Friday, February 26, 2016

Complicated hand-knit cardigan ... phew!

I showed you a bit of this sweater before. It's a pattern called (fittingly I think) "Persistence is Key". Available for download on Ravelry.

It took me a month and two days to knit this, which isn't too bad given that the back requires cabling on Every. Single. Row.

It would have taken a lot longer, but I was able to knit the sleeves on my mid-gauge knitting machine. So they took an hour. For both. This is one of the reasons to love knitting machines. Speed!

The sweater is a top-down "contiguous" design. I made a contiguous cardigan before, and I love it, but... This one has the same issues - mainly sloppy lack of structure, requiring post-market fixes (lines of chain stitch to firm up the fake "seams" at the armscye, and in this case to also shorten the CF above the bust, a fix I also have to apply frequently to sewing patterns).

There is a long saga detailing my views of the actual pattern on my Ravelry project page (this link should work even if you are not a member of the site). Short form: I did not care for the way it was written, which is surprisingly lacking in the kinds of detail that I think are important, given that it's 7 pages of mostly dense text. My criticism may be unfair given the gazillions of ways there are to write a knitting pattern, but I would always like more schematic details, more charts, and more hard info (like stitch counts after every section in which I have to increase or decrease). And I can totally do without stuff like this, which this pattern had in copious amounts:

(WS) sl1 wyif, p1, k2, [p2, k2] repeat to 6 sts. bef. mC, p2, k1, kfb, p1, k1, smC, kfb, p1 [k2, p2] repeat to mB, smB, [k2, p2] 2x, k1, k2tog, [p2, k2] 4x, p2, k2tog, k1, [p2, k2] 2x, smB, [p2, k2] repeat to 6 sts. bef. MC, p2, k1, kfb, p1, k1, smC, kfb, p1, [k2, p2] repeat to end of row, turn.
Say what?

Believe it or not, those are the actual instructions for the first row of the ribbing at the hem in my size. There are different and equally incomprehensible instructions for each of the other sizes. The intended result is dead plain 2x2 ribbing that flows nicely from the existing cables.

I only gave the pattern 3 stars but I love the yarn, which is Briggs & Little "Regal", a staunchly Canadian worsted weight 100% wool yarn. It's positively crunchy, this yarn. There are bits of straw in it, though not as much as I found when machine knitting the lighter weight "Sport" from the same company. It gets a bit softer when washed and it has great stitch definition for the cables of this pattern. It is also very lofty and dried in no time when I washed and blocked the finished sweater. Best of all is that the yarn comes in huge skeins (249m in 113g) and is extremely reasonably priced at $6.99 (CDN). I won 6 skeins of it in a draw at my local store (Wool Tyme, great place) and I have about 1.5 left.

Anyway, I hope the travails of making this will shortly be eclipsed by the happiness of wearing it, which I am doing as I type this. It's chilly in the house and this cardigan is lovely and warm.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Old idea, new grey pants

There's a reason to keep old pattern magazines. I earmarked the pattern for these pants soon after I acquired the December, 2005 edition of Burda World of Fashion, as it was then known. And I finally made them, only a decade later.

The fabric might have been waiting almost as long. It's a soft wool in a nice heathery grey, probably acquired at the Fabric Flea Market. It too has long been earmarked for dress pants.

I traced size 38 at the waist and 40 at the hip, and made a quick and dirty muslin in the form of these truly delightful striped shorts. They revealed that while I had the right amount of fabric circumference, more or less, it was poorly distributed.

Specifically, the back. For some reason, pants drafts typically assume that one has a curvy backside. That CB seam therefore slopes away from the crotch at a bit of an angle. When you sew the backs together at that seam, it creates a big dart for your bum. If you have a flat derrière like The Sewing Lawyer, sad wrinkles form at or below the bum, the side seams swing to the front, and the backs of the pants legs get hung up on the backs of the legs of the wearer.

I have written about this before, I think. Ah yes. That is a very elaborate fix I performed. And it didn't work all that well either. This time I flew by the seat of my pants (hahaha) and I'm very pleased with the results.

Altered pattern - pants back
The basic components of the elaborate fix are:

  1. Straighten the CB seam (reduce the dart).
  2. Curve the side seam to keep the overall width the same.
  3. Scoop the back crotch.
So that's what I did. No slicing or folding was involved. I guesstimated I needed about 1cm less of an angle at the CB and I took a bit more than that off at the side seam as the pants were a bit too big at the waist. I also moved the back dart towards the CF by the same amount. 

You can see the results at right. The black lines trace the original pattern and the red ones reflect my changes. 

So these pants. They fit.

I used bemberg lining to underline them since the wool is very soft. The weight and slippery quality of the underlining pulls down on the curved pocket flaps, something I hadn't counted on. I totally need the buttons to hold them flat to the pants front. I didn't originally intend to put buttons on so the pockets are actually closed with a snap and the button is decorative.

Side zipper - pretty good!

Waistband eased into fusible tape
The curved waistband pieces can easily stretch out. I stabilized the upper edge of the interfaced waistband with fusible tape cut to the pattern upper edge measurement, easing the waistband into it. Pressing eliminates those ripples. 

The pants close with an invisible zipper at the side seam. Putting a zipper in the side seam always makes me a bit nervous because it means I can't fine tune the hip curve once the garment is assembled. I double checked the curve by trying them on after sewing the side seams and leaving the front open. It worked!

The sewcation continues and my stash beckons. I think my next project is a machine knitted cardigan in ... wait for it ... heathery grey wool. Or a jacket. Or both...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

This new dress

With my new-found machine knitting expertise (haha) I'm going to say the fabric is a double bed jacquard knit - similar to a ponte knit in weight.Not that any technical information is necessary to appreciate its bold all-over black and white craziness.  The content is a little mysterious, but based on how it responds to the iron I'm confident that it is not a natural fibre, and based on how it stretches, that it contains no lycra.

The pattern is from the October, 2014 Burdastyle Magazine. The details are pretty well disguised.

This somewhat beefy knit is not exactly right for the pattern. The cowl, not a terribly generous one, sticks out a bit instead of draping.

The fabric also doesn't have the stretch intended by Burda for this pattern. So I cut a size 38 above the waist and 40 below, with some fit insurance (1" or 2.5cm seam allowances at the side seams). Once I had completed the neck/shoulder seams I basted it together. My quick and dirty fitting showed that I could take it in above the waist, but that I needed some of that insurance in the hips. The completed dress is figure skimming rather than stretched to cover, which I like.

As you can see at left, it needs the belt to cover for the fact that the back waist is baggy and the torso is slightly too long. And to relieve the expanse of crazy black and whiteness. Without it, the dress wears me.

This is a super easy pattern and it went together really quickly.

On to the next project! I do hope it'll be a pair of grey wool pants.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The sewcation continues

The swimsuit got its chance to début in the pool. Our coach set up some sprint sets in its honour. Too bad it didn't make me any faster.

In a continuing theme, I made another exercise top, again using the Anne-Marie pattern from Jalie. If you recall, I made this pattern before. That top is in regular rotation but the rest of my workout clothes are getting a little tired. Or maybe I'm just getting a little tired of them. Time to mix it up!

Consider it mixed!

There isn't much to say about this top except:

  • Jeanne of Jalie is a genius. 
  • The fabric (supplex) was purchased in Montreal at PR weekend so many years ago. The stash sewing continues. 
  • The only change I made is to extend the elastic a little bit further up past the princess seam.
  • My coverstitch machine continues to be docile and to do what I want now that I've figured out how little tension is needed on woolly nylon in the looper.
  • I used a stretchier fabric in the build-in bra. The other top (in which the bra is made from two layers of powerstretch) is a little too effective in the compression department. 
  • I would consider combining the side pieces when (not if) I make this again and don't colour block the side panels. 
  • I remembered to adjust the lined upper back for turn of cloth, to let the seams roll naturally to the inside, as you might be able to see in the photo below. The upper edge is edgestitched but not the sides. 

In non-sewing news, my hand knitting project continues apace. I've set myself the task of completing at least 8 rows per day. That amounts to one of the big cable repeats, about 3.5cm. 

My cardigan is now at high hip length (a couple of cables past these photos). The pattern is well named ("Persistence is the key") because the centre back panel requires cabling on every single row. I knit the plain sleeves on my mid-gauge knitting machine. What a relief!

And I finished a dress. But I'll save photos of that for my next post!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Splash redux - pink palm trees?

One of the Sewing Lawyer's extra-curricular activities is swimming - twice a week, month in, month out. I swim in a master's swim club. It is hard work and it is early in the morning. The trick is not to think about how much you would prefer to stay in your nice warm bed. Set the alarm, get up, and go.

Anyhow, swimming pools are hard on swimsuits. For years I bought suits and had to replace them annually or more frequently if by mistake I bought one that had any lycra-laden fabric in it. Swimming pools are especially hard on lycra.

Old suit
Then I was lucky enough to buy some 100% poly swimsuit fabric at the Fabric Flea Market one year (2010 according to this post). And I snagged a bit more similar stuff the following year. In 2012 Jalie 3134 came into my pattern stash. And I made a suit.

Last month it served notice that it is reaching the end of its life. That is more than 3 years worth of swimming twice a week! The Speedo fabric is still going strong, but the lining (100% nylon) ripped so badly I ended up cutting it out of the CF piece. I'm still wearing the suit, but ... it was time for a replacement.

I present to you my pink palm paradise swimsuit!
Replacement suit

It's pretty perfect (with PALM TREES!). My lane-mates will be all befuddled when I show up in a not-blue swimsuit.

(Though I found I had a bitty scrap of the Speedo fabric left too - so I cut out another blue one too.)

Technical info:

This fabric is slightly stretchier both in the length and the width than the Speedo blue so I cut it per the pattern whereas the blue one was lengthened (per my 2012 post).

I had mostly run out of 1cm (3/8") elastic, which the pattern calls for, but had plenty of 7.5mm (1/4") elastic in stash so I used that instead. To be honest it doesn't seem that much different.

I used my coverstitch machine with wooly nylon in the looper (tension 3, 3, 0, stitch size 3.5). I had to use the narrow setting due to the narrow elastic. It's not perfect but at 6am there are very few sharp eyes watching out for wobbly stitching.

I had everything in stash except lining. I had to go to a fabric store to buy fabric! But I came away with only 100% nylon swimsuit lining, cut it out the same day and now I have extra in stash for the next time. My stash-busting virtue is intact.

You may hear a bit more from me in the next few weeks as I'm on my annual 5 week leave from work, in which I sew, knit, curl, swim, ski and otherwise loaf. I'll leave a bit of time for blogging.