My first knit: WATG Relax Knit Through it Sweater

When you make your own clothes and people get to know about it, after a while they just shrug off a new item, like 'yeah of course, you made it'. So whilst my new jumper might just be yet another thing I've made, as my very first hand knitted jumper, I think it's a totally monumental make! After learning to knit as a child, it's only taken 20 years (nearly a year of those spent making this jumper!) to finally catch the knitting bug!

It's almost a year to the day since I started making this Wool and the Gang Relax Knit Through It Sweater having bought the kit in the 2017 Christmas sales. I bought the pattern and Feeling Good Yarn alone saving money on the needles as I already had a pair in my stash. Their well-styled but arguably overpriced knit kits always tempt me as the quick fix way to get started on a project, but it takes a bit more willpower to finish them. I've seen a lot of sewists pick up the knitting needles recently - see the amazing bubble sleeve cardigan by @rubymurraysmusings and Emily Self Assembly Required's incredible chunky knit efforts for serious inspiration - which helped in spurring me on to finish this long-time project.

Composition: Baby Alpaca 70% / Merino 7% and Nylon 23%
I chose the beautiful Cinnamon Dust Feeling Good Yarn as I was going through my orange phase at the time (see this skirt and these trousers) and luckily I still love the colour now it's finished. Size 2 requires 6 balls, but I was surprised to find that I only used 5 in the end - though I wouldn't take the risk on ordering less, having heard a friend's knitting horror story of running out of wool with another WATG kit!

The sweater is knitted on 6.5mm needles so it comes together quite quickly when you put the effort in. It's made up of stocking stitch squares without any shaping, so it's easy to the point where it's almost a boring knit (I clearly can't find the balance between interest/speed with my knitting)!

I learnt the long tail cast on which gives a more elastic finish. The written guidance on this isn't the best and I struggled to visualise the technique, so I'd recommend watching the Wool and the Gang YouTube tutorials. Having spent years casting on (mainly hats) using the standard method, I'm a total convert. I used the long tail method for a new hat recently and it gives a much neater edge.

Stocking stitch squares, pre-funnel neck
The most fun and challenging part of the make was picking up stitches around the neckline for the  funnel neck. After sewing up one shoulder seam, you add the neck stitches from the front and back sweater to your needle before knitting another long piece of stocking stitch, This means you have to sew up the other side of the neck, leaving a visible seam on the wrong side when the neck rolls into place. If I was savvier with knitting, I think I'd do this on a circular needle in future to avoid that extra seam.

I finally learnt how to sew up my knitting properly with invisible seams, which is probably one of the most useful skills I gained from this project. Again, the YouTube tutorials were much easier to digest than the written instructions.

Back view

I actually had a bit of a mare with sewing up as the measurements given for attaching the sleeves are really small. I attached both sleeves and sewed a whole side up before realising that it was impossibly small in the armpit and unpicking the whole thing. If you think unpicking sewing is a pain, try undoing your invisible seams in an alpaca/mohair mix wool - definitely tested my patience! If I was to make the jumper again, I'd go up a size for the sleeve to give a bit more room for movement.

Jumper love
I don't think it's the most flattering or beautiful sweater in the world - thanks to my Dad and boyfriend for the comments of 'did you run out of wool?', 'it's a bit short' - but it doesn't matter as I feel SO PROUD knowing I made it. Despite making me a bit sneezy, the wool is so soft and warm. I'm not giving up on sewing by any means, but I am finally ready to embrace the knitting needles!

I do think you're paying mostly for the brand with Wool and the Gang, so moving away from them, I'm currently eyeing up all the amazing chunky knit patterns from Good Night, Day. Next up though is the Fibre Mood Tara, using this super chunky bargain wool in olive from Wool Warehouse - heads up, there are also some amazing sewing patterns in Fibre Mood too! Has anyone else caught the knitting bug this winter?

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Pretty Mercerie Sayan Blouse

You know those patterns that you see and just have to have? The Pretty Mercerie Sayan Blouse is one of them - maybe the one for me. It didn't matter that the instructions were in French, there was no PDF option available and the postage was close to astronomical: after seeing this version by @lamaisonsixchouettes I was totally sold. And after making it I can confidently say I have no regrets!
Pretty Mercerie Sayan Blouse
My pattern arrived quickly and was beautifully packaged, which softened the blow of international postage. I muddled my way through the instructions with the help of the Google Translate app, which translates the text it identifies in the pictures you take. This was smooth in the majority, particularly considering that 'sewing speak' doesn't always translate so well! The construction is fairly straightforward and the illustrations are a great help, so confident makers could probably just go ahead without the instructions.

Pretty packaging
Inside the pattern envelope
I tend to find that I span a range of sizes with French pattern companies. I also find that the sizing can run quite small. For reference in this case, my measurements are 91-72-93, putting me right across 3 different sizes - a 40 at the bust, between a 38/40 at the waist and a 42 for the hips. I traced a straight size 40 for ease, and because the blouse looked fairly loose fitting. This was definitely the right choice, but as a word of warning, the waist through to hips is a bit more fitted than I anticipated. Though I'll mostly be wearing mine tucked in, it would sit better when untucked if I'd graded it out from the waist - something I'd probably do in future!

Off the back of this, there was a bit of a discussion on Instagram about the often limited size range of French pattern companies. Pretty Mercerie chipped in offering apologies for their currently limited 34 - 46 size range. This pattern is a part of their first pattern collection and they indicated that they were testing the waters a bit, but said that they're trying their best to offer a more inclusive size range, English instructions and a PDF version ASAP, which is promising.

Worn with my Ready to Sew Juliette

This deep bottle green, fluid viscose has been in my stash for ages. In fact, it was originally allocated to making the DP Studio Le 915 as a part of my 2018 make nine, which hasn't yet materialised, so at least it's being put to use! The fabric is quite light, so well suited for some of the more delicate design features of the Sayan. I'm not sure if it's the language barrier, but I couldn't see any suggestion of using interfacing in the pattern instructions. I'd class this as an essential for a crisp, professional finish, so cut pieces for the front facing, one of the collar pieces, and a pair for the cuffs.

Cuff detailing!
I rarely sew shirts as I worry I don't have the precision to pull off the finer details such as cuffs and plackets, but my need to make the Sayan outweighed my regular avoidance tactics. The only bit that confused me was understanding the Google translation for making the sleeve plackets. I half followed the instructions and half made them from memory - though I'm sure there are plenty of YouTube tutorials out there to help - and the results are good enough for me!

Cuffs and button holes

When I commit to things I'd usually avoid, I don't do them by halfs, so I made 8 matching self cover buttons. Pressing them closed hurt my hands/fingers so much that I had to do them in two sittings, but they do make for a real professional finish. Does anyone have the magic trick for non-painful button covering? I took real time with my buttonholes; practicing, measuring and marking them out and using loads of fray check. I probably didn't breath for the whole length of time I was cutting them open either, but phew, I'd go as far as saying I think they're the buttonholes of my life.

I noticed a couple of missing notches for the tie belts, but the positioning is easy to work out. Other than that, the make was a breeze and it's filled me with confidence in my abilities to approach other makes that I'd ordinarily avoid. Despite the small hurdles - mainly me not understanding French - I would 100% recommend the pattern and would definitely be up for trying more Pretty Mercerie patterns in future. It looks like they've actually just released 4 new patterns and I'm very tempted by the Yokohama Coat.

Anthropologie inspo
I LOVE my finished Sayan Blouse and can see myself wearing it again and again, whether I'm trying to look smart for work, or dressed down with it layered over a turtleneck. I saw these two blouses in Anthropologie and they've definitely got future-Sayan written all over them, particularly the one with D-rings at the tie! Question is, what colour shall I choose for the next?

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Sewing Leftovers: Baby Shower Gifts

Here's something a little different that I could've never seen myself sewing: baby clothes. My friend is having a baby shower and I wanted to make a gift for the baby with a personal touch - a perfect chance to sew some leftovers. Outside of the very blue or very pink 'gendered' clothes, the shops seem to have a limited offer of mostly boring white baby grows - my friend has chosen to keep the gender of the baby a surprise. This leftover Chat Chocolat organic cotton jersey in wine, green and pink seemed perfect for some fairly gender neutral but pretty cool baby sewing.

Sewing Leftovers baby clothes!

Original garment made: This Secondo Piano Basic InstincT t-shirt in Chat Chocolat organic jersey from the Solid as a Rock collection.

Leftover fabric amount:  The scrappiest of scraps - a pretty unmeasurable remainder of the metre I had for the t-shirt

Sewing Leftovers make: Baby shower gifts for a friend - a pair of baby leggings and reversible baby hat!

Leftovers-wise what did I learn?: This may sound obvious to a lot of people, but wow, baby clothes are small and require the tiniest amounts of fabric! These two pieces were the quickest and simplest makes. A great way to stop these lovely scraps going to waste by turning them into sweet gifts! 

About the make:
I found both of these patterns by just searching 'free baby sewing patterns' on Pinterest. The hat is a slightly adapted version of one from this trio of baby hats tutorial by Zaaberry Handmade. The pattern is for 0-3months and includes a tie knot version and a version with little bear ears.

Reversible baby hat
I made my version reversible by cutting an extra set of the main hat pieces and flipping them to use the wrong side - a solid wine colour. I thought this added a bit of interest, and neatened up the finish of the hat, which will hopefully make it more comfortable for baby to wear. I used a zig zag stitch to topstitch the bottom band in place, sandwiching the main hat between it. 

Other side!
The baby leggings were meant to be the main piece, but I actually think the hat turned out cuter! They are a little bit bigger, which might explain it - the sizing didn't start at newborn. I used the Baby Go To Leggings pattern by Andrea's Notebook - another freebie - which has 3 sizing options: 3-6 months, 6-9 months or 9-12 months. 

Go To Baby Leggings!
As a warning, the written instructions in step one wrongly tell you to sew the fronts together along the outer edge, and then repeat with the backs. This step should be 'sew one front leg to the corresponding back leg along the outer edge'. Unfortunately I followed it blindly and ended up unpicking my overlocking - the worst of the worst sewing tasks.

Once I'd gotten over this, sewing them was a breeze. I already had a scrap of elastic in my stash for the waistband too, so it was an all round leftovers project. Using the overlocker for both projects made them seriously fast little sews - a sort of warm up to my main sewing of the day, which is coincidentally also with leftovers, this time from this project

Gift ready!
I'm really pleased that I was able to make such unique gifts from my leftovers - hopefully they'll make baby stand out from the crowd when he or she arrives! Making these two pieces has definitely made me consider saving the smaller amounts of jersey that I'd normally throw away. I wonder if the hats would also be welcomed by local charities and hospital wards - one to look into...

I'm sure there're many other scrap-busting baby patterns out there too - if you have any favourites, please suggest them in the comments so we can grow a little resource of possible patten picks. 

In other #sewingleftovers news: 
Did you see that November was Sustainability theme month over at The Sewcialists? 
I had the opportunity to talk about the positive impact that practicing sewing leftovers has had on my own sewing habits. Read my piece here and get inspired by some of the other things sustainable sewers are doing to tackle waste and sew more mindfully here.

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