylic is low cost. Again, you do get what you pay for. The stuff that comes free with a magazine? It feels and acts like plastic. Would I make myself something out of it? Probably not. I love it for swatching though- if I muck something up or hate how it looks I’m not super bothered and it tends to have awesome stitch definition. Acrylic in all forms also tends to be washable, which I don’t think is talked about enough. A lot of us are really gross knitters who kind of just never wash our knitted stuff. Imagine the liberation that comes with just tossing it in the machine!

Hatandmitts

If you’re on a budget, try for an acrylic blend. I made this hat and mitt set out of an 80% acrylic, 20% wool blend I got from Aldi of all places. The acrylic keeps the wool from being scratchy, but it’s still wonderfully warm.

IMG_20180422_144044080

If you’re looking for an amazing 100% acrylic to start with, I’d recommend Vanna’s Choice. It’s really soft, the colours are amazing and proceeds go towards a children’s hospital. It’s also quite warm- I wear this hat a LOT.

Enough people have started knitting that we’re in this weird snobbery period in DIY. I’ve met knitters who won’t use anything that costs under $50 a skein. I think it’s just a really bizarre way to shop for craft supplies. Who cares how much it cost? If it feels nice and looks nice it’s best to give it a chance.

Making · Sewing · Uncategorized

The Big Four

When you start sewing more you hear a lot about the “big four”. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what that meant.

To be fair, as a kid my sewing education was a bit limited. My Mom isn’t bad at sewing, actually, she can be quite good. But, she was a bit out of practice. I also took quilting lessons and was super excited to take textiles in high school. Unfortunately, the teacher was super old fashioned and not always the nicest or most helpful. When I enrolled in a fashion program for post-secondary the sewing classes I had been promised never came. I focused mostly on refashioning old clothes and didn’t know anything other than the patterns for sale at the fabric shop existed.

Just for clarity that it took me far too long to find: The big four is really the big two. It encompasses Simplicity Creative Group– which includes Simplicity, New Look, and Burda; and McCall’s- a.k.a McCall’s Group: Butterick, Vogue, and Kwik Sew. I think the big four moniker comes from McCall’s, Butterick, Vogue, and Simplicity.

I can’t speak too much about independent patterns. I just don’t have that much experience sewing with them. However; I can safely say there are more than a few things to look out for when it comes to our big supergroup friends.

Accessibility: 

First things first, you can’t sew a pattern you don’t have. McCall’s and Simplicity are dabbling in digital downloads but otherwise, these are physical patterns you go to a store and buy, or order the tangible product online. I believe in the States most stores stock one or both groups. Simplicity seems to have pulled out of Canada a few years back. I could only find Burda patterns at Dressew, but it’s been a while so I can’t say if that’s still the case. Simplicity eluded me a bit as the patterns tended to be expensive and shipping to Canada was, as always, a nightmare.

McCall’s was a bit easier. I could always find them in the nicer fabric shops. They also tend to go on sale very often and did bulk shipping to Canada- $25 for 20 patterns. Even with the exchange rate, it was still pretty okay price wise.

I haven’t been able to find out what the standard is in Ireland, but the Simplicity EU link leads me to literally all the patterns together.

Basically, if you like big four patterns don’t move internationally.

It’ll do your head in.

Price:

One of the benefits of the big four is that they have a reputation for being cheaper than independent patterns. I’m not sure that’s always the case, the listed prices run high, however; I’ve never met a single person who paid the price on the envelope. The benefit of the big four is that if you’re patient a sale will come. It might take a minute, but it will be there. Whether it’s through their direct site or one of their stockists. Shop around for the best deal.

Physical Product: 

You’ll get an envelope, instructions, and the pattern on thin tissue paper. Once you unfold the paper you will need an origami genius to get it back in there. I usually just place all the parts in a freezer bag.

The tissue rips super easily so I trace all my patterns onto other paper both for sturdiness and so I can keep the graded nest. Also, if I want to lengthen, shorten, or full-on change anything it’s ten times easier on real paper.

The Instructions: 

There’s just as much love as there is hate for big four instructions. These companies have huge research teams. These patterns are theoretically tested multiple times. There’s literally no excuse for a mistake in these patterns. But… there sometimes is. Sometimes things are just explained in ways that are overcomplicated or just plain strange. The good thing about the big four being so prominent is that there is most likely a plethora of people who have sewn the pattern before. A lot of patterns even have youtube sew-a-long’s. If there’s a problem with a big four pattern give it six months and not only will you know what it is, but you’ll also have multiple examples of how to fix it.

Ease:

Ease gets it own special mention because it’s such a prolific big four problem. For some odd, unknown reason big four patterns have just… a ridiculous amount of ease. This is great for when you want to feel a little bit thin, but bad for when you spend hours sewing something that you want to wear and look good in. I usually buy fabric and notions for the size the envelope says I am, but then measure the actual pattern pieces when deciding a size. If you’re using really nice fabric I’d definitely suggest a mock-up. I like to use a nice, but not as nice as the final fabric and make a muslin I can wear.

Design: 

There’s definitely a mass market appeal when it comes to the big four. Sometimes they even try to be downright trendy, and they’re definitely better than they were fifteen years ago. As you browse through patterns you may start to notice something, well, truly baffling. I understand not everybody has the same personal style and my style is not right, and someone else’s is not wrong. I’m not trying to yuck anyone’s yum here. That said, I will never understand some of the fabric choices these companies make.

Sometimes it’s simply me thinking it’s an ugly fabric, but a lot of the time it’s also a fabric choice that doesn’t showcase the nice design details. For example, if there’s a lot of ruffle details, maybe a print isn’t the best choice? Sometimes you look at colour choices and feel a bit off kilter. I feel like a lot of the time they work against pattern features instead of with them.

The biggest thing you can do to make clothes you really like with big four patterns- and any pattern really- is learning how to read line drawings. I got formal training in doing it, but comparing sewn garments to a pattern envelope will get you so very far.

I mean, sewing is really one of those annoying things in life where you just have to practice, and big four patterns are a great place to get it.

 

 

Making · News · Uncategorized

The Ups and Downs of Bluprint

Craftsy announced that it’s switching its pay by the class model onto the subscription model, Bluprint, as of January 8th.

I’ve been using Bluprint since April, and overall I really like it. I like the classes, I like that the subscription model lets me try new things without a huge cost commitment. I love embroidery and definitely wouldn’t have tried it if the class had come with a larger price tag. I like online video classes and while, yes, I probably could have learned everything I did through various youtube videos, saving time by having everything curated is a really good thing.

My biggest gripe with Bluprint is their search feature. I usually go on the Craftsy site and use their browse feature, then type the name of the class I want into Bluprint. I’m honestly really upset that that’s going to go away.

A lot of people are saying it’s the beginning of the end for Craftsy, but I’m not so sure. The subscriptions aren’t too costly, right now a year is $79.99. A lot of their one-off classes were that much or more. You still get to keep your downloaded materials.

What do you think? Is Craftsy’s reign of… whatever coming to an end? Will you try Bluprint?

Fashion · Uncategorized

My 2018 in Clothes

Packing is weird.

Like super weird. I spent all year thinking that I was the biggest sufferer of nothing to wear. About two weeks ago I was faced with packing it all up to move and my real tragedy was that I simply didn’t have a good closet organization system.

Honestly, my biggest hurdle this year was my body. I’ve dropped a few dress sizes since moving to Ireland- I think they put less sugar in the food here? I’ve also been walking more and worked some really physical jobs. It’s led to some of my clothes looking a LOT better, but some also looking kind of strange.

Basically, this year I learned all about how important fit is.

On top of all that, I made two discoveries this year. The first was simple. Black jeans.

I’ve never really been into them, but I needed black bottoms for work. The only problem with them is that I love black tops and sometimes I feel a bit like I’m wearing too much black. Especially since I’ve been keeping my hair darker this year. Though I suppose there’s nothing wrong with a bit of year-round Halloween vibes.

The second thing? I have finally given up on interview pants. You know the pants- the ones you wear for job interviews that you kind of hate. They’re probably black, have a bit of a flare, and just plain don’t look good on anyone. I bought them for a job I worked in Dublin for a bit and honestly, I just full on hated them. Every time I had to put those on I felt like the worst version of myself. We weren’t allowed to wear skinny jeans, so I made sure to buy sixties inspired twill weave heavy cotton pants. Funny enough, they looked pretty darn identical to the aforementioned black jeans!

When I unpacked my wardrobe after moving I realized how much I wear because it fits or because I think it makes me look thinner and lets me blend into the background. So, for 2019 I want to be more creative. I get into ruts of wearing the same things over and over. It definitely involves a lot of stepping out of my black t-shirt and jeans comfort zone, but I think it’s time. I finally have a sewing machine so I can do alterations at home, and I’m ready to figure out what kind of clothes I like now.

Any ideas for things I should try? What are your style resolutions?