Thursday, October 23, 2014

Blog Hop Side Step

Oh hai!  Anybody still here?  You may have noticed my enthusiasm for writing has gone astray of late.  Oh, I'm still crafting away in my free time, but all my current projects are of the slow type, as I promised over a month ago.  So no FOs to share at the moment.

Actually, I did make a short-sleeved Emery dress a few weeks ago.  It looks just like all my other Emery dresses, only with sleeves and a different fabric.  One of these days I might actually wear it.


The point of today's post is the "why I blog" meme that's been going around for the last couple months.  I'm both embarrassed and flattered that I've been tagged twice to join in - first by Pincushion Treats a month ago, and then by Ginger yesterday.  I optimistically promised Mela a post which never materialized; I was more realistic with Sonja, stating that it probably wouldn't happen.

It's not that I haven't been thinking about it - I have.  But as I said to Sonja:  I'm just not a navel-gazer.  Well, that's not entirely true, as I do meditate daily :-)  But I'm not in the least introspective, so I had a hard time coming up with any answers to the questions posed.  I also consider myself to be a rather unremarkable human being - no more or less than anyone else, just different.

That said, I really love learning the details of other people's lives.  I'm curious about people, but was raised to believe that it's poor form to pry, so I generally don't.

So I decided to approach this meme from a different angle.  Instead of blathering on (because you know how much I love to blather), answering questions which don't interest me a lot, I thought I'd turn it around:

Are you curious about anything about me?  About crafting, writing or just daily life?  Ask anything you like in the comments. 

IF there are any questions, I will answer them in a following post.  I'm suspecting there may not be too many (see "unremarkable," above) but you never know how many other nosy parkers there are out there :-)  And if any of you want to play along with this revised meme, I'd love the opportunity to pry into your life and ask some questions of my own.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October means blazers.

For months I've been planning to spend a fair amount of my fall sewing learning to make a tailored blazer.  I've gotten a small start on that, but to sort of ease into it - and because I wanted one - I decided to make an unstructured knit blazer first.

I've got plenty of blazer patterns in my stash, so I had a look through them and pulled out my favorites, then decided to go with Butterick 5926, which is made for "moderate stretch knit fabrics."  There are options for a shorter or longer length, and full or three-quarter sleeves.  I chose to make mine with long sleeves in the sorter length, which hits at my high hip.

My first version was a fit muslin but I was hoping (as one does) that it would be wearable.  Still, I didn't want to spend a ton of money on fabric, so I headed over to my local JoAnn's and picked up a couple yards of their Sew Classic Ponte Roma.  With a 50% off coupon, my fabric cost me $13; I spent another $3 or so on knit interfacing.  I'd never used this fabric before but for the (sale) price, I'd say it's fairly good quality - IF you check your yardage before purchasing.  I didn't, and after my fabric was washed I found a  large run.  Luckily, I was able to cut around it.  This fabric is 60% polyester and 40% rayon.  I was worried it might be too hot and polyester-y, but it's very soft and quite comfortable to wear.

I got a bit cocky and didn't take any flat pattern measurements or do a tissue fitting.  But I did look at the finished garment measurements, and decided to go with a size 10, which is where my bust measurement puts me.  I was surprised that the ease was pretty much perfect!

Before cutting, I made a bunch of flat pattern adjustments that are pretty common for me:

* Forward Shoulder Adjustment of 3/8" - less than my usual of 1/2" - 5/8"
* Broad Back Adjustment of 1/4" - again, less than my usual of 1/2"
* Sway Back Adjustment of 1"
* Shortened Sleeve by 1" and moved elbow dart up to correspond

I was pleased that the pattern had a center back seam and upper back shaping in the form of darts coming off the back neck.

So, how did it work out?  Well, I admit that I was a little underwhelmed when I first finished it.  I felt like I'd overdone it with the Forward Shoulder and Sway Back adjustments.  But I've worn it a couple times now and while I do think I can back off on those two adjustments just a bit, it's not too bad - not any worse than something I'd buy off the rack.  Here's me wearing it this morning, making my squinty face into the sun while Alicia took my picture:


I think this pattern is a keeper for me.  But there are a few things I will do differently the next time:

* reduce the Sway Back adjustment to 3/4" and
* narrow the shoulders by about 1/4" - this one is a surprise to me because my shoulders are on the broader side; it could be that I should really be in the size 8, but I like the ease I have here

The one thing I really don't like about this pattern is the placement of the buttonholes.  I worked them as written in the pattern and they are just too far in from the edge.  It looks a little ridiculous when buttoned.  It's not a huge problem because I'm not likely to button both buttons at once, but still . . .
these guys are about 1" from the edge.


There were a couple places I found the instructions a little lacking.  One was at the insertion of the collar, which wasn't too hard to figure out.  The other though was the hem.  The bottom hem is topstitched down, and while the pattern says to "trim" before hemming, it doesn't say how much.  I missed that part and fused the entire width of the hem back with double-sided fusible.  When I got to the point of topstitching, I realized that if I stitched at the edge of my turn-back, I'd be stitching through the pocket!  Of course, since it was fused down it was too late to trim it.  It won't show while I'm wearing the jacket, but it kind of bugs me knowing the excess fabric is there.

This ponte, while nice, is on the thin side.  I was a little disappointed when I tried the jacket on over some sleeveless dresses made from thicker ponte that the shoulder line became very lumpy. (P.S. this is my favorite dress, ever.  I have it in a gazillion colors, I love it that much.)  So next time, I may consider adding in some thin shoulder pads.  That said, it's pretty nice to have an unstructured, unlined jacket:  it feels like a cardigan but looks like a blazer.  I've been enjoying wearing this a few times in the week since I made it.

I did all my stitching on the regular sewing machine, using the "double stitch" as instructed in the pattern - really just two parallel rows of stitching before trimming the seam allowance.  I only dragged out my serger to finish the raw edge of the front facing.



I finished this last week, and tried a few times to get pictures of it.  As you no doubt know, trying to photograph a black garment indoors isn't the easiest thing to do.  This is the only picture from last week that came out half way decently - this is how I wore it to do some errands, with my white lace Renfrew, jeans, black flats and a sweet vintage leopard print scarf given to me by Andrea this spring.


And today I'm back at it with another Renfrew, jeans and a different pair of black flats!  Hey, if it works, it works!

Have any of you made this pattern?  Did you like it?  This one gets a thumbs up from me.  The great thing about an unstructured blazer is that even if the fit isn't stellar, I don't think it matters too much.  It's a pretty forgiving garment!  There's room for me to improve the fit here, but I'll enjoy wearing this one.  A black blazer was high on my list of holes to fill in my wardrobe.  I hope to do a more structured woven version someday, but this one will do for now!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

An Alabama Tank

Yes, I'm back with another hand-stitched Alabama Chanin garment.  I made this one up this week and wore it on a date with Hubby yesterday.

Before I got any of the Alabama Chanin books, I always thought of that work as solely reverse applique, and I do think that is the style most folks work when they pick up this technique.   So I was surprised to see several other styles and techniques when I finally bought Alabama Studio Sewing + Design, and one that caught my eye immediately was the Beaded Random Ruffle Fitted Tank on page 159 of the book.  I couldn't stop thinking about it, so my mind went to work figuring out what I had on hand that I could use to make it.

Remember this fail of a dress?


I wore it only once and felt uncomfortable the whole time.  It's been hanging in my closet ever since, waiting to be turned into something better.  I figured I could fit the pieces for the Fitted Tank on the skirt portion, and I almost could.  Because of the way the grainline sits and the shape of the pattern piece, I had to cut the front pieces about 1.5" shorter than the back.  No problem though - I just tapered the back hemline in a mini hi-low hem.  I actually really like it and would consider doing this on purpose in the future!



I had a couple of objectives with this make other than just using up my fabric and getting a darn cute top.  This is really a fitting muslin.  On my list is to make the Fitted Dress from the Sewing + Design book; I'm not too worried about how the skirt will fit because it's very A-line.  But I did have concerns about the bodice, and rightly so.  My measurements put me in a size M, so that was my starting point.

On this top, I ended up removing 3/8" from each of the four shoulder strap pieces.  It's OK on this one, because this fabric is a very stretchy cotton/lycra jersey.  But for future makes I'll take that back to 1/4", and maybe only on the front.  The armholes ended up being a little smaller than I'd like.

I definitely need to do a sway back adjustment on future versions:


And I'll shave about 3/16" off the center front seam from the neckline, tapering down to nothing about 3" below.  I had a bit of gaping around the neckline in the cleavage area.  This time I took care of it by pulling my neck binding extra tight to gather the neckline in a bit.  Again, this works because of the stretch of this fabric, but might not look too great on a fabric without lycra.

My other objective was to try a couple new stitches and techniques from the book.  Working the Beaded Random Ruffle was really fun, and surprisingly quick.  I think it only took me about an hour to work all four ruffles!  I cut my ruffle strips 3/4" wide, rather than the 1/2" recommended in the book, just because I felt like it.



All the seams were inside felled, like on my first Alabama Chanin project.  After I had the tank sewn together, I tried it on for fit before adding the bindings.  Because the shoulder straps were long, I undid those seams and took some off as mentioned above.  Then I worked all the bindings with the Feather Stitch.


I had wanted this one to be lower-cut than I usually wear, but because I took so much off the shoulders it doesn't show a whole lot of cleavage.  Honestly, it's probably better that way - I won't feel like I have to keep yanking it up.


I think this top is both pretty and comfortable.  Hubby loved it of course!  More than the other one, because it's so form-fitting.  I'm also happy that it goes with a jacket I bought years ago that doesn't go with much else in my closet:


And now, believe it or not, I'm ready to start doing some sewing with a machine!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Playing catch-up.

First off - thank you so much to everyone who gave me some styling tips on my last post!  Lots of great ideas in there; I'm sure I'll be trying some of them out in the future.  Please excuse my laziness in not answering each comment separately.  Some days are just like that :-)

I've spent part of the morning today updating my 2014 Sewing FOs page.  I hadn't added any finished makes since May!  There was a lot of catching up to do.  I realized that some of the things I made over the summer I never even posted about - partly because I was so busy, but also because a lot of them are the same patterns I've been using for a while, just in different fabrics.  I find myself using Instagram more these days for show and tell, and this space more if I have something I really want to say about a pattern, process or make.

That said, yesterday I wore two of those unblogged makes and really liked how the outfit came together, so I snapped a couple of bathroom-mirror selfies to share.  This is the kind of outfit I feel right at home in.  Of course, it's based on some slouchy jeans :-)  But on top of those jeans is an item I made early in the summer that actually filled a hole in my wardrobe:  a plain white Renfrew!


I'm sure it will come as no surprise that I completely fell off the Stash Diet wagon over the summer.  One day I was at my local fabric shop getting zippers or something, and my eyes fell upon a lovely 2-yard piece of silk chiffon in the remnant area.  It came home with me, and a couple days later I sewed up the long edge and then sewed the two ends together to make a huge infinity scarf.  Honestly, it's a bit too big, but by keeping the yardage intact I can change my mind later and make it into something else if I want to.  It's kind of a Moroccan tile print in lavender, yellow, white and black.


And because it was chilly when I left the house in the morning, I added one of my favorite jackets, purchased probably 15 years ago at Loft.


Rounding out the look were some simple silver jewelry and a pair of quilted black block-heeled shoes.

After I came home from my coffee date with a friend and an impromptu lunch date with Hubby, I finished up my second Alabama Chanin project.  I do have a couple of things to say about that one, so I'm hoping to get some pictures of it over the weekend.  Stay tuned, if you're interested in that stuff!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Following through.

Well, I took some "modeled" pictures of my Alabama Scout today, and I'll tell you:  they're not great.  I thought the soft afternoon light would be perfect for catching glints of the beads, but my camera disagreed with me.  In fact, it didn't even want to focus on my face, preferring instead the electrical cover plate next to me.  Can't say I blame it actually - I got very little sleep last night and I'm wiped out ;-)  So it might be apparent that I wasn't really into this photo shoot; but as much as I love this top, I'm ready to hang it up, post-wise, and move on.

Despite all that, I went to the trouble of doing my hair and putting on makeup.  I even tried two different outfits, but I think the photos will make it clear which I preferred.  Here's the first one:  the "fancy" one, with dressier pants and silver shoes, and understated jewelry.


I actually think this is a pretty OK outfit, but I just couldn't get a picture that relays how nice it is.

Even so, this top really says "Rocker Chic" to me (or at least, something a little more tough than the above).  I felt a lot more at home in the second outfit, with boyfriend jeans, studded ankle-strap flats, chunky jewelry and bright red lipstick.  (Which, by the way, I was terrified I would get on my beautiful top.  Rest assured, all is well.)  I even went all out and did the half-tuck:


By the way, I like that the last vestiges of my summer tan show up in these pictures.

I kept trying to stand right in the light that filters into the house mid-afternoon, hoping it would pick up the beads, but to no avail.  You can almost see them in this shot:


Here are a few more from different angles, which also show how it looks un-tucked - nice and flowy.  I did wash this the other day: by hand, air-dry for about 3 hours and then finished in the dryer on delicate (all inside out, of course).  It softened nicely.




And finally, the silly shot:

Hey camera!  I'm over here!  Quit looking at that cover plate!

And now I have a question to pose to you all that I've been thinking about a lot.  How would you style this top?  I think that I tend to get into a rut with certain items of clothing and end up always wearing them the same way.  Do you guys do that?  I ask because sometimes I read other bloggers' posts about their makes where they say, "I'm not sure what to wear this with."  I always seem to come up with ideas for other people, but not so much for myself!  I'm the same way with home decor too, by the way.  So if anybody would like to share an opinion, I'd love to hear it!

So this is (finally) the last post about this top.  But fear not:  I've already started (and almost completed!) a second Alabama Chanin project!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Alabama Scout: Construction

Wow, a whole week since I posted!  Over the course of that week, I spent the majority of my free time - about 15 hours altogether - and yesterday completed my Alabama Scout!

I know there are a few of you who were interested in the construction of a garment like this, so I was good and remembered to take photos while I was sewing the top together.  A LOT of photos!  A few  of these have been shared on Instagram over the last couple days, but most are new.

Each day this week, I spent approximately 2 hours working on the beading.  On Friday evening, I finished up the back, the last and largest of the pieces.  Here are all four pieces, in a picture I excitedly shared on IG after I'd gotten to this stage:


And another couple close-ups of the accent beading, which sadly doesn't show in most of the photos:



I couldn't resist sewing up the short shoulder seams that night, just to try it out.  I'd decided ahead of time that all my seams would be inside felled.  As per Alabama Chanin's instructions, I used a doubled strand of Button Craft thread and a simple running stitch.  Here is the original seam:



There are a few areas where I changed my construction from the method in the book, using techniques I normally use in sewing, and this is one of them.  Before felling the seam, I trimmed the seam allowance that would be on the inside of the felling in half:


That reduced a lot of bulk and made things much easier for me.  Here is the finished, felled seam:





Yesterday I spent about 4 hours sewing together the remaining seams and the neck binding.   All seams were worked as above, and in addition,  I marked all my seam lines to keep everything on track.


As I set in the sleeve, I actually felt like I had a lot more control than I do when I sew something like this on the machine.  Holding the work in my hands and being able to manipulate and ease the fabric stitch by stitch made the whole process a lot less nerve-wrecking than I usually find it to be.


Other than hand-stitching everything, I used the normal seam allowances and construction for the Grainline Scout.  (Note:  the pattern I used here is the one I adjusted several months ago to have the more swingy back and to fit my measurements.)  After setting in the sleeves, I sewed the side and sleeve seams in one continuous pass.  The bottom edges of the sleeves and body were left unhemmed, so that as the top is worn and washed, they will curl a bit.  In order to keep my layers sandwiched together, I didn't remove my pink silk basting threads until I was ready to sew each seam.

The neck binding is one long strip, cut on the crosswise grain, 1.25 inches wide.  I used the "Cretan Stitch" shown in the Alabama Studio books to apply the binding after sandwiching the neckline in between its folds, again with a doubled strand of thread.


And once I'd done that, I was done!  I almost couldn't believe it!  I quickly tried it on to check the fit and snapped a couple of bathroom mirror selfies:




One thing I'd been concerned about throughout the making of this top is that it wouldn't be comfortable against the skin.  You may have noticed that there are a LOT of knots on the inside:


I was afraid I might end up with a gorgeous, sparkly hair shirt.  So I was really relieved that the knots don't bother me at all!  And I expect that over time, with several washings, everything will soften up.




And now a few thoughts :-)

The whole time I was stenciling, stitching, cutting and beading the pieces, I treated them like gold.  They felt so delicate.  But now that the top is sewn together, the whole thing feels surprisingly sturdy.   I feel like I can wear this without worrying that it's too precious.  And there's an added level of comfort in knowing that any beads or seams that come undone can easily be repaired.

One of the things I struggle with most in sewing is understanding the relationship between the weight of a fabric on the bolt and in the finished piece.  I mentioned before that the fabric I used here is quite a bit lighter than the jersey sold by Alabama Chanin, and I was concerned that my top might be too flimsy in the end.    But now that it's finished, I think this lighter fabric was a good choice for the combination of techniques I used.  The combination of the 2-ply backstitching around each motif and the accent beading inside added significant heft to the finished garment, so that it's actually quite a bit heavier than it looks.  And while I do expect the whole thing to soften with washing, the final result is a fabric with more body than drape.  I think that if I'd used the heavier Alabama Chanin jersey, a top in this style would be far too heavy for me.  That said, the heavier fabric would make for a great jacket, dress or skirt.

I'm happy to have this project finished, and I had a great time making it.  It will probably be a few days though before I can get some "real" pictures of me wearing the top.  It's too cloudy today; I'm really hoping to get some good light so that the sparkly beads show.  And I'm also considering giving it a wash before taking any pictures, so the drying time will add to the wait.

Meanwhile . . . on to the next thing on the agenda!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Sinister Mitten

Sinister, because I started with the left mitten.  Anybody else take Latin in high school?  Super useful in daily life.  I took two years and enjoyed it immensely.  None of this is sarcasm - I really did, and I really do find it useful!

Also sinister because this design is not approved for all audiences:


I'm making these as a little KAL with my friend Alicia.  We meant to do these last year, but didn't get started soon enough for the cold weather, so we shoved it off to this year.  We cast on together on Friday via a Google Hangout since we weren't able to get together in real life.

I've finished the corrugated rib on this first mitten, and am ready to move on to the chart.  Having fun so far, although these needles are a little slippery.  I'm using two skeins from my stash:  one of Starmore Campion (blue) and one of Fortissima Socka (magenta - which matches my winter coat). 

I didn't do a gauge swatch, and cast on with the recommended needle.  There's a chance they may end up being a tad big on me, but if they are that's OK - I'd rather have them too big than too small, because I can always knit an inner lining or felt them slightly.  Both fixes would give added warmth, and that's always a good thing.

One of these days I need to sit down and wrangle all my knitting WIPs into one place and make myself a list.  I have a lot more going on than I've documented on Ravelry . . .  oops!