So you know I had this funny fabric from Ikea and the even funnier idea that I wanted to make something caftan-ish out of it for our Florida trip(s). (And for swanning about on my screened porch when it’s finished.) What I didn’t have was the time. It came down to the Tuesday and Wednesday nights before our Thursday crack-of-dawn departure. I knew Wednesday night would be a maelstrom of packing and other prep, and Tuesday was my once-a-month knit night at Craft South. In the past few years, I’ve been learning to sew “the right way,” the patient and meticulous way — tracing off a pattern (with whatever tweaks I might be making), sewing a muslin to make sure it was going to work before cutting into my real fabric, and so on. By the time that Monday rolled around and I hadn’t gotten to it over the weekend, I knew it was too late — there just weren’t enough hours for all of that. Especially since I didn’t even know what I was making! Then I got home from knit night that Tuesday night and I said to myself, “You’ve got two hours, a nice cold beer, and zero attachment to this fabric. How ’bout you just get out your scissors and see what happens.” If it didn’t work out: porch pillows.
So I did, and not only did it work out, I had more fun sewing this thing than I have ever had sewing. And yes, there’s a lesson in that.
As previously discussed, the fabric doesn’t have a lot of drape, so I had been thinking it would be best to do something with a little more structure than a straight caftan — more of a muumuu, with a shoulder slope modeled after my beloved Harper Tunic. So what I did that night was lay the fabric out on my cutting table, folded in half. Then I folded my Harper in half and laid in along the fold. And, eyeballing about a 1/2″ seam allowance, I cut roughly along the shoulder/sleeve line. Then I also eyeballed the curve of the back neck and a deep V for the front neck. I estimated that 60″ might make a nice muumuu-ish circumference (I’m about 38″ in the hips, my widest part) so I just cut the sides perfectly straight up and down at 15″ from the fold, and I think I cut it to about 52″ or 54″ long — something like that — which wound up being determined by the length of the fabric.
Because this had to be quick, I just folded the sleeve edge in twice and stitched it down, then sewed along the shoulder and side seams, stopping somewhere north of my knees, and pinked those seam allowances. At that point I could pull it on and see that it was kind of hilarious and wonderful, and I desperately hoped I’d have time the next night to finish the side slits and hem, as well as the neckline. Of course, I wound up staying up super late to do it the night before leaving, because by that point I couldn’t bear the idea of not having it.
Pattern: None (but you could get much the same result by making an oversized, ankle-length Fen top)
Fabric: Tillfalle from Ikea
Cost: no pattern + $15 fabric = $15
The next day we drove to Florida, slept, hopped out of bed, and spent three solid days (and two nights) on my brother-in-law’s boat in Bahamian waters, which are the most incredible, bright turquoise blue imaginable. You’re bouncing along on the dark blue Gulf Stream waters and suddenly, bam!, turquoise. I’m completely fascinated by the sea and sky — a scene that can change every five minutes — and love nothing more than being out there in the middle of the ocean, in my favorite knitting seat on earth (pictured above), with not another boat or human or building or land mass in sight as far as the eye can see. This time I participated in the fishing and stared at the changing bluescape for hours on end. Because it turns out linen is the exact wrong thing for deep-sea knitting. I’ve always taken wool on the boat before and never had any issues. There’s no such thing as humidity out there, and with the constant breeze and my penchant for sticking to the shade, it’s never been too warm to knit with wool. But I decided to take the Kestrel for my Flex tee on this particular boat trip, thinking maybe I could even start and finish it before our return. But what I never imagined was how the linen (plant fiber) would leach salt out of the air, making it literally impossible to slide along the needles. So instead of knitting, I mostly took a lot of photos that looked like this:
On the second day, we dropped anchor near a pretty little sand bar/reef to do some swimming and snorkling. I swam over to the tiny beach and immediately began lamenting to everyone that it was the absolute perfect spot for taking muumuu photos, except there was no way to get it or a camera out to the sand bar. CURSES! A short while later, as I was surveying the array of shells and sea fans with my niece, I glanced back toward the boat and saw my husband and sister swimming toward me. Bob was pulling himself through the water with one hand while holding a ziploc bag aloft with the other (“is that my muumuu?!?!”) and my sister also paddled along with one hand while holding her phone up out of the water. And that’s how those photos up top came to exist — because I have the best loved ones a girl could ever hope for.
So after all that talk of how much knitting I could get done on this trip, in the end what I came home with was a stockinette rectangle, a cooler of fish, and a bunch of great sky photos. Not bad at all.
PREVIOUSLY in FOs: black Anna Vest
love the muumuu / caftan!
Sounds like a wonderful vacation. Sometimes you just need to recharge.
what kind of fish are those! very interesting.
What a great idea for using a colorful piece of fabric. Looks like the length of it protected you from getting too much sun also. Vacations are soooo good to renews ones soul and spirit . . . enjoy!
Sounds like you had a great time. There’s nothing like the wide horizon to refresh the brain, and all this blue…Love the muumuu.
I think the muumuu looks like the perfect item for the beach! I hope you got refreshed and recharged!
Love the muumuu! Fabric you have no emotional attachment too is so liberating, even better when a risk works out!
Ah! I mostly knit my Flex with Kestrel on a Jamaican beach, but I was using metal needles instead of wood (I knit on metal needles for almost everything) and didn’t have that experience.
You had fun and that’s the most important part. You needed a break. Last night I watched Mr. Selfridge on PBS. A character like dies. But in the close ups< all I could notice was the sweater he was wearing. It had a shawl collar. You are the only person I could think of, who might do the same thing.
it looks great! I’m glad you got those photos, it looks like you had an awesome time!!
Oh Karen!! You can make a beautiful collage, gallery wall of your sea and sky photos!! All framed in the wonderful solid white Ikea frames. Would be stunning in your beautiful home.
Much like Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Seascapes” series!
This is my first time writing but have been a fan of your life-giving blog and work, which I experience as a gift, for a long while and realize I need to respond, I love this image of you in your muumu on a sandy beach in what looks to me like paradise! It reminds me of a gift from a Kenyan friend hanging in my closet that resembles your garment and how fantastic it feels on my body on a warm evening.
Oh my I love your approach to this Karen! Right up my seat of the pants alley! The results are wonderful, I’m inspired to use some of my horded fabric for this too.
You look great in colors…cute turquoise sweater or lovely kaftan.
You had yourself a real vacation! Lovely, lovely photos. The ocean always puts me in a state of utter relaxation – almost a meditation-like trace. Love how your muumuu turned out!
Love the seascapes and the muumuu. But mostly, I love the story of how your dear ones collaborated to get you your photos. Truly sweet and smile-inducing.
I also took a pile of knitting to the Bahamas and accomplished almost nothing! That mumu is fantastic, and will be perfect for swanning around your (almost done) porch with a drink and knitting.
OH PERFECT :)
Really good piece. You write about life in such a nice way.
WELL done! I love an outside-the-lines story like that!!
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Best blog post ever! :)
I will start to look at Ikea, on those rare occasions when I get anywhere near one, in a whole different way! The muumuu came out really well, and I love the print.
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