I thought my pinafore days were over

My mom sewed a lot for me when I was a kid. She made me all sorts of lovely dresses and skirts, especially sundresses until I stopped wearing them in favor of pants around age 12. I don’t remember if she ever made me a pinafore as such, but I remember reading about them, and my sundresses certainly served the same purpose.

Recently as I was scrolling through Instagram I came across the Fleur Pinafore by Untitled Thoughts. I was entranced. But then I kept scrolling, because I don’t wear pinafores, and I haven’t since I was 12 at most. But then it kept popping up on my feed. And then I followed the hashtag. And then I found myself at the fabric store shopping for supplies to make myself a pinafore.

I bought this beautiful softly woven cotton fabric from Hobby Lobby. It’s somewhat more loosely woven than quilting cotton, which makes it drape nicely, and the colours and pattern remind me of my childhood in Arizona. I also bought some plain deep red cotton as an accent/lining fabric.

Now I am a very creative person. I’ve written knitting and tatting patterns, and I’ve drafted one or two very simple sewing patterns for myself. So when I looked at the Fleur Pinafore, I thought about how it’s pretty much just rectangles, and I decided to take my measurements and draft my own pattern. And doing that turned out pretty well, but I definitely feel that if I had bought and followed the pattern this would have taken me less time and my finished product would have turned out a little nicer. As it is, though, I’m pretty happy with what I made.

The first thing I did was to measure myself and my fabric and have a good think. I even made a little sketch! I wanted to be extra fancy with the front “bodice” block of the pinafore, so I cut and stitched this first.

Then I cut my lining fabric. I had originally planned to do my pockets, waistband, and lining all in the same wine red fabric, but it turned out that I didn’t buy quite enough. So my waistband and the front and back blocks were lined with an eggplant purple linen/rayon blend that was left over from another project. Before sewing the fashion fabric to the lining, I made up the straps so I could stitch these in with the seam. Once the front and back blocks were assembled, I turned them right side out, clipped the corners, ironed everything, and top-stitched around the edges. With this the bodice front and back were done.

The next piece I worked on was the waistband. I cut the waistband straight, as a rectangle, but with hindsight I wish I had cut it on a slight curve like a pants or skirt waistband. The red fabric originally meant for lining was cut as the outer waistband, and had interfacing fused on. Then the waistband outer and lining were centered over the bottom edge of the bodice blocks, and seamed.

The final piece to assemble was the skirt. I found that if I folded my remaining fabric in half it was the perfect length, so I cut it into 2 equal pieces along the fold line, and sewed 3 rows of basting stitches along the top of each skirt panel. Before gathering the skirt panels, I sewed them together, leaving a 5″ opening at the top of each seam. I inserted a placket into both openings, but instead of attaching both sides of the placket to the skirt, I attached one side of each placket to my pockets. The pockets had not been seamed yet, so I sewed the second half of each pocket to the second skirt panel, and then sewed the pockets together. This is hard to describe, and even harder to visualize, but it left me with a pocket and a skirt opening in the same place.

At this point I was running out of daylight, so I did a quick single-turn hem, and went to bed. The next morning I was wild to wear my new pinafore, so instead of waiting to sewing in closures I pinned it on and went about my day. This wasn’t part of the plan, but I am so glad I wore this around for a day before adding closures! It turns out that my sitting down waist measurement is about 2 inches larger than my standing up waist measurement, and I had not accounted for this in my pattern drafting. Wearing the pinafore pinned closed for a few hours helped me to figure out where the closures needed to be so I would end up with a garment I would actually enjoy wearing.

The last adjustment that needed to be made was to the hem. I cut the skirt as 2 equal rectangles, not taking into account the difference in waist-to-hem measurements in the front and back. The proper technique to fix this is to take out the waist seam and raise the waist to the right measurement, but I had already established that I was not taking the waist seam out. Instead, I cut the front panel to be an inch shorter in the front, angling to match the back panel at the side seams.

My pinafore is technically still not done. I still have a single-turn hem, and I need to do some finishing work on the pocket edges, but it is wearable, and I have loved wearing it this month!

P.S. This garment is massively cat approved! My black cat normally refuses to sit in laps, but the first day I wore this pinafore he volunteered to be a lap kitty. This dress is magic!

Me Made May: I made Shorts!

Hello, friends, and happy May 1!

I remember when I first heard of Me Made May, probably 6 years ago. I had a few me-made garments in my closet, but not nearly enough to wear everyday. The idea of wearing handmade every day – or even taking it a step further and wearing only handmade items – boggled my mind. So the first and second Mays I watched from the sidelines, marveling at all the things other people had made. The third May was the first year I participated. By this point I had made several tops and had quite a few knitted accessories. It made me sad that it was Me Made May, and not Me Made February. It’s a lot easier to wear knitted shawls and socks in the winter than in the late Spring. The second and third Mays were easier than the first as I continued to make things I needed instead of always buying.

This will be my 4th year participating in Me Made May, and this year I have a game-changer: Pants. I’ve wanted to make pants for quite a while now, but it seemed scary and I didn’t have a pattern, so I always put it off. What made me change my behaviour (and my mind) this year was the COVID-19 pandemic and the realization that it was Spring and I only had one pair of shorts. Just before the pandemic hit the US and everything shut down I went to the library and got a bunch of books. This wasn’t intentional, but it was fortuitous, since I now get to keep the books until the library opens up again. One of the books I got was Gertie Sews Vintage Casual. The book comes with quite a few patterns, ideas on how to mix and match them to create different garments, and a lot of general sewing and fitting advice. One of the patterns is for fitted cigarette pants made in a stretch fabric. I like fitted pants, so I took my measurements and cut a size 6 with an 8 waist. When I buy ready-to-wear pants I often have trouble with them fitting well in the bum, so I added some length to the back and sides of my pattern to make sure I would have enough coverage. Then I ordered some stretch denim from StyleMaker Fabrics and waited for the mail.

A few days later my fabrics had arrived. I washed and dried my first fabric, laid out the pattern pieces, and cut everything out. Then I machine-basted everything together according to the pattern, and did a self-fitting. The pants fit surprisingly well out of the envelope. I took the waist in (I probably could have cut a straight 6), made a small adjustment in the front seam, lowered the waistband, and raised the hem. I made sure to mark all my adjustments, then I took everything apart. Before I started these shorts I told myself that these were just a muslin, that it didn’t have to be a wearable garment, and that whether or not they fit I was going to take them apart and transfer my changes to my paper pattern. Doing this made me feel like an adult and a virtuous sewist. And I know that next time I use this pattern it will already be adjusted to my body and preferences.

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With my pattern updated, I sewed everything back together with a normal stitch length. Then I wrangled with the zipper: I put the zipper in 4 times, and I’m still not happy with it, but there comes a point where good enough is all you need. On the first try the zipper went in beautifully. But I had used a basting stitch length, and I was worried about the longevity of my zipper. So out it came. On the second try my stitch length was correct, but the thread tension on my machine was horrible. Ditto for the third try. I noticed on the second and third tries that the bobbin-side of the sewing looked much better than the needle-side, so for my fourth attempt I sewed from the inside of the garment (which made much more sense to me anyway). There are still a few weird loops of thread on the outside of the fabric, but it mostly looks ok. This was the only part of this sew that my machine had trouble with, and I think it just didn’t like sewing through 2+ layers of denim and the zipper tape.

Once the zipper had been wrangled into submission, I pinked the inside seams and sewed the hem. Then I did a final fitting for the waist height, sewed the waist facing in, and tacked it down at the zipper and seams. At this point I realized I should have sewn the facing in before the zipper, but oh well. My shorts were finished, and at that point, being finished was all I cared about.

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I have fabric to make another pair of shorts, which will bring me up to three pairs – a respectable number. After that, I’d love to get some fun stretch wovens or Ponte knits and make full-length pants. I can make pants, y’all! The sky is the limit!

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Finally Finished: The 4-year Red Tunic

In the spring of 2016 a friend gave me some fabric. She had gotten a few remnants at a garage sale and thought I might enjoy it – how sweet of her! This was a few months before my wedding, so most of my time, creative energy, and money was going into wedding planning. I assessed the fabric and decided that if I cut carefully I could make a sleeveless tunic, so I used a tunic I had drafted the previous year as a pattern, and got started.

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The fabric is canvassy, possibly a linen/poly blend, and it has decent drape. I was going for a high-low hem, decorative pleats to add fullness to the bust, and a diagonal front zipper as the main focal point.

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I cut my pieces out, sewed the fronts and back together with French seams, and stopped. At the time I didn’t have a dress form or the zipper, and I was daunted by the prospect of draping the front pleats on myself. The top was also rather blocky-looking – not the best look for my shape. So I stuffed everything into a bag, put the bag deep into my stash, and forgot about it for a while.

Over the years I have pulled this project out several times with intentions to finish it, and at some point I even bought a zipper. But it wasn’t till about a month ago that I finally sat down and got it done. I started by assessing the fit. 4 years later, boxy still wasn’t a good look for me, so I pinched a dart/seam into the back to make the top more fitted. I have a bit of a swayback, so back shaping is very important for me to have a decent fit. With that done, I finalized the neckline and put in the zipper. This was a scary moment, but it actually went quite well. Then it was on to the high-low hem, and then finishing the arm-holes with bias tape. After 4 years, my top was finally finished!

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I love the dramatic look of this top, but I’m not super happy with the fit through the waist. But hey, with all the last-minute fitting and the super uninformed cutting and construction at the beginning of the project, it’s not too shabby.

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Making My First Circle Skirt

A circle skirt is irresistible. I have always loved “twirly” skirts, but I never remember owning a circle skirt. I’ve been making more of my own clothes recently, which constantly leads me down pattern rabbit holes. When I found the Sense and Sensibility circle skirt tutorial I knew the time had finally come to make a circle skirt of my own. I bought 3 yards of a lovely plaid wool flannel on sale from Denver Fabrics and got started.

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The first part of any project is planning. I had a vision of wearing this deliciously warm skirt with a cream long-sleeved T-shirt, my bomber jacket, and my wedding boots. In addition to buying the fabric for the skirt, I also needed to by a cream long-sleeved shirt and some leggings for a bit of extra warmth.

That done, I focused on fabric care. Since my fabric was wool I wasn’t sure how friendly it would be to laundering. I wanted a skirt that was easy to care for, since that makes it more likely that I will wear and enjoy it more. I followed in Morgan Donner’s steps, and tested my laundering methods on several swatches.

Swatch number 1 was my control – it didn’t get laundered at all. Swatch 2 was handwashed with Eucalan wool wash. Swatch 3 was washed in the washer on my normal cool water setting. Swatch 4 was washed with swatch 3 and dried in the dryer on my normal low heat setting. Each swatch shrunk a little more than the last, but the difference between swatch 1 and swatch 4 was minimal, so held my breath and laundered my whole length of fabric. The fabric came out of the dryer fluffy and wonderful, not the ruined felted mass I secretly expected. That bit of suspense over, it was time to draft my pattern and cut everything out.

I used wrapping paper as my pattern paper. It’s pretty and whimsical on one side, and has a very helpful grid on the other.

Once I had my pattern drafted and cut out it was time to cut out my fabric. In Jennie’s tutorial she mentions that the width of your fabric will determine the length of your skirt. I wanted a mid-calf length skirt, rather than just below the knee as my fabric would have allowed me. Since I am the boss of my sewing I chose to piece the bottom of both the front and back of my skirt. I made sure to piece along the plaid lines as much as possible. This is an excellent way to disguise piecing, but it can be a bit tricky to sew just right.

Because of this decision I had barely enough fabric. Another departure I made from Jennie’s tutorial was to cut my fabric on the selvedge. I did this because I wanted openings on both sides of my skirt – one for the zipper, and the second for a large pocket. Using the selvedge meant that I had to sew both seams (Jennie recommends sewing the full seam anyway), but that I didn’t have to finish the seams since there is little chance of the fabric fraying.

On to the construction! I started by piecing my front and back panels. I wanted this to be very exact, so I basted before sewing the panels with a running back stitch. Once the panels were complete I cut out my pocket and sewed that in with the corresponding side seam.

Then I mustered my courage, pinned, pinned again, and sewed the invisible zipper in with a back stitch. If I can sew an invisible zipper in by hand, I can do anything!

At this point I put the skirt away for a few weeks while we went to Phoenix for Thanksgiving. I came home with a sewing machine, so finishing the 2nd side seam and attaching the waistband were a breeze. I used a whip-stitch to attach the inside of the waistband to the skirt because I didn’t want any visible top-stitching on the outside. Then I began the long process of hemming the skirt. I started by making sure my hem was even when worn, which actually means that if you measure the length of the skirt it’s longer in the back than in front. My fabric doesn’t fray much, so I turned the hem up once by about half an inch and whip-stitched it into place over the course of several evenings.

The last thing I did was sew a button hole and button on by hand. The skirt was now complete.

Now that I’ve worn the skirt there are a few changes I want to make.

  • The waistband seems a bit big. I need to figure out how to shorten it without causing gathers in the skirt at the waist. When I do this I may add some interfacing for additional stability.
  • I have not yet finished any of the interior seams. I plan to do this like the hem by simply whipping the seam allowances into place.
  • The pocket is gloriously large, but about an inch too low. I plan to take this out and raise it.
  • I may want to take another stab at leveling the skirt.

I love how warm this skirt is. It’s like wearing a blanket! And I love twirling in it. I will forever love twirling. I definitely see more circle skirts in my future.

2019 Year in Review

This is the time of year when so many of us take time to look back on what we did last year and plan ahead for the coming year. Here is what I made in 2019.

  • Knitting:
    • Finished Items: I finished 4 knitting projects in 2019, which is significantly lower than in past years. I’ve had a lot going on with work last year, which has cut into my crafting time. Also I’ve been doing a lot more non-knitting crafts and making a larger variety of items.
      • Cobbled Hat
      • Bounce Baby Blanket
      • Headset Hats for my work team
      • Secret Shawl (More details are coming later this year. Patience is a virtue.)
      • Various washcloths – this is an ongoing project as we wear through our existing stash of washcloths.

    • In Progress:
      • 3 shawls
      • 2 sweaters
      • A hat
      • Socks
      • Slippers

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  • Weaving:
    • Finished Items:
      • Hand towels – these were a log cabin colourwork pattern using worsted weight cotton, and I gave them to my mom before I got photos.
    • In Progress:
      • Handspun/mohair wrap

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  • Sewing:
    • Finished Items:
      • Checked Blouse
      • Sashiko Square
      • Plaid Circle Skirt (I have yet to blog about this, but rest assured, details and photos are coming.)
      • Regency era chemise
      • Small embroidery

    • In Progress:
      • English Paper Pieced Quilt
      • Burgundy Linen Dress – this is a mashup of a circle skirt, and a vest pattern that I adore.
      • Red Sleeveless Blouse – I started this before I got married. It’s time it was finished.
      • Converting a skirt to a tunic – I’m not sure if this project can be rescued, but I am determined to try!
      • Regency era short stays

  • Other Crafts:
    • Finished Items:
      • I have baked a lot of bread! My focus this year has been on sourdough.
      • My sister and I collaborated to make a Narnia-themed mobile for my nephew.

2019 has been a busy year! I can’t wait to see what 2020 holds!

Making a Tree Skirt (from Stash)

I love Christmas. It’s my favourite holiday of the year, and I get so excited about it. For me, the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving when we set up our tree. This year we put our tree up a little early, and my husband remarked that we needed a tree skirt, specifically a red one. I am always happy to show that my crafting skills are practical, so I told him I could make a tree skirt. Now I just happened to have about half a yard of red knit velvet left over from making my Renaissance Gown, as well as a similar amount of thick grey felt that has been in my stash for several years. I did some measuring and drawing and then cut my fabric.

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Since I was working with scraps (or “cabbage” as couture sewists call it) I did have to piece both the inner and outer layers, but this meant that I was able to use all but the smallest bits of my fabric. If I was making this again I would have paid more attention to the grainline of the velvet. You can see that the texture of the pieced section reflects light differently because the grain is perpendicular to the rest of the fabric instead of parallel. In the end it doesn’t matter much as the piecing hardly shows when the skirt is on the tree. (Please forgive the cat hair – my cat has decided that velvet is her new favourite texture.)

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I originally meant to sew everything on this tree skirt, but after a while I got tired of sewing, and I realized that the hem was massive and likely to shift, meaning that the more time I spent on the hem the more likely it was to become distorted. In the end I pulled out my trusty hot glue gun and glued the hem down – this way I was able to lay the whole skirt flat to minimize distortion while I worked on the hem. Normally I wouldn’t use hot glue on a fabric project, but this won’t ever be worn by a human and it will only be used for a month out of the year, so it’s not likely to have a lot of wear and tear.

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With the hem sorted, the last thing I needed to do was to attach closures. I had some “Merry Christmas” ribbon in my stash, so after sealing the ends of the ribbon I glued it onto the back of the skirt, and then tacked it on with needle and thread for good measure.

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With that sorted, I felt that my crafting was proven to be a life skill and I was ready to move on to my Christmas knitting.

P.S. Speaking of Christmas knitting, if you’re in the market for an awesome hat, I highly recommend the Drosseln hat. I may be a bit biased, but I think it’s a really fun knit, and you can get it for 25% off until Christmas with the code, “LoveMyLYS” Happy Knitting!

My First Renaissance Festival!

I have wanted to go to a Renaissance festival since I first heard about them as a teenager. Alas, growing up in Arizona I didn’t come across many. However, now that I’ve moved to the SouthEast, I have more options (also being an adult with a car and spending money helps). A few weeks ago my Sister-in-Law invited me to go to the Renaissance Festival with her. I had already been playing with the idea of making a Medieval dress for Halloween, so a few days after we finalized our plans I finally caved in and bought fabric.

The fabric I used was a deep red Polyester knit velvet – not what they used in the time, but comfortable and it looked good. I used the Alabama Chanin Long-sleeved T-shirt as a base pattern for the bodice and angled my skirt pieces out to the edge of my fabric. I used the remaining triangular pieces as gores to widen my skirt. Pinning took ages, and then I used a simple running stitch to sew all my seams. In a perfect world I would have also felled the seams, but I was sewing the dress completely by hand and running out of time. Miraculously I found a perfectly matching trim for the neck and sleeves. Even though the trim is woven and the dress is knit, the edges lay pretty well. The hem took me ages. I folded it under about 4 inches and just basted it down to the inside. Maybe someday I’ll go back and finish the hem properly, but the important thing is that the dress was done on time and I wasn’t tripping over it all day (although I did end up ticking the train into my belt so other people wouldn’t be tripping on me all day). The final piece was braiding a wire circlet and borrowing a leather belt to complete the look. My SiL and I had a fabulous time and I felt so pretty (and comfortable!) in my costume!

 

Me Made May: Year 2

I participated in Me Made May again this year. My making has slowed down considerably in the last 6 months, so my goal was the same as last year: wear 1 handmade garment or accessory every day. It’s interesting to see how many garments were the same as last year, but also how many were different.

Garments:

Of course I wore my grey Alabama Chanin dress. This dress has become one of my go-tos: I feel good in it and I always get compliments. I also get a lot of wear out of my orange tunic-dress. It’s super comfortable and easy to wear for a lazy day at home.

I have 4 handmade sleeveless tops now: 2 self-drafted, and 2 Wiksten Tanks.

I don’t wear vests a lot, but when I do, they need huge awesome collars. Some handmade lace for a back cutout doesn’t hurt, either.

It’s debatable whether socks are garments or accessories, but I figure since they enclose a part of your body and have to fit, they should be included as garments. I wore my Slytherin socks and my Watermelon socks throughout the month.

Having handmade undergarments has been a real boon for those days when everything else was dirty or didn’t seem to go well together.

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Accessories:

My office is really cold. As in, ‘wear socks and shoes (not sandals) and a shawl and a sweater and fingerless gloves’ cold. So I wore shawls a fair amount this month. My Granny shawl drapes perfectly and stays on effortlessly, and I also wore my wedding shawl and my most recent pattern release, the Balai Shawl (free pattern here).

Some days I didn’t feel like going all out, so I accessorized with my Kumihimo necklace or a ribbon rose hair clip. Simple, but effective.

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New:

I’ve been working on several projects this month, but most of them aren’t finished yet (oh the life of a crafter). I did manage to finally finish my wool crepe vest, and I love how it turned out! It’s big and comfortable and the fabric is oh so lovely.

Well That Took Long Enough: Finished Project

Early this year I made a goal to finish my small mountain of WIPs. I then promptly cast on a new project because Ooh Shiny! I’ve thought about this subject a lot over the last few months: my desire for a new exciting project every so often contrasted by my desire for finished things and the resulting space in my stash. I haven’t come to a conclusion or made any world-changing discoveries, but in between all the castings-on I have finished a few things.

I must have started my black wool vest in November. I originally bought a few yards of black wool crepe to a make a Henrietta Maria top, but when I got this vest pattern (Very Easy Vogue, V8926) it seemed like a better option for the thicker fabric.

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I wanted a hybrid of options A and C – sleeveless, but tunic length and with bias-bound edges instead of a collar facing. I cut out my fabric and pretty quickly finished the basic construction. Progress ground to a halt when I realized I needed to finish all my edges. I started whip-stitching, and quickly felt like the vest was sucking the life force out of me, so I put it in a shoe box, put the box into a cupboard, and started something new.

A few weeks ago I traveled to Arizona to see my family and be in my best friend’s wedding. My mom has a sewing machine and a serger, so I packed the never-ending vest in hopes of finishing it before it finished me. I am happy to report that I emerged the victor (this time). I serged the remaining unfinished edges and used the sewing machine to stitch on the binding and do some other finishing work. I do wish I had been more careful top-stitching the bias binding down, but at that point I was so ready to be done with the project that I didn’t care much. I just keep reminding myself that sometimes done is better than perfect (and I can always go back and do it again if it bothers me that much). At some point I may add a pocket since I have some extra fabric left over.

The vest is an odd mixture of hand- and machine-stitching, but it’s done and it fits and I love it. And can we just take a moment to admire the new yellow pants I’m rocking in this picture?

All the WIPs

I feel like a junkie. There are needles all over the place. My yarn storage is a mess. I have so many half-finished projects. But all I want is the next high, the next quick project, the next finished thing.

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I am a Project Knitter. I knit (and spin, and sew, and weave…) for the stuff. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the process of crafting. There have been so many times when I went to knitting as a balm for my soul, to soothe and ground me. But there have also been many times when I just wanted a project to be done. I want instant gratification. When a shiny new idea hits me, I want to cast on immediately. I find the yarn and the pattern, and for a while everything is good. But then the project doesn’t get done right away. Maybe I’m busy and don’t have a lot of time to knit. Maybe I decide to read a book. Maybe (gasp) I’m knitting something else. And without realizing it, I put the project down for a week or a month or a year. After a while, I have a small mountain of unfinished things. And they weigh on me, because somewhere in the back of my head I know I need to work on them. Something has to be done.

I am very bad at keeping New Year’s resolutions, but one of my goals this year will be to finish up these lurking projects. The nice thing is they’re already half finished. And think of all the needles I will free up! But all I want to do right now is cast on something new.

What do you do when you have a bad case of startitis?

P.S. The coupon code for my newest pattern is still running. Get the Ribless Hat on  Ravelry for 18% off until January 18 with the code HOORAY18