Tuesday, February 02, 2016


The problem of having a lot of hobbies is that your time has to be divided among them or you just don't do some of them at all. Sewing (and blogging) have been pushed aside over the last few months while I've spent my time on knitting, weaving and traveling. I'll save the weaving and traveling for another post because today I give you what I call sockapalooza.

Starting with the reddish-purplish socks,

Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber "Socks that Rock"
Pattern: "Lacy Rib Socks" by Wendy Johnson
Needle size: US 1 (2.25 mm)
Cast on: 32 stitches (toe-up)
Comments: These were started years ago and languished among my knitting UFOs. I like the look of the pattern but it uses a lot of K2tog and SSK and it was hard on my hands to knit it. I probably should have gone up a needle size, which would have made knitting them easier and they'd fit better.

Moving clockwise, the next ones are the gray striped,

Yarn: Regia 4-fädig Jacquard Color
Pattern: none - just stockinette stitch
Needle size: US 1.5 (2.5 mm)
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I love, love, love these socks. This is some of my oldest yarn from my stash, probably purchased 10 years ago when I picked up knitting again (I'd knit in college, a long time ago and a little while after that but not very much). I like the self-striping pattern - and I matched the two socks! The best thing about these socks is the fit. I think I've been making my socks too small in the past; these are larger and I like the fit much more.

Continuing clockwise with the socks that look ribbed,

Yarn: Regia 4-fädig Color
Pattern: "Pennants" by Charlene Schurch
Needle size: US 1.5 (2.5 mm)
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I knit these socks mostly on the train to and from Berlin. They were easy to knit and once I found that a combination of Regia yarn, 2.5 mm needles and 64 st cast on made the perfect size sock for me, I quickly made another pair (the gray striped socks above).

The blue socks are next,

Yarn: Netto (local discount supermarket)
Pattern: none, just stockinette stitch
Needle size: don't remember!
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I took really poor notes for these socks that I made for my husband. I know I went up a needle size because the stitch density was not as great as I would have liked. These will probably wear out quickly because of that, but it was inexpensive yarn and I knit them pretty quickly, so I'll just make him another pair.

The last socks I like to call my "Butterscotch socks",

Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Men
Pattern: none, just stockinette stitch
Needle size: US 0 (2 mm)
Cast on: 64 stitches (top-down)
Comments: I definitely should have gone up a needle size or cast on more stitches because they're a bit snug. I didn't use a pattern because I liked the stripes, which I managed to match almost perfectly. Despite the fact this yarn was called "Men", I made these for myself because I didn't see my husband wearing butterscotch socks, though he does like butterscotch.

I always try to have a sock project in work because they make great travel projects. Right now I have one sock nearly finished using yarn I bought in Istanbul two years ago. However, the bigger knitting project right now is a sweater that I'm making for my husband. All I can say is that sweaters take a long time, I'm sick of garter stitch, and I'm anxious to get it finished so I can start something else. And I really hope it fits him. In comparison, socks are a lot easier!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Burda magazines

I was introduced to Burda magazine around 1999. I don't remember how or by whom but it was probably through the online sewing community. I bought one magazine and was hooked, and I've subscribed or purchased it non-stop ever since. While I've sewn many things from the magazine, there have been months...and years...where I haven't sewn a thing. Even if I don't sew a lot from it, I still love the magazine and continue to get it. Plus, the pattern drafting really suits me - must be my German heritage. Right now since I'm living in Germany I buy single issues from the news stand. I could get a subscription, but I like my monthly trip downtown to go buy it and honestly the subscription wouldn't save me much (and here in Germany subscriptions automatically renew and you have to give notice in advance to cancel them).

16 years of magazines add up and I don't have infinite space for them. Lack of space is the reason I didn't bring all the magazines with me when we moved to Germany. I brought only a few back issues but I couldn't help but think about the treasures I was missing in the issues I left behind. I'm back at our house for a few weeks and wanted to find some way to ship my Burdas to Germany. But again, there's the storage issue...not to mention the cost of postage and a limit on my checked baggage weight! So I decided to bring the last few years but only the patterns and the instructions - I managed to shoehorn 4+ year's worth into a large size flat-rate USPS box. The box weighs 16 1/2 pounds - wow! I took pictures of the "at a glance" pages where they show the garments on a "ghost dress form", but now I've gone back and decided to photograph almost every page of the magazine. Hooray for the cell phone camera and automatic upload to my OneDrive. Although it's taking longer than I thought and wanted to spend on this, I know that when I'm deciding to use a pattern, I really like to see it on a person so I think it's worth it. The line drawings show me detail I might miss, the dress form pictures provide a good view of the garment, but the model pictures show how it is worn.

I don't know yet what I'll do with year's 1999-2007, but judging from what I'm seeing as I photograph the looks from 2008-2012, I already have plenty of patterns to play with and I'm excited to get back to my sewing room. When I get time, I'll put the photographs into my OneNote pattern library so I can browse and search the issues (text in pictures added to OneNote can be made searchable - bonus!). And the other side effect of this little endeavor is that seeing the wide range of patterns in Burda, I really don't need all the envelope patterns I have bought in the past. That's another problem - I left most of my patterns behind and brought only a handful. I collected a bunch more to take back but there's that space issue. I can't bring all of them. I need to leave room in my baggage for fabric and yarn. :-)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Finish or Frog?

I was looking through my UFOs today to see what projects I should finish before I start something new, and I came across one finished sock and the yarn for the other one. So the question was: finish the second sock or frog the first one? It turns out there was a reason there was only one sock and the project was abandoned to languish among the UFOs.

I tried the sock on and there were so many things wrong with it, I questioned why on earth did I even finish the first sock?
  1. This was a toe-up sock and I chose poorly for the cast-off at the cuff. It wasn't stretchy so it was tight around my calf.
  2. The foot was a bit too long and a little too narrow.
  3. The heel flap didn't come up high enough so part of the stitch pattern was over my heel. Since the stitch pattern was a lacy one, I have no doubt that the heel would wear out really quickly.
I thought about ripping it back to the foot and reknitting it but this didn't seem like a good solution either, mostly because I took really, really poor notes on this project. Stuffed in with the finished sock and the rest of the yarn, was a photocopy of some pages out of Sensational Knitted Socks. But there weren't any notes on the paper and I didn't even identify the stitch pattern I used (there were 4 or 5 stitch patterns on the photocopy). I keep a little black Moleskine book of my knitting projects and flipping through it I did locate what I think is this sock. But all it says is "Crosshatch Lace", Lorna's Laces, and 60 stitches. Oh and the date I started it: 12/26/2010. Yes, almost 5 years ago. I did write down the stitch pattern chart, but I don't know what needle size I used, what I did for the heel or anything else that would help me make a second sock to match the first. The project isn't on my Ravelry page and the yarn wasn't even recorded in my stash.

So, I frogged it.

It's always painful to rip out a project. I try not to look at it as the yarn pulls through all the stitches...every single stitch that I made by hand. I just get it done quickly so that once it's ripped out, it's over and done with and there's no going back. I wound the yarn onto my swift and misted it with water to get the kinks out.

The funny thing is that I have absolutely no memory of knitting the sock. None. It's as if someone else's knitting project ended up in my stash.

So lesson learned: keep better notes! Oh and don't finish knitting a sock that is clearly not working out. At least I didn't have a second sock started. But sadly this isn't the first time I've kept poor notes...or kept knitting despite signs that it would not fit the way I want. Clearly these lessons are not being learned!

Monday, October 05, 2015

Summer top #3...and almost a 4th.

The third summer top is not my favorite and the fourth, well that review follows this one.

This top is from Burdastyle 7/2012. It's number #117

It doesn't look too bad here.
But it seems much too big around the torso.

Here's my review:

Pattern description:
Short sleeved blouse with darted, raglan sleeves and a front keyhole. The neckline is gathered and secured by bias tape that ties in a bow at the front. European sizes 34-42.

Pattern notes:
I cut a size 42. I increased the side seams starting at the waist and increasing to about 1/2 inch at the bottom edge. Knowing that Burda tends toward low cut in the front, I raised the front slit by 1 inch.

Construction notes:
I used the sewing machine for all construction. Except for the dart on the sleeve, I sewed French seams throughout to create finished seam allowance edges because the fabric is a bit translucent and I didn't want to serge the edges and have them show, though I did use the serger to finish the raw edges of the sleeve dart.

The pattern uses lots of bias tape to finish the sleeve edges, the neck edge, and to act as a tie for the front. I first tried packaged bias and that was far too stiff, almost like paper. I thought maybe the bias tape had sizing in it, so I rinsed a sample, which softened up a little bit, but the bias binding was still too stiff. I could have made bias strips out of my fabric, but I wanted a bit of contrast, so I looked for some lightweight cotton. I didn't have any in my stash and the best I could come up with at a local fabric store was some off-white linen. I cut 3 cm wide bias out of the linen and that worked ok, still a bit stiff though. Wish I'd held out for some cotton instead. The fabric store had some pre-made bias in a color that would have worked but the fabric was silky - maybe polyester or rayon. I wish now I'd bought some of that and experimented with it. At the time I had "off-white" stuck in my head and they didn't have any of the pre-made bias in off-white.

The instructions say to use 1/2 inch, pre-folded bias. But when I used the bias marked on the package as 1/2 inch, (double folded) the result is a 1/2 inch finished binding - much too wide. In fact the instructions say that the finished binding should measure 1/4 inch (6 mm). So you really want to buy the packages that say 1/4 inch. Actually you don't. That packaged stuff is too stiff for use in garments!

The neckline instructions call for gathering the front neck, shoulder and back neck edges, each to a certain width. I did this, tried it on, and determined that the resulting neck line was too high for my liking. So I let the gathering out a bit (about 3-4 inches more than called for) and then attached the bias binding to this new dimension.

Overall impressions:
  • Despite cutting a 42, which is on the small side based on my measurements, it was a bit too large, or too blousy for my taste.
  • The off white trim on the blouse now reminds me of some smocks that my chiropractor had his patients wear (and that had been made by his receptionist). Not what I was looking for.
  • Not sure I will wear this blouse. :-( 
Possible new techniques for a beginner:
  • Using bias binding to finish a raw edge.
Lessons learned:
  • When in doubt, make samples. Making a sample using the packaged bias tape showed me that I wouldn't like it, even after washing it.
  • I should have gone ahead and spent the few dollars for the premade bias from the fabric store if only just to try it
  • I probably should have made a muslin first because the blouse is big, but looking at the picture in Burda, it's supposed to be blousy.
  • I'm happy with the alterations I made to increase the hip circumference.
Recommend it?
If you're looking for a voluminous, raglan sleeve top, with bias trim, then this is perfect, but I recommend checking the dimensions first. Also, make your own bias binding!

And now for the last, summer top. I didn't finish the last top because it's not fitting right in the sleeves and there looks like a problem with the back neck.

This top is from Burdastyle 7/2013. It's #103.
Almost done, but not right.

The back armhole is much larger than the front.
My review thus far:

Pattern description: Sleeveless top with v-neck and twisted shoulder straps. The top is intended to be cut out of a double layer of fabric so that the wrong side of the fabric is not visible.

Pattern notes:
Based on my measurements, I cut a size 44. I increased the hip circumference by increasing the side seams starting at the waist and increasing to 5/8 inches at the bottom edge. I eliminated the front and back seams and traced one front pattern piece and one back pattern piece.

Construction notes:
I used the sewing machine for all construction. I sewed French seams throughout because I didn't want any raw edges nor did I want serged edges to show.

Because I sewed French seams, it was a bit of a puzzle at times. My fabric did not have a wrong or right side but it was very thin, so although I could have done one layer, it would have been too transparent. Sewing the French seams, I had to keep track and remember: "wrong sides together first, then right sides". Further complicating matters was that I chose a plaid fabric.

When I went to sew the shoulder seams I found two problems. First, my front shoulder strap width ended up wider than the back where it would attach. Then, when I tried it on, it did not fit.

Progress thus far...
I carefully matched the plaid and was feeling good about this top until I tried it on before sewing the shoulder seams. If only I'd made a muslin, or at least basted it together first to see how it would fit. The top is too big at the armholes and maybe too low in the front too. There might also be an issue with the back neck, as it looks too high on my dress form. I think I was so distracted by the challenge of matching the plaid that I didn't even think to baste it first, let alone make a muslin. It might work as-is if I wear a tank underneath, but I don't want to wear it that way, so I'll need to make some adjustments. But now it is fall so I am leaving this as a UFO until the spring when I can approach it in a better mood about it and can assess the alterations I need to make. I do think it will be a cute top when finished and I look forward to wearing it next summer.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Summer top #2

Here is the second summer top I made - Simplicity 1884.

It looks warm out there, but it was actually a bit brisk. Fall is definitely in the air!


Pattern notes:
I cut a size L. I increased the side seams starting from the waist and increasing to 5/8 inches at the bottom edge. I also added 2 inches to the bottom.
Fabric used:
Lightweight cotton, purchased in Germany.
Construction notes:
I used my sewing machine for all seams and hems, and I used a 3-thread overlock stitch on my serger to finish the raw edges of the side seams. The arm holes are finished with a bias binding facing. I cut bias strips from the fabric instead of using packaged bias tape.
The top yoke consists of two pieces: the under piece is stitched to the front and back and then the top piece is placed over it, wrong sides together and with the edges of the top piece folded under. The top piece is then stitched onto the under piece, resulting in visible stitching along the lower edge of the yoke. If I were to do this in a silk or rayon, I might hand stitch, but for a casual blouse this stitching is fine - and there's also stitching that shows along the armholes due to the bias binding facing.
Overall impressions:
I wanted a loose, sleeveless top for hot summer days and this is what I got. Maybe a bit too voluminous. I used a lightweight cotton fabric but I think this top would drape better in a rayon, polyester or silk.
These might be new techniques for a beginner:
  • Under stitching a facing
  • Bias binding facings
Lessons learned:
  • Bias bound facings are nice but don't use packaged bias tape. Make your own out of the fabric or use a different color for a bit of contrast.
  • Under stitching is a pain but worth it. I noticed some cheap, fast fashion jackets that had facings that weren't under stitched and they look horrible, partly because the jacket material was an icky poly that wouldn't press but also because the facings weren't under stitched.
  • Happy with the alterations I made.
Overall impressions:
I wanted a loose, sleeveless top for hot summer days and this is what I got. Maybe a bit too voluminous. I used a lightweight cotton fabric but I think this top would drape better in a rayon, polyester or silk.
Recommend it?
Yes. I think the pattern is more suited to a flowy fabric (rayon, silk, polyester), but lightweight cotton works for a casual look.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A summer top. Yes, I know it's October.

Even thought it's fall, I pushed forward and finished my summer tops, well three out of four. The fourth one was not fitting right so I'm leaving those alterations until next spring because I'm frustrated with it and well, it's fall.

So here is my first top and review: Simplicity 1668. This is my favorite of the three I finished. I could wear it under a jacket, so it's not just a summer top.

Pattern notes:
Having read other reviews that this top was generous, I cut a size M with a L hip (increased front and back side seams starting at the waist and increasing out to 1 inch at bottom edge)

Fabric used:
Rayon, purchased in Germany

Construction notes:
I used the sewing machine for all construction. I used a 3-thread overlock stitch on my serger to finish the side seams, edge of neck facings and also the bottom edge before hemming. The arm holes are finished with a bias binding facing - I cut bias strips from my fabric instead of using packaged bias binding.

The front neck was a bit of a trouble. The first time I sewed it, it came out crooked, which I noticed when I went to attach the neck facing. Somehow one side was longer than the other. I actually wasn't surprised because there is potential for adding error when piecing the front shoulders, or my fabric could have shifted during cutting, or the 90-degree angled front neck edge may have not been sew correctly. I unpicked the seams and found that I'd sewn the front neck piece on a bit crooked so I fixed that and fudged the rest of the smaller differences. Problem solved - or at least it's not so obvious now.

The instructions for applying the bias tape to the armholes are brief and weren't enough for me. Actually I had an added problem because I was sewing this pattern as a Simplicity reprint in the German magazine "Meine Nähmode", so my instructions were translated into German (thankfully they kept the illustrations!). But that aside, I've actually never applied bias binding as a facing. I've used bias binding a lot as an edge finish in knits but in woven garments the neck is often finished with a facing piece and I haven't sewn sleeveless garments before, so this was a new technique for me. Some of my sewing books showed better instructions but ultimately a YouTube video made it all make sense. It turns out that it's very easy to do and makes a nice finish.

These might be new concepts for a beginner:
  • Under stitching a facing
  • Bias binding facings
  • Sewing a 90-degree angle (just requires careful stitching and clipping)
Lessons learned:
  • Check how things line up before you get too far along in the sewing.
  • YouTube is a great source for learning sewing techniques
  • Bias binding as facings are really nice, but make your own bias binding - the packaged stuff is just too stiff.
  • I'm happy with the alterations I made.
Overall impressions:
I really like this top. There was a lot of "fiddly" construction but it was worth it in the end for the nice details: gathered detail on the front shoulders, gather bit at the neck front and the vent in the back. The fit is good and I think I nailed the fabric - a flowy rayon. Funny too that this was a remnant piece that I picked up for less than $7.

Recommend it?
Yes, but use a flowy fabric and you might want to go down a size.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

My Ella

April 1997 - August 27, 2015

I have lost my sewing buddy. She was a great companion and I shall miss her terribly. Ella was 18 years old and her health had been declining over the last year or so. On Monday evening she had a seizure, followed by another a few hours later, and then another... The vet prescribed some medicine and gave her fluids but her seizures continued and it became obvious that the only humane thing to do was to help her go over the Rainbow Bridge, as they say. She is no doubt happy to see her old friend, Sammy, and maybe Gris-Gris too, though she didn't care for him all that much.

Ella as pattern weight

Photo-bombing the picture of the sock monkey I made

Keeping my weaving warm for me
Holding down a run-away ball of yarn

You were loved.