Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Building My Bra Wardrobe

I'm plugging away towards my long-term goal of never buying another RTW bra again in life. For some reason, bra shopping is my most hated retail excursion. I don't have fun trying them on, I sure don't have fun paying for them and I usually don't have fun wearing them. I've never found an underwire that doesn't stab me in the ribs and the hook-and-eye fasteners always poke me when I lean back in my chair.

The latest entry in my library of bra patterns is the Florence, by Seamwork. They call it a lounge bra, but for me it works great as an all-day, every day bra. They also say you can stitch one up in three hours and I think that's accurate. Or less, probably, once you get the elastic techniques under your belt.

Florence fits a wide range of sizes, from a 33 inch bust up to a 54 inch bust. I cut a small for my 35 inch bust and I think the fit is pretty good. Florence is supportive enough for me; but then, I don't have much to support. The larger busted lady might find this bra too flimsy to do much good.

Front view on mini me
Florence is a pull-on bra, which I love. I generally pull my bras off and on over my head anyway, even when they do have closures. I'm either very lazy or very efficient, I guess.

back view
I made myself two, one in a plum bamboo knit and one in a periwinkle mesh. The pattern is actually designed to work with stretch lace. I might need to give that a try. I think I have some squirreled away  upstairs in my fabric closet.

Florence is the third addition to my stable of bra patterns. Between the Josephine (Ohhh Lulu), the Watson (Cloth Habit) and the Florence, my bra needs will be well taken care of. 

My pattern review is on here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Some Baby Knitting

Baby crafting continues apace here in Surf City. Although the little guy will be growing up in Orange County, I figure every kid needs a baby blanket. This here is the Shadow Study Throw from Purl Soho, miniaturized to baby blanket size.

My version

Purl Soho's version is about 40 inches by 50 inches.

Purl Soho's version
And look at those lovely, soft colors. I fell in love with this blanket when I saw these pictures. I'd love to recreate it, but I'm way too cheap to buy the kit. Plus I don't have the chutzpah to knit an entire adult size throw.

But a baby blanket - maybe. I did a little poking around on Ravelry and it looked like most baby blankets are more in the 28 by 32 inch range. Due to my inability to do simple arithmetic (plus my failure to produce a competent gauge swatch) my version ended up more like 31 by 38. Eh, the kid can grow into it.

This pattern uses intarsia. I once knit a pair of intarsia argyle socks in high school. It was a nightmare; I had about 30 little bobbins of yarn tangling around each other, trying to strangle me. I swore I'd never do intarsia again.

This intarsia project was surprisingly fun! Purl Soho offers the pattern for free, bless them, along with a bunch of very clear tutorials on knitting intarsia with garter stitch. The blocks of color are pretty big, and you're never using more than four yarns at a time. If you think you might want to give intarsia a go, this pattern would be a nice introduction. Fair warning, though: it is a bunch of garter stitch. Like, a bunch. Good for TV knitting.

I took my friend, Jessica, with me to help with color combinations. I'm totally useless at combining colors. I was after a blanket that said baby boy without screaming Baby Boy. I couldn't find quite the color combo I had in mind, but, to paraphrase Rumsfeld, you knit a baby blanket with the yarn you have, not the yarn you might want or wish to have at a later time. I wish the yellow-green were a bit more lime. But they were fun colors to work with and I think I like how they came out.

I used Encore worsted, purchased at The Swift Stitch here in Santa Cruz. Encore is a wool/acrylic blend that is supposed to be machine washable and dryable. Plus it's affordable. Can't beat that for a baby blanket. The blanket feels nice and soft, and it's light weight enough not to give the kid a heat rash.

My sketchy Revelry notes are here. Next up, some sewing for me!

Froggy Coco

I'm taking a sewing class through Watsonville Aptos Adult Education. Strictly speaking, it's a sewing workshop. We meet for 3 hours every Thursday evening and sew our hearts out. Our teacher, Sara, is a total doll, and one of the most patient people I've ever met. She teaches sewing to middle schoolers; something few of us could manage without a rum and coke at the ready. She's Thread Monster Studio on Facebook. She has a bunch of handy-dandy sewing links on her page.

One of the other students in our class made up a french terry version of Coco which was so cute I decided I should give the pattern a try.

I made this top as a Christmas present for my friend, Carol. She likes tops that are a bit on the long side and not too tight fitting, so I thought Coco might be her cup of tea. Plus, she's got a thing about frogs, and look at the fabric I found at Hart's:

two frogs chillin' on a lily pad
 Not sure you can tell from this photo, but those are little frogs sitting on lily pads. You don't often find a frog themed fabric that someone who isn't a toddler can get a way with, so I figured it was meant.

side view
Carol is about my size. I cut a size 3 based on my 35ish inch bust and I think it should work out OK for her.

back view - wings!
If I were making it for myself, I'd narrow down the bottom hem. You can see from the back view that  there's more fabric down there than I can use. The size 3 is expecting a 37 inch hip, which I sure don't have. Carol tends to prefer a loose fit though, so I think it will serve.

The neckline is a tad wide on me; almost into bra-strap territory. Next time I make this up, I'll narrow the neck just a bit.

I used a new-to-me neckband technique that I found on a tutorial for kid tees. I think I kind of like it.

close-up of neckband technique
You cut your band (I usually cut 2 inches) and sew to the neck edge with right sides together. Trim your seam a bit and then fold the neckband to the inside and stitch in the ditch on the front. Or in the general area of the ditch if you're like me and not too accurate with these things. Then just trim off any extra neckband on the inside close to the stitching. It feels a little less bulky than other methods I've used.

My pattern review is on here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Elephant Skin Blanket

Elephant skin may not sound like the softest thing around, but when it's made from minkee, everything's different.

This is Cotton Ginny's Cuddle Blanket in the style "Pachyderm." The pattern I bought includes a bear and hippo version, if I should want to switch things out. She also offers patterns for lions, frogs, dogs, cats, zebras; practically the entire animal kingdom.

Stretched out on the rug
I first spied this pattern on the Sew Well blog. Amy has made a bunch of these cuddle blankets, each cuter than the last. When I discovered I was going to have a grandson, the first thing I thought of was making one of these darn blankets.

Little tail
The pattern calls for minkee. My internet exploring turned up a bunch of terrifying information about sewing with minkee. Stretching, creeping, fluff everywhere. I considered using flannel instead, which I bet would also be very cute, but then I noticed the mother-to-be nuzzling a minkee stuffed bear on a recent trip to LA. So minkee it had to be.

I went slow, used plenty of pins, lengthened my stitch to a 4.0 and it didn't give me much trouble after all. It's true, there was fluff everywhere. I tried not to breath deeply and I'll clean my machine out before I try to use it for anything else.

But once all the raw edges are safely sewed up to the inside, that minkee is so darn soft and soothing. Mmmm. I think it was worth the trouble.

Baby's eye view
This was my first time sewing up a stuffed animal-type object, so I stumbled through the directions a bit. I could have used a diagram showing exactly how the underside of the head was meant to come together. I was able to figure things out pretty well, though, by pinning and fiddling a bit with the pieces as I went. I'm not 100 percent sure my finished product would meet the designer's standards, but it's good enough for Grandma work.

Cotton Ginny had some computer issues in the midst of my order, which delayed shipping for a bit. She was super sweet and insisted that I pick a free pattern to make up for any lost sewing time. She also said she's always happy to answer questions from sewists if they find themselves confused about one of her patterns mid-project.

If you happened to be a besotted grandma and you have a source for minkee, I really recommend this pattern. I'm actually pretty tempted to grade the pattern up to 5 feet long to make one for myself.

My pattern review is on here.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Yet More Baby Duds

I'm still on a baby sewing jag here in Surf City. I'm going to have to slow my roll, or my grandson-to-be will need extra closet space while he's still in utero. I'm just having so much fun that I can't stop.

The top of this little outfit is the Brindille and Twig Basic Tee done up in a cotton jersey in a print called Rocky Raccoon. Need a close-up of that? OK, here goes:

tee up close
Oh, you meant even closer?

Raccoons close up
Pretty cute, huh? I'm thinking my grandson will be the most hipster baby in So Cal.

The pattern was very easy and fun to sew. The only fiddly part was the neckband, but I always have to fiddle with knit neckbands. It was extra challenging in this case because everything is so tiny. For this version I did what I always do for my own neckbands: press the band wrong sides together, pin to the edge of the neck, sew that puppy down with a bit of stretch and then flip the seam to the inside and zig-zag in place. I've tracked down a couple tutorials on the web that promise a less bulky finish, which is important when you're head is almost as big as your shoulders. I'll give one of those techniques a go on my next tee, and hope that practice will make perfect. This pattern will take me all the way up to a size 6T, so it will allow for practice galore.

The pants are from the May, 2015 Burdastyle (trousers #137B). That issue has a bunch of very cute baby patterns sized for knits. You can download them from the Burdastyle site if you can't get your hands on the magazine.

BS 05-2015 #137
Don't they look like little MC Hammer pants? The style should give plenty of diaper room. There's a separate waist band and little cuffs. I used a knit cotton jacquard that's maybe a bit heavy for this pattern.

It's almost a sweatshirt weight, which made turning those cuffs inside a bit tough. I can't wait to go crazy on this one with some bright cotton prints. Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be slowing my roll....

My third item is another pair of pants, also done in the navy jacquard. These are from a Butterick See and Sew pattern, #6364.

BS 6 month vs. Butterick newborn size. WTF??
Here they are, compared to the Burdastyle trousers. The Butterick pants are the newborn size; the Burdastyle are the 6 month. I mean, I know the Big Four add lots of ease, but this is a bit ridiculous, no? These Butterick newborn pants have an 11 inch inseam. That's just not right, is it?

No real worries, the kid will grow into them eventually. The pattern also includes a bunting; I think I'll stay away from that. He for sure will not be needing a bunting when his inseam is 11 inches.

My pattern reviews for these items are on thusly:

Brindille and Twig tee
Burdastyle pants
Butterick pants

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Adorable Baby Duds

So it turns out my son and his girlfriend are about to provide me with the grandchild I've been craving ever since the day I became a mother. I've been holding off on the baby sewing blitz until they made the news public, which they did this last weekend. As a bonus, they've also announced the sex of the little nipper.

Masculine outfit #1
Yes, it's a boy! The baby is due in May, which gives me a lot of time to anticipate the fun to come. And also to sew and knit like the wind.

I remember from my own baby-making days that you don't need to stock up on newborn items. Most babies will outgrow them in 15 minutes. But they're so darned cute, I couldn't resist making a few things. The three garments in this lineup are all from free patterns culled from the internet. The web is just wonderful for instant gratification.

From top to bottom:

Tiny skater beanie. Looking for a tiny Santa Cruz patch to decorate it, but no  luck so far.
This is a Jersey Baby Hat that I found on Craftsy. There's a free pattern (one pattern piece, can't beat that for quick and easy!) and a nice tutorial on sewing the thing up.

The color is really a deep teal blue. 
Next up, an envelope (or lap neck) tee. I remember these being great for a newborn because their heads are so unexpectedly enormous. With a regular tee, if the neck fits over their head it also slips over their shoulders and gets hung up on their diapers. I found this free pattern on The Busy Bug Life blog. Again, it comes along with a great construction tutorial. The tee was easy to put together and only took about half an hour. The tutorial shows you how to cannibalize an adult tee to make this top. How cute would that be! My son does Brazilian Ju-Jitsu; I'm already imagining father/son tees advertising his gym.

First pair of jeans
Lastly, a pair of Basic Baby Pants from Made By Rae. This is another fabulous free pattern that comes along with a great set of instructions. I was happy to find a pattern that's designed for woven fabric. I have a closet full of cute scraps from my years of garment sewing. These pants are perfect to show off an adorable print. For this pair I used some light denim remnants from this pair of shorts. I'm already picturing another pair with little pockets on the back, and maybe some topstitching to highlight an imaginary fly.

My review of this pattern is on here.

I have no clue whether this wardrobe will actually fit a real newborn. There was a day when I could reliably guess a kid's age and nail it within a three week range, but the passage of time has wiped that slate clean.

Now I'm a sewist who has moved from only wanting to sew for me to a sewist who yearns to sew all the baby things. I'm sure they've invented a whole bunch of cool stuff since I travelled this road 34 years ago. If you have any suggestions for the best kid patterns, please send them my way?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Flashdance Redux

This is Raglan Pullover Top #114 from the October, 2016 issue of Burdastyle.

Full frontal, with sleeves unfurled
I was after a loose-fitting, sweatshirt kind of top, but with a bit more style. A bit more panache. I'm kind of worried that I ended up over Flashdance territory.

OK, here's the line drawing. Looks like your garden-variety raglan sleeve sweatshirt, right? One of the photos in the magazine notes that the "oval neckline ... drapes flatteringly around the neck and shoulders."
Makes it sound a bit more like a boat neck, huh? I was OK with that idea. It ended up a bit larger than I'd thought it would, but I'm still liking that feature pretty well.

It's the body I'm wondering about. It's a pretty darn generous cut. Like, you could fit two of me in here.
Side view
That arm scythe is hanging pretty low. Especially when seen from the rear. Hmm. Now I'm wondering if I got confused and put the danged thing on backwards.

Back view, with low-hanging sleeves 
I used a thin, droopy sweater knit from the back of the stash shelf, which probably contributes to the baggy look. If I'd used a heavier knit, more like a sweatshirt weight, I bet I'd have ended up with something closer to what the Burdastyle photoshoot led me to expect.

On balance, I think the top will end up being OK. I don't love it, but I'll probably wear it. It will fill the bill for lounging around the house on crisp fall days. If I hike the sleeves up, it doesn't look quite so enormous, right?

Front with sleeves hiked up.
My pattern review is on here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

An Acid Green Shell

We've had a few batches of houseguests and have been on vacation to boot, so I've been forced to tidy away all my sewing crap. Therefore, no sewing has been occurring at my house lately.

I have been doing a bit of knitting though! Our vacation involved taking the train (the Coast Starlight) from San Jose up to the Pacific Northwest. Besides being relaxing and providing gorgeous views, a train trip gives you a lot of quality knitting time.

Front view
The pattern is called Icy Blue Shell, by Kennita Tully. It was published in the July, 2007 issue of Creative Knitting. My friend, Jessica, was doing an bit of Kondo-ing and was about to toss her old issues when she realized that this pattern still sparked a bit of joy. And, being a good friend, she passed some of that joy along to me.

Side view, trying to show the side panel of dragon skin
I didn't have anything in stash that would get me even close to the right gauge, so I treated myself to two skeins of Stonehendge Fiber Mill Shepherds Wool Worsted in a green that's shuddering on the edge of yellow.  I think of it as Acid Green. The color isn't true in these photos. In real life, it's a little more like this:

It's as close as my face can get to yellow without melting like the Wicked Witch of the West. 

Back view
This was a quick pattern to knit, even for someone like me, who has to parcel out knitting time on account of tendonitis. You work in the round from the bottom up and it's mainly stockinette, except for three panels of what they call Dragon Skin, one under each arm and a double-wide up the front.

Close up of the dragon skin panel - color is totally washed out though
Here it is, laying flat so you can see the side panels a bit. They do look a bit like scales, huh? The stitch pattern creates little curves at the top and bottom of each panel, which I think are kind of cute.

Color is truer here, but still not quite as neon as in person
I squared the neck off a little more than what the pattern called for, partly because I was skating on the edge of running out of yarn. As usual.

If you can get your hands on the pattern, I recommend it! It goes fast and those dragon skin panels liven up the stockinette just enough to keep you awake.

I have a few sewing projects lined up and waiting, so I'll be taking over the breakfast table again soon.

In the meantime, my Ravelry notes (such as they are) are here.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Another New Bag

After two years of dedicated service, it was time to retire my previous Diva Bag. The interior pockets were starting to come unstitched at the top edges and the straps were beginning to fray. Plus, the interior cell phone pocket was designed for one of those older phones that looks like the communicators they used on Star Trek. That's Star Trek classic, with William Shatner as James T. Kirk.* Now that I have a sleek, new iPhone 6, I needed a cell phone pocket that would show it off.

End #1, with the gigantic key pocket
The Diva Bag pattern is the first purse pattern I ever sewed, and I've sewed it at least 7 times since I found it at a quilt fair decades ago. It's my one and only true-love purse. It's the Diva Essential Designer Bag, by Thumbuddy Special. No idea if Thumbuddy is still around, but I've given her information to scads of people when they ask where I got my bag. I hope she's retired and living large on the Riviera.

I have now sewed a couple other purses, as well as a suitcase, so I appreciate this Diva Bag pattern even more than I used to. There really are no fiddly bits, and you don't have to wrestle with the thing to get it through your sewing machine.

Other end, with what's supposed to be the water bottle pocket. Now it's my cell phone pocket.
Sad story.
Over the years, I've learned that the outer shell of a purse should be fairly dark colored, to disguise all the dirt and dust it will pick up being parked under tables in restaurants and tossed in the back of the dog car. And it should be in colors that go pretty well with most of your wardrobe. Unless you are the kind of person who has more than one purse. I can't handle that; moving things from purse to purse means I'd walk out of the house without my wallet way too often.

Light colored lining, with lots of handy pockets
It's best if the lining is light colored though. That way you can find that tiny object you absolutely need which has sifted its way to the bottom of your purse, with the used Kleenex and ATM slips.

Side view, showing large capacity
The Diva Bag hangs pretty small when being used, but this is a large capacity purse.  I can fit a respectable quantity of groceries in this purse when necessary, although I'm making a general effort to carry as little as possible these days. Darned tendonitis.

The way I carry the bag most of the time
One of my favorite things about this bag is that, when the mood strikes, you can sling it over both shoulders and carry it like a backpack. It's pretty darn comfortable that way too.

The way I carry the bag when my shoulder starts to give out
I'm really happy with the finished purse, except for one thing....

When I installed the zipper, I flipped it wrong way round, so my beautiful, custom-sized interior cell phone pocket is on the wrong end. Which renders it essentially useless for cell phone storage because I have to shimmy the phone for a good 5 minutes to get it past the zipper end. Wah wah wah.

I've asked a couple of my sewing friends if they think I should rip out the two bag ends and the zipper placket, with lining, and flip the whole thing around to re-install the right way. They say, "No." It's not like I don't have other pockets that work for cell phone storage; it's just one of those sewing bloopers that will do an instant re-play in my mind every time I use my cell phone.

Well, maybe only for a few months. Then I'll get used to it.

My pattern review is on here.

* Did you know that the T. stands for Tiberius? Just found that out while Googling the technical name for Star Trek walkie talkies. I'm listening to a fun history podcast called The Rhine,  which runs through the Roman history of the Rhine Valley, so Tiberius is much on my mind.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Blue Jewel

Another knitted FO, and another Wendy Bernard pattern. This is Jewel, from Custom Knits.

A lot of my favorite knitted garments are made from Wendy Bernard patterns. For me, she's got a nice balance of do-able and challenging. I've heard that, in science, the key is to pick a problem that's complicated enough to be interesting but easy enough that you can solve it. And so it is in knitting.

Jewel has a bit of fancied-up ribbing at the top and bottom, and the rest is stockinette with a bit of waist shaping.

The top is actually supposed to be longer, but I ran out of yarn, so I cropped it by popping on the bottom band just after finishing the waist decreases. As long as I wear it with high-waisted bottoms, I'll be fine.

I used 6 skeins of Llana Grossa Binary, in a kind of steel blue color. I scavenged it from the Four Buck Bucket at the Swift Stitch,  here in Santa Cruz. That Four Buck Bucket gets me every time.

I've made this pattern two times before. I'm giving myself some bonus points for this version because I think I finally figured out how to do the crocheted crab stitch edging on the arm scythes. Thank you, YouTube!

I'm a miserly yarn-buyer, which is why I so often end up having to figure out how to do something useful with 600 yards of yarn. Lucky for me, sleeveless shells end up being pretty wearable here on the Central Coast.

My Ravelry notes are here.