The Handcrafted Wardrobe: BurdaStyle Book Review

Since the start of this project I’ve been hitting up our interlibrary loan system looking for pattern books and inspiration.  This is a fabulously economical way of trying out new patterns.  Within almost any library system you should be able to find a wide assortment of both knitting and crochet books, as well as sewing books, complete with patterns that you can trace and use.

It was in this way that I was recently able to wade through a small stack of BurdaStyle books.

BurdaStyle Modern Sewing: Dresses for Every Occasion

BurdaStyle: Sewing Vintage Modern

Nothing in either of the first two caught my eye, which was somewhat surprising, considering the themes of each.   Of course I can only speak from the perspective of my own sense of style, which may vary wildly from yours.  And I haven’t actually sewn with any of the patterns, so I can’t speak to that at all.

BurdaStyle: Wardrobe Essentials

The third one, however, has a lot of potential. There are a couple of cute dresses that aren’t appropriate for me in this phase of life (read as not nursing friendly) as well as some nice basic skirts.  There are a number of simple, basic tops, with really nice detailing that I would happily sew and wear.  I’m making a note to come back to this one when I start in on my cold weather sewing!

These two are contenders for my autumnal/winter wardrobe….

With maybe a bit of length added to the one above.

I think that with the addition of a modesty panel, this one…

Would make a perfect nursing tunic.  It looks like it would be really comfy made out of a soft sweater knit.

How are things going with you?  Are you working on anything?  The “Summer is a Comin’ In challenge is next week and I confess, I haven’t prepared a thing!  We shall see what the coming week brings.

I have a new theme for your consideration for Monday, June 13th:Aprons” or any other sort of protective clothing that suits your lifestyle.  I’ve decided that if I’m going to take the time to make myself clothing that I love, I better find a way to keep it nice for as long as possible!

Remember the themes are entirely optional!  Please share whatever is inspiring you right now.  I hope you will join us!


spring stitching

Whenever I see a pretty vignette on other people’s blogs, I’m always like, “wait, where are the grabbing toddler hands?!?”

Hiding out in bed, finishing up hand sewing the last seam on a tie for Elijah’s birthday.

We’re chick sitting for a few days, while we continue to consider the possibility of starting our own flock.

After my post last week, I spontaneously cast on for a cowl, designing it as I went along.  Rhythmic comfort knitting: around and around and around… I thought I might use one ball for the cowl and the other for a coordinating hat, but once the first ball was used up, I picked up the second and around and around it went.  When that one was used up I picked up an entirely different yarn and continued on with that.  Before I knew it, I essentially had an entire shawl that slips of over the head, cowl-like.  Which wasn’t the plan at all, but there you have it.

It still needs some finishing work and blocking.  I share it once it’s entirely done.

Celebrating Mother’s Day with my mother.  The beautiful linocut card and goodies underneath were made by Kris.

We are already thinking ahead towards colder weather.  This winter’s wood has been delivered and this evening I cast on for a toasty wool sweater in the color of powdered cocoa.

I’m reading Living Language by Donna Simmons of Christopherus, hoping to incorporate it into our studies, if not this year than next.



The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Make it Work for You

This is what I’m thinking; real women, with real bodies and complicated lives, with all of the true to life sewing disasters and fashion faux pas, but also the possibility of developing a genuine, soul-satisfying sense of unique personal style that’s entirely one of a kind in a way that only hand-made can be.”

I said it, so now I have to live up to it.  Even when I don’t feel well and the sun won’t cooperate and I’m too tired to actually do anything with my hair and I’m not sure how I feel about the clothing I’m sharing or how it looks on me.  Because there is truth in all of that.  This is my real life, my friends, more days than not.

Because of some of my health problems, I have a really hard time wearing anything fitted around my waist, which is quite limiting and frustrating.  I pretty much live in leggings, hence my proclivity towards dresses and tunics.  But when doing outdoor work there are times when leggings just don’t cut it.  I’ve been trying to figure out a solution to this issue for a while now.  When I saw this chambray jumpsuit, I thought that just maybe something along those lines might be the answer?

In looking around I kept finding advice on pairing a style like this with a statement necklace and gladiator heels (am I getting any of these terms right?!?), and I’m all like, “You know, with a frumpy old cardigan and maybe a battered sun hat, that might just be the thing for hauling dirt…”

I really dread being perceived as trying to be trendy.  It’s a strange hang up.  I sometimes get upset when the styles I like become fashionable.

All the same, with hopes of comfortable and productive gardening, I found myself a chambray jumpsuit on deep clearance and took the plunge…

When I took it out of the box Steve looked at me with some concern and asked if I was buying maternity clothes.

After quite a bit of altering, this is what I ended up with:

I’m still not thrilled with the below the waist bagginess, but I didn’t want to risk restricting range of movement.

Before and After:

I think it likely would have been easier to make one from scratch, I literally rebuilt every part of it.  I’m not sure how I feel about it. The jury is still out (to be frank, I feel a bit silly).

Did anyone else do any experimenting with clothes last week?


cook, knit, plant, repeat

The woods are misty green.  There are violets everywhere.  Seraphina calls them “Violet Juliette ..(our last name)..”s (her name is Seraphina Violet Juliette).  Dandelions are “Gordie-Dandy lions”, a reference to our friends Gordie and Dandy.

We’re trying to blitz-plant the garden.  The black flies are suddenly terrible.  We come up with a plan, all run out the door and try to put it into action right quick, before the bugs make us so crazy that we are all driven back inside in a buzzing cloud.

Elijah’s vest is done, and with a week to spare! There were 155 ends to work in. He counted. It’s now blocking.

I’ve mostly been getting on with some mending. Which is a good thing, since I tend to neglect it and with 5 active children it’s often much needed. Sometimes I can be so foolish! I found an entire sweater who’s only flaw was snapped yarn on a single stitch! Somehow I never thought to just fix it. And in my head there was a terrible lot that needed fixing about it, which I suppose is what happens when you leave something at the bottom of a work basket for years. Because why else wouldn’t I have just fixed it? Oh no, surely it must be a big project. Oh well, at least I’ve discovered it in time for it to pass through 3 more children! Sometimes having a big family brings with it less obvious blessings….like second, third and fourth chances!

Otherwise my knitting is sort of stalled out. I started playing around with making up a stitch pattern. It’s interesting looking, but I don’t think it’s the type of fabric I want for the project I had in mind. Too stiff. I want something mindless, but not quite as mindless as my blanket. Something quick and satisfying.
I have this little bit of yarn here that I know is not enough to turn into a vest for Galen, but that I still want to turn into a vest for Galen, and therefore keep trying to convince myself that it is indeed possible. Even though it’s really not.  And he doesn’t even really need a vest.  It was just a whim of mine.

I’m still reading and enjoying Spark Joy.

Yesterday I woke up thinking of the great many things I wanted to do with the day, but I ended up spending most of it in the kitchen, cooking, very, very slowly.  Pictured above is the Urban Poser Tomato-less Marinara in progress and this Oxtail Stew, which turned out on the greasy side, but that may have been due to some of my modifications.


The Handcrafted Wardrobe

A Washi Dress in gorgeous blue linen, wrinkles and all!  It was not wrinkled in when I put it on, but you pick up a toddler once or twice and this is what you get.

I used the large bow from view A, and the sleeve from view B, both from the Washi Dress Expansion Pack, as well as adding in hidden nursing access, as per this tutorial.

The bow felt….risky.  I went back and forth on it many times before deciding to be adventurous.  I think that having an already worked out nursing variation tipped the scales for me.  What do you think?  Honestly, I really like it.  I don’t always tie it in a bow, sometimes I just tie it in a knot and let the ends hang down.

I had rather a lot of fabric left over and as it turns out, it’s a good thing I did, because I can’t tell you how many times while making this I was approached with the same remarks, “That be mama dress!  Makin’ Serassina dress soooon!”, stated with great certainty while emphatically nodding her head.  Since she left me very little room to refuse…

Hers started out as a very simple peasant dress, that didn’t even come close to fitting, as I well knew it wouldn’t.  Why do I persist in thinking that pattern designers know what will fit my kid better than I do?  Rather than start over from scratch, I chopped it up and inserted several big panels; flat felling the seams to make it a design feature and topped it off with a bow and a frill.  I’m glad the original didn’t fit.  It’s much more interesting this way!

Share your own wardrobe crafting thoughts below by clicking the blue button and adding your link!


May Day

I’m so pleased with everyone’s enthusiasm for The Handcrafted Wardrobe project!  I am ridiculously excited about it.

I have no brain for original blog post titles.  I’m worn out today.  It’s been raining constantly.  It’s kind of depressing.  And soggy.

By carrying Elijah’s sweater vest about with me through out the day and knitting a stitch here and there, I think I’m on track to finish on time for his birthday.  fingers crossed.  I’m starting to think about projects beyond.  There are three sweaters I want to make myself.  Alright, there are thousands of sweaters I want to make myself!  But, there are three that I want to make right now.  Which is not in line with my current no-yarn-money status.  I’m making an effort not to resent my doctor for taking my yarn money.  I know he’s just trying to help me.  But if he comes in to my next appointment with a fabulous new hand-knit sweater, we’re going to have words.

May Day was beautiful. Not the weather of course, though it didn’t rain too, too much.  I taught Mairi and Galen how to knit i-cords and they made us garlands like these to wear.  I didn’t bring my camera; which fell somewhere between consciously deciding and outright forgetting.  I wasn’t sure how much I would be up for; my strength waxes and wanes, so I brought a sleeping bag and spread it on the grass beside the maypole and tucked sweet Miss Seraphine up with me.  But when everyone grabbed a ribbon, she jumped up, declaring, “Serasina need to get bow!” and ran off to join in.  She held the tail end of Mairi’s and she danced the entire time.  In the very last 30 seconds or so, when everyone was rushing around trying to tie up the band standing under the maypole, as is our tradition, a friends scooped her up and ran the last lap around with her.   I have requested at least one photo of her epic dance from someone who did take pictures.  I would like a memento of that for posterity’s sake.

I’m currently reading Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.  Sad but true: I am a hopelessly disorganized and chronically messy person who reads cleaning and organizing books for pleasure.


The Idea

My pin cushion is a hot spot for pick up installation art.  If horses appear, I know Elijah has visited.  My sister specializes in stick people, houses and cats.  Apart from the occasional smiley face, everyone else goes in for mostly abstract works.

I had a little idea and as often happens to me, my little idea became a great big huge idea and I was wondering if you wanted to join me in pursuing it?

For one year I want to commit to working on creating a home-grown, functional wardrobe that I love, sharing the process here with all of you.  And here is the part of the plan that I think has the potential to be truly extraordinary: I want you to be a part of the process too.

This is what I’m thinking; real women, with real bodies and complicated lives, with all of the true to life sewing disasters and fashion faux pas, but also the possibility of developing a genuine, soul-satisfying sense of unique personal style that’s entirely one of a kind in a way that only hand-made can be.

I hate the terms “selfish sewing” or “selfish knitting”.  It’s not selfish to meet a basic human need for yourself and to do it in a thoughtful way that honors your individuality, it’s empowering!  I’m inspired and I want to see others get involved with that and help it grow.  I want to see if we can’t find a way to build a small community to encourage each other.

I’m not talking about trying to fit ourselves into the molds that fashion trends dictate or trying to find the right outfit to turn the head of your significant other/potential significant other, but of developing a sense of personal style that is in sync with your view of yourself.  I’m proposing cultivating self knowledge and turning it into self-care.  Figuring out who we really are, right now in our lives, because it’s always changing, isn’t it?  And honoring that person.

I’ve been joking with friends that I’m in the midst of some sort of crazy, inverted mid-life crisis. Instead of running out and doing something ridiculous to prove I’m still young, I’m just quietly sitting here, holding on to any scraps of maturity I’ve gained and trying to gather a bit of dignity and self respect about myself.  Apparently for me that means sewing dresses.  So be it.

In the beginning I’m going to try to post once a week and see how that feels.  Sometimes I’ll be posting a finished project, at other times I’ll share progress, ideas and inspiration.  I’m hoping to occasionally feature other voices in this space as well.

I’m going to try to set up a link up so that others can post their thoughts, ideas and progress on their own blogs, Flickr, Instagram or Facebook.  This is open to anyone.  My teenage sons are thinking of getting involved!  You can post just once or every single week.  You can post older projects, sketches, a thought or even just a color you like, the only requirement is that it in someway be related to crafting your way to your own unique sense of style.

Lastly, I thought it might be fun and inspiring for me to throw some themes/challenges out there.  They will be completely optional, but I think it could be interesting to see how many different ways one concept can be interpreted.  But again, this is only one possible idea to work with.  If I’m saying, “Let’s make coats!” but what really makes your heart sing is the idea of sewing your own hand-beaded two-piece swimsuit, then do that and come back and share it with us!  Maybe it will inspire others to do the same (spoiler alert: I will not be among them).

There are no rules on crafts utilized.  You want to weld yourself up a suit of armor?  More power to you.

Next Monday the 9th, I will be posting my first finished project.  I’m hoping to have the link up running by then.  I realize it’s unlikely that a lot of people will be contributing in the beginning and it may just be me talking for a while, but I’m truly hoping at some point others will start to join the conversation.

The first big theme is “Sumer is Icumen in”- you know that song?  Alright, alright, in plain English, if you insist!  That would be “Summer is A-Comin’ In“.  The season itself, your location and lifestyle might all be considerations for this project.  I plan on posting mine on Monday, May 30th and I hope some of you will join me!

And one more mini-challenge: “Make it Work for You“- take something you already own and alter it to better suit your body or your style and make it a more functional and joyful part of your wardrobe.  Hem a skirt, let a waistband out, embroider a collar, patch a sleeve…the object is to take an item that you already own and make into something you love (or at least like better!).  Let’s plan on trying to post those on May 16th.

Happy May my friends!

Love, Melody


spring sunshine and when bad things happen in threes

Oh, that littlest love of mine!  She would be outside 24 hours a day if she could!  As such, she seems to be forever sporting a muddy face and wild, wind swept hair.  And an imagination.  Such an imagination is developing in this tiny girl!  It’s amazing and endearing to watch as she mixes her mud muffins, adding a pinch of air to season her “greens” with and taking careful sips from an empty wooden cup and declaring her “tea”, “very ‘licious”.  Though sometimes that imagination of hers takes on a life of it’s own!  For example, several times a day I am very urgently called to save her from a bear.  No one knows where exactly this concept of a bear came from or why it has stuck, but it seems to be code for, “Mommy I’m out of my depth!  Pick me up now, quickly!”

The garden is coming along.  Sort of.  In fits and starts.

This post is something of a contradiction; pretty early spring scenes and difficult words that I’m stumbling over.  I’ve been quiet here lately.  Honestly, I’ve been quiet everywhere.

I have been struggling mightily.  While still actively treating the Lyme Disease that I contracted again last year, I’ve recently managed to acquire yet another tick borne illness.  This came just as I was finally starting to feel better and getting a sense of truly starting to reclaim my life. At the same time, there are others in our family with their own health struggles.  As the primary care-giver this means life can be very difficult, to say the least.   Complicated practical considerations aside, I’m daily called upon to model a sense of hope and optimism that I rarely feel.  It is both challenging and humbling and can quite frankly be downright depressing.  I am trying to rally, I really am.

I had been planning a project that I was really excited to share with all of you.  I was kind of hoping that you would be excited about it to, because I would like to do it together.  I’m determined to find a way to make it work still.  I need something inspiring to hold on to.


flowers and books and wool

I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird again, so that it will be fresh in my mind for discussing with the child I’m assigning it to.  That’s one of the nice things about homeschooling, you find yourself actually re-reading the classics instead of just thinking you should.  I am every bit as in love with Atticus Finch as I was twenty-odd years ago.  I’ve moved on to Sensible Physics Teaching (I know how you all envy my crazy, madcap life!).

What a difference a week can make, in terms of both weather and knitting alike!  I don’t want to jinx myself by saying it out loud, but in the back of my mind I’ve kind of been thinking that maybe, just maybe, there is a chance of finishing this vest in time for his birthday?  Of course all of those ends in need of working in must be taken into consideration.

He selected all of the colors.  All except for one are very close to the shades in the original.  He couldn’t find a yellow in the yarn we were using that suited, so went with a dark green instead. I’m not sure it has enough pop.  That star motif seems kind of murky to me.

In other knitterly news, I finally broke down and bought a set of interchangeable circular needles.  Remember Seraphina’s sweet little birthday romper?  The part I didn’t mention was that I managed to break 4 needles on that collar!  The first one was a valid break, just the strain of a great many stitches (almost 400 I think) on a well crafted teeny-tiny wooden needle.  The next three however were complete negligence on the needle manufacturer’s part.  For my birthday, Iain and Elijah plopped down what turned out to be a really cheaply made set of circular needles in front of me and declared that I was never allowed to complain about not having the right needle again!  This was a very sweet an thoughtful idea of course.  But when I couldn’t slide the stitches down the needle at all or the needle slipped right off the cord, dropping most of my stitches off the end, I quickly found other things to complain about!  Thankfully they were in bed at the time, so I was left twitching, muttering to myself, and wishing we kept hard liquor or some sort of sedative in the house, away from their scrutiny.

With a sigh I realized I needed to replace two of those broken needles for Elijah’s vest.  The more I thought about it the more all this buying a needle here and there, as needed, was getting ridiculous.  So with a friend’s encouragement and after assuring my family that chipping in for this would be an early Mother’s Day present that would make me deliriously happy, I took the plunge.  And can I just say, I LLLLLLOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVE them!  I mean so much.  I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.

After a whole lot of deliberation I went with the 4″, small tip set with regular points and I am very happy with them.  Also almost every size needle I ever knit with is all organized in this one tiny packet.  I’m still amazed by that.  It seems like nothing and yet it’s everything.  Brilliant.