Friday, April 26, 2013

In which I show you my sweater and skirt.

Yesterday after I finished taking pictures of my Shifty dress, I popped on my new sweater and the skirt I made last month to go with it, so you can see how they look on a body.  Well, my body.  First up, here's the whole ensemble:

I liked that picture better than this one, but in this one you can see there's no under-arm poofiness going on with my sleeves - they turned out just the way I wanted them to.  Finally.

Believe it or not, this was the first time I put on the skirt since it's been finished.  I'm actually not crazy about the way it fits, and it certainly could have used a pass with the iron - it's been hanging in my closet for a month.  My weight has been fluctuating lately; I'm a little *poofy* at the moment, and I don't think this is the best style for a poofy tummy. 

Another thing which I found very interesting was the following:  I didn't take in my right side seam for my less-full right hip, because I thought the fullness of this skirt would camouflage it.  It does not.  And here's the really interesting bit:  I've noticed that when I don't do this adjustment, the clothing hangs in such a way to make my right hip actually look bigger than the left one!  Isn't perception weird?

Anyhoo  . . .  here are some close-ups of the lace, since you can't really see it in the above pictures:

I cropped out my veiny old lady hands.  You're welcome.

And one more, just because the first one wasn't centered.  I had a really hard time figuring out where to stand with the camera set on zoom!

I'm very happy with the fit of the sweater - it's just how I wanted.   Because my bust measures at 33", I always have to ponder a little before deciding whether to use the instructions for the 32" or 34" bust.  This time I chose the 32" because I wanted a slightly closer fit.  I don't always make the right choice, but this time I did!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Hey look!  I made a dress!  It's not a Laurel, but it sure looks like one, doesn't it?

This is Simplicity 2054, which I've made twice before.  (post here)  A super simple knit shift.  I wanted to make up a few of these for spring, and decided to start with the fabric I liked least - you know, just in case.  But it turns out, I really like it! 

This is fabric from Girl Charlee, of course.  It's called "Pucci Swirls' - about as close as I'll ever get to anything Pucci!  I tried to link it up for you guys, but it looks like it's no longer available.  It's been several months since I bought it.

When I made the dress on Monday, I took special care to center the print and make sure it fell straight vertically.  I even made sure the design was centered on my binding.

And I matched the horizontal lines at the sides as best I could:

Here's my "come hither" look, trying to show you the side seam:

As you've probably noticed though, the print does not line up horizontally at the hemline.  I was going to blame that on the design being printed off-grain, but I think the truth is that despite all my apparent care, I did cut the dress on the fold.  I really should have cut it flat.  I guess I'd better keep that in mind for the next two, which are both going to be made from striped fabric.

But no matter - I still like it, and it's fine for me as an easy dress to knock around in.  The fabric is really soft, so it's very comfy.  I did a 2" hem with a zigzag; I like the extra weight the wider hem gives and will do that on my next two dresses as well, if the prints don't show through the fabric too much.

Have any of you tried this pattern?  What do you think of it?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Thank you all for your lovely compliments on my sweater yesterday!  As soon as I'd finished that one, I got started on something I don't have to think much at all about:  I can watch TV while I work on this one!  Yay!

My new sweater is a rather old Kim Hargreaves design, from Rowan 33 way back in 2002:

Lou by Kim Hargreaves, Rowan 33

I've wanted to make this sweater ever since the magazine was published, but could never find a combination of colors I thought would be versatile enough for me.  Last week it dawned on me that this design would work equally well in a solid color; I could really see it in a sunny yellow.  And I just happened to have seven balls of Calmer in Freesia:

So yesterday afternoon, with Doctor Who to entertain me, I got started:

I'm surprised that until I cast this on, there were no projects on Ravelry for this pattern - in fact, the pattern itself wasn't even in the database until I added it yesterday!  I think it's a very cute and wearable design.

I haven't shown nails in quite a while, but I couldn't resist today.  I just bought the Misa Fresh and Fruity collection based on these swatches, and was excited to try out Peach Passion.  The color wasn't what I was expecting based on those swatches, but I really love it - it's the perfect shade of melon:

It's quite a bit brighter in real life - it was still pretty cloudy when I took this picture.  I've only recently started using Misa polishes, and I really love them.  I haven't come across one wonky brush or icky formula.  Win!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

FO: Ghia Sweater

Yesterday I spent the afternoon finishing up my Ghia sweater.  I got the whole thing sewn together, the neck and button bands knitted and the buttons attached, by which time I was too tired to give it a final steam block.  So I left that for this morning.

And wouldn't you know:  when I spread it out on my ironing board, I found an error I'd made in the lace on the first front I knit!  Pretty early on too.  Can you spot it?

I completely missed out two rows of the pattern - rows which close off the top of the smaller diamond.  I did notice when blocking the pieces that the second front was longer than the first one, but I attributed it to my tension loosening up, as it often does when I'm trying to hurry to finish up a piece.  I didn't think much of it, and just steamed the heck out of the smaller piece until it matched the other!

Now, this is one of those things that nobody will really notice - obviously, since it took me this long to figure it out!  So it only took me a millisecond to decide not to undo the whole thing, but rather to jerry-rig a solution.  Here's what I did:  with a new strand of yarn, I made a duplicate stitch right where there should have been a K3tog, going through the first and third stitches.  Pull tight and the stitches come together!

bring the needle through the left side of the first and third stitch

pull the yarn through and then go back into the spot the yarn came from at the beginning

the duplicate stitch is like so

pull it tight and the top is closed!

Here's a picture of the piece after I've closed the diamond on the left but not the one on the right:

As Hubby would say:  good enough for government work!  It does help that this part falls under my bust, where there is a scant amount of shadow.

Here's how the sweater looks front and back after my fix:

I'm really happy with the fit - the arms turned out just the way I wanted them to.  I'd hoped to put it on and take some pictures, but it's another dreary, rainy day here in Chicago, so these will have to suffice for now.

I wanted to use these cute little buttons I've had in my stash for years, so I went off-road with the buttonholes.  I lucked out and got great spacing on my ribbing, because I picked up two stitches for every three rows rather than going with the pattern's instructions.  This gave me 95 ribbing stitches instead of 120 - I had noticed that a lot of the FOs on Ravelry, and even the original example in the magazine, seemed to have button bands that flared out, signifying too many stitches.  Given that I'm a loose knitter to begin with, I knew I'd have to go my own way.  And because I did, I was able to make buttonholes every third knit ridge in my ribbing - my favorite way to figure out the spacing:  no math!

In the end, I only used 5 of the 6 balls of 4 Ply Cotton the pattern called for.  That shows you how much excess fabric I eliminated from those sleeves!

And now, I'm moving on to something Yellow.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A better collar.

If you're sick of reading my yammerings about interfacing, click away now . . .

You may remember that the lovely shirt I made for Hubby had some interfacing problems, i.e. the fusible kept coming un-fused. 

I tried to re-fuse it, but sadly, every time I washed the shirt, it would un-fuse again.  It took me a good 15 minutes to iron this shirt - three times what it normally takes - just to get it looking somewhat presentable.  And with each wash the situation got worse.  It was time to make a new collar.

While I was at it, I changed the shape of the collar.  After Hubby wore the shirt, he told me he felt the collar points were too long, and I had to agree with him.  I hadn't really noticed it at first, but after he mentioned it, I compared the pattern piece to his RTW shirts, and the collar really was quite exaggerated. 

The original collar.

Neither of us are up on men's fashion so we're not sure what the current look is, although he did spot a similar shirt collar the other day at Armani.  Still, he needs to feel comfortable in his shirt, so I reduced the size quite a bit.  This one matches the RTW shirts he's been used to.

The new collar.

I think I mentioned the other day that I ordered a few different interfacings from Fashion Sewing Supply.  In my pink shirt, I used Pro-Sheer Elegance Medium, and felt it was a little stiffer than I wanted for my own collar.  So yesterday I made 4 collar pieces:  two in each fabric (the white of the old shirt and the yellow of the new shirt I'm making), one with Pro-Sheer Medium and one with ProWoven Shirt-Crisp.  Then I held all the pieces of each collar (upper, under and stay slot) together to see how they felt.

Fashion Sewing Supply lists Shirt-Crisp as a crisp but not super-stiff collar interfacing.  I found it to be lighter in weight than the interfacing from my local fabric shop which I used on the first shirt.  It did apply somewhat easier than my previous interfacing, but I still had to go over each area several times to get it to fuse.  The directions say that some fabrics will fuse more easily without steam; I tried it both ways on the same collar, so I'm not really sure which one did the trick!  I think I've got a stable collar now, but only a run through the washer and dryer will tell me for sure.

I had a lengthy discussion with a lady at the fabric store last week who told me that fusible interfacings are not meant to be washed and dried, and that men's shirts should ONLY be made with sew-in interfacing.  I'm not really sure I agree with her, but time will tell.  I'm contemplating taking apart one of Hubby's RTW shirts to see how it's done.  I hesitate to use sew-in interfacing because I don't want the bulk in the seam allowances and can't figure out how to do it with the seam allowances trimmed!  Basting, I guess.  Sigh.  Any ideas from you shirt-makers out there?

Meanwhile, here's the collar for the new shirt, to give you an idea of the stiffness:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mnemonics for Knitters

Things are moving along with my Ghia sweater.  If I keep at it, I can have the second front finished by the weekend and start sewing it all together!  Very exciting!

It took me a while to figure this out, but one thing that has helped a LOT in following the chart is a little mnemonic I made up to help me remember which double decrease is which:

See those last two on the key?  I much prefer the S1, K2tog, psso.  The symbol looks a little like a Y, so I named it "YAY!"

The K3tog is quite frustrating to do with this thin, inelastic cotton; it always makes me say "Grrrrrr" when I get to it.  The symbol looks like a bear's claw swiping at me and growling, "Grrrrrr!"

Now that I've made these associations, I don't have to look at the key each and every time I come to one of these symbols to figure out which is which!  It has really helped me pick up the pace.

Do you guys do things like this?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Burda Emily Shirt

Yesterday afternoon I sat down to do some sewing for a couple hours, but ended up getting so engrossed that I made a whole shirt!  I spent a total of about 7 hours on this, which includes about a half hour of set-up and clean up, and probably another half hour for going up and down the stairs to iron each seam.  So, about six hours from cutting out to finishing the hem.

The pattern is the Burda Style Emily Shirt, available as a download for $3.50.   I downloaded this pattern in early February, right at the beginning of my shirt-making frenzy and just after Sunni made her fantastic Amazing Fit shirt.  At the time, I didn't have that pattern, but felt like I must have a women's shirt pattern immediately.  Of course, it took me another two and a half months to get around to making it, during which time I acquired the Amazing Fit pattern!

I printed and traced out this pattern a good month and a half ago.  The sizing was a little confusing to me:  the finished measurements are given on the front piece for the bust, and each size had a corresponding finished measurement of that size plus 3/4" - e.g. size 36 gave a finished measurement of 36.5".  I'm never really sure how much ease I want in a garment, so I decided to trace out the size 36 at the bust, which gives me 4 extra inches above my 32.5" bust measurement, grading out to a 38 at the hip.  I also did a 1/4" broad back adjustment extending down from each shoulder.

This pattern does have some shaping:  the side seams are curved, there are two fisheye darts on the back, and bust and vertical darts on the front.  I've tried to show some of this in these pictures, but I found this fabric quite hard to photograph!

That said, the vertical darts as written are all quite narrow, so they don't really bring the shape in all that much.

This is the vertical dart on the front - only about 1/2" wide in total.

This is one of the fisheye darts on the back - about the same width as the ones on the front.

There are also two sleeve variations - the normal one which I did, and a super-long sleeve with ruching at the elbow and an extended, flared cuff.  The placket for the sleeve opening is the more feminine kind (I don't know its name!) rather than a triangle-topped placket like you'd find on a men's shirt.  The bottom (hem) edge is straight rather than curved.

Other than the broad back and hip adjustments, the only other change I made was to add a breast pocket.  I used the pocket pattern from Hubby's shirt, but trimmed 1/4" off all sides to scale it down.

Now, I didn't follow the instructions for this pattern; I've made enough shirts now that I was able to just make this one without looking at the instructions at all.  But I did read through them so I could report, and as you might expect from a Burda pattern, they're pretty sketchy.  If you wanted to make this pattern and needed some instructions to follow, I'd say you're better off using the instructions from a different pattern.

Construction-wise, I did things a little differently than I normally do.  I finished the shoulder and armhole seams with the serger, but did the side and sleeve seams as French seams.  Because of the extra 1/4" of width on the back from my adjustment, I had to ease the shoulder seam, so I felt I needed a more flexible finish.  However, this cotton/poly Swiss Dot chambray from Michael Levine frays like crazy, so I wanted the stability of French seams wherever I could use them.

Last week I ordered three types of fusible interfacings from Fashion Sewing Supply to try out different things for Hubby's shirts.  So I tried one of them in my collar and stand here.  I used the Pro-Sheer Elegance Medium.  It feels very soft and drapey on its own, but ended up giving me a slightly stiffer collar than I wanted.  It's really a process figuring out which interfacing to use!

The website doesn't say so, but I think this may be a weft-insertion interfacing?
And seriously, what is up with Burda and these enormous collars?

I also tried a trick I picked up from Susan via Pinterest - using a piece of bias fabric to ease a sleeve head.  It worked pretty well, and as I really hate gathering anything, I'll likely be doing eased sleeve heads this way from now on.

So, how does it fit?  Well, it looks OK on me, and anyone other than me probably wouldn't notice the little issues this pattern has that will keep it from being a go-to for me.  The fit is just off in too many ways that make this shirt not very comfortable to wear.  Despite my broad back adjustment, it still feels as if it's pulling tighter than I like across my back, and quite a bit across my upper arms when I move them.  And yet it looks a little baggy!  There may be a tiny bit of swayback action going on there too, although I think it's really just too long for me as well as a bit snug in the hip.  You can see below the pulling just under my arm at my latissimus dorsi, which have grown from all the rowing. 

The shoulders are too wide, and would have been even without that extra quarter inch.  The sleeve head hangs off my shoulder point:

Up front things are a little better, but the fit is somehow both too baggy and too tight at the same time!  Too tight at the bust and too loose everywhere else.  I probably should have actually measured the pattern pieces to see if the finished measurement is accurate.  And as I said, the collar is too stiff, so it doesn't drape in the way I wanted it to.  But I also feel the collar stand on this pattern is too tall for a woman - my neck is longish and it felt too high for me.

The sleeves are too long, which I was expecting because my arms are a little short and I didn't adjust the pattern.  I plan to wear them rolled (if I wear this shirt at all) so I didn't bother.  I also think the cuff is too wide to be fashionable.

So, although I had high hopes for this pattern, it just has too many problems for me to make it again.  Next time I make a shirt for myself, I'll try that Amazing Fit pattern.  I'm honestly not sure I will wear this shirt much - not only is it uncomfortable, but it really doesn't go with all that many things in my closet.  I just bought this fabric because I'm a sucker for Swiss dot and pink.  Combine the two and I'm pulling out my wallet! 

I admit I'm a tiny bit sad about it, because it looks so good on the hanger and, if I do say so myself, I did a very good job with the construction. 

Ah well.  It really is all about learning and practicing.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Coral Coat

I'd planned to sew up a shirt (for me) over the weekend, but when I went into my sewing room* on Saturday to gather all my materials, I suddenly turned tack and decided to finish up my second coat, which had been languishing on the guest bed for almost a month.  I'm glad I did, because the weather turned tack also, so I got to wear it out to a concert and dinner yesterday afternoon!

My original plan for this coat was to make bound buttonholes, and in all honesty, that is part of the reason I dawdled with finishing it.  Somehow it just wasn't feeling right.  Once I got the body constructed to the point where I had to make the decision, I stewed on it for a while.  In the end I felt that this cotton sateen has more of a casual feel, and to me bound buttonholes are fancy.  So I decided to go with the keyhole buttonholes again. 

I did, however, stick to my original plan of making self-covered buttons.  It was my first time doing that, and boy, is it fun!  I want to do it all the time now!  But those people who have said you don't need the kit and that you can just push the backs onto the button must have super strong fingers.  I not only used the kit and its "pusher" - I also had to push the pusher down with my rawhide mallet rather than my fingers!  This could be because my fabric is thicker, but my fingers and wrists are definitely weak - probably from all these years of knitting.

After I made my first coat, I did wear it a couple times.  But I felt like I kind of boxed myself in with that loud print:  most of my clothes are patterned, and I don't feel comfortable wearing the coat with a pattern it clashes with.  That one also has a fancier feel to me, so I'm likely going to be wearing that for dressing-up occasions (and with the few things in my closet it goes with), and this will be my "every day" jacket.

Yesterday it was warm and sunny so I wore the coat on its own.  This morning when I went out, it was quite a bit nippier, so I added a scarf and hat - I really liked how these three items worked together, since the scarf has both the coral of the coat and the lavender of the hat:

The hat is a Kim Hargreaves design (of course!) that I love so much I made it five times!

I like how the coat looks with the top button open, and I'll probably wear it that way a lot.  I've noticed on both these coats that when I button the top button, the little edge at the top doesn't want to stay tucked under the collar, so I'm thinking about going back and adding a snap.  However, that would show with the collar open and not look so great.  What to do?  Maybe a hand-worked thread loop and button.

Here's the back, all  rumply from wearing:

I'm happy I made this second, solid-colored coat, but I think I'm done with this pattern now for a good long while.  I was so excited when I made my first one that I started the second one immediately.  However, my enthusiasm quickly wore off, so it made this coat seem more of a chore than an adventure.

*a.k.a. the guest room