Spring Greens and Flowers

Remember how, late last year, I mentioned that I thought I would be able to create one outfit per month? Well, all I can say about that now is: HA! I don’t know what I was thinking, saying I could sew and knit a complete outfit in a single month! All I can say in my defense is that, when it comes to making garments, my eyes are bigger than my stomach, so to speak. I get really excited about all the possibilities and tell myself that I am capable of making all the things. And I suppose that maybe I am capable of doing it, if I didn’t have a full-time job and other life obligations and interests. I won’t dwell on my failure of ambition for too long, though, because I’m immensely proud of what I’m here to show you today: my first outfit. And it’s not just any outfit, but one composed of my very first me-made dress and the best fitting sweater I’ve ever knit in my entire life.

IMG_20150516_141512Let me begin with my lovely new cardigan, which the knitters of the internet will know as Gudrun Johnston‘s popular Audrey in Unst cardigan. I chose this pattern because I wanted a simple canvas on which to try out some new-to-me shaping techniques to see if I could actually fashion a sweater that would mould to my body shape without the help of negative ease alone. The pattern was extremely well written and ridiculously easy to follow. It features a stockinette  body and a pretty lace bib for some visual interest, and if you’re looking for a good, easy sweater in which to practice fitting techniques but without being bored to tears by miles of stockinette, this pattern is for you.

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This pattern is also a great showcase for a really pretty yarn, and I’m very glad that I decided to splurge on Tanis Fibre Arts Blue Label Sock Yarn. I had been keeping an eye out for a perfect mint green yarn for ages, and TFA’s Spearmint colourway turned out to be exactly what  I was looking for. Small flecks of light blue, grass green and white give the spearmint a depth that I haven’t seen in any other minty green yarn before, and I think it lends a contemporary touch to the old-fashioned hue.

Earlier, I mentioned making fitting modifications to this pattern and, for the most part, I was successful in my endeavour. To make room for by big boobs, I measured the difference in length between my back and my front from shoulder to waistline and discovered that the front of my body is 3 inches longer than my back. So, using the instructions in Amy Herzog’s fabulous book Knit To Flatter, I added a two-inch horizontal bust dart about 3 inches below my underarm. The dart will need to be lowered by about half an inch for the next sweater I make, but the end result was exactly what I was after: the fronts sit over my bust without stretching the fabric, and the hem stays parallel to the ground without riding up in the front or down in the back.

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I’ve been finding that I often have extra fabric at the back of my knits, so this time  decided to move the bodice shaping from the sides of the sweater all the way to the back. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether I should move all the shaping  to the back or to split it evenly between front and back, but my swayback is pretty pronounced so, in the end, I took a calculated risk and shaped the back piece with double decreases and increases, which created obvious vertical darts. Thankfully, the gamble paid off: the body fit is great and I love the way it looks.

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Despite my many successes with this sweater, the fit still needs to be tweaked just a little bit more. In addition to lowering the horizontal dart just a touch, I also need to narrow the front armscye which, as you can see, is just a bit wider than my shoulder. The back of the armhole is in just the right place, so I think that correcting this issue will just be a matter of decreasing a bit more frequently when it’s time to shape the armscye in the front.

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Okay, onto the dress, which isn’t perfect, but I’m pretty darn proud of it nonetheless. The pattern is Tilly Walness’ Megan Dress from her excellent book for beginner sewists, and this dress was an exercise in thrift as well as dressmaking. Though the temptation to acquire new fabric is always present, I decided that I would use 1.5 yards of a border print on organic cotton fabric that had been languishing in my stash since the early days of my interest in sewing. Because I had so little fabric to use, I omitted the sleeves and the facings and used some navy bias binding to finish the neckline and armholes. The effect is clean and neat and everything sits nice and flat.

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The Megan Dress turned out to be very easy to make. But for a small full bust adjustment and lowering the neckline about 2.5 inches, I cut a straight size 5 and, at the time of making (I finished this on the Easter long weekend… whoops), the fit was pretty perfect… relaxed but shapely and flattering. Since I’ve largely continued to maintain my Whole 30 diet and have lost some weight (don’t ask me how much, though… I haven’t weighed myself in years), the fit has changed markedly over the last month and, as you can see, there’s a lot of extra ease that wasn’t there before. It’s not an unwearable dress by any stretch, so I won’t bother taking this in… I prefer to think of this dress as extra comfortable now.

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If the now extra-relaxed fit of this dress isn’t a problem, the fit of the back neck definitely still needs some tweaking. As you can see, it doesn’t sit flush against my neck and shoulders, so now I need to figure out how to adjust the fit for the next one. I’m not quite sure how I’ll accomplish this… It looks to me like the neckline could be lowered slightly in the back, but I’m not at all certain that this will correct the problem. Any suggestions you have about how to fix this would be very welcome!

So, that’s it. My new outfit. I love it and I’m already planning a the next one using the same patterns and the aforementioned tweaks. In fact, my sister and I have been talking about doing an Audrey in Unst knit-a-long this summer. Despite her being an accomplished knitter, she’s never made a sweater for herself before! Can you believe that? I’m keen to guide her through the process because I think she’ll love the result, and it would be a lot more fun if more people were interested in participating. What do you say, knitters of the internet? Would you like to knit a great wardrobe staple cardigan with us?

Cardigan Specs

Pattern: Audrey in Unst by Gudrun Johnston

Yarn: Tanis Fibre Arts Blue Label FIngering Weight in Spearmint

Mods: 2 inch horizontal bust darts, vertical waist shaping on back piece alone, shortened ribbing on body and sleeves.

Dress Specs

Pattern: Megan Dress by Tilly Walness

Fabric: Blossom Festival from Tsuru Collection

Mods: Lowered neckline, FBA, no sleeves or facings.

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12 thoughts on “Spring Greens and Flowers

  1. Dude! Looks soooooooo amazing! I can’t wait to get started on our sweater! For the dress, I can only guess right now, but because you have so much room in the back, I would one suggest two things: Either create two darts at the back neckline for shape and as a bit of a design feature, or on the pattern create a ‘dead dart’ to remove the excess ease in the back all together. If it was angled and tapered out from the neck to the arm, it would be a super easy adjustment to make.

    • I think I’d probably rather get rid of the excess fabric, so a dead dart is probably the best course of action. Thanks for the advice!

  2. Your cardigan is gorgeous! I’m so intrigued by the way you’ve knitted in darts, I’ll need to go and do some research on that! I love the border print you’ve used for your dress too, so pretty 🙂

    • Thanks very much! Knitting the darts wasn’t nearly as hard as I feared, but I was really careful to check my math before diving in. Totally worth the effort.

  3. A great inspiration for ladies with a more than average bust. I have only practiced waist shaping so far, but you inspire me to get this book. Your whole outfit is beautiful.

    • Thanks very much, Agnes. The book is such a great resource! It’s really helped me step up my game, fit wise. It takes a bit of careful measuring and some calculation, but the results clearly speak for themselves. 🙂

  4. Really wonderful fit on the cardi!! I have done knit darts but, more often than not, I do rely on the natural stretchiness of the knit to take care of those fitting details 😛 Your perfectly fit cardi is a great reminder that my laziness is not always the best option! 🙂

    • I’ve been relying solely on negative ease for years, but it’s become abundantly clear that I just have too many fit issues to ignore if I want to have a sweater that fits properly. It took me a while, but I’m glad that I finally jumped on the shaping bandwagon!

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