these shorts don’t fit

pepperknit | city gym shorts

—but that doesn’t mean I’m not wearing them as I type this.

I learned a lot from making these shorts, not least of which is that my current body measurements are not in proportion to what a pattern writer assumes. The finished shorts are too tight across my hips and yet kind of loose at the waist; since when did I become pear-shaped? Anyway, I know how I could tweak these for the future, I suppose, and they fit well enough for wearing around the house—which was their original intent anyway.

The pattern is Purl Soho’s free City Gym Shorts, and I used a quilting cotton that I bought a few yards of a long time ago because I just love it. I still have enough to use as the backing for a baby-size quilt in the future. The binding and waist are in two different shades of blue Kona cotton, actually—both from fat quarters in my stash. I didn’t have the called-for 1-inch elastic, but I have a bunch of 1/2-inch elastic, so the waistband is a little weird (I didn’t change its depth to match the elastic), but whatever.

pepperknit | city gym shorts

I also learned how annoying making double-fold bias binding without the little device is. I made a lot of length of it, and folding the sides over and ironing it down was so tedious. Next trip for sewing supplies will involve one of those bias tape makers.

The pattern doesn’t match across the fronts or the backs, because I paid no heed to making sure that would happen (cut each piece on doubled fabric, so who knew what the lower layer looked like)? Somehow I didn’t think about how that would end up looking when I started cutting. I would pay attention to that in the future for sure.

It was interesting to follow the steps of making a pair of shorts like this—each seam is so simple and obvious, but I feel as though I would not have figured it out on my own without the pattern’s guidance. I like the style, and if these fit I’d be quite pleased to wear them out of the house. I could use some actual gym shorts for when I finally recommit to going. Maybe in time my measurements will start to match patterns more if I do!

pepperknit | city gym shorts

Union St Tee

I really ought to have just walked down to Union Street in Brooklyn to take these pictures; instead we’ll settle for a different street in Brooklyn just a few blocks away. (I’m guessing the pattern was not named for that street exactly, as I don’t think the designer lives here!)

pepperknit | union st tee

After truly YEARS of wanting to sew clothing but being terrified and unsure, Friday night I bit the bullet and cut into a knit fabric. I made the Union St Tee, and though it is a bit big on me, and it has its issues, I’m over the moon for it!

A few years ago I sewed a handful of things—a Tova top, which I wear from time to time despite how heavy the fabric is, a Washi Tunic that I wear once in a blue moon because I really don’t like how wingy the sleeves are, and a Washi Dress that I absolutely never wear because it is completely not my style. Then I wished I were sewing clothing but felt stumped on what to make. So many cute dresses abound online, but what do I wear on a daily basis? Tshirts with jeans. So I should sew those.

My mom and I found this fabric at Joann’s, and I figured a simple T shirt was the way to go. I wanted some ease, so I made the Large, and it’s definitely too long on me, but I can still alter that. The stripes on the fabric don’t align from sleeves to body because I just didn’t have enough fabric to make that happen—I barely eked out the sleeves as it is, and that they match each other was hard too. They also feel a bit too long to me, too, but no big deal.

I used my serger to sew all the seams with what I feel is great success. It really wasn’t nearly as tricky as it seemed before I did it. However, in a glaring misstep, I sewed the neckline to the WRONG SIDE the first time and then had pick out the serged seam—boy did that take forever. When I redid it, I ended up with two small puckers. How infuriating, after the first, incorrect attempt had had no errors at all! I decided I can live with the puckers, because I am not going through ripping it apart again. I don’t have a twin needle so I did a simple zigzag on my normal machine for the hems. Even with the time wasted fixing the neckline, it took me only about two hours to make.

The pattern was fantastic. Despite my limited experience with garment sewing, I’ve printed and taped my fair share of pdf patterns. This one has layers built into the pdf, so you can pick which size(s) to print! No navigating a mess of slightly different lines, or guessing a curve when it’s a solid eighth of an inch thick because so many sizes are overlapping. You could easily print out two sizes at once so that you can grade from one to the other where necessary. i don’t understand why other designers aren’t doing this. In the future, I would prioritize one of Hey June‘s patterns over another, for sure.

It’s exciting to think I can now start actually making clothing I’ll wear.

pepperknit | union st tee

put a bird on it!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group projectWhen we found out that one of our own was pregnant, the members of KBC started discussions of what kind of group gift to give. A quilt, sure, but not everyone sews. So we brainstormed an additional knit idea, and we eventually decided a mobile of knit birds would be cute and kind of funny—the parents, recently relocated to the East Coast after years in Portland, would be no strangers to the concept of putting a bird on it.

Finding a bird pattern led to much snickering when we settled on a free Blue Tit bird pattern from Lion Brand. Be warned: It is a finicky knit, and there was much swearing by all involved. The pattern is clear, it’s just a pain to knit. My bad; I am the one who found the pattern and decided it was the one! Ultimately one of us decided to knit the branches instead of wrestling the yarn into a bird (fine by me–finding random branches and ensuring they were bug-free was kind of stressing me out). Another took on the task of quilting and binding the group quilt (more on that separately), so in the end we had 7 unique birds!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile

Here’s my bird—knit using a random assortment of Cascade 220 from my stash. When I perched it on the branch I made it more “squished” than its natural state, so it got a little chubby. And maybe cuter than it originally was!

I set to perching them either in flight or on the branches so that they made a balanced mobile and oh boy was that a challenge. I used to make mobiles a lot in high school, so I thought it would be sooo easy. But hello, that was 20+ years ago, my skills were rusty, and most of those mobiles involved PAPER ORIGAMI. Not heavy, various-weighted knit birds! I did learn a fishing lure knot tying technique that I think is pretty sturdy and is good to use with filament thread (though I never really succeeded in making it look as taut and neat as in the video), and I feel really good about the finished mobile. I so badly wanted some birds to sit atop branches, but they were so heavy they’d flip right over; thinking to string the vertical supports through the birds was an inspired bit of genius, I thought!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group project

We finally gave the mobile to the family at Maryland Sheep & Wool yesterday. And cutiepie Hazel, knowing it was her flock of birds, set to claiming it immediately—nomming on one right away!

pepperknit | knit bird mobile -- group project

when everything goes right

The last sweater I knit, back in the fall, was less than a success. I didn’t like the final shape, and the fit wasn’t flattering. I still wanted my envisioned boxy, oversized winter sweater, though, and when Michele Wang’s Cordova came out I knew it would be just the thing.

Oh boy was I right.

pepperknit | brooklyn tweed cordova

I slightly exaggerated the oversize: I made the body longer by a few inches (3) and the sleeves, too. I picked the size that would give 4 inches of ease. The yarn, Imperial Yarn Erin, was a dream to work with: woolly but soft, in a perfect heathered gray. Plus how could I resist a yarn with my name! I debated between it and their Columbia 2-Ply, and Jeanne at Imperial described the differences as coming down to Erin being softer and Columbia 3-ply having more color options. Because I wanted gray, which was available in both yarns, Erin was the clear choice. Because I spit-spliced all the joins, I really had relatively few ends to weave in once it was all seamed up.

pepperknit | brooklyn tweed cordova

This was my first time blocking using blocking wires, and that was really satisfying, too–the wires were even probably too flexible for this sturdy sweater, but they worked great for getting the boxy shape set out.

I love so much about this sweater. This was the first time I knit a sweater with a saddle shoulder, and I love the way the big cable goes up all the way to the neck. The trinity stitch on the sides wasn’t the most fun, I’ll admit (k1, p1, k1 in a stitch, followed by p3togging it? slightly tedious), but the cable was easy and looks so impressive. In fact, on my subway right the day we took these photos, a woman came up to ask if I’d knit the sweater (I was knitting a sock at the time, so I suppose that was a tip-off). She told me the cables were just “stunning.” If only she knew how easy they are! 2×2 crossings only, and a mere 6-row repeat.

pepperknit | brooklyn tweed cordova

Of course, I finished it just as the weather started to turn to spring. Luckily we’ve had some pretty frigid days still, and wearing it without a coat is the perfect thing when the temp is in the 50s. And when I work from home, I get SO COLD—throwing this on was just the thing. I’ve already worn it three times in the week since I finished seaming it!


let me talk to you about my hot water bottle

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

Because I’m obsessed with it.

I didn’t know that it was something I needed in my life—I’d never had one before a few years ago—but truly I would not want to live without it. It was actually a gift, from Mohair South Africa, and it was in a lovely felted gray case with mohair in it. I put the water bottle aside and kind of forgot about it, to be honest. But then one month I had bad cramps and thought to fill it up with super-hot water, and I was immediately hooked. I probably use it every month of the year. It turns out mine is kind of on the small side, but I like it just fine. Someday I’ll upgrade to a big one like this.

It also comes in handy when I’m chilled and just can’t get warm, something that’s been happening a lot this winter. It’s fitting that I’m writing this on the first day of spring—when it snowed all day and we got a few inches of snow! I fill it up and put it in my lap, or at my feet, under a blanket, and within moments I’m toasty warm. When we went on the knitting retreat to Cape Cod for Presidents’ Day this year I brought it along because I was terrified that the summer-oriented rental house would be cold. I made the right call, and I tucked it, full of fresh boiling water, at my toes every night, like Laura Fricking Ingalls Wilder, only less potentially flammable.

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover

(Turns out you’re really not supposed to put boiling water in a hot water bottle, and you’re not supposed to fill it to full, so now I’m pretty much terrified that it’s going to combust at any minute. But I like it nice and plump and verrry hot!)

I decided it was time to knit it a special cover. Scraps of Malabrigo Worsted in fluorescent pink and yellow fit the bill. I used this pattern as my template, ultimately casting on 32 stitches on a side using Judy’s Magic Cast On and increasing to 36. (Confession: I cast on for this about three hundred times, fussing over the right number of stitches and then getting the math wrong several times once I’d decided on a course of action. It was something of a comedy of errors.) I wanted the colors to transition in a random ombre, which meant a little more fretting. Pam suggested I use an ombre stitch chart she’d worked up for one of her patterns (which I cannot find on her Ravelry page), and it is lovely but wasn’t as random as I wanted, so I used it as my jumping-off point… I’m so pleased with how it came out!

pepperknit | knit hot water bottle cover