thoughts & things


Making Time For Making: momentum in my knitting projects vs. my sewing projects

Knitting v Sewing Project Momentum

Lately, I’ve been playing around with the idea of “making time for making.”

I’ve been doing this because I have a lot of projects vying for my attention at the moment – writing projects, and making projects, and website projects, and work projects, and personal projects.

And I started noticing that one of the first things to go when my calendar gets full, is non-deadline “making” projects (aka my personal knitting & sewing projects).

Hence, the desire to make time in my schedule for making, because when I go too long without knitting or sewing (without a deadline) I get crabby and then everything suffers.

Not all making time is equal

So I’ve been blocking out time to “make time for making.” Sometimes it’s 15 minutes in the morning, sometimes it’s an hour or two in the evening, sometimes (rarely) it’s a whole glorious evening.

The time I block out is simply in my calendar as “making time for making.” I don’t specify a craft or a project or anything of the sort. At the moment the two projects I’m focusing on are my Lady Bat Sweater, which is a knitting project, and my No Longer Really An Anna Dress, which is a sewing project.

And I’ve been noticing that (for me) not all making time is equal.

Sometimes I strongly want to knit. Sometimes I strongly want to sew.

And I feel like – though I am not certain and it may not be true – that I end up knitting, (during my time set aside for making), more often then I end up sewing.

So in an attempt to bring a little more mindfullness to my making, I thought I’d take a bit of time this morning to try and understand more about what plays in to this – mostly in an attempt to slip a little more sewing time into my life, because looking ahead to July, I don’t really need sweaters at the moment.

Off the top of my head, my first thoughts about knitting are…

  • knitting is contained.
  • it’s done sitting.
  • there’s close to little set up.
  • projects can take a long time to complete, meaning you can keep momentum going.
  • when it’s smooth sailing, you can make progress in 15 minutes.

Off the top of my head, my first thoughts about sewing are…

  • expansive. sewing has a habit of taking over every horizontal space.
  • movement. sitting, standing, walking, moving from the sewing machine, to the iron, to the pins.
  • it takes time to set up and take down. not a lot of time, but a couple minutes on either end.
  • needs at least 30 minutes. otherwise the set up & take down isn’t really worth it.
  • preferred sewing time (for me) is at least an hour or two.
  • projects (can be) done in one or two sittings.

I think it comes down to mindset

When I sit down to knit, I’m sitting down to make progress.

When I sit down to sew, I’m sitting down to finish. Even if it’s not finishing the whole project, I still sit down with the intention of completing a part of it. Maybe that part is the cutting step, or the sewing step, or the finishing step. Maybe I’m sitting down with the goal of finishing the skirt of a dress, or the lining of a top, or tracing/drafting/altering a pattern. Or maybe I really am sitting down to start and finish a project.

Regardless of what I’m sitting down to finish when I sit down to sew – I am sitting down with the intention of finishing something. It’s rare that I walk away from a sewing project with a step half completed (a half sewn together skirt, or a half drafted pattern).

By contrast, in my knitting projects – I sit down to make progress, and always stop in the middle of a row. While some knitters always stop at the end of a row, I’m the opposite – I hate stopping at the end of a row. I prefer stopping in the middle, because (for me) knitting is easier to pick up and put down and remember my place in, if I stop in the middle of a row.

Mindset plus Momentum

In my mind, starting something with the intention of finishing it is more of a mental hurdle to overcome than starting something with the intention of simply making progress.

Sitting down with the intention of finishing is more of a mental commitment – even if it’s exactly the same time and energy commitment. This is definitely true for me.

It is also true that my knitting projects seem to have a momentum that my sewing projects do not.

From writing this all out, I’m getting the sense that, because I sit down to sew with the intention of finishing the part or piece I am working on – I also make a mental check mark when it is done. Mentally checking off the part of the project that is complete.

This mental checking off means that when I next pick up the project I am in the mindset of starting, rather than the mindset of continuing, which means there is no continued momentum from the last time I worked on the project.

With all this in mind…

With all this in mind, I think the next time I come to time in my calendar set aside for making I’ll try to look at the next step in my sewing project as the next step in a larger project – rather than as merely self-contained project.

My hope is that by doing this, I can keep the momentum going in my sewing projects – rather than letting them sit by, while I keep reaching for my knitting.

And maybe, just maybe, if I can keep the mental sewing momentum going, I’ll be able to add some new handmade pieces to my current suitcase dictated capsule wardrobe, which is in desperate need of some new summery pieces.


a tale of two bodices – Ditching & Rethinking the plan for my Anna Maxi Dress from By Hand London

Anna Dress Pattern print

Rethinking the dress

I realized a couple weeks ago (while I was asking and answering “why am I sick of all my clothing?”) that I really didn’t want to make an Anna Maxi Dress from By Hand London.

I mean I did/do. And at the same time, I really don’t.

It is true that I want to make a couple maxi dresses as part of my summer wardrobe infusion.

And it is also true that I don’t really/often “do dresses.”

I was initially attracted to the Anna Maxi Dress because there aren’t a whole lot of independent maxi dress patterns, and also it seems to look good on everyone who’s made it.

But I kind of overlooked the fact that I highly doubt I’d enjoy wearing the top half of that dress.

On me – I don’t like dresses hitting at my natural waist, or high necklines.

Luckily I figured this out before I cut the bodice.

But since I figured out that I want to ditch the bodice – I’ve been mulling over what to replace it with, and haven’t quite managed to settle on something.

The Bodice – what do i think I want?

After mulling it over in my head for a couple weeks, and not settling on something, I turned to the magical visual search engine that is pinterest, and tried to come up with some criteria for what I wanted the new bodice to be. I pulled my inspiration together in a “Style | figuring out what dresses I’d actually wear” board.

And based on what I’m taking away from that board, my criteria are turning out to be…

: V neck or lower scoop neck
: flared skirt (check!)
: raise or lower the waist (aka doesn’t sit on my natural waist)
: sleeveless
: thin spaghetti straps or wide-verging on kimono sleeves

And here, I think, is my dilemma.

I can envision this dress with two, quite different, bodices.

The Two Bodices

I can see this dress with a dropped waist, a V neck, and kimono sleeves – built super simply with 4 rectangles (two for the front, two for the back), a center front seam, a center back seam, and two side seams.


I can see this dress with an empire waist, a scoop neck, and spaghetti straps – based on a super simple camisole.

So the question becomes, which direction do I want to go in?

cut skirt pieces

The Skirt

I cut the skirt based on the Anna Dress pattern, and sewed it together with 1/2 an inch seam allowance (rather than the 5/8th seam allowance called for in the pattern – which gave me a little more skirt to play around with).

So I know I have enough length and width in the skirt to raise the waistline.

I also know that I don’t have a whole lot of fabric left over to build the bodice out of.

The pattern for the Anna Dress calls for 3.8 yards (3.5 meters) of 60″ wide fabric, and I have 3 yards – so the original pattern would have been a pretty tight squeeze (which I knew going in).

On top of that, I added length to the skirt (just in case I wanted to raise the waistline), and so I’m left with even less fabric for the bodice than I would have had if I had actually cut the skirt as written in the pattern.

Back to the contemplating bodice

So I have two directions I could go in for the bodice.

I think I’d like (and wear) either direction.

I have limited quantities of this fabric to work with. And I definitely don’t want to use a different fabric for the bodice.

If fabric weren’t an issue…

If fabric weren’t an issue I think I’d go with the dropped waist, V neck, kimono sleeve version of this dress. Because I think it would add a nice bit of variety to my wardrobe – and I think this print is subdued enough that the maxi skirt plus full bodice wouldn’t be overwhelming.


Since fabric is an issue, and I do have another bodice option that I like, that I will go with my second bodice option – the empire waist, scoop neck & spaghetti straps.

At least that’s what I’m currently thinking.

sewing machine

And of course the lining…

In addition to mulling over the bodice, I’ve also been mulling over what I want to do for the lining.

I’m leaning towards a lighter blue cotton (definitely not a white), but haven’t run into the perfect thing – so I think it’s time to go hunting for it.

Now that I know what I want to do for the bodice. And I also know that I need to go hunting for the lining, I can keep trundling forward with this project. (And also with my whole summer wardrobe infusion plan).


A well traveled sweater – measuring time and space in knitting

Well Travled Sweater Body Finished

Part of what I’ve always loved about making clothing is how the finished object can retain the memories of the places we were, or the things that were happening, or the people we were with, while we were making them.

The sweater I just finished, is a rather well traveled one.

Flying West

Though the sweater technically started in San Francisco, it really started with a decision I made in NYC – to not pack any travel knitting projects.

There have been times in my life when leaving the house without knitting was unheard of – let along getting ready to fly across the country without a project for the plane.

Now though, I only leave the house knitting in hand, if I’m going somewhere with the express intention of knitting. And at the time I was packing for this trip I was also a thoroughly burned out knitter. (I ended up mostly sleeping on the plane).

Well Traveled Sweater Swatch

But the actual physical sweater itself, started as a yarn buying mission in The Mission in San Francisco. I went to Imagiknits rather determined to walk out with a knitting project.

And so I did.

I ended up with two cones of Ito’s Shio yarn, needles, and some stitch markers.

I walked out of Imagiknit, and then promptly walked from the Mission, through the Castro, over some giant hill, and to a cafe on Haight St.

If you know San Francisco, you know that, that walk was a beautiful walk, but certainly not a leisurely (or flat…) one. It was a rather profound instance of diving into something without any real clue about what you’re getting in to.


I swatched at the cafe, and then cast on a couple days later, while staying in Berkley.

knitting by a pool

Where I got to knit outside, by a pool, in January and marvel (yet again) at California’s weather.

I got through the short row shaping, plus a couple of the raglan increases in Berkely, before hopping on a train to Portland.


I spent about half of the train ride asleep, and the other half knitting away, while watching the sunrise, and the train wander it’s way through snowy mountains.

I got almost all the way through the raglan increases on the train ride. Arriving in Portland with only a couple increases left to do and no waste yarn for separating the sleeves (sad panda).

Luckily it seems you can’t walk a couple of blocks without hitting a yarn store in Portland, and the lovely people at Happy Knits were kind enough to give me some waste yarn.

So I separated the sleeves from the body, and began trundling my way through the decreases towards the waist. I got about halfway through them during my two weeks in Portland.

knitting on a train

The train ride back from Portland to Oakland was exhausting. I was incredibly thankful for my knitting (as well as my earbuds), and managed to get through almost all of the rest of the decreasing by the time we arrived back in Oakland.

knitting in the sun

I spent most of my last week and a half back in Berkeley & Oakland walking and wandering and thinking and knitting. I finished up the very last of my waist decreases (which always feel like they go on forever), and started knitting the waist itself.

Airplane Knitting

Unlike on the flight west, I had plenty of knitting to knit on my plane flight back east. I finished up the waist, and started knitting the increases for the hips.

(And yes, I am carrying fabric yardage as a humongous scarf. Because it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.)


I continued through the hip increases holed up at my families outside of Boston.

And finished the body a couple days after arriving back in New York City.

Then I started the first sleeve, and realized I needed to fix the neck first. So I went back to the neckline, fixed it, and came back to finish the first sleeve. (Somewhere in there came a long pause for lime green swatching).

And then I started & finished the second sleeve – before packing this sweater project again, and moving apartments.

Well Traveled Sweater Adding Length

At the new apartment, I picked out the bind off for the body, reattached the second cone of yarn, and added that last little bit of length.

Gauging exactly how much yarn to leave for a bind off is always tricky, especially if you want to work an intricate or particularly stretchy bind off, so binding off this sweater was a game of yarn chicken. (Which I won!)

winning yarn chicken

And I even managed to win yarn chicken with a little bit extra left over – so I’m planning on going back to the neckline of the sweater again. I want to pick out the bind off, rip back a row or two, and work an I-cord bind off.

An I-cord bind off is my preferred neckline finishing for top-down sweaters, but I didn’t do it on this sweater the first time I fixed the neckline because I was worried about running out of yarn from the beginning of this sweater.

However wearing the sweater as is – with just a standard decrease bind off – is making me realize just how much more I love the I-cord bind off for this application.

Well Traveled Sweater Finished

All told this is a…
4 state (California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York),
6 city (San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Portland, Boston, New York),
2 train, 1 plane, plus some cars, multi-apartment,
16.5 week sweater (Jan 27May 22ish).

I love how I can trace my trip along the body of my sweater – it’s sort of like a wearable scrapbook in disguise.