Friday, December 31, 2021

Last Sweaters of 2021

How about a sweater recap? There's a couple of sweaters just finished and others finished during the year but not posted on this blog, just in my Ravelry projects. First is my newly knit Flaum, from a pattern by Justyna Lorkowska. It is a very good pattern, fairly simple but fashionable and comfy. Admittedly, it is a bit avant-garde due to its bubble shape, hi-low profile and tiny but functional pockets. The Fisherman's Rib stitch, which is an ever so slightly fluffier form of brioche stitch, combined with the lofty wool, makes for a smushy, squeezable fabric that is very satisfying to wear. The ochre color is on-trend, being almost brown, a bit camel and pretty bright. The yarn is Bennoto by Cloud9 Fibers. It is wool with a bit of alpaca and has a bouncy and fluffy softness, perfect for the fisherman rib stitch that is the central stitch pattern in Flaum. The yarn is still available at Webs--on sale!

Next finished was an idea that was been in my mind for years. I saw a sweater in a shop through the window (the shop was closed) and became obsessed with the look of it. It was reverse stockinette in a thick and thin cotton yarn, probably sport weight. A few months later I found some coned yarn that was a cotton/linen/rayon blend. I bought several cones of it because I had no idea of the yardage on the cone. Turns out that there are hundreds of yards, maybe even a thousand or more yards on each cone. Since then, I have used the yarn in three sweaters, but none resemble the one I saw in the shop. Once I became determined enough, I produced the replica I wanted in just three weeks during this past month. It is simple, it is quick, it requires no pattern. The yarn is probably discontinued, so it is good that I have thousands of yards of it left--I suppose.

I can end a fairly successful knitting year with those sweaters, since I worked my way through the year making a sweater every couple of months. The other sweaters that I knit are are in the collage below.

These are, from the top left, the Newsprint Top by Marianne Isager, a Graphic Elements by Tamy Gore, a Graerup Slipover by Camilla Vad, and from the bottom left, the Chevron Cardigan by Vanessa Ewing with a stitch pattern substituted for the chevrons from Tea Time, both in Vogue Knitting Magazine, a Karatachi by Kineko Uki, and above, on the middle row on the right, a Deep V-Neck Cardigan by Christy Kay Morse, and finally, nestled in the bottom right, two that I don't really like, the Hooded Pullover by Debra Newton and a vest I winged based on a photo of a designer vest. I wear the vest now and then, but the pullover is going to be frogged. Interestingly (for me), these last two sweaters are also both from Vogue Knitting Magazine. That's a surprising number of patterns from a source that offers patterns that have been above my knitting skills for years. For more info on the sweaters in the above collage, see my Ravelry progect page.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

About that Sweater...

It was nearly a year ago, but it seems much longer. I knit a new popular free design, one inspired by a photo of someone wearing a pair of mittens on a cold day. That is all I say about the person or the day. This blog is only about sewing or knitting or weaving. However, the sweater is still relatively new and deserves some attention. It is a really nice, albiet a bit strange, sweater, in that it is patterned after a pair of mittens.

The pattern by one of my favorite knitwear designers, Caitlyn Hunter, is Feel the Bern. I actually ordered yarn for it rather than trying to use something I had or something on sale, in my usual frugal manner. I even ordered more black yarn when I ran short, needing additional yarn when I modified the sleeves to full length. I also changed the bottom edging to just black to de-emphasize the original design's emphasis on the hips. I finished the sleeves with black from mid-forearm to the cuffs, but only because I had the additional black and did not know if I had enough of the other shades.

The yarn is Canapa, a wool/hemp blend by Lana Grossa. Other than it being superwash, it is a lovely and comfortable yarn. (I am not crazy about the stretchiness and chemical-ness of superwash.) The Ravelry project page has a few more details and the link to the pattern. In case you are not a Ravelry member, here is the link to the pattern. Although it is free, the designer asks that you donate to an organization that supports ending hunger. That I have done, repeatedly, and I hope you do too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

New Look 6572, Couture Sewing Version

My third version of this pattern is view B, with two pockets and square neckline. It calls for only one pocket but I think that looks odd so I used two pockets as in the other versions. This version is in Pladitudes brushed cotton gray and black herringbone cotton flannel from JoAnn. The fabric is not a print--the herringbone is woven in, making it a heavy fabric (9 oz/sq. yd). Reviewers complain that it pills after washing and drying and that it becomes scratchy. Washed and dried carefully, it shrank several inches lengthwise but remained soft(PLF201 166424236). Since this was on deep discount last Spring, the total cost was $5.99.

Following the method used by Susan Khalje in her Craftsy class on couture sewing, I am underlining the jumper with Kona cotton that I had bought as a remnant. (Kona Khaki, 1 yd. $2.70) It is not a good fabric for apparel on its own but should serve well as an underlining to prevent the herringbone from stretching too much and to help anchor the facings and seam allowances. Additionally, it is washable and will make this winter-wear jumper warmer. Otherwise, this fabric does not need underlining to add weight or provide a more comfortable feel. However, the facings in this pattern flip out so much that an underlining would help if the edges of the facings and seam allowances are sewn to it. Couture sewing!

Having made this pattern twice, I know that the armhole fit is still an issue. For this version, I cut the shoulders down to a size 10 and cut the armholes to a 12. This pattern has different facing pieces for each size, so the facings for the armholes are a size 12, and the front neck facing is a size 10.

I drafted a facing for the underside of the kick pleat at the hem. It was not "couture sewn"(i.e. hand stitched), just machine sewn in place since the stitching on the bottom portion of the pleat is hidden by the top section.

The neck facing went smoothly, thanks to the methods I learned from Susan Khalje. This pattern is not the best use of those methods, being a very casual jumper, but using them here allowed me to practice what I learned in Susan's classes on Craftsy.

Here is how to put it together:
First, stay stitch the neckline on the flannel and the Kona underlining. Second, machine baste the underlining to the flannel at the shoulder seams with a 1/2" seam and trim the underlining back to 1/4". Third, machine baste the flannel and underlining together at the neckline. Fourth, sew the shoulder seams. Fifth, hand stitch the seam allowances to the underlining with a "catch stitch". Khalje uses silk thread for this, but I used what I had on hand, hand quilting thread. Matching the thread to the flannel and using a single strand really made it less noticeable. That is the preparation of the jumper. For the facing, which is interfaced with fusible woven interfacing, all that is needed is to sew the shoulder seams, trim them, and edge finish with a zig zag stitch.

Once the facing is sewn on to the jumper and understitched, it is stitched down to the underlining by hand with the catch stitch, then topstitched 1/4" away from the neckline edge. That facing is not going to flip out or fray. It is totally secured.

The armhole facings are attached in the same manner. My choice of armhole facing size was not perfect, but reducing the seams in the facings from 5/8" to 3/8" made them fit. Then the seam allowances are checked to make sure they are all stitched to the underlining where there is underlining. After the underlining ends, the seam allowances are zig zag stitched to finish the raw edges and prevent fraying. There was not enough of the Kona cotton for a full underlining, but there is just a few inches between the end of the underlining and the hem that is not underlined.

The pockets are folded over and top stitched at the top and gathered at the corners to round them nicely. Button reinforcement patch made of doubled interfacing was added below the top stitching. Pocket flaps were rounded more at the corners and topstitched per pattern.

After sewing the pockets and pocket flaps to the dress, I would suggest a couple of modifications. First, the edges of the pocket that are turned under could be trimmed. The easiest way to do this would be to sew them down 1/4" in from the edge and trim them close to the stitching. That would eliminate the need to sew the second line of top stitching as well as securing the edges for sewing. While this step is not necessary, it would reduce the raw edges inside the pocket. Second, secure the pocket flap so that it does not flip up at the edges. The pattern suggests velcro. However, knitters avoid velcro. What if I wanted to carry a ball of yarn in the pocket, or stick my hand in the pocket while wearing hand-knitted gloves or mittens? That would result in the velcro catching on the yarn or knitting. It should be buttons, snaps, or even a zipper. In this case, buttonholes and maybe even snaps will be added to the flaps as soon as I get to my Janome machine. It makes better buttonholes than my Singer. (The old Singer can handle this heavy fabric well.)

This one is finished with a 2" blind hem, as was the linen version. All raw edges are now controlled and no raveling, fraying, or flipping will occur.

One final observation: the sewing took 4 days. That is extensive, especially for a dress with no darts, no waist, and no sleeves. However, it is a much better dress than the others that did not include an underlining and catch stitches. The control over the fabric that couture sewing offers makes the process and the end result much more satisfying.

For my other versions of this pattern, see this post.

Monday, October 4, 2021

#03 Deep V-neck Cardigan

The year is 2014. I bought a Vogue Knitting magazine in the Fall of the year and decided to knit a cardigan from it. I bought the yarn for the size small.
That's the cardigan in the magazine on the left, and the back as I was knitting it on the right in that photo. However, this photo was not taken in 2014, it was taken this summer. What happened in the last 7 years? Brooklyn Tweed, that's what happened. I started reading Jared Flood's blog back when he posted about knitting Elizabeth Zimmerman's Saddle Shouldered Aran Cardigan. I kept reading as he developed a pattern business, then a yarn company. I had knit a few of Jared's/Wool People designs, notably Galloway (Jared Flood) and Gehry (Ann McCauley)--twice for each of those. Then when Truss (Melissa Wehrle) came out in Volume Nine of Wool People in 2015, and the Deep V-Neck hadn't been knit yet, I repurposed the yarn and knit Truss.
That didn't take all of the yarn I had purchased for the Deep V-neck. With the leftovers, I knit a Rug sweater (Junko Okamoto) in 2018.
Of course, Rug required other yarn leftovers and additional yarn purchases. Then, on assessing these two sweaters last Winter, I saw that they were showing signs of wear, even though they weren't getting worn all that often. I looked at the Deep V-neck pattern again, and could not remember why I postponed knitting it. Thankfully, with knitting, once you re-think your choices, you can re-knit. I ripped out those two sweaters and knit the Deep V-neck.
Now I have a new sweater that is more on-trend with current fashions. The funny thing is that no one would ever think that this yarn had been used before. In case this hasn't been a long enough knitting discussion for you and you would like to continue wandering down old knitting pattern lane, follow the links below to the patterns and blog posts I have mentioned:

Brooklyn Tweed post on the Saddle Shouldered Aran

Volume 9 of Wool People, with Truss, Gehry, and other patterns

Galloway--this is a fun knit!

Friday, September 24, 2021

Rug, Handwoven, Churro

Last year, in the thick of the lockdowns, I bought a used 25" tapestry loom for 25 bucks. Now, this was not an impulse purchase, it was actually the fifth loom I had purchased. However, the others were all small frame looms, some with heddles, some not. Frame looms are just the thing for wall hangings--I had made several of those. I wanted a larger loom and thought the local yarn mill would have a few used looms. After all, they used to be a weaving center and had conducted classes at one time. Happily, they have about three rooms full of used looms. Unhappily, most are huge, as looms should be. That is why I jumped at the chance to buy this one, even though it was missing the dowels that hold the heddles and the warp dowel. No problem--I bought dowels at the hardware store. Then I bought wire covers at the auto parts store to wrap the round bars that cross the loom at top and bottom. These serve as spacers.
With cotton knitting yarn as warp and dk weight cvm wool yarn from the mill and handspun alpaca from a nearby farm as weft, I started a rug. As I wove, struggling with tension and technique, a small wildfire was growing to the south, actually in a canyon between me and the mill. Once the mayor asked anyone who could evacuate to do so, progress on this first rug was halted . I stored it in the closet and left it there until this summer.
When my family came for a visit, I pulled it out to show them how to weave. After they left, there it sat. Rather than being confronted with the sad looking thing, I finished the rug that was on it. It is more of a blanket weight than rug weight, but it covers a spot on my stone entry floor.

That is it on the bottom left, the dark brown and tan one. It sits next to my new one. All the others are rugs that I have purchased.  My goal is to replace this mismatched lineup with a couple of larger rugs or a runner.

Then, with the loom empty, it was time for a trip to the mill. What could be more appropriate than a rug woven with wool from Churro sheep, scoured, carded, spun and dyed at the local mill? As I picked out the yarn, I found a small group of warp yarns, wool from J. S. Clasgens, in one of the cubbyholes. They were all partial spools, probably left over from local weavers. It was not enough to warp their standard size looms, but it was more than enough for my small tapestry loom. I had been wanting to try Clasgens yarn, having read that it was ideal for Chimayo style rugs, but I hesitated to order a full spool from them. Finding this bit at the mill was a relief, relieving me of ordering, paying for shipping and waiting for delivery.

After using the Clasgens, I have turned against it, in spite of the strong recommendation. It sheds tremendously and is very sticky, making packing the weft down around it an arduous task. I have since bought some warp yarn milled by Jagger Yarns. It is smoother and is waxed.

Considering all the improvements to my second rug: wool warp, Churro weft, and a little experience; of course the weaving was quicker and the result better. It did not go smoothly, due to the sticky warp and a probably too close epi (I wanted 4 warp strings per inch, but ended up with 5.3 due to the spacers not stretching out as much as I hoped.), but I finished it in less than a month.

My technique improved as I wove. The end of this rug is tighter and smoother than the beginning. That is encouraging.

It is nearly 23" wide, a couple of inches wider than the first rug I wove, but due to my using a large piece of cardboard at the start, not realizing that it would take up weaving space, it is only 34" long.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

McCalls 8192, Wearable Toile in View A and Flannel in View B

My wearable toile for McCalls 8192 is a combination of view A and view C. It is a size 16 that is large for me most everywhere except the shoulders.  A second make could be taken in a little at the side seams between 1/2" to maybe 1" (meaning 2 to 4" smaller, a wide range). The open back has been eliminated, replaced with a drafted pattern piece to fill in the back.  The fabric is from JoAnn, a cotton print named Green Brown Leaves, Keepsake Calico Cotton fabric, 42" wide.  My initial purchase was a 3/4 yard remnant, (17912213  100% cotton, machine wash gentle cold, tumble dry low, warm iron).  It is quilting cotton, but once machine washed and dried, it looked like it would be good for apparel.  I ordered 2 yards more from JoAnn. (I should have ordered 3 at least, especially since the entire order was refunded because it arrived 3 weeks late.)  As a result, there was not enough fabric for sleeves, so this muslin was only good for the bodice shape.  The skirt was made before, as a drawstring dirndl skirt.  The notes on that project are at the end of this post.  

Once sewn up, I found that the change to the back requires cutting two neck bindings instead of just one, so that there is a piece for the front and the (non-existent in the pattern) back--that worked well.  However, the binding needs to be stretched more so that it will lay flatter.  The fit is roomy, especially in the front.  It does pull a little across the back.  It almost fits ok with a bra under, but a flattering fit would require several inches removed from the front.  At the same time, the armholes and the back should not be smaller.  The fit is just supposed to be roomy, as is apparent from the envelope photo.  It might be that the backless design would never fit tightly so they went with a body skimming fit.  Using a tutorial on adjusting princess seam bodices on the Seamwork Magazine website, the pattern was adjusted for a smaller bust.  Basically, the princess seam itself is shorter, meaning the length of the seam is reduced, changing the curve.  If that change does not resolve the fit issues, the bodice sides could be wider with the front reduced accordingly.

The skirt is fine, but even though I lengthened it by 1" from the shortest version it could be longer.  This is made worse by the bodice shortening.  However, the shorter bodice (1 1/2" shorter, or 3/4" folded up) is good.  If anything, the skirt could be narrower, but it is cute the way it is.  There was not enough fabric for 4 pocket pieces, so the front pocket pieces are from the cotton/hemp denim-type fabric from Fancy Tiger.  It is not a great contrast, but having them in the front, they are not normally visible and do not show through the main fabric because it is not sheer at all. The print is a little off on the wrong side in spots, but that imperfection does not seem to come through to the right side.  This fabric is soft to the touch.  

The non-fusible interfacing, all that is left, is in the armhole facings.  They are tacked down to the multiple seams, no topstitching, although that is an option.  All the seams are pinked to prevent fraying.  This fabric does not fray much, so pinking should be enough.
When I pinked it, I cut into the bodice by the princess seam in the front! However, since the bodice on this version was too large, I moved the seam over 1/4" to cover the cut, improving the fit while repairing my goof.  I really like this version, even though the fabric now reminds me of camo material.

The second version is cut from 3 1/4 yds. of cotton flannel in a gray flowered print. After washing, this measures only 40" wide and lost 1/4 yard in length, but it is very soft now. This fabric is also from JoAnn, on sale for $2.99/yd. so was only $7.48 (161640546). It is a difficult cut due to all the changes in the pattern and the shorter length of fabric. For future reference, the long sleeves took a yard of fabric, with some left around the cut for the binding. The skirt is cut 4" shorter than the longer length, since that is the longest that could be managed. The pockets are cut from the narrow pieces of Taos Texture quilting cotton leftover from the at-home dress. It is not a disappointment to cut the pockets from contrasting material because the smoother cotton will make the pockets a little easier to use than ones made with the fuzzy flannel. It is so fuzzy that things would stick to them.
This version is actually a second muslin that will be useful to perfect the fit of the princess seams in the bodice as well as the waist. Since I am stuck with cutting a size 16, the smallest size in this size block, the pattern pieces are large on me. With the revised pattern pieces and sewing the princess seams in front in by 1/4" below the notch, the fit is good.
I tried applying the bias binding to the neck on the wrong side and top stitching it down on the right side. That was a little simpler than the opposite way, but still rather difficult. This pattern calls for the binding to be sewn on with a 1/2" seam. The extra width made it hard to turn the binding under. Trimming the seam back 1/8" helped. However, the additional width does look good in this thicker fabric.
The sleeves were quite difficult, requiring hand stitching of the cuff binding. Then setting them into the bodice was more difficult, especially since the adjustment I made to the princess seams may have resulted in unevenness in the top join that is part of the armhole. Since the seam extended into the armhole rather than tapering out at the armhole, and the seam is to be pressed to the center, the princess seam allowance was caught up in the armhole seam. It took me at least three tries to get that bit straight, but once the allowances were clipped, they lie flat and to the center.
It was interesting that this pattern calls for trimming the entire armhole seam close to the second stitching. Other patterns call for just trimming between the lower notches, i.e. the underarm. Although the second stitching caught up a bit of excess fabric, it lies flat enough. (Need to be more careful on that second stitching, especially with bulky fabrics.)
However, in spite of all the trouble, the sleeves are delightful. They resemble the currently trendy full "balloon" sleeves in designer dresses, notably the more bohemian brands such as Reformation, Chloe, and Sea. At the same time, the narrow sleeve top eases smoothly into the armhole, making a nice contrast to the fullness at the cuff.

My first use of this pattern was with a 100% polyester fabric, a 1 yard, 58" wide remnant from JoAnn, bought on impulse for $3.84.  It combines the skirt from McCalls 8192 and the waistband from Butterick 6457.  There are pockets in the McCalls pattern that would attach to the waistband and the side seams, but there was not enough fabric for them, especially since there was a drawstring that took up a couple of inches of fabric.  There was a 4-inch section of fabric added to the waistband, making it over 40" overall in length, long enough to fit over my hips.  Two 34" lengths of elastic in the waistband bring the total waistband measurement to 33".  This and all the skirts from this pattern are really too big for me, but the fit in a full skirt is a preference, not a mandate.

The rolled hem foot made a nice neat hem, except for at the side seams.  In future, the cut hem needs to be very straight, and maybe a little longer at the side seams to allow for a little more fabric in the hem there.  It is not necessary to prep the skirt for hemming, other than to hand fold an inch or so and place it under the foot with the threads to the back.  Sew a couple of stitches, then hold the threads (and later the fabric) to the back and feed the edge in at the front.  Keep the back and front straight once feeding is established and do not let the fabric go over the concave portion of the foot.  This fabric, which is like iron, does not fray much initially and is quite thin.  It works well in the rolled hem foot.  It is an acceptable skirt, but I actually do not wear it much because skirts with waistbands ride up too much on me.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Jumpers! New Look 6572

My first attempt at this pattern was with some brownish black fabric, 85% rayon, 15% linen, from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I paid $12 per yard for 3 yards.  This fabric, Brussels Washer Linen by Robert Kaufman, is now $10 per yard.  It sews well, but left a lot of black fuzz in the dryer lint catcher.  The fabric is a bit fuzzy, but light with a little drape.  The finished jumper still leaves a little fuzz in the dryer, needs ironing and frays (more comments on the fraying later).  The teal skirt I just made is a viscose/linen blend that has a more expensive feel to it.  JoAnn Fabrics sells that in lots of colors, so I would buy that over this.

In the size 14 in the New Look pattern 6572, adding a fraction of an inch on each side along the hip, since the body measurement for 14 is 38",  this first version is big in the top and generous in the hips. However, laying the body pieces out side by side in this 52" fabric, only used 2 yards of it, with enough left for a skirt! The fusible interfacing, which, though featherweight, seems too stiff.  It may soften up after washing.  Note:  the inside is a disaster after washing.  The facings fray terribly even after zig zag stitching the edge and they flip forward even after under stitching and after sewing the facings to the shoulder and armhole seams.

The side patch pockets with flaps require more effort than in-seam pockets, but they do add a cargo pocket look to the dress. It is a plain jumper, so it needs a little something.  The pockets were placed a little higher than the pattern specs, about 13" below the armhole.  That puts them below the widest part of the hip but high enough to reach the bottom easily.  The pattern has the top of the pocket stitched on the sides and folded over, standard construction for a patch pocket.  Instead, it should be top stitched down--just turning it down is not enough to keep it straight.  The flaps work ok, though.

This first jumper is blind hemmed at maxi length, ending just above my ankle. It is quite warm and comfortable.  After washing, it has more drape and looks good.  I wish there was some way to hide the frayed edges of the facings.  A fully lined top would work, but maybe a serger would help.

Although the 14 top fits well, the armholes are a bit too big.  If the fabric is more than 45" wide, I could probably do it with 1 1/2 yards.  Side seam pockets would be nice, if fabric allows.  Possibilities are the flannel, the corduroy, the linens, the cottons. 

The second version of this pattern was made with 1 1/3 yards of 55" Tan Leaf Print linen, (179215869) purchased at the Santa Fe JoAnn for $11.  Again, it is a size 14 in the top and graded to between the 14 and 16 in the hips.  Cut at mid-length B, it is plenty long enough and allows for a back vent.  In cutting the armholes I followed the size 16 cutting lines to try to make them smaller but all that did was make the shoulders too wide.  It took the reducing the shoulder seams by 1/2" (1" total) and recutting the armholes to a size that looked good without a seam allowance and adding darts to the armhole to get close to fitting.

The seam allowance needed to be eliminated  because the neck and armholes were bound with bias binding cut from the Elizabeth Suzann black cotton poplin.  The poplin made a lousy skirt but is great for bias binding.  There was just enough fabric left to cut slightly smaller side pockets but not enough for flaps.  To compensate, the tops of the pockets were bound with the contrasting bias binding.  There was enough length for a 2".  This is a big success.

Since I made this, I have made a silk top that looks good with it and shows off the contrasting binding better. Yesterday, I wore the jumper without a shirt on a shopping trip to Taos and was happy when a shop clerk complimented it. I was especially pleased by her surprised reaction when I told her I made it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Simplicity 8910, Final Versions and Wearable Toile

Simplicity 8910 again, this time a size 16, larger than my first version of this pattern.  Fabric is apparently, again, quilting cotton, this time from Hobby Lobby.  The muslin for this dress, the black/white striped fabric from JoAnn, cost $17.  This, the green chevron fabric, is prettier and smoother to the touch.  There was 3 3/4 yards, only 43" wide, but still plenty. It must be cut with nap because the chevron print is directional.  Total cost $18.  The skirt was cut 2" longer than the pattern for view C and the v-neck was cut a little narrower--not as high and narrow as the first version but narrow enough to have normal width shoulders.  

After the problem I had with the pocket piece not fitting in the first version, that piece is missing now.  I had to draft a new piece that fits well.

The 16 worked well, except for the darts.  They are simply too long, so were shortened by 1" and brought in a little.  However, shorter darts means narrower darts.  The larger front waist that results from narrower darts required a few minor changes in the front pleats, keeping all except the two middle ones under 1" and adjusting the side seams in both the bodice and the skirt.  The back worked out fine.  Sleeves were sewn in with a slightly (1/4") smaller seam allowance in the shoulder, just to make sure the shoulders have enough ease. For full length sleeves, they should be lengthened by 3".  With the longer skirt, the hem was 2".  Length is good, just below knee. 

This one is overall nicer than most of the less costly items but I managed to cut three tiny holes in the skirt when I was trimming the seam allowance with the pinking rotary cutter.  There is a small patch behind the holes that hides it. Hopefully, the adhesive strip and fray check will make it last.

Before this dress there was a first draft. The fabric for the first version is a little too stiff, just a 100% cotton from JoAnn, 4001829099403, 2 1/2 yards at $7 per yard. It is a yarn dyed stripe that was cut without nap.  With the 20% off, the total cost was $17.  

This first version was a Size 14 pattern throughout, with contrast bias binding from the black Elizabeth Suzann cotton poplin I bought from Fancy Tiger.  Pattern mods: The v-neck on the bodice is very wide with narrow shoulders, so I widened them to normal width shoulders (2 1/2") and a higher v, lowered the bust darts by narrowing them by 1/4", and sewed the side seams 5/8" at the armhole tapering to 3/8" at the waist.  This means the skirt must be widened, a difficult task since the pockets account for a few inches of the skirt width in the front.  

The shoulders were too tight and were adjusted by sewing a 3/8" seam at the top of the shoulder only in the bodice portion.  The sleeves are very wide at the bottom and narrow over the bicep.  A more comfortable fit could easily be achieved by widening the bicep portion.  

The pleats as drawn are too large, especially in the front.  They do not fit the bodice.  It may be possible to use a size or two larger body with the smaller bodice.  However, the narrower darts explain some of the mismatch.  The pockets do not match the front either.  I cut the pocket curve deeper to get it to match the front curve and the binding longer, although it might have been long enough.  I made narrower pleats on each side, keeping the two in the middle unchanged.

The pocket binding does pucker a bit, so a longer pocket binding would be nice.  There is no need to stretch it along the straight portion, which is most of the pocket edge.  Fitting the skirt to the bodice required a little easing, but not much since I spent a good bit of time adjusting the pleats to fit.  For some reason, the front is about an inch longer than the back at the hem.  However, the length looks even, so it may just be that they did not draw the curve in properly.  The next version needs a longer hem, no more than 2" longer, but definitely longer. ETA:  the discrepancy in the front v. back hem length was probably due to a sewing problem.  I was not aware at the time that I need to watch the feed and avoid letting one length of fabric stretch more that the other.  

Lots of problems with this one, but it is a (barely) wearable toile.

Last here is my third version of Simplicity 8910, using "good" fabric and choosing View B, modifying it to the sleeveless version (view A) so that it can be worn as a "jumper" with a shirt. The fabric is an indigo color cross stitch yarn dyed cotton from Stone Mountain and Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley, CA., 4 yards in length, 45" wide (machine wash cold, tumble dry low), made in India, for $56.00. The hand is exceptionally soft for a cotton. The cross stitch pattern is created by two threads that are woven across the fabric lengthwise and crosswise, forming a tiny cross at the intersections on the right side. It is an attractive finish on that side, but on the wrong side, the threads are carried across for nearly 1/2", making it possible to snag them and pull the stitching. On the cut edges, the threads can pull out altogether. Seams and seam finishes may help stabilize the fabric. Definitely, pinking will not be enough. Even though a Hong Kong finish means sewing each seam 5 times (once to stitch the pieces together and twice more on each seam allowance to attach the binding), it was a fairly good solution.  French seams would have worked as well but would have been bulkier.

The photo above shows the bound seam allowances and the wrong side of the fabric. The bit of dark blue binding with green spots is the binding in the bodice, the lighter blue is the binding in the skirt.

Since I have sewn this pattern twice before, I made permanent changes to it. View B is a longer option. The longest option, view A, is so long that it would sweep the floor on me. I cut that length away from the pattern since I would never use it. I also cut away the modifications I made to the neckline to make the shoulders normal width and raise the neckline. Since I may wear a shirt under it, I decided to try the more flattering wider neckline. I lowered the dart point by 1" but kept the width in an attempt to make the pattern pieces match. Additionally, I cut the front skirt 1/4" away from the fold so that there will be extra fabric for the pleats. (Clearly, after fitting the bodice and skirt together, my pleating precision is just not enough for this pattern, or as I noted earlier about the pockets, the front pattern piece does not fit the bodice.)

Reviewers of this pattern have written that the armholes gape. This is not a noticeable problem if there are sleeves, but if not, less gaping is better. Cutting the sleeve opening larger under the arm and in front and taking in the side seam by 1/4" improved the fit. Armhole bindings (which had to be a bit longer after my mods) and hong kong finishes on the side seams completed the bodice. The gaping was reduced but I was not satisfied. The binding should have been tighter. As a quick fix, running a thread through the binding around the armhole, pulling it in slightly, did the trick. Another approach, one that I used on the linen jumper I completed last summer, would be to put a small dart from the armhole to the bust. However, that works for my figure and may not for the average.

The front skirt was pleated and pocketed according to instructions, interrupted to add a Hong Kong finish to the pocket edges before basting them down. After pleating the back skirt, the side seams were sewn and finished. At this point, I ran out of the matching navy fabric I was using for bias tape and had to resort to some thrifted fabric in a light blue. It took a lot of adjusting to make the waist of the skirt the same size as the waist of the bodice. Taking the bodice in an additional 1/4" at the side seams and letting the skirt out an additional 3/8" (leaving only a 1/4" seam allowance that was difficult to finish) made it possible to sew the waist seam. That, too received a Hong Kong finish. Finally, it was hemmed up 2". The length is perfect, about 6" above my ankle.

Now that all the raveling is controlled, I can like this fabric. It is very soft and washes without excessive wrinkling. However, one cross has already pulled out. I put that on the lower back of the skirt and pulled some light blue threads from a fabric scrap to sew it back in. How this fabric will handle being worn and washed repeatedly remains to be seen. Nonetheless, it will get washed and worn frequently. The drape and weight of this cotton adds a lot to the look of the dress. I like it. Now that this make is completed, I will take a break from sewing to warp my loom. I need to wait for my fabric order to arrive before I decide on my next project.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Burgundy Vines Circle Skirt

The first version of this skirt was made with a remnant and McCalls 8205.  The fabric, from JoAnns, (916773228) 108" wide 100% cotton, two pieces a little over 3/4 of a yard long, total cost $9.25, was cut cross grain because it gave me more length.  It would probably be a little easier to sew the curved seams cut properly.  This is obviously quilting cotton because it was 108" wide, therefore wide enough to use for quilt backing.  It is a modified circle skirt with a shaped waistband and back zipper.  Although a wearable toile, it is about 2" too big in size XL and a little short. The pockets are a little different from the usual side pockets in that they are sewn into the waistband.  They are also large and sewn into the side seam for a couple of inches top and bottom.  Things should stay in them without the usual falling out when I sit.  The directions omit the instruction to sew the pockets to the back and front, but that is what is needed before sewing the side seam.  There should be a 1/4" seam in the seam allowance, four pocket pieces sewn to front and back on each side.

The interfacing I used was fusible because this waistband needs to be sturdy--it supports the skirt but still will ride up and down. I followed the instructions for hemming, first making sure the hem was cut as correctly on the pattern curve as possible.  It took a long time to pin and sew such a long hem but it wasn't difficult.

By far, this is the cutest thing I have made.  I will definitely make it again, probably with another quilting cotton.  It needs to be either a size L or somewhere in between L and XL, and long enough to hem easily. 

The unexpected success of that first version spurred me to a second in a linen/cotton beige
stripe fabric that I bought early on in my fabric shopping.  The piece was from JoAnns and was 1 1/2 yards long and 56" wide.  It sold for $14.99/yd. for a total of  $22.49.  It is a little fancy with a shiny stripe through it, Lurex.  (179310724 56" 56% cotton, 43% linen 1% lurex.  Hand wash, line dry, cool iron. 4.6 oz/sq yd.)  This version is Size L, View A, with an added 1" in length.  There was enough fabric for the slightly longer shortest length option and the yoke and facings, but only 2 pockets.  The other 2 pockets were cut out of the brown (Potting Soil) linen blend that I consider too stiff for apparel.  Getting all 4 yoke/facing pieces was difficult; one was cut on wrong side as a result.  Managed a more matching one out of the scraps.  This size works well, but future versions will need more than 1 1/2 yards unless it is actually 60" wide fabric. 

In sewing and fitting, I modified all four waistband seams to be less than 5/8" at the top, so simply less tapered.  This may have added a little to the finished band, but it still measures 34" on the inside at the top.  If I make this again, I would add 1/2" to the center back and front, (all pieces) then adjust to fit as I like.  That would put it between the L and XL.  This version is too short for my taste.  The next version should be cut 3-4" longer.

ETA: No other versions at this time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Simplicity 8192 (vintage) Pattern

Beginning the sewing portion of this blog as it should be, at the beginning, requires going back over two years to the Summer of 2020. Up until then, my sewing had been focused on repairs, alterations, and a brief foray into upcycling. Although there was sporadic garment sewing, those garments only supplemented my retail wardrobe. That summer, however, the urge to follow the small crowd of sewists showing off their makes sparked enough of my interest to lead me to purchase a few pieces of fabric from Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver. Patterns from the 90s were dusted off and altered to match my altered state of living and the altered state of my figure. 

The first product was a pencil skirt from the durable hemp/organic cotton blend "denim" in Indigo. At 57" wide, 1 yard was enough. Alas, even the largest size of this old pattern (a 12) with a rather generous waist allowance was not enough to achieve a comfortable fit. It took removing all four waist darts. This, thankfully, was a step too far that was modified by inserting elastic in the waistband. There was enough fabric left over to add two large patch pockets to the front of the skirt. Although I initially rated this skirt as too tight and the fabric too stiff, my opinion has changed. There is nothing like wear to stretch and soften this fabric. It is very comfortable and very practical now, a great fit to my current life style. The pockets to hold a wallet and keys make it perfect for shopping trips.

Simplicity pattern 8192 (vintage), size 12 but altered.  Waist Measurement is 30", Hip Measurement is 40", Length from Waistband to Hem is 22 1/2".  Cost was $23.

I was so happy with this success that I repeated it.  This time, I used some of the 2 yards of Elizabeth Suzann cotton poplin in black that was part of the same order from Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I had been reading about Elizabeth Suzann designs and was excited to get some of her fabric.  I was less excited when I received the fabric, and have since decided that poplin is not the best fabric for a pencil skirt.  However, I used less than half of it for the skirt and have been using the rest for bias binding for other projects. 

The skirt, as you might guess, was not a success, even after a couple of alterations to improve it.  It is now a plain black skirt, a little too big, that hangs in the closet.  No picture of this one will be posted here!

These two "wearable toiles" were followed by a serious attempt to alter the pattern to improve the fit and function.  The third skirt is made from 1 1/2 yards of  teal Linen Look Fabric Solids, (Sew Classic) from JoAnn (12993534,  52" wide,  85% viscose, 15% linen)   Total cost was $13.64.  This time, using a Threads article on how to alter a pencil skirt pattern, I adjusted the front to fit a fuller stomach, added pocket bags and narrowed the skirt below the hips.  The fabric is better suited to a skirt than the poplin, a little less suited than the "denim".  Also, the color coordinates well with a cotton/linen sweater I had just knitted.  Overall, this third version of this pattern is the best of the lot.  To bring this up to the current time, the fabric has not held up to promise of the fit.  It falls somewhere between fashionably wrinkled linen and soft, nicely draped rayon.  That is to a nice place to be.  It does not respond to ironing and insists on staying mildly rumpled and clingy.  However, the pattern is now modifed for a good fit and will probably work well in a different fabric.

In cutting out the pattern, I modified it per the Threads article, making the front larger but keeping the back a size 12, mostly.  I moved the front dart closer to the edge--the Threads article said it should be over my hipbone--raised the front by adding a wedge to it (this is now permanently part of that pattern), and followed the lines of the expanded waist I had used in the two earlier versions.  The waist was still a bit small, so I kept the side seam allowance to 3/8" until below the hip, then went to the standard 5/8".  I cut the waistband a couple of inches too short, forgetting that I needed seam allowances and a tab in the back.  After lengthening it by adding a piece to the back, I ended up with a 36" waistband including seam allowances.  To adjust that down, I added 1" elastic to the front, bringing it in to 32".  This is a little large, but since I prefer the waistband to sit a little below my waist, it is good.  The hip shaping goes from 37 1/2" to 40".  

The pockets are an experiment, copied from a sewing blog.  Although they are less noticeable than the patch pockets of the denim version, they are placed a little too high on the hip to be as functional.   Still, I like the pockets well enough to repeat them if I make another version of this pattern. 

There is 1/2 yard remaining, so for 50" wide fabric (after washing), I only needed 1 yard to make this skirt, with pockets and longer waistband.  The finished skirt is 25" long and the hem sits just below my knee.  Cost is $9, not including thread, zipper and interfacing. 

Also in current time:  A year has passed, but this old pattern is still useful.  There's a tank top in it.  Cut to the largest size (12), with 1 1/2" added to the sides at the bottom, tapering to a couple of inches below the armholes, it works well.  This tank top pattern, which was first used for a tent dress that was drafted from one I purchased, was now used for a tank top in a lovely rayon twill purchased from Stone Mountain and Daughter.  Using 1 yard of Tencel Twill in a marbled pink/gold/khaki print, 100% rayon/viscose/tencel, (take your pick of term because it is a little unclear) 60" wide, $18.80, machine wash, hang dry, 3.6 oz/sqyd, 125 gsm, for the tank top, using bindings instead of facings.  


I used bindings on  the first cut of this pattern, in a rayon twill from Fancy Tiger. I hand-sewed those bindings down, and found that those are crinkled after much washing. With the tencel twill, since the fabric is lightweight, I folded the bindings and stitched them to the top with a 1/4" seam.  Then I understitched them, fold them to the underside and top stitched them down using a walking foot to avoid puckering.  This is similar to the pattern instructions for the facings, except that I doubled the thickness of the fabric.  

Despite my careful sewing on this expensive fabric, the neckline binding flipped out.  It will  press into place, but not without a bit of puckering.  This is a deep scoop neckline that should have been stay stitched prior to binding.  The fabric along the cut line stretched out, making it difficult to fit the binding as tightly as it should have been.  The next time, depending on the weight of the fabric, it would be better to wrap the binding over  the neckline instead of sewing it on and folding it down.  Either way, the neckline must be stay stitched.

It's a basic, well-fitting tank top in a fabric that I love. Now that the pattern has been altered and the neckline can be improved, it will be used again. Considering together the skirt and the tank top, this old pattern was well worth keeping.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Two knit sheath dresses

 New Look 6458  

I have sewn two dresses from this pattern.  The first was a bleached denim look knit that I bought at Hobby Lobby. It is a fairly heavy knit with a soft hand, poly/viscose/spandex.  About 2/3 poly, very little spandex.  I cut a 16 on top and a 18 on bottom, shortened the waist to shoulder length by an inch and the length by about 6 inches.  The armhole band is wider than the neckband in the pattern.  Since the 16 is large on my shoulders, I sewed the armhole band deeper, taking in another 1/4" or so of the bodice.  If I were going for the cute boatneck and wide shouldered, tight armhole look of the pattern, I would just cut a size 14 and follow the pattern.  However, I wanted to have an option to wear this dress with a shirt--or not.  The deeper seam made the armhole band match the neckband and the armhole large enough to accommodate a thin knit shirt.  I mostly used the knit stretch stitch for this dress, mode 1, stitch 9 on my S3.  For the hem, I used a knit zig zag to turn down 1/2", trimmed it to 1/4" and blind hemmed it.  Overall, a nice success for a lovely fabric.  The dress, since I can used the leftover fabric for a skirt, cost me about $9.00.

I had purchased another cut of a gray fabric at the same visit to Hobby Lobby.  It is knit and was shelved with the bleached denim.  However, it is very different in feel, pure poly/lycra and quite thin.  Still, it is much more tame, being gray with small white chevrons similar to sergeant stripes in the military.  I wanted to try making some pattern adjustments to this one to improve the fit and add pockets.  I cut the dress pieces the same except that I cut the size 10 armhole, merging it into the size 16 shoulders and cut the size 10 neck in front.  The first version with the size 16 front neckline chokes me a tiny bit.  To make the neck and armhole bands fit this modification, I cut the armhole band 19" long and the neckband 24 3/4" long, moving the markings to the edges.  I couldn't find the notched marking for the back of the armhole on the band.  It's on the pattern for a size 10 but not on the band.  I need to look at the pattern pieces and see if there is another band piece for a size 10.  This time, to make sure I wasn't choked, I sewed the neckband 3/8" in back and 1/4" in front.  I used a decorative stitch to top stitch the bands, setting my Janome Skyline S3 to mode 2, stitch 2, length 2, width 2.  That produces a slightly stretchy stitch that has a zag out into the body every 2 mm.  I sewed the armbands 3/8".  If I trace this pattern permanently to have it to use repeatedly, I will narrow the armbands for this version.  I am not sure that I would ever want to have a nice dress to wear sleeveless again.  I might try a version with sleeves, although the way I cut into the pattern for a size 10 in the armhole would have to be adjusted to the appropriate sleeve size.  I copied the flat square pockets from another knit dress I bought, cutting them 7" x 10" (need to check the width--7 or 8?).  It is a very simple pocket that works better with knits that the usual side seam pockets I use, sewn into the side seam and top stitched to the front.  I top stitched it last, but it may be possible to stitch the pocket to the front, turn in and top stitch the pocket opening in the front, and simply sew pocket and back and front together all at one time, omitting the front from the seam over the pocket opening. 

I hemmed it in the same manner as the bleached denim dress, it is just below my knee in length, with the slit on the right instead of the left.  That's just because I forgot to stop sewing at the slit when I first began the side seams.  Since I was on the left seam, I just stopped for the slit when I sewed the right seam.  The slit may be optional with the shorter length, but I wanted it for extra mobility.  I have a good bit of fabric left over. 


The fabric for the gray dress cost $8 per yard.  I bought 2 2/3 yards for total discounted price of $15.

The fabric for the blue dress cost $9 per yard.  I bought 2 1/2 yards for a total discounted price of $16.

I used MCcalls 8055 to make a skirt out of the scraps, and I mean scraps, thanks to a cutting issue, of the blue dress.  I have more of the gray fabric left but am not sure that I want a skirt out of it.  It is a bit thin for a skirt.  I could use it as a muslin for one of my t-shirt patterns, just to learn the pattern and the sizing.

I am publishing this post quite late so that I can add my thoughts after wearing these two dresses for a year.  I have found them to be quite practical for my lifestyle.  They are not the most flattering items in my wardrobe but they are quite comfortable.  The only things I would have changed was to add pockets to the blue dress and to not bother with an embroidery-style stitch for the top stitching on the gray dress.  These are both simple and serviceable.  The softer fabric on the blue one is already showing signs of wear, but that's more of a recommendation--it gets worn a lot!