Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday socks...

Saturday morning - my favorite day and favorite time. Even though I'm retired, and my days are pretty unstructured, Saturday still feels special.

I've been straightening up my space on the sofa (the mini loft) and cleaning up my file folders on my PC. They both get out of hand so quickly!

I discovered that I never followed up on my references to my sock adventures. So - I better do it now, before it's so hot outside that no one will believe that I'm knitting socks :-)

I never thought I'd be able to knit a sock - those little sticks double-point needles (DPN's) are pretty intimidating to someone who knits with needle sizes 6,7, and 8 most of the time, on straight or circular needles. And I've always avoided DPN's anyway, except to finish the top of a hat or knit a thumb on a mitten, because I felt like I had 5 thumbs.

I tried three different methods for knitting my socks - magic loop, two circular needles, and DPNs. And I found that I couldn't stand the loops and fussiness of the first two approaches. I also had trouble controlling the 'laddering' that they encourage.

What a surprise to find that the small size DPN's are easy to use! I've been using sizes 2 and 3 in Clover bamboo needles, and I love that the yarn stays in place on these things. I'm in control! my favorite state.  Guess I'm a DPN person after all.

On to  my FO's! Here are two socks, both knitted toe-up with Fleegle heels. Sorry, they don't have mates, so technically they're UFO's.

This is Paton Kroy sock yarn, a mix of wool and nylon. I really like the self-striping yarns, as on the left one, because I feel like I'm making progress when I'm working 6" of plain old stockenette stitch... the sock on the right was pretty boring by comparison.

No point in telling me I could do a pattern to stave off the boredom of the yarn. I just don't enjoy doing it - how can my mind and eyes multi-task if I'm counting stitches and juggling stitch holders.

More socks, and these are my favorites, also in a Paton Kroy yarn:

Toe-up tube socks! No heel and they work up so quickly with the striping. They also fit well. Another plus: I don't need a bunch of measurements to knit a sock for someone else.

Heels and toes - everyone has a preferred method. When I started my sock journey, I taught myself to do both toe-up and top-down socks. And I found everything I needed in online tutorials.  Heels - gusset, short-row, slip-stitched, Fleegle. And toes - the Kitchner stitch for closing a top-down sock and a provisional cast-on for a toe-up sock.

I am a very thorough person, even when it's socks.

I settled on toe-up socks, because I really like the clean look and nice fit of the toe box. I use the provisional cast-on, which is easy-peasy after a little practice.

And I love the fit and appearance of a Fleegle heel - no gaps!

I'll admit that the striped tube socks are the only pair I've finished. I knitted about 10 others, in a variety of yarns and needle sizes, while learning and getting comfortable - but they are all singletons.

Parting shot: I wish I could get one of Ms. Squirrel's two new juvies. She's been bringing them over for water and black sunflower seeds. They're very young and not very coordinated yet, likely between 8 and 10 weeks old - so they leap and hang off the branches of the guava tree like little monkeys or flying bats. She's just tired!

Hoping everyone has a nice weekend - Coco

Monday, March 21, 2016

Managing Mandy the Boat Tee...

Managing Mandy... I ran across some pics of the Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee on Flickr a few days ago and got curious. It's a free download and apparently enjoys some popularity. It also looks very similar to the Grainline Studio Hemlock Tee (also gratis), so I decided to give it a try.

I've only purchased one Tessuti pattern, the Gabby dress, expensive at $10 for the PDF version, and I was surprised by the hand-drawn pattern and poor drafting. I basically redrafted the whole thing and decided not to buy any more of their patterns.

But the Mandy is free - no pain no gain. A look at the line art:

I'm not picking on them, but it's invited. The pattern says the bust width is 58" (148 cm) - after flat measuring 3 times, I come up with 52" at the bustline, drawn through a bust apex at 10.5" down from the shoulder. At the armhole the width is 54". Now, that's a big difference.

My first version was a wipe-out. The boatneck was uncomfortably high, the back and front side edges didn't align well, and I could barely get the sleeve on my arms. But that's the purpose of a muslin.

A couple more pics of my remake of the Mandy, then on to sewing notes:

Fabric - poly/cotton/lycra from Fabric Mart

Aaack - what a smug look! not intended...

Sewing notes - This is a one-size-fits-all pattern, so I did a little fitting before I drafted my pattern:
  •  Decreased the bustline width to 46":
  1. Removed 1" at CB and CF (1/2" at the fold line).
  2. Removed an additional 4" (1" each side of CF and CB, midway down the shoulder).
  •   Added 6" to the body length, back and front, using the lengthen/shorten line on the pattern.
  •  Tweaked the sleeve:
  1. Removed 2" from the length of the sleeve. 
  2. Added 1/4" to each sleeve side seam. The resulting bicep width is 13".
  3. On the body, lowered the armscye by 1/4" to fit the new sleeve.

For my second/current version, I redrew the neckline using the scoop neck on the Hemlock tee. Much more comfortable.

I'm super happy with my Mandy!

Right after taking these pics, I wore this outfit to an appointment, styled with a favorite Ora Delphine hobo bag - I'm so prissy...

Bye for now! Coco

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Grainline Studio Driftless Cardigan - new pattern!


 I love trying a new pattern from Grainline Studio. Jen is simply one of my favorite designers - her drafting is so professional, and her designs are trendy and fresh. Lots to like...

She released the Driftless Cardigan just a few days ago. I got it within 5 minutes of the announcement hitting my email inbox. Check this out!

From the pattern description:
"The Driftless Cardigan drapes beautifully and has a casual, yet polished appearance. It’s the perfect cardigan for cooler temperatures throughout the year...This pattern features pockets and drop shoulders. View A is straight across the bottom, while View B has a split hem and is longer in the back.

Techniques involved include sewing with knits, straight seams, attaching binding, thread chains, inserting buttons and buttonholes."
I decided to go with View B - buttons on sweaters don't interest me, and I was intrigued by that back hem band. How fun is this!

The pattern has 10 pieces for either view. That's a lot of pieces for a cardigan sweater - but they make for such nice details. Here's a look at the inside front - those great pocket bags (I had to lighten the pic a lot, purple is almost a bad as black for showing details):

And here's the nifty back - the two main pieces echo the front piecing, which I think adds a lot of interest to what would otherwise be a sea of fabric:

This pattern is rated at Advanced Beginner level, so I sort of thought about that as I was making the cardigan. I think it's valid - the most challenging construction is probably attachment of the neckline and hem bands. Not because it's hard, but because it needs to be done carefully so that the band width is uniform and the finishing is nice. 
The pockets might look complicated, but they're actually very easy to sew. I have to credit the pattern drafting on this point - everything fits so well, and it's very gratifying to see the pockets come out so well, particularly in a knit.

As one might expect, the instruction booklet is very well written and illustrated. So the 'hard' parts have lots of guidance for anyone trying some new sewing skills. 

A few sewing notes - well, a lot, but I hope they're helpful:
  • As noted, I sewed View B, and cut the size 10. Love the fit!
  • Being brave, and because this was intended to be a muslin, I used a poly/lycra sweater knit from Fabric Mart by way of France. It's closely knit and has a very small horizontal rib - which meant I had to be super careful in laying out and cutting the pattern so those ribs wouldn't wander around. Aaacck.
  • My cutting regret: I failed to note that the pattern comes with 1/4" seam allowance. I prefer to sew knits with 1/2" allowances, and I usually draft my tissue with the added width. Next time... And here's a tip - it's very dangerous to cut notches into 1/4" allowances! I marked all of them with a small gold safety pin instead. Worked great.
  • This sweater knit is kind of squishy and thick, so I spent a good bit of time finding the best settings for my machines (the seams are sewn first with a lightning stitch, and the seam allowances are serged together). I had to release the foot pressure on my sewing machine, something I haven't had to do before - but what a difference it made. And I didn't use my walking foot. Another surprise, but it sewed better with a regular foot.
  •  Because of the weight and ample stretch in my fabric, I staystitched the neckline and front edges about 1/2" in from the edge, and removed the staystitching once the bands were in place. 
  • IMHO, the sleeve is very narrow - I don't think I would be comfortable with a shirt sleeve under it. And the cuff is fitted as well - mine is only 7.5" around. Redrafting would be easy - just add width to each side of the bottom edge and redraw the side seams. The cuff would also need a little more width. E.g., if an inch is added to the bottom width, one might increase the width of the cuff by 1/2" - 3/4" to accomodate it.

  • Finishing the front band: I serged the inside edge, and secured it by stitching in the ditch on the outside, along the band/front seam. That open-toe foot is great for stitch-in-the-ditch because you can see where you're going.

  •  I didn't use thread chains to secure the pocket bags - I just didn't need them. If you want to try them, Jen has a tutorial on her blog site for making them.
  • Last note - I lengthened the front and back by 1", as I'm a little taller than the fit models for most patterns.

I really like this pattern - it would be great in a mid-weight jersey or light sweatshirt fabric as well.

Parting shot: I just realized this morning that March is National Craft Month, which excuses the mess on my sofa...there's barely room enough for me :-)

Bye for now - Coco

Thursday, March 10, 2016

McCalls 5974 - aka the perfect knit dress

It's pretty cheeky - inspirational and aspirational - to name a pattern 'the perfect knit dress' - but McCalls did it. And this pattern was  #1 in the 2010 Best Patterns selections on Pattern Review, where it has an amazing 95 positive reviews. hmmm.

I looked at it a lot when reviews popped up, but I always thought it looked like many other dress patterns, including some I already have. So I passed. Then I noticed it's out of print, and I starting thinking it might become hard to find. My goodness, I might need it! and I finally purchased it on Etsy last fall.

So - why so popular? Well, it includes a separate instruction set that is entirely devoted to fit and alteration of every aspect of the dress. Written by Palmer/Pletsch, it's like a mini-'Fit for Real People' and is mentioned in many of the pattern reviews.

IMHO, the design itself must be really pretty challenging for a lot of body types. It's almost a fitted silhouette, with a slim bodice, back and sleeve. The front midriff band hugs the waist and supports small open pleats that extend up into the bodice and down into the skirt. And the skirt is fairly close to the body at hip level, except for those front pleats.

Moving on from those thoughts, my dress! And I like the design much more than I anticipated - it's feminine and pretty.

I used a Maggy London ITY knit from Fabric Mart. I love sewing with ITY, it just feels so good. It also makes the skirt of this dress very swishy, which is always fun.

Sewing notes:

  • Sewed size 12 in View C, total 4 yards at 60" wide (the extra yardage is for the added length).
  • Left off the midriff tie. I did cut it out, sew it, and baste it on, but found it a little fussy.
  • Used black ITY to bind the neckline.
  • Left off the zipper - as noted by many sewists, it's just not needed with either neckline.
  • Lengthened it to a maxi by adding 15" to the back and front skirt. There aren't any lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern, so I just added the length at the hem and redrew the side seams.
  • Cut the 3/4 length sleeve, but shortened it by 6" to make it elbow length. The longer sleeve felt very formal, and with this skirt length, kind of dowdy.
  • I did change one small thing: the sleeve head. It's 'high' and full.  I like a smooth sleeve head on knit dresses, so I did a little trimming and was able to ease it into the armscye with no gathers. Just a little tweak but it made a big difference.

OK, is this a perfect knit dress? Well, it fit me straight out of the envelope with no changes (I'm 5'7", bust 35", waist 30.5", hips 41.5") so I have to admit it's pretty nice.

Ciao! Coco

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Wiksten tank top - in knits

Hi! And where have the last 4 weeks gone...I think this is the longest I've gone with writing about something. Honestly, I was a little off-put by having so many wadders in January, and time slipped by with little sewing.

But I generally spring back. I've been busy.

First, I assessed my wardrobe and now have a lot fewer things in the closet. After 4 years of sewing and blogging nonstop, I had way too many things in there. I was also tired of them! And having so many clothes was bugging me - I had a nagging feeling of guilt because most them were never worn after I blogged them.

Easy to correct - donation time. They'll be going to a women's closet organization in Ft. Myers that helps women in distress or in need of appropriate clothing for interviews, court appearances, etc.

Second, I turned to a TNT top that I just love, the Wiksten woven tank top. I had four pieces of cotton/rayon jersey from Girl Charlee's big Black Friday sale - about 2 yards of each, purchased for under $2.50/yard. It was time to revamp my Wiksten pattern for use with knits.

Last year I redrafted my Wiksten pattern to be a little longer (added 2") and a bit 'swingier' (moved the bottom side seams out 1").  This time around I just added the sleeve from a knit dress, Vogue 1315, cut to elbow length.

Worked great! This top is incredibly comfortable, and it's tunic length, which makes it perfect for jeans and leggings. Even better - I slept in the first one I made, and it was wrinkle-free in the morning. Wow. Nice fabric.

Other sewing notes:

  • As with every single garment I sew, I finished the shoulders with a flat-fell seam. This prevents any irritation from the seam and stabilizes it without bias tape or elastane.

  • This top could be sewn with a serger alone, but I always worry that a serged seam will stretch open a little bit with wear, exposing the stitches. So I sew my knit seams with a lightening stitch, and then serge/cut the seam allowances together.
  • And I cut my neckline banding across the width (across the stretch) of the fabric, rather than on the bias. I keep a basket of knit and woven scraps, pre-cut into binding widths. They come in so handy - I had a suitable color for each of these stripes.
I will say that the fabric has funky selvedges. But I cut them off before laying out the pattern, and the stripe matching was really easy.

Hope everyone is enjoying a nice weekend! Bye for now, Coco