Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Social Sewing

I used to do a lot of social kntting back in the days when yarn was my drug of choice. There's something very soothing about chatting with a group of women while everyone's fingers are busy. It's like swimming in a pool of friendship. You can dive down to focus on your knitting when you need to, then surface to rejoin the conversation.

Social sewing is a bit harder to organize; at least with sewing machines. There's more stuff to cart around and you need a bigger space. Still, every once in a while we can make it happen, and it's always a total blast.

My friend Carol came down to visit last weekend, and she brought along her new sewing machine for a test drive.

Carol used to do a lot of sewing. In fact, at 14 she had a job sewing dresses for sale at a shop on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. Then marriage, a lot of moves, two sons, and a teaching job came along and absorbed her creative juices. Sewing took the way-back seat.

We planned our get together to dive into the features her new machine has to offer. Since Carol's sewing experience was on a Singer Featherweight, there were some fun things to explore. One of them was the stretch (a.k.a. "lightening bolt") stitch, so we sat down to sew us some tee shirts.

Here's her version of BurdaStyle 09-2011-108, or the Easiest Tee Yet.

I've written recently about my angst over attaching neck bands to tee shirts. Take a look at Carol's work here! Smooth and flat, just like a neck band should be.

Neckband attached - Like A Boss!
It was like riding a bicycle. Once she got her hands on that presser foot, she was off and running.


What a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon! Just wait until she gets a chance to play with her buttonhole foot.

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Oldie But a Goodie

As a participant in the Stashbusting Challenge, I've been chipping away at my collection of knits. I wear a lot of tee shirts, and I have a couple of TNT patterns that I return to over and over again  (Renfrew, I'll always love you, baby) .

I was very happy to be reminded of an old favorite pattern while shuffling through my wardrobe a couple weeks ago. It was a chilly day and I was looking for a tee with some coverage when I came upon a top that I'd made years ago, back when I first started sewing again.

It was my Christine Johnson V-Neck Tee. I wore it to work that day and remembered what a really great top it is.

So I yanked a hunk of knit fabric out of the stash and made up another one in black.

I think this would be a great first knit top for a beginner.  The collar is a long band that waps around your neck and than goes down the front to make princess seams. Not a great description, huh? Maybe you can see what I mean from the drawing on the pattern envelope.

I've made a fair few tee shirts  by now and I still fret over attaching the collar bands. You want to stretch it enough so that the band will lay flat against your neck, but not so much that the seam goes all wavey. Which is a different degree of stretch with every knit, of course. I'm getting better with practice, but it's still a gamble every time.

With this pattern, I can just stitch the pieces together as they lay and everything fits perfectly. It's also super simple to adjust the depth of the V neck by lengthening or shortening that first seam line.

I really like how the collar comes up slightly to warm the back of your neck. I think it looks a little bit vintage tucked into a high-waisted skirt but it's really easy to wear casually with jeans.

I was so happy with my black top that I immediately made a purple one.

I like theis V Neck version so much I'm tempted to just keep churning them out. But then there's that Cross Your Heart view. Also cute, right? And the gathers would probably be a good strategy for someone who needs all the help she can get in the chestal area. I'm thinking it would also make a cute tunic top made up in some of the chiffon-y fabric I have backlogged on shelf two of the stash closet.

Christine Johnson says you can make these tops from knit or woven fabrics, but you'd need to size up for a woven. Does anyone have a rule of thumb for how much larger I should go?

My pattern review is on SewingPatternReview.com here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Oldest Stashed Fabric, Busted!

This is my entry in the Oldest Fabric category for the February Stashbusting Challenge.  I toyed with entering it under the Ugliest Fabric category, but I have to admit, it's been growing on me.

I'm not 100% sure which is the absolute oldest piece in my stash. I recently used one of the true ancients for this jacket. That piece had been folded up in my closet for so long that it had begun to fray along one of the creases. From this I learned that you can't keep stash forever.

This fabric is definitely up in the senior cohort though. I bought it probably 5 or so years ago at Findings in Carmel. Gosh, I still tear up when I remember going to their closing sale.

In the early days of my sewing renaissance I would find myself attracted to a fabric because of the color, or because of an interesting texture. With reckless abandon, I'd call out to the fabric lady to cut me two yards; no, wait, make that three! I'd buy like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Especially when fabric shopping with my friend Jessica.

Then I'd get the plunder home and realize that, while I did like the fabric as an object, I had no idea what to do with it. Like, for example, this hunk of green sweater-y knit with tweedy flecks all over it. So it sat in the lower levels of the stash for year after year. Every so often, I'd pull it out and heft it, then slide it back in the closet. No inspiration.

Then I discovered McCall's 6844. I had no idea that you could sew a cardigan! I though you had to start with yarn and spend 3 years knitting the darn thing, only to find that it made you look like Mr. Rogers.

In contrast, this cardigan took me about 4 hours from start to finish.

McCall's 6844 was a Sewing Pattern Review pattern of the year in 2013. With good reason too. It's easy to put together and includes a couple of cute variations. I made View A, the shorter version without the peplum.

I would have cut a medium if I followed the measurements on the pattern envelope. Because I'd checked out the reviews on Pattern Review, I cut a small. Good move. Otherwise I made it up exactly as instructed, including using interfacing on the collar. I'm glad I did - it seemed odd for a knit cardigan, but it gives the collar a bit of structure, which is nice.

You know, I like it. It's light but warm, it fits pretty well and I like the shawl collar. I can see myself making a few more of these. In fact, I have another ancient piece of knit fabric that may finally be seeing the sun as the longer, peplum-less version.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Crazy Dog Lady

I know I said I was going to limit myself to three sewing challenges this year, but that was before Sophie Lee of Two Random Words* announced the Crazy Dog Lady Challenge.

How could I say no? As a dog-lover and the owner of a Great Pyrenees, I feel obligated to participate.

Let me introduce you to Zoe:

My inspiration dog
Here are the "rules," copied from Sophie Lee's blog:

"You can interpret the challenge however you like – whether you make a garment from dog-themed fabric, make yourself a dog costume, make an outfit for your dog, or ALL THREE, is up to you. Even a dog quilt would be awesome!"

I stepped out on my Stashbusting Challenge to attend the Superbowl Sunday fabric sale at Hart's, where my friend Lisa (and a bunch of other friendly fabric lovers) helped me go through every bolt of dog-themed fabric in the store.

There were a surprising number of options to choose from. Some were cute, but bad colors for me, some were a bit too youthful (read "pre-school") in style, but there were several that were very tempting. I ended up going with a nice, soft cotton from Cotton and Steel.

I'm willing to stipulate that these guys are probably coyotes, or possible wolves.  The cacti point in the coyote direction. Still, they're clearly members of the genus canis, so I figure this fabric counts as dog-themed.

Don't you think there's a clear resemblance to my inspiration dog?

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

I have until March 15 to turn 1.5 yards of this fabric into (probably) a blouse. Game on!

Bonus adorable picture of Zoe (at 75 lbs) with her friend Hermes (at 2.5 lbs)

* Coincidentally, The Man is an expert in the mathematics of Random Walks. Eerie, huh?

Burda Challenge, February Edition

I knew I'd have to jump right on my February Burda project because I'm taking a couple of trips this month.*

Without belt
This meant that I had to look back in time to an earlier February, because the current  issue of Burdastyle isn't on my bookstore shelves yet (believe me, I check about every two hours). I went with 02-2011-107, the high-waisted pencil skirt. Believe it or not, it's the first pencil skirt to hit my closet in 30 years.

Burdastyle 02-2011-107
 I used a remnant of stretch suiting that I got at Hart's here in Santa Cruz. I used most of the cut to make a pair of 40's style wide-legged trousers several years ago. The leftovers were scant, but I thought I might be able to squeeze a pencil skirt out of them. Turns out I could! Especially this pencil skirt. The front is cut on the fold and the back has two pieces with a princess-style seam. Gives you lots of skoosh room for laying out, as well as plenty of seams for customizing the fit.

This skirt counts for two challenges at once! Burda and Stashbusting!
 I test-drove the skirt on Tuesday at work. The high waist didn't shift around or crumple, which I thought it might, and the slight stretch of the fabric made it comfortable even while slouching at my desk all day. The only change I might make would be to add a slit in the back. I kept the length long for a vintage-y look and the bottom hem is narrow enough that I had to take graceful, lady-like steps all day.

With belt
I have a remnant from a pair of Clover's that I held onto, thinking pencil skirt. I like this pattern enough to give it another try. Next time I'll go a little shorter so I can walk faster than a hobble.

My pattern review is on PatternReview.com here.

*One of my trips is to the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup at the end of the month. Can't wait! It will be my first time, anyone have any tips for me?