Serger Project: The Robe Cardigan, Day 3

sponsored by Jones & Vandermeer

Let's finish this up!  I'm ready to make this out of my final fabric, and I had chosen a Nani Iro Double Knit fabric with a beautiful geometric design.  OK, so this is what I did and thought about as I finished up:

Pre-washing and Shrinking of Fabric

You'll want to wash your fabric however you plan on cleaning it once you've finished.  So if you plan on washing it and drying it on high heat, then do that to your fabric before sewing with it.  Jones & Vandermeer shared with me that there is some shrinkage to this fabric I chose.  She had made some baby pants out of it, and had to pre shrink it.  But she was impressed with how beautifully the fabric held up to the super hot wash and dryer settings.  The colors stayed vibrant and the material stayed durable yet soft.  I, however, am a self-proclaimed lazy slacker and pretty much dry clean everything.  So, I didn't pre-wash it at all.

Quick Review of Pattern Instructions // Interfacing

Since these instructions are in Japanese, it was necessary to thoroughly review all the pictures, and piece together what I needed to do.  There were a few things to do that I didn't have to with the muslin.  One of which was the interfacing.  

Bias cut interfacing illustration.

Bias cut interfacing illustration.

Where to place the interfacing.

Where to place the interfacing.

These instructions indicate using a fusible interfacing at the hems of each piece.  The instructions also indicate cutting the interfacing on the bias for maximum amount of stretchiness.  How clever!!  There is knit/tricot interfacing which is very stretchy.  But if you only have woven interfacing on hand, this is a nice workaround.  I am definitely not clever enough to have thought of that on my own.

I used Pellon's Shape Flex SF-101 ("Stacey") interfacing.  It seems to be a great all-around, general-use fusible woven interfacing.  Per the instructions, I cut out the necessary strips on the bias for the hems on the fronts, sleeves and back.

Use the 45° marking on the ruler for bias strips.

Use the 45° marking on the ruler for bias strips.

Once the first 45 degree cut is made, you can simply line up the ruler and cut the desired width from there.

3" wide interfacing strips.

3" wide interfacing strips.

Cutting Out Fabric

This particular fabric is only 32" wide.  Much narrower than the average 44"/45" or 58/60" wide fabric I'm used to finding.  In total, I needed about 4 yards.  I have a lot of the Nani Iro Double Gauze, but I had never worked with their Double Knit.  It's very similar in that two pieces of very lightweight fabrics are held together by tiny stitches about 1 cm apart.

4-pindot markings are the stitches keeping the fabric layers together.

4-pindot markings are the stitches keeping the fabric layers together.

Once cut, you can see the two layers...

With the fabric folded in half, I cut the back piece along the fold and cut both front pieces at the same time.  However, the sleeves were too wide to fit on the folded fabric.  So I opened up the fabric and cut out one sleeve at a time.  

A word of caution:  If you're cutting out the sleeves one at a time, don't forget to flip over your pattern piece so that you have one mirrored sleeve.  The slope of the cap is not symmetric, so it's important you don't make two of the same.

Asymmetric sleeve caps.

Asymmetric sleeve caps.

With all the pieces cut out, I ironed on the fusible to the bottom edge of the fronts, back and sleeves following the instructions.  I used a piece of muslin as a pressing cloth so none of the sticky fusible would end up on my iron.

Pressing cloth keeps the fusible off of the iron.

Pressing cloth keeps the fusible off of the iron.


Finally - onto the serging!  So, I bring the two fronts to my serger and start zooming along.  I noticed a bit of bunching under the foot, but didn't think much of it.  I thought it was the softness of the fabric that was sort of sticking to the feed dogs.

Fabric bunching under the presser foot.

Fabric bunching under the presser foot.

But I took out my piece and realized that I had left my differential feed at 1.5.  When I flipped over the pieces, the bottom piece was fed through more quickly than the top.

The fabric differential when using the differential feed.

The fabric differential when using the differential feed.

Whoops!  Now onto what every owner of a serger should know: how to rip out an overlock stitch.

Ripping out serged seam

This two-minute video is the best explanation and illustration of how to rip out a 4-thread overlock stitch that I've found.  It's short, clear and concise.  And like most things, when I learned how to fix a mistake is when I truly understood how it worked.

Following her instructions, I removed one needle thread, then the next.

Frustration-free serger seam ripping.

Frustration-free serger seam ripping.

Then, the looper threads were free to simply fall off.  By stretching that seam, all the threads kind of popped out which was cool.

As I continued along, I found I needed to hold the fabric pieces together.  I try not to pin when I don't have to.  It's fussy, warps the fabric and is time consuming.  But this particular knit fabric tended to drag and stretch, so I needed to use something.  Since this knit is fairly soft and delicate, I didn't feel comfortable using pins.  So I used these clips instead.  

Clips instead of pins to hold pieces together.

Clips instead of pins to hold pieces together.

They're Clover Wonder Clips, and they're really handy.  I'm a big fan.  Strong enough to do the job, but they don't leave a mark.  And, they're really obvious so there's almost no fear of forgetting about them as I serged along.

Cover stitch

Baby Lock's Cover Stitch Machine all threaded and ready to go.

Baby Lock's Cover Stitch Machine all threaded and ready to go.

I'm pretty sure I've already mentioned what a lazy slacker I am, so this should come as no surprise to you.  Even though my lovely serger has the ability to convert to do a cover stitch, I went out and bought a separate cover stitch machine.  I had once done a project where I had to convert it back and forth maybe two or three times, and that was enough.  I think I ordered it the next day.

So what's a cover stitch?

A cover stitch is pretty much an overlock stitch that isn't over the edge of fabric, but actually on top.  So the needle threads are visible stitches on the top, and if you flip over the fabric, the looper thread zig zags back and forth between the needle threads.  As for the machine, it's different from a serger in that there's no cutting, so no blade, and only one looper thread.

It's usually used for hemming knits, which is why I pulled it out.  Generally, a cover stitch is comprised of 3 threads - 2 needle threads running parallel to one another, and 1 looper thread.

The reason for using the cover stitch instead of just hemming normally is to accommodate the stretchiness in the fabric.  A cover stitch won't "pop" if you stretch it to put your hand through a cuff for instance.

I went ahead and set up my machine for a wide cover stitch.  I think I like the look of a narrow cover stitch more, but the wide cover stitch makes it easy to catch the raw hem.  Here, I'm hemming a cuff.

Cuff turned inside out, cover stitching from inside the cylinder.

Cuff turned inside out, cover stitching from inside the cylinder.

Unlike a serger where the fabric is fed into the machine, the fabric should be underneath the needles and presser foot before beginning.  

Also what's curious about working with a cover stitch is that the looper thread is underneath the fabric, so you can't really see whether or not it's catching the hem.  There is a fabric guide attachment that can be used to help you, but I do something less elegant, but more effective for me...

Raw hem lined up with the middle line on the throat plate.

Raw hem lined up with the middle line on the throat plate.

Because I'm cover stitching a small circumference, I turn the piece inside out, and then serge from inside.  When I lift up my piece I can see that my raw hem is lined up with the middle line on the throat plate.  Since I set this up for a wide cover stitch, the left line and the right line indicates where the needles are.  So as I cover stitch along, I barely even look at the top of the fabric - I have it lifted up so I can see that it's being fed straight through following that middle line.

Wrong side.

Wrong side.

And there it is.  That's the cover stitch from the wrong side.  That wavy thread is the looper thread.  And from the right side:

Right side.

Right side.

The two lines of stitching are from the two top needles.  To finish off something in the round, keep going until you get to the beginning and stitch over those first stitches by about an inch or so, and that's it.

Use the presser foot's guide lines to stitch right over previously stitched lines.

Use the presser foot's guide lines to stitch right over previously stitched lines.

After completing the cover stitching of the cuffs, hem and the cardigan's opening, my Robe Cardigan was all done!


I'm still wondering what I can wear this with.  Once I figure that out I'll post a modeled pic of it. 

Well, I've got 8 more days left in Serger Month... what else can I make?!


Serger Project: The Robe Cardigan, Day 2

sponsored by Jones & Vandermeer

Today I'll be covering the making of the The Robe Cardigan Muslin.  I left off having cut out the pattern pieces of my traced pattern.  With only 3 pieces, it was very fast and easy.

First, what is a Muslin?  Muslin is the term used for a kind of first draft mock-up of a garment.  It's named after the undyed, less expensive cotton fabric, used for making the mock-up.  Essentially, muslin can refer to either, and the mock-up can really be made out of anything you want.

Swedish Tracing Paper is this amazing kind of paper sewers use to trace off a pattern and sew together for the mock-up.  It's a little stiff, but it's even less expensive than muslin, and can give you a pretty good idea of your finished piece.  It's a nice alternative.



(As a knitter, I use Swedish Tracing Paper for wet-blocking, but that deserves its own entry.)

I buy muslin by the bolt at Joann Fabric & Craft Stores.  They always have coupons or deals, and when I get a "40% off one item" coupon, they don't mean 1 yard.  They mean 1 cut.  So, I get the whole 25 yard bolt at 40% off, which ends up being around $45.  It's a great deal.

Please note:  Usually, you would want to make a muslin in a similar fabric as your final garment.  I should be using a knit fabric, one that imitates the Nani Iro Double Knit, but I don't have any on hand.  Also, this particular project isn't form-fitting, so I'm not too worried.  I just want to make sure everything fits aka it's big enough to get over my linebacker arms and shoulders.

With the pattern pieces laying smoothly over the muslin, I strategically put down the weights so they won't be in my way while I'm cutting.  With my rotary cutter, I carefully and slowly cut around the pattern.  I find when I use pins and scissors, I end up shifting and warping the fabric.  And when there's a nice long straight edge, I'll take out my rotary cutting ruler and use it as a guide.

Because I'm a righty, when cutting around a convex curve, like a sleeve cap, I like to keep the pattern piece to the left of the blade.  I can easily keep an eye on the pattern while cutting, and cutting in that direction makes navigating around much easier.  For a concave curve like an armhole or neckline, the opposite is true.  I keep the pattern piece to my right.  


Once everything is laid out and you've started cutting, try to avoid moving any pieces around.  This can be very challenging especially if you're working on a small cutting mat, or a table that can't accomodate the entire piece.  Just be very careful to realign everything if you do have to move things around.

I always seem to forget to snip notches, but I remembered this time - phew!  

OK!  All of the pieces are cut, notched and ready to go.

In the few sewing classes I've taken, serging has only been used for finishing.  Seams are sewn, and edges serged as you go along.  But serging is never part of the actual construction.  A "safety stitch" is usually needed.  But after doing a little online reading, I think the safety stitch is really only for wovens.  A safety stitch isn't appropriate for knits since it would inhibit any stretching.  So, I'm moving onward using only the serger for construction... even on the muslin.

A 3-thread or 4-thread overlock stitch would work for this.  The only difference is that there's an additional line of stitching in the 4-thread stitch which aids in keeping the stitching from unraveling.

Left: 3-thread overlock stitch; Right: 4-thread overlock stitch

Left: 3-thread overlock stitch; Right: 4-thread overlock stitch

So, I'll go with a 4-thread overlock stitch to put together the muslin...

Since my Evolve does not require manual looper threading and has the nifty Jet-Air Threading System, I'm able to thread my loopers with ease.  I simply place the end of the thread into a hole, and press down on a lever.  (Baby Lock has since updated this system to the ExtraordinAir System which has a button instead of a lever, and you can place all the thread ends in at once.)

This automatic threading system is amazing.  As a beginner, the last thing I want to worry about is the threading of the loopers.

After taking some time to decipher the Japanese instructions, I began:

Vertical stitching:  The two front pieces serged together.   Horizontal stitching:  The fronts serged to the back piece lining up the stitching with the center back.

Vertical stitching:  The two front pieces serged together.   Horizontal stitching:  The fronts serged to the back piece lining up the stitching with the center back.

As I continued following the instructions blindly, I realized I should have kept the sleeves open and serged them along the front and back armhole openings first.  But, I know it's possible to serge "in the round", so I decided to move forward.  Some thoughts about inserting a set-in sleeve with a serger:

- Careful with the pins.  You'll ruin your blade if you knick them.

- Because you can't start by feeding the fabric in before the blade and foot, angle the fabric to serge onto it, or cut out a little divet so it can be placed right in front of the blade to start serging.

- DIFFERENTIAL FEED.  The differential feed can help the easing of the materials together.  It also helps a lot with knit fabrics in that it controls it and keeps it from splaying out and kind of ruffling.  I've only ever played with these settings, so this will be a learning experience.

OK, I cut a little divet and I kept my differential feed at N starting at the underarm/side seam. Once I reached my first notch, I moved my differential feed up to 1.5.  Since the easing happens between the notches, you wouldn't want to be easing at the underarm.

Differential Feed - The lever looks misaligned when viewed straight on, but when viewed from your working position it's lined up correctly.

Differential Feed - The lever looks misaligned when viewed straight on, but when viewed from your working position it's lined up correctly.

Once I reached my other notch, I moved my differential feed back to N, then serged off the side, at an angle.  Upon inspection, the 1.5 setting seemed to work fine.  The notches lined up nicely between the sleeve cap and the armhole.

So here's my finished muslin.  It fits fine.  It's a simple silhouette, not meant to be tailored, so I'm not being too nit-picky, and in a knit it will drape more nicely.  (Apologies for no modeled pictures.  I'll have some of the final piece.)

I can't wait to get going on the real fabric.  Stay tuned!



Great minds think alike!

My latest design, Diamond Funnelneck, uses a slipped stitch pattern I found in Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns.  The beauty of this stitch pattern is found in its simplicity.  The simple geometry of the diamonds created by picking up the slipped stitch makes it a versatile pattern with a subtle texture.

The Purl Bee just released another beautiful pattern the Trellis Scarf.  It is beautiful, again in its simplicity, and utilizes this stitch pattern in a similar way bringing it all the way to the edges to create an allover backdrop showcasing the yarn and piece.

You'll find clear pictures and written instructions on how to perform this stitch on the Purl Bee blog.  It's not a difficult stitch, but may be confusing to understand at first.  You'll also see what the reverse side looks like.  A knitter recently asked me if my sweater design was reversible.  At first I thought "no", but the purl underside is just as alluring as the slipped stitches.  If you like exposed seams for a deconstructed look, then "yes" is my answer to reversibility!

            © Purl Soho

            © Purl Soho

Thank you Purl for posting yet another project that needs to be queued, and wonderful instructions!

Serger Project: The Robe Cardigan, Day 1

sponsored by Jones & Vandermeer

After days and days of rain and gray skies, I woke up this morning to some bright sunshine and blue skies.  It was turning out to be the perfect day to get started on my Robe Cardigan.  I first saw these "m patterns" at Purl Soho about a year ago (maybe more?).  I was tempted to purchase one, but was intimidated by it being 1) a sewing pattern and 2) in Japanese.  I'm still very new to sewing, so I just kept thinking, "One day, one day..."

Well, the day has arrived!  Having trolled the web for Japanese knitting books and such, I came across a seller on eBay - pomadour24 and her store.  She has it all!  When I saw this Robe Cardigan pattern I knew I had to have it.  My ignorance of the Japanese language be damned!

So here we go!

First things first.  I have to:

1)  Figure out my size.

2)  Decipher some Japanese.

3)  Trace off my pattern.

4)  Cut out the pattern pieces.

Figure out my size.

Well, I can honestly say I didn't think we were going to get so personal here, but what the heck.  My bust measurement is 39", so I'll have to make the "LL" size.  This pattern has 5 sizes: S, M, ML, L, LL.  The measurements on the envelope back are in CM, and in Japanese.  The LL's range is stated to be 99-104 which translates to roughly 39" - 41".

Decipher some Japanese.

Hm, ok.  First, I printed out this Dictionary of Japanese Sewing Terms from the Japanese Sewing Books site.  There is a link to a PDF of the dictionary after the list.  Armed with this knowledge, I ripped open the pattern and laid it out.  Not too bad.  I could clearly see my pattern pieces.  The instructions... that may take some time.

But I was able to figure out that this pattern includes the seam allowance.  I had read that a lot of Japanese sewing patterns did not include them.  I suspect those are the patterns in the books, where the patterns are all laid out one top of the other on one single sheet.  To preserve space, I'm sure they just eliminate it.  But since this is an individual pattern, I suppose including it made sense.

Trace off my pattern.

Luckily, these m patterns are on paper that are a normal weight.  I would say it's a touch lighter than our normal 20 lb printer paper, but much thicker than American patterns on that tissue paper.  So much better to handle.  I really detest that tissue paper.

I brought out the tools that I'd need.

Having quilted, I have a number of rotary cutting rulers.  Those, however, are a little heavy and bulky.  So this clear, flexible 2"x18" is my favorite when working with sewing patterns.  The Fairgate Vary Form Curve Ruler is great for armholes and neck openings.  Not necessary when tracing off, but makes tracing those curves much easier.

So, I place the pattern down, then lay pattern paper over it.  I use pattern paper that is marked with a grid and usually comes in rolls of 10 yards.  The important thing is that this paper is thin enough that you can see the pattern underneath it.  If not, you'll have to swap them (pattern on top of paper) and use carbon tracing paper between the two and run a tracing wheel over the pattern lines.  Effective, but not my favorite.


A tip I learned from my Patternmaking teacher is to extend your lines when drafting.  When you extend them, you get an exact intersection.  Takes all the guesswork out of the cutting-out part.

Also, I don't actually use the grid on the paper.  I like having it there; a huge blank white space makes me nervous.  But I don't trust it enough to actually use.  So, I use the blank underside of this paper with the grid showing through.

Another great tip I learned from Patternmaking is if you want to use a mechanical pencil, don't use lead thinner than 0.7mm.  The lead will break often and you'll want to stab yourself in the eye with it (ask me how I know.)  

After tracing each piece, don't forget to label them, and mark your grain line.  I've forgotten to label pattern pieces before and not being able to remember what it was, I had to chuck them.  


Cut out the pattern pieces.

I use my trusty Olfa Multi-Purpose Scissors for cutting paper.  It has the slightest serration on the blades so it keeps things in its place.  They're also indestructible.  I've had the same pair for years and have used them to cut up area rugs (again, don't ask), cardboard and paper without having to sharpen them.  

Of course, you can always use a rotary cutter.  But since this doesn't have many curves, I'll stick with my scissors.  I'll probably whip out the rotary cutter when I have to cut out the fabric.

Now that my pattern pieces are all cut out, it's time to cut out the fabric!  

Screeching to a halt.

I would be nuts to cut right into my working fabric, right?  Right.  I remember when I first started knitting and how swatching was so foreign, and so... annoying.  Now, it's practically all I do and I'm not sure how anyone gets around that.  I'm thinking the sewing equivalent of swatching is making a muslin.  Sort of similar in that you're taking an extra step to ensure your project comes out to your liking.

Next up:  Cutting and sewing up the muslin...

Serging ahead with Jones & Vandermeer

brought to you by Jones & Vandermeer

Since I've started working in the hand knitting industry, I can honestly say that I have met the most amazing people.  Generous, smart and funny, I feel lucky to have fallen into this world.  Julie Hoover, a designer I work with at Brooklyn Tweed, introduced me to Emily the owner of Jones & Vandermeer.  Julie's worked with some of her amazing yarn, and since they're based in NYC, she thought I should meet her.  Having drooled over her site many times, filling up imaginary online shopping carts with mink, camel and cashmere, I jumped at the chance.  I needed to know the talent behind one of the most well-curated shops of yarn and fabric.

After walking into her office, I was dizzy with beauty.  Emily kept pulling down bins and bins of luscious fibers.  I tried to keep my cool, but that lasted about 37 seconds, and I started pawing everything she laid before us.  It was one of the best mornings I've had in a long time.   Anyway, after the adrenaline subsided, I noticed the racks of beautiful fabric she had as well.  I started staring at the gorgeous Liberty prints, and noticed a lot of Nani Iro, of which I'm a #1 fan. 

It got me thinking - why don't I blog a project with J&V as the sponsor.  I've been playing around with sewing more lately, and I could showcase one of her beautiful fabrics.  

I purchased a serger many many years ago and it was mainly to aid me in hemming pants.  I used it occasionally, but only a few months ago did I take a workshop at my local sewing machine retailer and became better acquainted with my serger.  I think it’s about time it became part of my regular sewing repertoire, and I think National Serger Month is the perfect time. 

Last year, Baby Lock deemed April to be National Serger Month.  Absolutely genius!  They seemed to pick the perfect month to showcase a machine that remains either a mystery or scary to a lot of us.  Once April hits, the temperatures start to rise, and the snow turns to rain.  As the days grow longer, I begin to start dreaming of sewing.  While the heavy wools in my hands begin to feel a little tacky and the once comforting feel of it in my lap starts to morph into uncomfortable itchiness, I start imagining the sewing of pastel quilts, flowy cardigans and linen dresses.

So why not experiment with my serger and blog about it all (mistakes and everything).  I decided on this Japanese sewing pattern from m patterns:


With this beautiful Nani Iro double knit fabric from J&V:


Nope, I don't speak, read or understand Japanese at all.  But because their patterns and instructions are so image-based, I thought it could be fairly doable.  And by the looks of the technical drawing, straight seams seem to dominate the design.  In any case, I'll be depending quite a lot on one of my favorite sites:  Japanese Sewing Books for translation help and general assistance.

I'll be working with my Baby Lock Evolve Serger, which is an 8-thread machine.  (It is the predecessor to their Evolution model, so it's not in production anymore.)  It is complete overkill for me, but I've always liked the idea of growing into a machine, and also having options in case I need them.  (fyi - I haven't ever needed to use 8 threads.)


Anyone care to join in? 

I'll be posting updates periodically throughout April, and want to share any and all trials and tribulations of the process.  Come back soon!  I just love this little powerhouse of a machine, and hope to spread the word!

knit.wear Spring/Summer 2014

My first cover.  Whoa.  I had no idea how excited I would be!  It was a great way to welcome in the Spring season.  Coincidentally too, I was asked just a few weeks ago which of my designs is my favorite, and this one fell in the Top 5.

I don't know how other designers feel, but when it comes to naming favorites, it's never all about the end product.  I love this sweater, and since the process is fairly long, there are so many factors involved.  But some designs come together smoothly, without drama, and with just enough effort.  Some, on the other hand, seem to come together with the help of everyone you know, a bulldozer, a time machine and a lot of praying and cursing.  No matter how those turn out, they're never a favorite of mine.  Even if I'm happy with the final piece and it sells well.  Like a best friend, I never forget and the pains and abuse hit me every time I see the design.

But this Diamond Funnelneck walked straight through the process with a chin up and a straight back.  Never veering off into "Gauge is a Liar" land, or "This Looked Better in My Head" land, or "If I Rip This Back One More Time The Yarn Will Disintegrate" land.  From working with Interweave, to sitting down and knitting on it every night until it was done, it was a happy knit.  It made no fuss, and I became happier and happier with it as I went along.


I try to be careful about pairing up the stitch pattern, silhouette, yarn and color.  They should compliment and not fight one another.  And when I swatched this from Barbara Walker's "A Treasury of Kniting Patterns", I was surprised at how much I liked it.  The slipped stitch pattern was really fun to knit, and Quince's Chickadee yarn really made the lines crisp and clean. 

One of knit.wear's stories for this issue was for funnelnecks.  I had never done one before, so I really wanted to try it out.  The funnelneck is so clean and simple that it seemed to make sense to put the diamond pattern all over, and create a dolman silhouette - two simple pieces, increased and decreased for the sleeves and funnelneck.  And, I love using a stitch pattern all over.  Contrary to what one might think, it actually makes it fall to the background.  Whenever I place a panel or strategically place a stitch pattern it immediately brings it to the forefront; it becomes decorative.  So in keeping with the clean lines and simplicity of the diamonds, I liked using it all over with the geometric shape of the dolman.  

Happy Spring to you all! 



Amirisu is a fairly new online knitting magazine from Japan.  Just like Pom Pom Quarterly, I love that a new publication for knitting is out, doing well and has a modern take on an aged industry.  It clearly has its own personality and the editors clearly have a vision.

The editors at Amirisu had decided to make Brooklyn Tweed their Featured Brand in their latest issue, Spring 2014.  Inside, there's a wonderful interview with Jared, and two designs from Leila Raabe and me.  Leila designed, yet another, amazing hat - Preble.  It's lightly textured with a simple cable up one side.  And, I went with a Spring-friendly garment.

Tsubasa is a sweet lace-front dolman with short sleeves.  Tsubasa means "wings" in Japanese, and when I decided on the lace pattern, it reminded me of wings.  What I didn't anticipate was how the entire silhouette would have wings too!  A lovely coincidence.  

As the snow falls outside my window, it's hard to imagine the temperatures ever warm enough to wear this sweater.  But soon enough the days will be longer, the trees will start growing their leaves and I'll be so happy I have this sweater to pull on.

Chambray + Pajama Pants

I just finished a quick Winter session sewing class at FIT.  While I'm not exactly a beginner, I definitely don't feel intermediate.  So I was a little apprehensive about taking an introduction class.  But then I remembered the best part about sewing classes at FIT: you get to sew on industrial machines.  So I thought, yes, let's start at the very beginning because these machines look SCARY.

I'm totally hooked, and am already pricing out an industrial machine.  Here are some highlights of the differences between industrial and home sewing machines that I could gather:

1)  Industrial machines are FAST.  Home sewing machines go at a top speed (generally) of about 1000 stitches per minute.  Home sewing machines marketing themselves as "top-speed" may go up to about 1500 spm.  Industrial machines can go around 5000 spm, depending on the type of industrial machine.

2)  Industrial machines only do one thing, and that one thing really well.  So it's important to figure out what exactly you're going to be sewing before buying one.  Standard straight stitch machines work with light to medium weight fabric.  I think there are ones for very light fabrics, and then machines for very heavyweight fabrics.  Very specific.

3)  Industrial machines have a separate motor, which is why they usually come with those gigantic tables.  The motor usually hangs below, under the table.  Home sewing machines have the motor right in the body which makes them portable.  I believe there are industrial machines that are "portable" which means the motor is right in the body, but I believe they're very heavy rendering them not so portable in my book.

4)  When sitting in front of an industrial machine, I should say a Juki straight stitch industrial machine since that's the only one I used, you thread the needle, not front to back, but left to right.  Who knew?  And the bobbin is placed so that the front is actually facing out towards the left.  I think it's because sometimes these machines are set up so you're standing in front of it with it's arm coming at you.  Not sure, but that was an interesting surprise when I sat down to thread the machine.

5)  Also, there are two types of motors that can come with an industrial machine.  Servo motors are newer and quieter vs. a clutch motor.  So I believe the FIT machines have servo motors, which means... drumroll please... you have to hit the foot pedal LIGHTLY in order to turn the handwheel.  What?!  I can't tell you how many times I just wanted to turn the handwheel and started sewing.  I think the motor locks the machine, or something like that.  Anyway, that took some getting used to.

I think that's it.  Other than that, they're just super fast, super smooth, super duper machines.  I'm afraid I'll be introducing my Berninas to a Juki very soon.

Back to the class - so, the project we did in class was for a pair of pajama pants.  I had enough yardage of some Chambray Cotton in my stash (not a surprise), so I decided to use it.  We cut out the pattern pieces in a way I had never done before.  First, we traced the pattern onto paper from a plastic template.  Then we pinned the pattern (not cut out) onto the fabric and cut both together.  It actually makes a cleaner cut, but I was a little freaked out to use my fabric scissors to cut through both.  I've gotten used to using weights and a rotary cutter, so I doubt I'll do that again, but it's always fun to learn a different method.

We were also exposed to an industrial overlocker.  Again... so fast, so smooth.  It was like butter.  So, I was able to finish my seams with an overlock stitch, and while I've used only an overlock stitch to sew a seam, my teacher was adamant about sewing the seam first, then overlocking just to finish the raw edges.  A line of safety stitches is what she said was necessary.  I kind of like that.  And since I have an 8-thread serger at home, I can do a 5-thread stitch (1 safety stitch, 4 overlock) in one swoop.

So here are my pajama pants, folded up to show off the elastic waist - my first elastic waist! - and their finished hem.

And with some leftover fabric, I made a little drawstring pouch to house my pants and make them travel-ready.  They fit right in, nice and snug.

Recently, I attended a serger workshop and got caught up in the frenzy and bought a whole set of accessories to go with my serger.  I haven't had much time to play with them, but I finally whipped out a double-fold bias binder attachment and made the drawstring.  Fun fun fun!

Well, I'm off to bed!

Modern Wrapper

When I visited Loop in Philadelphia last year, I found myself admiring a sample they had hanging in the store.  I tried it on, twirled around in front of the mirror to exclamations of how it's a piece that looks great on everyone, and how much fun it is to find the perfect yarn combination.  

"What pattern is this?" I asked innocently, naively... ignorantly.

"It's the MODERN WRAPPER!!!" the Loop staff hollered at me in unison.  They were flabbergasted I had not heard of it.

So I crawled out from under my rock and took a look at the pattern.  Beautiful, of course, like everything else Churchmouse does and represents.  I hem'ed and haw'ed over my weekend there, and decided to buy the pattern and hold off on buying the yarn until I had time to actually knit it up.

By the time I got home, I had worked myself into such a lather about different yarn combinations.  The pattern recommends a combination of a fingering weight and fuzzy lace weight yarns.  The go-to fuzzy yarn is Rowan's Kidsilk Haze.  It comes in a delicious array of colors and isn't very expensive considering the yardage.  But, as much as I appreciate a little mohair here and there, I find more of the fiber ends up in my mouth than necessary.  So I decided to go with my trusty KSH substitute - Filatura's Superior.  

I won't bore you with my obsession with Superior, see previous post, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to work with this luscious cashmere again.  More hem'ing and haw'ing ensued with what I would pair it with, and decided on Loft.  For me, it's predictable.  By using a yarn I'm so familiar with, I knew exactly what kind of fabric I'd get.  And instead of matching the black Superior with Cast Iron, I thought something to give it a marled effect would be more interesting, so I went with Soot.  (I almost went with Fossil, but thought maybe it would be TOO marled.)

This open cardigan was such a fast knit.  Mainly stockinette with garter stitch along the opening, this was my go-to knit when I didn't really need to concentrate.  I brought it along to knit nights and to my LYS and with the sporadic few hours, it was done in a couple months.

The shoulder shaping is done with short rows, and then bound off using the three-needle bind off.  It made the finishing quick and painless.

It made me a little nervous to be knitting the garter stitch border along with the stockinette body.  Generally the row gauges are very different, but because this is knit with such an open gauge it worked out beautifully.  

And for the sleeves, they're picked up and knit down.  Easy peasy.  

Between the open gauge and the one row of reverse stockinette, the pieces don't roll up and misbehave.

As I'm sitting here with my Wrapper on, I can't help but run my hands over my arms to feel up this Superior/Loft combination.  It's just glorious.



Never Gets Old

It's here!  It's here!  Launch Day for our Winter Collection!  I swear, launch days never get old.  I wake up like a kid on Christmas morning.  I launch out of bed, propelled by the previous nights dreams of fleece and wool and knitting, make coffee and plop myself down in front of my laptop.  And wait, nervously.  It seems completely silly, because I just sit here and wait for the Brooklyn Tweed e-mailer to hit my Inbox.  I brace myself, get comfortable and flip through the Look Book slowly and deliberately forcing myself to see it through fresh eyes.  And oftentimes it feels like I've never seen it before.  The design process began almost a year ago and I've completely forgotten what my teammates have conjured up, and sometimes I forget what I've done.  It's like flipping through an old yearbook and recalling your best friends at the time, old crushes and favorite teachers.

Anyway, what better way to spend the coldest day in history (apparently) than sitting back and enjoying some new knit-porn.  Click here to view the Look Book.

There are two stories in this collection - one is clean and modern shot in a studio space, while the other is more traditional shot outdoors, more typical of past BT photoshoots.  3 out of 4 of my designs ended up in the clean and modern story.  Coming off of some rather traditional designs for Fall 13, it was refreshing to pare down and let the fabric and silhouettes speak for themselves.

I had a lot of fun with Alloy.  I'm embarrassed to tell you where my inspiration came from, but here goes it:  QVC.  Yup.  There it is.  I couldn't sleep one night, and when I need something brainless to watch, I usually flip to QVC or HSN.  It's great; it's usually some sort of jewelry or small household appliance that's being peddled.  But this one night they were showing some stretchy knit tops and outfits with black panels to "slenderize".  Slenderize?  I sat up and saw how these black panels were strategically placed either along the sides, or diagonally across, these tight stretchy tops and really making the models look thinner.  It was magic.  Who doesn't like something that makes you look thinner?  I knew this was nothing original, thinking back to a one-piece swimsuit I tried on that had a similar effect, but it invigorated and inspired me to dig through my swatches to find the right fabric for the body of the sweater.  Anyway, out came Alloy.


© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

And then there are moments when you swatch and swatch and swatch, and finally you hold one up and think, "Yes.  This fabric is amazing."  When I held up the very simple slipped stitch pattern that's used in Abbott, I couldn't stop squeezing it in my fingers.  The swatch felt so full.  The slipped stitches made such a wonderful double layer fabric.  To accentuate the diagonal grain, I figured a clean v-neck would really set it off.  And because of the cushiness of the knit, I wanted it to be something you could pullover your pajamas to make your coffee, or throw on to run some errands.  Easy easy easy to wear.


 © Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

The same goes for Thicket.  After swatching up this stitch pattern, I knew I had to use it in something.  I thought the intricate twist stitch cables would make a fun decrease crown pattern at the top of a hat, so I did what I tell people not to do:  I cast on, and just knit and designed as I went along.  The crown decreasing turned out nicely, but by total luck - I do not recommend this method of designing!  


 © Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

 And last but not least, Echelon.  Um, what can I say?  I just love the cartridge rib and decided an entire garment needed to be dedicated to this wonderful stitch.  


 © Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

While a sleeveless top doesn't seem to be quite right for a Winter collection, I wanted a layering piece.  And on a day like today, it seems to only make sense to layer a knit with another knit.  I'd love to throw this on with a black cashmere turtleneck underneath for some added warmth.

I do hope you enjoy our entire Winter 14 collection.  I know with each and every design we pour a bit of ourselves into them, and your response (positive and otherwise) is always welcome and warms our hearts.  Thank you!

Sewing Binge

On the rare occasion, I don't have any looming deadlines, and I take a moment to do whatever I want.  (I've given up on telling myself I'll do nothing, because I just get antsy.)  During this past holiday week, I could hardly believe it, but I had no deadlines looming!  I decided to do a little sewing and knock out some holiday gifts while I was at it.  Once I got started, I couldn't stop!  I whipped out presents for all my knitter friends, a little jacket for a friend's newborn, a housewarming gift and a nice tote bag for myself.  I suppose this is the upside to sewing vs. knitting.  You can actually "whip something out" in an hour or less.  Knitting, no matter how small the project is, simply takes time.

Here are some of the little project bags I made for some knit pals:


The Felted Wool Baby Jacket, a free pattern from The Purl Bee:

And some linen dinner napkins for a friend who just moved into a new apartment:


The flipside is sewing results in an apartment takeover.  It requires so much space to lay out and cut fabric that my kitchen counter and kitchen table are completely monopolized.  Then, the ironing board comes out, the sewing machine and serger sit on another table and all the different colored thread, bobbins, interfacing, tools... I could go on and on.  But before I tucked everything away, I had to make a little something for myself.

Reversible Tote Bag with Shoulder Strap, a free pattern from the Japanese Sewing Books site:

Well, at the end of this sewing binge, I can safely say that I'm looking forward to sitting on the couch, and having a project fit in my lap.


I've been working on a design these past few months and bursting at the seams (not just from all the stress-eating, but with excitement) to announce it.  And today's the day!  Presenting Belesama, a collaboration with MillaMia Yarns.  I went to TNNA this past June in the hopes of putting some names to faces, and to make some new friends.  As luck would have it, I was introduced to Max and Helena of MillaMia and I immediately felt a kinship.  I plopped myself down, hypnotized by their British accents, and started talking shop.  I gushed about their beautiful childrenswear patterns and they were kind enough to tell me about themselves and their business.

The next day I popped over to their booth and I made a beeline to their limited colorways.  Lime is what caught my eye.  I'm not very good at networking or putting myself out there, but Max could sense my excitement and while I stumbled to get the words out, she offered to try to get some to me for a design.  It was still being produced, but she promised to keep in touch after the show.  My fingers were crossed tightly.

Long story short, here we are.  A long-sleeved pullover with a honeycomb textured center panel flanked by 1x1 ribbing.   

I had originally planned for something with more cables, an ode to a traditional aran-type sweater.  But the more I swatched, the more it felt like I was taking away from the real star - the color and the yarn itself.  So, I toned down the stitch patterns leaving just the simple honeycomb and ribbing, and let them speak for themselves. 

The yarn label proclaims their merino to be naturally soft, and truer words have never been printed.  When I come across very soft yarn, I can be skeptical.  Soft can sometimes mean no body, or will pill easily.  But because of the twist in this yarn, the stitch definitely is incredible and after tugging this sweater on and off a dress form and a model numerous times, not a pill in sight.  It is truly magnificient.

Closet of Shame

Every so often, I take a step back and assess my Yarn Closet.  My Yarn Closet holds my stash, organized in Elfa drawers with labels indicating the different weights.  Along with my stash are my WIPs.  So you can see why I sometimes refer to my Yarn Closet as my Closet of Shame.  I've been known to go on yarn shopping binges, only to come home with skeins and skeins of yarn that I have no plans for.  And better yet, I'll wind up some yarn, start a project, shove it in a plastic bag and not only let the yarn for the project languish in the closet, but the needles too.  And then I go out and buy more needles.  You can see (and probably know) it's a sad sad cycle.

When I do take this occasional step back, I roll open the closet door, literally step back and usually end up shaking my head in disgust.  Then, I make the empty vow to never buy yarn again, and to start finishing up some WIPs.  Thankfully, the second promise to myself is much more fun than the first.  So tackling WIPs is what I did.

I previously blogged about Kirkwood which was a WIP - one that I had started way back in February.  It felt so good to finish something, like cleaning out your refrigerator or going through your closet for clothes to donate.  So I decided to continue down this feel-good-WIP-finishing path and I was able to finish another project, one I had started way way back in 2012.  I had the perfect motivation too: a birthday present.  I decided to finish up my Quill for a dear friend's birthday, a fellow knitter - someone who could truly appreciate it.

One of the dangers of 1) not being organized and 2) leaving WIPs sit in your Closet of Shame for more than a year is that I lost track of what yarn I was using for the project and what yarn I had laying around from various Brooklyn Tweed projects.  So there were some dye lot issues.  I used just one color - Fossil - and you can see how different the main part of the shawl is from the border, which is much lighter.  Thankfully, I think the effect is kind of cool, but I've learned my lesson.  

Quill was such a fun knit, I have to say.  I'm not the best, most enthusiastic lace knitter but this had such a great rhythm.  The garter stitch center is a no-brainer, and the feather and fan motif is so subtle with all of the garter rows inbetween.  At first the knitted-on lace border seemed a little tedious, but once I got into the rhythm of it, it turned out to be the most productive way to bind off!  Killing two birds with one stone.  Amazing.

The only better feeling of finishing another WIP was seeing my friend's face when she opened the present.


Aureus, my latest design, will be featured in Pom Pom Quarterly's Issue No. 7, "Fading Light".  It is their Winter 2013 issue, and available for preorder on their website, or with Karen at Fringe Supply Co.  I believe the issue is dropping in early November, so just days away!

It is always such a pleasure when a design is released.  Not only are the photographs and styling usually a very pleasant surprise, but the designing of the piece happened so long ago, that I get to see it again with fresh eyes.  I confess; usually when I'm done working on a design, I'm sick of it.  I'm tired of thinking about it, looking at it, fussing with it.  And when I send it off to the publisher or yarn company, I usually mutter a "good riddance" and toss it into the mailbox.  But then suddenly, enough time passes where I start to think back on it fondly.  Absence does make the knitter's heart grow fonder.  And all of a sudden I start reminiscing about all the good times we had together... like how did this all come about?

After seeing a few issues of Pom Pom, I knew I wanted to work with them.  What a refreshing new publication for the knitting world!  Digest-sized, matte paper, fun styling, bright glorious colors that remind me of Mexican and South American crafts, and brand new - not something we see often in the knitting world.  So I decided to use their personality, their essence as inspiration.  I kept flipping through their back issues, visiting their website, poking around on their Ravelry group, and decided whatever I came up with had to be feminine, vibrant, youthful and fun.

These are things I don't necessarily keep in mind when I design.  So it was very interesting working outside of my comfort zone.  My design proposal for them contained a swatch in a very bright, deep pink.  This was my idea of feminine and pretty.  I don't think it necessarily wasn't, but talk about literal.  I can be a very blunt object sometimes.  Anyway, thankfully after speaking with Meghan at Pom Pom, she decided on the final color and yarn - Cricket yarn in Curry from Anzula.

When the box of yarn came from Anzula, I felt like I was opening up the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.  I stood there and the color just glowed up at me.  The name for the pattern came to me as soon as I saw the color and I was so excited to cast on.


The cardigan has a little bit of an a-line to give it a bit of swing.  And the sleeves are just a hint of being lantern sleeves.  I thought these little touches would add to its femininity, along with the high closure at the neck.  Here are some more detailed shots of the cardi.


Pom Pom decided to replace the buttons, but you can see how you can have a lot of fun picking them out!  They choose wooden ones while mine were a little bit more ornate.  Anything goes!  I really loved the idea of using bigger buttons to make a statement.  Can't wait to see what you choose!


Rarely am I able to knit for myself.  So when I get the chance, I usually choose very classic, simple and wearable designs.  And of course, my one go-to designer that embodies those qualities would be one of my partners in crime, Julie Hoover.  She has a wonderfully clean aesthetic that is so fine and charismatic, much like Julie herself, that it begs to be knit when you're relaxed, sipping some wine and enjoying life.

I cast on for her Kirkwood scarf design when we were all headed to Madrona last February.  Since then I've taken it out here and there usually when I meet up with friends for a Knit Night.  And finally just last week, I bound off.  My timing seems to be impeccable too; it has just started getting chilly at night and I can't wait to wear it.


Personally, I love Brooklyn Tweed's Cast Iron.  It's just a wee bit lighter than black.  And while it may not be the perfect choice to show off cables and a lovely slipped stitch textured pattern, it sure is something that goes with everything I wear... mostly black.

When Bad Things Happen To Good Dogs

Every year, when Spring approaches, I start to miss Winter immediately. What can I say?  I love cold weather.  Anything just below freezing is my sweet spot.  I love the feel of wind cutting across my face, and walking over snow-covered sidewalks feeling like the last person on earth.  A rare feeling in NYC.  

Now that Labor Day is here, I begin to welcome the changing of the seasons.  I start to become giddy at the thought of no more humid, hazy days.  No more hideously, half-dressed adolescents.  No more super long days.  (I prefer dark, starlit evenings.)  Last Winter was a pretty good one.  Much snow, many freezing nights.  Ahhh, I'm so looking forward to this Winter.  So much so, that when a friend forwarded me a forecast from a Farmer's Almanac predicting a brutally cold Winter, I did what anyone would do:  I went to Joann's, bought a sweatshirt pattern and some Hello Kitty polar fleece and made something for their dog.

She's a good dog.  She puts up with much.  And the one thing she truly detests is clothing.  When the temperatures start to drop, and her quilted coat comes out of hiding, she runs for cover.  Every season, it's the same battle.  And as soon as I get the coat on, she does a little spinning dance, faces me, squats and poops. This will happen a few times at the start of every cold season.  I'm normally prepared with a plastic baggy, ready to catch her steaming hatred in my hands, but since it's still warm out, I wasn't prepared.

Gleefully, I finished up the sweatshirt (on the serger she detests as well), called her into the sewing room and threw it on her before she could realize what was happening.  As I started laughing and reaching for my phone to snap some pictures, she looked up at me, squatted and pooped.