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.