Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top 5 of 2012: What I Learned

I've really been enjoying reading everyone's posts on their hits, misses and lessons learned in 2012.  And true to form, I've been putting off writing my own, because I have too many ideas floating around in my head!  It does seem that the other participants in Gillian's blog-along have taken a philosophical approach to this "assignment," so I thought I'd take a different tack just to mix it up a bit, and share some of the very concrete lessons I learned this year.

These mostly have to do with sewing, because after 40 years of knitting, I honestly don't "think" a lot about my knitting any more - I just do it.  Things that would have taken some problem-solving 20 years ago have become part of my consciousness.  That's not to say I have nothing left to learn about knitting - I certainly do!  But when I think of the tricks I've learned lately, most of them occurred before 2012.  And most of them are to be found in the works of Elizabeth Zimmermann.

However, I did finally crack a nut that's been bothering me for years: 

1.  Short Rows.  I've always done the "wrap and turn" and my short rows have always looked sloppy.  I didn't really know there was any other way to do them, so when I saw Carol Feller's Craftsy class on the subject, I signed up.  I wasn't expecting to hit pay dirt, but I sure did!  I used her techniques for the collar of my Exeter cardigan, and they were the best short rows I've ever done.   I really recommend this class if you're not happy with your short rows - it's free!  

OK, the rest are about sewing - I had a lot to learn here!

2.  Darts.  I mentioned this a few weeks ago when I made my sparkly skirt.  Christine Hayne's method for pinning and sewing darts neatly has truly been a game-changer for me.  I used to dread darts and fuss with them endlessly, but with this simple technique they've become one of my favorite bits of sewing!


3.  Points and Curves.   Almost a year ago, I posted a couple of new techniques I learned while making my Pussy Bow blouse.   One was a tip from Pattern Runway for making good points on a collar:  sew to one stitch away from the point, then pivot and sew one stitch diagonally to the next seam, then continue.   It really does make for a neater corner, and now I try to use it on all corners, not just on collar points.

The other tip was from Colette Patterns:  shorten the stitch length to make sewing curves easier!  Now why didn't I think of that?  No matter how slowly I sewed, I still had trouble rounding a curve - until I tried this simple trick.  Genius!


4.  Smaller (bust) darts for smaller cup sizes, and vice versa.  It really took me a long time to wrap my head around this.  I literally had to fold a piece of paper into imaginary darts to send the point home!  In my experiments with fitting, I kept trying to take bigger darts to get a better fit in the bust, and not achieving anything but a worse fit!  I don't remember where I read or heard this first, but I do remember saying, "Huh?!  That can't be right!"  But you know what?  It is right.

5.  Fabric choice affects fit.  I first became aware of this with the coral silk Sorbetto top I made.  I had made this pattern about a gazillion times before and they always fit fine, but this one was very constricting across the upper back.  (BTW, this is also when I really realized I need to be doing broad back adjustments on things like this.)  What I realized is that all the other times I'd made this pattern, I'd used plain weave fabrics, which have a little give.  This one was made in silk twill - no give whatsoever, and hence the tighter fit.  You really can't tell from the front, but it makes the top slightly uncomfortable to wear.


I realized this again with my Mission Maxi dresses.  I did two test runs in cotton interlock (because I didn't know what the heck I was doing) and then three "real" dresses in jersey.  I thought jersey was jersey, but that's not necessarily the case.  The one I made in rayon/cotton blend fits far looser than the two 100% cotton dresses, and one of those is tighter than the others!

Loose
Tight
Just right!

I still have a little trouble with this, probably because I don't really pay attention to the "amount of stretch" listed on a given fabric.  I'm working on it though!

I learned so much this year - I really feel my sewing improved by leaps and bounds.  This is partly due to some of the nifty new tools I bought myself (serger, sewing machine with fancy feet); partly due to increased experience from just doing; and partly due to all the extra knowledge I gained by following along with everyone else's knitting and sewing insights via their blogs.  So thanks to all of you for participating in our wonderful online community!

29 comments:

  1. I love these lessons and how you've decided to make yours very technical! On the topic of knitting, that Craftsy short row course was incredibly useful. And free!

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    1. Thanks, Kristin! That class was so great, I would have paid money for it!

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  2. I like your approach to this question, it reminded me of a few helpful things I'd forgotten!

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    1. It can be hard to keep all the tips in the forefront of the mind while sewing. I find I sometimes don't remember them until I start having trouble!

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  3. Well, I did not know that about curves! Shall have to try it.

    My dart method is to just pin at the tip of the dart and pin the legs together; then lower the needdle where the legs join and bring the overhanging thread to the tip of the dart as the guide for sewing a straight dart. This probably needs pictures and I'm not explaining very clearly! Anyway, I find it more accurate than pinning along the entire length of the dart, but I'm not a good pinner.

    Ah, and the different stretches of jersey. That's why there's no point making a muslin (for knit fabric)!

    Hope you have a great 2013 in sewing!

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    1. I get it! Very interesting approach! So you sew on top of the thread you're using as a guide?

      I'm the opposite - I over-pin, and sometimes even hand baste! But then, I'm a control freak ;-)

      Happy sewing to you too!

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    2. OOh, I'm going to try that dart method, Oanh! Sounds lazy enough to work for me.

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    3. Yes, you just sew right over the guide-thread. It comes out fairly easily at the end.

      I hate basting. I am not a couture sewist!

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  4. It's so great to read how even an experience sewer like yourself can still learn new things! It's wonderful you try and try until you get it right.

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    1. Learning new things and getting closer and closer to perfection is what keeps stuff interesting, amirite? :-)

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  5. Thank you so much for your point about fit with different knits! It's something I'm working through with a couple versions of the Tiramisu knit dress pattern... I just can't predict how the fabric will work! One of my goals for the year is to pay more attention to the types and weights of fabric that I see in person so that I can make better choices online!

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    1. I find the knits to be very tricky. And because I've been knitting for so long, I'm used to thinking about ease as a negative number (mostly) rather than the positive ease you usually need for sewing! Quite a lot to think about!

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  6. Ooh, very pleased to read your comments about Carol Feller's Short Row Craftsy class because I just signed up for that the other day! I love learning new things. Your tips are all fantastic, I didn't know some of them and had forgotten others (like the shorten stitch length to sew curves - I was just last night cursing my poor curve sewing!) so this is an incredibly useful list!

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    1. I'm happy to hear that! I was feeling like I should have been a little more philosophical, but I just didn't have it in me at the moment!

      You're going to love Carol's class!

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  7. Thank you for all those tips! Especially the short row course - I'll definitely have a look at that.

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    1. Thank you! Do check out the class - well worth the time!

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  8. Your,s is the second mention of Carol Feller's 'Short Rows' Craftsy classes I've run across in the past 24 hours!

    Isn't it grand to find an explanation of a difficult technique explained in THE WAY that light's that light bulb.!

    We readers of your blog posts this year have since your growth. Thanks for taking the time to include us, Gail

    Love & hugs

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    1. Thanks, Gerry! Carol is a great teacher, and I have to admit, I just love her lilting Irish accent!

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  9. love your "lessons learned" post. sometimes we pick up so many tricks and whatnots that we forget them! here's to another year of fabulous sewing!

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    1. Ooooh, I should also have put in the one I learned from you, about fusing a whole piece of coating to the interfacing and then cutting out. I love that one! Haven't had a chance to use it yet though, because making a coat this fall was one of my fails!

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  10. I really enjoyed this post, you certainly have learned a lot this year (likely even beyond what is listed in this post). I really need to take that Short Rows class, or perhaps a finishing class. Although I'm a little old fashioned in that if I have to pay for a class I want for it to be a physical class rather than virtual. I really enjoyed seeing the maxi dresses, they look so great on you too.

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    1. Hehehe - I'm just the opposite: I'm such a home-body, I'd much rather take the course at home! But this one is free, so it would be a great way for you to see if you like the platform of a Craftsy class. I wasn't sure I would like them either when they first started coming out, but I really do!

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  11. What a great post! I'm so excited to check out all of these links, especially the short rows class-- mine always look kind of messy. I love all three of your Mission Maxis, by the way. It's kind of fun that they have slightly different fits.

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    1. And the differences in the fits probably isn't too noticeable to other people, but they feel different when I wear them. But good to know I can go for the looser one if I've eaten a bit too much!

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  12. All your maxis were to die for. And they flattered you so. Here's to the Year of the Maxi!

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    1. I'm glad I went for it! I liked them a lot more than I was expecting to! And it was really a revelation to me that the knit dresses are much more figure-flattering than I'd thought they would be. I think 2013 is going to be the year of the tee shirt dress for me!

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  13. I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who has a hard time wrapping my brain around darts! That's the first time I've heard that particular bit, but I'll file it away in my brain. I'm sure it will be helpful! Thank you!

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    1. Your post about your Charlotte skirt made me giggle this morning - I can really relate! Sometimes it takes me a while to "get it!"

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