Friday, December 07, 2007

Chase the gray skies away

It's a gray, rainy day today and looking at flowers cheers me up. If it's cold and gray where you are today, maybe they'll do the same for you. I took these at the Monet Gardens at Giverny in France last September. You just had to point your camera and shoot because everything was beautiful.







Click here to see all of my flower photographs.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Only a few months late

Here are a few pictures from our trip to Paris in September. I don't know why it's taken me so long to display any of them, but it has. Click on the picture to go to my photos on Flickr, where you can see a larger view (click on the "all sizes" icon on Flickr). This is just a sampling of some pictures from the first day, when we walked along the Seine to Notre Dame and back.


Booksellers along the Seine

The Seine River

Tuileries Garden

The Tuilerie Gardens

More to come!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Plaid skirts

As usual, I'm behind the times in keeping up with fashion. I know from the fashion magazines that plaid is (was?) in for fall/winter. I spied this Jean Paul Gautier plaid trenchcoat in the windows in Paris in September.

I have some plaid fabric and I want to make some skirts and I'm wondering what the best placement of the plaid would be. I see a lot of a-line skirts with the plaid on the diagonal and that seems relatively easy to do. Of course since simple is not in my vocabulary, I think of more interesting ways to use plaid. I am thinking of a skirt using this Vogue pattern (click for larger):

I like the version without the pleats (version A or B, if you look at the pattern on the Vogue web site) and would put the plaid on the diagonal either on the sides or on the front/back. But which to do? What do they do in RTW? I did some research to find out.

I didn't find much in the way of mixing the directions of the plaid in the style that I want to do, but I did find this one that shows the diagonal plaid on the sides (Nanette Lepore skirt in a photo from Saks Fifth Avenue website).

It seems that plain pencil skirts, without the panels, can look good with the plaid going either direction:

Diagonal ( from Ann Taylor Loft web site):

Horizontal/vertical (from Ralph Lauren web site):

However, I would think that for my body type, which is a bit ample in the hips and thighs, the plaid on the diagonal might look better. But the skirt shown below, with plaid on the diagonal, just doesn't look very appealing to me. What's wrong with it? Is it just really badly photographed? Is it the visual look of black and white plaid with black tights and black top? Is it badly made? Is it badly designed? Maybe it needs a waistband. I especially don't like the way the skirt appears to draw in below the hips and then hang in little drapes. Something is just wrong here and this is a look I do not want to create.

(Anne Klein skirt from Dillards web site)

Edited to add: Thank you Kathleen C. for your comments regarding the drape of fabric on the bias. It makes sense and I will keep it in mind when I attempt to make my plaid skirt!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Woohoo, another post this month!

This would be a much more eye-catching post if there were pictures. But alas, words will have to do.

Thanksgiving came and went. We cooked a turkey and now our turkey stock is replenished for a while. I was actually considering making something else for Thanksgiving, because we could also use some chicken stock or lamb stock, but I went with the traditional. It was just my husband and me and the cats, although surprisingly the cats did not beg for turkey. Only Felix and Sergei got turkey treats because Ella and Abby don't care for "people" food. In addition to the turkey we fixed the usual side dishes of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. The veggies were steamed carrots and broccoli from the garden and asparagus from the store. No dessert because I didn't get around to making pie.

We watched a bunch of movies we had recorded on our DVR:
Pan's Labyrinth - excellent
Black Dahlia - disappointing
Duma - very good
Night at the Museum - entertaining and fun
The Queen - very good

I started a new knitting project on Friday. I'm making Lara, from the Debbie Bliss "Alpaca Silk" book published a few years ago.

I had wanted to make it when it came out but didn't want to fork over the $$$ for the yarn. But when I saw that Webs ( had some on clearance at Stitches West last February, I snapped up two bags, because this project takes 18 skeins. The yarn is a pumpkin-orange color, which now I fear will make me look like a big pumpkin. It looked more appealing in the bag. And speaking of which, I did the most STUPID thing a knitter can do. I didn't check the dye lot of the bags and yes...they are different. Stupid, stupid, stupid. However, I can't tell a difference in the colors so maybe I'm saved by the improved, computerized (I assume) technology of dying yarn today. I've noticed that some companies don't even list dye lots on their yarn, claiming that there's no need. I had finished about half of the first sleeve (this is knit in one piece from one sleeve to the other) when I discovered my stupid error so I started incorporating yarn from the second dye lot. I alternated every two rows for an inch or so and I can't tell a difference. I forgot to check how it looks in the daylight this morning and it'll be dark when I get home, so I'll have to remember to do it tomorrow. I'm crossing my fingers. The yarn doesn't have much natural variation so if there is a difference, I might have to rethink using the yarn for this project. That will not make me happy at all.

I also started a weaving project on my Schacht Flip, rigid heddle loom. I finally got around to warping it, which wasn't too difficult. The instructions that come with the flip are pretty good and I also had a couple of books for backup reference. The cotton yarn I'm using is probably too thin for the size heddle I have (12 dent) and the resulting fabric is fairly loosely woven. But that's ok because this is practice weaving. I ordered a stand for the Flip because weaving at our dining room table won't be comfortable and the coffee tables are too low. I also ordered size 8 and 10 dent heddles. Now I'm set! Well, until I want to do 2-heddle weaving, which is something that can be done on the Flip. First things first though. I need to just get some weaving done!

I haven't done any sewing since October when I made some cloth shopping bags. I'd hoped to get back to the sewing machine but first I wanted to clean up my sewing spaces and inventory the fabric that's been piling up on the guest room bed. Unfortunately that doesn't mean that I stop shopping for sewing supplies. I have been good about not buying fabric because I know anything I buy will just need to be packed into boxes. But the holiday sales at Joanns and Hancocks are hard to ignore. I finally bought the Gutermann thread cabinet I'd been eyeing for a while. Joanns had special sales over the holiday weekend that were only good for a limited time and this thread cabinet was one of the items. It has 100 spools of the Gutermann polyester thread in it with room to store more. I ordered the cabinet online at 12:30 am on the day of the sale so I'd be sure to get one. Funny thing was that they actually had two of these cabinets in the store when I stopped by there later that evening. But in true form for this particular, chaotic, and messy Joann store, they weren't labeled with a price and were not near the rest of the thread. I was at Joann to pick up some embroidery floss for a friend, but since patterns and notions were on sale...well, I had to browse and ended up buying a few.

Saturday afternoon was also the get-together of my on-line sewing friends. There were about 10 of us and we had a good time chatting, sharing what we've made, and swapping fabric and patterns. I passed on a few patterns and magazines from my stash and only managed to come home with one piece of fabric. I didn't have a chance to go through my fabric stash this time but next meeting I will definitely have some to contribute to someone elses stash.

On Sunday my husband and I took a nice walk near Shoreline, which is an estuary of the bay. We saw lots of ducks, sea birds, a hawk (or maybe it was a Kestrel) and a beautiful pheasant. Afterwards we stopped for pie and coffee.

No Christmas decorations up yet. We do not join the crowd and put things up early, but of course there are plenty of people who do. There are even two radio stations (KBAY and KOIT) that are already playing Christmas music 24/7. Both do streaming audio, so if you need a Christmas music fix, there you go.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cleaning house

I have too much stuff. It doesn't help that I want to do every craft-type hobby under the sun. The supplies and equipment are taking over. So I'm cleaning house and looking at what things need to find new homes.

I sold my first spinning wheel last week to a friend who's son wants to spin (yes, her son!). I sold it to her for the bargain price I paid ($50) so it's a great purchase for someone wanting to try spinning. I felt a bit sad selling it though. I hadn't really used it all that much before I bought my new, portable wheel. It was lovely wheel, but it was taking up precious floor space and probably wouldn't use it because I love my new wheel. So I sold it.

I also decided it's time to get rid of some Burda magazines that are special issues for kid's clothes. I purchased them at a time when I was still hopeful I'd have children. I've listed them for sale on the classified site. I also have a Patrones children's issue for sale over there too.

I am also offering up for sale my basic Pfaff serger. It's a Pfaff Hobbylock 756. I've offered it first to my local sewing guild so that I don't have to hassle with packing and shipping it, so if there's a blog reader local to the SF bay area who wants it, let me know. Or if you're not local, I'll pack it and ship it. It's a 3/4 thread in decent condition although I haven't used it in quite a few years, so it may need a tune up. I also have a video tape that goes with it and the instruction manual. I'm asking $100.

It's not much but it's a start. I know I have some yarn and I'm sure there's fabric I won't ever use, but that's a job for another day.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vegetable garden recap

Maria posted a comment to my entry yesterday expressing surprise that I planted vegetables in November. I thought I'd follow up on that. I'm hoping the vegetables grow! I think they will because the winters here aren't that cold and we never have a hard freeze. According to my garden books, our frost "season" is January. That's it. January. However, last year we did get pretty cold. According to our outdoor thermometer we got down to 22 degrees F one or two nights. Usually we only have a few nights where the temperature gets below freezing and I think we had more below-freezing nights than usual last year. The jade plants got nipped and our Bougainvillea froze and died. Or so we thought. It sure looked dead but we left the stumps just in case and planted Wisteria, which is a bit hardier. Now we have both Wisteria and Bougainvillea growing on our pergola. So you never know.

This is the first time I've tried to grow winter vegetables but they should be ok. The temperature hit 80 degrees on Sunday and it's been in the mid 70's this week. Not very fall-like. Usually at this time of year we should be getting rain and it should be cooler, maybe in the 60's. The main reason I've not grown winter crops before is because we hadn't done much vegetable gardening in the summer either. This year we decided that the weedy half of the backyard was never going to be a grassy yard and instead we cleared it, leveled it, and put in four 4x4 foot raised beds. We also put in irrigation to each bed because it doesn't rain here from May until October, the prime growing season.

The garden was a success overall. Some things didn't work too well but others did and we had lots of veggies all summer. One of the most prolific producers were the tomatoes. My husband put up 9 quarts of tomato sauce. Yes, my husband. He participated in my jam making enough to know how to do it and while I was traveling for work he got busy in the kitchen. The picture below is from the summer but the heirloom tomato plants are still producing and I made two batches of tomato sauce last week and had tomatoes for chili.

More tomatoes!

The yellow crook neck squash and zucchini kept us in squash for many weeks. Too much, in fact. Next year I don't think we should plant quite so many. Although we found we did have to share the squash with the squirrels (or rats, although I hope not) so having more than we could eat was not a bad thing. We also had lots of pumpkins. They started ripening in August and at that rate I feared not having any for Halloween. But I did and there are still two out on the vine. We also have pumpkin soup in the freezer.

The cucumbers grew successfully and we enjoyed many cucumber-tomato salads this summer. Some of the last harvested cukes are soaking in brine right now...our first attempt at making pickles.

We had both bush and pole bean plants but the bush beans did better, mostly because they were started from nursery plants and given sufficient space to grow. The pole beans were started from seed, planted in a little area next to the cucumbers, and I have to admit that I neglected them. Bad gardener! I harvested the beans too late and will save the seeds for next year.

We had six corn plants that produced a few ears of corn. The first ears were good but the latter ones were misshapen and not so great. We'll try corn again next year but probably in a better location.

The jalapeño, serrano, and green pepper plants did pretty well. We harvested a number of jalapeños and lots and lots of serranos (which are super mega hot once they turn red!). The green pepper plants ended up being crowded out by the large heirloom tomato plant but we did manage to harvest some of those as well.

I tried growing six cantaloupe plants and was semi-successful. I think we harvested the first cantaloupe too soon but it was still delicious. After the first one we only managed to harvest one more and it was smaller. The remaining cantaloupes were also very small and unfortunately not really edible.

Cantaloupe from our garden

The strawberry is also from our garden. Those and the blueberries and raspberries were wonderful treats to enjoy all summer.


We also grew lettuce and had a successful first crop but then it got too hot and our attempts at subsequent crops never really took. I'm looking forward to more lettuce with cooler weather.

The onions did well. There are still onions growing and they should continue to do well into the winter. We really should grow some garlic. Gilroy, a huge producer of garlic and home of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, is just to our south. Some mornings it smells like the whole neighborhood is cooking breakfast!

One crop that didn't do well was watermelon. My husband was really hopeful for the watermelon and one small one finally started to grow, but it wasn't very edible. The beets didn't do well either, nor did the radishes, I think because of where we planted them. The eggplant is holding on and seems to be doing better. We harvested a little broccoli but no cabbage. These should do better with cooler temperatures. The carrots didn't take but they were planted in a pot and I think we had more sand in it than dirt. Live and learn.

We did learn a lot from our attempts this summer and hope to improve next year. This last year really was a trial garden. We attempted to grow a lot of things, partly because we wanted to be able to harvest a lot, but also just to see how things did.

Monday, November 05, 2007

So much to do, so little time

Even with the extra hour this weekend I still didn't get everything done that I wanted, but I did quite a lot though:

- watched a few movies I had recorded
- cheered for my football teams (Penn State, 49ers, Eagles)*
- baked bread
- joined friends for a spin-in, dinner, and a movie
- worked on two knitting projects: Jaywalker socks and a scarf in a simple stitch
- caught up on some recorded TV shows
- did a load of laundry
- bought snow peas, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, dill, and cilantro plants and actually planted them (instead of leaving them in their plastic nursery pots to wither and die)
- planted pansies in the front window box
- read the Sunday paper and relaxed with the cats
- made chili with tomatoes and peppers from the garden
- slept in with the kitties

One of my big to-do projects is to clean up and organize my sewing/knitting/crafting rooms. Yes, plural rooms. My hobbies have expanded into the second bedroom that is sometimes known as a guest room. I have most of my fabric swatched and stored in plastic or canvas bags but I have not been so diligent with my purchases from this past year. I also want to catalog my yarn stash on, which will take some work.

* I "power watch" football on TV. I record the game and then use the 30-second fast forward button on my DVR to skip the between-play chatter. If you hit the button as soon as the whistle blows on a play, you can skip ahead to the next play. Deletes a lot of time off a football game but watching it recorded can have a downside if you accidentally see the score on live TV.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Shaken and a bit stirred

There was a 5.6 earthquake around 8 pm this evening.

It was centered about 10 or 12 miles from here and shook the house pretty good. Unbelievably nothing fell down or was knocked over, not even some cards on the mantel. But it shook me up pretty good. And the cats. Felix (one of our 4 cats) came running into the room during the quake with his tail frizzed. He's still on edge. As am I to be honest. This was the largest quake I've experienced and of course it had to happen when my husband is away on business! It took a few seconds for it to register what was happening and then decide what to do (nothing). The TV cabinet, bookshelves and china cabinet are bolted to the wall and I quickly assessed that nothing would fall on me so I stayed put and watched the water slosh in the fish tank and braced for anything to fall and break. Fortunately nothing did. It was very surreal though. Everything was moving as one and only the water in the fish tank was moving out of plane to everything else. And there was noise but I can't really describe it. I'm sure some of the noise was the house creaking (it is bolted to the foundation) but what does it sound like when the earth moves? After the shaking stopped I jumped up and checked the other rooms to see if anything had fallen down and then did what any smart, independent woman would do, I called my husband on his cell phone and left a panicked message. Oh well. Let's hope I never have to experience anything larger than a 5.6, ok?

I think I've felt about half a dozen earthquakes during the 14 years total I've lived in California. I was living in L.A. during Loma Prieta and I moved to Colorado just a few months before the Northridge quake so I've been lucky to have missed those. While here I've only felt small ones. They've occurred randomly, as earthquakes do, and generally because they've been small, I've only felt them while lying on the couch or in bed. Those quakes felt like a shudder or a small jolt and were over before you could say "earthquake." This one tonight lasted about 15 seconds.

I got a good laugh from the local news. Fortunately there was no real damage or any injuries (that I've heard about) from this one. The only casualties where some olive jars on the floor of a supermarket. The news report had closeup shots of the fallen fruits, lying amid shards of glass. Funny too was that both the reporter and store clerk called them pickles. Olives. Pickles. Whatever. They're both green. The news team also had a reporter standing by live in San Mateo to interview some restaurant patrons who first thought the quake was a passing Caltrain. I might add that San Mateo is about 35 miles from the epicenter. I guess the news vans couldn't get any closer to the epicenter to film more fallen jars of olives...or olive-looking pickles.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My neglected blog.

I've been neglecting this blog. That's all. I'm not sick (except for a slight cold) or buried under my work. Life is going on as usual and I just haven't been writing about it. I was on travel for work last week so my personal time took a bit of a hit. The travel didn't keep me from knitting though. I had lots of time to knit on airplanes and in my lonely hotel room...when I should have been going to bed early to rest up for the 10-12 hour days. In the last few weeks I have (almost) finished a Clapotis shawl out of oh-so-soft alpaca, knit 2/3 of a scarf in baby alpaca using a stitch pattern I found in my trusty Vogue stitch dictionary from the 80's, and started a pair of Jaywalker socks in some Socks that Rock yarn. I also have been shopping (surprise, surprise). I bought 18 skeins of wool for a sweater, 8 oz of alpaca/mohair roving, sock yarn for Penn State socks (no lion motif on them, it'll just be the colors), more wool roving for spinning, cotton for my first weaving project, two knitting books, four sewing patterns, cotton printed with silly sheep on it, and three pieces of fabric from Gorgeous Things (she had a sale and I caved).

What I haven't been doing, besides writing in this blog, is finishing to sort and caption the pictures from Paris. And I haven't been doing too much sewing. I made some cloth grocery bags a few weeks ago, but they deserve a post all themselves. The other thing I haven't been doing is taking pictures of my projects. Sigh.

So I apologize for not blogging. I just haven't been into it lately.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'm IN!

Finally, after waiting for 10 weeks, I have received my invite to Ravelry. I am "monkeyknitter."

The latest in haute cat-tour

Ella and Felix are horrified ...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back home again

I've actually been back almost a week now but between jet lag, returning to work (ugh) and generally feeling a bit blah, I haven't had the desire or energy to blog about our trip.

I still don't feel 100% and since none of the hundreds and hundreds of pictures we took are uploaded to the internet yet, this blog entry won't be the Post-Paris report. I will say that the trip was wonderful, but then how could a trip to Paris not be? The weather was fantastic and the food was as delicious as I remembered. We're thinking of a return trip at Christmas.

I wore all of my PWAP items at least once and was glad to have brought some light summer tops I made as they were worn more often. I felt stylish and comfortable and happy to have spent the time making the PWAP clothes. I did by fabric at Reine but struck out finding any international sewing magazines other than a copy of "Fait Main", a French publication which has a few sewing patterns in it.

I'll post more later. There's lots more to talk about...and pictures to share!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pattern reviews

I posted the reviews of the patterns I sewed on and this is just a copy of what I wrote:

Hot Patterns HP108 - Geisha Girl

I no longer fear Hot Patterns! At least not their "No Sweat Easy Sew" line. I really like the up-to-date styles of Hot Patterns but was hesitant to try them because of tales of poor grading, errors, and the many alterations people have had to make on some of the designs. Of course there are also great reviews as well as great results from their patterns.

I wanted a jacket for my upcoming trip to Paris (next week!!!) that was comfortable, stylish, wearable with many things, and could stand up to the long airplane flight and being worn every day if needed. This pattern seemed to fit the bill for style and comfort and I believe I chose a suitable fabric for it as well. Originally I was going to make it out of cotton eyelet but with cooler than expected weather and a preference for something more durable, I decided to use a cotton thermal (or waffle) knit. I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

Pattern Description:
Wrap-front jacket with drop-shoulders, 3/4 length sleeves, and optional tie belt. Pattern also includes shorts and pants.

Pattern Sizing:
6-26 - all sizes on one tissue

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, I think it did although I did lengthen the sleeves to full length.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were fairly brief but this is really simple construction. I spent less time sewing than I did cutting out the pattern.

The jacket is unlined but does include facings for the front, bottom, and neck edges. This means more pattern pieces than you might expect! I misplaced the front facing piece and therefore missed it when I cut out the rest of the pattern pieces. When I realized my mistake I barely had enough fabric to cut them out. I had to scrimp on the seam allowance at the bottom but fortunately it doesn't show.

Construction was very easy, especially since I used the serger for most of it. One thing I would have changed though was to not use the serger to attach the front facing. My fabric is fairly thick and the 1/4" serged seam doesn't help the facing lie flat. So on the bottom facing I used the sewing machine to attach it and left the 5/8" seam allowance untrimmed and unfinished, which I think makes the facings look better. I did use the serger to finish the raw edge of all the facings to give a cleaner look on the inside of the jacket. I also left the 5/8" seam allowances untrimmed when I stitched the tie pieces together - except for at the points, which I trimmed so that they'd turn better.

The only troublesome spot is attaching the neck facing to the front facing (which you do before you attach them to the garment, of course). The neck facing pattern piece has a pointy corner and doesn't seem to match up with the front facing, but I think the extra pointiness is there to provide a shallow curve so it lies nicely over the shoulder.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I love the gentle curving around the back of the neck. This type of pattern shaping is what I believe people rave about with Hot Patterns.

Fabric Used:
A cotton thermal knit - I believe it's also called waffle knit. I bought it from Fabric Club a long, long time ago. I had always envisioned a casual jacket out of it and it finally came to fruition. It was easy to work with, except for cutting out the pattern. When your fabric has distinct horizontal and vertical lines, you really must get everything lined up right. I basted some contrasting thread from selvege to selvege so that I could get the fabric squared up. This is why cutting out took longer than sewing!

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I changed the 3/4 length sleeves to long sleeves and topstitched at 2" to match the other topstitching on the facings instead of the more narrow hem the instructions called for. I know 3/4 length sleeves are in style right now but since I'm wearing this as an outerwear jacket I didn't want all my long sleeves to poke out. Also, I was afraid that in this type of cotton fabric, the shorter sleeves would make the jacket look like it shrank. I know...I wimped out on being more stylish. The next one will have 3/4 length sleeves!

I selected the size based on my chest measurement and graded out to the next size based on my waist and hip measurements. Note that Hot Patterns gives dimensions for both full bust and under your bust so there's no guessing if the bust measurement meant full bust or "high" bust. Also, don't go by the size numbers alone because the dimensions correspond to different size numbers than other pattern companies. These seem more in line with RTW size numbers.

Other reviews of this pattern said it was very oversized and I was a little afraid I'd made a mistake choosing the size by my dimensions. Normally I would make a muslin but I was pressed for time. The cut-out pieces seemed ok on my dressform and I also rationalized that I could always take it in. It turned out to fit me beautifully as cut. I also did not lengthen the jacket. I read in a magazine that "hippy" women (me!) look better in shorter jackets. The picture shows the jacket worn over the Burda WOF top I made and you can't see the top sticking out underneath, so I figure the length of the jacket is perfect.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, definitely! I would like to make it up in a thinner fabric with the shorter sleeves.

This jacket turned out so much better than I thought it would. It was easy to sew and I love the fit. J'aime le Hot Patterns.

. . . . . . . . . .

Burda WOF 11/06 #116 Wrap Top

Pattern Description:
Wrap knit top with long sleeves and a seam below bustline. The collar turns over and shows the wrong side of the fabric, so be aware of this when you select your fabric.

Pattern Sizing:

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, pretty close.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I thought this would be a simple knit to sew up on my serger, but I was wrong. I had to use the sewing machine on some of it and it didn't go together quite as quickly as I'd hoped.

Right away I ran into some problems with the Burda-WOF-bare-minimum-instructions:
The instructions say to use "Vilene Fuse and Fold" on the collar, armhole, and shoulder seams. What the heck is "Vilene Fuse and Fold" and how would one apply it? I think I found the answer after a few searches on the internet - it's a translation typo. I think what they meant to say is to use some sort of binding on the edge of the collar and to bind the seams of the armhole and shoulder to contain the seams (but I guess you'd need it only if your knit ravels). I considered finishing the edge of the collar by overlock serging with some of the (expensive!) swirl Maxi-lock thread I bought just because I might want to use it some day. I made a sample and decided that while the effect was fun, it wasn't right for the look I wanted with this top. So instead I used the coverstitch to hem the edge in a matching thread and called it done. I didn't do anything to the armhole or shoulder seams except to stabilize the shoulder with fusible tape, as I usually do in knits.

Next up, the flat-fell seam:
The collar is part of each of the two front pieces and extends to the back of the neck, like a shawl collar. The seam where the two pieces join behind the neck is meant to be a flat-fell seam because the seam will be visible on the collar. There went my idea of serging everything. A flat-sounds fancy, but it's not hard. You just sew the seam with right sides together and at the regular seam allowance (5/8 in this case). Then you trim one of the seam allowances to about 1/8 to 3/16 inch wide. Next you fold under the raw edge of the un-trimmed seam allowance, place it over the trimmed one and stitch it down, about 1/4 away from the first seam you sewed. The instructions say to stitch from the right side, but since the wrong side is what shows, you're better off stitching from the wrong side so you get the stitching the way you want it.

On to the 90 degree angle:
I looked at the other reviews of this pattern and I didn't see mention of the trickiness of sewing the shoulder-neck seam. Perhaps it was only tricky for me? Because of the shawl-like collar, the shoulder seam hits the neck edge at a 90 degree angle. The instructions say to sew the shoulder seam and stop exactly at the corner. I had to look back at the pattern pieces to realize they meant the marked seamline corner, not the cut one, which unless you mark your seamlines on your fabric (and I don't) isn't obvious. Again this was not a place I felt I could use the serger. When it came time to sew the back collar piece to the back at the neck edge, I had a bit of trouble getting the stitching to meet. At least this area is covered by the collar so no one will see if your seams meet cleanly.

To sew down the collar or not:
The instructions say to stitch the collar down with a decorative stitch but I skipped this. My fabric was thinner and had more drape than the sweatshirt fabric called for by the pattern so I didn't need to hold the collar down.

The rest was easy:
- I serged the sleeves in flat since I hate setting in sleeves and it's easy to do with knits.
- Other reviewers found the bottom pieces to not be 1:1 with the top but I didn't seem to have that issue. Perhaps my fabric was stretchy enough not to notice.
- The sleeves were much too long...again. Every long-sleeved Burda WOF pattern I make has sleeves too long, by about 2 inches, but I haven't found that to be the case with other pattern manufacturers. This is definitely something to remember when I make a Burda pattern with sleeves that have details on them (cuffs, zippers, tabs, etc).
- I used a coverstitch for the hems on the sleeves and bottom.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I chose the pattern because it looked like the wrap wouldn't be too low and it's not. I don't like the diagonal drag lines in the front and judging from some of the other reviewers' pictures, it looks to be a "feature."

Fabric Used:
Lightweight bamboo knit from Hancock Fabrics. Warning: be careful when ironing it! The fabric washed and dried fine but wrinkled. When I tried to iron it I wound up with shiny spots, I think because my iron was too hot (oh no!). It's not too noticeable though.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I only made my usual alteration of making a smaller size in the upper chest and grading out to the larger size for the waist and hips.

When I first put the completed top on, the collar twisted to the wrong-side facing in and right side out, since I didn't sew it down with the decorative stitch. I kinda liked it that way! It was more of a draped collar, which worked with my fabric. But since I'd sewn the bottom of the collar the "correct" way, the collar needed to fold back to show the wrong side. But this is something I might consider changing if I make it again in this type of fabric.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I might make it again. It is a nice top and the seam below the bust makes a nice change to a complete wrap since it is not low cut.

While this was not a quick knit top I could serge together, and I had difficulty with a few things, I give this pattern a thumbs up for the style and fit.

. . . . . . . . . .

Burda WOF 07/07 #126 Skirt

During a recent snoop-shopping trip I found the racks were full of 2-way stretch skirts. Since I had plenty of this fabric in my stash I decided to make one to go with a Jalie 2449 cross-over top figuring the two together can pass as a dress and I can get more wear out of the two items as separates. I've made the Jalie 2449 before and there are lots of reviews on this pattern, so I won't review it again.

Pattern Description:
Six-panel 2-way stretch knit skirt, elastic waist, slightly curved through the hips and flared at the hem.

Pattern Sizing:
Plus-sized 44-52

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Well the picture shows the skirt fitting quite snuggly on the model, really accentuating her curves. I cut the size based on my hip measurement and the fabric skims but does not cling to my hips, which is good!

Were the instructions easy to follow?
There's not much to this skirt and the brief instructions are all you need.

I usually don't make casings for elastic waistbands and instead prefer to stitch the elastic directly to the fabric but in this case I followed their instructions and made the casing and then stitched through the center to hold down the elastic. Also, the pattern calls for 3 cm elastic, which is about 1 1/4 inches. Luckily I had some black elastic slightly larger than an inch so I used that. It seems most elastic-waist patterns I've made call for 3/4 inch elastic, which I have lots of. I do find the wider elastic more comfortable and will have to replenish my stock of it.

When it came time to hem the skirt, I measured 32 inches in length, not 30 1/4 like the instructions said it would. I measured the pattern and 32 inches is what I measured from the bottom waistband mark. Hmmm, it's either their error or mine! I would have liked it shorter but was afraid to cut off too much of the flared part of the bottom so I hemmed it with only what I'd added over the pattern. Remember, that Burda patterns don't include cutting lines to you have to add for seam allowances and hems. I used 1/4" for the seam allowances because I used my serger for the construction. I added 3/4" for the hem and used a coverstitch to finish it.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like the rounded lines that curve over the hips and the overall simplicity of the skirt.

Fabric Used:
A 2-way stretch jersey that was acquired through a fabric "swap" among my local PR friends. The swaps have turned more into "please, someone take this so it's not in my stash anymore!" I lucked out on this piece because the colors in it worked well for me and not so much for anyone else.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
No changes or alterations. I normally cut the waist smaller than the hips but since this was elastic-waisted, I left it alone.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
Yes, I would make this again and recommend it. It was very quick to construct.

I like the lines of the skirt - the curves fit over my hips nicely without clinging. I think the pattern paired well with my fabric choice, resulting in a slightly dressy skirt that is comfortable and easy wearing.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Just a little sweatshop sewing on Labor Day

I had the day off (Labor Day) from work but I spent most of it laboring in my own sweatshop at the sewing machine and cutting table. There was actual sweating too because it was in the 90's all weekend and we don't have a/c. It was hotter on Saturday but I escaped to an air-conditioned car and a slightly cooler location to do some fiber shopping. More on that later.

First, I am happy to announce that PWAP is almost done! The last piece is cut out and ready to stitch and since I've already made the pattern before, it should go together quickly. Should.

Below is a picture of the first two pieces, the Jalie 2449 crossover top and skirt #126 from the July 2007 Burda World of Fashion magazine. The fabric is a poly-lycra knit.

Burda WOF and Jalie

Here is top #116 from the November 2006 issue of Burda WOF. The fabric is a bamboo knit from Hancock Fabrics:

Burda WOF 11/06 #116

And this is the Hot Patterns Geisha Girl jacket (HP108) made up in a cotton thermal (or waffle) knit:

Hot Patterns Geisha Girl Jacket

I finished the Geisha jacket and the Burda top this weekend. I thought the jacket would be more difficult to sew since it was from a pattern company I'd never used before and have heard mixed reviews about their patterns. But the jacket was easy compared to the Burda top. You can't really tell from the photo, but the jacket is really comfortable and soft. I like it a lot. You wouldn't think the Burda top would be a pain to sew, but it was for me. Partly because the instructions were very minimal, which is usual for a Burda WOF pattern, but also because there is a 90 degree seam between the shoulder and neck and the fabric I was using (bamboo) was very slippy. I like the top but I'm not so pleased with the diagonal drag lines on the front. Judging from the pictures on patternreview, everyone who's made this ends up with those drag lines.

I'll post reviews here and on patternreview later. I'd like to write them up before my trip so I can remember the details, but I'm at work all week and still have one more top to sew. Plus I want to sew a nightshirt. And then there's packing and last minute stuff to do. We'll see...

So about the fiber shopping. I bought a loom! It's a Schacht rigid heddle table loom like the one shown in this picture I lifted from the internet:

Spinnity and I had spinning lessons on Saturday morning and then we decided to drive up to Berkeley to check out a fiber/dying shop that was closing. This past weekend was their final sale but fortunately for us they still had some stuff left over. We sufficiently reduced their remaining stock of merino/tencel, merino/tussah, silk (ahhhh!), and merino rovings in lovely dyed colors. We also added some books to our libraries. And I bought a loom! My husband and I have been talking about getting one and while it would be nice to start out with a big, fancy loom to do big, beautiful cloths, I think this table loom will be plenty challenging for quite some time. It's the 20" model and should be fine for placemats, runners, scarves, belts, etc. The price was right and the owner also threw in a book on rigid heddle looms (it's an Ashford book, but the same principles apply). For now it's sitting on our dining room table while we are busy getting ready for our trip. I am anxious to try it out but I know nothing about weaving, so I have a bit of a learning curve ahead of me.

Meanwhile, my spinning is improving. My lesson went well but again, with all the sewing and trip preparations coming up, I have had no time to devote to it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Three down, three to go...

Last night I traced off two more patterns for my PWAP: the Burda WOF top from 11/06 and the Hot Patterns Geisha jacket.

I might be tempting fate but I think I'm going to skip making muslins or test garments and plunge in with my desired fabric. Eeek. That's scary. I made my usual alteration to the pattern of grading to the next larger size from the waist down and then I pinned the patterns to my dress form. They look like they'll work out as-is. I also looked back at my history of tops made from Burda World of Fashion magazine and am pretty confident that despite what the measurement chart says I should make, a 42 fits me better on top. At least through the shoulders and when I'm using a knit. I think if I make a shirt in a woven fabric I should investigate the FBA (full bust adjustment) that lots of sewers do.

Now Hot Patterns is another story. This is the first pattern I've attempted from their line, but I'm not too worried as the Geisha jacket is simple and loose fitting. I have three of the earlier HP patterns that are more fitted styles and when I make those I will definitely do the whole muslin thing.

I think I'll start with the Hot Patterns jacket since the fabric is already washed and the serger is already threaded with black thread.

Only about 10 days to go!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Burda WOF skirt with pocket - DONE!

One thing I learned from this project is that I think I prefer sewing with knits. I just finished the Burda WOF skirt and it seemed to take forever! There was the zippered fly, 5 button holes, finishing all the seam allowances, topstitching, pressing, hand-sewing the hem...And this was just a skirt!

Burda WOF 9/06 #108

You can see that the waist is a little big. My dressform does need a little more padding around the waist to match mine, but even so, the skirt is still a bit big on me. But I think it will be fine with tucked in tops, which I'll want to do to show off the nice waistband and buttoned tabs. And of course it's better to have a bit of room than be too tight.

I'm proud of this skirt and hope to get a lot of wear out of it.

Here's my review of the pattern:

Pattern Description:
Skirt with hip-pockets, one patch pocket, button tabs, zipper fly, and inverted box pleat in the back. The pattern includes instructions for a lining.

Pattern Sizing:
36-44. I drafted up to a 46 and altered further on a muslin.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes! One of the things I like about Burda is the extra design details they put into their patterns. The patch pocket, tabs and back pleat make this more than a plain skirt, so I definitely wanted to include them. Here's a view of the back of the skirt, so you can see the pleat.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Fortunately this skirt was the featured sewing lesson pattern in the 9/06 Burda WOF issue, so there were detailed instructions and illustrations. This was a very good thing because I can count on one hand with a few fingers missing how many zippered flies I've done. I still needed to consult the pants in my closet to see what's supposed to line up with the waistband. The rest of the skirt went together easily, it just took me a lot of time.

I did notice a few minor errors in the instructions, like one illustration shows the pocket on the right side instead of left and there's one measurement conversion from metric to English that's wrong (the dimension for the tabs), but otherwise the instructions were easy to follow and not too confusing to me. The instructions were very detailed, down to telling you when to "neaten" the seam allowances. They don't tell you what size buttons to use and hence how big to make the button holes. I used 3/4" buttons in all locations and made 20 mm buttonholes.

I ran into a few problems during construction but I think they were all my own errors. When I translated the dimensions of the rectangular pieces and drew up pattern pieces, I failed to mark the direction on the pattern piece. I also forgot to add the hem dimension to the back pleat and instead only added the seam allowance to the bottom. As a result I ended up having to recut two pieces but fortunately I had enough extra fabric.

There may be an error in the waistband pattern. I ended up with the front waistband pieces a full 1 inch too small, which may have been an error in my initial drafting, but do check if you're going to make this skirt. I had just enough fabric to recut them. Whew. As with nearly every sewing project, I learned something. The lesson learned this time was to check the pattern before you sew. If I'd compared the waistband piece to the front skirt piece, I would have caught the error earlier. This tip is in fact one of the articles in the Fall 2007 Sew Stylish magazine. The article, "Not All Patterns are Perfect" describes a few things to check before you cut. I didn't get the magazine in time to help me with my mistake but now it is further entrenched in my mind to check the pattern pieces first!

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Besides the extra designs details I already mentioned, I picked this skirt because it was casual looking with a bit more width at the bottom of the skirt and also it was not too long. There is a bit of shaping through the hips as well, which is good for a curvier person like myself.

Fabric Used:
A black cotton twill with a bit of lycra in it. The lycra is not necessary for this pattern but it was what I had and was from my stash.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I did not make the lining. The skirt in the magazine is out of wool so a lining would make sense but I made mine out of cotton and didn't need one. I used a serger to finish the seam allowances and pinked the seam allowances on the two hip-pockets. Actually I forget to finish the pocket seam allowances during construction and feared catching the skirt in the knife blade if I tried serging them with all the bulk of the skirt in the way, so I used my pinking shears. I now think that pinking was probably a better way to finish them because the serged edge might leave a bumpy outline of the pocket on the front of the skirt.

I made alterations to make the skirt fit me. I sized up from a 44 to a 46, then made a muslin and made further adjustments to the hips (out) and waist (in).

Would you sew it again?
I will definitely sew it again.

I love the details of this skirt. I also feel a sense of accomplishment with it having done the zippered fly, the patch pocket, and the waistband - all details I don't have much experience sewing.

I said at the beginning of this post that I think I prefer sewing with knits. Of course having a very nice serger that does coverstitch helps with that. To me, knits are easier to sew and more forgiving in fit, than wovens. I recently searched through my stash for some woven fabric for a jacket and was surprised to see how many knits I have. I remember when I first learned to sew, it was hard to find good knits in the fabric store. Most patterns were designed for wovens too and I still find that the majority of the Big 4 patterns are for wovens. I can understand that since sewing knits on a sewing machine can be tough. Thankfully today we have home sergers and the availability of good knits via the internet (although the chain fabric stores and independents sometimes have some good selections).

So my PWAP is now 50% done. I haven't posted pictures of the first skirt and top because I want to retake the picture, which will mean putting them back on the dress form.

Fortunately the remaining PWAP items are knits! I already started tracing the Burda top from 11/06. I'm pretty sure I'll have to give up on my crazy notion of sewing that Butterick jacket before we go. There is just not enough time. The Geisha jacket in the thermal knit (if I get it done!) should work well and I'll decide on either the leather or suede RTW jackets I have in my closet.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jacket crisis!

I thought it might be warm for our trip to Paris next month but it looks like it may not be. When I planned my PWAP I only thought about a light jacket and planned to make it in black cotton eyelet. I've since changed my mind and now plan to make the Hot Patterns Geisha jacket in a black thermal knit (and change from 3/4 sleeves to full length), which might be warm enough, but will be very casual in this fabric. I still feel like I need a better jacket and my wardrobe is lacking in that area. I have a fleece jacket, which I like and wear a lot, but while fleece is fine for casual California I'd rather have something nicer for Paris. I have a beautiful (fake) shearling coat but I think it would be too warm for September. I have a white jacket I made a few years ago, but it's white...not a good choice for Paris after Labor Day. I do have a rain coat but it's thin (I will be bringing it though). I have a leather jacket but I've had it for a while now and to me it's looking worn out, not "weathered" because I don't think it was very good quality leather. The rest of my coats won't work either: long black wool coat, hooded parka from my Colorado days, and a ski jacket. If my next (crazy) plan doesn't work out, the leather jacket might be an option.

I've had it in my mind for quite a few years now to make a wool jacket. I finally started one last fall but put it aside when the weather turned warm. Of course I could finish it, but it may take too long. Click here to see its current state. So it needs sleeves, lining and a zipper. Shouldn't take that long, right? Well, I've never done a lining before and the zipper and cuffed sleeves will take a while. I am a very slow sewer because I am so obsessively compulsive about every seam. My perfectionism paralyzes me so much that often I sit at the sewing machine for minutes at a time doing nothing before I can get up the guts to move on to the next step. I've repeatedly said that "simple is not in my vocabulary"!

Last night I stopped by Joann's for more black thread and a zipper for the Burda skirt I'm making out of black cotton twill. Well, what sewer can just go to Joanns, pick up the thread and zipper, pay, and leave? Not me. There was a sale on patterns! So I bought this:

I know, crazy. But this jacket isn't lined! And there's no zipper or buttons! It also doesn't look too fitted. Since it's not lined, I didn't want to make it out of wool, but I wasn't sure what I had in my stash that would work. Oh, there's lots of suitable fabrics in my stash I'm sure; however, this pattern needs 3 yards of 60 inch or 4 yards of 45 inch fabric. I was pretty sure that most of my fabrics are in 2 yard cuts or less. So what did I do? Yes...bought fabric. Miraculously I found a 58 inch wide medium weight cotton I liked (plaid - noooooo!) among the sale fabrics for $5/yard. The bolt looked rather thin but there were 3 yards 5 inches - and of course the clerk charged me for the 5 inches (70 cents!). When I got home I checked my swatch cards and sure enough, I was right. Most everything was 2 or 2 1/2 yards. I was surprised how much knit I have in my stash too. I did find one polyester fabric that could also work. It's a herringbone pattern so that might be easier than matching plaid (uh, that would be a yes). So now I need to re-evaluate my PWAP and see if I should sacrifice one (or two or three) things to try to make this jacket.

Current status of PWAP:

  • Jalie 2449 crossover top - done!

  • BWOF 7/07 #126 skirt - done !

  • BWOF 9/06 #108 skirt - pocket, one side seam, waistband and hem left to do

  • HP Geisha jacket - fabric washed

  • BWOF 11/06 #116 top - still plan to do this in the brown bamboo knit

  • Simplicity 3893 top - still plan to do this, made this pattern before so it should go fast (famous last words)

So not quite 50% done. Not that great, considering that the things I have finished were really easy. So that leather jacket is still a possibility. At least it's black and not bright orange! Another option I just remembered (and boy I do have a lot of coats and jackets!) is a yellow-gold colored suede jacket. One day I was wearing it in SF and a stranger complimented me on it. That doesn't happen too often so it must look good on me. Remembering that I have this suede jacket does take some pressure off of sewing a jacket. I do like the Butterick pattern though. Very stylish!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fiberific weekend + shopping

No pictures of my sewing, knitting, or spinning to show but plenty of stuff went on in that well as some shopping. I started the weekend on Friday night at Hancock Fabrics where I bought two Simplicity patterns. I can't resist a $1/pattern sale. What sewer can? These were my choices:

Simplicity 3640 - I know I have more than a few patterns for hooded sweatshirts and pants between my Burda WOF collection and Kwik Sew patterns, but I like the princess seam lines of this one.

Simplicity 3678 - I'm thinking I'd make the dress more than the jumper although I could make a jumper this fall to be in with the fashion trends. I could see wearing one with a turtleneck and boots.

After Hancock's I walked across the street to the mall and went shoe-shopping for some comfortable walking shoes for Paris. I fancied these Dansko shoes:

But they're pretty pricey. I've never worn Dansko before so I don't know if they'll really end up being good for walking. They seem to be the shoe of choice for restaurant workers and people in the medical profession who are on their feet all day, but is standing on one's feet the same as walking a lot? I bought some SAS shoes last year before our trip to Iceland and while they're comfortable I found them to be a bit too mushy feeling and they're very utilitarian looking. I am looking for a nice black shoe that will look ok with tights and a skirt but still comfortable to walk in. I might order these Ecco shoes from but I'm afraid the European sizing may not work for me since they only come in full sizes. I'm a half size and won't tolerate a too tight or too loose shoe.

I would like to find a nice casual brown leather shoe as well, something to wear with pants. I ordered a pair of brown Josef Seibel shoes from Sierra Trading for a great price but unfortunately the 40 is a bit too big and I think the 39 will be too small, so they'll have to go back for a refund. I may just go with my 6-year old Clark clogs, but they're looking kinda worn these days. I've been eyeing a new pair of Dansko clogs for awhile. I like clogs because I have a narrow heel so there's no fitting problem with the open back. You just can't run to catch a train in them!

I continued my shopping at Kohls where I bought a new fall handbag. I love their handbag selection - they always seem to be on 40% off sale and at those prices I can buy a new bag every season!

After the handbag shopping I indulged in an In-and-Out burger. Yummy. But I don't even want to think about the calorie and fat content in the burger, fries and chocolate milk shake I indulged in. I haven't had an In-and-Out burger in years and thought I'd treat myself since my husband was out to dinner with his co-workers and former manager. I could have gone but decided I didn't want to listen to the work-talk. Besides, I got to have my shopping time instead.

So now onto the fiber!

Saturday I met up with my spinning friends for a spin-in. I brought my new wheel and spun a whole bobbin of single ply. Tonight I'm co-instructing beginning spinning at my knitting guild meeting. I'm still a newbie at this, so I don't know how it's going to go. The meeting announcement sounds like I'm some pro because it said I'm bringing 2 wheels and 2 spindles to the meeting. The 2 spindles aren't mine (although I do have one and may bring it) and as you know I only just acquired the second wheel. Ah well, knitters are a friendly bunch and I know they'll be kind!

Sunday was a sewing day but not all spent in the sewing room. I started off the day by going up to San Francisco with two friends from my sewing guild to see the Nan Kempner exhibit of couture and designer clothing at the de Young museum. Her clothes are fabulous! I wanted to touch them so badly to feel the fabric and see how they were constructed. Only a few of the pieces were what I'd term "over the top", most were very wearable. She had very good taste.

If you are in the SF area and go to the de Young for this exhibit, note that there's no audio tour. I was surprised since the previous exhibits I went to, Gee's Bend and Vivienne Westwood, both had audio tours and I enjoyed listening to the additional explanations about the quilts/clothing in those exhibits and the stories behind them. We didn't know there wasn't going to be any audio for Nan Kempner and rented the audio headphones expecting there would be. Disappointed, we went back to the kiosk to get our money back but we were told there were no refunds for the equipment. After a lot of waiting for a manger who "just left to get coffee" and then explaining to numerous people that we weren't told there wasn't audio and we were only there for that exhibit, I succeeded in getting our $16 (total) back. It probably also helped that I'm a member of the museum.

After lunch and a visit to the observatory tower at the museum (a must see) we headed over to Fabrix on Clement street. Neither of my friends had been there before and even though I don't need more fabric (!!) we were too close to it not to stop. Fabrix did not disappoint. I picked up some sheer poly or perhaps silk prints (some looked a lot like Anna Sui, so I suspect they may be silk) and a few yards of various raincoat fabrics from which to make reusable shopping bags. My friends were having a good time, I think. At one point I had to ask one friend if coming there was a good idea or was I evil. She said I could never be evil and ended up buying quite a bit. They were already talking about organizing another fabric shopping trip to SF. And we didn't even go to Britex!

Even with my busy weekend I still managed to squeeze in some knitting time (in the car on the way to SF and back) and sewing time. I cut out the fabric for the black twill Burda WOF skirt and have started to sew it. Fortunately this pattern is the highlighted pattern for the issue so there are detailed instructions.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Finished top

I finished this top last week. It wasn't planned to be part of my Paris wardrobe, but it will still work if the weather is warm.

New sewn top

The pattern is Butterick 4986. Here is my review:

Pattern Description:
Overshirt with a twist. This short-sleeved blouse has a twist in the front and is open below the twist. There are options for collars. The pattern is suitable for wovens or knits.

Pattern Sizing:
BB(8-10-12-14), FF(16-18-20-22). I cut a 16 and tapered to a 20 at the waist and hips.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?

Yes, but I added contrasting trim to mine.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

Yes and no. If you read them they are easy to follow. If you think you know what you're doing and don't bother with them you may make errors. Guess what I did? Rip, rip, rip.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

I like the twist and I like the slightly puffed sleeves.

Fabric Used:

A lightweight knit mesh obtained at a fabric swap with my local sewing friends. The binding was a lightweight knit from

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:

Since I was using a knit, I applied fusible stay tape to the shoulders. This pattern has the back pieces cut on the bias but I could have and probably should have cut them on the straight of grain since the pattern on my fabric wasn't obvious and I was using a knit. The mesh knit was a little bit unruly in my serger so I stabilized the hems, front edge, and some of the bias-cut seams with fusible tape.

I thought this top needed a little something more design-wise so instead of just turning under the hems, I bound them with another knit fabric. To do this I cut strips about 2 inches wide and stitched them to the edge of the blouse (right sides together). Then I trimmed the seam to 1/4", turned the strip over to the wrong side, stitched in the ditch on the top and trimmed the excess using applique scissors.

Stitching in the ditch

Applique scissors (also called Duckbill) are great for close trimming!

One mistake I made was to stitch the binding at the 5/8" seam allowance so by turning the binding over the 1/4" trimmed seam I ended up adding 1/4" to the edges. I should have stitched at 7/8" to make the bound edge the same as it would be had I hemmed it, but the extra 1/4" didn't cause any problem. I continued this "mistake" on all the hems so that everything would be consistent.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

I already have fabric picked out to sew it again. It's also a knit so I think I will cut it out on the straight of grain.


A nice lightweight top that was easy to sew.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Early birthday present

Hmmm, what's in this bag that Felix is guarding?

Well, look at that!

Woohoo! A Louët Victoria spinning wheel!

Sorry the picture's not the greatest, I wanted to avoid showing everyone my messy living room! You can see that Felix is just dying to get his little paws on that yarn. My wonderful husband urged me to buy it. He's also the one who spotted the Ashford Traditional for sale in the classifieds at work. I hadn't been really looking for a wheel but I couldn't pass up the price for the Traditional ($50) so a spinner was born. It took me a while, about a year actually, to get into spinning. I knew it would take time, patience, and practice to spin. The first few times I tried was frustrating, as expected, but I have friends with patience and wheels of their own to show me how enjoyable it can be and what great yarn you can create. The new wheel is partially Nathania's fault. She brought the Victoria to one of our spin-ins and I was smitten. I went home and told my husband that I wanted a new wheel even though I hadn't even spun my first skein yet! There's nothing wrong with how my Traditional works, it's just big and cumbersome to take to the spin-ins. Plus it's a little rough because it's older and was not used for a long time. The Victoria is smooth as smooth can be. I tried it out last night (much to Felix's delight) and I don't know whether it's the wheel, the fiber I was using, or the few pointers that Sandi gave me at the shop but I found it much easier to spin. I'm a happy spinner!

The downside is that now I'm going to have to divide my craft time between sewing, knitting, AND spinning. I was going to work on my PWAP last night but how could I not try out the new wheel? With the exception of one recent Sunday, I've only spun at the few spin-ins I've been to, but that was enough to produce my first handspun yarn (spun on the Traditional):

There will be more of this (and better, I hope!) to come.

Felix approves of this purchase. This morning he was curled up on the foot pedals. He knows this machine produces string, his favorite thing in the to food, catnip, and a lap.

Monday, August 06, 2007


If you sew and frequent the sewing sites on the internet, then you're probably familiar with SWAP - Sewing with a Plan, where you sew to make a wardrobe instead of just sewing up stuff that won't go with anything else. It sounds like a great idea but I know I'm a slow sewer and never even get through the few things I hope to sew each season before the next season is halfway over.

I need a special SWAP. I need PWAP:

Paris with a Plan!

We're going there for a week next month (and bringing my mom - what fun she'll have!) so I decided to just whip up a few things to spruce up my wardrobe. Last year we went to Paris in the dead of summer and I wore very bright clothes, which I discovered was not very Parisian. I wasn't wearing the typical American tourist wardrobe of t-shirts and khaki shorts, but I was about the only one wearing bright orange and yellow.

Now we all know that simple is not in my vocabulary and whip up probably isn't either, but if I stick to TNT (tried 'n true) patterns, knits, and nothing too complicated, I might just be able to make a few coordinated things to wear on my trip...and they'll be in neutral colors of brown, black and white.

Updated to add: Here are the fabrics I'm using. There's also a black twill that's not shown, but I think you can envision what a black fabric looks like ;-)

Jalie 2449 (TNT) in black, brown, tan, and white poly/lycra knit. I'm currently working on this one and am nearly finished:

BWOF 7/07 #126 (already sewn up, just the hem to finish!) in black, brown, tan and white poly/lycra knit:

From BWOF 11/06 #116 in brown bamboo knit. I'm rethinking the pattern choice for this one because the shawl collar makes it look a lot like the Jalie crossover top:

From BWOF 09/06 #108 in black cotton twill:

Simplicity 3893 (TNT) in white, blue and black mesh knit (worn over a black camisole or shirt):

HotPatterns Geisha Girl jacket in black cotton eyelet:

The last one is the one most likely not to get done. I've never made a Hot Patterns pattern and I've heard there could be problems. At least this looks to be a fairly easy jacket to make. No buttons or zippers. But I've added the complication of an eyelet so I don't know how that will work out. But I do think I can accomplish the others.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

These pants are made for lounging

I posted a review of my New Look 6730 pants on

Finished pants and cat

Ella has to be the center of attention, as always.

The pants are a bit big but they're very comfy so I'm not going to mess with trying to alter them.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Only time for a quick post

Our internet at home has been down while we switch from a business account that work used to pay for to a personal one (why AT&T needs a week to do this is beyond me!), so I only have time for a quick post during lunch at work.

And I have so much to talk about! It was a fiber-filled weekend + 1 day since I took off Friday from work.

I went to the vendor show at the American Sewing Guild convention. The convention was in Sacramento this year so you'd think that I'd take advantage of the close proximity and take some classes. But no. When the brochure came I put it aside and for some reason I wasn't very excited about it. Then I had a "comp" day coming to me at work and decided I'd go to the conference on Friday. But by then it was too late to pre-register. I didn't really want to get up at 4 am and drive 2 hours just to find out all the "good" classes were full so I decided I'd have a more leisurely day off and just go shopping.

I had a fun day and in the end I was glad I didn't pack it crazy-full with classes. The drive there and back was long. The vendor show, though small, was pretty good. I bought fabric (surprise!), a pattern, and some notions and also bought fabric at a Sacramento fabric store I stopped at first. I'll tell more about my purchases later this week and maybe I'll be able to post a photo or two of my what I bought.

My husband and I have gone to Lambtown in Dixon, CA the last two years and despite some major changes to the show this year (no sheepdog trials, no sheep shearing competition), we took a chance and made the long drive to check it out. We missed seeing sheepdog chase down sheep but we did get to watch a shearing demonstration and pet some sheep. There was also an alpaca, but she was not pettable. This year they turned Lambtown into a fiber craft fair and held it closer to downtown instead of the fairgrounds. The vendors were mixed between those selling raw fleece, roving, and yarn and those selling "decorative" gifts, purses, hats, and other assorted stuff. I of course shopped for roving and came home with 4 bundles: Pygora (a cross between pygmy and Angora goats), Shetland (sheep, not pony!), Alpaca, and Jacob's sheep. I also bought a niddy-noddy, which I put to use on Sunday.

Day of rest! We watched the final of the Tour de France, listened to the far off "buzzing" of the Champ Cars in the San Jose Grand Prix, and I did some spinning. I finished spinning my practice roving and learned to ply. I made a mess of the plying at first and my wonderful husband helped me untangle it and gave me words of encouragement. I used my niddy-noddy to turn it into a skein and by golly, my first handspun actually looks like yarn. I have pictures but I can't upload them! Drat!

You'll have to wait.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Homemade ice cream

I'd forgotten how good it is! We made peach ice cream (actually ice milk, since I didn't make it with cream) and brought it to a BBQ Saturday night. It was a hit and caused quite a few people to remark about how they used to make homemade ice cream and should do so again.

The ice cream maker I have is this one:

It was purchased about 20 years ago and was used a lot at first and then spent most of its years in the box. I think I stopped because I was scared away from making ice cream with raw eggs; however, I had forgotten how tasty fruit-based ice milks and sorbets are. Plus they're super easy to make.

This ice cream maker, which you can still buy new today or used from eBay, garage sales, and maybe even thrift stores, is easy to use and turns out a decent frozen treat. Its main feature is a chilled cylinder that you need to pre-freeze for at least 7 hours in the freezer (so it's best to just store it there). You insert the plastic paddle, pour in the blended mixture of your choice, and turn the crank by hand every few minutes. It makes a quart of ice cream in about 1/2 hour (I don't believe the 20 minutes or less on the packaging unless you want very soft ice cream).

The peach ice "milk" I made was following this recipe:

2 cups of peaches (skinned, pitted and cut into quarters)
1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk (I used 2%)
3/4 cup of milk (I used non-fat)
3/4 cup of sugar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

I used a stick blender to mix everything together but you can also use a blender or food processor.

Friday, July 20, 2007

All shook up

click to see larger

I didn't feel it even though I was awake. What was I doing awake at 4:40 am? I was awakened at 4:30 am to the lovely sound of a cat hacking up pieces of Fountain Grass at the foot of the bed.

Still bummed I didn't feel the earthquake, but we are quite a bit south of the epicenter and it wasn't a very large one (thankfully).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Day off

We took Monday off and went to the beach. Now I'm a Jersey Girl, and for me the beach was "the shore" and it meant soft sand, warm ocean water, jelly fish (yuck), lifeguards, claiming a spot on the beach amidst the shoebies, the radio tuned to a pop-rock station, sandcastles, airplanes pulling advertising banners, and of course the boardwalk (saltwater taffy, fudge, t-shirt shops, pork roll...don't get me started!). Well now I live in northern California and the beach here is a totally different experience. It's beautiful and the beach we went to (Greyhound Rock) was nearly deserted on this Monday afternoon in July. We had a nice picnic lunch, a little nap, and a long walk. Here are some pictures. You can see some more on my Flickr site.



California coast