Sunday, November 20, 2016

It was a Jalie weekend

Get it? (never mind)

I am becoming one of those sewers who cut things out and don't sew them right away.

I had more of that blue 10% polyester Speedo (R) fabric, just enough for one more suit. So while I was cutting out my pink Hawaiian sunset/sunrise suit (last February) I also squeezed the pieces for one more blue one out of my precious remaining inches. And then it sat. And sat. And sat.

So long that I almost had a heart attack half way through, thinking I had either forgotten to cut out the strap pieces or I had lost them, and I didn't have enough left and I would never again have a blue Jalie/Speedo suit that lasts for years instead of months. And then I found them, in the plastic bin with the tiny snippets that are all that's left of this wonder fabric.

So I finished the suit. My coverstitch machine and I got along famously.

This is the most flattering shot of it. I predict it will function as a "serious" swimsuit (twice per week, 1.25 hours per swim, year round) for three years, like its predecessor (the blue fabric wears like iron but the lining died). My pink one was amusing but ultimately it is a disappointment although I am still wearing it.

I had also cut out another Anne-Marie exercise top and matching full length tights weeks ago, and made them last weekend.

I briefly considered using the pink print as the main front (exploding floral crotch, anyone?) but reconsidered. Not only because I really didn't think I needed an exploding floral crotch, but because the fabric is lighter weight and not as stretchy as it should be for the main portion of tights. So I used (again) the black supplex fabric I bought back in 2010 from Susie Spandex in Montreal. I do not know what I will do when I run out of that either...

My trainer (a guy) doesn't notice. But cute workout clothes seem important nevertheless.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Serious machine knitting progress

I was sewing through the summer but as the days started to shorten and cool, my thoughts turned to lovely wool and knitting. Since my last post I finished a hand knitted pair of socks that I started while on holidays, three pairs of socks by machine, and today I finished a cardigan. Phew!

Knitting socks by machine is a super easy thing to do and serves as a tune up or reminder of how my Passap feels and functions. The pattern from the machine manual works pretty well, and I can turn out a pair in a day (if all goes well). I have lots of sock yarn in sock quantities, so...

First tune up pair. These were made with Paton's Kroy yarn, easily available everywhere. The main challenge was matching the striping.

Yay me!

Pair number two (at right) were made for my 90-something mother in law. Her feet are bigger around and longer than mine. so on me these are looooose. I hope they fit her! I was super happy to have matched the striping in this yarn too! Yarn is a mystery sock yarn - a part ball found by my husband in a thrift shop.

Pair number 3 is another pair for my M-I-L. I used Paton's Kroy yarn again, but for some reason the yarn in these balls was thicker. One was a part ball (thrifted again) and I did not have enough to make full height socks. To get this pair, I had to knit three socks - the first one told me that I needed to make them shorter if I was going to get two!

It is easy and fast to rip out your knitting when you are using a machine. It's very liberating!

Yarn shortage prevented me from matching the striping - in fact one of these balls was wound in the opposite direction, as it turns out! So these are merely fraternal twins, unlike the identical pair that went in the same package.

So the main event (for which these socks were the tune up) is a cardigan that I just finished today. I used the same method I wrote about earlier, except this time instead of starting with a hand knitting pattern, I took measurements from a cardigan I knit by hand. I like the shape and style and thought I'd see if I could duplicate it. (Forgot that the armscyes were a bit too low, though...)

As usual with machine knitting, a swatch is absolutely critical. I used 4 ply 100% camel hair yarn from ColourMart (marinated in stash for 3 years). Based on my swatch and the garment measurements, I made up my charts.

And fussed over them quite a bit (as you can tell, with the blue and red markings). And then I knitted the pieces.

I feel most proud of the front button band. I wanted a 2cm wide band in full needle rib but with a little stockinette edge that would curl and be firm and smooth. I knitted the bands on 20 stitches with a 3-stitch stockinette edge. I had to make buttonholes and based on my samples I calculated the number of stitches between buttonhole rows and the total number of rows and I knitted (back and forth times approximately 550) and miracle of miracles, the band turned out Exactly Right!

It took me as long to mattress stitch these pieces together by hand as it did to knit them (I exaggerate just a bit) I am super happy with the result.

Without further ado:

Standing next to the Passap
Wondrous Machine
Back - ribbing is a touch too low

Saturday, September 10, 2016

End of summer project

With the shortening days my thoughts turn naturally to layers and wool and knitting and the need to make something to keep myself warm. So I'm putting away all the cotton pieces that I didn't get to this summer. They will have another chance next year.

But this weekend is still warm and I am happy that I finished another sleeveless top.

This project started life as a huge man's housecoat. Yes, I am serious! I only wish I had taken a photo but I didn't think of it until it was too late. Thrifted, it was only purchased because it was made of an extremely high quality 100% cotton sateen. The original label is Holt Renfrew. Someone paid a nice amount for that robe. But it wasn't me.

You would think I would have enough to make a garment at least as big. But that isn't how it works. Once I picked off the 4 pockets (all double topstitched with tiny stitches) and realized that it had two-piece sleeves I had enough to comfortably make this sleeveless shirt, including the cut-on front facings, a double yoke in back and bias strips to finish the arm openings.
Look Ma! No raw edges!

At right is a photo of the inside, which I am rather proud of. I even remembered to sew the fusible interfacing to the front facing at the outside edge before fusing. Such a nice finish!

My pattern choice is quirky.

I have a vintage pattern for a sleeveless shirt with a convertible collar, which I rejected. I've made it twice (second effort blogged here). I rejected it because I wanted a slightly less blousey and more modern fit. Specifically, it had too much fabric in the upper chest and shoulder area and was too nipped in at the waist.
Burda Magazine 2010-04-105

I had a blouse with just the fit I wanted in my closet, but the original pattern (line drawing at left) was totally wrong in all the details. It had a stand collar, ruffled front and no front opening for starters. And I wasn't sure how the yoke would work with a convertible collar style.

I had gotten rid of some of those details the first time I made it. (Strangely, that too was a refashioning project.)

This time I also added an overlap and cut-on front facing for a front button closure, extended the front to the top of the shoulder, reduced the back yoke accordingly, and added a convertible collar. I did not completely eliminate the back yoke (even though its existence made for a bit of a sewing puzzle moment when trying to clean finish the inside neckline) because it builds in some very nice back shaping.

The new collar was a bit of a leap in the dark that had me comparing the shoulder and neck shapes of my vintage Simplicity pattern with the modified Burda one (they were amazingly and completely different and my seeming inability to understand how that can be is a little bit terrifying) and puzzling over my pattern drafting books. I decided to just give up and wing it, cut a mock up out of scrap fabric and pinned it in, finding that it was exactly right. I guess I shouldn't overthink these things.

I really like the resulting shirt, which fits just the way I wanted. I wonder how I'll change the pattern the next time I want a sleeveless shirt...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Black shirt jacket

This shirt/jacket is about as hard to photograph as a black hole. I do hope it will be a useful garment in air conditioned offices and the like.

This is McCalls 7365. It was a bit of a slog. There are 88 steps in the instructions, only a few of which are inapplicable to View C which is the one I made.

I fell for the complex lines of this shirt, which are of course all revealed by the sheer white fabric McCalls chose for it. Mine on the other hand is embroidered black linen, very lightweight but still... linen. From deep stash of course.

I made size 10 but think it's a bit too big on me.

The pattern calls for French seams throughout, but unaccountably fails to mention finishing the armscye seam. I used the piece intended as binding for the sleeveless version to bind it. The end result is that the inside is as neat and finished as the outside which makes me strangely happy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

More wandering down memory lane

June, 1983
It has been a while since the last edition of "patterns from my past", hasn't it? (Even though my last project was effectively a dip into my sewing past.)

Anyway, recently it was my 33rd wedding anniversary. Naturally, I made my dress. No it was not white and poufy.

I just tried it on again.

The fit is forgiving.

This is Vogue 2473, a Vogue American Designer pattern by Albert Nipon.

Even by my current standards, I did a good job on this dress. It's made from lightweight silk with a little woven texture. I interfaced with self fabric, and made French seams. And all those pleats! They are pretty even. They are stitched down from the shoulder to hip level and then swing free. The dress buttons up the back.

There are vertical seams about where you would expect some princess shaping but the seam is completely straight. I am guessing this was so you could use really narrow fabric - there is a 35"/90cm layout. Today I would skip that seam if I didn't absolutely have to sew it but then, I did exactly what the pattern said.

There is a little elastic in casing at the waist, which still stretches, and the (foam) shoulder pads are as spongy as the day I put them in. Foam has gone downhill since the 80s (I'm guessing there are environmental reasons).

If I was making this today, I'd lower the front neck (tiniest V neck ever) and use about twice as many buttons in back, just for the statement. And I'd change the sleeves somehow, although the proportions are about right given the length of the dress.

But I won't. This is a special period piece in The Sewing Lawyer's history.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

This is my kind of maxi...

My maxi is pants.

In linen.

That was probably meant for a shirt.

I cut these sideways on my cross-grain striped fabric. Who needs horizontally striped pants?

Because the fabric is pretty light weight, I underlined the top part. I did this before with some white linen pants to prevent show-through.

I used some even more flimsy linen from stash to do the underlining. Then I used it to interface the waistband too.

As you can also see from this inside shot, I made a very deep hem. The pattern is super long because the pants have a cuff, but I decided to have a regular hem. Because the fabric is very light weight, I thought it would be good to have more of a hem, to add heft and up the swish factor.

I found some square vintage buttons for the waistband.

Style 1568. It's an oldie but a goodie, in my books.

I have enough to make a matching shirt, but it would look like a strange uniform.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bifurcated garments

In Montreal, we were working on pants fitting. I took 3 muslins and some fabric.

I had high hopes for the Sewing Workshop Hollywood Pants. High waist, three (3) pleats in front. But no. I could have fiddled the fit but the legs have that early 90s pegged shape. I wanted flowy and these are not.

So then I tried this Burda magazine pattern from 2008 that I had already traced (years ago) but never made. I like these - in theory. However: the yoke is big and the pleats start too far down, visually truncating the legs. (This model must be wearing 6" heels...)

So it came down to door number three, Style 1568. This is a pattern from 1988. I had previously made the trousers which have a very high waistband, deep front pleats and a 25" hem width. Back in the day I wasn't so finicky about fitting, but I noticed that I had lengthened the back dart to take out excess fabric. My Montreal fitting consultants told me I needed to scoop out a bit more from the crotch curve in back, and shave off a curve at the high hip, but otherwise my blaze orange muslin got a thumbs up.

My first pants from this pattern were made from a pretty stiff wool in black. I wore them for years. My current version will be the polar opposite - lightweight striped linen.

Sewing from stash is good.

In other sewing news, I made another pair of Cora shorts. So far I like them in basic black with a little pop of colour. This time in yellow.

I lengthened them 2.5cm (1") above the hem band and the same again at the waist (putting the extra length in the body pieces and leaving the waistband the same). And I cut a longer piece of elastic than called for at the waist. My previous pair is ok but the extra length makes them just great.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A sewing weekend in pictures

I went to Montreal this weekend for a sewing retreat of sorts. There were four of us. We worked on fitting pants. Progress was made, including by me. I have cut out a new pair and started sewing today.

In Terri's extremely well equipped sewing studio
Studying the crotch curve - Vicki, Julie, Terri

My little corner. I took my Featherweight.
Terri, up close and personal with Julie


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Another great McCalls shirtdress

I so enjoyed sewing McCalls 6885 that when McCalls patterns were on sale recently, I hopped over to my local store and picked up a couple more. I bought 6696 even though it's a fussy pattern (inset waist band, back gathers) partly because I love the look of the eyelet version with the bicycle and partly because I think the slip pattern could be useful. But I bought 7351 for the slim lines of view A and decided to make it first.

Then I went stash diving and found a beautiful cotton print I no longer remember acquiring. I am pretty sure that I got it while traveling somewhere in western Canada, maybe Victoria. It's an indigo batik-like print that has a strong vertical direction but it was printed sideways on the yardage, only 115cm wide. And I only had 2.0m when the pattern called for 2.9m for view A.

Skimpy fabric
But The Sewing Lawyer scoffs at the Big 4's generous yardage requirements and could see that lots of the 0.9m she did not have would be taken up by the bias strips to finish the arm openings, the back yoke lining and the pockets.

Hidden bits
So taking due care (measure twice cut once) I verified that the length of the front bodice and skirt *just* fit on the cross grain, which meant they could be cut in the same position vis-à-vis the pattern repeats. I was able to get all the other main pieces on there too, although I had to cut the back yoke and one of the collar stand pieces with the pattern going across instead of up and down. I got both front bands on the last skinny scraps - they just fit. Sadly, there are no pockets but I had already resigned myself to that impossibility. The hidden bits were cut out of scraps left over from a white shirt.

It was an enjoyable sewing experience. Substantial cotton is so well behaved! For some reason the buttonholes had to wait but I charged up the beast and made them today. That machine does buttonholes like a champ! There are 8 because stash had only 8 of the perfect buttons.

I love this dress!
See the sideways yoke? Or not...

You can tell I spent a lot of time matching the pattern, right? OK maybe not, but it makes me happy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Simplicity 5914 - colour me surprised!

When I last posted, I expressed some reservations about this ca. 2003 pattern, presumably long out of print.

There was no need. This was one of the most straightforward sews ever, and the resulting skirt is very nice indeed. I guess my front and back aren't so different after all ...

I made this skirt from a very old stashed piece of cotton sateen (its origins long forgotten). The pattern is a fabric miser and calls for only 1.5m of 115cm fabric in any size.

I can see more of these in my future. I wonder why it took me so long?

Onward! I'm about to start yet another shirtdress.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Some inferior photos from a brilliant day

It got warm enough for me to put the dress on for a quick photo shoot in the backyard. 

My those irises are fascinating!


For my next project I decided to dig out a really old Simplicity skirt pattern, number 5914. Now this one really IS simple. It has only two main pattern pieces - a centre piece and a side panel, and a single facing piece. The thing that makes me a little nervous is that the front and back are the same. And I'm pretty sure that my front and back are not. However we shall see. I'm making it out of a very ancient cotton sateen from deep stash. So it may turn out to be an experiment rather than a skirt.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A simple shirtdress

After I figured out a few problems* with my new (to me) sewing machine the Pfaff quilt expression 4.0, otherwise known as "the beast" because it's so big and powerful, I had a lot of fun making this dress. Too bad the weather is not cooperating and I feel it's just too cool to even put it on for some quick modeled photos. This is a hot weather dress. Maybe later.

This is an "easy" pattern from McCalls. I'm never sure what criteria pattern companies use to decide if a pattern is "easy". Although this dress has only two "main" pattern pieces and no darts, I'm not sure I agree with McCalls' rating. It has a proper shirt collar (two pieces with a stand) and a partial placket with a curious pleat built into the bottom end of it. These are at least moderately difficult to sew because they really demand very precise sewing.

But I own David Page Coffin's book on Shirtmaking (a valuable resource) and - as I told the lady behind the counter at Fabricland tonight (who unaccountably assumed that I needed help choosing my pattern size) - 40+ years of sewing experience. I laugh at shirt collars and applied plackets.

I used David P.C.'s instructions (p. 100 in his book) which help me avoid the dreaded nasty blob of fabric lumpiness just at the point where the collar stand meets the placket and is completely finished by machine.

After I finished sewing this, I read on the McCalls blog that the bottom bit of the placket is not supposed to be sewn down. Oops. Maybe next time I should have a peek at the instructions.

I checked all the pattern reviews on PR looking for some indication about the hemline. This pattern has three different hem lengths/styles. I had it in mind to make the hem from view D but I think the technical drawing isn't quite accurate. As drawn on the pattern tissue, the shirt tails are much more exaggerated. Several reviewers noted that the hemline was very short at the side seams - 6.5" or 17cm shorter, in fact - and that it felt uncomfortable as a result.

For safety's sake I decided to cut the hem for view C and decide on shaping later. I'm glad I did. When I tried the dress on I realized that it was a nice knee length and that I didn't want it to be any shorter. To keep the shirtiness of it I left slits at the side seams and sewed in a little bias triangle reinforcement, mimicking something that is sometimes done in nice men's shirts.

The fabric is an embroidered mid-weight cotton/linen (I think). From deep stash. It has a nice drape for this dress, although I am thinking of doing it again in a stiffer cotton (African print).

My only complaint about this pattern is that the arm openings are quite deep. If (when) I make this again I will raise the opening by at least 1cm.

* Problems with the 4.0 were:

1. In stitching down the placket, I was getting tension issues. This machine has electronically set tension and I had not had any problem before even when sewing through multiple layers of quilting cotton (that Bionic Gear Bag project, remember it?). I had a hunch that the tension might regularize if I inserted a slightly bigger needle. It did. Problem solved!

2. I had a thread jam and the built-in thread cutter simply stopped working. I went on line and came across a clue as to how to reset the sensor. I tried it. It worked. You have no idea how happy I was!

For posterity, here is a picture of what needs to be adjusted, if you have this machine and encounter the same problem. Take off the throat plate, get something pointy and use it to push the little nut at upper left as far to the left in its channel as it will go. I don't think I had to move it more than about 1mm, and this was messing up the cutting completely. Problem solved!

I love this machine, especially the buttonholes...

There are more shirtdresses in my near future.