Author Archives: Ashwini J Designs

Waterfall Cardigan release, and other knitting and sewing

My latest knit design, Waterfall Cardigan, was released this week in the summer issue of Cast On magazine!

It is currently available only to members of The Knitting Guild of America, but will be available to the general public soon. This sweater is worked in Lady Godiva yarn—a beautiful silk wool blend– from Handmaiden Yarns. The yarn was a delight to work with, and showed off both lace and cable designs beautifully. After wet blocking, it developed a lovely drape that allows the fronts of the cardigan to fall gracefully. The stitch patterns are from Annie Maloney’s book “Lace Cables.” I love this collection, and want to design something with every single stitch pattern in there—so far I’ve used 4!

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on more utilitarian knitting. My winter socks have been mended many times over, so I decided to replace them with Anastacia Zittel’s “Cable Look Socks,” which I tested before the pattern release. (The pair I’m replacing is the original test knit). I’m making this pair in Ella Rae Classic, a workhorse worsted-weight wool that’s available in a wide range of colors.

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This yarn is on the lighter side of worsted weight, which means that I can make the socks slightly longer than the originals. I’ve finished one sock, and am about a third of the way through the second one. They make for great knitting on the bus.

My sewing plans, as often happens, have gotten waylaid by holidays—Mother’s day and my mom’s birthday a week later. I decided to try something different for her this time, and picked a style that neither of us would typically reach for. I chose V9035 from Marcy Tilton.

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When I was at the fabric store with my mom last weekend, I asked her to pick from the selection of silk dupioni fabrics, without telling her the intended use. She chose a lovely sage green, which unfortunately looks a bit sallow in the photos below.

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I purchased 2.25 yards, as called for on the pattern envelope for a 60” fabric, but realized after I got home that the fabric was more like 53.” I barely managed to fit the pattern pieces. The construction is highly unusual, but the directions are clear enough, and the sewing itself is straightforward. I finished it in record time, and even did mock-French seams to enclose the seam allowances, which frayed badly. I gave it to my mom today, with only the sleeve hems and buttons/ buttonholes remaining. She loved it! (I was afraid she wouldn’t, since it’s not her “normal” style). My only complaint about the design is how wide the back is. I’m not exactly thrilled with the flappy thing across the back either, but I don’t mind it.

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It may work better in a drapier fabric, rather than the stiff fabrics recommended (pattern envelope calls for taffeta, poplin, or broadcloth). I finished the sleeve hems after she left, and now only the buttonholes remain. These are the buttons I plan to use:

Details of the pattern and construction next week!

 

Ballgown Construction, part 1

It’s been a while since my last post, but I’m determined to keep up with my New Year’s resolution. If you’ve followed me on Facebook, you might have seen that my Dove top (from Megan Nielsen designs) was featured on the Sewing Pattern Review blog. It made my day when to receive an email saying my top had been featured!

I spent quite a bit of last month knitting. I can’t share any pics yet, but the pattern should be published soon, and I’ll post once the pictures are up.

Moving on to the day’s topic, back in February I was persuaded to join a “Red Carpet Worthy Dress” sew-along group on Facebook. The pattern in question is Vogue 1533.

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It has a 2-layered “foundation,” which consists of a “foundation lining” (inner layer with boning), and an outer layer that closes with hook and eye tape. It extends from the neckline to just below the waist. In addition, the dress is fully lined. If you are inspired to give the pattern a try, note that many things are called “lining” in the instructions. All fabrics that are NOT the outermost “fashion” fabric are called “lining.” The full lining of the dress is called “lining,” and both layers of the foundation are made of “lining,” of which one layer is the “foundation lining.” Clear as mud, right?

I began by making a muslin of the foundation, which is a basic princess-seamed bodice that closes in the right side seam, and has a hanging thing on the left side. The princess seams had a little too much fabric over the full bust area, so I pinched it out with pins (left picture), and restitched the seam line (right).

I started dreaming of what my ideal fabric would be. I told my mom and husband (I have 2 witnesses here!) that I imagined a black fabric with white or silver flowers as the main dress fabric, and the front contrast panel in black. A week or so later, when browsing the Mood fabrics website, I found the fabric of my dreams. It was even reversible, so I could waffle at the last minute to decide if I want black with white/ silver flowers, or silver/ white with black flowers. Needless to say, I made the purchase.

I then purchased “lining” fabric for the foundation. It is a thin polyester satin, just a bit lighter than a crepe-backed satin (but thicker than the polyester stuff marketed as “lining”). I found a heavier satin for the front contrast panel. Here they are, left and right, respectively.

I started by constructing the foundation. The pattern calls for interfacing both layers. I used a lightweight interfacing for the “foundation” (left), and a much stiffer shirt-weight interfacing for the “foundation lining” (right), which eventually will receive boning. The wrong (gluey) side of each interfacing is shown in the left side of each picture.

I transferred the pattern adjustments to the pattern pieces, and cut and stitched the foundation. The right and wrong sides are shown below.

For the “foundation lining,” I cut the interfacing out of the princess seam allowances for the center and side-front panels. From past experience, I knew the interfacing would be too stiff to ease the curved pieces. I did have to additionally clip the princess seam allowances in a couple of places to keep the fabric lying flat, but otherwise this attempt went smoothly.

The shiny satin displays all flaws in the sewing in their full glory, as well as flaws that don’t exist. The princess seams really don’t have any tucks, despite appearances. After constructing the foundation layers, I was glad that I did not choose a shiny satin for the main fabric.

Here’s the foundation lining pinned into place. I ended up taking a ¼” out of the side seams of both layers near the top.

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Up next is ordering and installing the hook and eye tape (I have white tape on hand, but want black for this job). I will also order boning. The foundation calls for something like 13 pieces of boning, which is nearly double of my “usual” amount (not that I’m “usually” making strapless dresses). I’ve decided to use steel spiral boning rather than the featherlight plastic boning I have on hand. The steel spiral boning affords more flexibility than the plastic stuff, and I’ve already found the plastic boning too constricting when used in only half the quantity called for here. Once that’s done, I’ll take a long sewing break to  trace and transfer adjustments onto all the other pattern pieces.

Meanwhile, if anyone knows of any upcoming balls, please send along an invitation. I will soon have a ballgown, with no ball to attend. I’m also happy to lend this to a Cinderella with the opposite problem, though she’d have to be exactly my size for the dress to fit. Any and all Cinderella/ ball pairing recommendations are most welcome.

Hemming a velvet skirt

My first “epic” project of the year is complete, the Burda 105 Godet Skirt. It wasn’t meant to be an epic project, but the slippery, slinky fabric turned it into one. Here it is, a winter skirt ready for the first warm day of spring.

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I had left off at the hem last time. I followed the directions in this Threads Magazine article, except that instead of using bias-strips of flannel (which I didn’t have), I used 1” self-fabric strips cut along the cross-grain, as advised by an online sewing friend. The fabric was stretchy enough along that I didn’t need the strips to be bias cut. When I turned up the hem, I discovered why Threads recommended a strip of fabric in the hem—the velvet did not want to make a crisp fold, and there was a gap between fabric layers right above the fold line. This gap is taken up by the fabric strip.

I trimmed the hem of the skirt to 0.5”. I then aligned the right side of the strip of fabric facing the wrong side of the fabric, so that one edge of the fabric strip was right against the hem line, and the other edge extended beyond the edge of the skirt (by about 0.5”). I decided to use schematic drawings here, because the velvet wasn’t photographing clearly enough for instructional purposes. The skirt is shown in purple, and the fabric strip in grey.

I stitched the edge of the strip to the skirt, just below the hemline:

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On the right side, I stitched the edge of the skirt hem to the strip of fabric, using a zig-zag stitch:

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I then turned everything up at the hem line, so that the strip of fabric was between the skirt body and hem allowance. I catch-stitched the strip of fabric to the skirt body by hand. It took forever because the hem was well over 100” long, and I’m slow at hand-sewing (but fairly meticulous).

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I did lose some of the nice drape and flow of the unhemmed skirt. I always seem to have this problem when hemming a curved piece (unless the fabric is thin enough for a tiny narrow rolled hem). Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased with the end result, and looking forward to wearing this out and about. But first I might have to make the accompanying Burda 102 jacket, which I’d like to do in a ponte knit.

There’s been some debate in my household about the ideal color for the jacket. We’re having a déjà vu moment of the black/ gold/ blue/ white dress optical illusion that was all over social media a couple of years ago. I think the velvet has clear purple undertones, and that the jacket should be a dark purple. My mom and husband don’t see any purple at all, and vote for a grey to black color for the jacket. Two coworkers called the skirt “dark grey” in color, but noted purple when prompted. What color(s) do you see in the skirt, and what are your suggestions for jacket color? Post in the comments below. Meanwhile, here’s another picture of the finished skirt (my shirts in both pictures are pure black, for comparison).

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And just in case anyone is wondering about my activities on the knitting front—I’m hard at work on a piece for a 3rd-party publisher. It’s top-secret, but here’s a preview of the swatch, in the beautiful silk/ wool Lady Godiva yarn from Handmaiden Yarns :

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The publication is due out in May, so watch for it here, on Facebook, and/ or on Ravelry!

 

Adventures with rayon

The McCall’s company had a sale on out of print patterns recently, and I picked up 3 at the time. Vogue 8961 was not one that I would have ordinarily paid much attention to, but it seemed like the perfect pattern for a rayon challis that my mom gave me for my birthday in January. The pattern was marked “very easy,” so I decided to give it a try, and to live dangerously and skip making a muslin. I did note that the V neck was quite deep, so I raised the point of the V by 1.5” to make it sit about 6.5” below the shoulder line, which is my preferred neck depth. This meant having to re-draft the neck facing as well.

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Because the fabric frayed like crazy (I seem to have forgotten my experience with rayon challis while making my  Garden Party Dress), I French-seamed from the outset. Usually I prefer to do mock French seams after all the construction is complete and I’ve tried on the garment for fit, since I like to have the seam allowances available for adjustments. But this garment was so large that I was sure I wouldn’t have to let it out anywhere. So that was Part 2 of living dangerously. Here’s a French seam—could be narrower, but it doesn’t matter so much since the top is roomy, and it does the trick of encasing the raw edges.

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Although the construction was straightforward, as advertised, the rayon made it a challenge. The directions for the waist casing for the elastic were simply to stitch the edges of the seam allowances together. However, the fabric frayed so much that the stitches ripped right out as I tried to insert the elastic. So I unpicked the stitches, opened up the seam allowances, and fused a strip of very lightweight interfacing. Inspired by a recent Craftsy class on corsetry, I stitched a ribbon on top of the seam allowance to form the elastic casing. The ribbon came with a Bed, Bath, and Beyond wedding gift 5 years ago!

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Once that problem was solved, it was time to hem the piece. This is what the sleeve hem looked like after doing a tiny double-fold hem and hand-stitching. I commented that it looked like a parsley leaf.

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One redeeming feature of this fabric is that it presses well. Here’s the sleeve after a careful pressing. It’s not perfect, but it’s a vast improvement over the original. I’d decided not to be too fussy about this piece, so the sleeve hems did not receive any further adjustments.

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I cut this tunic a bit shorter than called for, which is unusual for me since I usually lengthen tops (for personal preference, not because I’m uncommonly tall). I also stitched the entire shoulder seam, instead of leaving a gap as instructed. Overall, this was a great pattern to learn the joys and pitfalls of working with rayon. The next rayon project I have in mind will require a lot more precision in sewing, so I’m glad I had a “dress rehearsal” with this pattern.

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All that being said, I’m not sure this style is my thing. I’m not thrilled with the excess fabric in the back, though it may not hang properly without it. The tunic may grow on me, though, as the high-waisted skirt from a few weeks ago did after I wore it for a full day. Now I’m just waiting for spring weather to wear this one!

Polar vortex antidote

We had a bit of a teaser with 70 degree days in February, but winter wasn’t going to be usurped so easily, and it returned in full force earlier this month. The theme for this year seems to be that there will be a polar vortex whenever I have theater tickets. The first instance occurred in December, at which point I decided to invest in a long, heavy skirt that I could wear with tights and boots, which would keep me warm and still be appropriate for the theater. I chose the Burda 105 pattern, and a velvet fabric I picked up at Mood Fabrics in NYC (a gift from my husband). My second polar vortex encounter occurred at the beginning of the month, which strengthened my resolve to get this skirt done.

The velvet turned out to be heavy, slithery, and unstable—but so beautiful! Every seam of this skirt was arduous. Instead of chronicling the whole process, I’ll share one of the more brain-teasing aspects of it—putting in the invisible zipper. Here I’ve hand-basted the zipper line:

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However, the velvet was far too unstable to support a zipper. I stitched twill tape to the zipper seam allowance to stabilize it:

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I then opened and stitched the invisible zipper to one side of the skirt back:

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At this stage, most tutorials instruct you to keep the zipper open, and pin the other side of the zipper to the opposite side of the back. Here’s how it looks:

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I then tried to close the zipper, and realized I’d gotten it twisted:

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I attempted it again, with the same result. I decided to march to the beat of my own drummer, and pin the zipper in the closed position. Here it is aligned to the zipper line, and then pinned in place:

The key to pinning is to insert the pin as far away from the zipper teeth as possible in the zipper tape, while still being able to bring the tip of the pin up through the same zipper tape. This makes it possible to open the zipper after it has been pinned in place. I just move the pin head away from the fabric as far as possible, and slide the zipper pull behind it. Sometimes the pins can also rotate to be nearly parallel to the zipper teeth.

 

I then stitched the second side of the zipper—here it is all closed up and invisible:

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Here’s the almost-complete skirt:

I have to attach a hook and eye to the waistband, and hem the lower edge. Marking the hem took forever, because the bottom of the skirt is cut like a circle skirt, which means it stretched on the bias. The hem line is currently marked with a line of basting (hard to see in these pictures). I’m still debating the best way to hem it. I’m considering following advice from Threads Magazine to hand-stitch a strip of bias fabric at the hem line, turn up the raw edge of the skirt, and catch-stitch to the bias fabric. This will be hours of hand sewing, as the bottom circumference is quite large (due to it being a circle skirt), but the stability might be worth it in the end. Hopefully by next week this skirt will be ready to make its debut.

 

The proof of the garment…

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating;” or in my case, the proof of the garment is in the wearing (in neither case is the proof in the pudding, which many would have you believe). I seized the one semi-warm day last week to try wearing my Vogue 8781 high-waisted skirt out and about. Since winter has made a reappearance around here, I wore the skirt with black knit tights and my Burda blazer. It also prompted a coworker (who’s not very aware of fashion) to ask if I was dressed for a special event– which means that I really need to get going on making (and wearing) a more professional wardrobe. Here it is with a different sweater on top.

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The proof of the skirt was to see whether it would cling to my tights. I line almost all of my garments, but had skipped this step a) because the pattern didn’t call for it, and b) mostly because I couldn’t figure out how to draft a lining that would attach to the facing, and didn’t want to use the lining in lieu of the facing (since the facing seemed to magically improve the shape of the waist line). I had asked my mom whether the skirt was likely to cling to tights/ nylons, and if I should figure out a way to line it. My mom is staunchly in the anti-lining camp, and assured me the skirt would be fine as it was a fairly thick, stiff fabric. It clung. Within a few steps it was hiked up to mid-thigh and firmly entangled around my legs. I decided to line it.

I used a cream-colored poly lining fabric left over from my Garden Party Dress. I cut out the skirt front and backs (using only pattern weights to hold the pattern pieces down), transferred the dart markings with a tracing wheel and wax paper, and stitched up the darts, side seams, and center back seam. I pushed myself to work quickly (pretending I was on the Great British Sewing Bee, which sadly may be canceled this year), and finished this in about an hour. I then flipped the facing up, shoved the lining in there, and stitched in the ditch of the skirt-facing seam to secure the lining in place. I used a black spool thread and white bobbin thread—you can see that the tension isn’t quite right, but it’ll do to keep the lining in place. Fortunately this seam doesn’t show on the outside.

I then turned under and stitched the lining’s center back seam allowance to the zipper tape at the upper edge, and at the lower edge stitched it to the slit hem. I also stitched the lining hem to the skirt hem (the latter with help from my mom—I think this is partly why she’s anti-lining, since I usually recruit her to help with the hemming!).

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I tried the skirt on with the tights again, and it skimmed right over the them without any clinging whatsoever. Part I of my professional wardrobe is ready to go! Next is contemplating a good color for the coordinating blazer included in the V8781 pattern. Post in the comments if you have any suggestions for a blazer color/ print to go with this black pencil skirt.

Meanwhile, I’ve been making good (but slow) progress on my Burda velvet skirt, and will have lots of pictures to share next week. Til then!

Mid-winter knitting and sewing

I’m very excited about my next knitting design for the year, for which I’m thrilled and honored to be collaborating once again with A Hundred Ravens yarns. I’m using this beautiful fingering weight yarn, Llyr (a plied wool/ silk blend), in colorway “Rose Tyler.”

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It is lovely to knit with, and the colors produce a gorgeous, subtle shading. (My Peony Shrug seems to have gotten me hooked on pink, after not wearing it for years). This design will be published by a 3rd-party publisher, so I can’t share any more details until it’s in print. But it will feature lots of lace, in many forms.

I’ve continued my diligent efforts to use up stash fabrics (my efforts not to add to stash have been less diligent). This skirt is from an out-of-print Vogue pattern, 8781, which I loved enough to purchase via Etsy (the seller—chajucreations– was kind enough to include a small crocheted doily in the package!).

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I purchased this fabric when Grey’s Fabric went out of business (before being reincarnated as Mercer’s Fabric). I had just under 1 yard of this 60” wide cotton/ spandex stretch gabardine-like remnant. I was able to fit the skirt front and back pieces, but did not plan my layout well and didn’t have enough for the waistband facing. Fortunately, I had a bit of stretch satin left over from a previous project to use as the facing. I was highly skeptical of the skirt before attaching the facings, but the facings were magic, and the shape of the waist dramatically improved once they were sewn on. I’m glad I went with the facings, rather than trying to turn under the waist seam allowance and stitch it down with a grosgrain ribbon.

Holidays always seem to sidetrack my crafting plans, usually because I embark on last-minute gifts for loved ones. But my birthday in January had the same effect, since my mom gifted me two lovely cuts of fabric. I couldn’t resist turning this cotton flannel into my tried-and-true pyjamas from McCall’s 4320. The pyjamas are meant to complement the set I made my husband for Christmas. Here we are in our new PJs!

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My next epic project is this Burda godet skirt.

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(c) BurdaStyle

I was good and made a muslin of the top half to check waist and hip fitting, which revealed that I needed to take about 2” out of the waist circumference. Since this skirt has 4 seams (2 side seams, a center front, and a center back zipper), I simply curved each seam line ¼” inwards. I obtained a stretch lining fabric from Mercer’s Fabric during their Valentine’s day sale, and decided to make a partial lining (and not extend it all the way down to the flowy part of the skirt). Here’s the lining, a bit wrinkly, but otherwise fitting well.

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I’m using a beautiful, but slinky, burnout velvet, grey with purple undertones undertones (gifted by my husband when we visited Mood Fabrics in NYC in December). Whereas cutting the muslin took less than an hour, cutting and marking the velvet ended up being a day-long production. All the tips I read online recommended:

  1. Cutting out in a single layer of fabric.
  2. Using a rotary cutter and pattern weights to hold the pattern pieces down.
  3. Not using a tracing wheel to mark up the fabric.
  4. Hand-basting everything before sewing on the machine.

I obeyed all of these guidelines, and immediately saw why they were necessary. The fabric is so slinky that two layers will never stay put, and even slipping a scissor blade underneath will distort the fabric. I did manage to pin the pattern successfully to a single layer of fabric. For transferring pattern markings, I folded back the tissue paper along the mark, and used chalk to draw a line (or dots) adjacent to the fold. I then thread basted. I’ve hand-basted the darts, visible here from the wrong side and right side.

The proof of the pudding will be when I put it on the machine. If all goes well, I’ll have a finished skirt to show off next week!