Icelandic Sweater

Winter in Northern Germany, at least while the North Atlantic Oscillation is in its positive phase, likes to stagnate at daily highs of 6C and lots of rain. It’s not that cold, but it’s damp as eff and therefore perpetually chilly. My solution to this was to knit an Icelandic Lopapeysa sweater, but in sock, rather than the traditional icelandic lopi, yarn.

I got the idea from 5 balls of old Rowan Botany yarn that I had lying around; I bought them probably a decade ago in Toronto and never knew what to do with them until now. I purchased some alpaca yarn to do the yoke, using Elizabeth Zimmerman’s yoke sweater recipe from Knitting Without Tears, made it work. I’m so happy with how it turned out!

As usual, the details of how I made it can be found on my Ravelry page.

P.S., the lipstick that I’m wearing on that picture above is Mac Rebel, which I bought with my birthday money and love love love love. I pretty much want to wear it everywhere all the time.

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The Airplane Kid Kit

If you grew up in the United States in the late 80s, chances are you probably read the Babysitter’s Club books, and if that describes you, then we can probably learn a lot about your personality by asking you who was the best babysitter and who was the most annoying.  (Obviously the answers are Dawn and Claudia.)  Anyway, you’ll also remember that the Babysitters made a “Kid Kit”, i.e. a container full of rando toys to whip out when small children have meltdowns or complain that they’re bored. Though they described the Kid Kit’s contents in every single book, all I remember is that it contained finger paints, which I now believe to be an absolutely terrible thing to give a cranky toddler.

Good times.

All that to say: I made a Kit Kit for Alex.


I actually made this for our flight to the United States over Christmas, having learned last year that having a bored toddler on a 9-hour flight suuuucks balls.  I filled it with a lot of small, cheap stuff, like tiny cans of play-doh, a coloring pad, photos from daycare, some toy cars, tiny dinosaurs in a plastic egg, and lots and lots of stickers. But wait, there’s more!

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Because this thing had to get smushed in my backpack, I abandoned my original idea of a cardboard box and instead sewed a pouch for it.

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The outer material is twill recycled from discarded Brent pants, and the bright green zipper is from an old Ikea slipcover.  I lined it with that crazy  Ikea hippo fabric I have a thousand meters of.

I feel really good about this, because it was so effective.  Here are some things I learned:

1. You can find way more fun, cheap crap in the United States, especially at the Family Dollar in Buchanan, GA.

2. My son doesn’t really care for coloring books so much as he likes throwing colored pencils on the airplane floor.

3. My son really loves stickers.

4. Play-doh is not messier than eating airplane food in a tiny seat, so it’s really ok to bring.

5. Tiny toy surprises in egg-type containers are SO exciting for little kids.

6. You really need to pace yourself and budget the stuff in the pouch so that you don’t run out. I gave Alex a new toy roughly once an hour, and that was generally enough to entertain him.

7. You’re going to l throw a lot of lint- and hair-covered play-doh in airport trashcans, and you’ll lose a lot of toys, but don’t worry about this because other kids will find them. We accidentally sent a squishy Ninja-Turtle head rolling all the way down the aisle of a plane, and later, while standing in line at U.S. customs in Chicago, I saw another kid happily playing with it.

8. Even with 12 hours’ worth of toys, your toddler is still going to want to run around and do things like ride the escalator at the airport, and it will probably be when you want to sleep. I think it’s best just to surrender at that point and get your ass on that escalator.


Wardrobe Architect November Project

Hello!  Happy New Year! I finished my November Wardrobe Architect project at the beginning of December, but the whole Christmas season was such a whirlwind, and the Kiel skies so devoid of sun, that I didn’t have a chance to photograph or blog about it until right now. This post is coming to you from an hour and a half outside of Atlanta, USA, where we’re having a short vacation with Brent’s parents. Anyway, for November I made a second Garmenter Nora Skirt, this time in gray:

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the boring sewing details:

  • My first self-drafted Nora skirt pattern was a kludge based on another generic skirt pattern I had. This time around, I took advantage of a sale at Garmenter and purchased their basic skirt pattern, and then re-drafted the adjustments for the Nora skirt. This one just fits a lot better than my previous one.
  • The fabric is a weird, synthetic upholstery fabric that I got out of a bargain bin at a Dutch fabric market that came to Kiel at the end of the summer, and it melts under the iron, which I solved by taping all the seams with wonder tape rather than pressing them. Yay, wonder tape!
  • The fabric also frayed like a mofo. I took care of that by doing flat-felled seams on the side. I LOVE how that turned out. I totally forgot to photograph it, though.
  • I didn’t manage to get the buttonhole sewn for the back of the waistband, because my sewing machine sucks at buttonholes whenever the fabric is a bit heavier. I “solved” this problem by sewing on a snap button instead, but it pops open whenever I bend over or eat a bit too much for lunch. Hm! So I’m still looking for a solution there.

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  • It took me a while to figure out my winter “uniform”, and it’s short skirts with leggings, boots, and a wooly sweater. I’m not cool enough to know whether this is actually cool, but it’s been pretty much perfect for every situation this winter, from work to going out for dinner to lazing around the house, whether that house is in Chicago or Atlanta or Kiel.
  • It looks like my December project — a knit — is going to get done towards the end of January. Oh well.
  • I’m just glad that I managed to stick to this for an entire year.
  • oh man, 2014 went by so fast, and so did this project!
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Wardrobe Architect October Project

I totally took the easy way out for my October project, by repeating a pattern I’ve already used twice before.  That’s right, it’s

…another Moneta dress! (Alex did not enjoy the photoshoot for this dress because it kept Daddy from turning on  Daniel Tiger 10 seconds earlier…he was very dramatic about it.)

I’ve already said my piece about the versatility of this pattern, so suffice it to say that this dress is perfect for everything: traveling, working, bike-riding, chasing a naked toddler through the apartment after bathtime, or what have you.

At the end of September I was looking through my box of jersey fabrics and found a lovely dark brown jersey that I bought in Berlin few years ago. My mom had requested a jersey scarf for Christmas and, unable to find a nice one in the stores, I bought two meters of dark brown cotton jersey and cut it in half lengthwise, then presented the big rectangle of fabric to my mother as a gift (that sounds awful, but she loved it…really.). I never knew what to do with that other half-width of fabric, until I realized that I could squeeze a Moneta out of it if I omitted the collar, chose short sleeves, and really finagled my cutting layout.

Yay!  It’s the perfect color for my capsule wardrobe, I love how it feels, and it goes well with my cool new (to me) boots. A win all around!

Here are some sewing observations:

  • Sewing lesson of the month: don’t order cheap generic needles on Amazon.  I used good old  Schmetz needles this time, and it made my machine’s mock overlock stitch work waaaaayyy better.  The seams in this one actually look pretty good!
  • For some reason, the twin needle hem was a real bear this time – one of my threads kept snapping and nothing I found on the internet helped. In the end, I just had to sew it really, really slowly.
  • I still really hate shirring the waist with elastic.  I mean, I love how it looks but the process is so frustrating. I don’t know if I’ll ever get better at it.
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Wardrobe Architect September Project (& a Roman Holiday)

I finished my September Project in the nick of time! I sewed the last stitch on the morning of Sept 28, about 5 hours before we left for our 5-day mini holiday …in Rome!


It’s another Moneta dress,  just like this one that I made in June, but now  adding 3/4-length sleeves and taking out the tie-front collar.  I decided to stick to something I already knew for September since I had less time due to the trip.

Boy, I sure love this pattern. Sewing knits with my fairly simple sewing machine is not as easy as I’d like it to be, but  I’m getting better at it the more I get to know my machine. Using not just quality thread, but also quality needles has been essential to getting the stitches to look right. I learned that hemming is much, much easier if you stabilize the hems first using  WonderTape.  Oh man…Wonder Tape! You are so useful!

Have I mentioned how much I am learning by making a project every month?  Every project teaches me something, even when it’s a repeat. This time my rookie mistake was cutting the skirt on the grainline such that the stripes on the skirt were horizontal. Because the skirt is shirred around the bodice, the top stripes sort of get “eaten” by the bodice and it makes my abdomen look weird.

I think it would have looked a lot better if I had cut the skirt on the bias, so that the stripes would have been diagonal (like this), but this being my first time sewing striped fabric, I simply didn’t think of it.

Nevertheless, I’m really happy with how it turned out. It was pretty much perfect for traveling, because it’s comfortable and you can just slip it right on, it looks equally good with leggings and boots (for Germany) and bare legs (for Italy), and best of all: it has pockets.  I’m actually making another one for my October project… because why not?


Foraging Pouch

I am so excited so share this next project! I made a foraging apron for my cousin Sarah’s 3-year-old daughter. Alex was kind enough to model it for me. Processed with VSCOcam Sarah is a real treehugger, so I think she’ll appreciate that I made the entire thing from repurposed material. The front  and the pocket are made of oilcloth, reclaimed from placemats that my friend Jennifer made for me when I moved to Berlin. Those placemats served us well for 5 years, but recently started to tear; how great to be able to reuse them for something else. Processed with VSCOcamProcessed with VSCOcam The back is from an old fleece blanket, and I bound the whole thing in bias tape made from scraps. I made a belt out of an extra strap that came with one of our suitcases, and the plastic buckle came from my collection of random, salvaged crap. Processed with VSCOcam Of course, the pouch is supposed to be for collecting chestnuts and autumn leaves and things like that, but Alex immediately used it to stash his toy cars. Since he insists on bringing his 3 cars pretty much everywhere these days, I just might have to make another one.


Wardrobe Architect August Project

Every now and again I encounter somebody (usually a North American) who believes that you can’t ride a bike in a skirt.  To that I say: poppycock.  Of course you can. There are two ingredients to riding a bike in a skirt: (1) A bike without a center bar (i.e. a “ladies bike”, although I saw plenty of dudes riding them in the Netherlands), and (2) not giving a shit. This brings me to my August project.

noraskirt_collageIt’s a black mini skirt, the Nora Skirt from Garmenter, to be precise.  Julia Jungman, the designer, describes it as a good skirt to make, “if you are especially fond of your legs,” and boy, she is not kidding….it is short.

I finished this towards at the beginning of September, when it was still warm enough to bike to work without stockings, which I did in this skirt. Did my bare thighs touch the bike seat? Yes. Were my lady parts bare for all to see? No. Did I get pregnant, distract an unsuspecting male pedestrian, traumatize children, become sexually intimate with my bicycle, shame my husband, or any of the other things that the world steadfastly fears about the female body?  Nope. It’s fine. Really.

Actually as it turns out, I am pretty fond of my legs. This has a lot to do with two things have happened since my pregnancy with Alex: (1)  It seems like I’m always a little bit warmer than everybody else — all of Germany will be bundled up and only Brent and I will still be in shorts, and (2) I no longer care about losing those last 10 pounds…or having a thigh gap, or all that shit. And I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing quite so nice as riding through the park on a warm early-fall morning with bare legs. Well, that time is past now anyway –  I’ll be rocking this skirt with leggings and boots from now through April.

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Now for the sewing details. Garmenter, as you know, sells basic muslin slopers and then publishes tutorials on how to turn them into other skirts.  For this skirt I actually drafted my own muslin because I had a simple A-line skirt pattern already, and then used that as the basic for the new skirt pattern. The fabric is a faux-velvet that used to be the very first dress I ever made (and didn’t do a very good job on). It had a good run, that dress…but I ripped it up all the same.

My very favorite thing about this skirt is the 3-piece pockets, which you can see much better on Julia’s example here. Contrary to my expectations, the pockets were actually really easy to do.

I’m not super happy with the fabric. It’s too drapey and it clings to my tights, and the seams fray a lot in the laundry (they should ideally be serged, but I don’t own a serger). I’ll probably just make another skirt later in a stiffer fabric.

Two Poems about Boobs

Hello!  I have several more sewing-related things to show you, but daggumit, I always forget to take good pictures while the sun is shining. In the meantime, let’s talk about breastfeeding. When Alex was born I thought we might breastfeed for 6 months. Now he’s almost 2 and …we’re still at it. He can even say “nursing” now, but when he asks for it he mostly says “baish”, which I’m pretty sure means “boob”, which…oh, boy. Pretty much any attempts I’ve made at weaning have fallen flat — this kid just loves the boob. I’m not trying hard to force it, either, since breastmilk is healthy and nursing is snuggly. And yes, some people give weird looks to a 2 year old kid nursing, but it’s surprisingly easy to not give a shit.

Anyway, here are two great poems about breastfeeding by poet Hollie McNish. The first is about getting harassed for nursing in public even though breasts are pretty much everywhere in this age of advertising, and the second is about that really weird, hard thing where your boobies have to do double-duty for nursing and sexy time. These say it all better than I ever could.


Beanies for Everybody

One weird thing we noticed when we moved to Kiel 2 years ago was everybody wearing thick, colorful crochet toques.  I mean, like, everybody.  I asked my officemate what was up with all the crochet beanies, and she was like, “Eh, those are popular everywhere.”  Hmm…maybe, but they definitely love these year-round up here. I finally realized that the beanies everybody is wearing are from Myboshi, which is a company started by these two German dudes.

Everything about this is just so German.

They learned to crochet on a trip to Japan (boshi, evidently, being the Japanese work for a toque (which of course is Canadian for a knitted cap)). Their hats were so popular that they eventually started hiring local grannies to crochet for them.  At this point, they’ve basically managed to equip this entire country with woolly hats.

What I like about MyBoshi is that they are confident enough in their business to admit that crocheting a beanie isn’t that hard, and to share the recipe with anybody who wants to make their own (mainly in book form). This is a pretty big contrast to other internet artisans who sell really simple crochet or knitted things (like mittens or hats, or these things), charge a lot of money for them, and then get upset when somebody replicates their totally simple product. Anyway, so I got the Myboshi book from the library, figured out their basic hat recipe, then tweaked it into something easier to remember, and made this cool hat for Alex.

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…and then somehow  I couldn’t stop, so I made 5 more.

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I basically turned my entire stash of worsted yarn leftovers into hats while sitting on the playground with Alex… and while watching an ep of Parks & Rec before bed. I’m hoping they’ll make good Christmas gifts, though it’s a bit defeating to make 6 of something and realize that that is still less than the number of siblings my husband has.

Now that I got that out of my system, I’m back to knitting. Whew…that sure was fun, though!


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Buttons and Thread

As part of my preparation for my upcoming fall/winter capsule wardrobe, I’m going through my closet and picking out some forgotten things, to fix up or alter in order to make them wearable again.  Remember this Tova shirt that I made right before Alex was born?

It was basically my uniform during the first 3 months of his life, since it’s pretty fresh and cute and still baggy enough for those long  post-birth months when nothing fits right.  It also proved to be excellent for nursing. I love this shirt!  But I’ve really grown to hate how the front placket constantly swings open….especially when you’ve got big milk-filled boobs, it kind of feels sloppy.  I always wanted to add buttons to the placket, but never knew where to start.  Buttonholes?  ….Scary!

But last week I finally decided to give it a go, googled “button hole presser foot”, and discovered that I actually had a button hole presser foot this whole time.  So that’s what that plastic doodad is for.

It took several tries to get my Singer to to the buttonholes right.  It just kept jamming up and getting stuck on one part of the hole. Yrg, so frustrating!


The solution, after much cursing, and googling, and being exhasperated, was…wait for it …to stop using cheap thread.

This brings me to a confession.

I’ve always heard –and always steadfastly ignored — the advice to sew with high-quality thread.  I basically ignored this advice because a few years ago the German discount grocery store Lidl was selling  big kits of sewing thread in a zillion colors for very little money,  I thought that was so awesome, and bought one and have been sewing from it for years.   I also totally thought that the thread snapping all the time was because my sewing machine is a 100-Euro Singer.  This was not the reason.

The reason was that my thread was shit. I know this because I finally bought some better thread and …oh holy heck, did everything get easier.  You mean you can sew a seam and not have the thread break if you go a little faster?  And my machine can do buttonholes?  A whole new world has opened up to me.

Anyways, so I finished my buttons and buttonholes pretty fast, and now look how cute my shirt is!

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This picture doesn’t really do it justice, but basically I sewed little lavender buttons on it and it looks really cute.  It’s being brought out of hibernation to join my fall/winter capsule wardrobe, which I’m feverishly putting together right now. Yay!

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