Monday, October 31, 2011


I finished my Portfolio Dress yesterday!  Hurray!



I have to admit I've only tried it on with a sports bra, so I'm not really sure yet about the fit.  It is definitely a little loose, but I'm not sure if it's loose enough that I would go down one size.  This is the first non-Colette pattern I've done since I started sewing again, and it seems there is a bit more room between sizes than with Colette patterns, so the next size down may fit me more snugly than I'd like.  It's probably not the most flattering style on my pear-shaped body, but I was looking for a loose, comfy dress that I could wear with tights and boots, and this one fits the bill.  For reference, my measurements fell in the US 12/EU 38 range, so that's the size I made - it's meant to be caftan-like.

I spent all afternoon yesterday sewing this, having finished making the pattern and cutting out the fabric on Saturday.  So in all, the sewing took me about 5 hours, with short breaks for making coffee.  It was a fairly easy and straightforward pattern to sew, although the directions seemed a little "foreign" to me since I've only been using Colette patterns for the last six months.  The only part I found challenging was sewing the pink neck band onto the patterned fabric; I find it very hard to sew curves.  Oh, and also, "stitching in the ditch" is a lot easier said than done!  I had to unpick and redo in a couple of places.

neckline treatment detail

The pattern called for interfacing the yoke tab, neckline and bottom sleeve bands, but I didn't interface anything, since I was using corduroy.  It is a very lightweight corduroy, but my goal was to have a  really soft, cozy dress - I didn't want any stiffness anywhere.  I'm really glad I left the interfacing off; the fabric has enough body on its own.  I really loved sewing with it - it is so soft, and so NOT slippery!  A nice respite after the Jasmine blouse!

back neck detail
You can't see it in my photos because the fabric is so busy, but there are two good-sized pockets on the front of the dress.  The back has a simple button opening with loops, so there's no need to make buttonholes.

By the way, the color in the bottom two photos is pretty accurate.

I was anxious to finish this dress because - as I'd mentioned - my guest room is my staging area for all my sewing.  But come Friday, I'm going to be using it for guests!  So this week, all the sewing is going to get packed away into the closet.  Which means no more sewing for at least two weeks.  But maybe I can get my Wavy-Line Sweater done . . .

Friday, October 28, 2011

What I love about sewing.

These pattern pieces have been sitting on my guest bed all week:

Yet despite not having too much on my plate this week, I couldn't get myself to start the project.  I've been trying to figure out why.  I have a pattern for a dress I think is both cute and practical.  I have fabric I love, which is already washed and ironed.  What is stopping me?

It got me to thinking about what I love about sewing.  I definitely love getting new patterns.  I love going fabric shopping, imagining how "this" fabric would look with "that" pattern.  And of course I love touching the fabrics. I don't even mind washing and ironing them before starting the project.

But I don't always love tracing the pattern pieces (although sometimes I do enjoy it).  And I really don't love cutting out the fabric.  About a month ago I bought myself some fancy pattern weights (half off at JoAnn's!), hoping it might make the task a little less tedious.  But no.

I love sewing straight lines.  On fabrics that aren't challenging.  I like making gathers, but not attaching the gathered piece to a flat piece.  I don't mind inserting zippers or making buttonholes, but I don't like setting in sleeves.

I like making pieces that fit well, but I don't like making muslins or alterations.

So it seems that about half of the work of sewing something is stuff I don't like to do!  However, I'm really hoping to get a good start on this dress over the weekend:

Lisette Portfolio Dress

This looks like an easy-to-wear A-line dress that I could get a lot of use out of.  It's great for spring or for fall or winter, depending on the fabric you use.  I got some kooky thin corduroy that I really like:

And I can just see wearing this dress with some bright tights and boots.

All I have to do is make it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Last night I put on Bangle Jangle from the Essie Cocktail Bling winter collection:

It's a really lovely color, similar to Zoya Caitlin, but somewhat lighter.  I did have a little trouble with application; my brush was wonky and it applied like a pastel.  Still, I managed it in two coats.

This morning I decided to do a little stamping on top of it.  We're going to a concert again tonight, and I'm planning on wearing my blue and white Sencha, so I added white mesh topped with blue flowers:

Both these images are from Konad plate m57.  I did the white mesh with Konad Special White and the blue flowers with CND Midnight Sapphire.  The CND polish is great for stamping because it's so deeply pigmented.

I'm really happy with how this one turned out - it actually looks so much better in real life!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I was happily knitting along on my new sweater this morning, feeling proud of myself at having gotten so far after only a few days, when I paused and looked down at my work:

This is where it stands after I ripped out the 12 rows I thought were the mistake.  Then I realized I'd missed out the second row of raspberry in the previous sequence.  Which means another 10 rows have to come out.

And those 12 rows I thought were wrong?  They were actually right; everything up to this point is the "wrong" stripe sequence!  Each grey stripe has only 6 rows, and should have 8!  But honestly, I prefer it this way; I think the colors are more balanced.  And I don't want to rip back all the way!

The lesson here:  a little less Netflix, and a little more paying attention.

ETA:  Oops again - the grey stripes are indeed 8 rows deep.  I guess they look thinner because the yarn is a little thinner than all the other colors (it's 4 Ply Soft rather than Pure Wool 4 Ply).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Laying it on thick.

Nail polish! 

I haven't been posting nails lately because either 1) I didn't find the polish I was wearing very inspiring; 2) my nails looked great but there wasn't enough light to photograph them, or 3) I wasn't wearing any polish at all(gasp!).

But yesterday I lucked out:  put on a great combo and had good light to take a picture!

This two of the polishes from CND "The Look for Fall 2011" - Midnight Sapphire and Sheer 24K  Sparkle.  Wearing "The Look" makes me feel like one of the cool kids.

You've seen the gold before, but this is the first time I'm using one of the darker polishes from this set.  The formula was really incredible:  this is just one thickish coat each of the color and the effect, topped by CND  Speedey topcoat.

I have to say though, I just don't "get" the CND brush.  The bristles don't fan out like they do with other brands, so it has taken me some practice to be able to apply CND polishes evenly.  Worth it though, I guess, because these are intensely pigmented.

Now I can't wait to try out the Dark Amethyst!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another something new.

In general, I like to have two or three main knitting projects going and one or two "side" projects.  My current side projects are a pair of socks (stalled at the moment due to disinterest) and a large fine lace stole that I work on occasionally.

Finishing Betty left me with only Wallace as a main project, so over the weekend I began this:

This one is called variously Alouette and Short-Sleeved Wavy Line Sweater, appearing as the former in the Rowan book Vintage Style (published as Vintage Knits in the US) and as the latter in Sarah Dallas' book Vintage Knits.

Confused yet?

It gets worse.  Although the designs are basically the same, and are listed on the same Ravelry pattern page, the sizing, stitch counts and some of the shapings are different.  The Sarah Dallas book was published a year before the Rowan book, and the pattern for Short-Sleeved Wavy Line Sweater gives only one size, with a finished measurement of 36".  The Alouette pattern from the following year gives sizes XS to XL, but the finished bust on the XS is still 36", although the stitch count is less than the pattern from the previous year.

I went ahead and cast on for the XS.

I've wanted to make this sweater since I got the Sarah Dallas book in 2002, and have been saving all my leftovers of 4 Ply with the aim of eventually making it.  Having finished Betty, I finally got together enough yarn in colors I like together:

It's a fun and interesting knit:  feather and fan with a 40-row stripe pattern.  I'll have about 28 centimeters of carefree knitting, at which point I'll have to decide which armhole shaping to use.

I've decided to cross that bridge when I come to it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


I actually finished Betty on Wednesday, but it was so dark and rainy here that I didn't get good enough light to take a picture until yesterday:

I'm mostly happy with how this turned out, but I wish it were an inch or two longer.  It will be OK for a high-waisted garment, like the Ginger skirt, but it's really too cropped for anything else.  As it is, I added an inch in length after the ribbing because I'm long waisted.  It just wasn't enough.  The shape is very interesting though, and makes quite a nice line when worn.

Since I had to rip out my first attempt because of the color variance of the turquoise balls, this time I decided to change the bottom ribbing as well.  The pattern calls for the ribbing itself to have waist shaping (which on me would have ended up on my lower ribcage!), and I really didn't care for how that looked.  So I cast on the number of stitches after all the shaping is done, and knit the whole rib on that number.

I really love stranded knitting, whether Fair Isle or Norwegian, and had a lot of fun doing the neckline:

There was only one problematic row (right in the center) which had three colors - the turquoise was carried across 12 stitches!  I considered just doing the ochre and cream and going back later with the turquoise in duplicate stitch, but decided that would actually be more of a nuisance.

Because I added the extra length, I didn't really have enough of the turquoise left to do the neck edging and the armhole edgings.  So I used the off-color ball of turquoise to complete the yoke after the raspberry and cream section - since it is separated from the body of the sweater by the band of color, you can't tell that the dyelot is off.  That left me enough of the matching yarn to do the armhole edgings.

And now I've got lots of nice colors left over to use in other stranded or striped projects . . .

Friday, October 21, 2011

Channeling Bonnie Parker

Am I right?

Jasmine and Ginger

Hmmm . . . Which bank should I rob next?

I'm totally cracking myself up!

On the fly

I have a bazillion things to do today, but I managed to finish my Jasmine blouse yesterday, and wanted to get it up here with a couple notes - mainly to remind myself what to do differently next time I make this!  And there will be a next time.  Despite the cheap fabric and all the problems it caused me, I'm pretty happy with it:

Whew!  That is one busy print!  I think I would have been better off making the collar and cuffs in a contrasting material.  Live and learn.  The top looks OK on the hanger, but it looks so much better on the body.  I'm hoping to wear it with my new Ginger to a concert tonight, and hoping to get my act together enough to take some pix of them as well!

I made the size 2 with no modifications and the fit is really good.  The bias cut is pretty forgiving.  The neckline is somewhat wider than I was expecting, and not very low cut, which is a good thing.  I also like that it is nice and long - great for tucking in.

The main problem I had with this is that the fabric was so slippery.  I really should have cut each piece individually, but of course I was too lazy, so the print is skewed in some places.  This fabric also has a lot of bias stretch, which caused my collar to grow.  Because of that, I ended up having to pin it all the way down to the the point of the V, so I had to leave off the little loop the pattern calls for.  Once the knot is tied you can't tell though, so it worked out OK.

I'm also not too happy with the sleeve cuffs.  They don't have any opening, and therefore no give, and they fit a little tighter on my arm than I'd like.  So I may cut them in the size 4 next time.  I also don't like how they look so much lighter in color than the rest of the blouse because of the interfacing.  A contrasting cuff would have solved that problem though.

I did the front, side and shoulder seams as French seams, and when it came time to put on the collar, I was wishing I hadn't.  The seams created way too much bulk and keep the collar from laying as flat as I'd like.

All that makes it sound like I'm not too happy with this top, but I really am!  And Hubby likes it a lot too.  For me, this pattern is definitely a keeper, and next time I'll allow myself some good quality fabric, because it deserves it.

What about you?  Have you made the Jasmine, or is it on your list?  I'm surprised not to see too many finished versions on the flickr group yet!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


So on Saturday, I ordered the extra ball I needed for the fair isle part of Betty, and in the meantime got started on Kim Hargreaves' Wallace from her book Touching Elegance:

Wallace, with China Glaze City Siren nails

I'm using a yarn that's been in my stash for quite a while:  Louet Gems Sport.  The color is called Citrus, but to me it's more of a light pumpkin, perfect for fall:

I picked this up a few years ago at Kirkwood Knittery when I still lived in St. Louis; it was on the sale rack for $1 a hank!  Now that I'm knitting with it, I can kind of see why.  It's very ropey and inelastic, surprising for a 100% wool yarn.  I think the end result will be nice, but I've got to say, it is not a pleasure to knit with.

When I originally ordered my yarns for Betty, the raspberry color I needed for the fair isle section was out of stock.  I decided to substitute some raspberry sock yarn I've been holding on to to make the Kai-Mei socks from Sock Innovation.  But as I thought about it, I decided I really wanted to have the full two balls for the socks.  On Saturday morning, I got a nice email coupon from Jimmy Bean's Wool, and when I checked the website, the raspberry was in stock again!  Click, click, and it arrived in the mail yesterday!  Incredible!  So now I can resume Betty:

Shouldn't be long now.  The fair isle is the fun part!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Winter Ginger

I didn't do the things I'd planned to do over the weekend, and I did do the things I'd planned not to do!  I did a whole lot of sewing, and a little bit of knitting.  I finished this:

Colette Ginger skirt

I couldn't get a good photo of it, but I'm really happy with this skirt.  It fills a gap in my wardrobe; although I do have another charcoal skirt, it sits lower on the waist.  This one I can wear with some of my handknit tops that are more cropped, so I'm very happy about that.

The fabric is a piece of gabardine I found in my stash box when I went looking for pieces to use for clutch lining.  I have no recollection of where or why I bought it, but I must have used it for something; I could see that pattern pieces had been cut out of it!  I was happy that the piece was large enough to cut this skirt.  It's a very deep charcoal grey and has fantastic drape and heft.  I'm not sure what the fiber content is, but it made it through the washer and dryer just fine, and I'm able to steam iron it on the wool setting with no ill effects, so I'm thinking it may be rayon.

I also did a little work on the Jasmine blouse I started about a week ago.  The fabric is a polyester chiffon; I'm finding it very difficult to work with, but I just love the print!  And it goes great with the new skirt!

Because this fabric is so slippery, it makes me tense (muscularly speaking) to work on it for very long, so I've been taking my time.  I've got the body and the collar assembled:

So I'd say I'm about half way done.  I still have to make the sleeves and attach them,  attach the collar and facing and do the hem.  I'm considering this one as my muslin, since the fabric was quite inexpensive, but if it turns out nicely, I'd love to do one in silk.  It's such a great design.

As for the knitting, Betty is progressing but is on hold while I wait for one more ball of yarn to come in the mail.  So in the meantime, I started something new.  But that will have to be tomorrow's post!

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Good morning everyone!  Here as promised are the results of the giveaway:  the Random Number Generator selected the number 1 (!) which on my list was

Lizz from A Good Wardrobe

Congrats, Lizz!  Send me an email (contact info above) with your address, and I'll get these out to you posthaste.

And speaking of the Random Number Generator, has anyone ever used it before?  It's really cool, and the results are immediate.  I don't know what I was expecting; maybe the sound of cogs turning or some elevator music.  But as soon as you hit the "generate" button, Bob's your uncle - result!

I'm letting this idea stew for a while; it could be a useful tool for creating randomness in artwork.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Adrift: finally!

This baby has been finished for a week, but it got so hot here that I couldn't bring myself to put it on!  But at long last, may I present Adrift:

I just can not believe how much I love this sweater!  It's a real surprise to me, because I was expecting to be kind of 'meh' about it.  But I really think this is one fantastic garment!  There are so many ways to wear it:

The crossover drape.

The leaf-tab tie.

The center front tie.

I complained a lot while I was making this because it was pretty tedious.  But so worth it in the end!  Only two skeins of Malabrigo lace, and I was able to make the sleeves exactly the length I wanted!  I really want to do another one in a "winter" color.

I followed the directions almost exactly on this one.  I thought the back might end up being a little short, and it does come to just above my waist, but I think if I'd gone any longer, the fronts wouldn't drape "just so."

Partially covering the posterior region.

It's quite rectangular.
The only things I did differently were to ditch the magic loop method for the sleeves in favor of DPNs (so much faster!) and use up all my remaining yarn for the sleeves, rather than doing the prescribed number of rows.  After I'd finished the sweater, I wound what yarn I had left into two equal sized balls (eyeballing it), and they actually did end up to be even!

All the advice I read on Ravelry suggested that this one either runs big, or grows with blocking, so I did the smallest size, which was for a 30" bust (mine is a whopping 33") and it is a perfect fit.  So, word to the wise.  Several people also mentioned being confused by how to (wet) block it, but I did what I almost always do:  steamed the heck out of it with my iron.  Quick, easy, painless.  Except for that one time when I got a steam burn on my stomach.  Don't ask.

OK, gotta go to the fabric store!  Bye!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dark Chocolate Clutch

Has anyone noticed how all these names are ice-cream or candy related?  An insight into my soul . . .

This last one is now my favorite:

I used the cute ditsy floral left over from one of my Sorbettos for the lining:

I took the picture with my phone inside for size reference.  My phone is huge, so you can see how much space is in there.  I can fit all my essentials, which for me means phone, packet of kleenex (constant allergies), ID, cards and money, keys, lip balm and tiny tube of cuticle cream.  Possibly even sunglasses, if I wear a smaller one.

Here's me stroking it:

Mmmmm . . . so soft.  That's China Glaze Traffic Jam, by the way.  I put it on last night and I'm quite taken with it.  Here's a closer look:

In my head I keep calling this Raspberry Jam (again with the sugary stuff), and it really is more raspberry than my camera could capture.   It's nice to have something vibrant on the nails after all the dark, somber colors I've been wearing lately.  The sun even came out today, so I can enjoy it properly!

Only one more purse frame left.  I have a feeling I'll need to order more . . .

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The Stitch Marker Set Giveaway is ending on Saturday, Oct. 15.  If you're interested and haven't already left a comment saying so, follow the link to the right to enter.  I'll be using to choose the winner on Sunday!

Vanilla Clutch, and some nails

Well, I guess it's clutch week here Chez Agenda.  I can't seem to stop myself!  Here's the one I made on Tuesday, from the winter white leather:

This leather was quite a bit thicker than the caramel one, so I decided to do it without the pleat.  Also, I wanted to see how I would like it without the pleat.  Answer:  not as much.  It's OK, but I don't love it as much as the caramel or the magenta wool.  The leather is nice; it's quite pebbled:

I lined this one with some deep purple microsuede I had left over from a wrap jacket I made about ten years ago.  I'd forgotten that microsuede is a little difficult to sew.  The leather needle sure did help though.

I had a fair amount of trouble putting this one together.  It seems that the silver frames are just a smidge narrower than the antique brass ones, and with the thick leather and the microsuede, it was quite a bit of work getting this one into the channels.  Also, I applied way too much glue, and it squished out onto the frame and even onto the leather a little bit.  I managed to get it off with acetone, but also did in my mani.

Here's what I had on my nails:

China Glaze Poetic

Wow!  Last year when I first started stamping my nails, I bought the whole China Glaze Romantique collection, because chromes are so great for stamping.  But I have never used any of them as an all-over nail color.  It never even occurred to me!  Something I saw on the interwebs gave me the idea to try one, and boy!  Now I'll have to try out the rest!

But since that got ruined in the too-much-glue-must-use-acetone incident, that evening I switched it up to this:

Zoya Marina

Double wow!  This is one gorgeous color.  Deep blue with just a hint of teal.  It was one of the colors I was most looking forward to in the fall Smoke and Mirrors collection, and it didn't disappoint.  It's durable too:  it has already been through the ringer making Leather Clutch #3, and still looks great!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Caramel Clutch

Here she is, my first experience in sewing with leather!

I think I did OK for my first time, but there are some things I'll do differently from now on.

I took Andrea's advice and used binder clips to hold the leather together.  It worked like a charm. She also said not to backstitch - it's amazing how automatic backstitching is, and I really had to remind myself with each seam!  I wasn't sure what kind of thread to use, but I was pretty sure that normal sewing thread wouldn't be strong enough, so I used some black upholstery thread I had left over from a pleather pillow I made years ago.  Since it is pretty slippery, and I hadn't backstitched, I tied the tails off with a surgeon's knot at the ends of each seam.  I didn't worry about it much, since all the knots end up hidden inside the lining.

I had two problems with putting this together.  First off, I used some leftover hot pink dupioni from the stash for the lining:

I always think of dupioni as a heavy-ish fabric because it is so crisp, but it really is quite thin.  If I use it again, I'll add some interfacing so I don't have to struggle with it as much.

My biggest problem was with the pleat in the leather.  One side was OK, but the pleat on the other side was so thick that I couldn't get it shoved all the way inside the channel of the frame.  I'm really hoping it holds.  In the future, I'll clip open the pleat on the inside a little bit so I don't have to try to fit three layers of leather folded over on themselves into the frame.

I mentioned when I made my first clutch that I wasn't sure what kind of glue to use.  I did a little looking around at purse making supplies on Etsy, and a recommended glue was Beacon 527; turns out this is one of the glues I used (and which I have always called barge cement, since that's how it was sold to me by a shoe repair man years ago).  So I picked up a new tube on my weekend trip to the fabric store.  My new tube has a long thin neck, which makes it much easier to squeeze glue into the channels of the frame.

I was happy with myself after finishing this one, but a little exhausted too!  After taking a few pictures, I rolled up all my leather and put it away for another day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

My Trip to the Leather Shop

No, not that kind of leather shop.

My search for leather scraps began at Fishman's Fabrics in Chicago.  I discovered this store shortly after moving to the neighborhood, and one of the things I loved about it (besides the buttons!) was all the leather they carry.  I was happy to have a source so nearby, and made a mental note of it.

Over the last several months, Fishman's has done a massive reorganization - honestly, things are so organized now, it's difficult for me to find what I'm looking for!  Nothing is where it used to be, so I asked one of the clerks about the leather.  Alas, they don't sell remnants any more, just full skins.  The ones I took a peak at were between $75 and $150, and twice as big as me!  Obviously a little more than I needed.  But when I told him what I was making, the clerk very kindly suggested I walk across the street and visit I. Sachs.  He even let me leave my car in their lot - almost unheard of in Chicago!

I. Sachs Sons is right next to Vogue Fabrics - I've walked and driven by probably hundreds of times.  But it never occurred to me to enter; I mistakenly thought it was wholesale only shoe-making supplies.  And it is mostly shoe-making supplies, but open to the public.  When I went in, I told the man at the counter what I was looking for, and he pointed out boxes and boxes of remnants and invited me to dig in, telling me that the remnants go for $5 a pound.  He also said I could go to another room upstairs and showed me how to get there.

As I was digging around and pulling pieces I liked, he came back over and said, "I was wrong - the scraps are $4 a pound!"  I spent about a half hour accumulating promising-looking scraps, then honed down my selection to six different pieces.

When I took them to the counter, another man was there, and I asked him to weigh them for me.  He held my pile in his hands and said, "Two and a half pounds."  Then he took them to the scale in the back; when he returned, he said, "It came in at three and a half pounds, but I'll give it to you for three pounds."  He rang me up and the total came to $13.78 with tax, and then he said, "You can just give me thirteen dollars!"  Incredible!  You can imagine my delight at getting enough leather for at least six bags for thirteen dollars!

Here are my spoils:

I was a little disappointed not to find any brightly-colored skins, but as you can see, I did find plenty that I liked.  (I was secretly hoping to find a gorgeous turquoise like Andrea's!  Or green.) I was drawn to the more supple, distressed leathers.  Here are some close-ups:

winter white



dark brown



If you look closely at the first photo, you'll see that the caramel skin has already been transformed into a little clutch, about which more next time!