Monday, June 08, 2015

Outfit Along 2015: Swatching for Vianne

I originally thought I would use Knitpicks Comfy worsted for my Vianne sweater.  I swatched with some leftover Comfy yarn from a previous project and got stitches/inch gauge on my first try (woot!)

However, for either of the fabric options I'm thinking (blue flower gingham with the navy blue or the chambray), my preferred sweater color is navy.  A navy blue sweater would work with most of the clothes I wear on a regular basis.  Guess which color is not available for Knitpicks Comfy?

I tried to convince myself that I could use one of the blues available and be very happy with it, but realistically, I knew I would not be.  My next choice of yarn was Cascade 220 superwash.  I've used this yarn before and it's very nice to work with.  The only downside is that it's 100% wool and I was hoping to use a cotton blend for this sweater since it is a summer sweater.  I do think that a wool sweater will still get plenty of wear in the summer since it is often quite cool in the mornings and evenings here in the bay area.  And, of course a warm sweater is useful indoors this time of year since most public buildings seem to think that it's necessary to make their buildings resemble the arctic.

I'm already behind in the knitting portion of the outfit along (the sewing portion hasn't started yet), so I was determined to get my yarn ASAP and make a gauge swatch (or two) so that I could get started.  Fortunately, one of my LYSs, Uncommon Threads, had several skeins of Cascade 220 super wash in navy blue.  I would have hated driving around to every store in the area trying to find the yarn I wanted (especially since I was towing my daughter along with me.

Unfortunately, Cascade 220 super wash is a somewhat lighter weight yarn than Comfy and I didn't get stitch gauge or row gauge in size 8 or size 9 needles. I don't want to increase the needle size more than 9 because even with the size 9s I wasn't completely happy with the resulting fabric.  The stitch gauge isn't so much of a problem.  It's about 4.9 stitches/inch and it ought to be 4.75 st/in.  However, my bust measurement is 41" and the finished measurements nearest that are 37" and 41".  I wanted some negative ease but not 4" worth.  If I knit the 41" model with a somewhat tighter st/in, then the resulting garment should be slightly smaller than 41", giving me some negative ease.

The row gauge is a problem because of the lace pattern.  I need to do a bit more research and fiddling to see how I can make that work.  I'm confident I can do it, I just need to spend some time sorting it out.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Colette Pastille: WTF

When last we spoke about my Pastille dress, I was doing a mommy-tummy adjustment on the skirt.  The plan was that if that went okay, I would then make one final muslin of the bodice that incorporated all of the changes, sew them together and make one last check for fit.

I made this skirt and tried it without the bodice:
The old, stand-on-a-stool-so-you-can-see-your-skirt-in-the-
bathroom-mirror trick.  I really need a full-length mirror
in the living room where my sewing machine lives.
As you can see, it looks pretty good.  The side seam looks straight although it might be a tiny bit forward right at the waist.

So, I attached bodice muslin 3 to it to see how it looked:

Please excuse whatever was on the bathroom mirror.
Toothpaste maybe?  I dunno, I live with a 3 year old, it
could be anything.
Also not bad.  Actually, pretty good!

At this point, I got really excited and made up the bodice in the same red fabric as the skirt and sewed them together.


First, I thought I would use bias tape for the neckline instead of a facing because facings annoy me and that was a hot mess that I won't be repeating.  But, I figured it was fine, because I didn't really care about this fabric so I could throw it all away if I wanted.  But then, I looked in the mirror and I got so disgusted, I couldn't even take a picture.  The bodice felt funny.  Maybe from the mess at the neckline?  I dunno.  Worse there were diagonal pull lines in the front skirt.  Ugh!

I tried it on again today and this time I took pictures in order to share the horror:
Ignore my hair, I hadn't gotten ready for the day, yet.

I spent a lot of time trying to stand in the mirror in a way
that most obscures the mess on the floor behind me.

It looked like maybe the bodice was pulling the skirt up in the front so I let out the bodice seam in the front.  I overcast the seam allowances together so it's essentially got a 1/4" seam at the waistline:

Better, but I don't get why the bodice is suddenly too short.  I need to take it apart and compare it to the previous bodice muslin and the pattern piece.  At any rate, it looks like I need to add half and inch to the front bodice and front skirt.

There's still some pooling and wrinkling of fabric in the upper back of the bodice while the lower back is now looking a bit too tight (maybe?).  I need to pinch out the excess at the top and maybe fix the swayback adjustment, I think.

Whatever it needs, it's going into time-out for awhile to think about what it's done while I work on the Outfit Along (Bad, bad, bad Pastille!  Mommy is not happy with you!).  I'll pull it out once I've finished the dress for the Outfit Along (so, the end of July?).

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Outfit Along

Lauren of Lladybird and Andi of Untangling Knots have organized an Outfit Along--a sew along and knit along combo so that you have a complete outfit by the end.  Sewing + knitting?  Yes, please!

While you are welcome to sew and knit any pattern you like, the official patterns for the Outfit Along are McCall's 6887 and Vianne (designed by Andi).  From the McCall's website:  "Lined dresses have princess seams, fitted bodice, skirt variations, and back zipper."

Lauren has already made view A in an adorable pineapple print and it looks fabulous on her.  I'm going to follow her example and make view A even though I suspect many people would say that 41 year olds should not be wearing dresses with cutout backs.  They'd probably also say that 41 year olds  are not supposed to go around in pigtails, either, and I do that all the time so screw convention.  You only live once and it's not my fault a sew along for a dress with a cute cutout back didn't come along when I was in my 20s and 30s.  Besides, that age-guesser thingie on Facebook said I look 34, so there!  

The outfit along officially started on June 1 but Ms. Lauren will be in Peru (lucky lady!) the beginning of June so no sewing posts until the 22nd.  That's alright because it will give me plenty of time to make a muslin of the bodice.  I'm probably going to need an FBA and I want to be sure there is good coverage of my bra in the back.  No swayback adjustment to the bodice though because that part of the back is missing--yay!

The official knitting pattern is Vianne, a short cardigan--the pattern can be purchased on Ravelry.  From the Ravelry description:
This cardigan features a fun set of mirrored lace panels that run along the front neckline and frame a large mesh panel on the back. The natural bias of the mesh stitch pattern causes the back neckline to dip down slightly and creates an attractive curve out at the waist. Vianne is knit using DK weight yarn at a loose gauge to create a lighter weight fabric and is worked seamlessly from the top down.
 I need to choose my yarn and get swatching but first I need to decide on the fabric for the dress (I'd rather try to match the yarn to the fabric than vice versa).  I have a few options.

Options 1 and 2:  Floral gingham/plaid with navy blue linen/cotton blend or with chambray:

Option 3:  Teal twill with white flowers:

I didn't want to try to match the print from 1 and 2 across the princess seams in the dress, so I thought I could use two different fabrics like the pattern suggests in view D.  The gingham would be front and center and then the navy blue or chambray on the sides.  The chambray would give it a nice casual feel to the dress while I feel like the navy blue would make it look slightly less casual.  Both would be good for everyday.

I love the color of the fabric in option 3, but I would be stuck trying to match the print across the princess seams again which I really, really (really!) don't want to have to do.  I was thinking if I used piping in the seams it would be less critical to pattern match?  Maybe?  Or am I fooling myself?

Right now, I'm leaning toward the flowered gingham + chambray.  I could even make Cate a cute dress to match!

Or maybe not.

For yarn, I would like to get a cotton blend since I'll be wearing it during the summer.  I'm considering Knitpicks Comfy Worsted.  I made a sweater for Cate with this yarn and I really liked how it worked up and it wore well.*  The pattern calls for a DK weight yarn, but I've found that Knitpicks yarn usually works up to a slightly lighter weight than advertised.  It may be simply that I prefer a denser knitted fabric than whoever decides these things at Knitpicks.  Whatever the reason, I suspect the weight of this yarn will go well with this pattern.  Actually, I still have a little yarn leftover from Cate's sweater, so I can do a test swatch with it to make sure I like the resulting fabric before buying the yarn.**

*Sadly, it was lost in a cab on the way to the airport last year.  Somebody left it in the cab (*cough*DH*cough*). I'm still mourning its loss.  

**I'll still have to do a swatch when the yarn arrives because the dye can affect the yarn slightly and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make this in deep purple yarn.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Around and About the Internet

Some of my favorite blogs have a weekly post with links to interesting articles and inspiring projects.  I enjoy those posts because more often than not, I end up reading about things I wouldn't have found on my own.  So I figured I would start my own little weekly list of links to things I found while wandering around the internet.


I love genealogy and the everyday history of local areas.  In her recent The Way Sewing Used to Be post, Madalynne shares some vintage hooks and eyes from a Philadelphia source as well as a little history about the Philly fabric stores.


Laura Mae of Lilacs and Lace makes the loveliest frocks with the prettiest insides.  While I love nearly everything she makes I currently don't live the kind of life suited to most of her projects.  However, recently she's been working on some Alabama Chanin style separates that I might have to give a try.  Here latest work in progress is here.

Dear Lladybird Lauren, please stop making cute summer things.  I already have a To Make list that will keep me busy until sometime in January.


I've been wondering, would it be easier to draft a skirt sloper rather than fit a current pattern?  Or are both equally likely to drive one to drink?  I've scouted out a couple of tutorials that I may give a try:
  • Making a Pencil Skirt Sloper from So Sew Easy. The post covers drafting both front and back skirt slopers + darts.  I would call the skirt more of a straight skirt since I think of a pencil skirt as something that's more pegged at the bottom.
  • Drafting a Skirt Sloper from Simple Simon and Co.  Another pencil/straight skirt.  This post covers drafting the front and back slopers and talks about two ways to make darts:  drafting them from scratch or making a muslin without darts and trying it on to see how big the darts need to be.


Fit problem graphic from an old sewing textbook

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A sad day

After 15 years of service, my iron has decided to call it quits.  The auto-off is now permanently on.  Time to get rid of it before DH finds out and declares, "It's probably just a short in the electrical system," and, "I'm sure I can fix it," leading to months of a broken iron sitting around the apartment waiting for him to "take a look at it when there's time."

Monday, May 25, 2015

For Cate: (Non-) Ruffled Capri Pants

In addition to the two tops I made for Cate, I also made her two pairs of capri pants using the Ruffled Capris pattern from Sew Classic Clothes for Girls.  The pattern is for a pair of shorts or capris (depending on length) with two front slash  pockets, one ruffled back pocket and ruffles on the hems of the legs.  The waist has elastic in the back waistband but is flat in the front.  I decided to leave off the back pocket and the ruffles but I did include the front pockets.  The first pair was made from a remnant of the stretch denim I used to make my Miette skirt.  I made a size four thinking I could simply install a fairly tight waistband then loosen the elastic as she grew.  But, the pants were clearly too big in the waist and after fiddling with the waist for a stupid amount of time, I finally gave up and threaded the elastic through the entire waistband.  The next issue I had to deal with were the pockets.  They are slash pockets with a scalloped top with the option of functional or decorative buttons.  I didn't feel like dealing with buttonholes on the pockets and in any case, Cate has difficulty with buttons so if I wanted the pockets to be usable, they would have to remain unbuttoned.  I did plan on adding the buttons as a decoration, though.  However, the pockets gaped so much when she tried on the pants that I actually sewed on a button going through the pocket to help keep it closed.

Even with the buttons the pockets still gape a
little when the pants are on her

Pretend I ironed these before taking this
The second pair of pants I decided to leave off the front slash pockets and add patch pockets to the sides of the legs.  I also decided to to make a size 3 instead of size 4.  The pattern only comes in even sizes, but it wasn't difficult to draw lines halfway between sizes 2 and 4.  I used a remnant of some khaki cotton bottomweight fabric that I used to make a Ginger skirt that I never blogged about.  These pants went together much better and I even managed to make the waistband work with the elastic only in the back.  The pockets went on easily and overall look less baggy than the denim pair.  Alas, they are too short in the back and, were it not for her pull-ups (disposable training pants), she would have a serious case of plumber's butt every time she bent over.  It's really too bad, because she looks adorable in them when she's standing up and her top is covering the waist.  I wonder if I could add some sort of yoke in the back that actually looks intentional in order to give them a little more coverage?  Beyond the back waist issue, they pretty much just fit her exactly which means they won't fit at all after her next growth spurt.  So, it's back to the size 4, I think.  I suspect the reason the size four looked so baggy was due to the front pockets so I will leave them off again.  I like having the patch pockets on the sides of the legs because they are easy to access for her, so I will probably do that again.

Cate, Movie Star!
On both pairs of pants I sewed the waistband facing closed on the inside by stitching in the ditch on the outside of the pants.  I assembled the waistband, sewed the waistband seam, folded the facing to the inside, folded the bottom of the facing over about a quarter inch so that the raw edge would be enclosed, then sewed directly on top of the waistband seam from the front.  It's a little tricky because you have to pay close attention to your stitching so that you stay exactly on the seamline* on the outside of the garment while at the same time making sure that you are catching the waistband facing on the inside.  When I've sewn skirts that have a waistband (for myself) I've always topstitched to catch that waistband facing because it's easier.  But, I'm less picky about my sewing for Cate (whenever I start to obsess I remind myself it's for a 3 year old who will likely get stains all over it at some point), so I figured I would try the stitch in the ditch technique because it was less likely to bother me if it wasn't perfect.  That's one of the nice things about making such small clothes, it give you a chance to try new things in small amounts.

I'm definitely making more capris from this pattern (maybe even with ruffles, who knows?) and probably the shorts as well.  However, I've also purchased a shorts pattern from MADE with a ton of variations for design features, so I think I may try those next, although she's not likely to need shorts for awhile.  It's been unseasonably chilly here in the Bay area.

*The spellchecker in blogger keeps auto-correcting "seamline" to "seamen". Strange.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Outfit: Refrew + Miette

These two garments were actually finished some time in the not-so-distant past, but I was on a blogging sabbatical and never documented them.  The top is the ever-popular Renfrew from Sewaholic.  I've made four of these t-shirts, though I've only documented one other on the blog.  Two of them have gotten stains on them which led to them getting tossed but the other two get heavy use.  The fabric is a cotton/lycra knit from The Fabric Fairy.  The only modification I made to the pattern was to extend the front and back pieces and hem them rather than adding a waistband.  I didn't make a deep enough hem, however, and so it has a tendency to flip up.  Oh well.  Now I know better for next time.  And there will most certainly be a next time as I have recently purchased more knit fabric to make t-shirts for summer.

Not bad for my first attempt at matching

The skirt is the Miette wrap skirt from Tilly and the Buttons.  I had been hemming and hawing about getting this pattern (because I still have a good 20 other patterns I have yet to make up!), but finally went ahead and bought it.  The fabric is a stretch denim from Joanns.  I decided to leave off the pockets because I knew I would be tempted to stuff them full of things and end up with bulging pockets right on my belly.  According to the measurements, I needed to add just a little to the seams of the largest size to make sure it fit.  I wish I hadn't because even when I tie it as tight as it can possibly go, it's a bit loose on the waist, causing the front waist to slide down a bit while the back waist gets held up by my butt (if you look at the first picture, you can see that the waist dips down in the front).  Next time, I will make the largest size as is.  I'm of two minds about the bow.  On the one hand, I like being able to tie it closed.  On the other hand, I'm not real keen on having a giant bow at my waist when I'm trying to emphasize my hourglass-ish figure.  I think if I made it in a fabric with more drape, the bow wouldn't be as stiff and not so prominent.  Or, I could alter the pattern a little ala Handmade Jane who turned the ties into tabs that button on the waistband.

The pattern is very easy to sew with clear instructions and takes almost no time at all to make up.  There are no closures and the tie that goes around the back and comes to the front through the waistband (I hope that made sense) does so through a gap in the seam rather than, say, through a buttonhole.  There is a generous overlap of the two back pieces so you don't have to worry about flashing anyone, even when you're chasing your toddler outside on a windy day.  I definitely plan to make it again in another basic fabric so I can wear it with just about anything.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Colette Pastille: Skirt muslin #2

So, when last we saw the Pastille muslin, I had finished bodice #3 and I was feeling pretty good about it having cut a smaller size in the waist and completed an FBA and a swayback adjustment.  The next step was to make a second muslin of the skirt.*  For this iteration, I had cut a smaller size and done a swayback adjustment.

Bathroom photos are the worst
What you can't really see is that it's still too baggy at the side seams in between the waist and hips.

Please ignore the potty chair in the background

 On the other hand, I have a textbook case of "prominent abdomen"**.

Here, I've taken in the sides of the skirt going from the waist to the hip and let it out a bit at my upper thighs.  That has helped with the prominent abdomen but it's still not quite right.

Next step is to try the pot-belly alteration for pencil skirts by Maria Denmark found on the By Hand London blog here.  Right after I took this picture, I drew a line just under my post-baby belly that curved up to the hipline, like on the tutorial.  Then, I cut along that line, let the fabric fall in front and pinned Swedish tracing paper to the skirt across the gap so that I could preserve the size of the gap when I took the skirt off.

Cutting line

Now, I need to transfer that slash and spread to the paper pattern, along with the seamline adjustments and cut a new muslin for the skirt.  Onward to skirt muslin #3!

*The first bodice muslin was so awful that I didn't bother making the skirt at the time, I just went straight to making a second bodice muslin.

**Or as I like to call it, post-baby belly.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Strawberries and mushrooms: A smock top for Cate

Lately, I've become a little obsessed with the idea of using up the fabric I already have laying around the house, mostly so that I can buy new fabric.  A lot of that fabric is quilting cotton, purchased in small quantities sometime before Cate was born with the vague idea that I would make tons of baby clothes for her.  Having never gotten around to that, I've decided to try to use up as much as I can in making clothes for her now.  I mean, what's the point of keeping it for "the right project"?  Will there ever be a right project?

This top was made using a pattern from Sew Classic Clothes for Girls. I really love the fabric with the red and white mushrooms on a blue background and wanted to make something sweet but not over the top with it.  The fabric is actually a remnant, I previously used it on the lining of her cape for her first Halloween.  Red and white always makes me think of strawberries in the summer. So, I decided to call it the Strawberries and Mushrooms top.Absolutely everything for this project came from my stash.  Some of it, such as the lace trim, I have no idea why I purchased it in the first place.  It was obviously for some project I had in mind but heck if I know what it was.  Same for the red gingham.  The red with white polka dots I used for an ill-fated muslin of the Sorbetto top for myself.  The buttons came from my MIL's button box, but I think she actually got them from her mother's button box--heirloom buttons, I guess.  The facing is muslin for making muslins.

Seriously, can you stand the cuteness?

The top turned out really well--it really looks fantastic on her.  The only thing I would change is that I messed up the button placket in the back.  I forgot about it being a placket and attached the lower part of the shirt all the way across the bodice pieces in the back which made it a little awkward for buttoning.*  I almost switched it to a different style of closure, but I really wanted to use those buttons, so I finagled it a bit.  I don't think it's noticeable unless you are looking for it.  Also, the pockets might have benefited from a little lightweight interfacing or something because the gingham is very lightweight and so they are a little floppy.  Oh well, you live and learn, right?  In any case I'm pretty proud of most of the sewing.  I used french seams on the side seams to make it nice and tidy on the inside and the lace went in just beautifully on the first try!  I practiced the buttonholes on some scrap fabric before doing the ones on the top and I'm very pleased with the way they turned out.
But the real kicker is that Cate looks so adorable in it, I just want to eat her up!  And, make about 10 more similar tops so she can look this cute all summer.

*One of the disadvantages of sewing only between 10pm and 2am is that I'm not always at my best, mentally.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Colette Pastille: Bodice Muslin #3

Crappy bathroom mirror photo at 12am
Not my best look
My 2nd Pastille bodice muslin was baggy at the waist and just a little too tight in the bust.  For this muslin, I went a size smaller for the waist and did a very small FBA.  This was very successful and I now feel the front of the bodice looks and feels like a sheath dress.  I probably could have added another 1/8" to the FBA to give me a tiny bit more ease in the bust.  Because it's so hard to find ready to wear fitted tops that actually do fit me right, I mostly wear knit fabrics.  So, I am not used to the feel of a fitted garment with no "give" to the fabric and as a result, the bust feels a little bit tight.  There is no pulling of the fabric across the bust, so the fit looks very good and I don't think I'm going to change it.

Another crappy bathroom photo.  I can see some wrinkling
here, but I think that might go away with the weight of the skirt.
After sewing the muslin and trying it on, I saw the back bodice dipped way down past my waist in the middle but not the sides.  So, I unpicked the zipper and did a swayback adjustment, removing about an inch from the middle tapering to nothing at the sides.  Yes, I do baste my zipper into my muslin.  Since I'm fitting the garment on myself, it is the only way to close the back properly so that I can check the fit.  I read a tip once that said to put the opening in the front of your garment for your muslin because that makes it easier to fit things on yourself without sewing in zippers.  I can see how that would help with the back, but what if you need to make adjustments to the front?  Won't having an opening there screw with how the front fits?  Anyway, I'm finding that basting an invisible zipper into the bodice takes almost no time at all, now that I've done it several times in a row.  Funny how that works.

I took some photos in the mirror so that I could try to see how it all looks, especially the back which is difficult to see otherwise.  I do see some wrinkling, but that goes away if I pull down on the bodice,  leading me to think that the weight of the skirt may take care of that once the skirt is attached. So, I'm moving on to skirt muslin #2 before trying to make any more changes to the bodice.  I'm also worried I may end up overfitting the bodice and since it feels pretty good when I have it on, I'm not sure I want to make any more changes!

Monday, May 11, 2015


In certain knitting circles, it has become a sort of rite of passage to knit Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket.  If you are unfamiliar with the project, you knit the sweater/jacket in one piece and all you need to do at the end is sew up the shoulders and add buttons.  The pattern sets of miters to create shaping and while you are knitting it, the sweater looks like a strange, rippled thing until you finish, fold it up et voila--a baby sweater!
EZ's hand-drawn illustration of how to fold up the
your finished knitted blob.

On the one hand, the sweater is fairly easy:  it's all garter stitch and double decreases and increases, all shaping is done on odd rows while even rows are always knit even.


The directions are not like modern knitting patterns.  Elizabeth Zimmerman took it as an article of faith that knitters are clever people* and do not need their hands held during a project.  Therefore, she gives you rather minimal directions for knitting this strangely constructed baby sweater.  The Baby Surprise Jacket is one of the patterns in the book The Opinionated Knitter, which consists of a series of newsletters Zimmerman sent several times a year to subscribers and anyone who bought yarn from her.  Each newsletter appears to have been two pages (or maybe one sheet front and back) and includes the instructions for one knitting pattern plus any knitting-related news she had (new books coming out or TV shows and similar).    They look to have been typed up on an old typewriter and sometimes included her hand-drawn diagrams when necessary.  In this space she would give you a complete pattern for a fair isle sweater (including steaks), or how to make wool leggings for both babies and adults, or how to make an Aran sweater, etc.  So, you can imagine how brief the instructions must be.

Baby Surprise Jacket after knitting but before folding
For instance, for the surprise jacket, the first thing you do is start a series of double decreases at two points, creating 3 different sections of knitting.  Then, she tells you that, at 5 ridges (1 ridge = 2 rows in garter stitch) you should evenly increase by 5 stitches across each of the two end sections.  She doesn't explicitly tell you how to make the increases and she doesn't mention the middle section at all.  Do you keep doing the decreases you had been doing?  Well, yes, because she didn't say to stop the decreases and the next instruction tells you that after 22 decreases, you knit three rows even. So, obviously you must keep decreasing at the previously specified two points or you never would have that many decreases.  Oh, and she's not talking about stitches decreased, she means 22 decrease rows.  You can figure this out because you start with 160 stitches and at 22 decreases she says you have 90 stitches.

So, given the unusual style of directions, a few pointers can be helpful when you knit your first BSJ.  Here are my tips:

  1. When she gives you an instruction keep doing that thing until a different instruction that is contradictory to the first.  For instance, when she tells you to do decreases at two different points, keep decreasing in addition to any new instructions until she tells you to knit even.
  2. When she tells you to increase 10 stitches across the middle section, you can do this by repeating K5, m1 across that section until 6 stitches remain in that section, then knit those six stitches.
  3. Don't try to understand the directions for a future section because they likely won't make sense until you are actually knitting that part.  
  4. For the buttonholes, she tells you to work 5 buttonholes evenly spaces across the end sections.  To accomplish that:  k3, (yo, k2tog, k8) four times, yo, k2together, k2, then continue in pattern.
  5. In order to have the buttons correctly placed for the gender of the baby (the convention is for buttons to be on the left for boys and the right for girls), EZ suggests you make buttonholes on both sides, then, when you find out if the baby is a boy or a girl, sew the buttons on the appropriate side, right over the buttonholes that you don't need.  This is a great idea if, 1. you actually care about that sort of thing and 2. the parents of the baby care about that sort of thing and are waiting to find out the gender of the baby at the birth**. I don't know many people who actually know what the convention is, so I decided it wasn't important enough to me to worry about it and just did buttonholes on one side.

Pattern:  Baby Surprise Jacket, from The Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn:  Cotton-ease by Lion Brand
Needles:  US size 4
Buttons:  from Joanns
Size:  6-9 months maybe?
Notes:  I crocheted together the top seam rather than sewing it.  The fabric was a little dense, next time I would use larger needles for that yarn (gauge was around 5 st/in).  

*And we are clever!

**I've known a couple of parents like this, they said they wanted to be surprised.  As if the act of giving birth wasn't exciting enough in its own right.  Personally, I was of the opinion that the birth was the last place I wanted to be surprised since "surprise" usually translates into "complication."

Monday, May 04, 2015

Sidetracked: A top for Cate

After modifying the paper pattern following my second muslin of the Pastille I decided I needed a break from all of this fitting business.  So, I decided to make something for my 3 year old, Cate, who is basically a straight cylinder.  Fitting her is mostly a matter of cutting out the correct size.  To make it even easier, I decided to make an A-line top, which meant that, as long as it fit around her chest, it was going to be fine.

Before Easter, I bought the book Sew Classic Clothes for Girls by Lindsay Wilkes of The Cottage Mama.  I had planned to make Cate's Easter dress from one of the patterns but was saved from the madness that grips me every Easter to make a fancy dress in 24 hours by the appearance of another special dress (stay tuned for a future post on this topic).  So, this top was my first project from the book.

The A-line top/dress pattern has an appliqued bib on the top and a round collar on the dress, although of course, those are interchangeable.  It's fully lined which I wasn't sure was necessary but decided to do it anyway.  *cue portentious music*  It's a pretty simple pattern so I thought I could make it in a couple of hours.  Boy was I wrong.  It was entirely my fault, however, because I kept going off on my own when attaching the lining rather than following the directions, thus leading to much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I found I couldn't turn the garment right side out through the opening I had left no matter how hard I tried.  So, when I got around to reading the directions, it was late, I was tired and frustrated, and I couldn't understand what the heck I was supposed to do.  I made the further mistake of attempting to picking it back up again while Cate was awake and asking me approximately 5,968 questions about what I was doing while trying to read the instructions.

I eventually figured it all out, but I do believe next time I will be doing a bias tape facing on the neckline and armholes!  For what it's worth, I do think there were a few steps that could have used more photos to illustrate the instructions in order to make it all easier to understand if you've never tried to line a dress before.  It made me wonder if all of her pattern testers were quite experienced sewists.  I would call myself an advanced beginner, but I'm no dummy and can usually follow a set of directions!

All of the materials for this top came from my stash.  I forget the provenance of yellow lining/bib fabric, a quilting cotton that was a remnant from making Cate's first Easter/Baptism dress.  The fashion fabric is a Kauffman print on quilting cotton that I purchased 4 or 5 years ago.  I haven't been able to find it online.  The ric-rac and pre-ruffled eyelet came from Joanns as well as the flower button and appliques on the bib.  The button for the back closure is from my button tin collection.  The ruffled eyelet was a last-minute addition when I had her try it on before I hemmed it and decided I wanted it a bit longer.  It's a little big in the neck and armholes but that means she will be able to wear it over a t-shirt through the fall and winter and under a sweater in the spring and hopefully by itself next summer, especially since I added the ruffle for length.  If I'm going to go through the trouble of sewing clothes for a child, I want the clothes to be wearable for as long as possible!

I could see using this pattern for a corduroy dress/jumper for the fall/winter, too.  I'd like to make more summery tops with this pattern as well, but first I'm going to make one or more pairs of the ruffled capris (sans ruffle) since that is what she needs most at the moment.

ETA:  I was originally going to include a review of the book Sew Classic Clothes for Girls in this post, so I included "+ Book Review" in the title, but then decided it made the post too long, so I removed the review bits but forgot to change the title until after I published the post.  Oops.  Book review to come after I finish making the capris.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Colete Pastille Muslin #2: So Much Better

I'm really glad I decided to cut a second muslin than attempt to fix my first sad muslin.  I did my measurements, made my changes to the paper pattern, cut and sewed the bodice and lo and behold and possibly verily, the fit was so much better it was hard to believe it was the same pattern!

Emboldened, I embarked on the skirt portion where I immediately ran into trouble.  Even armed with measurements, it was difficult to decide which size to cut.  I think this was partially a function of inexperience and not knowing how much ease I actually want in a garment.  But, I do think the pattern drafting is not totally blameless.  The ease in the pattern is 1.5 inches for the bust, 1 inch for the waist, and a bewildering 5 inches for the hip.  However, this is supposed to be a fitted sheath dress and in the book, Sarai says that "for a very close fitting garment, this might be 2" in the bust, 1/2" in the waist and 2" at the hips" (1).  And, looking at the picture of the model, I would guess that's about how much ease there is in the version of the dress she is wearing.

For myself, I compared my measurements with the finished garment measurements and then made sure I had the amount of ease the pattern called for.  As a result, I have an enormous skirt which I have taken in on the sides a lot.  A lot, a lot.  The middle back of the skirt was a hot mess until I did a swayback adjustment which made things somewhat better.  I'm tempted to keep messing with the skirt part of the muslin, but knowing how much better everything became for the bodice just from cutting a smaller size, I think I will recut the skirt in a smaller size and see how that looks before trying to make more changes.

The bodice still isn't perfect.  While the smaller size is definitely better, it's a little too tight in the bust (but not elsewhere), so I think I will need to do a very small full bust adjustment to get the fit right there.  I also still need to shave a little off of the side seams at the waist.  Finally, attaching the skirt made the back middle of the bodice droop (but not the sides) leading me to think I may need to do a swayback adjustment, but I might wait on that until I try a smaller size skirt to see if that makes a difference in the amount of length I want to remove in the swayback adjustment.

(1) Colette Sewing Handbook, p. 64

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rainbow Baby Blanket

Last January, a new little nephew showed up and it is my intention that all new members of the family receive a handmade item from me.*  Since he was arriving in January in Iowa and would be living in an old farmhouse about a half-mile outside of town, I decided whatever I made would need to be very warm.  Enter the Rainbow Ripple Baby Blanket (ravelry link), made in Cascade 128 superwash.  It's been awhile since I crocheted a blanket, but the pattern was easy and uses double crochet which is what my fingers naturally want to make whenever I crochet for some reason.  

My ripple blanket, often
co-opted by Cate or the cat.
The Ripple blanket is an old crocheted blanket standby, and always reminds me of the 1970s.  My mom loves making them and I think we all have one.  She's never made a circular one, though, so I wasn't too worried the new baby would end up with two of the same blanket (quelle horreur!)  The original pattern called for Borocco Comfort in pastel colors which I substituted for Cascade 128 superwash in bright rainbow colors because wool is warmer than cotton/acrylic and I prefer bright colors for babies.**  I ran into a problem when I couldn't find an orange that I liked and so went with variegated red/orange/yellow instead.  I then added the variegated green because I thought it might look odd with just one variegated yarn.  The Cascade 128 was lovely to work with--a nice squishy yarn that made for a very snuggle-worthy blanket.  Cascade calls it a bulky-weight yarn but I think it's more of a heavy worsted or aran-weight (I also think their worsted is more of a dk weight).  The middle three colors on the blanket are all 1 skein each and the rest are 1.5-2 skeins.  I basically stopped when the blanket seemed "big enough" and got sick of double crochet.  It's a little less than the width of a queen size bed in diameter (which is 60 inches wide).


Pattern:  Rainbow Ripple Blanket; instructions were quite easy and I memorized the pattern quickly
Yarn:  Cascade 128; squishy and cuddly-soft
Hook size:  H
Made for:  nephew
Find it on Ravelry: here

The new parents were most appreciative of the blanket and have decided to give it a place of honor on the back of the living room recliner during he warmer months.  

*Unfortunately, sometimes intentions are all the little one gets because life gets in the way of knitting/crocheting/sewing and by the time I finish, the baby is starting kindergarten.

** And, it's called the Rainbow ripple blanket and who ever heard of a powder blue, pink, mint green, and pale yellow rainbow?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Colette Pastille First Muslin

Now that we are in spring, I have been feeling more inclined to sew.  Fall and winter are for knitting, spring and summer are for sewing.  I made a denim Miette (from Tilly and the Buttons; more on that later) and now I am working on the Pastille dress from the Colette Sewing Handbook*.  I just finished my first muslin and it is the epitome of why you should start with a muslin:  it looks terrible.  Baggy, the waistline is wrong, I may have cut out the wrong size bodice and the hips look funky.  It is so fugly, I was tempted to abandon the idea of making the Pastille altogether.  Half an hour later, though, I remembered why I started sewing this dress in the first place, even though I really have little need for a sheath dress:  I need to practice sewing.

I'm a firm believer in developing new skills and common sense says that the only way to get any better at them is to practice.  With every other skill I've cultivated, I have understood that I will need to practice before I will be any good at it, but with sewing, however, common sense seems to fly out the window.  I want to be good at it right now and if I'm not, I don't want to do it.  I've been trying to figure out why I'm so resistant to the idea that I will need to make an unspecified and probably rather large number of terrible garments before I will be able to make lovely ones and I think I've come up with a couple of reasons.

1.  Fabric isn't cheap and making a garment that goes straight into the trash feels like throwing away money.  I know some people obtain cheap fabric by buying old sheets or fabric at flea markets, yard sales, and second hand stores and all I can think is:  those people must have more time than I do.  I have yet to find old sheets at the goodwill near me, much less fabric yardage and so would need to visit several of these stores many times in order to get the cheap fabric and frankly, it's hard enough for me to find time to do laundry frequently enough to keep my family of three people in clean clothes.

2.  The only way to know if I have been successful in my sewing is to try the garment on.  This involves a whole lot of time looking at myself wearing something awful.  It's like going jeans shopping with the added downer that it is my fault the garment doesn't fit.  A dress form would likely help, but I can't afford one at the moment and I live in a very small apartment.  I think I might have to throw out the vacuum cleaner in order to have space in the closet for a dress form and since we have wall-to-wall carpeting and a toddler, that would not be a good idea.  Leaving a dress form out all the time is not an option, even if I could find a spot where we weren't tripping over it (see also:  destructive habits of a three year old).

If only I had a set of disembodied
hands to help me with fitting.
So, the only way to get better at sewing is to spend money and put on clothes that make me look like I'm wearing a sack.  Oh, and become a contortionist in order to do things like "pinch out fullness" on my muslin while I'm wearing it (I'm looking at you, swayback adjustment).  Recently, I've decided that I'm just going to have to suck it up, swallow my pride, and just make a bunch of ugly, ill-fitting garments so that I can one day make beautiful, well-fitting clothes that I love.  To that end, I decided to start working my way through the patterns I already own using the fabric I already own.  I'm fairly good at making an A-line skirt and a Renfrew-style t-shirt, so now it's time to work on woven dresses and tops.  Once I feel pretty confident about those, I might even start working on making that most dreaded of all garments, the Waterloo of home sewists everywhere:  pants.**

Before tracing the pattern for the Pastille dress, I took my measurements, added a little ease, and compared the end result to the finished measurements of the dress and chose what size(s) to trace.  Based on measurements, it seemed like I needed one size for the upper body and then grade out to a larger size for the waist.  Trying on the muslin, my waist looks rather baggy and sad, so clearly I added too much to the waist.  Also, the front waistline of the bodice was about an inch above my actual natural waist and the back waistline appeared to be nearly two inches below my natural waist.  After doing some Google searches on the Pastille dress, I found that many people have also had too much length in the back of their muslin and one or two have also had the front of the bodice be too short at the same time.

So, my current plan is to throw out my first muslin and start the second one by first tracing a smaller size bodice.  Then, I'm going to actually measure my torso from my shoulder to my waistline going through my bust apex and measure paper pattern at the same point (something I should have done in the beginning) and add length to the bodice front pattern piece.  For the back, I'm going to attempt to get my husband to measure my back length.*** Then, I'll again measure the paper pattern piece and shorten it accordingly.  For now, I'm not going to mess with the skirt, just fit the bodice. Once I have a nice fitting bodice, I'll work on the skirt which I anticipate will need a swayback adjustment.


*Funny story:  my copy is signed twice!  I bought it from the Colette website so it came to me signed and then I got a chance to meet Sarai at a book signing/meetup in Oakland and she signed it for me in person

**And by pants I mean trousers, not underwear, although I've got a bunch of old t-shirts sitting in a pile, waiting for me to make underwear out of them

**As a scientist, you would think something as simple as taking a tape measure and determining the length of an object would be relatively easy for him, but as soon as you make that object a living thing, he gets confused (to be fair, he's a physicist, not a biologist, so living things confuse him--think of him as a cross between Sheldon and Leonard from Big Bang Theory).