Sunday, April 12, 2015

TNT - it's dynamite!

Actually, TNT isn't dynamite, but in the sewing community it does stand for "tried 'n true" for a pattern that you use over and over because it works for you. I have such a pattern for a long sleeve t-shirt. I made it the first time last year as a muslin for the dress version of this pattern. The pattern is from Sabrina Woman, a German sewing pattern magazine. There's nothing special about the pattern that distinguishes it from the many, many other t-shirt patterns out there, but it works for me...after grading from a smaller size shoulders and upper chest to a larger waist and hips, which is a usual alteration for me.

Here is my latest rendition:

The fabric is of unknown origin. It's a polyester knit but I can't remember where I got it. The polyester is the type that is slippery and  "cool to the touch", if you know what I mean, so I suspect it will not be very breathable. That's why this is a long sleeve shirt and not something to wear in the summer. The real downside to this fabric is that a snag is very damaging to the fabric (note to self - do not pick up a cat while wearing it). When I laid out the fabric I found an area about 4 inches in diameter that was all puckered and pilled. It was right in the middle of where I almost cut out one of the pieces, but fortunately I had plenty of fabric and could work around the damaged area. I did wonder if one of my cats "attacked" it but they're pretty good about leaving my fabric and other fiber alone, other than using it as a bed.

The good thing about a TNT pattern is that you can get comfortable enough with it that you can make little changes and still enjoy the bones of the pattern that make it a TNT. For this shirt I made the neckline lower and bound the neck edge instead of just turning it under. For the binding, I cut a 3.5 cm wide strip in the crosswise direction, not on the bias because the knit has a lot of stretch. The length of the strip is 85% of the neckline measurement. I seam the strip at the short end and then pin it right sides together along the neck edge, so that it's roughly 1:1 along the back neck but then evenly distributed along the front neck. I then fold the strip over the seam allowance (I use 1 cm seam allowances throughout) and stitch it down with a coverstitch, although you could use a twin needle on the sewing machine too.

On this version, I attempted to do a FBA (full bust adjustment) but it didn't quite work out for me. I'd never done one before, so I researched it online. Most tutorials I found are for the traditional FBA, where you modify the front pattern piece by adding darts. That method is necessary for woven fabric, but with knits you can add some extra fullness without darts, using a method called vertical FBA. To do a vertical FBA, you basically mark on the front pattern piece where your bust apex is and then draw a horizontal line across the entire pattern. Cut the pattern along the line and separate it evenly across by the amount you want to add. The extra would then be eased in when sewing the side seams - only in the area where you added to the pattern. However, the extra I added seemed to have gotten lost somewhere because my side seams matched too well without much, if any, excess fabric to ease. I cut out most knits single-sided, but perhaps I had stretched the fabric out a bit when I laid it out or its slipperiness caused the fabric to shift. I'll try again with the next one and perhaps add some notches to ensure that I match the side seams accurately.

A non-sewer might question why I'd spend time making a t-shirt, just like a non-knitter wonders about sock knitting. The fit, for one. I hate long sleeve t-shirts where the sleeves are a bit too short or the bottom hem doesn't come down low enough. When I make my t-shirts, not only are those problems taken care of, but I can also make sure that the shoulder seams hit at the right place and the shirt isn't too tight across my waist and hips, and once I get the FBA correct it will fit properly across my bust too. With a (nearly perfect) TNT pattern, I can then focus on the second reason I sew the fabric. I'm more often drawn to a fabric in search of a pattern rather than the other way around. Now the fabrics in my stash that make me think "t-shirt" have a better chance of actually being made...and worn.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Finally sewing again

I've had longer breaks from sewing but this time even though I thought about sewing I just couldn't get myself moving to do it. I thought about sewing when I'd buy Burda or Ottobre or Sabrina or Meine Nähmode or Fait Main or any other addiction-fueled pattern magazine purchase. I thought about sewing something right before the Stoffmarkt (fabric market) came to town because I felt wrong buying more fabric when I haven't used any of the fabric I bought at the last two markets. As the day of the market drew near I got as far as pulling some of that fabric out to make a shirt but then I got bogged down searching for the right pattern. The day of the fabric market arrived and I walked down there, toting my wheeled grocery cart with me, prepared to buy some fabric even thought I hadn't sewn anything. It was SO crowded, thanks in part to the car show and Easter market going on near by, but oh my goodness I was impressed by the numbers of women (and some men) buying fabric. I almost left because it was so crowded. Almost. But I didn't leave and instead went to some less crowded booths and the shopping commenced.

Clockwise from bottom left the fabrics are: a gray and white plush cotton knit that will make a snuggly pullover, a blue sweatshirt knit, black and white jersey for a top or dress, a crinkly textured olive green cotton for which I envision a loose top, dark green and traditional blue denims, half meter cuts of blue and white striped and white cotton knit for a top, half meter cuts of brown and beige cotton knit with a coordinating striped ribbing for a top, and a black and white cotton with an interesting pucker texture for a short sleeved blouse. On the right are notions: two packages of interfacing, snaps, and zippers.

I know...that's a lot of fabric. Add it to some travel fabric I picked up in Madrid in early March:

Blue and white rayon for a short sleeved blouse and a colorful knit for a top or dress.

Whew! I better get my sewing mojo back 100%!

Alas, my knitting and spinning fiber addiction was also fed thanks to the Easter market downtown:

I couldn't pass up the angora fiber for 4 Euros (package says 100 grams but I weighed it and it's more like 135 grams). The lovely alpaca yarn also jumped into my hands. Even though I wasn't sewing, I was knitting. I'm just about finished knitting a sweater and will reveal it when it's done. Hopefully that won't be next fall.

So back to the top I sewed. It's an Ottobre pattern from spring 2013 that is super easy with just two pieces and binding strips for the neck and arm hems. The shape has a bit of an exaggerated curve over the hips and it's a bit long so that the bottom hem sits on your high hip and the extra fabric pools at the waist.

I wanted to make a top out of t-shirt knit and liked the look of this pattern but decided to make it first out a flowing rayon knit I had on hand. I'm glad I did because the rayon fabric is much more suited to this pattern.

Since this was my first Ottobre pattern I've ever made, I traced off the pattern exactly according to my measurements. I cut between a 44-46 for the bust and graded out to a 48 in the hips. I have to be honest and tell you I didn't like those numbers because they're bigger than I wear in German sizing (I have no idea about Finnish sizes), but then I'm used to that with U.S. pattern companies. We all know that a size 12 in those patterns is much smaller than a size 12 in manufactured clothing. I wear a 42/44 in German sizing and that's actually what I end up using for Burda patterns, so I was tempted to do the same with Ottobre. With Burda, when I go with my measurements the results are too large. Ottobre seems to be accurate to their measurements, at least for me anyway.

I like the way the top fits and may make more, but now I need to find a different pattern for the t-shirt knit. I think it will be another Ottobre pattern because I really like the look of their clothes and the fact they show them on models with bodies closer to the average size woman. They also include the size and height of the model too.

Happy Easter!

I saw this book in a downtown craft supply shop and the urge to crochet hit me.

Yes, it's in German. I figured since I was learning to crochet I might as well learn in German, and it's been a fun way to learn the German words for animals too.

Monday, January 05, 2015

It's 2015!

It's time again to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next. I think sometimes I feel that day to day I don't accomplish much but when I look back over my blog, I see that I really did do a lot.

Looking backward, my sewing machine got some use this past year. Hooray! I made some clothes for me as well as things for friends and relatives. My goal for this coming year is to do more sewing. I want to get past the anxiety I have about the number of projects I want to do and JUST SEW! I've been using OneNote not just as a database for all my patterns, but also as a way to capture my project ideas. In the past I had so many ideas floating around my head that I found it hard to pick the next project. With OneNote I can "clip" the pattern line drawing or picture, add a description of the fabric I plan to use (I could photograph it but that takes too long) and include notes about design ideas, notions, or other related information. I'm a list-oriented person, so having a "to do" list of sewing projects helps keep me more focused.

An example of my OneNote "Project Queue" page in my Pattern Library

The other piece of equipment that saw some use, albeit late in the year, was my loom...well one of them at least. My goal for this year is to get the sample OFF of my 4-shaft loom and put a real project on it. If I enjoyed weaving on my rigid heddle, I'm sure weaving on the 4-shaft will be even more fun. And if I do a lot of weaving on it, maybe this loom will be in my future:

Louet David

One item that did not see any use last year was my spinning wheel. For shame! But lately I've been thinking a lot about spinning, and I am itching to get back into it. I bought some fiber at a Christmas market and also bought some bargain fiber while on vacation in Turkey over Christmas. Since most of the bags in the below picture contained polyfil, it's likely that the intended use was for stuffing. However, I spied bags containing merino wool and cotton. With a little combing, I think it's spin-able.

Big bags of fiber in the Izmir shopping bazaar

What I bought - it's on my pashmina shawl on the hotel bed, in case you can't tell. Total cost: $2.60.

What I have been doing a lot of lately is knitting and reading, The weather has been very gray and dreary since we moved in - it feels like we've only had one or two sunny days in the last month - so I've been more inclined to snuggle up on the couch with a cat and my knitting or a book than getting the apartment set up, including my studio. I recently finished Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and am now reading his follow up book, Collapse, as well as another book titled Women's Work - the First 20,000 Years by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. All are fascinating reads and have made my recent trips to Malta and Izmir, Turkey that much more interesting. I highly recommend the books (and also Malta and Izmir!), especially the last book because it pertains to weaving and textiles.

Travel is the other activity I am very fortunate to be able to do. Once again we took advantage of living in Europe to travel as much as possible. Besides Germany, this year I went to:
  • France
  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • USA
  • Spain*
  • Norway
  • Croatia*
  • Poland*
  • Italy
  • Serbia*
  • Malta*
  • Turkey
*new countries for me!



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Last projects before packing

Packing? Yes, we're moving to a new town and new apartment about 2 hours north of here. So I have to stop the sewing and weaving for a bit until we get re-settled. At least knitting is portable!

I finished the orange-y scarf.

I also finished the Burda cardigan - #117 from the 8/2011 issue of Burda Style:

Here's my review:
Pattern Description: Loose fitting cardigan with raglan, two-piece sleeves and a softly flowing, "waterfall" type front.
Pattern Sizing: 36-44. I made the 44, which is according to my bust size. Normally in knit tops I make a 42, but I wanted to ensure this would fit comfortably over another garment without being snug. The resulting fit was a big large, which is fine over long sleeve tops in winter, but for summer wear I'd go down a size.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Yes, I think it did.
Were the instructions easy to follow? The instructions were very easy - and for the first time I realized that Burda numbers the seams on the pattern pieces in order of their construction. How did I never notice that before? I used a 4-thread overlock for all the seams and a coverstitch for all hems. The instructions call for using a folded over piece of cross-wise cut fabric as a facing on the back neck, which I omitted and instead I turned under the seam allowance and used my coverstitch. I also used the coverstitch for the front edge hems, instead of doing the twin-needle hem in the instructions.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I wanted to replicate a RTW sweater and this was the closest pattern that I already had in my stash. The main difference is that this has raglan sleeves. The sleeves are two piece, which results in an underarm seam and another seam opposite it, running along the top of your arm down to your wrist. In my knit this extra seam just makes me annoyed because when I put on the cardigan I have to adjust the shoulders to line up this seam correctly.
Fabric Used: A lightweight, stretchy polyester/viscose/lycra (63%/34%/3%), purchased locally in Germany. My fabric has a pronounced knit texture on the right side and thus has wrong side but the variegated look of the fabric makes it less pronounced, I think (and hope).
  Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I omitted the back neck facing during construction and shortened the sleeves by 1 1/2 inches.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I may sew it again and would recommend it.
Conclusion: My fabric choice wasn't ideal for this pattern since it has a wrong side, and the coverstitch makes the wrong side look different than the right side, but I think both of those fouls don't hugely detract from the look. As far as fit (sorry there's no photo of me wearing it - maybe I'll add one later), the raglan sleeves are quite comfortable but I'm distracted by the three seams that result at the shoulder. When I first put the cardigan on I find I have to tug at it to get the seams in the right place. However, if the cardigan were made in a lightweight wool, I could see how the two-piece sleeve would add shaping.
I'll leave you with some pictures of the space in our new apartment that I'll be using for my sewing area:
It's not a huge area but I'll make it work. My sewing machine cabinet has wheels so although it will have to be positioned in front of the shelves to access the outlets, I can move it aside if I need to get to the shelves. The doorway leads to a toilet and sink and some storage space. What it lacks in space it makes up for in light - it will be wonderful after being in a dark bedroom where I had to turn on lights even during the day. But the best feature is that when I turn to the left I see this:


Monday, November 17, 2014

Project roundup

I've been sewing, knitting, and weaving, but not blogging about it, so here's a long post to bring you up to date:

I finished some Husband Socks:

The yarn is a "discount supermarket" yarn. I kid you not, I bought it at the Netto discount supermarket here in Germany. The yarn is a 4-ply, 75% wool, 25% polyester and it's decent stuff. Decent at least for socks anyway. The label just says "Sockenwolle" and that it was manufactured for SILAG Handel AG, which is just a company that supplies consumer goods, so I have no idea really where the yarn comes from.

The pattern is the Garter Rib stitch from Charlene Schurch's book Sensational Knitted Socks. If you've never knit socks but are interested, this is the best book, I think. The book explains the parts of the sock and has instructions for making a sample "first sock." The best part of the book though is that you can make any size sock, in a multitude of patterns, either top down or toe-up, and with 4 or 5 double point needles or 2 circular needles. And if there aren't enough patterns in the book for you, there's a second book, More Sensational Knitted Socks.

For these top-down socks I used the Old Norwegian Cast On, and for the heel I used Eye of Partridge.

I knit a scarf:

It was more about using up the yarn than about wanting this scarf, but I do like the way it turned out and have named it my "Snowball Scarf". I alternated two knitted rows of Schachenmayr SMC Sheila Soft Mini (a fuzzy yarn) with two knitted rows of Schoeller + Stahl Alpha (a smooth yarn). The 50 gram balls of the Alpha had less yardage than the fuzzy one so I just knit until I ran out of the two balls of Alpha. I cast on 25 stitches on size 11 needles and then joined the ends so that I could just loop the scarf around twice around my neck. It was easy, mindless knitting while watching TV, and I used up some stash yarn. Hooray!

I finished a weaving project:



The weaving for this scarf went very quickly, but the twisting of the 316 fringes...not so fast. I have this fringe twister* but it still takes time. The finished length off the loom was 69 inches but after washing in a tub of 40 degree water (per the care label on the yarn) it shrank by 3 inches in length. The yarn is a bit scratchier than I'd prefer but overall I am happy with the way the scarf turned out.

I absolutely love that you can alternate colors in the warp and the weft and make a pattern - hounds tooth in this case. I used my Schacht rigid heddle for this, so it's a plain weave but it has inspired me to warp my Schacht 4-shaft and make one in a twill. The yarn is Lana Grossa, which I purchased in the Müller drug store. Well, not actually a "drug" store since they don't dispense drugs there, but it's like a U.S. drug store without the pharmacy: perfume, makeup, personal products, homeopathic remedies, some organic foods, candy, stationery (pens, pencils, notebooks, etc), toys, household goods...and yarn.

Specifically, the yarn is Lana Grossa Meilenweit. It's 80% wool, 20 % polyester. I used 4 balls (2 of each color) with some leftover

I started another weaving project:

This one is also woven on the rigid heddle - no I did not get the 4-shaft warped...yet. The yarn is Drops 100% Alpaca. My goal for this is a softer scarf (and a colorful one!) but the alpaca may not have been the best choice for a warp yarn. I've had one occasion where one ply got cut by the heddle, and I didn't notice it until the loose ply got backed up behind the heddle, leaving one thin warp yarn. I was able to wrap the loose ply around the other one and carefully continued to weave. Fortunately this won't be a long scarf, but it's a lesson learned about using a soft yarn that doesn't stand up to abrasion in the warp. I kind of knew this already from reading weaving books, but I threw caution the wind on this project. I'm also gambling on having enough yarn left. I only had one ball of each color (orange, brown, and gray) so I purposely designed this plaid to use all three colors evenly between warp and weft. We'll see if my calculations were correct!

I finished sewing a top:

The pattern is New Look 6150, although I used the pattern from the Meine Nähmode magazine, a German magazine that republishes Simplicity and New Look patterns.


The fabric is a rayon knit, purchased locally. I was hoping to make a casual type top but the fabric is thinner and has more drape than I envisioned in my head. I see wearing this top under a suit jacket, though I don't have the occasion to wear suits right now.

The top was fairly easy to sew. I had some difficulty understanding the German instructions for the collar but fortunately Pattern Review came to the rescue. I wasn't the first person to have difficulty...even in English. If you're sewing the same pattern, or one similar, here is a link to a discussion on how to sew the collar.

And finally, I started a new sewing project. I'm making this jacket from the August 2011 Burda Style magazine:

I've gotten as far as tracing the pattern, which you know is not a  small task if you've ever used the Burda magazine patterns.

* I was not compensated in any way to pitch the fringe twister or the online store; however, I do like the items I have bought from them and think they have very good prices.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The fabric market was in town!

In our city have a fruit/vegetable/flower market three times a week and an antique market once a week and twice a year there is a fabric market. I went to it last spring with my mom (here's my post about it). I saw an advertisement that they'd be back today, so I've had this date firmly planted in my mind for a while now. Every time I "found" myself in a fabric store I reminded myself that the fabric market was coming and to wait. The day finally came, it's rainy, and I have a cold, but I went anyway. I'm not sure that cold medicine and fabric market shopping go together very well though. I couldn't make any decisions, and the crowds were bugging me (yes there were crowds of fabric shoppers!). I wanted to buy everything...or nothing because I haven't a lot of room for a fabric stash, and I do have a fabric stash. I wanted to buy really nice fabric, because there was a lot of nice stuff available, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money. There were bargains but not a lot of those fabrics where ones I could justify buying without a plan for using it. Eventually I did buy fabric and somehow even managed to make some "capsule" choices despite my brain-on-cold-medicine. Here's my haul:

Going clockwise from the upper left:

  • fleece with embroidered designs - I regretted this purchase shortly afterward (I blame the cold) but it was relatively inexpensive, and I will use it for a jacket or something
  • gray sweatshirt fabric to hopefully pair with some other fabric to make a "designer" sweatshirt before the fad is gone
  • black faux leather to use for trims and embellishments - maybe for that designer sweatshirt
  • gray capsule - from left to right: printed jersey for a top, solid bottom weight for pants, solid jersey for a top
  • zippers
  • serger needles
  • the green/blue is overdyed denim to make a skirt
  • indigo dyed denim for a skirt or jacket
  • brown/gold capsule - from left to right: wool/silk knit for a skirt, solid bottom weight with stretch for pants (I'm thinking Vogue 1378), rayon woven for a blouse
  • the big snaps are for a jacket that's on my to-do list
  • 8 cones of serger thread (for 15 Euro - about $19). Serger thread is pricey here and colors limited. Rather than buy 3-4 spools of colors, I buy 1 and use the EZ Winder.