Thursday, February 14, 2019

I started this in 2016!

As promised, my Woodfords sweater was very close to completion and it is now DONE! Finally!

The only problem is that it's a bit on the too-long side. It really stretched out with wet blocking. I was able to tame the extra length somewhat by tossing it recklessly into the tumble dryer for a few minutes to finish the drying, and then steaming the heck out of it. However it is about 3cm (1.5") longer than the pattern schematic - mostly (to my surprise) above the waist braid. I'm not sure how that happened. I may shorten it, but I can tell you I won't be ripping back to that point. I'd just make the ribbed skirt portion shorter.

But otherwise I really like it.

Lisette skirt - needs work to work for me

I bought the Jalie Lisette skirt pattern while at PR Weekend, during which I also acquired a skirt length of an extremely stretchy reversible woven fabric. It had the required stretch factor and I threw caution to the winds.

Well, not completely. I realized that the skirt was going to be too tight as designed so I sized up by two sizes based on my hip measurement.

Initially I figured I would make the colour blocked version, using the white side for the CF panel.

I basted it together and tried it on, only to be disappointed by how extremely snug the skirt was, even after sizing up, and how much I disliked the white and black.

So it sat for several months. Eventually I realized I should sew it with the recommended seam allowances (6mm instead of 1cm) and that I should make it all-black. (FYI the extra 1.6cm did not make an appreciable difference to the fit.)

I finished it this week, but it's destined for my son's girlfriend. I hope she likes it!

I will try this pattern again but will definitely size up

Still catching up - brown Audrey dress

I made this dress a while ago - revisiting the Audrey pattern from MariaDenmark, which I first made in June. This dress looks very different from my first one due to the very sombre deep brown wool doubleknit I used.

I need a belt to cinch it in at the waist. I think I sewed the side seams of my first one in a bit.

Non-sewers would never guess these are the same dress.

Most people would never guess that this is really pajamas for work. SO COMFY!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

What's happening in my sewing room?

On the sewing side, I am immersed in fitting experiments.

Just before Christmas, someone posted about ZOZO - a company whose slogan seems to be "custom-fit clothing for a size-free world". Now, The Sewing Lawyer does her own custom-fit clothing thanks very much and does not need to send away for custom fitted T shirts (???) on the internet. However, she figured the ZOZOSUIT was very much worth checking out.

This is a 2 piece set (footed leggings and long sleeved top) made from a thin black lycra fabric and printed all over with these strange dots. The website explains:

ZOZO output - 2019

Each ZOZOSUIT has more than 350 white dots, each of which is unique. These dots serve as fiducial markers, which are essential to our measuring process.

As you measure, the ZOZO app will take 12 photos of you (as you stand facing each our on a clock) and capture where each unique dot is located in space.

The App is free and I was able to get it to measure me successfully first try. I did two sets of measurements to see how accurate/consistent the system is. Once the app has finished it produces a cute diagram of your body which you can rotate on your phone screen. 

I think it needs supervision, because my arms are not so wildly different in circumference and length as ZOZO thought. If I was actually going to order clothes I would have to redo the process until I figured the measurements were perfect. 

CAESAR output - 1999
ZOZO is an up to date and much more accessible version of a measuring process I participated in 20 years ago. CAESAR (poster at right) was a survey of thousands of volunteers in North America and Europe done in the late 1990s. I cannot remember how I found out that the project was coming to my city but do remember being pretty keen to participate because I would get professionally done measurements and a picture of my 3D body scan. 

I made a spreadsheet of the data from the CAESAR scan and ZOZO - noting where things matched and where they did not. I also incorporated measurements that were done when I was using Pattern Master Boutique, a computer pattern drafting program. In part the non-matching is explained by years of body changes but it's also due to different undergarments (CAESAR measured over a compressing sports bra, for example) and variations in the measurement system. 

Pinned-together to check
the pattern-matching
Between the three sources of information I figured I had enough accurate data to finally order the Bootstrap Patterns dress form pattern that I won at Pattern Review weekend. 

Stash diving produced long strips of a beefy home-dec fabric (cotton I think, might have been a duvet cover project) which once fused is extremely stable. It will be an eye-catching dress form when it is done. I am amusing myself by trying to match the design as much as possible. 

So far I think the dress form is a little more buxom than my reality but I'll reassess as I sew, and adjust accordingly. 

I will be demolishing my ancient duct-tape double so I can reuse the stuffing and stand for my new dress form. It has served me well for many, many years. 

Oh yeah, I'm also testing some of the new patterns for Jalie again. So much fun! 

So far behind! Knitting edition

As usual I have a number of projects on the go, but little time to blog about them. Gotta rectify that!

I finished that machine knitted hat I was working on last time I blogged. It is the same concept as the lizard hat, but with improvements.

I found a better way to attach the two layers by machine.  For the lizard hat I grafted the stitches by hand, as per the original hand-knitting pattern, and the lower edge was a band of ribbing. The lower edge is a little indeterminate since it's just wherever the ribbing is folded. And it isn't very firm.

My improvement was to knit the two layers together using an 8 stitch wide strip knitted in the red yarn. Because stockinette rolls it creates an attractive round binding all by itself. The edge is firm and it make the hat very secure and easy to put on.

The outside is wool sock yarn and the inner lining is Woolease (acrylic from Michael's). The hat is super warm.

I had to put my machine away (visitors) and haven't had the energy to get it out again. But one of these days I'm going to knit matching mittens.

I've also resurrected a hand knitting project that I started (ahem) more than two years ago. It got sidelined by my broken wrist in 2017. However I made myself pick it up in the last six months to finish the sleeves and it is now ridiculously close to being done.

The pattern is Woodfords by Elizabeth Doherty. As I said before, this is a very complicated knit - no seams, top down, plenty of short rows. It's one of those patterns where you simply have to follow along because there is no overview. Despite my frustration at feeling I'm not in charge of my own project, I love many things about this project: the texture of the broken rib stitch and the fact that the ribbed skirt is the same pattern minus the purl rows; the corrugation of that ribbing, especially around the back neck; the braid rows at the back; the dropped shoulders and narrow sleeves. And the colour!

I've only got about 2cm left to knit at the lower edge and then all that will be left is to weave in the many ends generated by the complicated instructions, and block it.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

More things I made - machine knitting edition

I eventually finished the head-exploding mittens. They are very complicated and I'm still puzzling over how to simplify them while exploiting my machine's crazy potential for complex stranded knitting.

Ravelry pattern photo
I've been wearing them a lot and they are not bad on a mildly cold day. For deep cold I need more insulation and I'm thinking of simpler mittens that are nevertheless lined. Stay tuned. I recently bought Perianth, a mitten pattern that also has a bigger chart. There will be some flowery knits.

Carrying on with my computerized projects, I turned to making a hat for my son for Christmas. I found a chart for Escher interlocking lizards in a free pattern on Ravelry, and modified it somewhat based on my testing.

I made a test tea cozy first.

And then I made a hat. It's easy to say now, but machines somehow know when you are knitting under pressure in a countdown to Christmas. I think I had to start the hat about 5 times. So many different things went wrong. Luckily the memory of the problems fades with time and the satisfaction of the finished item.

Me modelling the lizard hat
The  hat is a very ingenious design - another free Ravelry pattern called Cyclone. Basically it is a tube that is folded in half with the lining twisted before the open edges are grafted together. The twist keeps the top of the hat closed without it actually being closed.

I'm making the hat again using the Perianth chart (swatch at left).

Things I made recently - Carolyn PJs!

Every year I sew relatively elaborate PJs (shirt style, piped, contrast fabric, crazy prints) for my husband. Here are some I've made over the years.

But I'd not made a pair for myself - until now! In the week between Christmas and New Years I finally bought myself the Carolyn Pajamas pattern from Closet Case. I'm not sure why I waited so long. My PJ collection can now be completely renovated.

I made these from some miscellaneous soft flannelette that was a thrift store find, and a contrast fruity cotton print that was left over from another PJ project.

I only used the pattern for the shirt as I had a self-drafted PJ pant pattern on hand. Next time I'll do the full Carolyn.

What do I like about this pattern? 

Well, it has all those PJ bells and whistles - collar and lapels, cuffs and pockets, all piped edges! 

I like the rounded shape of the collar and lapel. 

I like the shirt-tail hem. 

The fit is good for PJs - not tight, but not exactly boxy either. 

Inside collar and back facing
For my taste, the collar lies a little flat at the back - there is not much of a stand as you can see in the photo of the inside collar and back facing. If I remember I will modify it to make it more upright before I make these again. I'll leave the curved edges so it will look the same at the front but sit higher at the back of my neck. 

I also added a back neck facing (stitched directly to the back) which I think is nicer as well as easier to make than the instructed method (pictured below). 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

My head is exploding

The Sewing Lawyer has never been one to shy away from technically difficult projects and has continued the trend with computer-controlled machine knitting.

Selbuvotter Pattern (Ravelry)
There are so many fabulous stranded knitting patterns on Ravelry and lots of them are free. The wonderful liberation from 24 stitch repeats that AYAB promises had me itching to try one of the many stranded mitten patterns where the palm is one design and the back of the hand is another. I found a free pattern called Selbuvotter and I was off.

The details of this pattern are similar to the mittens traditionally knit in Selbu, a municipality near Trondheim in Norway. As explained in the page I linked, they have a lace cuff, a repeating pattern for the palm and a centred motif or complex pattern that covers the back of the hand. There is a knitted border marking the transition from the palm to the back of the hand. The thumb starts narrow and grows in a gusset. It is like a miniature version of the mitten with its own fancy centred pattern on the outer side of the thumb and the repeating pattern from the palm on the other side, separated by the 3 stitch knitted border.

If knitting these by hand, you would definitely do them in the round. For machine knitting they need to be done flat, and although I suppose I could hand manipulate the lace, I am fine with ribbing.

I had to modify the pattern chart a bit for flat knitting. I added a seam stitch at each edge, attached the thumb gusset to the thumb instead of having it as an integral part of the mitten, and fiddled with the pattern to make it more symmetrical (centred on the palm). I also added some contrast stitches with the goal of reducing the number of long floats on the back.

Here are my modified charts (made in GIMP).

Sorry they look so fuzzy; for AYAB each stitch is one coloured pixel so in original size they are microscopic.

I decided that the 3 stitch border should be attached to the back of the hand as the decreases are made. I couldn't get my head around charting this in GIMP so decided to manually select the needles for this feature. It is not complicated, every second row the middle stitch is in the main colour.

Throwing caution to the wind I set off, making many discoveries about AYAB in the process.

  • In hand knitting you knit from the right side but on the machine it is reversed. AYAB nicely flips the pattern automatically, making it imperative to remember which side the thumb is being made on. If knitting the chart as displayed above, the thumb has to be made on the left hand side of the needle bed. AYAB has a feature to mirror the pattern if you have already set up your knitting, as of course I had, with the thumb to be knitted on the right.
  • I managed to knit up to the top of the main pattern, having taken the palm stitches off the machine once I needed to decrease to continue knitting them separately later. I made some mistakes in the border pattern but it looks decent. Continuing to knit the palm in the pattern was a challenge. I learned how to resume on AYAB, but managed to pick the wrong row to start on so there is a duplicate row there. It is hardly noticeable (I hope). 
Technical knitting problems were also encountered, like how to add the stitches above the space for the thumb, and how to increase the gusset stitches so the stripes marched continuously up instead of in steps and stairs fashion. I am working on that.

Here are some in progress photos. It is going well enough that I am encouraged to continue. I'm using junk yarn and the gauge is wrong but it is sort of looking like it could some day be a mitten.

In the right hand photo, the orange line on the palm is the life line. You can see the duplicated row above it.

I started the thumb (4 thumb stitches are on a safety pin in the photo at left) but that's when my head exploded. I'm going back to it now.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

New technology

Hanging around the machine knitting forums on Ravelry can be dangerous. You learn that you could, if you only had this or that bit of technology, accomplish amazing things.

So it was that I heard of the mysterious AYAB (All Yarns Are Beautiful) - a little computer board and custom program that with an Arduino can instruct a Brother electronic knitting machine to do just about anything. I did not own a Brother electronic knitting machine. I had not seen a second hand one for sale in my area. But late in the summer I finally found a KH950 with ribber for a reasonable price and I pounced.

Hacked at the U of O Makerspace
Long story short, I bought it, I acquired the board thanks to the help of a very generous knitter on Ravelry, I went to the local university maker space (very great resource, if you are looking to 3D print or laser cut something and lack the machinery BTW) and with the help of a great on-line tutorial and an engineering student, my 950 was successfully hacked.

My delight at producing this dumb little swatch was almost as great as the amazement of the 20-something student who helped me install the AYAB at how fast the machine could produce actual knitting. (Quite a few 20 somethings came over to ask what the heck that machine was, anyway...)

As I was engaged in this exercise, news of the amazing Australian knitter/software engineer who literally knitted a map of the universe hit all the sites, and friends kept sending me links. She uses AYAB!

So my late 1980s knitting machine technology was brought up to date and can now be controlled by way of a graphics editor running on a modern laptop. Goodbye, 550 random built-in 1980s patterns, hello unlimited knitting potential!

I downloaded GIMP which is free and seems pretty powerful although for my purposes I only need the most basic function (making pixels black or white). I found a video tutorial on YouTube that explains it very clearly.

Chart made in GIMP
My next step was to find some interesting stranded knitting patterns. I found a free pattern on Ravelry for fingerless gloves (Latvian Blooms). It's a hand-knitting pattern but who cares? It has charts! I entered the pattern into GIMP pixel by pixel. One pixel correlates to a stitch in AYAB. Then I copied the chart multiple times, somewhat randomized, into a bigger document (approximately 4x as wide). I uploaded that bigger image into AYAB and knitted it. It is knitted on 137 stitches and 90 rows and it took me no more than an hour to set it up and knit. The machine beeps as each new row is ready to be knitted. It's pretty brainless knitting, all things considered, and the machine works really well.

Once I finished knitting the chart, I set the machine to knit plain and continued for an unknown number of rows for a lining for my tea cozy (the stranded pattern has some really long floats that would get caught on things). This was super approximate.

AYAB automatically reverses the design so the knitted piece is the same as the original chart, not reversed left to right. This would be very handy if knitting text, for example.

Today I steamed the piece to control the curling edges and sewed it up with my sewing machine. It is basically a lined tube that is gathered at the top with a length of machine-knitted I-cord.

If it was the right size it would make a dandy hat, or a very warm cowl.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Where has The Sewing Lawyer been all this time? And a shirt.

It's almost the end of summer here - Labour Day is the official start of fall even though (as my mother would invariably point out) summer is still on until September 21 or so, and in fairness the weather can still be quite warm that late in the year. Where have I been?

Here's a clue: it wasn't summer there.

OK, here's another clue:

I was in Australia! As a Canadian I can tell you this: their winter is for sissies. You can go to the beach and swim in the ocean in the middle of winter, for heaven's sake. You can wear shorts outside. The sun shone almost every day, and it was not even a bit humid. It was glorious! For my money, July is definitely the time of year to go to Australia.

Work took me there; I was lucky enough to get approval to attend two excellent legal conferences being held at the University of Melbourne so I was there for two weeks. After that, a holiday ensued. My husband and I headed north to Cairns and then to Sydney before flying home. We ate, we drank, we walked (a lot!), we swam in the ocean (well, we snorkeled), we went to rainforests, on beautiful coastal roads, to mountains, on a wine tour, we saw wildlife, many colourful fish and birds, fabulous tropical flowers and much gigantic foliage. It was a lot of fun!

My being a tourist has nothing really to do with sewing, but I did find time to do a bit of fabric shopping in Sydney. I bought wool jersey and gorgeous guipure lace at The Fabric Store (good timing on the Sale!) and some Liberty at Tessuti. My good intention is to sew it all up in the medium term.

But my first project from my fabric purchases down under is this shirt made from humble quilting cotton that I bought in downtown Sydney. I went looking for yardage in prints by aboriginal artists after seeing tourist items made out of this type of fabric, and seeing aboriginal art in museums.

This print is a design called Water Dreaming by Audrey Martin Napanangka for M&S Textiles, Australia. I just googled it and find that it is available for sale by that name on the internet (for example here, in a different colourway). According to the M&S website, "The long curved lines indicate the movement of water in the area. Dotted lines and smaller circles indicate various soakages, broken roads, sands, etc." There are a lot of different aboriginal prints available and most of them relate to features of indigenous life on the land - water, food, animals and plants. 

So the shirt. This is one of the newest Jalie patterns, "Rose" (3881). It's a straightforward sleeveless shirt with a lined yoke, stand collar, back pleat and subtle shirt-tail hem. I participated in the testing of this batch of patterns (14 new ones were released in the spring) and this is one of the patterns I sewed up before it was fine tuned and released for sale. 

The testing was an interesting process. Our job was to make up the patterns according to the instructions, and to provide detailed comments back to Jeanne, Émilie and Mel so they could tweak the designs, fix typos, improve the instructions, and generally get everything exactly right. When I tested the pattern I used a relatively tightly woven cotton from stash - results at right (this style works well in bold ethnic prints!). You cannot tell from these photos but the finished pattern is quite refined compared to the version I tested, especially in terms of the collar shape and dimensions. Jalie is nothing if not attention to details! 

I was particularly skeptical of the instructions for making the stand collar. I've seen different methods illustrated in various patterns over the years and for a long time the results I got when making these collars was a long way less than stellar. In particular I would get lumpy bumps right at the key point where the stand meets the shirt front, right below your chin, right where it will be noticed and scream "loving hands at home". 

Being a perfectionist, I had worked hard to overcome the problem and recently, I had been using a method David Page Coffin wrote about in his book on shirt making. This gave pretty good results but his method is a little ... complicated ... and a bit counter-intuitive. Nevertheless I was reluctant to abandon it and so I chickened out when I tested the pattern. I did not use the method that the Jalie instructions suggested. Which, I now realize, was a missed opportunity.

LOOK, no bump!
I am not sure why I decided to give it a go with this version, using my precious Australian fabric. Maybe it is because Mel demonstrated it live at PR Weekend and it was fast and simple. Maybe it was because Émilie was wearing her beautiful Rose and the collar was flawless. Whatever the reason, I am glad I did and I am here to tell you that this is THE way to make stand collars - easy, quick, and produces a truly smooth and professional looking result. 

I had enough fabric to make a completely self-fabric collar and stand and had thought to make a completely contrasting white one but when someone whose style you respect tells you that it might be a tiny bit too Wall Street, you reconsider. In the end, the contrast is there but also sort of undercover. I kind of like it. 

Anyway, the bottom line is not only is this a refined little shirt that is very easy to wear, it is worth buying it for the collar instructions. What are you waiting for?