Category Archives: Knitting

Rosewater Fabric & Lace Cowl

Summer isn’t usually conducive to knitting, but my latest published pattern was designed to be a quick knit for warm weather. The Rosewater Fabric & Lace Cowl, published in the August 2017 issue of “I Like Knitting,” combines my love of fabric and yarn to make a lacy cowl that’s half purchased lace fabric and half knitted lace.

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(c) I Like Knitting

By using a sturdy lace fabric, there’s no need to finish the raw edges, minimizing sewing for those who prefer to focus on the knitting.

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(c) I Like Knitting

Because most lace fabrics feature floral motifs, I wanted a knitting stitch pattern that would not compete with the floral elements. At the same time, I didn’t want a highly angular or geometric pattern, such as the ubiquitous diamond-based lace designs. After much searching, I found a flowery pattern that wasn’t a true floral. This design will complement a wide variety of floral lace fabrics.

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Experiment with different fabrics and color combos—use similar fabric and yarn colors like I did, or try contrasting or gradient colors in either half. I’d love to see what you try!

In sewing news, I ventured into the realm of home dec and made bedroom curtains using a gold/ cream brocade from Mood Fabrics. They’re lined with a very lightweight white cotton fabric. The curtains were 5 years in the making: I’ve been imagining these since we moved in! In the process, I discovered how difficult it is to cut a perfect rectangle out of fabric– the brocade tended to shift around, and the lining turned out to be off-grain. But the struggle with the fabrics was worth it– the curtains are everything I dreamed of!

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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!

 

 

Blazer rehabilitation

The last of my January TBD (To Be Done) pile was completed today— the infamous blazer. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I didn’t take any pictures before the alterations, but here’s the finished result (shown with the skirt I altered earlier in an effort to clear the TBD pile):

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And here it is after giving the sleeves a good press:

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Here’s what I did to rehabilitate this blazer:

  1. Unpicked and restitched the sleeve caps. One sleeve required multiple attempts. The secret to that one was pinning and then hand-sewing directly on the seam line.

  2. I undid the attachment of the sleeve hem to the lining, and restitched it. I used a stitch that the Colette Guide to Sewing Hems calls a “slip stitch.” Basically it makes tiny stitches anchoring the lining to the fabric, with large intervals between stitches where the thread travels through the folded edge of the lining.

  3. I undid the lining attachment to the bottom hem. This one had me stumped for a while, because it results in a quarter to half inch being left raw on the side of the facing (potential raw edge indicated with arrow– the bottom edge of the facing really is flush with the bottom of the jacket!):

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I couldn’t find any tutorials that addressed the issue, even in a Craftsy class on blazer-making. Finally I found this tutorial from  Threads Magazine, which instructs you to slip-stitch the raw edge closed (which would have been my default option in the absence of any better solutions).

I slip-stitched the lining in the same way as for the sleeves. Here’s how the pleat looks when pushed up.

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And when folded down:

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In knitting news, I revisited an epic stole project that I began last year. It’s in a beautiful cobweb silk yarn. I’m about 1/8 of the way through, hopefully it doesn’t take me 8 years to finish it!

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I think I’ll finally move on next week to starting a shiny new project with tempting new yarn and/ or fabric, of which I have plenty.

Mittens and upcoming sewing projects

After the whirlwind of productivity and the excitement of a new pattern release last week, this past week was much more calm. The good news is that my alterations to the tunic for my mom worked for her, and I was able to present her with a fully finished piece, ready to wear. Unfortunately, I don’t have a modeled picture. Wrapping up my Christmas gifts so early in January is a bit of a record for me. I think last year’s Christmas gift for my husband wasn’t completed til late spring!

Now that the TBD pile is resolved, I’m making a concerted effort to decrease my yarn and fabric stash. I’ve had this skein of yarn since last March, earmarked for mittens. The yarn is basically an enormous strand of roving, definitely not my cup of tea. It is labeled “100% super soft wool,” for what that’s worth (my first time seeing a subjective descriptor in the fiber content info).
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In any case, the only use of this yarn to me was in the form of mittens, and I found the perfect pattern during the Ravelry-hosted Indie Design Gift-Along in December. Daisy Bulky Mittens, by Triona Murphy, turned out to be the perfect thing for this yarn. I had to adjust the cuff pattern a bit because my stitch gauge was a tad looser than called for, and I started with fewer stitches to compensate. However, the adjustment was quite straightforward to make. I had to adjust again for the top of the mitten, which again was straightforward working in stockinette stitch. Each mitten took at most 2.5 hours. Even though I was less-than-excited about the yarn, I was thrilled with the instant gratification the yarn/ pattern combo provided. Here are the mittens.
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In keeping with my stash-reduction efforts, I’ve decided to embark on two projects to use leftover fabrics. Both projects are from the 2016 Great British Sewing Bee book “From Stitch to Style.” The first is a “Chinese-inspired Top,” which is a Qipao-style tank top with a mandarin collar and diagonal opening across one shoulder. The opening closes with an invisible zipper, but is embellished with decorative frog closures. I have quite a bit of leftover brocade from my earlier bomber jacket adventure (I’d purchased enough fabric to make the entire jacket in brocade, but then made the sleeves and trim in a plain satin). The second project is a “1960s color-blocked top,” based on the Yves St. Laurent Mondrian Dress. I’ll be using a brown hemp-backed satin that made an appearance in a tie for my husband, and a tiger-print charmeuse that was used for a wrap top. Ideally the back will be solid brown and the front window-pane panels will be tiger-print (separated by brown stripes), but I haven’t laid out the pattern pieces to make sure I have enough of each fabric. If not, I can change how I color block the piece, and facings can be a different fabric altogether if needed.

This week I only got so far as tracing the patterns. The patterns are printed in color in an overlapping fashion, which I suppose is a necessary evil when you’re trying to provide as many patterns as this book does. The book implies that it’s a great starting point for beginners, but I have to say that some knowledge of how sewing patterns are drafted goes a long way in tracing off the convoluted map of patterns on the printed sheets. I suppose that such knowledge is not essential, but it definitely made things easier.
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Secondly, I thought the labeling was a bit inadequate. There are often rows of notches, with no indication of which notch corresponds to which size.
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Otherwise the patterns appear straightforward, with the expected elements (darts, zippers etc.) in the expected places. Overall I think the patterns are not tricky, and the book gives good instructions in what they call “Core Skills,” such as inserting a zipper or sewing a hem. I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting point for learning to sew.

My plan is to make a muslin for the Chinese-inspired top, since the fit through the neck and shoulders needs to be precise for the design to work. When it comes to the color-blocked top, however, i’ll throw caution to the wind and go for it. The color-blocking introduces enough seams hat any adjustments can be made after the fact. And I’ll also make a muslin of the skirt pattern that’s intended for the lovely grey velvet I posted about last week. Hoping that at least one of these is finished by next time!

Polishing off the TBD pile, and new pattern release

Week 1 of New Year’s resolution-keeping is off to a good start. First of all, I’m writing this post, so that satisfies my “blog regularly” goal.

My excitement for this week was the publication of one of my patterns by Valley Yarns Designs! Here’s Sabine Pullover, made in Valley Yarns Colrain (a merino/ tencel yarn). The sweater features a stitch pattern by Annie Maloney, who designs beautiful patterns. I’m in love with all her patterns from the Lace Cables volume.

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Secondly, the goal this week was to clear my backlog of unfinished projects or those needing repair (the “TBD” or “to be done” pile). I did pretty well. I finished the Adiri sweater, a few days late, but within the intended week. I’m beyond thrilled with it. Here’s a picture taken in bad lighting, but hopefully the beautiful stitch pattern is clear.

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My sewing to-do list grew a bit since I last posted. I fixed the sleeve caps on my cowl-neck tunic. It’s hard to see in the before and after pictures, but the tucks are gone now.

Setting in sleeve caps is always an anxiety-inducing event for me (I imagine this is how I’d feel trying to, say, steer an airplane). I follow the directions in this Craftsy tutorial for setting in sleeves. The conventional directions of running a line of gathering stitches only seems to solidify the tucks in my hands, not eliminate them. Here’s a picture of my pinned sleeve cap. I didn’t eliminate all tucks on this first attempt, and had to unstitch a small section again and retry. I used even more densely-spaced pins on the second attempt.

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I also decided to peg the hem of a pencil skirt I made about 5 years ago. It’s in a beautiful wool fabric I got on sale for $5. After my unexpected success with the Marfy dress, I realized that the reason I don’t wear the pencil skirt more often is that I don’t like the shape of the hem line. So I pegged the hem by 1” at the bottom, tapered over the course of 11”. I didn’t even try to trim the seam allowances of the skirt or lining (particularly because I’d finished the lining seams with mock-French seams, and didn’t want to undo those). I wasn’t going for couture here, I just wanted something I’d be happy to wear. Nobody else is going to see the inside of this thing, and I’ll just avoid looking when I take the skirt on and off!

I also had my mom’s and husband’s Christmas gifts to wrap up. My mom’s had been 4 years in the making. I purchased the pattern (Burda 2964) and a lovely ponte knit at Britex Fabrics on my last trip to San Francisco in 2012. The lady who helped me with my selections even went so far as to match the fabric to my complexion, when I told her that the garment would be for my mom (she asked if we had similar skin tones first, which I assured her of). I had made a muslin of view B in a cheap knit fabric purchased locally when I returned from the trip. My mom is about a size 10/12 according to the sizing info. I cut a 12, thinking I might have to take it in a tad, but the tunic was far too enormous around the neck and shoulders. Stumped, I spent the next 4 years contemplating the fitting issues at intervals. The stars aligned to retry it this Christmas, and I decided to cut a size 12 below the bust point, and taper to a size 8 in all pieces above the bust point. This fixed the original problem of having too much fabric between the full bust and shoulder seam (in the vertical direction). However, the neckline was still far too wide. I pinched in the front and back princess seams (0.75” and 0.5”, respectively) when I fit my mom over Christmas, but was still stumped by how to take it in properly.

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The side front and side back pieces form the side edges of the neckline, and I didn’t want to narrow the shoulder seams any. I had an epiphany last week and decided to keep the seam allowance of the side front and side back pieces the same, and take all the extra fabric out of the center front and back pieces. I drew a new point on the center front piece 1.5” from the original seam line, along the self facing fold line. I then drew a tapered line from just above the bust point to the new point at the facing fold line, and aligned the seam allowance of the side front piece to this line, and stitched it. I repeated for the back piece, taking in the center back section by 1.” (the photo shows the back piece, with the new seam line drawn on the right side).

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It now fits me much better, and since my mom and I are about the same shoulder/ neck size, I think it will be ok for her. I’ve lost the graceful curve of the princess seam into the side neck edge, but oh well. At least it’s wearable now (and I swear there are no tucks in the sleeve caps, despite appearances!).

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My husband’s gift was a lot easier to finish. I had made a winter-weight pyjama set (using a stable knit fabric from Mercer’s Fabrics), and McCall’s 4320. I’m used this pattern for lightweight pyjamas in quilting cotton and seersucker, and it did great with the heavier knit as well. I finished all the hemming today, using a twin needle that Santa (aka mom) got me for Christmas.

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Learning to use it was a bit harder than it should have been, because it took me a while to realize there’s a thread guide for the right hand needle on my machine. One tutorial I found online said not to run the right-hand needle’s thread through a thread guide at all (I think the demo machine had only a left-hand thread guide), but on my machine this caused all sorts of clunky noises and jamming. Once I discovered the right-hand thread guide, everything went smoothly. I also used the twin needle to hem my mom’s ponte knit tunic.

Now the only task is to fix the sleeve caps on the blazer. This one will require some fortitude. Meanwhile, now that I’ve mostly cleared my “TBD” pile, I’m allowing myself to embark on new projects for the new year. First off will be this skirt from Burda, in this velvet fabric I picked up at Mood while in NYC last week. The fabric is a dark grey with  purple undertones, and a subtle burnout pattern.

As my new year’s resolutions seem to be sticking, I’ll be back next week!

Happy New Year!

Happy 2017! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted. If you’ve been following me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen a lot more of me in the past year there. One of my new year’s resolutions is to post here more regularly, so here goes Day 1 of my resolution.

I realized that I left off on a bit of a cliff-hanger with the last post. I finished the pants, although the inside is untidy and back pockets just don’t sit right. Here’s a view of the front, which looks quite reasonable.

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On to knitting news, I had 2 pattern releases this year. The first was Ascending Leaves Pullover, which was published by Valley Yarns. The yarn used for this sweater, Longmeadow, a blend of cotton and microfiber, held up to its promise of being a cotton yarn with the properties of wool. I loved the stitch definition, without the fuzz of a wool yarn.

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(c) Valley Yarns Designs

The second was Peony Shrug, made with Revel DK yarn (a merino superwash) from A Riot of Color. The yarn was a dream to work with, and was a bit sturdier than most superwash yarns. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

I also had the chance to knit from published patterns. I made this baby set (Sirdar 1666) for a friend’s baby. Actually, my husband learned to knit in the past year or two, and he made the hat and bootees! I knit the sweater, and did all the finishing and flower trims on all the pieces. The yarn, Bio Sesia (a cotton fingering weight), knit up beautifully, but was difficult to work with, as it resembled 14 strands (yes, I counted!) of loosely-spun sewing-thread-weight plies. Fortunately all pieces fit the recipient, and mom was very happy!

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I had a much more prolific year of sewing than knitting. I’ll show some highlights below:

Vogue 7876, in a tiger-print polyester charmeuse. It’s my first animal print ever, and I love it!

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Vogue 1481, in a brocade I picked up in NYC a little over a year ago. I managed to squeeze the dress out of 1.25 yards of a 45” inch cut (the pattern calls for 1.75 yards). The brocade frayed like crazy. I swore I wouldn’t work with brocade again, but then I couldn’t resist signing up for McCall’s fall bomber jacket sew-along, which I made in….. brocade!

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This is Butterick 6181. I followed the sew-along instructions for adding a lining, which worked well. I was thrilled to see that this was one of the jackets featured on the McCall’s blog in November!

On the topic of fraying fabrics, this kimono, based on a tutorial from Elle Apparel, was cut from a polyester chiffon sari donated by my mom. I french-seamed everything. Next time I’ll make the back-neck smaller as it tends to slip off my shoulders, but overall I’m happy with it.

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Fortunately I didn’t spend the entire year battling with fraying fabrics. I made this dress using a “midweight wool” that my husband purchased for me two years ago from Britex fabrics. I waited for the perfect pattern, which was published last fall by Burda (Burda 09-2015-116 Long Sleeve Shift Dress). Love everything about this dress and fabric!

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I also made the Dove top, very soon after it was released by Megan Nielsen this fall. The fabric is an Art Gallery voile print. I love everything about this top too, and hope to make more like this in the future.

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My crowning achievement for the year was this Marfy dress, made for the One Yard Wonder contest hosted by Sewing Pattern Review. It is fully lined, and made with 1 meter of fashion fabric (some kind of polyester satin). The total cost is under $10! This pattern required some adjusting (taking in the side seams above the waist and below the hips, and taking in the bust seam), but was worth the trouble. The contest voting will open later this week on Sewing Pattern Review, so if anyone is a member there, you can cast your votes soon.

And finally some garment-related resolutions for the year. Rather, for the week (I’m taking this in baby steps): this week I plan to fix a couple of garments in my wardrobe that I’m not 100% happy with. One is a cowl-necked top that I love, but would love just a tad more if I hadn’t gotten tucks into the sleeve caps when setting them in. The second is a blazer from 2013, which has— you guessed it— tucks in the sleeve caps. This will be much harder to fix, as it is lined and has shoulder pads. I’ll start off with the cowl-necked top as a warm-up, and then move on to the blazer. Finally, I plan to finish my Adiri sweater, designed by Julia Trice, which I made as part of the Indie Design Gift-Along on Ravelry. The sleeves are blocking now, and should be ready to sew in tomorrow.

Do you have any projects that you’d love just a bit more if they didn’t have that one thing wrong? Join me in fixing up past projects to make something you’ll be thrilled and proud to wear. I’ll post about the progress I make at the end of the week, before moving on to the queue of new projects I have lined up. Looking forward to embarking on my 2017 projects!