I heart wool. I love everything about it, down to the sheepy, lanolin smell of raw fleece. Occasionally I cheat and work with some other animal fibers. But very rarely, do I work with a plant fiber. But when I came across Jones & Vandermeer's Moo Cotton, I was intrigued. It is worsted weight and is 80% cotton and 20% milk protein fiber. Upon first touch, it feels like suede. It is by far the most interesting cotton blend I've come across. Personally, I find mercerized cotton too slick and shiny. Other cottons just feel dry. Maybe it's the milk protein that gives this yarn its unique feel. And after doing a little research on milk protein fibers, I found that it's naturally anti-bacterial, absorbs moisture and today it is considered environmentally friendly to produce. Sounds good to me!
Well, I'm pretty sure it passed my test. It's so incredibly soft and drapey without compromising any of that stitch definition.
And, these pictures were taken AFTER I threw it into the washing machine and dryer. Now that, I can't do with my precious wool, can I?
I've edited the pattern a teensy bit so it only takes one ball of Moo Cotton, and will have the printed copy at GAUGE + TENSION exclusively. Of course, you can always buy the PDF version of the pattern on Ravelry here. I simply left out a few rows of the stockinette and a repeat of the horizontal cartridge rib.
Stop by GAUGE + TENSION this Fall if you'd like to feel this yarn for yourself. It's really special, and perfect for those with a wool sensitivity, get too hot wearing animal fibers or for babies and kids.
Here's my first yarn with my miniSpinner. It's about 132 yards of aran - bulky weight yak merino. I love it! And it definitely seemed to spin up faster, even though all I did was take away the treadling with the miniSpinner. I don't think it actually made me faster. Just perception I suppose.
My first impressions of the miniSpinner are very positive. I really love it - its small size and smoothness, and how it makes it feel so easy to sit down and spin a little.
Up next - some "Polwarth Lux" from Spirit Trail Fiberworks that I bought at Sheep & Wool years ago. (Can't remember for the life of me what makes it Lux... silk? Cashmere? *shrug*)
I've been eyeing a Hansencrafts miniSpinner for years now. My first attempt at spinning was with a drop spindle, and that did not go well at all. (It especially didn't go well for the poor innocent drop spindle that I broke over my thigh, then threw its pieces at the television out of frustration.) But I moved on and eventually bought a Schacht Ladybug. I love her, I do. But for my apartment, she's quite stately. So when I first witnessed a miniSpinner in action on youtube.com, I was mesmerized. I had no idea these things existed! Tiny and motorized! And then I was able to ogle one in person at the Sheep & Wool Festival... and then at Madrona. I was beginning to be a miniSpinner stalker. I kept watching youtube.com videos over and over telling myself I didn't need one. Well, I finally lost that argument. This beauty was delivered today. (I even ran down to the lobby to meet the mailman. I think I made his day.)
In addition to what comes with spinner, Hansencrafts threw in a little BFL from Abstract Fiber, and a beautiful Orifice Threader! What a treat!
I had initially debated about which wood to get - there is quite an extensive selection - but I decided to go with the economical maple wood. It also happens to be the wood that fits in with my decor. It's really beautiful.
Aside from its obvious qualities, I just love the scotch tension knob. My ladybug wheel's scotch tension is a little wonky. It works just fine, but it doesn't feel very finished.
And to change bobbins couldn't be easier with this metal clip. Press it down and the side of the spinner falls flat. Voila. It's perfectly thought out, and such good quality. Everything feels sturdy.
Best of all, it can sit right on my desk!
Just shove that keyboard aside - who needs that anyway?!
People are often surprised when I tell them I don't find knitting to be relaxing. Maybe my idea of relaxing is different than theirs. Even before my work became my knitting, I never felt at ease during or after a few hours of knitting. Often, my mind races with ideas or the next thing I want to cast on. Even as I work away on miles of stockinette, I feel engaged and focused on each stitch. I find if my mind wanders, so does my knitting. "Oh! How did that happen?" are the words most likely to come out of my mouth if I'm talking while knitting, drinking while knitting or watching tv while knitting. I can't even listen to an audiobook.
Spinning, however, is so meditative that you'll often find me falling asleep at the wheel. (Thankfully, it's not life threatening.) Something about the drafting motion, the spinning of the wheel, the treadling and the soft clacking sound of the flyer completely hypnotize me. Even though I find my spinning much more even if I'm not looking, I can't seem to tear my eyes away from the fiber.
While I haven't made too much time for it in the recent past, I'm going to try and spin for at least a few minutes every morning. I can't think of a better way to wake up.
Here is some 80 merino / 20 cashmere freshly washed and skeins. It's definitely overplied... but I'm happy with it! We'll see how wonky it is when I knit it up.
Wow. Apologies for that super long tease. Exactly one month ago, I had posted a teaser pic for a design that I am finally able to announce. Yipee! Presenting, Venta - a shrug with a simple lace pattern designed especially for Loop in Philadelphia using their exclusive Madelinetosh colorway, Susquehanna.
When Loop approached me to design something with Susquehanna, I was tentatively excited. So excited to be working with them again, but tentative since Susquehanna is a color way out of my wheelhouse. When Craig sent me some skeins to play around with, I admit it - I had to sit with them awhile and take it in. I've gotten used to working with rustic and neutral colors, occasionally striking out with a fluorescent lime green every so often... ok, once. So, I had to make friends. Craig left the "what" to me - socks? shawl? It's hard not to derive a sense of water when looking at Susquehanna. I started picturing an attendee at a beach wedding with this thrown over their shoulders, or walking along a dock jutting out onto a gorgeous lake at sunset. Anyway, I wanted something easy to throw on, not too warm for these summery months and could be worn over a pretty summer dress or anything that needs a layer.
Of course a shawl was the first thing on my mind, but Craig simply stated, "I feel like I've seen so many lately." That's all I needed to hear. He was right. So, my mind wandered to a little cardigan, but then it started to get complicated. I didn't want to do a whole garment. And who wants to knit a whole garment in the summer when you're knitting while traveling, at the beach or in the country. Alas, a shrug. Something in between the two.
It comes in two sizes since the silhouette is so versatile. When my friend kindly agreed to model it for me she thought the sample size was a bit too roomy for her. (She's 5'2" with a 34" bust.) So I made the sample size the larger one and sized down for the other size.
(By the way, when my friend agreed to model she also decided she needed to make a dress to wear... which she did the night before. Isn't it pretty? It's using Nani Iro double gauze fabric, of which we are both mutually obsessed.)
To keep it airy, light and interesting to knit there's a bit of "lace", or more like openwork along the arms and back.
If you follow this blog, you may remember the Staple Dress I made out of some amazing lawn fabric. That fabric was quite the inspiration for the pattern, and the inspiration for the name. The print of that fabric is called La Venta, and when I was trying to come up with a pattern name (not my forte) I really loved the idea of paying homage to such a wonderful fabric.
I do hope you enjoy it! I know I sometimes struggle with what to knit in the summer, and if you feel the same I hope this fills that void for you.
To purchase the pattern, head on over to Loop here.
Loop is also offering the pattern for free with purchase of the yarn for the project until August 31st!
When scouting out pop-up locations, I was lucky enough to have run into two renters at the location we decided on. Both renters were so helpful, kind, enthusiastic and encouraging about the space and our idea.
Shop Reverie was the first tenant I popped in on. Such cute clothes, super fun and young.
Oranbeg Press was the second and their creative display and evocative artwork and literature was really something else.
Check them out!
I've been working myself into a lather these past few months putting together a project that's got me leaping out of bed in the mornings. A good friend and I will be opening up a pop-up yarn store this Fall! We've named it Gauge + Tension and it will be located in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn.
Some of you may know that my life with yarn began when I wanted to open up a store. I had always wanted to have my very own store and had dabbled in quite a few different options, never quite finding the right one for me. When I settled on the idea of a yarn shop, I had decided to learn as much about knitting as possible and that's when a completely different path appeared before me.
But for the past year or so, the bug had bitten me again. I live in the western most part of Queens where you wouldn't believe the growth that's happened over the past few years. It has changed completely since I moved here close to 6 years ago. Just north of me is Astoria and Sunnyside, a very well-developed part of Queens rich in history. And just south of me is Greenpoint, Brooklyn. For the past year I've rented out a studio in Greenpoint and have fallen in love with the neighborhood. It is just north of Williamsburg, but has managed to retain an "old school" feel.
Why this geography lesson? There is a very obvious lack of yarn stores in these neighborhoods - a problem that needs fixing straight away! I had inquired about retail spaces in my neighborhood, but felt already priced out. So why not a pop-up?!
And. Here. We. Are.
We'll be located at: 110 Meserole Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11222
Open weekends in October, November and December (excluding Rhinebeck, of course.)
Hours to come.
Our irresistible yarn assortment to come.
A preview of a new design coming out soon...
Designing for kids is something we at BT had talked about for what felt like ages. When the time finally came to pull designs together for this collection, we were not short for ideas. Our inspirations came from our own children, our nieces and nephews, and things we fondly remembered loving when we were children ourselves. Designing this collection was such a wonderful change of pace. We were able to let loose, have a lot of fun and design with a lightness of heart.
Personally, I wanted to take the opportunity to play with different types of construction. Petal, is worked top-down, back and forth in a seamless yoke construction. This was only my second top-down design, so it was an interesting puzzle for me to work out. But having long recognized the benefits of top-down knitting, I knew a children's garment would be a great opportunity. Since kids grow at such different rates, the idea of being able to customize the length was really appealing. And this you can only do on the fly when knitting top-down.
Wyatt is knit in the round from the bottom-up where the sleeves meet the yoke and continue in the round with raglan shaping and then back and forth once it splits for the buttonband opening. As you probably know, I'm a huge fan of knitting flat and seaming together pieces. But something our team discussed was how these kids designs should really be an easy knit. Kids grow at an alarming rate and if your design takes too long, it may not fit them by the time you're done. Something I've, unfortunately, experienced.
But of course, my love of the traditionally seamed construction reared its ugly head! Arlo, a unisex cabled cardigan, is knit flat and seamed together - a traditional construction for a traditional sweater. I know I would have loved this little cardigan when I was a kid.
Every time I look at the pictures from this collection, I get a big grin on my face. Usually not a nostalgic person, I can't help but think back to my childhood, back-to-school shopping and spending time in front of the fireplace on snow days. Although summer is not traditionally high knitting season, I can't help but want to cast on for the special little ones in my life so they'll have something handmade in her back to school wardrobe.
Emily, of J&V, and I started chit-chatting about my fabric conundrum after I posted about my black scrubs and my Easy Tee which I love, but is simply not flattering. I had this conversation with a number of friends who sew, and I think I'm left even more confused now than before. I simply have to keep experimenting between fabric, fiber and silhouettes.
In her ever supportive and optimistic way, Emily decided she needed to help me on this voyage and when I proposed trying the voile with the Staple Dress she generously offered to sponsor this experiment and had me pick out which print from Cloud 9's Palos Verdes line I wanted to use. While they're all beautiful, I went with the La Venta print.
We also decided that the voile was way too thin to be worn alone with any decorum. So I'll be lining it with some plain voile from the same collection.
I've never lined anything before, so this'll be... interesting. But I figured this has got to be one of the easiest silhouettes to start with. It's basically a long tube with some shaping and openings for arms and neck.
I've also never worked with voile before, so I was curious. I did a little reading online and this is what I've come up with. Voile and Lawn are very similar in that they are both semi-sheer, evenly woven and are generally made of cotton, linen, silk or wool. Lawn fabric is made from threads that have been combed first to make it super smooth and silky in feel. (Immediately I thought, "Oh, it's like a worsted-spun yarn!") They're both very crisp, and I don't know if that's a characteristic of the weave, or if it's a treatment applied to the fabric once it's woven.
Because of voile's delicate nature compared to something like quilter's cotton, I found some advice on what needle and thread to use. A cotton machine embroidery thread was suggested, so I bought some Mettler 60 wt. cotton embroidery thread from Rose Rushbrooke. And I made sure I had some 70/10 machine needles.
While I was prewashing the fabric, I decided to get started on the muslin. After trying it on, I found it a bit snug in the armhole, and that I'd rather the top of the sleeve a little longer. (I am not a fan of my upperarms.) So I extended the shoulder line, and brought down the armhole and reconnected those new points.
As a knitter, I'm so used to the front and back armholes being the same, I forgot that these pieces would be different. Anyway, I repeated the process of what I did on the front to the back instead of simply copying the front line onto the back piece.
When I grabbed the fabric out of the dryer I made note that it did shrink a bit. But there was no color bleed at all. And, the crispy stiffness was gone. The voile was much softer than I originally thought. A nice surprise.
I used my new pattern pieces to cut into the voile, and used tailor's tacks to mark.
I had been struggling with pins and chalk and erasable markers to mark my fabric - I found it so annoying. The markers wouldn't show up on all fabric, and chalk would sometimes just wipe away. Thread however just stays put and it's really so much easier to apply. I used Pam Howard's Speed Tailor Tacks method I learned from her Craftsy class along with the thread she suggests. The thread is a japanese cotton hand basting thread and it's the perfect weight, comes in nice bright colors and is so smooth. It's brilliant. (And what knitter can resist thread that comes in a skein?!)
So after a lot of thought, this was my approach to this dress to include lining:
1) In addition to cutting out the fashion fabric, I cut out the front and back pieces in the lining material.
2) Sewed shoulder seams for dress, and then for lining, separately. I think I should have done sewn them together, but it turned out fine.
3) Sewed together at neckline, right sides facing. Then, understitched lining to the seam allowance.
4) Using the burrito method (starts on Step 5), sewed the lining to the fashion fabric at armholes one at a time. This burrito method is brilliant, and much like the "Yoke Trick" that Pam Howard uses in her Tailored Shirt class. Understitched the lining to the seam allowances for each armhole. Got a little fussy getting under there, but worked out fine because the armholes are large enough. If I had followed all of Blithe's instructions I would have sewn the shoulder seams together. Oh well, next time.
5) With the lining and the dress laid out separately (not tucked into one another), I sewed up the entire side seam from the bottom of the dress up to the bottom of the armhole, and then onto the lining fabric and down to the lining's hem. Per the pattern instructions, I stopped for the pockets on both the dress and the lining.
6) Sewed up the pockets per the pattern instructions, and sewed down the seam allowance around the pocket opening of the lining as a sort of finish and slipped the pockets through the lining's holes.
7) Finish off the lining hem shorter than dress, then hand stitched dress hem to lining. I love hand stitching, especially for hems. They're the part of the garment that needs to have the most fluidity whether it's the bottom of a dress or trousers. Whenever I use a machine to tack down the hem it always looks so stiff and seems to not hang naturally. That, however, could be my machine sewing skills or lack thereof.
8) Shirred at each side through dress and lining for waist shaping.
So here is my dilemma. I'm not sure I like the shirring. I don't know if more shirring would help.
I could shirr all the way around, or just the back with a few more rows. I didn't originally want to shirr all the way around because I don't like the potbelly-paunch you get below it. I already have a stupendous potbelly so I don't need help exaggerating it. A friend has convinced me that an elastic may be a softer way to add some waist shaping. So I may try that. I may add a casing to the inside of the lining and slip in a 1"-1.5" thick elastic in there and see what happens. But it may need something. I don't wear belts, so I don't think that's a solution for me.
I'd love to hear your input on the shirring. You guys a big fan of it? Will keep you posted on what transpires!
I feel a little guilty. I just took a quick look back and realized I haven't really talked about knitting in a long time. It appears as though I've abandoned my first, true love.
The unfortunate reality is that so much of my knitting is work-related, and I don't like spoiling the excitement of new releases. But, occasionally I do get to cast on for a personal project. And the one currently on my needles is Carrie Bostick-Hoge's Uniform Cardigan.
And, this is how far I've gotten:
It was my first trip to Portland and I was completely smitten. Not only did I get a chance to meet Bristol (Ivy) after months of e-mailing, IMs and texts, but I was reunited with my original BT buddy Leila (Raabe) again and got to hang out at the Brooklyn Tweed Warehouse. Glamorous, I tell you!
Bristol was kind enough to set up a lunch so I could meet some Portland-based designers. Carrie, Clara Parkes, Hannah Fettig, Jerusha Robinson and Cecily Glowik were all there. I mean... c'mon. I could barely eat. I felt like a squib at a Ravenclaw's table. I tried staying calm which meant I kept stuffing my face with food so I wouldn't say anything stupid. I hope I succeeded. Now they just think I'm a quiet little piglet. And what made the trip the ultimate dream was that we ran into Pam Allen when we were done. I'm pretty sure i just stood there and smiled, dumbly. Oh, and I may have "run into" (stalked) Clara at the local coffee shop and got to hang with (stare at) her for a bit. But, now I'm just bragging. Back to the Uniform Cardigan.
I mean... seriously? Could she have gotten it any more perfect?
After purchasing the pattern, it took me a good long while to figure out the combination I wanted to make. There are several options:
The length - long or short?
The fit - A-line, straight or shaped waist?
Pockets - inset, patch or none?
Collar - straight or shawl?
Sleeves - straight/fitted or bell?
The pattern is loaded up with photos of all the different combinations and I hemmed and hawed until I settled on something super simple. Long, straight, inset pockets, straight collar, straight fitted sleeves. I figure if I wanna get fancy, I can always do another one. (Yeah, right.)
This Owl yarn is to die for. It's like buttah. The alpaca makes it really smooth and glossy, but the wool gives it the oomph and body. I swatched on a few needles, and liked them all - from 5's through 8's. Luxurious and rustic all at the same time.
Soon, very soon, I'll be announcing some new knitting pattern releases. Until then, I intend on unleashing my senseless torture upon you with more of my adventures in sewing. Stay tuned!
While wandering through the candyland of sewing blogs, I was introduced to "Me Made May". A movement of sewers have come together since 2010 and they dedicate themselves to wearing their handmade clothes all throughout the month of May. Wow!! I wanted to do this! Of course 99% of my handmade clothing is of the wool knit variety, so May isn't really the ideal time for me to be sporting them. So I've been trying to take this opportunity to beef up my sewn handmade garments so I'll be all ready for May '15 and hopefully one day not just May, but all year round.
I came across this blog posting from Miss P for simple kimono tee. After my recent run-in with a set-in sleeve, I was so very attracted to this particular silhouette. I'm also in desperate need for more simple, throw-on and go summer shirts.
Starting with her template of creating a rectangle and working from there, I came up with a slightly altered version. Here is the schematic I ended up using for my final easy tee:
These are the personalizations I made from Miss P's template:
- I raised the back neck so it's only 1" deep. I didn't want the shirt to shift forwards and backwards while I was wearing it.
- I extended the shoulder seam out 1" so that the top of the sleeve is a bit longer.
- And then I followed her example and made it a wee bit of an a-line.
- I also added the curved detail at the side seams, like her photos.
After I drew up my schematic, I took out my pattern paper and made two pattern pieces, one for the front and one for the back and added 1/2" seam allowances all around.
And then I chose a chambray fabric for the top. Like my previous blouse this ended up being a bit stiffer than I had expected, but I'm hoping it'll soften up once I wear and wash it more. I prewashed it, ironed it and got to cutting.
I serged around the necklines, both on the front and the back. I know you're supposed to do that after the shoulder seams are together so you have one continuous circle for the neckband. But I've noticed in some of the japanese sewing books I have that they have you finish each piece and then assemble. I thought I'd give it a try. It's easier to finish off half a circle, than a full round anyway.
I marked my seam allowance in chalk so I had something to follow at the serger.
Serged along that line - making sure the leftmost needle is on the seam line, not the blade.
Using the serged seam as a guide, I folded it over to the wrong side and ironed.
If I may mention now - those blue things are called Thermal Thimbles and they are an absolute must. I was tired of burning my fingers when ironing and I had bought some gloves that hair stylists use when using heating products. But I had no control over the fabric. So when I saw these on Nancy's Notions, I gave them a try and am a total convert. Not only do the protect you fingers, but they give you additional grip so you can more easily manipulate fabric while you're ironing.
Once I ironed them flat, I edgestitched them down for a clean finish.
The downside is now you've got these shoulder seams that aren't tacked down.
So I hand stitched those down for just about an inch or so using a straight hem stitch. I'll have to try the more traditional way next time. But it did make for easy serging along the neck.
I sewed up the side seams, serged those to finish. Serged the armhole openings, turned those under and topstitched about 1/4" in.
And then got to the hem... I didn't really know what to do with that curved bit. I could just hem it all the way around turning it up, but it got a little funky right at the side seam. So I opened up the side seam about an inch up, and serged each bottom hem separately - front and back.
Then I turned those to the wrong side and edgestitched those just like the neck. Since I had ripped open the side seam, I had to close it back up again. I did a few backstitches about 3/4" up to leave a little opening at each side seam. If I had thought that part through a bit more it wouldn't look so odd.
Maybe if I stitch up and around the opening it'll seem more deliberate? *shrug*
And that's it! The serged seam may not be the most elegant, but I love it. Fast, simple and does the job. I happily used it on every seam.
OK, I have to get back to my Breton Tee that has been languishing. I'm going to give that back shoulder/neck binding area one more go, and if I still can't figure it out, I'm putting one big neckband all the way around. And, I think I need to try this Easy Tee in something less austere like a Nani Iro fabric, or in a Liberty print.
When I started making a living from knitting, other interests had to become my hobbies. I needed a refuge from knitting and designing knits. Over the years, I had picked up quilting and spinning along the way. But I had always wanted to become more adept at sewing garments. I've bought almost every Craftsy sewing class that's out, and I began signing up for classes at FIT.
What I forgot is how frustrating it is to learn something new. It is incredibly humbling to have to start from the very beginning. Only now am I at the point where I feel like I know enough that I can ask questions. I know enough now to know I'm doing something wrong. Sure, I've dabbled with things like the Robe Cardigan and some pajama pants. But nothing more complicated than a few straight seams.
So after taking a Sewing I class at FIT (I'm embarrassed to say I didn't have time to finish my final project), I felt armed with enough power to take on a blouse project. Over the years I've amassed quite the fabric stash, one that rivals my yarn stash, and a pile of sewing patterns so extensive I dedicated a filing cabinet drawer to them. (Those Joann sales are phenomenal.)
I poked around my drawer of patterns looking for something appropriate for the summertime and came across this Butterick pattern #5826:
I didn't want anything complicated, so without any buttons or zippers, I deemed this one perfect. I took out some Robert Kaufman Cotton Lawn fabric out and thought it would be perfect. Well, it wasn't. Lesson #1 - Lightweight doesn't mean drapey. The cotton lawn is very lightweight so I thought it would flow nicely. Well, what it doesn't do is flow. It's fairly stiff, even after a few prewashes. And, this blouse needed a lot more drape.
And because of its stiffness, I had to make a last minute adjustment. The center front has "flaps" where you're sewing the seam with the wrong sides together so the seam allowance, essentially, is flapping out. Well, lemme tell ya - if your fabric doesn't flow, that simply looks ridiculous. I wish I had gotten a picture of that but I was so disgusted by the fabric that just stuck out, I immediately ripped out the seam and sewed it together with right sides together and then top stitched the flaps down. It's still awkward because now there's sort of an unwanted thickness running down the front.
Also, gathers don't gather very well with stiff fabric. So they're crunchy-like and sort of stick out awkwardly too.
At least, I like that it's black, and I like that it's short-sleeved and light enough for me to wear in the Summer. But, honestly, it sort of looks like I'm wearing scrubs. Definitely not a good fabric/pattern pairing.
Oh - how could I almost forget: set-in sleeves are the devil's spawn. I had to use a thousand and one pins and I still got a few little tucks here and there on both caps. I know if I keep practicing it will get better, but I wanted to throw my sewing machine out the window during the process. And there are a ton, seriously A TON, of blog postings, videos and other bits of online advice on how to achieve perfectly set-in sleeves. What they don't mention is that you just have to practice and keep at it, and practice some more. Here are links to a few I found somewhat useful:
Crafty's blog: I like the sewing in the alley thing. I just hope to reach a point where I'm not using so many pins.
See Kate Sew: Kate mentions easing in the sleeve cap while it's flat instead of in the round. I still find it incredibly frustrating to sew something that's longer onto something that's shorter with no gathers or tucks either way.
Diana's Sewing Lessons: Diana mentions sewing the line of basting right on the seam line. I didn't try that yet, but is an interesting idea. Her example is of a trench coat, so maybe with thicker fabrics? Will have to try next time.
I also read conflicting advice on whether or not you should have the sleeve on top or the body while sewing. I like having the sleeve on top so I can see the fussiness.
After all that, I'm now taking refuge from my hobby with my work. But before Me Made May is up, I wanted to squeeze one more sewn garment into the mix. Next up: The Easy Tee. (No set-in sleeves!)
I have become slightly obsessed with other's stories. I love hearing about their backgrounds, their successes and failures, and the other lives lived before reaching their current place in history.
When I sat down about a year and a half ago and wrote about my transition from Corporate America to working for myself, I wrote a bit about my background and all the little things I had done and big people I had met along the way that formed my decision and what I decided I wanted to do to make a living. I became curious and wanted to know about everyone's backgrounds at that point. What had brought all of us here to where we stand today?
Of course, I know my friends pretty well and as interesting as all their lives are, I already knew their story. So I started reading biographies - Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, if you count "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". (I do believe this is the true account of what really happened. The movie was horrible though. Don't watch that.) I am still fascinated by our forefathers, but I wanted something closer to home.
I thought to myself, "What's so unlikely?" She seemed like a nice lady who liked to sew and turned it into a business. So, I was intrigued by this unlikeliness and downloaded her book to determine for myself whether or not her life was unlikely. It is indeed unlikely. I don't want to spoil it for you, but her story is inspiring and humbling, like many success stories out there. Not only was she able to make a living from sewing, her craft, but she thrived and built a business so big she pretty much single-handedly supported a town with it. She is a true icon and even though I can watch most of her TV episodes online, I still set my DVR to record them. I like having her in my living room guiding me through the steps of my sewing.
So when a friend invited me along to hear Heather Ross read from her new book "How To Catch A Frog", I tagged along in hopes of grabbing some more insight into someone else's story. You can probably guess at Heather's background by looking at her illustrations and her simple, flowy style of drawing and painting. But, I had no idea how it was merely the tip of the iceberg. What fascinates me more is how different her childhood was from mine. And while our style and craft are completely different, here we are in the same space. That's pretty awesome.
I bought a copy of her book at the Powerhouse Arena in DUMBO/Brooklyn where her talk was held and it felt good to support a local bookstore and a fellow craftsperson. Heather had her friend Maggie preserve Meyer Lemons as a giveaway if you bought a copy of the book, and free charm packs for those in attendance.
So charming, and another wonderful insight into an incredible woman. If you haven't read it, it'll make your love of wool and Clara even more emphatic.
OK - my Breton Tee is on hold at the moment. I got stuck figuring out how to put on the binding along the shoulder and back neck while attaching it to the front. I've emailed Hot Patterns and I'm hoping to hear back from them soon! I need some new tee's for this weather!
In the meantime, I wanted to sew something that would utilize my serger in a different way. So, when Sew Mama Sew posted a project using Sevenberry's Neon fabric, I clicked right on over to Jones & Vandermeer and bought some for myself. Remembering I had purchased Noodlehead's Super Tote Pattern, I figured this was as a good a reason to cut into this fun fabric. I've been needing an easy tote for knitting projects and for the beach. I also remembered that this tote pattern needed some piping along the exterior pocket. And it's super easy to make your own piping with a serger!
A cording foot has a groove along the bottom of the foot so that cording, or piping in this example, can be guided through easily.
I did not have any actual piping at home, so I used some thick cotton yarn I had. I cut the length longer than I needed so it would be easy to feed into the serger. I did the same with the fabric that would be wrapped around it.
I folded the fabric lengthwise and ironed it.
This fold gives me a place to lay in the piping.
I tucked the piping inside the fabric and brought it over to the serger. I started to feed the piping into the groove of the foot.
And as it started to feed through, I kept my finger up against the piping so it stayed snug up against the fold of the fabric.
Once it comes out the other end, you've got some piping!
Whatever is too long, I simply snip off to the length that I need.
I pretty much followed the pattern as-is except:
1) I did not add a zipper. If I plan on using a bag for knitting, I like my yarn to be able to come right out the top without worrying about the zipper teeth.
2) i did not sew in the folds in the gusset. I preferred a simpler silhouette.
3) My inside pockets are not elasticized. I just basted a shorter flat piece onto the lining and sewed a seam up the middle to make it two pockets.
It's definitely not perfect - I struggled a little with the interfacing. I used Craft Fuse 808 from Pellon, and after fusing it, it seemed to come unglued. (I've had it for quite some time now - does the glue go bad?) There was quite a bit of ripping out and resewing when it came to the gusset. I left plenty of little tucks along the curved bottom that shouldn't be there.
But, I absolutely love it. The pattern is clear and easy to understand. And with a great foundation like this pattern, you can very easily make your own modifications. I'm thinking next time I may make a side pocket for a bottle of water, and add a keychain or something inside.
The neon pink and yellow definitely puts a smile on my face!
As I started to clean up to prepare for the Breton Tee, I realized I had quite a bit of the Nani Iro fabric leftover. J&V was kind enough to have donated 5 yards for my Robe Cardigan. With just under a yard left (I had messed up those sleeves that ate up almost another yard), I tried to figure out what I could do with about 34".
A cowl! How creative of me, huh? Huh? Um, not really. But it would be fast to whip up in this gorgeous fabric. And I'll have a coordinating piece for the cardigan! Um, not really. I would never wear those all together and look like Crazy Nani Iro Fangirl... even though I am.
First, I laid out the fabric flat, and cut up exactly in the middle parallel to the selvedges.
Then, I serged the short edges together, right sides together.
Next, I folded the fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together. Lining up the just serged seam together, I serged the long edge together.
I pulled it inside out so the right side was out. If you just wanted a scarf, you could simply finish off the edges and be done. But since the length was a little short to be a scarf, I tried to figure out the best way to close it up.
With the right side out, I folded the piece in half, lining up the long seam. This is hard to explain, but with the long seam lined up, the right sides are together, and you can slip the edge under the serger with the wrong sides facing out. It was almost like inserting a sleeve into am armhole. I serged around and stopped when I couldn't serge anymore, which was about 4" away from the start.
I flipped it around, and all that was left to do was slip stitch the opening closed.
Voila! A knit cowl in about 15 minutes.
There she is.
Crazy Nani Iro Fangirl. I've got my halloween costume all sorted out. Awesome.
It's no secret how much I love knits. And to me, knits have meant hand knits for the past several years, not ready-made knit fabric yardage. When I got into sewing, I started quilting first. It seemed to be much easier than garment sewing. Straight lines, some ironing and the trickiest being the binding. (Of course, advanced quiltmaking techniques make my head hurt, but beginner quilts are fun and easy.) So when I started poking around the garment-sewing world, I started with wovens. I think that goes for pretty much everyone. I guess you could say that a straight-up woven cotton fabric behaves better than a knit. Knit fabric can shift a bit while cutting, especially if you don't have a large enough work area to lay the entire piece flat. And the inherit stretchiness made me assume that I would be warping and twisting it as I went.
Of course, I bought it right away. Although there are no patterns in there, it is exactly what it says: a guide. A very clear, concise and pretty guide. I absolutely love it. With my serger out, I'm feeling empowered to keep taking on more knits.
No, I will not be making a His and Hers. Just hers. (Although if I can jerry rig this thing to make a dog version, there will be a hers and pooch's.)
When this pattern arrived, I was a little taken aback. The size of the pattern envelope is that of regular letter sized paper. And it was thick. Once I took out its contents I realized why - they use regular weight paper for the pattern. YES!! At a price that's comparable if not a bit cheaper, it's a great deal.
I picked out some striped knit fabric from Fabric.com:
I'm still learning about knit fabric and all the differences between jersey, ponte, interlock, etc so we'll see how this one works. It feels just like normal t-shirt fabric so I think it'll be fine. If I make it again, I may try something a little more authentic for the Breton, like this Saint James fabric I found at Harts Fabrics. Can't decide which one though-
This is an interlock knit which is a bit thicker than a jersey knit. It seems less summery, so maybe I'll make one for the Autumn.
And for all you hand knitters out there - interested in crossing over and sewing with knits? It's a completely different experience, but one just as rewarding. One major benefit of sewing knits instead of knitting knits is fixing mistakes. While you can't always compare the two, because sometimes you can really screw up in sewing where there's no turning back, fixing a sewn mistake is usually much easier and faster. I happily whip out my seam ripper, while I usually have to take a deep moment when I realize I have to rip back half a day's work.
Hoping I can squeeze this in before the end of National Serger Month. There is really no reason for the rush, except I like giving myself deadlines. Fingers crossed!
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.
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.
Once the first 45 degree cut is made, you can simply line up the ruler and cut the desired width from there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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:
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.
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?!
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.
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:
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.
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!