Sunday, March 26, 2017

More of that paisley (and miscellaneous projects)

Oh, did I say I was going to sew something from a stable woven? Honestly I don't know what I was thinking. I used the rest of the slippery knit to make another knit top. I finally got out the coverstitch machine to do the hems.

It's Jalie 2804 which I've owned for a while. I notice that I crossed it over the wrong way. It'll be our little secret.

I traced my size per the chart but then cut with about 1cm extra on all vertical edges because Jalie tends to fit skin tight, and I thought this thin knit would do better if allowed to drape. I basted before deciding, keeping only some of the extra width in the sleeves and side seams.

Given that I was suffering from fabric shortage, I am pretty happy that I was able to centre the print on the body and cut mirror-image sleeves!

Katharine commented on my last project that I should consider a sway back adjustment. I didn't do one on this project. Frankly I'm not sure how it can be truly successful if there is no seaming in the middle of the back and no darts. This top is closer fitting so the pooling is less obvious (and I may have pulled the back hem down for this photo).

I have cut out a skirt but it languishes while I do this and that.

"This" was altering a beautiful hand-knit sweater for a friend by ripping back the ruffled hems and re-casting off more conventionally. I decided on the "Icelandic bind off" because it is stretchy and looks pretty good with the twisted knit rib texture.

"That" was replacing the extremely ratty "faux fur" strip on the hood of my (RTW) down winter coat. I bought a winter coat ($5 at Value Village) with a fur-trimmed hood, and promptly donated the coat (sans hood) back to the store. It is definitely not the greatest fur, but about 1000 times nicer looking than the fake stuff. I am satisfied!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

From before and for later

I could have called yesterday's post "During". Here are the bookends.

In January (before broken wrist) I made another version of McCalls 7351 for my son's girlfriend. She had tried on my dress and loved it and I was so happy to make one for her. I had a few cotton print lengths in stash and offered them up. She chose a light and crisp cotton print.

What a busy print! Could benefit
from a solid dark belt...
So far so good but after I started thinking about how the fabric would translate into the dress, I had doubts. The original dress was made from beefy quilting cotton and the chosen cotton is definitely in blouse-weight category (think cotton lawn). If I had been making this for myself, I probably would have gone with a fuller skirt or switched to McCalls 6996. However I had a commission and I had to "make it work" as some TV sewing personality or other has apparently said.

Mulling it over I found a solution - when you need your fashion fabric to have a different hand, underline it for heaven's sake! I had lots and lots of this fabric. The upper portion of this dress is structured, as is the front band. My only concern was the skirt. So I cut it out twice.

Inside view of side & waist seams
I used the doubled skirt as an opportunity to do a completely clean finish at the waist seam. Order of construction was as follows:

  • Make bodice (yoke, collar etc) without sewing side seams. 
  • Sew right side (RS) skirt pieces to corresponding bodice pieces, RS together as usual.
  • Sew wrong side (WS, underlining) skirt pieces to corresponding bodice pieces, RS skirt to WS bodice. Sew along stitching line established at step 2.
  • Press skirt pieces down with waist seam allowances encased between the layers below the waist seam.
  • Trim lower edge of WS skirt pieces to hem fold line.
  • Baste corresponding skirt layers together (ensuring no rippling or unevenness), WS together, at side edges and CF. The WS skirt is shorter.
  • Then treat skirt pieces as a single unit when constructing front band and side seams.
  • Sew the hem as instructed in the pattern, but folding the RS skirt at hem line so it completely encases the WS skirt. 
Mission accomplished. The dress awaits warmer weather and I hope it will be a comfy but stylish summer dress for the recipient.

At Christmas, I started another hand knitting project but its completion will now have to wait until after the cast is off. So far at least, hand knitting is completely unworkable with an immobilized wrist.

Upper back and collar
Colour is pretty accurate
This is an incredibly complex top down cardigan made in a fingering weight yarn. The pattern is Woodfords by Elizabeth Doherty. It has tons of short rows, tons of broken rib, and you dare not stop concentrating for even a minute while knitting. I got mixed up in counting and suddenly had the wrong size worth of stitches on my needle after doing the decreasing below the sleeve openings. I'm not too worried as this sort of yarn can be blocked to shape. 

The pattern was designed for a yarn that seems to have qualities similar to Shetland yarn (not smooth or soft, woollen spun, lots of loft). I had a sweater quantity of yarn that I thought would work (vintage stuff in an amazing colour that is predominantly turquoise but has vivid purple aspects) and set to it. 

Aaaand I got down to about an inch into the "skirt" part of the pattern before abruptly having to stop. Now my timing is off for this to be finished in time to wear in late winter/early spring 2017. 

Stay tuned - I am pretty sure that knitting will be excellent physiotherapy once this blasted cast is gone. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

An excuse

So I broke my wrist. Unless you have done this yourself, you likely are not completely aware of how very useful your wrists are. I wasn't either. Luckily it's my left wrist and I am right handed. However, that left hand? It's also extremely useful. It is a very good helper to that dominant hand. 

All those things I like to do: sewing, knitting, skiing, curling, swimming? All off the agenda for 6 weeks. My timing? Impeccably bad: the first day of my annual 5 weeks of leave from my office job. During which I planned to do what, you might ask? Answer: sew, knit, ski, curl and swim. 


I BEGGED to go back to work, believe me. I will take my time off after I heal, thank you very much! (At least I can still think; and my typing while awkward is improving.)

So, I'm three weeks in. My wrist is definitely getting stronger. I thought, perhaps I could sew something. And I did. I made this top. It took me at least three times as long as it would if I had two fully functional wrists, but I did it. 
#111, December 2005

This is a pattern from an ancient Burda World of Fashion magazine (December, 2005, #111) that I've been meaning to make for ... 11.5 years apparently. I finally got around to it. 

As Burda conceived this top, it was made from a woven (front cut on bias) and it had a waist band/tie affair. I made it from a knit (thin, drapey) and lengthened it to be a regular hemmed knit top. 

As is usual, I ignored Burda's actual instructions and improved the garment. I doubled the shoulder/sleeve pieces instead of making them as Burda instructs (fold edges and topstitch). I used some white power mesh for the second layer rather than self fabric since I wanted them to be firm and stable but didn't want any show through. I used a strip of self fabric (cut lengthwise from the selvedge) to create a firm edge at the back neck and under the arms (Burda called for bias strips here). 

And I extended the self facing at the cowl edge to make it deeper/more weighty and to allow for a clean finish at the junction with the front edge of the shoulder/sleeve piece. At left is a view of the front shoulder area (wrong side). 

I need a white evening glove
for my right arm...
The fabric is a miscellaneous knit print which wasn't really a very good choice for a sewer with only one fully functional wrist. Its slipperiness augmented the degree of difficulty. However I am satisfied. I managed to cut the garment with the pattern centred, both front and back. I remembered to think about what bits of the pattern would be hitting what bits of my anatomy. I managed the tricky bits to produce an acceptable (not perfect) outcome. I did it more or less one handed. And I have enough of this fabric left (which I really love) to make another top!

For my next trick, however, I plan to work with a stable woven. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

A cat and a hat

I could not resist that title, which came to me while I was out skiing today - in my new hat (proof at left).

These are both machine knitting projects made on my LK 150, a mid-gauge machine.

I made the cat (Ravelry link) for a friend, who sadly lost her black and white friend very suddenly in early December. I used a free hand knitting pattern found on Ravelry (The Window Cat). "Using" the pattern means figuring out the shaping and adapting it for my gauge.

I knitted the back first since it is plain black, to check the general shape and size. The front is identical shaping but with intarsia to match the colouration of the inspiration cat. The paws and tail were straight knitting on just a few stitches, and his base is essentially a rectangle. Yellow button eyes give him that baleful look cats so often have. I was very pleased that he came together so well.

My friend was able to find a real kitten to fill the hole left by Albert. He was not very curious about his knitted predecessor, but did consent to be photographed with him.

For quite a long time I've been thinking I should really use some of my (ahem) extensive yarn stash to knit myself a ski hat as the one I was using did not compliment my jacket at all. With the machine this very simple hat was (or should have been) a super fast project as it is just a rectangle (Ravelry link). I used the chart from this pattern, calculated size based on the circumference (21" more or less) and height (8" more or less) of my commercially knit hat, and started to knit. But I had to make it 3 times since I was doing the planning on the fly.

My first attempt, I used the hem and patterning dimensions from the pattern. Too much white. I decided to knit a narrower band of white and start the stranded pattern inside the doubled hem (which is knitted on every other needle).

My second attempt was going swimmingly until I managed to drop 75% of the stitches in a single pass. Oops. (This sort of thing happens fairly regularly in maching knitting.)

Third time was the charm.

I still finished by bedtime, having purchased the white yarn that afternoon.

The consensus among my skiing buddies is that I should make tassels and attach them to the corners (which want to turn down anyway). So it is still technically a WIP even though I have already worn it twice. It's lovely and warm and looks pretty good with my jacket.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

It was a Jalie weekend

Get it? (never mind)

I am becoming one of those sewers who cut things out and don't sew them right away.

I had more of that blue 10% polyester Speedo (R) fabric, just enough for one more suit. So while I was cutting out my pink Hawaiian sunset/sunrise suit (last February) I also squeezed the pieces for one more blue one out of my precious remaining inches. And then it sat. And sat. And sat.

So long that I almost had a heart attack half way through, thinking I had either forgotten to cut out the strap pieces or I had lost them, and I didn't have enough left and I would never again have a blue Jalie/Speedo suit that lasts for years instead of months. And then I found them, in the plastic bin with the tiny snippets that are all that's left of this wonder fabric.

So I finished the suit. My coverstitch machine and I got along famously.

This is the most flattering shot of it. I predict it will function as a "serious" swimsuit (twice per week, 1.25 hours per swim, year round) for three years, like its predecessor (the blue fabric wears like iron but the lining died). My pink one was amusing but ultimately it is a disappointment although I am still wearing it.

I had also cut out another Anne-Marie exercise top and matching full length tights weeks ago, and made them last weekend.

I briefly considered using the pink print as the main front (exploding floral crotch, anyone?) but reconsidered. Not only because I really didn't think I needed an exploding floral crotch, but because the fabric is lighter weight and not as stretchy as it should be for the main portion of tights. So I used (again) the black supplex fabric I bought back in 2010 from Susie Spandex in Montreal. I do not know what I will do when I run out of that either...

My trainer (a guy) doesn't notice. But cute workout clothes seem important nevertheless.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Serious machine knitting progress

I was sewing through the summer but as the days started to shorten and cool, my thoughts turned to lovely wool and knitting. Since my last post I finished a hand knitted pair of socks that I started while on holidays, three pairs of socks by machine, and today I finished a cardigan. Phew!

Knitting socks by machine is a super easy thing to do and serves as a tune up or reminder of how my Passap feels and functions. The pattern from the machine manual works pretty well, and I can turn out a pair in a day (if all goes well). I have lots of sock yarn in sock quantities, so...

First tune up pair. These were made with Paton's Kroy yarn, easily available everywhere. The main challenge was matching the striping.

Yay me!

Pair number two (at right) were made for my 90-something mother in law. Her feet are bigger around and longer than mine. so on me these are looooose. I hope they fit her! I was super happy to have matched the striping in this yarn too! Yarn is a mystery sock yarn - a part ball found by my husband in a thrift shop.

Pair number 3 is another pair for my M-I-L. I used Paton's Kroy yarn again, but for some reason the yarn in these balls was thicker. One was a part ball (thrifted again) and I did not have enough to make full height socks. To get this pair, I had to knit three socks - the first one told me that I needed to make them shorter if I was going to get two!

It is easy and fast to rip out your knitting when you are using a machine. It's very liberating!

Yarn shortage prevented me from matching the striping - in fact one of these balls was wound in the opposite direction, as it turns out! So these are merely fraternal twins, unlike the identical pair that went in the same package.

So the main event (for which these socks were the tune up) is a cardigan that I just finished today. I used the same method I wrote about earlier, except this time instead of starting with a hand knitting pattern, I took measurements from a cardigan I knit by hand. I like the shape and style and thought I'd see if I could duplicate it. (Forgot that the armscyes were a bit too low, though...)

As usual with machine knitting, a swatch is absolutely critical. I used 4 ply 100% camel hair yarn from ColourMart (marinated in stash for 3 years). Based on my swatch and the garment measurements, I made up my charts.

And fussed over them quite a bit (as you can tell, with the blue and red markings). And then I knitted the pieces.

I feel most proud of the front button band. I wanted a 2cm wide band in full needle rib but with a little stockinette edge that would curl and be firm and smooth. I knitted the bands on 20 stitches with a 3-stitch stockinette edge. I had to make buttonholes and based on my samples I calculated the number of stitches between buttonhole rows and the total number of rows and I knitted (back and forth times approximately 550) and miracle of miracles, the band turned out Exactly Right!

It took me as long to mattress stitch these pieces together by hand as it did to knit them (I exaggerate just a bit) I am super happy with the result.

Without further ado:

Standing next to the Passap
Wondrous Machine
Back - ribbing is a touch too low

Saturday, September 10, 2016

End of summer project

With the shortening days my thoughts turn naturally to layers and wool and knitting and the need to make something to keep myself warm. So I'm putting away all the cotton pieces that I didn't get to this summer. They will have another chance next year.

But this weekend is still warm and I am happy that I finished another sleeveless top.

This project started life as a huge man's housecoat. Yes, I am serious! I only wish I had taken a photo but I didn't think of it until it was too late. Thrifted, it was only purchased because it was made of an extremely high quality 100% cotton sateen. The original label is Holt Renfrew. Someone paid a nice amount for that robe. But it wasn't me.

You would think I would have enough to make a garment at least as big. But that isn't how it works. Once I picked off the 4 pockets (all double topstitched with tiny stitches) and realized that it had two-piece sleeves I had enough to comfortably make this sleeveless shirt, including the cut-on front facings, a double yoke in back and bias strips to finish the arm openings.
Look Ma! No raw edges!

At right is a photo of the inside, which I am rather proud of. I even remembered to sew the fusible interfacing to the front facing at the outside edge before fusing. Such a nice finish!

My pattern choice is quirky.

I have a vintage pattern for a sleeveless shirt with a convertible collar, which I rejected. I've made it twice (second effort blogged here). I rejected it because I wanted a slightly less blousey and more modern fit. Specifically, it had too much fabric in the upper chest and shoulder area and was too nipped in at the waist.
Burda Magazine 2010-04-105

I had a blouse with just the fit I wanted in my closet, but the original pattern (line drawing at left) was totally wrong in all the details. It had a stand collar, ruffled front and no front opening for starters. And I wasn't sure how the yoke would work with a convertible collar style.

I had gotten rid of some of those details the first time I made it. (Strangely, that too was a refashioning project.)

This time I also added an overlap and cut-on front facing for a front button closure, extended the front to the top of the shoulder, reduced the back yoke accordingly, and added a convertible collar. I did not completely eliminate the back yoke (even though its existence made for a bit of a sewing puzzle moment when trying to clean finish the inside neckline) because it builds in some very nice back shaping.

The new collar was a bit of a leap in the dark that had me comparing the shoulder and neck shapes of my vintage Simplicity pattern with the modified Burda one (they were amazingly and completely different and my seeming inability to understand how that can be is a little bit terrifying) and puzzling over my pattern drafting books. I decided to just give up and wing it, cut a mock up out of scrap fabric and pinned it in, finding that it was exactly right. I guess I shouldn't overthink these things.

I really like the resulting shirt, which fits just the way I wanted. I wonder how I'll change the pattern the next time I want a sleeveless shirt...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Black shirt jacket

This shirt/jacket is about as hard to photograph as a black hole. I do hope it will be a useful garment in air conditioned offices and the like.

This is McCalls 7365. It was a bit of a slog. There are 88 steps in the instructions, only a few of which are inapplicable to View C which is the one I made.

I fell for the complex lines of this shirt, which are of course all revealed by the sheer white fabric McCalls chose for it. Mine on the other hand is embroidered black linen, very lightweight but still... linen. From deep stash of course.

I made size 10 but think it's a bit too big on me.

The pattern calls for French seams throughout, but unaccountably fails to mention finishing the armscye seam. I used the piece intended as binding for the sleeveless version to bind it. The end result is that the inside is as neat and finished as the outside which makes me strangely happy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

More wandering down memory lane

June, 1983
It has been a while since the last edition of "patterns from my past", hasn't it? (Even though my last project was effectively a dip into my sewing past.)

Anyway, recently it was my 33rd wedding anniversary. Naturally, I made my dress. No it was not white and poufy.

I just tried it on again.

The fit is forgiving.

This is Vogue 2473, a Vogue American Designer pattern by Albert Nipon.

Even by my current standards, I did a good job on this dress. It's made from lightweight silk with a little woven texture. I interfaced with self fabric, and made French seams. And all those pleats! They are pretty even. They are stitched down from the shoulder to hip level and then swing free. The dress buttons up the back.

There are vertical seams about where you would expect some princess shaping but the seam is completely straight. I am guessing this was so you could use really narrow fabric - there is a 35"/90cm layout. Today I would skip that seam if I didn't absolutely have to sew it but then, I did exactly what the pattern said.

There is a little elastic in casing at the waist, which still stretches, and the (foam) shoulder pads are as spongy as the day I put them in. Foam has gone downhill since the 80s (I'm guessing there are environmental reasons).

If I was making this today, I'd lower the front neck (tiniest V neck ever) and use about twice as many buttons in back, just for the statement. And I'd change the sleeves somehow, although the proportions are about right given the length of the dress.

But I won't. This is a special period piece in The Sewing Lawyer's history.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

This is my kind of maxi...

My maxi is pants.

In linen.

That was probably meant for a shirt.

I cut these sideways on my cross-grain striped fabric. Who needs horizontally striped pants?

Because the fabric is pretty light weight, I underlined the top part. I did this before with some white linen pants to prevent show-through.

I used some even more flimsy linen from stash to do the underlining. Then I used it to interface the waistband too.

As you can also see from this inside shot, I made a very deep hem. The pattern is super long because the pants have a cuff, but I decided to have a regular hem. Because the fabric is very light weight, I thought it would be good to have more of a hem, to add heft and up the swish factor.

I found some square vintage buttons for the waistband.

Style 1568. It's an oldie but a goodie, in my books.

I have enough to make a matching shirt, but it would look like a strange uniform.