Sunday, November 22, 2015

My fun Friday

I spent the most amazing day machine knitting on Friday, learning from a master (Dresda on Ravelry) who lives quite near to me in a charming converted two room schoolhouse. Her knitting room is in the old teacher's room above the front entry. I noticed there was an open grill between the back wall of the teacher's room and the former classroom below. Miss Smith would miss NOTHING that went on, even when she was upstairs and well out of sight of her pupils. 

But I digress.  

Dresda had offered to show me how to use my U100E, a fancy shmancy device that promises to transfer stitches from the front bed to the back bed, or vice versa, or only some of them (every second one or the specific ones you tell it to transfer) in a single pass. You save precious minutes that otherwise would be spent moving one stitch at a time by hand. 

I had bought this thingy with great enthusiasm shortly after I got my Passap Duomatic 80 double bed knitting machine because: Texture! I could do interestingly patterned textured knitting on my machine! Not to mention transfer from ribbing to plain knitting easily. 

Full of hope, I tried it. Hmmm, not so easy. It transferred most of the stitches, but dropped others. And it got stuck. And I mangled a latch or two in the process. I bought 50 insurance needles. Every time I tried the U100E the same thing happened. So it went back into the box. Which apparently is the same thing that happens to most of these devices. But Dresda said that she could unlock its mysteries for me. 

 And looky! I made an ugly twisted little swatch. But: garter stitch! Rib to stockinette! Stockinette to rib! Stockinette to chosen stitches purl! This is a tour de force people!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A sewing lawyer can never have too many sheath dresses, right?

I'm lagging behind so much that I can't even remember if I previously mentioned my idea of making the "seamed dress" from the August, 2012 edition of BurdaStyle magazine.

No? Nor can I remember what initially drew me to this pattern. It probably wasn't the shininess or the bird cage...

However I looked it up on PatternReview and there were a couple of very nice versions. Then I let the idea percolate in my head for a few months before taking the next step of tracing the pattern.

And then I cut a muslin and let it sit for a few weeks while I did other things (secret machine knitting).

And yesterday, finally I finished the muslin. Behold my version of the shiny dress.

It's too tight. I did a very slap-dash job of grading the hip curve and this fabric has zero give.

It's also too long - this pattern is in Burda's "tall" size range (72 instead of 36, 76 instead of 38, etc.). They unhelpfully did not print the measurements for the tall sizing in the magazine but the charts are available on line. I'll save you the trouble. There is a 2cm difference in back waist length, and
an 8cm difference in the overall height between the size ranges. I traced without adjusting and (surprise!) I need to pinch out 2cm above my bust.

What do I like about this pattern? The interesting diagonals. They show up on the line drawing, and I hope to be able to make them pop in the concrete grey wool double crepe I've got lined up for this dress.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

An easy machine knitted shawl

It may surprise you to learn that there are some extremely active machine knitting groups on Facebook. A few months ago, people started to post photos of a faux-ribbed shawl that became known as "Christine's Shawl" after its designer, Christine B. Linfield.

The instructions are posted in the group's documents, free for anyone who's a member of the group to use. There's a link on the Ravelry pattern page.

Basically, you knit a long piece using the full bed (180 needles) of a standard gauge machine. Every 4th needle is out of work, which creates the ribbed appearance.

Then you do short rows, by putting the first group of 3 needles out of work and knitting 4 rows, and repeating with each successive group of 3 needles.

Then you bring all the groups of needles back into work in reverse order. This creates a line of eyelets and makes your shawl turn a corner.

The shawl has 3 such corners - one over each shoulder and one at CB.

The pattern is extremely easy and I originally thought it wasn't a very interesting shawl. However, I started to think about what to make for my 90+ year old mother in law who's in a nursing home, and realized that this shawl in her favourite colour could be just the thing.

I started it on Sunday and would have finished it in one go, but for the fact that I realized I was going to run out of yarn. I did the second half on Tuesday evening.

It took me longer to finish the ends of the shawl, which I did with a sort of backwards single crochet.

I may make another one of these. It's very cozy!

Monday, November 2, 2015

And I knitted a hat

Oh yeah, I also made a hat.

This is based somewhat loosely on Wurm, a free pattern on Ravelry. I used the second half of my rainbow skein of Kauni Effectgarn. It's totally a trick, that yarn. It shifts colour very leisurely so that before you know it, you've gone through the whole rainbow spectrum.

The second half? Oops, I guess I must have forgotten to blog my Rainbow scarf/shawl. I finished it in early summer but now, I'm finding that it goes with just about every single thing I own.

The pattern for this one (not free) is written specially for the Kauni's long colour changes.

Back to the hat - I made some changes to make it better than the pattern. Specifically, I knitted the first row of each of the purl ridges as a knit row (to hide the transition better), and I hid decreases in the dark rounds so that my hat has a pleasant beehive shape rather than being long and kind of square at the end.

Unfortunately my skein of Kauni only had one bit that was truly purple so the colour transitions at the back of my hat (which are engineered; I have a lot of tiny skeins of the intermediate colours) are not as gentle as they could be. But I am pretty well satisfied with my new hat. It'll add a pop of colour when I wear my severe navy coat, once the weather turns really cold.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

What I've been up to

Neither sewing nor blogging, evidently!

I have been doing a lot of machine knitting but it's a top secret project that I can't blog about yet. Be patient and eventually all will be revealed.

And no, nobody has offered me a book deal. Which is just as well because I have enough hobbies already thank you very much. As well as a full-time job.

I finished my golden cowl, which was mostly done in the last post in which I tried to explain to you, my loyal readers, why I hadn't been posting very much. I even got to wear it a few times, as we had some unseasonably warm temperatures in early October.

As I had hoped, it looks good with my most recent suit. Hmm, I finished that in March? It must be time for another one soonish.

My husband and I had a mini-vacation in Quebec City. What a magical place! We stayed right in the old city, in a house that was occupied, before 1855, by Joseph Légaré, one of the first landscape painters in the region. We saw some of his paintings in the Musée de beaux arts.

Parc de l'artillerie
The place had stone walls that were about 3 feet thick. It was right across the street from the Parc de l'artillerie.

There are cannons everywhere in Quebec City!

And cobblestones and steeply sloped streets - sometimes in combination!

And cute metal-sided houses.

We climbed hills, walked and ate good food.

And we went to Montmorency Falls. Wow!

There has also been some walking in the woods.

During which this sort of thing could be seen, if you looked up.

I'll leave you with a couple of more blog-relevant photos. This has been a good week at the thrift stores. First, my friend Gail got in touch to alert me to a major pattern find.

Yes! Those ARE Jalie and Style Arc patterns!

And this: 4+ metres of a nice rayon print.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Miscellany; mostly knitting

I was certainly on a sewing roll in August! I wonder what happened in September?

I need to pick a new project.

So much fabric, so many patterns, so little time!

A dress would be nice.

In the meantime, I have been hand-knitting.

At right my "Golden Cowl" made in an extremely skinny 100% silk yarn from my favourite on-line yarn purveyor, ColourMart.

The pattern is Bonny.

Almost done. I knitted up the back first, saving the best for last.

I wanted to make this on my knitting machine but the yarn kept breaking. I think I will try it again with wool, which has more "bounce" and more tensile strength.

And I have been machine knitting too.

I've branched out into colour/pattern in socks.

Although these look complicated, they are actually pretty easy to knit.

Watch out world, for more loud socks from The Sewing Lawyer!

(Incidentally, do you know how hard it is to take a photo of your own foot wearing a sock?)

At least I have a colour-coordinated chair for background.

And finally, I'm gearing up for a very patterned sweater, also on the knitting machine. Unlike my sock (slip pattern, only one colour per row), this is stranded (two colours per row).

I made this sample. I love it!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Éléonore pull-on jeans from Jalie

As you may be able to tell, The Sewing Lawyer is on a Jalie kick these days. This is the third of three patterns I chose from the new collection the company recently released - the Éléonore pull on jeans. We're 3 for 3, but if (when) I make these again I'll make some modifications.

Because I'm really not completely comfortable in jeans that hit me a good 3" below my actual waist, especially when they are tight enough that the back pulls down further when I'm doing anything other than standing up straight. Which is 90% of the time I figure.

Maybe if I was 20 years younger.

On the other hand, with the top of them and my belly button and all decently covered, they look not bad, if I do say so myself. In particular, this camera angle makes me look like I'm all legs, which is assuredly not the case. So let's just go with it.

And it was a really fast pattern to make up, even though I was fitting on the fly.

Here's the always-popular rear end view.

And because this extremely busy print simply swallows up the details, here is a closer view of the front.

Front - extreme close up
What? Not close enough?

In my continuing quest to make friends with my coverstitch machine, I used it to do the topstitching. It worked! Soon we will be best friends. I find that it does best when the fabric is a constant thickness - it didn't always catch the looper thread when I was stitching over seams. I fixed this with a needle and thread but does anyone have tips to avoid this?

Really, the only way to see the details is to look at these inside out.

That square of interfacing? Fixing
an "oopsie" from my serger
I'm super proud of my stitching on the back pockets. I went around the corners with my coverstitching in about 3 steps, turning the wheel to advance the stitches by hand, and rotating the pocket to turn the stitching with the left hand needle still in the fabric but raised enough so that the right hand one was free to move.

Topstitch expert - me?
The fabric I chose is a woven cotton/lycra with plenty of widthwise stretch - I could stretch 4" of fabric to more than 5", so more than the 20% minimum that Jalie calls for.

I traced size T based on my hip measurement, but I added 1cm of insurance at the side seams on front and back (total of 4cm) because I wasn't sure of the tight fit. A try on while sewing indicated that I didn't need all of that. The final seams are 1.5cm so I have an extra 1cm on each side. They are plenty snug enough for my taste.

The only serious problem was at the waistline. My waist is size R (a 2cm difference between the sizes). I figured that because the pants are low rise, the waist measurement wouldn't matter that much. As with the Jalie stretch jeans pattern, however, the waistband was going to gap on me - badly - if I made it up according to the instructions. In part this is because of the size differential, but it's also the draft which is really straight at the back. I don't have a gigantic behind or a really pronounced sway back either.

The instructions say to attach the waist band elastic 1:1, that is do not stretch to ease in the fabric at the waist line. Dawn found that for her, pulling the back waist elastic out a tiny bit on either side was enough (total of 1/2" or 1.25cm). I used wider elastic (Jalie says 2.5cm or 1" elastic, mine is 3.75cm or 1.5") and I had to pull it in both in front (total of about 2.5cm) and in back (total of about 4cm). Between the stretch of the fabric and the elastic there is no problem at all getting them on and the waistband looks smooth enough when I'm wearing them.

Next time I make these I think I will add more to the rise - not a lot, maybe 1cm all round, plus cut a small wedge in back to give myself more sitting room and enough back height so I'm not at risk of exposing my unfashionable undies when I sit or bend over.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jalie hits it out of the park - again!

More new workout clothes for The Sewing Lawyer. And this is a great workout top! I know because before I took photos this morning, I did an hour of yoga, and the top performed like a champ.

Jalie 3463 has 2 basic shapes - a flared mini-length dress or top, and a slimmer fitting top. This is the slimmer fitting top.

I'm not totally sold on my colour-blocking choices. When worn with black bottoms, the black lower side panels disappear and make it look like I'm wearing an odd apron.

There's an elastic-topped pocket in back, which I may never use.

Hmmm don't get the idea that I'm less than thrilled with my new Anne-Marie. That would be wrong because it is actually a perfect design - it fit me right out of the envelope (size R per my bust measurement) and it's supremely comfortable. I'll be making this again, soon.

Don't forget, The Sewing Lawyer has an extensive stash. I've got a black/red combo in mind for my next effort.

Sewing details, you ask?

Inside front
Inside back
It has a built-in bra which due to my fabric choice (power net) and the fact that I doubled the front with the 2 pieces cut in opposite directions) is extremely secure. I also lined the upper back with the power net to ensure it had the same degree of stability as the rest of the shoulder area.

The instructions to put the top together are pretty incomprehensible until you have the bits in your hands. Just follow the words and don't try too hard to decode the drawings. They are accurate, but I didn't find them that helpful because it just looks complicated.

The trickiest part is when you are sewing the second shoulder seam and arm opening. There is a definite risk that you'll end up with something that is literally impossible to turn right side out. In these situations I find it helpful to lay the item down flat on a table or my lap with the right side out and all the bits you have to sew together (in this case the side front, strap and back parts along with the inner bra structure) in the configuration you want them to be in after you have sewn them. Then I pick an easy spot on the garment (I picked the princess seam in front) and its matching spot on the thing you need to sew it to (the inner bra), turn them RS together at that point, and pin. Then you can work your way along the seam you have to sew. In this case you end up, as the instructions say, with the garment "sandwiched" inside the strap you are sewing. Just go with it and keep pinning. Then sew (if you don't trust it, sew a straight stitch that can be pulled out if it didn't work).

I used my serger (3/4 safety stitch with woolly nylon in the loopers) to sew the seams and my coverstitch machine for the under-stitching. Hopefully practice will eventually make perfect - I'm not there yet but the hem worked pretty well.

The only change I made was to under-stitch the elastic at the side/back as I found it was not lying flat without this. If I was seriously considering using the pocket I might try to make it into two compartments because it's pretty big.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Negative! (Ease, that is)

I've been working out regularly for 6 years or so. With a personal trainer. And with weights. I wish I had started earlier because it would have helped to prevent my bones from deteriorating (which they are doing, damn them). You younger ladies, pay attention! There's lots of good information here.

But I digress. Working out is not a lot of fun in my opinion, but it is ever so much more bearable if you are wearing comfortable and stylish workout clothes. There are so many more options now than there were the last time The Sewing Lawyer made such items in 2010. The shorts and tops I made then are still in regular rotation and look pretty good, but to be honest they don't fit all that well (since I lost 15 lbs a few years ago) and I just want new stuff.

I still have my Kwik Sew patterns from the 80s but last week, I bought two of the newest Jalies - the "Cora" tights and the "Anne-Marie" top. It was definitely time. Plus, I have to keep up my relationship with my Coverstitch machine.

Stash diving was productive - in 2010 I bought quite a lot of stretchy stuff at Susie Spandex at PatternReview weekend Montreal. Plenty to cut out a new pair of shorts to test out the Cora pattern.

Back - inside out
Front - inside out
They are very plain given the number of seams and opportunities for colour blocking, but I decided to make these mostly black. The only shot of colour on the outside is the pocket backing, in turquoise. My little surprise.

The inside shots do a better job of showing the construction of these shorts than the modeled photos, because my wooly nylon thread is grey rather than black. There seems to be a little shaping built into the seams, but most of the fitting work is done by the lycra.

I'm pretty chuffed at my stitching on these for two reasons. First, I stuck with the woolly nylon in the loopers through numerous tests (during which the upper looper thread broke again and again) until I figured out that I had to loosen the looper tensions ... a lot ... to keep the thread happy. No breaks were experienced during actual construction (YAY!).

Second, I maintained my state of non-intimidation with respect to my coverstitch machine. I started with the black on black shorts rather than the more colourful Anne-Marie top (to come) so that my mistakes would be totally invisible as indeed they are. Stay tuned to see if I can maintain my track record with the top, where I've chosen to use more colour.

I made size T based on hip measurements and was pretty skeptical that I'd be able to fit into these as they appear, off the body, to be big enough only for a child. I kept the faith in the negative ease though, and look!

The only change I made to the basic pattern was to cut 25" of elastic for the waist rather than the 22" Jalie thought would be A-OK for a size T person with a 29" waist. Seriously? A 6 year old has a 22" waist (according to Jalie's size chart). The extra 3" was a little bigger than the actual circumference of the waist band piece so it was a little awkward to sew, but once I put it on it all expanded nicely and without cutting into my much more than 6 year old flesh.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lace (?) jeans

Yes that is my latest V1440 shirt
Well, they look like lace. However, the fabric is actually a cotton-lycra twill. Pretty standard stuff, but the print mimics black lace, as you can see at right. I thought it was kind of fun.

Back view - spot the pockets?
This is the Jalie jeans pattern ... again. Why not, once you know they will fit (if you remember to think while constructing the waistband)? Although I did buy the new Éléanore pull on jeans pattern last week and I'll have to give it a try too.

As usual, I used a firm (non-stretch) woven cotton fabric for the pocket bag and to face the waistband, to reduce bulk. This fabric was left over from some particularly spectacular pajamas.

My sole innovation on these was to add a little button with loop so I can fold these up. I really wanted pedal pushers but I also really wanted long pants. This way, I got both! We'll see if it's a good idea as I wear these...