Thursday, August 28, 2014

another Grants Pass weekend: knitting and thrifting

Mary Poppins:  "That's a piecrust promise. Easily made and easily broken."

Well - my stash-busting, buy-nothing August got a bit derailed last weekend. I had a good run, but I went off the rails on our trip to Grants Pass last weekend.

My husband wanted to make our usual rounds to the thriftstores and I couldn't resist the sewing and knitting supplies.  I came away with some good stuff.  I also knit a sweater while we were there.

That's right - a whole sweater, from the super-bulky yarn I bought a few trips back, that I ended up having to wash once I unpacked it because it was a bit smoky.  It washed up well and I really like the variagated colors. 

I don't like the sweater much, through.  I wanted to make a slouchy, oversized sweater that would be more like a jacket.  I was thinking of a cross between a boyfriend sweater and a bomber jacket when I invented my pattern, but I ended up not liking the way that the sleeves felt (the cuffs are too scratchy to be right next to the skin. I also would have liked a little more length on the body, but this used every bit of yarn up.

I really liked the way the body felt, layered over a tee, though - it's super-warm wool.  I've decided to frog this sweater and make a vest instead.  I looked at Ravelry and my top three choices were Edda, Sarah Montie's Bulky Cable Vest,  & the Vesty Shrug.  I settled on Edda, though mine won't be as long because I don't have enough yarn... but it's top-down construction should let me make the most of the yarn I do have.

So yeah.  Frogging a sweater that only took three days to make is weirdly liberating.  It feels good to be free to remake it so I get something I will really want to wear.  Now onto the thrifting part of the weekend.

I almost titled my post "I did a bad bad thing."  - I broke my own rules about not shopping!  But hey - I made them, so I can also make new rules about how to redeem myself. And I decided that if I finish my denim Kelly, make a corduroy one, and actually make a tee shirt this weekend before the end of August, then all will be forgiven. A girl's gotta have some fabric for muslins, after all.

A little over 3 yards each of a heavy grey twill and a plum-colored cotton about the same weight as muslin.  These will be great for testing patterns and also as solid basics to layer over for fall.

Two yards of a vintage floral, a nice big piece of pale lemon lining with neat jaquard print, and a remnant of soft poly plaid.  I have been envisioning a sort of 1990s plaid babydoll homage for fall and collecting bits of various plaid for it all summer.. 

Another fall find was this bunch of corduroy - two pieces of navy, a piece of blue floral cord, and a larger piece of cadet blue cord, all a fine wale.  I'm thinking they will become a skirt of some sort.

And this pile is odds and ends - the top piece is a silky synthetic that reminds me of some 1950s housedresses I have owned in the past.  It's a little piece, but I was very attracted to it and it was only 50 cents.  Middle is a soft black poly with metallic gold stripes.  I think it would be a good muslin for the Bronte top pattern, which I promised I would buy myself in September if I actually make a plain tee in August.  I am so chicken with knit fabrics - I just need to do it!

I found this awesome home-made kit - all for sale for $2.00, a burgundy & grey heavy chambray in the right length to make the skirt from this pattern + two unopened sets of sewin needles inside.  All sealed in a little bag together. I am guessing that some 1970s seamstress set this aside as a complete project and never made it.  

Also found a skein of Cascade 220 in a versitle charcoal color for a dollar.  It wasn't bagged up so I got to smell it before buying - no stale smoke - hallelujah!

And lastly, just some bits and bobs - a couple grab-bag style button collections - one jar had a bunch of great neutrals in sets of 6-8 (yay!) and the other was kind of a bust for mutiples but had 4 matching blue ones I like and some random singles that are pretty.  Some knitting accessories, and another zipper for the collection.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lattice Knit Tee

Catching up on blogging my finished projects from last weekend - here's my Cap Sleeve Lattice Top, which I adapted for a chunkier weight of cotton yarn.

 The yarn is a mystery - my mom says I gave it to her when I moved to Asia in 2007, but I have no recollection of it at all - anyhow, she gave it back to me last month and since I'm on my no-shopping, stash-busting month... I decided it would be a good yarn to take camping to test out the Cap Sleeve tee pattern I've been wanting to make.

I have some yarn in mind for a more delicate fall version in the correct gauge, but shopping must wait. Also, if this yarn had gotten ruined while camping, eaten by a bear, dropped in the creek, victim of a terrible s'mores accident, etc...  I wouldn't have minded so much.  Happily is survived unscathed and turned into rather a nice garment.
 I originally thought it would be a slouchy tee to layer up in my morning yoga class as the weather gets cooler, but I like it for work wear too.  I wore it over this little black dress and decided to tie the belt of the dress over the sweater too, which dresses up the overall look of the tee. It's really cozy and I weirdly got more compliments on this simple tee than anything I've made this year.

People at my work really loved it - and they could tell (but in a good way) that I made it.  I think that is because it's chunky yarn.  I've sort of sworn off the chunky yarn, even if it is super-fast to knit - maybe for that exact reason, I don't really want to look like a home ec project all the time.  I'm not trying to hide it, but I also don't go out of the way to talk about sewing and knitting at work.

This is the first thing I've worn this year that anyone at work asked me if I made.  Still, I like this top and will make at least one more.
It was a fun project to create - I wish I had slowed down and taken a picture before stitching the side seams up.  It's a giant rectangle with a bind-off and cast back on boat-neck.  Fold it in half, seam it up each side up to the lattice design and: volia!  -- it's a cap sleeve tee!

I made the bottom edges wider and decreased to add some waist shaping to accommodate for my pear-derriere. I used size 11 needles, started with 85 stitches and decreased up to 73, every 6th stitch after I finished the ribbing.
The main body was a great socializing project - The ribbing was fast and then the stockinette was perfect for the campout. I knit stockinette in the dark around the fire, while chatting with people, I  set it down and picked it back up in a hurry... I also watched some Project Runway the following weekend while flying through the second stockinette part.  

The lattice was more of a reclusive concentration part of the project.  I actually ripped most of it out because I made a mistake and dropped one of the yarnovers while I was watching Circus on Amazon Prime. I was engrossed in the show, so I didn't notice it until a few rows later.  (It's a fun show!)

Unravelling something with this many yarnovers turned out to be harder than most frogging I've done, so I had to go back farther than I intended to get everything back on the needles safe and sound.  Even with that little glitch, I knit the whole thing in 10 days as just my chill out and relax project.  I highly recommend.  If you want to see more on the project and lots of other people's finished versions check out Ravelry

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kelly half-slip, take two.

Many thanks to Heather from for her comment that inspired me to take another try at the waistband of my half slip for the Kelly skirt pattern.

She suggested lingerie elastic to cut down on bulk and I thought this sounded like a great idea, but wasn't sure how to go about making a waistband like this, so I started doing some more research and I found a really helpful Craftsy tutorial on how to make a half slip.

It turns out I happened to have some lingerie elastic trim I bought at a thrift store in Grants Pass so I took a second try at it tonight and I am thrilled with the results! The gathers are tighter and much less bulky.

Here's a before and after comparison to show the difference. It also feels much nicer to wear.
Thanks so much to the Heather and to Craftsy for tips & inspiration to do something I have never done before and to improve the fit, quality, and comfort of a garment that I will get a lot of use from this fall and winter.  I know I would not have figured this out so neatly on my own!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kerobokan Kelly

Well, skirts and knits weekend turned into skirts and knitting weekend.  Still finishing up another Kelly and seaming a knitted tee.  My first finished item from the weekend's work is this Kelly in a Michael Miller ikat. 

I have been loving the ikat trend this summer.  Real Indonesian woven ikat reminds me of living in Bali, so I named this skirt after the little village that I lived in near Kuta and Seminyak - it was called Kerobokan.  I was googling to try to find some photos but the majority of results that came up on top were for the Kerobokan prison!  It's true, the jail was in the same town, but lest it seem that I spent my time in Bali in prison, let there be no confusion. My house was tucked away on little road with a few other homes, a pasture and some rice fields. 

This hotel was a few roads away from where I lived - my road looked a lot like this photo but I didn't have an expansive view like this from my house.

So there's Kerobokan for you.  And back to ikat - real ikat is not just a design printed onto fabric, it's actually dyed into the threads and woven - it is so beautiful - it looks like a dreamy pixilated sort of watercolor impression of a design.  It's an incredibly delicate artform and quintessentially Indonesian. From very simple patterns made with natural indigo dyes to incredibly rich double ikat - it's beautiful fabric.

I love this Michael Miller print because it reminds me of the very simple indigo ikats and the variagated colors in the background give it a soft dimensionality that really looks like woven ikat from a distance. 

I really enjoyed wearing this skirt today.  The Kelly is such a great pattern - it feels flattering and comfortable.  It is also enjoyable to make - I love the pocket detail and the box pleats.  As with my wearable muslin for this pattern, I made the back piece gathered instead of pleated and I did the side seams as French seams.

I couldn't decide, at first, whether or not to attempt lining the skirt because I want to wear it into the autumn and winter with tights, but I decided that I would try to make a 1/2 slip instead that I could wear with multiple Kelly iterations.  I cut two back pieces, just a little shorter and a little narrower than the real Kelly and added an elastic casing. 

I generally like this idea, but I'm not thrilled with the waist.  Even though I used seam tape to keep the thickness of fabric to a minimum, is a little bunchier than I'd like.  It's also a little saggy.  I used some vintage elastic and I think I need a bit tougher modern elastic or else I may gather it and make a thin waistband to eliminate the elastic all together.  

Either way, I am excited about a Kelly-specific slip in the works because I have several other Kelly versions planned.  Next up is a denim one and then corduroy.  I have both plaid and black versions in my daydreams too.  If I'm industrious I might end up with 7 different versions by the time OWOP rolls around!

The fabric for this slip is a thrifted find.  It is a heavy, drapey lining fabric with a little jacquard pattern that is vaguely reminicent of leopard spots.  And the label from the thrift store is awesome too.

It really is "nice material!"  I have 3 yards of it and have been saving it for something special because I love the vibrant yellow color.  I like the idea of getting more use out of it as a slip than as a sewn-in lining. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

iron maiden - a sort of sad story.

Sewists - could you let me know your favorite iron or what iron(s) work for you?!

My lovely Rowenta iron has slowly been dying this last month at only 4 years old and I am suddenly confused about irons. I want to know your preferences, experiences, and thoughts before I invest in another fancy iron.

It started with a little leaking.  I thought it wasn't hot enough when I started or that I had over-filled it, but I realized that it was leaking out the bottom edge, not the steam holes.  First I just set it on a towel... but even with a towel under it, it was leaking a lot... enough to make a big ugly brown stain on my ironing board cover. Eww.

Then I decided to use it dry with a spray bottle so it wouldn't leak, but I accidentally pressed the burst of steam out of habit once and a huge brown stain like this came out onto the white bodice I was pressing.  I ran to the sink and frantically handwashed my project, pins and all before the stain set - tragedy averted! - but that was the last straw.  New iron and new ironing board cover must be procured.

I scoured Amazon reveiws and found that many people had the same trouble with Rowenta irons so I wasn't sure at all what to get - I thought I'd just go with a Black and Decker or something decent but cheaper & then I found a vintage Sunbeam deadstock iron for $18 that caught my eye. I like old things and old things often work better than new things... so I decided to give it a try.  It's pretty nice.

It's much smaller than the Rowenta, but quite heavy and it does have a steam burst and a variety of settings.  It gets a lot hotter and it doesn't have an auto-off, so I have to be very careful with this one not to burn my house down!

It's got lots and lots of steam vents, more over it's small surface than the Rowenta does.

It's from 1988 and it retailed for $34.95 back then, so I think it was pretty fancy at the time that it was produced, originally.

Still, I wanted to try to salvage my Rowenta and I found some instructions on how to fix the exact problem I was having... but on a different Rowenta model.  I bought some caulking and a hex screw driver to try to fix it... but ended up with a very sad state of affairs.
 I realized after I had taken it apart beyond my capacity to reassemble all the little electronic connections that the caulking the instructions mentioned was maybe that black horizontal line of stuff you see in the middle of this picture.  No idea how to get it apart to get in there though - and I managed to do this horrible thing to the rest of the iron.
I'm sort of sad about destroying the Rowenta even if it was already broken and leaving weid brown stains on everything it ironed plus leaking all it's water out the second you put it in. My husband says it is good that I tried... I guess that's true, but it still seems a waste.  For now I'm a vintage Sunbeam girl and have an iron like my grandma and a sewing machine like my mom.  I'm really, really curious to know what other sewists use - do you like your iron?  Did you spring for something fancy or do you go basic?  Please let me know - I'm not 100% satisfied with my current state of pressing affairs & I want to hear your experiences! Thank you for sharing!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

belated Cambie #3

Missed blogging last weekend because I was out in the woods for 4 days camping with nary so much as a single bar reception on my phone... quite refreshing, actually!

Just before I ventured off into the wilderness, I finished my number three Cambie.  I had it all cut out and practically finished two weekends ago, but I took my sweet time through the following week on the hand stitching and little details of finishing up.  It's been nicknamed "the bird dress" for  obvious reasons.  

It's two Michael Miller fabrics that I fell in love with and purchased impulsively.  I wasn't sure how they would meld into one dress until I made the first muslin of the Cambie.  Then it just clicked that the two fabrics would become a Cambie.
It was really enjoyable to know that I could trust my fit after two muslins and concentrate on playing with print.  I enjoyed choosing the placement of the bodice pieces, especially.

If I had it all to do again, from the back, I may have cut the center cages so that the the birds face each other - this was a realization that I had on the front straps & though they are gathered up, I like the way the birds look at each other from the straps.

I thought this dress would be a fun party dress that I might want to wear with stockings or tights in the fall and winter, so I decided to fully line it.

I used some lavender poly lining for the skirt and soft white cotton to line the bodice.  The lavender was 54" wide, so it added some fouf under the bird print skirt, which was only 45" wide. 

I'm quite happy with my fittting adjustments and will file away the Cambie for later use.  This weekend is my 'knits & skirts" weekend.  I want to make another Kelly skirt and a t-shirt (my first!) and go from there to begin getting ready for fall. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

More Cambie & some reflections on fitting.

Here's a better photo of the front of my Cambie #2.  This time around, I pleated the skirt in, instead of gathering. That was just for fun.  The main fitting change I made was to reduce the size of the sleeve.  For comparison, here's Cambie #1.

I do like the way the first Cambie falls over the shoulder like a cap sleeve, but it limited my arm mobility and I didn't like the gapes and puckers on the back.  I think my smaller sleeve/strap (steeve? slap? there is no good mash-up of those two words, is there?!) is a good compromise of design and functionality.

This muslin process has liberated me from some stress and negativity I've been feeling about fitting and about my body.

The liberation actually started with my OAL dress that I briefly mentioned turned out entirely different from the dress I thought it would be.

The bust darts in this dress gave me so much trouble that I actually ended up pinching them together into a faux princess seam.  With this princess seam shaping, I turned the dress around from something that made my bust look like a freak-of-nature into a very well-fitted bodice.  The technique is a little dodgy (mostly only on the inside)  because it was worked and re-worked, stitched and unpicked, so many times. Plus, I stopped caring part way through the process and used all sorts of bobbin thread colors that made the top-stitching grey looks like subtly different colors, though it was all the same on top... thus, I started calling the whole outfit "50 Shades of Grey", which started out as a sort of derogatory epithet, but gradually grew on me.  Much like the outfit itself.  Mostly because it actually fits me!

So fast-forward to the Cambie muslin experience.  After 50 Shades of Grey, I felt more confident that I could make a pattern work, even if I needed to change it a lot.

Here's another part of the liberation: it doesn't have to look just like the pattern illustration.  For some reason, aking an indie pattern, I felt a certain pressure to produce the design as it was designed.  Maybe it's because they cost more or because you can see the designers' blogs or all the other examples of how people have make the same design.

Indie patterns are no different than the patterns I hack up from the thrift store. I could make a sample of a pattern that looks just like the photo or drawing on the envelope and it could fit the abstract person from the size chart or look nice on a dress-form, but it wouldn't fit me -- thus, it wouldn't be a good dress, no matter how well it was made or how closely it matched the original design.

I also recently read Lladybird's post about Emery fitting process. My first Emery muslin left me really depressed about my body and that pattern.  While everyone else was swooning about how perfectly their muslins of this pattern looked, I thought I was alone in the fact that this pattern fit me like crap the first time around and didn't respond to simple fitting fixes that I usually use.  When I read about how Lauren made 6 muslins and then saw how she had the pattern perfected to use later, it was really inspiring.

We all have body challenges.  Rosin of Dolly Clackett fame often talks about her "derp back", which always makes me smile because I think her back looks lovely... but I know the feeling of having a derp body part... we all have something like this that is a fitting challenge.  RTW calls them problem areas... I think these derp areas are more like challenge areas for sewists... we get to really test ourselves and if we stick to it, we get perfectly-fitted bespoke clothing.  What a gift we can give ourselves!

So I am not going to shy away from my derp body... I'm short and my bust/waist/hips each measure a different standard size... but I can still make things that fit and flatter me.

Thanks to the sewing bloggers out there for inspiration to get me through my fitting depression!

Three-Cambie Weekend

My back-to-stash August started off with a bang - three Cambies in one weekend!

Cambie #1

I bought the Cambie pattern in May, with the intention of making my birthday dress with the aqua green Amy Butler Love Bliss Bouquet fabric... but the fabric was temporarily out-of-stock and by the time it arrived, I had a different pattern plan & Cambie languished, uncut.

All that changed this weekend.  I decided to make a muslin of the Cambie.  I cut a straight size 10 bodice because that most closely matched my measurements, but I also noticed the finished garment had 3" of ease, which seemed like a lot for the style, so I was braced for having to make adjustments.

3" of ease for this bodice didn't look very flattering on me, so I took in the side seams considerably. I also had a lot of trouble fitting the back of the sleeve and the back neckline.  I had a lot of extra fabric puckering all over the place, so I recut the shape of the arm scythe and the neckline (after my zipper was in, thus it pokes all the way up to the top, even though I originally installed it so there was enough space above it for a hook and eye closure.

I ended up improving the fit considerably, but there was still a lot of improvement. I felt determined, so I drew all of the changes that I made onto the pattern pieces and recut a second dress.  My first dress was made with a very crisp vintage cotton I thrifted.  The second fabric is also thrifted, a soft drapy rayon that I think is from the 1990s.

On the second make, I took quite a bit out fabric out of the sleeve on the front and the back.  The first dress looks okay in some of the photos, but the cap sleeve was too large for my small stature and felt constricting. The second dress keeps the idea, but makes it into more of a strap that a sleeve, which looks more flattering and feels more comfortable to me.

Cambie #2

I also went down two sizes in the shoulders, bust, and overall length and one in the waist to get a more fitted look than the first muslin.  On both muslins, I omitted the waistband because I am very short-waisted and the bodice on its own came to my natural waist (it was actually a little too long on the first one, even with no waistband.)

My husband snapped a few quick photos of the second dress, which I wore out this evening, but they were mostly quite blurry.  Maybe we'll get some good pictures from the front later, but these show a smoother fit on the back.

I cut a deeper neckline to avoid back gaping and cut the sleeve/arm scythe narrower to eliminate excess fabric.  The sleeve/straps are now much easier to move around in and don't have the same bagginess in the armpit area on the back.

With 2 muslins complete, I was confident enough to move away from thrifted odds and ends to more special fabric. I cut out a third Cambie from Michael Miller prints and it's almost finished. Stay tuned for more photos when it's complete.  I think its still in a semi-muslin phase for fit, but the prints will be a lot of fun to wear. 

For now, I will conclude with a parting shot of my fun contrast-fabric pockets in both muslins.