Christmas crafting

· knitting · sewing ·

Happy New Year to you all: Yes, I do know I’m two weeks late with that! The Christmas break was a bit of an odd one chez Bsag this year, as I ended up getting some kind of bug and feeling unwell for some of the time. I had planned to travel to see my parents after Christmas, but because of being ill, I didn’t go. However, before the bug struck, I did a fair bit of sewing (and finished some knitting). My body has changed proportions a bit recently, so I was in need of some new clothes. Before I started sewing, this would have been a cause for despair, and much procrastination in the face of the inevitably traumatic shopping trip. Now, it’s a fun opportunity to make something new, and I can repurpose the fabric, fastenings and so on on the old clothes. Hooray!

Both of the sewing projects were made from patterns by Closet Core Patterns (a long time favourite): Pietra pants and Fran pyjamas.

The Pietra pants pattern has been out for a while, and they are (justifiably) a favourite of lots of sewists. I don’t know why I haven’t bought the pattern before, as everyone is right: this is a fabulous pattern. As ever, the instructions and attention to detail for a clean finish by the Closet Core team is excellent. The trousers are high-waisted with a flat front and elastic in the back, so perfect post-Christmas! They look very sleek, but are also extremely comfortable, and have the most enormous pockets I think I have come across in a pair of trousers, which still manage to look stylish on the outside.

As an aside, I read an article recently, which was part of a series from different contributors about ’the moment that changed me’. Rosie Talbot became so sick of not being able to buy women’s clothing with adequate pockets, that she started to make and wear historically accurate skirts with hidden pockets large enough to hold an iPad and a bottle of wine. The pockets on the Pietra aren’t hidden in the same way, but I’m pretty sure that I could easily get a bottle of wine in them. My iPhone has enough space to rattle around them.

Anyway, I pictured a pair in a nice herringbone wool fabric, that would be warm and also look smart enough for work, and ordered fabric online fitting that description. When it arrived (eventually, having sat in a puddle over our back gate for ten days, after the postie chucked it there and didn’t put a note through the door… but that’s another story), I realised that it was also glittery. There are very fine gold threads running through the fabric, which are not obvious until it catches the light, and then it glitters unmistakably. I nearly had second thoughts. Is glitter work-appropriate at an academic institution? I ran it by Mr. Bsag who said that a) the glitter is barely noticeable, and b) I should just get over it and make the trousers already. So I did, and having worn them a couple of times to work, no-one has yet demanded the return of my PhD certificate, so I think I am getting away with it.

A pair of grey woollen trousers with centre front leg seams and angled pockets on a hanger.

Pietra pants in glittery wool (which does not glitter on camera, seemingly)

It was a lovely experience to sew. There’s some refined details which are very satisfying, but nothing too taxing, except topstitching the elastic part of the waistband. You have to stretch the elastic while you sew it which was both physically taxing and nail-bitingly tense. I seemed to get some super-strong elastic, so it felt like one of those 1970s adverts for a springy chest expander, but with added jeopardy: I was fighting the sewing machine to keep the elastic stretched, but if I lost my grip, the fabric would catch and it would break the needle (which it did once). I had fabulously toned pecs by the end though, so that was something.

I love the resulting trousers. If you wear them with a shirt untucked at the back or a longer jumper, no-one can tell that you are wearing secret (glittery) pyjamas! Speaking of pyjamas, I also made a pair of proper pyjamas.

Grey and white checked pyjama set on a hanger

Fran Pyjamas

I have made a previous pyjama pattern by Closet Core a couple of times, but also liked the look of the recently released Fran pyjamas. These still have a classic look, but are deliberately designed with an easier, slouchier fit than their Carolyn pyjamas, and with softer, less formal details. One of the things about making pyjamas is that it always feels as if you need to buy metres of fabric, because you are making a top and bottom at the same time. You can therefore find yourself wincing a bit when you put a nice fabric in your online basket and rack up the metres required. However, I managed to find a really good quality 100% cotton silver grey gingham fabric, which was also a good price. I have an uneasy relationship with gingham. The traditional red gingham makes me think ’tablecloth’, and the navy blue makes me think of a Primary School summer uniform. The silver grey one looks quite classy though, and there are little jacquard woven hearts at the intersections of the checks.

Close up of the hem split of the Fran pyjama top, showing the hem facing and the small jacquard woven hearts in the checked pattern.

Hem facing detail on pyjamas

I loved making this, and adore the end result. The trousers are very straightforward and quick to make, but there are some lovely techniques on the pyjama top. I think I have mentioned the burrito technique before in the context of shirt making. I always find it fun, and the surprise when it turns out perfectly never gets old. The Fran PJs include a kind of inverted burrito technique that I had not come across before. Instead of sewing the yokes to the back, rolling up the shirt fronts and back as a burrito and sewing the shoulder seams, you sew the shoulder seams and facing edge first, then roll up and sew the yokes together. I had to read the instructions a few times, then watch the video where they run through it, making copious notes, as there are plenty of opportunities to layer the pieces in the wrong order, or with the wrong side out. However, it all went beautifully and created an extremely neat finish. I think it’s probably the first time I’ve ever managed to attach a collar entirely without lumps and bumps, slightly uneven spacing, or different lengths of collar points. It’s fabulous.

The entire ensemble is soft, warm, but not too warm, and extremely comfortable. I immediately ordered more of the same fabric to make a second pair, as I don’t want to sleep in anything else now.

My final bit of crafting was just the last stage of a pair of knitted fingerless mitts that I made from the leftover yarn from making a pair of socks (Hidden Gusset mitts). I have made quite a few socks now, as well as scarves and shawls, but I have never made anything glove shaped. In principle, it’s very like making socks for your hands. These worked out well I think, and I have been glad of them on cold morning commutes. They could be slightly tighter (probably because I was lazy and didn’t swatch to check my gauge), but I can adjust if I make another pair.

Knitted fingerless mittens in striped yarn.

Hidden gusset mitts: sisters, not twins!

These projects seem to have fired up my crafting muscles again, because not only am I going to make another pair of Fran PJs (and another pair of Pietras, inevitably), but I have started gauge swatching to knit an actual fitted garment: the Argyll::Argyle pullover. I’ve never made a whole jumper before, so I am nervous but excited. At the speed I knit, it might just be ready for next Christmas…