Elinor Brown Knits

Knitting Designs by Elinor Brown

Category: sewing

Finished summer dresses

Now that I am officially free of the MCAT, the crafting bug has returned in force to ExerciseBeforeKnitting. I have many sewing projects to debut! This first dress is a bit delayed but you don’t mind, do you?

My first dress

Pattern: McCall’s 4768

Last March, I was feeling a little bored of toddler sewing and anxious for summer to begin so I decided to try my first adult-sized garment. Let us just say that the only nice thing about this dress is the fabric: the sewing is sloppy, the fit is off and the pattern was tedious. Nevertheless, I am still terribly proud of it and will wear it in spite of the flaws. This garment taught me how to select future patterns, the importance of combining sizes and how a great print can hide many errors.

I love this dress, even though it's too big in too many places and the stitching is sloppy - I'm really proud of it!

I learned that side darts stretching from the armholes to the hips on both sides look easier than cutting separate pieces for the top, middle and bottom, but that’s a dirty, rotten lie. Not only were long darts harder, they were painfully tedious. I’m quite certain most of the work of this dress is in the darts. Small darts on skirts or at the bust are fine but I am officially done with torso-length darts!

Not a bad first attempt

I also learned not to cut a larger size based on the rationale that it is easier to take in than cut anew. Just because I want a dress to fit does not mean I ought to allow an extra 5/8″ at every seam just in case. With regards to sizing, I tried to get away with only using one size for the top, middle and bottom of the dress; this was a fatal mistake. After careful measurement, I discovered I need four different sizes at various points. Not two, not even three, four. This made me reconsider what kind of dress to choose. If I wanted a fitted dress, a darted, one-piece dress probably was not the best choice. For the next dress, I selected a pattern with multiple pieces so I could customize each to fit. I started this dress earlier this summer and although I had little sewing time, I snuck a seam or two in here and there. I finished this the day after my exam.

New Look 6699

Pattern: New Look 6699

Fabric: Joel Dewberry Ginseng Collection, Spade Damask in Ivory

Since I used so many different sizes, I worried they would not join well together but I hardly noticed a problem. Modifying the pattern to fit was so easy to do and ultimately, more satisfying than cutting a larger size to (sort of) fit. But tell me, does it look like I’m wearing an evil version of the Nike swoosh? That’s what I see in this fabric, although I like the overall effect!


It took me a long time to get these straps right. I still might shorten the right strap a little, as it does not feel as snug as the other one.

Does it look like I'm wearing the Nike swoosh with creepy eyes? Maybe.

I was worried that the middle piece would look strange, since it is cut on the bias when the top and bottom pieces are not. I think the difference adds a bit to the garment overall, plus it makes for a more stretchy piece. My only regret is that the skirt is a smidge too big – I probably should have dropped down one size but having a little extra room never hurt anyone, right?

Midsection detail

This is a weird angle but I wonder if this is how I look to tall people? Specifically, to Aaron, since he is 13 inches taller than me!

This must be what I look like to Aaron

There may be more dresses to come but I think I will stick to faster, easier projects (like skirts) for now. But who knows? There may be time-consuming, harder projects (like quilts) waiting in the wings!

Tying up loose ends

Thanks for your sweet comments about my remaining five weeks of dread MCAT preparation. I’ll let you know how it goes! Until then, there will be little in the way of knitting, sadly.

We celebrated my grandfather’s 90th birthday in Cincinnati last weekend and rather than take the increasingly heavy aran sweater in progress, I decided to finally finish the Drunken Bee socks that Stella started for me so many months ago. No wonder we travel with socks – they’re so portable! I finished the second sock on the way there!

Finished Drunken Bees from SSLM
Pattern: Drunken Bees
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock in “Pondscum”
Needles: US 1.5 and 2
While this was a relatively clear pattern, I must say that I loathed knitting the honeycombs. I could not keep track of the twisted stitch rows. I think this is the most intricate pair of socks I’ve ever knit (by “intricate” I mean, of course, there was no ‘knit every other row’ business). Since socks are usually my mindless projects, it took me a while to devote the time to finishing these.

The beautiful pattern/yarn combination was what kept me going through all that honeycombing! I had never used STR before and now I understand the hype! It’s just marvelous to knit! We’ll see how it holds up to regular wear!

Next up is some baby sewing I’ve been promising for too long. This is one last version of the Butterick B4712 pattern. I say last because I hate working with this pattern. The layouts don’t work at all with one-way prints, the armholes are too shallow in every size and the interfacing does not fit inside the dress in any of the sizes. After the first few versions of this, I just traced out my own interfacing.

Cherry Sundress, Butterick 4712
Pattern: Butterick B4712

Overall, I’m pleased with the result but I most certainly would not recommend the pattern to anyone. Baby tank dress patterns are so easy to find – you should look for a better one than this!

Knitting and Sewing for Toddlers

Lately, knitting and blogging have taken a back seat to other stupid mindless time wasters hobbies like crossword puzzles, Scrabble and Boggle. Is it knitting-related to play Scrabulous and Scramble with other knit bloggers on Facebook? In any case, I have been terrible about checking in with all of you so I hope to get back on track this week.

In the meantime, I have been knitting and sewing a few projects for Beatrix, as I mentioned in my last post. I promise not to turn this into a baby clothing circus blog – that is, sock knitting will return next time – but the kid needs some sweaters and sun dresses make summer diapering and swimming so much easier that I can’t resist the temptation.

Pull, Tricotez Calin (No 470)

Pattern: No. 23 Pull in 24 mos. size, Phildar Tricotez Calin (No. 470) from Spring/Summer 2007

Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers in Blue Denim

Needles: US 7

This expression is Beatrix for “ICK! WOOL IN SPRINGTIME! TAKE IT OFF NOW!” She was particularly uncooperative so this is the only picture you get. I will probably try again next winter when it fits her (and also when it’s not so hot out). As with all Phildar baby patterns, this was super easy and the seaming took nearly as long as the knitting. I made the usual modification of picking up stitches for the neck and button bands instead of knitting them separately.

Last week, I made some progress on the little cardigan but I need to rip and re-knit one of the fronts so we are not on such great terms right now.

Classic Elite Cotton Bam Boo

The yarn in Classic Elite Cotton Bam Boo, which has great stitch definition but could probably pass for Knit Picks Shine Sport. While I like this yarn for a baby sweater, I cannot imagine knitting one for me with it – I would expect an adult sweater to lose its shape quite quickly.

Finally, have a peek at the toddler sewing projects! I am making several dresses for B, all from the same, very simple pattern (Butterick B4712). Here is the first one.



I am using extra wide, double-sided bias tape for the neck and armholes because my seaming is pretty ugly there. Fortunately, bias tape hides everything. Not until I uploaded this photo to Flickr did I see the near perfect stitching here. Please believe the rest of the garment looks like that! No? Would you believe most of it? OK, some of it and we’ll leave it at that.


Finally, this is the next one in the queue, all cut and pieced but missing a zipper and some top-stitching.


That’s it for this edition of the baby blog. Tune in next time for some finished Latvian socks!

My First Successful Sewing Experience, Part 3 of 3

Pattern: Reversible dress and diaper cover from McCall’s M2213

What I learned from this dress is that whenever possible, make dresses reversible!! Actually, I think I came to that conclusion when I made the red dress, which calls for interfacing, after making this, which is completely reversible. Interfacing is a pain.

This is a bit too big for B so she probably won’t get much use out of it until next summer. The picture below is my favorite.

One note about yesterday’s post… I didn’t mean to be down on designer fabric or yarn. After all, don’t forget that I bought it because I liked the print! I guess I prefer the control of the finished product that knitting affords. Designer fabrics can be quickly identified but, as Stacey so aptly commented, “Grey worsted wool – well, that could be one of 100 brands!”

I still have some sewing projects going on but the knitting will return to the blog soon. In fact, I’ve been holding out on you. I’ve been working on a sweater all week! I haven’t made any sweaters in ages (and they all pre-date the blog) because I was either pregnant or nursing and I didn’t want to invest so much time in something I wouldn’t wear for very long. I think it’s time to return to some sweater knitting! More details soon!

My First Successful Sewing Experience: Part 2 of 3

Pattern: Top and pants from Butterick B5017
Modifications: I omitted the rick rack trim and used a loop of ribbon for the buttonhole instead of the loop of embroidery thread.

Of all the things I’ve been working on, I am happiest about this set. I love the two fabrics together, even if it’s a bit loud. Frankly, I secretly wish that I could get away with wearing pants like these. It’s such a shame that adult clothes aren’t nearly this cute.

It was while I was working on this outfit that I realized why knitting is so much more appealing to me than sewing. I took the garment to the fabric store several times because it appears that I am incapable of buying fabric, interfacing and notions all at once. Twice, people came up to me and asked if the top was “a Kaffe Fassett”. Now, I grant you that I used a Butterick pattern and a Kaffe Fassett print fabric for the top, but what I really wanted to say in response was, “No, it’s an Elinor Brown. I made it.” Call it beginner’s pride.

I know there are some brand whores knitters out there who only have eyes for a particular brand of yarn and could likely identify a line of that brand in a knitted garment. However, I think that knitting allows for enough creativity to break out of the commercialized, brand-conscious world we live in. I suppose one could knit a sweater using the expensive yarn and exact colorway a pattern calls for but really, who does that? You don’t – I know because I read your blogs.

With yarn, you can change the texture and density of the knitted piece. With fabric, the print remains the same no matter what you do it it. I know, I know, you can alter the shape or the drape but what’s the first thing a viewer sees? The print. So no matter what the sewer does, it’s still a Kaffe Fassett garment. This is, in my opinion, why knitting wins out over sewing in the long run. What do you think?