Sunday, 13 September 2015

A pattern for knit or woven fabric?

Is a pattern described as 'for knit/stretch fabrics' correctly marked, or is this a mistake?

This Lekala design is marked as "Fabrics: Knit. Is stretchy: yes":

Design 5081 is a long-sleeved blouse with bust darts, plackets and a button band.  I have never seen a knit/jersey/stretch fabric pattern with all these features.  Patterns for knit fabrics usually take advantage of the fabric being stretchy whereas patterns for woven fabric cannot: woven styles need openings along the front as well as in the sleeves, they need shaping in the bust area - knit patterns also don't feature completely flat pieces (the front and back of this blouse) but often include some kind of draping which woven fabric does not do well.

I must say that when I first saw this pattern I just assumed it was for woven fabrics. Assuming is always a big mistake, in dressmaking as much as in other contexts!  I cut out a polycotton fabric and started sewing.  It was by chance that I looked at the pattern again and finally saw the 'knit' reference. Oops. But really?

The website lists this pattern 5081 when you filter on 'woven' - so that seems to point to the knit description being wrong.

For these reasons I think that this pattern was marked incorrectly but I can't be sure.  What do you think?

~ ~ ~

I would perhaps not have noticed the 'knit' claim if it hadn't been for the sleeves:

When I sewed the sleeveheads in I just couldn't make them lie flat - the curved seam around the top of the shoulder is all puckered and distorted even though I applied the normal technique: two rows of gathering and distributing the fullness of the sleeve material very carefully by pinning every centimeter.  No joy.

I also found an issue with the shoulder width that is down to me.  I used some of the Advanced features that allow you to customise your pattern beyond the standard measurements of height, bust, waist, hips etc - unfortunately I didn't realise that my shoulders are a bit narrower compared to their measure.

You can just about see how the shoulders dip down at the seam to the sleeves in these two photos:

So I will rip the sleeves back out and cut the shoulders a bit narrower. Only by 5-12mm or so.  That should take care of the sleeveheads being slightly too big and make sewing them back in a lot easier.

At least I hope so. Fingers crossed.

I am also wondering if I marked the correct centre front because these pieces barely overlap - or do I need to do a FBA?  That would be weird seeing as this is a personalised pattern.

The advantage to turning the sleeves into flat pieces again is that I can correct something I forgot to do:  I didn't sew the plackets on when I should have (what a mental lapse) - it'll be good to do that first!  Silver lining...

Friday, 21 August 2015

Amazing what you get done when...

Isn't it amazing what you get done when you're supposed to be doing something else and can't bring yourself to get stuck into that something else?

That's what it's like for me right now. Sewing is so much more fun than job hunting. So I am sewing. It is comforting to know that this activity is productive: I see a tangible result and that's very confidence building.

Most times I've been doing something else rather than sewing - perhaps I'm intimidated by it?  It could be because sewing seems so much work, or because I worry that I am not going to sew well enough... I'm not completely sure why I'm not finding it easier to knuckle down to.

- -

It is vitally important to me to get stuck into sewing projects to try and diminish my massive stash at least a little bit. So when a friend mentioned wanting to make an A-line skirt with pockets I had a project idea shoot through my head that seemed strangely fully formed.

A flared skirt with huge patch pockets on it. Love the idea, and it seemed very do-able (spoiler: I think it even was).  I preferred to draw my own pattern so I can avoid all those soul-destroying attempts at fitting and pattern adjustments. I'd rather start from scratch and know that the measurement is correct.

I established the different hip and waist measurements for front and back because I want my side seams to sit at my side and nowhere else. My front panels are a bit bigger than the back panels.

I'm glad to say that the skirt looks like a good fit even though I plain forgot to work the back darts into the pattern pieces - I can probably get away with that.

I did some lovely patch pockets with strips of light-weight interfacing ironed next to the three seams and then I found that these big pockets throw out the lovely flare of the skirt and I prefer it without them. I have some fabric left, maybe I'll use them in some other way in future.

The fabric is a funnily bouncy fibre, very thin and light-weight but surprisingly drapey. It sews up wonderfully well, I am really impressed. There are very thin and strong black warp fibres and softer silvery grey weft strands. I don't remember what the fibres are. I got it from Fabrics Galore on Lavender Hill in London (has there every been a better address for a fabric shop?). Their labels stated the fibre, I should have written it down! Or taken a photo...

I've done quite well so far. Except for attaching the lining inside out (I did French seam so I won't be tempted to re-do this). I need to hem the lining and then continue thinking about what I'll do for the closure. I attached two facings so could do buttons or hooks and eyes. I would prefer something unobtrusive.

I decided against a zip (even an invisible one) because I may want to take the skirt in a bit in future. It'll be easier to move buttons or hooks than a zip.

What do you think?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Lavish seamless jumper

It is not quite seamless: all of a sudden I decided to knit the sleeves open - because it is easier to remember when to do the decreases for the sleeve shaping when there are knit and purl rows.

The stitch holder finally saw some use (I had them a while) but turned out to be a bit disappointing; they popped open on at least three different occasions and dropped stitches, which is precisely what they're meant to prevent.

So I'm slightly disgruntled on that point. I might have to get those horrible plastic ones that have an elastic go across them. I don't like the way those look. At all.

The yarn is Supersoft Lambswool 2/11.3Nm yarn in the colourway Lavish 1734 by JC Rennie, the greasy on the cone variety.  I don't actually know what '2/11.3Nm' means, I just copied that from their website.

I am knitting with a 2.75mm needle. A really long circular needle that keeps curling up and getting in the way when I did the sleeves. A tad annoying. Still manageable though.

I love the colour of this yarn, it is slightly heathery with flecks of other colours in it. But mainly a dark magenta-like pink. Love it.

Such a nice strong colour that makes me feel good.

Now I just have to prevent the moths from eating this before I can wear it!  It is washed for the first time (squeezed through some lukewarm water, no wringing) but still smells quite a bit of sheep.

PS: I am catching lots of moths in pheromone traps but now it's too hot to wear this even though it is so thin. I must check that the shape is okay and that I want to wear this. Otherwise I better take some corrective action sooner than later!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Red and black skirt - using up stash fabric!

Oh yes, I am using up stash fabric. I can feel the relief coursing through my veins at saying this: I am actually using up material that I've had in my stash for ages! Fantastic.

I have this beautiful true red and black patterned fat quarter, a quilting cotton.  It has these lovely rope or thread motifs on it that somehow remind me of bamboo (I don't know what my thought process is there) - but I have no other fabric that this goes with if I want to use it in a quilt.

So repurposing is the order of the day.

What can I make with one fat quarter? Not a heck of a lot.  But I can if combined with a plain black fabric, like for example a skirt. Marvellous idea!  But the fabric isn't long enough to run down the length of the skirt - therefore I need to sew two separate sections together.

Then I had a sudden vision of a wavy panel, snaking its way down the skirt. I got on really well with putting this together, so here are some progress shots:

What I love about designing something yourself: you get to decide what you want to do if there is an issue - like the seamline between my two sections of the red fabric.

I did try to pattern match this as pernickety and detail obsessed as I could but it wasn't perfect. And I would always know that it doesn't quite fit together. But what if I turn this around and make a feature out of a bug? (That's my absolutely favourite design process and objective!)

Why not hide that seam in a way that becomes a defining design feature? Why not sew a sort of tab across?

I didn't want a straight piece of fabric stuck on top, that would have looked silly.  But picking up the wave theme and going with a satisfyingly curved piece of applique: It looks just right!

I did sew the side seam together to attach the tab on the right hand side, now I have to adjust the width for the second side seam because the pattern pieces are way too big. Very odd.

And it isn't because I pulled the black fabric apart to insert the red panel: I actually removed the middle bit that I cut out - I will post lots of photos of what I did in another blog post soon.

Isn't sewing just so much fun?

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Turquoise jumper

I completely forgot to post this draft, oops! I finished this jumper a few months back.  I just want to stitch down some excess fabric at the front of the neck, to stop it pushing forward.  But then it'll be completely done. I wonder if that's what stopped me from posting this?

Well, here goes for now:

I am so very happy, relieved and delighted: I finally got my turquoise jumper done! Yes, actually finished. After I had marked it complete already on Ravelry, and then decided that the rolling down funnel neck looked a bit like the tightly rolled lip of a balloon, the bit that you blow into if you know what I mean?  It looked exceedingly odd around the base of my neck - as if it was trying to squeeze my head out of the jumper. Not a good look any way you consider it. At all.

I went from this - i.e. just having to knit a bit of a facing down from the cast-off stitches:

To this - the finished product: 18 months!  What the hell took me so long?  I just don't get it.

I mean, look at it, it was almost completed, finished, done:

An almost completed jumper - in limbo for about 18 months, or so
I had to go back a bit further than I realised because the neck opening was too tight to get the jumper over my head. Such a common mistake, a bit of a rookie mistake to make. Just goes to show.  So I picked up lots of stitches every here and there - and if I remember correctly, I also opened the shoulder seams a bit and picked up stitches in that area too.

It worked well.

It is just that the front of the jumper at the top, in front of the neck, - it's a bit loose sitting and baggy.  The Alpaca yarn is quite springy and holds the shape more than merino would. The eyelet funnel pattern is just a bit too stiff to relax into a better fit.  I'll have to look at that and see if I want to make some post-completion change there. I'll see.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Summary of my stash coping ideas

Where my blog posts are concerned, I often apply a lot of voluble outpouring in the verbal department.  I just can't seem to shut up.  Can't be a bit more concise. Not happy with that.

The very length of my posts threatens to bury the points I wrote about.  I am even less happy with that.  It took quite a bit of rereading of my previous blog post about stash busting (this one) to figure out just what my conclusions were that I had come to about how to manage my stash.

So I want to do a summary.  What did I learn, what ideas did I come up with?

  • I don't fear cutting into fabric but cutting out feels like it needs lots of effort
  • I don't have enough tried and tested patterns I can whip up
  • My stash is badly organised. As in not organised at all (gah)
  • I don't know my fabric fibres well enough to know what fabric is good for what kinds of garments
  • I bought several versions of the same thing because I forget what I have
  • I don't have enough colours or patterned fabrics in my stash

This leads me to the conclusions I came to:

  • I want to organise my stash lots better: put similar fabrics together
  • Use my stash app Clothio for lots more fabrics than so far
  • Measure the lengths of my fabrics properly
  • Put remnants and odd pieces aside
  • Examine each fabric thoroughly to get rid of tat
  • Put aside fabrics I can use for toiles/muslins
  • Look over my project ideas list to check my earmarked fabrics
  • Keep going on developing TnT patterns
  • Keep my self-drafted patterns in better order
  • Go through the fabric fibre bible I bought at the V&A
  • Chuck non-viable UFOs to lighten the load
  • Resign myself that I won't use most of my fabrics (sneef)
  • Use a specific fabric as starting point for the project
  • Get on with it: I can only learn from doing, even if badly. More sewing is the answer to so many different problems!

Ooh, I've had more ideas on practical ways of doing something with and about my stash. That feels very helpful. I want to really take hold of that last point: just get on with it!

I shall report back about how it's going.

PS: There is perhaps one more insight that just occurred to me: I don't want to use up a very special fabric on a pattern that I'm not sure of. I would rather sew that pattern with a less special fabric (it also reduces a bit of my stash) and perhaps make it a second time, than 'waste' the special length. I would be too heart-broken to find the pattern/fabric combo was awful. And you get more of a feeling of achievement out of a successful project even if the material used wasn't the most loved one.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

There's a deadline to my plan

Ah, I only just realised: there is a deadline I can aim for - if I want to achieve a certain planned project.  People, this could be good news!

I made a toile of Simplicity 1462 out of an old bed sheet that fit pretty well. It just needs a thin sliver taking out at the top of the front princess seam, then it should be good.


It actually fit so well that I almost wish I had used a dressmaking fabric. But it would have heart-breaking if I had messed up, again.  I just can't cope with yet another project that doesn't quite pan out. I've had enough of those, can't deal with it already again. So it's a good thing I found a great pattern, never mind that it won't be a wearable toile, that's just too bad. Phew.  Glad that's off my chest.

I want to make two of these blouses at pretty much the same time.  A bit like a conveyor belt process: just get both fabrics cut out, transfer markings and then sew 'em up.  One of those urges of: 'let's just go for it, churn it out, no double guessing: just do it'.

Imagine my horror when I found only one (plain blue) fabric in my stash that seemed suitable. And no second. Oh God. This is really bad.

Since then I located another one that will do, at a pinch. I don't have the photo to hand, but its very similar to this black and white cotton, just the other way round of the dominant colour:

Just like 'that dress': this is black and white, not blue. I swear.

I'm not sure how princess seams and raglan sleeves will look in this.  Whether the checks will be a complete pain in the butt to try and match or if I'll go for an obvious mismatch?  I haven't decided yet.  I might just change my mind and try to find a third fabric to use instead.

Why is this so hard?  I have hundreds of fabrics and surely there have to be several that I can use to make blouses with?  I thought I had everything and that all the fabrics I own had so much potential.  I am finding the uselessness of my stash quite upsetting to tell the truth.  How can I not have the fabrics that I want to use?  Why did I buy all of these and what for?


Anyway, back to my headline: I do have a deadline.

I just realised that there is a fabric shopping trip organised for 13 June.  If I haven't made these two blouses by then with whatever fabrics I can find in my stash, then I know what I'll be unable to resist: more fabric shopping.  Obviously.  For a fabric that I want for this blouse.

I must make both blouses before that day comes round. Once I've got them done, then I'll know if I still want to make a third blouse.  If I don't get them done, then I will add yet another fabric to my stash because I think that it'll be the solution to my "can't find a suitable fabric for this pattern" issue.  Which isn't even true - I should just use whatever is big enough as long as it's half way the right kind of weight. I really shouldn't um and err about this!  But I do want to be able to visualise the blouse and I can only do that when I find the fabric appealing {sticks lower lip out}

This stash-eroding business is stupidly tough. Grumble.

Update 1: I did cut out the sleeves in the plain blue fabric. That's how far I got. I'll post a photo of this soon.
I want to add some more on this point, but it's a bit involved. Enough for half a blog post! Oh well...

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A skirt in a day

I made a skirt in a day from a £1 fabric remnant that I pulled out of the bargain bin at Simply Fabrics in Brixton.

I went fabric shopping on Saturday a week ago because I was still looking for a present. Which I had been looking for for a very long time. And I've been everywhere!  Goldhawk Road, Walthamstow, Berwick Street, Lavender Hill, Tooting and even Kensington to name just the London locations; and also Brighton, Worthing and even Paris!

What I wanted was not to be found. Grrrh.  Not happy.

So I went back to Simply Fabrics and also checked the stall on Market Row, and did come away with a few likely prospects.  But still not what I was looking for, darn.  We'll see if my friend likes the fruits of my labours.

But all that meant that the temptation for buying more and more fabric for myself was huge.  I have way too much fabric, and being in all these shops didn't exactly help.  And to go through the bargain bins and end up buying nine lots from there!  Oh dear, I got the whole lot home and then just wanted to despair: what on earth am I going to do with all of it?

There was this one fairly square-ish piece of grey jersey. Lovely and firm, just the sort of fabric that I haven't sewn with and that looks like a good prospect for learning to sew with jersey.  So of course I had to buy it.

It then turned out that I didn't have enough width to go around my hips - so I used lots of difficult maths to figure out how wide the side panels had to be to make a wide enough tube to slip over my hips... and then I threw out that calculation when I remembered that jersey stretches and I wanted at least a bit of negative ease.

I just went with a guesstimated inch taken off my hip measurement and that turned out quite well I must say!

I chopped off two panels from the bottom of my piece and cut the remaining rectangle in half for the front and back panel.  The jersey is a two-way stretch so the side panels look distinctly different to the centre panels.  But I like it!

Here's the result:

I should probably put an elastic through the top because the skirt is rather loose without it. If I really wanted to be bothered (I'm not) then I could top-stitch the panels at both sides of each seam, but as I said: I can't be bothered.

I am really quite pleased with the result!

In contrast to the result, the process was ulcer inducing.

I am still finding sewing with jersey really difficult.  The straight stitching was tough enough and I had to go slow, but using the twin needle on the bottom and top hem was almost impossible.  I had to stop numerous times and sew really, really slow - my problems was skipped stitches, the thread wrapping itself round one needle tip, it kept coming out of the machine guides and once the thread shredded.

It was good G├╝termann thread so I don't understand why my machine ate it, nor any of the other problems. I did notice though that the thread came off its spool in quite tight curls because I only have a little left of this. It was the best colour match for this skirt.

Friends felt that all this sounds like tension problems, I will have to fiddle some more with that. I am wondering if the thread was a bit too old. Is that a thing, can thread get too old?

Here's some more closer up photos, showing some of the skipped stitches:

But having to sew at the slowest speed my machine offers did mean that I could keep the stitching line very nice and even.  It looks perfectly parallel to the edge.

Don't look at the inside, there are lots of knots because the thread broke several times in stitching the top and the bottom hems but I managed to line up any new starts quite well.

The problems I had last time was that I didn't use the twin needle setting of my machine (oh dear), but at least I used the right foot. I will try a different thread next time and see if that makes a difference.

I just hope that it's not my machine that just doesn't like jersey - I do like the result of this a lot, but I still heartily loathe sewing with the blooming stuff.  It is just too annoying for words.

Update: I wore the skirt once and the thread of the twin stitched hems broke in some places. I bought another 2.5mm twin needle, this time not Ball Point but Stretch and used that one. It was a bit better. I also used a different, new thread, again that seemed to go quite a bit better.  Unfortunately things went very wrong on the wrong side: the thread from both top needles looped on the wrong side.  It was so bad that I had huge trouble ripping the seam out even after I removed the bottom thread.


It did it twice. I couldn't believe it. I finally succeeded after rethreading the whole machine and yanking the tension of both top and bottom threads up a bit. But it was still a complete pain in the butt to sew with. I hate jersey, I really, really, really hate jersey...  It is lovely to wear but I just can't sew with it. Something always goes wrong. I just hate it.

I bought the elastic but I haven't put it in yet. That'll be a nice job at a sewing group meeting.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Don’t buy three years’ worth of fabric at once

I have not used up any of these completely. Oh dear.

This is my new motto!  Why would anyone buy three years' worth of fabric in one go?  Where is the fun in that and how heavy is that to lug home?

It sounds awful!  Back-breaking.

I have done this before, I'm sure. When I just couldn't resist this beautiful fabric or that... Usually with no idea what to make with it, just the urge to carry it home, to own it, not to leave it behind.

This blog post about excessive fabric stashes is rather good: On Fabric Stashes - A Cautionary Tale by Sunni. The comments are pretty darn fantastic too!  The quotation I am using as this post's title is from one of the comments, by a very wise lady called Helen C. Peemoeller (thank you Helen! We don't know each other but thank you. I shall take your words to heart).

My trouble with my stash seems even worse than described by these wonderful sewing ladies - in the last few months I have taken to going through my stash again and again, with the goal of pulling out several suitable fabrics to use for a) a mini dress/tunic type garment, and b) a raglan sleeved blouse.  I have yet to get the tunic pattern to my satisfaction, but I found a great blouse pattern (Simplicity 1462) that I love and that didn't need too many adjustments (yes! This is such a welcome discovery).

I found a blue fabric that I want the 1462 blouse in (great) but no second one. What? That's not possible: I have way too much fabric, surely there is a second suitable fabric for a blouse in there? What's going on?

And I have a relatively new fabric which reminds me of Art Deco (it's nothing of the sort, not really) that I desperately want to use for the mini dress because I want to wear it really, really soon (my pattern drafting skills are not keeping up with my ambition on this one) - but I want to keep this one until I can be fairly certain that I won't stuff it up because I already used up three other fabrics that would have been nice wearable muslins, alas they didn't work out at all.  I really must figure out where I'm going wrong with this pattern (I misplaced the RTW mini dress that should serve as model)

I don't think I have that much of a problem cutting into fabric.  I used to find that first cut into a fresh piece of fabric more difficult but I have so much of the blooming stuff now that I got over that particular problem. If I don't cut into it when I know what to make with it and have everything else to hand, then I won't get to wear it. And if I don't sew it then the chances are getting higher by the month that this fabric will be one of those that I will give away. Because I can't cope with the overload, I just really can't. It's wearing me down.

That's something a second commenter said on the linked thread. June said: "I was struck by how a large stash can weigh a soul down" - that's such a good way of putting it.  Too much of a good thing can feel like it is grinding you down while wiping out your joy in sewing.

An excessive stash can also diminish the joy of fabric shopping: when I start to think about what kinds of lovely fabrics might be out there... before I realise that I can't go to take a look because that would make things just so much worse. I have not yet gone fabric shopping and come back with nothing, so I really can't go.  And I feel rather hard done by on that point, even though I've only got myself to blame.

I bought too many fabrics without a clear idea of what it should become once it's sewn. I have too much stuff in fibres that are unfamiliar to me so the main problem becomes not knowing what type of garment the fabric is suited to.  I often pull out a fabric that would be perfect! ...only to find that it is too thin, or too stiff, or too saggy... or whatever, and I can't use it. Damn.

Helen also describes a great method of cataloguing all new fabric and pattern purchases: write it all down with dates and as many details as you can muster (an app is great for that too; a notebook has the advantage that you can attach a snippet of the fabric).  I can imagine that when your list gets too long, your enthusiasm for buying more might get less.  An app can show just how many blue fabrics you already own, and how many blue cottons or blue crepes and that might put you off from buying a third one.

I bought a nice tweedy fashion fabric once and it took me ages to realise that I already owned another two. Very similar. I don't want three tweedy skirts!  What the hell was I thinking?  Problem of course is that I was thinking ("That'll make a lovely skirt!") but it was my memory that let me down.

Another issue is that I don't have my stash well organised. Which is how the three tweeds problem happened. I don't have all lining fabrics in one place, not all chunky material, or all chiffons.  This is my next main task: pull EVERYTHING (and I mean: literally every fabric that I own) out and sort it into categories that make sense.

Wish me luck!

What kind of stash do you have? Do you like the fabrics you own, have you earmarked each one for a specific project or type of garment?  Do you have any insights or ideas of how to manage a stash so it becomes less overwhelming and paralysing?  Please comment.

PS: This got rather long and rambling - so I pulled the ideas together in a summary: click here.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

One blind hem coming up!

I did it! 

I sat down and re-did the hem of this stash-busting skirt.  As a hand-stitched blind hem.

How do you like them apples?

It didn't take me very long at all - just a little time at a crafts meeting on Sunday afternoon.  You sit and chat while you stitch away at something like this... and almost without realising: you're getting it done.

To be completely honest: I can't quite believe that I was able to do this within a day of completing the rest of the skirt. And blogging about it.

The thing was that I still had this skirt (and its ugly hem) on my mind after getting so far with it, finally, but not in a way that I was particularly happy with.

I forgot that I basted the top edge by machine (for guidance) and didn't realise why this area was looking so ugly.  But once I had taken this stitching out - the whole skirt started to look quite good to me all of a sudden.  A nice surprise.

But I didn't like the machine stitched hem that I did in a sudden flurry of annoyed thinking: 'oh I'll just get this fardling stupid hem done quickly' - and it showed.

It looked out of place: the stitch length was too long and the colour a bit off.  It made the skirt look cheaper.  This is much better.  Not perfect by any means, but lots better.

And overall I am now much happier with the general standard of sewing on this project.  I feel like I am improving in technical skills and generally getting better at this sewing business.  It feels really good.

I was going to use my blind hem foot on my machine but knew that the hem was uneven on the inside.  I just didn't fancy trying to sew this with the foot and failing.  I do believe that doing this by hem was quicker and much less frustrating than the other way would have been.

I am not sure if I will do the tab at the top of the zip - I think it looks alright as it is: the opening makes a bit of a V-shape and I like the look of it.  I can change my mind later if I reconsider.

Overall I am much more happy with this skirt now than I was for quite a while.  I didn't make much progress for a long time and I am guessing that it was because I started to dislike the skirt.  Things don't half drag out if you don't feel like them.

But now it's done and I am pretty happy with it.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

I (almost) completed a sewing WIP!

Hey, look at that:

I finished a sewing project!

I am very happy - this will count as my second project completed this year, meaning that I am ahead of myself in terms of the four items a year goal. Which in turn means that I might be able to up this to six projects a year!  Completing a garment every two months ought to be do-able - particularly as this one is finished in April and not in June.

I did say it was almost completed. There are two issues with this:  I should add a tab at the top of the zip.  I thought I put the zip in at the right height but there is too big a gap to the edge - it is still wearable though.

Don't ask me why the next photo is upside down, it doesn't matter much for the purpose.

Look how neatly the ribbon aligns "across" the lapped zip!  I am really chuffed with that - all it took was a bit of handsewing at the end because it hadn't gone on straight with the machine.  I am very pleased with that.

The second issue that I am not happy with is the hem.  I might re-do it with my blind hem foot.  Just as soon as I identify which one that is (my sewing machine manual is very helpful, - as long as I consult it that is...)

This is my stashbuster skirt.  I had about 20 odd centimetre of the grey pin stripe and half a meter of the dark red (yes, it is much more of a red than a pink in real life. I wish my camera could turn the colour to this shade through some kind of magic, but alas...)

I couldn't do anything with either fabric but once I realised that they are the same weight and type (superfine 100% wool), then that gave me the idea to just sew the two widths together.  Did I mention that both fabrics were the same width?  That's what swung it.

I started by sewing the two fabrics together and then treated it as if it was one piece.  I just cut all three pieces and carefully aligned the seam.  But it took me a long time to get to today's result.

Here is what it looked like for the longest time:

I need to take a photo of me wearing it.

Once I do that you can see that the seam between the two fabrics hits me at a really odd point on the hips, which is too high up. It looks really odd, trust me.

That made me think that a ribbon would draw the eye down a bit.  I think I achieved the desired effect.

I can now wear this (on Monday perhaps?) and will consider it finished for just now.  I need to get through too much material to get stuck on one project that was never meant to be the best thing I've ever done - I just wanted to use up two fabrics.

Which I did.  So there.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Just to show the shapelessness

Here are more shots of my pink toile, to show how shapeless it is:


Maybe some back darts might help?

More darts at the front, also vertical?  There are also drag lines from the bust point up to the shoulder.

The back gapes too, - but I think the armholes are okay?  That would be a small plus point.

Much more work needed.

Monday, 30 March 2015

My Holy Grail

Where dressmaking is concerned my holy grail is the perfect fit.  It is the one element that I am most interested in: being able to make clothes in a colour and style I want is great, but to have them fit perfectly: that's what I want most of all, my top concern ambition-wise.

Other elements are nice to have, but a dress that fits really well says a lot about the wearer, just like an ill-fitting garment does too.

So imagine my disappointment at not achieving great fit in my self-made garments just yet. I am finding this so very discouraging, it is really down-heartening.

I just started a second bias cut sleeveless top, for summer because I made it before and it fit pretty well. My wavy white top did unfortunately shrink a bit in the wash, which is unfortunate but my own fault (I should have washed the fabric first, I know, I know) but at least I knew that it fit well. I now have to lengthen the bust darts a bit - but I am still happy with this one.

Not so with version 2.  I am using a firmer cotton, in a blue batik, but surely a pattern that fit well before should behave a lot better than this one does?

This top shows up all kinds of fitting issues even after I lengthened these darts straight away.  The bust darts aren't deep enough this time (seriously?), the underarm seam sticks out and so does the back nape.  I am so disappointed that I can't find enough words.

I know that I didn't have the original back piece, but I re-engineered it from a cut-down version I copied out, and drew the missing outline of the shoulder from the wavy white top.  So it should be pretty close.

Perhaps not close enough for the back nape fitting issue, but the rest should be okay.

I feel really down in the dumps on this.  I have tried to make a well-fitting top so many different times now and still haven't solved the major fitting issues

I finally figured out that the bagginess at the front of the shoulder/side of upper chest is down to my low-busted shape - I also realised that I need to transfer this bagginess into the side seam, which is an issue I already know about: all those sticky-out side seams where I have to remove a wedge of at least a centimetre in width and 5-7cm in length.  So it is very good to finally know what this issue is about. That helps a lot.

It doesn't help that I often started over because I couldn't remember how far I got with a previous version, or couldn't find all the pattern pieces, or wasn't sure what pattern pieces I had. Starting over is safer, but it does add to the frustration.  I don't follow an ongoing learning curve by re-doing the same thing over and over.

I did try with my 'template' top and got to four versions. It wasn't a good pattern to alter because it started out very baggy while I was trying to achieve a close fit. And I didn't yet know how a full bust adjustment works. I do now.

What held me back from trying for version 5 was that I forgot to make some of the changes I had identified in version 3 and basically just made a second version 3. I had put this aside for too long and hadn't made notes.

The next time I will document everyone at length.  My odd dotted pink mini dress toile did show up that I do need some darts below the bust that run vertical across the waist. Just bust darts alone don't provide enough shaping.

I should show photos of the back and sides as well: very shapeless!

Onwards and upwards!

Friday, 27 March 2015

Jade green top

Here are a few more photos of my simple green top.  Basically I forgot that I had already blogged this.  Oh well, here's more...

Apologies for the top looking so wrinkled, I didn't have anyone who could take a picture while it was still unwrinkled, and I must admit I didn't realise how much this fabric creases, and how quickly!

This is actually quite instructive - maybe I don't like the fabric as much as I thought I did...

Thursday, 26 March 2015

I am making a promise to myself

I want to sew more, which was the plan for quite a while, - and I decided this week that I also want to stretch myself in terms of how many garments or projects I complete within one year.

I know it's no longer January so this isn't a New Year's Resolution as such (I totally suck at them, so that's a very good thing!) - but I already caught up because of the sewing session on 8th March.


I made the jade green simple top in two and a half hours. I could add the time I spent on two previous evenings when I drew up the pattern from my simple black top (can't find that pattern) but I won't.

It was really good to see that I can do it when I push myself.  A wonderful experience!  I can recommend it.  To myself most of all.

I decided that I want to make one garment per quarter year.  So I have three more to do in 2015 to get there.  Which is more than do-able.

If I think that I am easily on track for four this year, then I want to see if I can increase my completion rate to one garment every two months.  This might also be achievable but whenever I put pressure on myself, I fold.  That's it: as soon as I phrase an intention, a promise to myself, an ambition or a goal... I can rely on the fact that I do not, will not and apparently cannot fulfil that.

Why?  Is it so frightening to get things done?  To do what I have an ambition to do?  I could kick myself but I have a real problem with that.  Increasing expectation has always meant decreased success for me.  It is maddening.

I tried to find ways around it: not make plans but try and go for it, split tasks up into smaller steps and just try do one thing at a time... whatever it was it didn't really work.

So now I am trying to push through this terrible resistance that I seem to have taught myself: I am putting up an obstacle to my sewing progress by not completing items.  I am probably scared of success: once I actually make all those garments that I dream about I will be able to compare the actual results with the original ambitious ideas. I am probably just scared that my sewing skills won't measure up. Which they will continue not to if I don't do enough sewing!  I trapped myself in a bit of a catch 22 circle there. It has to stop!

Going for four garments this year needs to be something I can do.  Otherwise I might as well stop sewing and I have no intention of doing that.  My goals are still the same: make garments in colours, patterns and styles that I like, that suit me and that fit me better than shop bought stuff.

And one day I would like to translate my design ideas into practical garment making: giving life to the ideas that run through my head.  It is a wonderfully creative thing that I need to have in my life.

Here's to four garments and finding out if I can do more than that!

I am grimly determined.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

My new year's resolution at work!

Look at that!  What a thing of beauty.  And so very useful too...

The huge number of sewing, knitting and quilting WIPs that I have lying around is sapping my craft mojo.  When the pile of things I started gets too big (metaphorically speaking) then my practical crafting slows down.  It is just all too overwhelming.

I tried all kinds of things, all sorts of strategies - specifically with my sewing project (knitting is taking care of itself). What does help is knowing that other people have very similar problems.  So I scheduled an event in my meetup sewing group and found it a real boost.

I called it 'Pick up a Project': pulling out any project and looking it over. Then make a list of bullet points about what still needs to be done, or which items need to be assembled.  Basically putting yourself into a position where you know what's what.

It worked beautifully!  I did the bullet points for four projects and very quickly finished one of them.  I am so chuffed.  The others will take a bit longer, but hey...

Then I scheduled another event: Stich up a Project - grab the project from above and get on with the next step.

Then I thought that I would like a handy spreadsheet that shows me what the major projects are that I want to get on with (very important: not all of them, just the ones that I like best) which also gives me an opportunity to jot down notes: thoughts on what I was trying to achieve, ideas of fabric and design choice, considerations about possible fitting issues... anything that comes to mind.  Where it's nice to re-read later when you forgot half of what occurred to you.

This spreadsheet is the result.

The best column is the 'Next Step' one - what exactly do I want to do as the very next thing? And do I always get stuck at the same thing? Like perhaps: insert the zipper, or find so-and-so... or totally different things?

I haven't figured that one out yet but it is really great for getting a better feel of what I am doing and how it's going.

I put this list onto Google Sheets. This is part of Google Drive (you can also have documents on there, but the sheets are quite similar to Excel).  It is accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection and I can just use the one version to update.

I also have a second sheet of project ideas and which fabrics I want to use. Again, I am only listing some.

I'll let you know some of those major projects and the other strategic ideas this kicked off in my head.

I am feeling so much more optimistic about my sewing now!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Knitting plans

Another old blog draft from 2011. I should state up front that I haven't followed through on those plans yet.  But I will.  Fair Isle colourwork is too beautiful to not do.

I bought this book a while ago with a plan in mind:

Since then I bought a hellofalot of different colours in Jamieson Spindrift.  Think reds and pinks, think blue and greens, think some greys and a bit of dark brown and black too.  Gorgeous!

I must admit that I bought lots of them from what they looked like on the screen (never a very good idea - of course I ended up with a couple of surprises.  Shades I will be passing on to someone who can give them a good home).  Then I realised that the shade card is back in stock and the whole process could have been a touch easier.  So I bought that one too, and then of course I had to fill the gaps of those colours that had hidden behind less than well-matched shade graphics.  I've got about 20 odd balls of yarn.

Plenty to design a pattern with!

I didn't want to start from scratch and this book is terrific because there are lots of patterns in there that can be used for Fair Isle knitting.  The vast majority of those are written as black dots on a white background.  Very good for counting out and not so helpful if you would prefer to see how different colour combinations will look like.  There are a handful of examples in there.

Patterns for Fair Isle knitting tends to make strips of colour (the top half of the book cover shows this variation*), often this will be two strips that are quite different from each other (I will do one in reds and pinks and the other one in blues and greys, mixing in the greys where needed).  Some of the time you have a third strip that's much thinner and gets placed between each of the coloured strips, also in a pattern but usually in very neutral colours with a minimal pattern, often just a cross or a star shape.

The coloured strips will incorporate patterns that repeat from right to left.  These are usually symetric so you would only need to design and draw up a quarter of the pattern because it will be mirrored both across and up.  If that makes sense.

Even though a Fair Isle pattern may look like a lot of different colours are used at one time, it is actually only ever two at a time.  If you use a star shape then the star itself would be one colour and the background the second colour.  But Fair Isle lives from shaded colours: the very simplest form of Fair Isle would be colourwork of say a pink star on a grey background.  But in these patterns you use two colour for anything between one and two or three rows and then you switch to two different colours.

You have to decide whether you want more emphasis to the centre of the patterned strip or more focus on the edges of the strip.  So say you start with a dark red for the star and a dark grey for the background. You would knit in pattern for two rows and then switch to say a dark pink and a mid grey, also for two rows.  You could then have a third set of two rows in say light pink on a different shade grey.  The middle row of the strip needs another two colours and then you repeat the colour choice from the lower half but mirrored.  Starting with the light pink/grey combo, you then do the dark pink/mid grey colours and back to the dark red and dark grey.

That in a nutshell is how Fair Isle works.  At least as far as I can figure out.  And it's my plan for how to pick my colours, I've got plenty to choose from!

*: the bottom half of the book cover shows another variation of how colours can be applied in Fair Isle knitting.  The effect isn't so much stripes but a more even cover of pattern across the available space.  I will try this in a future project but right now I want to go with the stripes idea.

I am planning on knitting up a sample of my bigger stripe (in red/pink and grey) and where a single colour does not look so great, I might just embroider another colour over the top to see how those colours go together.  Same with the second, slightly less tall stripe in blue and green (and some brown and black).  I do wonder if I should put a very thin stripe of something suitably neutral so I don't end up with a jumper that's too bright and busy. Maybe something that's just five rows tall?  My swatches should be very helpful.

I can't wait to get started!  Only... I have too many other unfinished projects and it would be so very nice to finish at least one of those.

Wish me luck.