It’s the last post of the year! Here are some pictures I took on a walk in the dunes. It’s such an interesting landscape to explore.
Snow angel Sand angel!
Happy New Year!
The long cardigan was a new style for me until the beginning of the year when I bought one at TJ Maxx. I wasn’t sure about the look, but I was curious and wanted to try it. I told myself I would test it out, and I really liked it! Then I saw this look and found McCall’s 7476. It was time to MAKE one of my own.
The only problem was that the super long version I wanted (View E, but without the shawl collar) called for A LOT of fabric.
I knew that if I was going to make this, I would have to find a good deal on material. One of my favorite places to look for such deals in person, rather than online, is at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA. It’s not exactly nearby, but if I’m really efficient with my time and focused when I’m there, I can do it on a weekday.
I went with my list and my budget and my ideas and, providentially, there was a sale on wool. The fabric I found for the cardigan was a wool/acrylic rib knit, so it was affordable with the discount. I don’t normally like rib knits, but being able to see and feel this one in person convinced me that it could work for my cardigan.
On to the project! I washed and dried a fabric swatch (I think it was 4″ x 4″) to see how much shrinkage would happen. Despite the warm temperature I used, there really wasn’t any shrinkage. So, I put the rest of my fabric in the washer and dryer. The only downside to this fabric is that it’s a hair magnet, but at least it doesn’t shrink!
I cut my pattern out on the floor after cleaning it as well as I could so the fabric didn’t get dirty. I cut a large for the bust and waist and an extra large for the hip, leaving off the shawl collar. This was also my first time using knit interfacing. It went well, and I like the feel of it in the finished garment.
Except for the unwieldiness of the project due to its length, this wasn’t hard. I tried using Coats & Clark’s new Eloflex thread, which is slightly stretchy and made for knits.
After awhile, I switched from Eloflex as my top thread and in my bobbin to Eloflex in just the top and wooly nylon in the bottom. It seemed like my machine didn’t like something that I was doing, and for some reason, that configuration seemed to do the trick. I still used a zigzag stitch and all the other things I do for sewing with knits (walking foot, lighter presser foot pressure, jersey needle), but just changed up that top thread from my usual all-purpose Gutermann to Eloflex. We’ll see how it holds up. No complaints so far, but I also haven’t used it enough to say if I love it or not.
The other thing I tried out on this garment was Steam-A-Seam 2 (the 1/4″ one). I’ve had this for a while, but haven’t really used it. It’s a lightly tacky double-stick tape that you then use to fuse your fabric together with an iron when it’s positioned. I used it to help me hem and for my pockets as an extra stabilizer. It says it creates a permanent bond when ironed, but I still sewed my hems and pockets where I applied it. Why did it take me so long to use this?!
After wearing the cardigan a few times, I wonder if I need to shorten it just a bit. The hem is about an inch off the ground. (For reference, I’m 5′ 8.5″.) It doesn’t pick up as much dirt as you might expect, but I’m always worried it will drag. I was hoping I could just fold the hem up one more time, but when I tried pinning it, I realized that my hem was slightly uneven, and simply folding it up really exacerbated that. Maybe it’s time to use my new-to-me hem marker if it will go down that far.
I really, really like this cardigan. I know it’s a different look and it’s a lot of black for me, but it’s so cozy and warm (guys, it’s basically a blanket or a robe). I like how it looks with jeans or overalls, and it’s great to have something so long and dramatic–something so different from most of the rest of my wardrobe. I would definitely make this again.
After the dirndl project that I undertook earlier this fall, I wanted to make sure that I had some quick, easy projects in my next project batch. As we were going into cooler temperatures, I started to think that a few knit sewing projects were in order.
One of the new things I want to incorporate more into my wardrobe is leggings (even though I’m not wearing them in these pictures) which, whether or not you think they count as pants, definitely count as secret pajamas. However, I also don’t want my hind end exposed, which means I need longer t-shirts. I’ve tried the Briar Tee from Megan Nielson Patterns, which I like, but it’s not quite as long as I want and I think something is off for me in the shoulder area. I really like the concept, however, and so I thought I would give Vogue 9055 a try.
I found the coziest sweatshirt-like knit fabric at Fabric Place Basement in Natick, MA that seemed perfect. It’s 80% cotton and 20% polyester. This pattern and fabric combination ticked most of my boxes: cozy, secret pajamas, like a warm hug, long and butt-covering. The only thing it was missing was real color. While gray is a cozy color, it also kind of depresses me. Sorry, gray lovers. I live in a land of gray winters (as you can see from these pictures) and I need color. So I bought bling to spice it up. 🙂
While in my mind this project was going to take me, like, two seconds (which never actually happens, but it’s still possible to delude myself), it didn’t. I made the shirt, minus hems, and then I looked at it… The hips were too wide, and actually it looked a bit big on top, too. The neckband wasn’t tight enough, so it was flopping forward. What the heck?! Also, why have I not mastered knit neckbands after all this time?!
So I took a step back and started working on one issue at a time. I took the extra off the hips that I had added previously, and that made a big difference. I decided not to hem the sleeves or body of the shirt because I like the unhemmed shirt length and the look of it unhemmed. I could probably trim an inch off the sleeves…but I just don’t want to. As for the neckband, I cut it off and stay stitched again, but it wasn’t great without some sort of band. So I asked someone who knew more than me (always a good choice!). She told me I needed to make the band shorter, and she did all my calculations for me, making the neckband 15% smaller than the opening of my neck hole (thanks, Stacy!!!). When I recut the piece and sewed it on, it was SO MUCH BETTER. I still need practice to get knit neckbands perfect, but this was a serious improvement.
I know lots of people are down on the amount of ease in Big 4 patterns. I’m the opposite. I usually love the amount of ease they include, since I’m not a fan of super-fitted clothing, but I think in this fabric, I could have gone down one size from my measurements. On the plus side, it’s the ultimate in comfort.
As for the sparkly decorations I bought for my shirt, there really isn’t a lot of space to put them on. So I don’t know. What would you do? Keep the sweatshirt plain or add details or decorations of some kind? For now, it’s plain, because I just wanted to wear it, and it really is as cozy as it looks. I’m open to ideas for jazzing it up, however. Leave your ideas in the comments!
The only thing that is out of the ordinary in this project is that I tried a new product: the new Eloflex thread from Coats & Clark. I haven’t used it enough to have a firm opinion on it, but it seems good so far. It’s not elastic thread, but it does have a bit of stretch in it. You can’t really tell if you hold a small amount between your fingers, but if you hold about a foot of it and pull, you’ll feel more stretch than in standard polyester thread. Normally I would use all-purpose Gutermann polyester thread for my knits, maybe with woolly nylon in the bobbin. For this shirt I used Eloflex in the top and in the bobbin. Now we’ll see how it holds up to wear and tear. I’m definitely excited to experiment with it.
The process of how people make things is interesting. It’s fascinating to see the spaces people create in and to learn about their processes. And since sewing is my creative practice, I’m interested in how others sew and in thinking through how I sew. After spending a few years sewing regularly, I’ve developed some habits and systems, and I thought I would share them with you in case you are curious about those types of things too. Here is how I take a project from start to finish.
Currently, I batch my projects. The first time I tried to do this, it was completely overwhelming. But the next time I did a single project, I missed it. These days, I tend to group about five sewing projects together and move them from start to finish as a unit. Here’s what that looks like.
1. Choose patterns and fabric. This has to be my favorite part (except for finishing, when I get to wear the final product!). Pairing fabric and patterns is so much fun. Sometimes I have a pattern I want to make and I go looking for the fabric. Sometimes there is a fabric already in my stash that I bought for a certain type of garment, in which case I have to look for just the right pattern.
This is what I’ve got on my sewing list right now (which is a bit larger than usual): Vogue 9055 (a knit top), McCall’s 7476 (a long, knit cardigan), Mini Virginia Leggings from Megan Nielsen Patterns, The Belvedere Waistcoat from Thread Theory Designs Inc., The Fairfield Button-Up, also from Thread Theory, Simplicity 4111 (a woven top), and the Lander Pant and Short from True/Bias. This particular batch is a little out of control, but I’m going with it. Christmas might have a little to do with the size…
2. Choose pattern view and sizes. Once I decide on my patterns, I make sure I know my measurements and, in this case, the measurements of the other people I’m sewing for. I use this information to pick out my size(s) on the back of the envelope and I also choose what view/version of the pattern I’m going to make. Everything gets written down on a sticky note and stuck to the back of the pattern, along with a list of the pattern pieces I’ll need to trace.
It’s also important to note what notions and interfacing I need, so I can look through what I already have and write down what I need to buy. I stock up on what’s missing the next chance I get.
3. Trace patterns. I trace my size(s) in each pattern and, while I usually use paper patterns, if I am using a PDF, I assemble and trace that as well, since I don’t want to print and assemble PDF’s more than once. I often have to grade from one size to another between the bust and waist, and sometimes I have to do a broad-back adjustment as well. All of that happens on my traced pattern pieces. The clean, traced pieces look so nice, and I’ve learned to enjoy the process of tracing. It can get intense, though, when you are tracing through five or more patterns, especially the ones with lots of pieces. TV, an audiobook, or a podcast help.
4. Cut out patterns. Once all my pieces are traced and adjusted, I cut out all of my fabric and interfacing (or my muslin if I’m making one). Whenever possible, I cut on a self-healing mat on a card table that is raised up on bed risers. I use a rotary cutter and large washers as pattern weights.
For longer patterns, I cut on the kitchen table or living room floor with scissors.
Once cut, I pin my pattern pieces to the fabric and stack everything up. Sometimes I transfer markings after cutting, and sometimes I do that right before sewing. Despite how nice and neat the picture below makes things look, my cut patterns usually end up draped over a chair in the living room, taking it out of commission. I should probably use hangers more often!
5. Time to sew! Once I have everything cut out, I can sew, sew, sew! I think that’s what really hooked me on batching projects–the fact that you can sew through project after project. I love that.
I usually pin my instructions up in front of my machine, mark my place with a little Post-It flag, and transfer any pattern markings to my fabric pieces if necessary. Then I sew through each project one by one.
In my current batch, I’ve made Vogue 9055, McCall’s 7476, and three Mini Virginia leggings. All of these are knit projects that were super fast. I felt the need for a few quick projects, so I put those at the front of the queue. Now I’m ready to dig into the Belvedere Waistcoat, a garment type I’ve never made before.
Batching like this produces a nice group of projects I can photograph and bring to you here on the blog. It’s really satisfying. When I’m finished, I clean everything up and plan my next group of projects!
What about you? Do you batch projects? Do you have a system for working or do you change it up? I’m curious! I’m also excited to look back at this post sometime in the future and see how much my work practice changes (or stays the same) over time.
Welcome to this issue of Experimental Sewing! Today’s project involves turning the remnants of a down jacket (from this past project) into a scarf.
After seeing the scarves Alabama Chanin and Patagonia made from worn out Patagonia jackets a few years ago, I reallllly wanted to try it for myself. I thought it was a cool idea, and I was intrigued by the thought of recycling a down jacket (plus, I couldn’t pay $90 for one of theirs just because I was curious). It was time to get sewing.
I decided at the outset that my goal wasn’t perfect, heirloom sewing. Undoubtedly the Alabama Chanin + Patagonia scarves are amazing in quality and workmanship, but I didn’t want to worry about that. I just wanted to know if I could do it and what the process would be like.
After my first project with this down jacket, which was interesting, but somewhat unpleasant to sew, due to the reality of sewing down in your living room, my husband suggested that I try sewing the scarf outside. That was a game-changer. Sewing outside in October, when it was still somewhat warm but not hot, was heavenly. Any escaping down floated away on the breeze. I felt like I was in a sweet, sweet dream (the weather was really nice), sewing away on my Featherweight in the backyard. 😀
Let’s talk process for a bit, and discovery. I looked at what I had left of the down jacket, and marked off pieces with my sewing marker that were as rectangular as possible. Then I sewed a straight stitch on either side of my cutting lines. After that, I cut my pieces up. And then I sewed them back together…as you do. 😉 This left me with something like a long rectangle, but also some exposed, slightly downy edges.
And that’s when I made my discovery. I went to an estate sale and came away with, among other things, fleece binding! I had no idea this was a thing you could buy! It was perfect for my project. Rather than buying more to match things, I just decided to use what I had to cover the seams joining the rectangular pieces and the edges. There was a little hand-sewing involved where the binding crossed from side to side, but not much.
Before I finished, I also sewed a little rectangle to the inside of one end so that you could weave the other end through, helping to keep the scarf on.
Some bonuses include the three pockets that are left in the scarf from the original jacket and, weirdly, the fact that the front zipper is still a part of the scarf and you can zip it up so it looks like you are wearing the front of a jacket. It’s weird and cool. (Really! It’s cool! I promise!)
Look out! This could be the next trend coming your way in 2018. You heard it here first! 😉
I don’t think, after doing this, that I’m going to set up shop making a million things from down. It was fun, but not so much that it’s going to be my new favorite thing. What IS one of my favorite things in sewing is trying out different fabrics, and this definitely scratched that itch. I’m pushing the boundaries of my sewing knowledge a little more each time! That’s a win.
It’s time for a little knitting…only a very little, because these days I’m primarily a garment sewer, but before I got serious about sewing, I was serious about knitting. Lest that give you any false impression of my skillz, let me set you straight. I’m no expert. I thought I had progressed pretty far, but I took about a three-year break once I really got into sewing, and in that time, not only did my skills atrophy, I started to realize how much more there was to learn. I discovered that if I really wanted to, I could become an excellent knitter…but that’s not my goal right now. Yes. I just told you I am choosing mediocrity. 😉
So what do I really want out of knitting? I want fun, small, easy- to moderately-challenging projects that I can do while talking with friends or watching a movie. I really enjoy knitting, but I don’t want to have to pay too much attention to it or fix mistakes. I want projects that don’t require perfect sizing, because that’s an area where I struggle, and I’m not ready to give knitting enough attention to fix that. I want my mental energy to go toward sewing, because right now, that’s where I want to be excellent.
So! We come to the point where I keep seeing truly gorgeous skeins of yarn. How can I use them in a project that fits with my requirements? Looks like it’s time to knit cowls! Cowls are the perfect project for someone like me. A cowl, as I’m using the word here, refers to a scarf that is a loop rather than a rectangle. I can choose a simple cowl and I immediately have a project that is portable, fun, and doesn’t require precise sizing. Once I figured this out, I made three cowls! Want to see?
Cowl #1: The Very Gifted Cowl
This pattern is from Churchmouse Yarns and was free. It’s very simple, with a cast on, an edging row, a body in basic stockinette stitch, and a bind off. The pattern also comes with a nice calculator so you can figure out how deep you can make the cowl with one skein of yarn depending on the weight you choose.
I used sock yarn from Hedgehog Fibres held double in a color called Cheeky. I just need to tell you that this yarn company is largely responsible for bringing me back to knitting again. I used to follow the owner, Beata, on Instagram because I just loved her beautiful yarn, but I had to stop because she was making me want to knit, and I wanted to focus on sewing! In the end, though, my
enabler friend Maggie at Pintuck & Purl, ordered some Hedgehog Fibres yarn for the shop, and that was it. I had to give it a try. I really enjoyed knitting with it, even though I normally shy away from such thin yarn. I still have a tiny bit plus a mini skein left for some future project.
Cowl #2: Portillo Cowl
This one is by Gale Zucker and is from the book Drop-Dead Easy Knits. It ticked all the boxes for me because it’s a cowl, it uses big yarn (which means it’s fast), and it’s also easy but still kind of interesting. You’re just using the garter stitch, but you change color a bit, which gives the cowl a cool look.
I used yarn from Yates Farm in Windsor, Vermont. This yarn dates back more than a decade to my initial yarn phase. I love it and wanted to use some of my partial skeins up. This was just the right project, but because it’s so chunky, it knits up pretty huge. This cowl’s going to keep me nice and warm! I still have a ton of needles from when I started knitting, but I didn’t have circular needles long enough for this project. In case you find yourself in the same boat, check out this economical option from Amazon. Score!
This cowl is not perfect. It’s not hard to see where I wove the yarn in or ignored a mistake, but I was going for a pleasant experience over perfection, so it is what it is. It bugs me a little, but not enough to go back and fix it. My friend’s and my motto for knitting is: “Don’t be a stressed-out knitter.” In other words, feel free to ignore your mistakes if you want to. So I did.
Cowl #3: Spidey’s Spiral Cowl
I’ve made this cowl before and given this pattern + yarn to knitting friends as gifts. You can find it on Ravelry for purchase or you can buy it through your local yarn store (I got mine at Pintuck & Purl). I really like how interesting it is, and because it uses such nice, chunky yarn, I actually don’t mind going back and fixing mistakes (once in a while). My attempt last year in Yates Farm chunky yarn didn’t turn out the way I hoped. It was more like a stiff neck tube, and I think it eventually made its way to the thrift store.
This time I made it in Baah Yarns Sequoia in a color called Yearling. I had plans to use a different colorway, but this pink was like cotton candy or a fluffy cloud, and when I saw it at Pintuck & Purl, I knew it had to be mine (See? Enablers!!!). I do think the final shape looks a little funny, but I don’t care! This is the softest, most luscious yarn ever, and I needed to make something with it. I even saved my tiny scraps, so I could just touch them.
One thing I will say about this yarn and the Hedgehog is that they smell sort of like a perm. Have you ever smelled that smell at a salon before? It’s sort of weird, but I think it’s because of the dyes they have to use. You really don’t notice it unless you are keeping your project in a plastic bag, so maybe use a cloth bag (or just don’t be surprised)?
So that’s it! I now have all the cowls! What on earth am I going to knit now? Maybe another try on last year’s hat? I would love to have a version that’s a little longer.
Thanks to my photographers for making me laugh so much. Now back to sewing!
It’s dirndl time! But it’s not for Oktoberfest. Oh, no. I finally made a dirndl, and I made it for…a German-themed birthday party! It’s not every day you get to say that. And yes, it was as awesome as it sounds.
I’ve always been interested in folkwear, and have thought from time to time that it would be fun to sew a Dutch costume and attend a Tulip Time festival, but I never got serious about it. Then, a few years ago, Gretchen Hirsch of Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing went on a trip to Europe and got dirndl fever. Here is her definition of a dirndl from the same blog post: “the dirndl is an ensemble which consists of a low-cut full-skirted dress with a snugly fitted bodice, an apron, and an underblouse that ends just below the bustline. Adorable jackets, flowered headbands, and hats may be added!” I read her blog posts and looked through all the beautiful pictures of the many variations of this traditional Alpine look, and I caught the bug too. I’ve been wanting to sew something at least inspired by Bavarian folkwear ever since, and this party was the perfect opportunity. (I even started a dirndl Pinterest board to save my inspiration pictures!)
Part of what made this whole experience great was that this wasn’t just any German-themed birthday party, but one for a fellow sewist. It was attended by a number of other sewing people, so in the weeks leading up to the event, as I was sewing (and stressing that I wouldn’t finish in time), I felt the solidarity that comes with knowing there were others in the vicinity making their own dirndls. It gave me the will to power on! 😉
Being practical (and on the lookout for a dress pattern I would use in my everyday life) I chose Burda Style 7084. My hope was that with the apron, it would look like folkwear, but without the apron, it would magically transform into an everyday dress (#secretdirndl). There seems to be quite a lot of variation in the traditional look, which Gertie touches on in this blog post on dirndls and wearability, so my idea wasn’t too out there. Additionally, as much as I love the look of the dirndl with the blouse, fitted bodice, and gathered skirt, if I was going to actually wear this more than once, it was going to need more ease and bust coverage.
So, despite some trepidation that I wouldn’t finish on time or that something would go amiss, I got started. Before making the dress, I did a major broad back adjustment on the back bodice piece, and then made a quick muslin of the bodice. Thankfully, that worked out and showed me I was on the right track.
Although my measurements put me at an 18 for the bust and waist and a 20 for the hips, I made a straight 18 since the hip part of the dress is really just a lot of gathered fabric, which seemed pretty forgiving. I made View A, with the little collar, but in the shorter length. I hadn’t spent time sourcing fabric, so I was hoping that I could use some from my stash, and choosing the shortened length both saved me fabric, and made the dress fit my preferences better.
In the end, the dress was almost free. My outer material is a very lightweight, nearly sheer Swiss Dot Chambray in a color called Denim by Robert Kaufman. I bought it with a gift card I won in a giveaway from The Cloth Pocket in Austin, Texas (Thanks, guys!). I underlined it with an old sheet, which added opacity and body (and also cut down on wrinkling).
For the apron, I used a sheer cotton embroidered curtain panel someone had given me.
All I really had to buy was the pattern, some buttons, and pencil pleating tape for the gathering on the skirt. All of those things came from Jo-Ann Fabrics.
The pencil pleating tape was a little tricky to find. You can gather the skirt by hand (as shown in this blog post), which I would love to try someday, but I was happy to have a quick option for this project. I did some googling and didn’t turn up much. In the end, I found 4″ pencil pleating tape for sale by the yard in the upholstery section of Jo-Ann’s.
In order to use it, I sewed it to my assembled skirt, pulled several strings in the tape to gather the fabric, and adjusted the gathers until the skirt fit the bodice and my hips. I braided the long ends of the ties and loosely knotted them rather than cutting them short, so that I could adjust the skirt in the future should I ever need to. Then I sewed the skirt to the bodice.
When making the apron, I didn’t think about the fact that the apron length is meant to go with the longer skirt, so I had to take it apart after I thought I had finished and shorten it from the top since I was trying to preserve the embroidery along the edges. In the end, though, the placement of the embroidery was much better on the shortened apron than it had been originally. I’m so glad I found a use for this gorgeous and delicate fabric. It definitely looks like I put more work into it than I did!
I decided not to add the rick-rack the pattern called for, and I chose really basic buttons in the interest of frugality and wearability.
Despite my fears, I finished in time, and I love my dress and apron. It doesn’t hurt that I already owned a real, traditional German jacket. It made for the perfect outfit! The party was a blast, and I have worn the dress many times since making it, both with and without the apron. It was the perfect first dirndl project. Maybe there will be more to come? Hopefully!
And now, deep into October, it’s finally time to wrap up my 2017 Summer Sewing list. 😉 This top is the last unblogged summer project.
It’s McCall’s 6751, View A, and it has both pros and cons.
On the pro side, I finally made this top well (see my first attempt, at the beginning of my serious sewing journey here). I got another chance to sew with linen, which I loved. It was easy and fast to sew (excluding all the hemming). I love the look of the fabric and the look of the shirt on the hanger…but I don’t love it on me. The cons are all personal preference, rather than some sort of problem with the pattern. I don’t feel secure and covered enough in this shirt.
I thought I would love the back, but I don’t. It feels like it will shift or blow open at any moment, leaving me feeling uncomfortably exposed. I also want to wear my normal undergarments without them showing, but you definitely can’t do this with this shirt. Seems like I conveniently forgot all this from version one. Haha!
So…I have an idea. I usually hate going back into projects once they are finished, but I’m not quite ready to give up on this yet. So, my idea is that I will cut out the back of View C, finish it and attach it as an inner layer. I have a vintage sheet that looks really nice with this linen, and I think it will be perfect. If I actually do it, I’ll report back. 🙂
So, how about some details on this project? There aren’t many, because it was a pretty quick and easy sew. The fabric was given to me by a friend because I wanted to try sewing linen, and she had some that she wasn’t using. (Thanks again!) I made a size large, and since I omitted the pocket, there were only two pattern pieces. There were no darts or fitting changes. The only long part was all the hemming, which you do along every edge. It all went well, though, and was a fun project.
I think a big part of sewing is learning the difference between what you like to look at in fashion and what you will actually wear (and hence, what is worth your sewing time). I’ve gotten a lot better at this, but I think this project definitely fell into the category of something I liked the idea of that wasn’t realistic for how I actually like to dress. So now I have a new challenge. Can I make this shirt work? We’ll see!
This shirt was really bothering me because, as I mentioned, it just felt too exposed. I decided to try to save it, and I did!
The front pattern piece is the same for all four views, so first I tried layering View C in a vintage sheet under View A. That didn’t work because the angle made by the joining of the front and back is different from View A to View C. After this first attempt, I took the original back off completely and put a new back on. I like it so much better.
It still has an interesting crossover in the back, but it’s so much more covered and wearable. I also love the juxtaposition of the two fabrics, although the sheet fabric is not as drapey as the linen.
Finally, I added a pocket in the sheet fabric to the front to pull it all together.
I really like this version. For drape factor, I wish it were all in linen, but since I didn’t have any more in my stash, I really like what I came up with. The fabrics look beautiful together, and I salvaged the shirt. It’s all set for next summer now! Hooray!