this is a post i’ve been really excited to write, because i think it brings to light a lot of great aspects about blogging that many people fail to appreciate, so sorry in advance for the text heavy blog!  people blog for all different reasons, related of course to the themes of their blogs, and their personal fulfillment.  i myself keep a blog about our family for our far off friends relatives to read as well as to record our own history, one about cooking to share recipes and musings about food and feeding small children, and now one about crafting.  blogs are a space to think, share and create, and in our increasingly digital world, a place to cultivate community among friends you might never have the opportunity to meet in person, which is especially nice when you’re somewhat homebound and meeting warm bodies is a challenge.

this blog was born out of inspiration i shared among droves of craft bloggers during kids clothing week challenge (kcwc) at elsie marley.  not only did i have a LOT of fun frantically cutting, sewing, knitting, ripping, photographing, blogging, etc that week, but i had also never participated in such an extended community event.  for a whole week, hundreds of us cheered each other along, helped solve problems, navigate patterns, create new ideas and adventure into intimidating techniques.  separated by oceans, miles, years, even continents, we joined together in a common love for creating for our children.  it was really something special.  i know as well as anyone how isolating raising babies can be (hello, last 3 years).  so, it’s really exciting to have a forum in which to make new friends with so much in common, even if it can’t be face to face.  fortunately, the blogosphere is full of knit and sew alongs, if you know where to look.

i, like many others, have my favorite blogs that i visit several times a week.  whether about cooking, sewing, knitting, fabric, etc, the authors of them come to feel so familiar (another reason blogging is cool!) and have so much to share.  i have learned to sew almost entirely through the generosity and help of blogger-sewers.  anyway, several weeks ago, i saw this photo on rae’s blog (one of my go-tos):

are you kidding me?  i had to see who created this amazing masterpiece of an outfit.  of course, i clicked the link, and that is how i met venus, the genius behind the above ensemble.  a few clicks later, and i was hooked on suburbia soup.  i love the modern, playful style of the clothing she makes for her daughter lala (who is only 6 months younger than bean, how perfect for inspiration) and put many of her outfits on my to-make list.  navigating around her blog a little, it’s clear that she and her entire family are friendly, approachable, and fun.  even though they didn’t know it, they became my new blog world friends.

only a few days after i began following, venus posted this outfit on lala’s birthday:

and i was in love.  the model helps sell it for sure, but i loved, loved, loved the linen dress–the neutral color, the drop waist, the oh-so-subtle gathers at the neck and waist line.  i had to make it for bean.  i am not much one for commenting on blogs (shy?  fear of rejection? who knows.), especially those that many people comment on.  one of the things i love about venus’ blog, however, is that she ALWAYS responds to comments from readers.  i got the feeling she might respond to me, too.  so, i took a chance and sent her an email.  that crosses blog lines.  it makes the author a real person.  of course, i did not expect her to respond, so i continued staring at the picture and trying to figure out exactly how i might piece together something similar with my limited knowledge.

at a time in my life where the only emails i get from people i’ve never met are rejection letters for job applications (going strong at 100%), imagine my surprise and happiness when venus emailed me back, THE NEXT DAY, asking for bean’s measurements and offering to draft me a pattern with instructions and reassuring me she’d be there to coach me every step of the way.  blew me out of the water.  you all know how this dress turned out–last minute color change aside, it was a dream to sew (whole thing, start to finish, including cutting and making bias tape, was done in one naptime) and is my favorite thing i’ve sewn for bean.

i was so overwhelmed with her kindness, i of course had to offer some sort of service in return…she’s too far away to invite over for dinner and can sew circles around me, but is not much of a knitter.  aha!  how fortuitous, since i anticipate asking her many more sewing related questions :)  we decided a cowl would be in order, and she sent me this photo of what she had in mind, to be worked in grey.

i spent a fair amount of time examining it, and decided it might actually be crocheted.  go figure!  however, i was confident i could make a decent replica with a bulky yarn and textured stitch pattern.  i will go into the construction details in a later post, but for all the interesting techniques i’ve learned in knitting, after much thought, i honestly felt that to keep the piece truest to its model, it would best be worked flat and joined with buttons to keep the asymmetrical shape.  ha!  so easy and so simple, i feel a little embarrassed to give it as a gift.

but that got me thinking about blogging again.  i’m not sure exactly what directions this blog might take, but so far it’s basically been a record of my projects, and my trials and tribulations learning a new skill (sewing).  however, just as i love food and feeding people, knitting too has brought me much joy, so it seems reasonable then that this blog might be a place to help others appreciate this joy, the same way i have benefitted so much from the free guidance of other bloggers.

it always surprises me to hear sewers claiming they’re incapable of knitting, and i hear many, many people comment to me that they wish they knew how to knit, but it’s “too hard,” or they tried it a few times and made half a scarf and gave up.  well, what if you could take those very basic skills and make something affordable and attractive for yourself, or to give as a gift?  seeing as it is the season of giving, i can’t think of a better time to put your skills to use.  and so, allow me to introduce my first series on this blog:  cowl countdown to christmas!

it struck me today that we are exactly a month away (!) from the biggest gift exchange of the year.  i took my hard lessons from last year’s season of knitted gifts and turned my efforts to sewing this year (faster, less carpal tunnel syndrome), but i still like to have projects on the needles to keep my fingers busy while i tend to the little ones (i dislike few things more than idle hands).  so, i propose the following:  every week from now until christmas, i will post a free pattern/tutorial for a nice looking cowl that requires only the most basic knitting skills (we’re talking knit, purl, cast on, bind off) and only one ball of yarn (read, affordable…even for the nice stuff).  this will be fun for both of us, i promise.

so, yeah for new friends, community, gift giving and sharing ideas.  here here to women in particular supporting and encouraging each other rather than bringing each other down or showing each other up.  stay tuned for the first cowl in the series, the venus cowl!

5 Comments on simple dress and venus cowl: blog bartering!

  1. If only you could see my face right now… I don’t think I have smiled this big in a very long time! I am soooo happy you found me and took a chance and emailed me. I totally know how intimidating it can be to email or even just leave a comment on a blog and not hear anything back. Been there and it still happens! That’s why I made a promise to myself to never be that blogger. You have a talent sweet lady and I definitely think you should continue blogging. What you do is too beautiful to go untold.

    Oh.My.Goodness. Look at Bean! She looks fabulous and her sweater! I tell ya, I cannot knit to save my life! And the vest for your son… you’re killin’ me!

    Ashley, I honestly cannot thank you enough for finding me, for letting be of assistance and for YOUR generous gift. I do hope we keep in touch for I see you not just as a fellow blogger, but a friend as well. :)

    • see everyone? i told you she was great. i look forward to much future collaboration and friendship, both on and off the blogs! thanks, venus! shipping your cowl tomorrow 😉

  2. This dress is adorable. There has been a design floating in my head recently that I couldn’t place my finger on and this is it! Now if I were just awesome enough to be able to recreate it easily : )

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