Friday, March 28, 2014

Black and White

I just completed two more sewing projects and realized that they're both black and white, which was totally unintentional.

Black and White #1: A top for me from the January 2014 Burda Style magazine.

This should have been a quick sew but I got bogged down by the gathered portion across the right hip. The reason? I cut only 1/4" seam allowances, which left me with too little real estate for gathering and fussing. I did a lot of fussing. Actually I did a lot of basting. It wasn't absolutely necessary to do all this basting but that's how I do things.

I baste where most people probably just pin. I hate getting stuck by pins - hate, hate, hate it. So anytime I might have a difficult area to sew around I reach for a contrasting thread and a long needle, and I baste. I use contrasting so that I can find it to pick it out. I've recall someone, Kenneth King maybe, telling me in a class to use the same color thread to you don't have to pick it out afterward but I always pick out my basting thread. If there's a situation where I won't have access to it after I sew, then I use matching thread. I always baste set-in sleeves, anytime I need to match something exactly, slippery fabrics, or if the area I'm sewing is difficult to maneuver in the sewing machine. With this Burda top I basted all but the flat side seams. I even basted the hems before coverstitching! I don't often use pins when I'm serging - partly because I'm afraid of running the knife blade over them but also because there's not a lot of room to work around the needle... and I hate getting stuck with pins!

Here's my review of the pattern:

Overall Impression I like this top a lot. I think it looks better on me than on my dressform. The top is a little long, but I think it will look nice over slim jeans or pants. Maybe if I were younger I could get away with pairing it with leggings. It wasn't too difficult to sew, although the gathers on the hip took a while.

Pattern Description: Jersey shirt with long, raglan sleeves and gathers at the left shoulder and right hip, giving the front a diagonal look.

Pattern Sizing: European size 34-44. I made a size 44.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes, but I think there's an easier way to do the gather on the hip, which I didn't think of until after I'd followed their instructions. The instructions say to gather each piece separately and then join them. Since my fabric has stripes I wanted to make sure they matched so I carefully basted the two pieces together, which was difficult with all the gathers. It occurred to me that you could join the pieces first and then gather them. If you have stripes to match, you could hand baste to make sure they line up and then machine-baste to get two rows of even stitches. I ironed on stay tape to the top sleeve seams, but I used straight, not bias tape. I used Design Plus super fine fusible stay tape, a product I use a lot for the shoulders of knit tops. It actually wasn't a conscious choice to use the straight tape over the bias (I have both) but I think it was actually a better choice than using the bias because I don't want the sleeves seams to stretch. The instructions call for adding a clear elastic tape, over the gathering on the hip. Since I'm living in Germany right now, I was able to get the Framiliastic product named in the instructions. It's a nicely weighted, clear elastic, similar to the clear elastic I've found in the US, but not as tacky to the touch I think (or maybe the clear elastic I've used in the past was old). Something the instructions don't say is to remove your basting thread from the gathering at the hip after you've sewn the seam with the elastic tape. If you don't, the gathers won't be springy and your application of the clear elastic is wasted.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? The neckline came out a little large, but that could be my fault. I didn't use the facing piece and instead turned the neckline edge under and coverstitched. This may have stretched it a bit or I may have turned under too much. Perhaps I should have ironed on some fusible bias tape on the neckline edge first. If you do this, check to make sure it's still large enough and stretchy enough to go over your head! I used a 4-thread overlock on my serger for all seam construction and the serger's coverstitch for the hems. I cut 1/4" seam allowances but this was a mistake in some places! I often use 1/4" seam allowances on knits but here you need a bit more seam allowance to manage the double row of basting for the gathered portions. The instructions call for 5/8" (1.5 cm) seam allowances.

Fabric Used: A jersey fabric I purchased here in Stuttgart. I don't remember the fiber content but it looks and feels like cotton/rayon. It was on a 50% off sale in the department store - yes, department stores in Germany (well at least Karstadt) have fabric sections!

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I didn't make any alterations or design changes but I did leave off the facing on the neckline. The sleeves are really long, which I left as-is. Usually I find I need to shorten Burda sleeves by an inch or two but I left these alone in case the fabric shrinks (I didn't prewash!!!) but also I like the look if I scrunch up the sleeves to 3/4 because it mimics the folds of the front of the top.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would sew it again but not to make another top for myself. I do recommend it!

Black and White #2: Sleep pants for my husband from the December 2010 Burda.

There's not much to say about these above what I wrote in my review, so here it is:

In the past I've made my husband numerous pairs of flannel sleep pants using Kwik Sew 2687 but since he needs new ones, in a smaller size (thanks to diet and exercise - yay!), I thought I'd try a Burda pattern. I used a crazy zebra print as a wearable muslin before I cut into some Paul Frank Julius print flannel to make him some "monkey" pants. I liked the results, so the monkey pants are a go. First, I compared the Kwik Sew pants pattern to the Burda pants pattern. The Kwik Sew definitely has more ease and fits like "American" style pants. The Burda is more European in cut, as you might expect. My husband wears a European size 52 so I compared that to the Kwik Sew size Large, which I made for him in the past but are too large now. I compared the widest part of the back and front leg pieces, the rise and the overall length.

Kwik Sew Burda
Waist measurement: 91-96 cm 94 cm
Back piece width: 31.5 cm 30.5 cm
Front piece width: 30 cm 26 cm
Rise: 31 cm 23.5 cm
Length: 109 cm 110 cm

I found it interesting that most of the extra ease in the Kwik Sew was in the front and also how low the rise is in the Burda pattern. Others who reviewed this Burda pattern also noted the short rise, so I was prepared for that and adjusted it on my pattern.

Pattern Description: Pattern for a man's pajama top and bottom. The top is a collared shirt with piping, pocket and 4 buttons. The pants have a fly front and drawstring waste. I only made the pants.

Pattern Sizing: European size 48-56

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Pants are pants. Not too different.

Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't use the instructions, but I glanced at them and they look like the usual way to sew pants. Sewing pants is easy - it's the fit and details that can make it difficult.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I liked that they were basic, drawstring pants. I didn't like the fly or the unnecessary, additional waistband piece, so I omitted both.

Fabric Used: Cotton flannel.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I omitted the fly and added 3 inches (approximately 7.5 cm) to the top of the pants. I used 1 1/4 inch wide elastic with an enclosed drawstring, so I made two button holes for the openings for the drawstring.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I will be making the pants again for sure. If you want a less-slouchy type of pajama pant, then this Burda pattern is a good choice.

Conclusion: A winner!

Next on my sewing table: monkeys!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

New and old sewing projects

I finished my robe. It's the shawl collar version of the (long out of print) pattern #2000 by Stretch  and Sew that I used for my husband's robe.

The fabric is a chenille-type knit that I've had in my stash for a long time. I may have bought it from don't remember. After my near disaster with the too-thin fusible interfacing, I ended up using a thicker, non-woven, fusible interfacing, which I also think wasn't the right choice. I probably should have used a knit tricot fusible, which that did have in the fabric store, but it was pricey (8 €/yard). As it was I spent 5 €/yard for the stuff I did use, probably more per yard than the fabric. Oh well. I didn't want a too floppy collar and the interfacing did prevent that, and it's not too stiff, so it worked out ok.

The old sewing project is one I'd forgotten about and don't think I ever blogged about. The review was sitting as "unfinished" on, and only needed the final picture. So I took one today and finished the review.

Burda #103 from May 2005 issue
The pattern is from an old Burda issue - May 2005, but I actually made it in 2011. I've worn the top a few times but with a camisole or long sleeve t-shirt underneath because it is quite low cut.

In case anyone has access to this old issue, here's my review:

This top is why I keep my old Burdas. I keep a binder of copies of the pages that show all the line drawings so that I can more easily find patterns. I wanted to make a stretch poly/lycra top that wasn't too plain, didn't cross-over since I have quite a few of those already, and didn't have too much going on because I wanted to be able to wear it under a cardigan. This pattern seemed to have just the right elements. Click here for a line drawing of the pattern. There is also a version with a sash and there is a dress version.

Sizes: European sizes 36-44

What I like about the pattern: The gathers make the top blousier so it's a little different than all the other poly/lycra tops I have

What I don't like about the pattern: The V-neck is too low. I should have raised it, but I didn't so now if I wear it to work I need a camisole or t-shirt underneath and if I wear it out and want the plunging neckline I need to make sure I wear the right bra. Also, I didn't like that it was so short. I hate tops that are too short so I added about 5 inches to the length.

Things to note about the construction: I used fusible straight tape on the shoulders. I accidentally positioned the front pleats so that the openings on the front pointed away from the center. The pattern shows the direction of the pleats toward the center and that's how I thought I basted them but I actually basted the fold of the pleat on the wrong side in that direction, which resulted in the fold on the front side to point in the opposite direction. I made the pleats at the bottom of the top go in the same direction so the fabric would fold nicely across the front. I thought I'd use my serger for all the construction but I ended up using the stretch stitch on my sewing machine for a lot of it. If your machine has a stretch stitch, it's the one that goes forward and backward as it sews - it may look like double lines on the stitch selector. I found this stitch to be a lot stretchier than the overlock stitch and it gave me better control when I sewed on the front facings. I used my serger's cover stitch to top stitch the facing and then trimmed the excess.

Final thoughts I recommend the pattern and would sew it again, even with the low V-neck. I tend to layer a lot of my clothes anyway, so wearing a long sleeve t-shirt underneath is not a problem.

Next on my sewing project list: sleep pants for my husband and a knit top for me. Both use Burda magazine patterns. I've made I think three pairs of sleep pants for my husband using a Kwik Sew pattern but since he lost weight, they are all too large for him. So I thought I'd try the Burda pattern since it has less ease. The knit top for me is from a recent issue - January 2014. The issue is all in German but fortunately the pattern I'm using is the one they highlight as a sewing lesson with more instruction and pictures.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Sewing mistakes on an empty stomach

I thought I'd get a little sewing in before dinner. That was nearly a very bad mistake. It wasn't actually sewing I was doing, but applying fusible interfacing. I guess the iron was too hot because the interfacing melted almost immediately upon contact with the iron. No, I didn't do a test first. No, I didn't really think about what I was doing. I was distracted by my growling stomach and also by a whining cat (she already had dinner but she is almost 17 years old and loud, raspy meowing has been her thing for unfortunately many years now). But mostly I was pushing to get something done on this robe.

The good news is that the fabric is not ruined, and that's really good because I have no more left.

Besides not thinking about the right heat setting for the very thin, lightweight interfacing, I also realize that it was a stupid choice for the fabric, which is a chenille-type fabric. It only has nap on one side, but still...not the appropriate interfacing. It was all I had on hand, but that doesn't mean I should use it.

So tomorrow morning I will go to the fabric store and buy some sew-in interfacing.

Dinner is cooking and Miss Whiny-cat has stopped her tirade. I think I will knit tonight.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

One finished sewing project and some knitting

First the knitting. These are some of the projects that are occupying my needles and my time at the moment:

Circular scarf in Zauberball yarn
Socks in "Socks that Rock" yarn
More socks! This is yarn from the grocery store
carpet bag project
A handbag. The yarn is from Knit Picks.
The oldest project is the "Socks that Rock" socks. I started them before I moved to Germany and I was about as far a long on the first sock as I now am on the second sock when I lost interest. And guess what? I seem to have lost interest again. Since it's happened twice I think I must like doing the heel and then I get bored with the leg. I'm tired of knitting the pattern too. It's not a difficult pattern but it has SSKs in it and I dislike doing those because my knitting is a bit tight, which makes SSKs a little harder to do. SSK is slip-slip-knit, which means you slip two stitches onto your working needle and then poke the other needle into the two stitches to knit them together. It's the poking part that's kinda hard for me. (If you really want to know how to do it, I suggest finding a video on youtube because I didn't explain it all that well.)

The next oldest project is the handbag. I started it last fall and I actually only have a little bit more to do. I don't know why I haven't picked it back up again. I like doing two-color work, but I think it's because the end is in sight that I stopped. I really like to knit - I just don't like the finishing work.

So in my boredom over the multi-colored sock and the handbag I cast on a new sock. The pattern is a really easy one with no SSKs. I also cast on the black and white scarf because I bought the yarn last week in a knitting store I visited for the first time. I'm knitting this scarf in continental style, which is faster than the English style I usually knit in. But because I've been an English style knitter for so long I can't do complicated stuff in continental style. This scarf is an easy rib-knit (knit 2, purl 2...repeat) and so it's going fast. In fact the picture I show here is really out of date and only shows about 1/3 of what I have knit so far.

Now on to the sewing. I finished something!

A baby jacket for my grand nephew.
The frame for my market cart made a nice stand-in for a baby-size dress form, don't you think?
A peek at the inside and the covered zipper tape.
I actually started this last November but Christmas sewing interrupted and then I just didn't get back to it. But it's finally done and packed and ready to ship tomorrow. The pattern is from an old Burda World of Fashion magazine - November 2003. Here's my review:

Pattern Description: Fleece jacket with lining (calls for flannel). Jacket has hood, pockets, turned up sleeves, zipper opening, and braid trim around all the outer edges.

Pattern Sizing: Child heights 62/68 (3 month) to 86/92 cm (24 months). Since I don't live near the recipient of the jacket (my grand nephew), I made the largest size so he'd grow into it.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? Better! You can't hardly see the jacket in the magazine photo because the baby is swamped by it. Plus they include a scarf in the photo (really? A scarf for a baby?)

Were the instructions easy to follow? Being a Burda magazine pattern, the instructions are minimal. A beginner might have difficulty. I used the book "Vogue/Butterick Step-By-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques" for help with the pockets.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I already had the fleece, and I wanted to make my grand nephew a jacket out of it. I found this in my Burda magazine stash, and it fit my criteria.

Fabric Used: Fleece for the outer fabric and cotton for the inside lining. The pattern calls for flannel for the inside lining but my grand nephew lives in Atlanta where it's (usually) not so cold (except for this year!). I also thought flannel might "stick" when trying to get the jacket on a squirming toddler.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I used a cotton twill binding tape instead of braid for the trim. I don't know if the tape is readily available in the US, but it seems common here in Germany, in a variety of colors and widths. I did have some difficulty sewing it around the rounded bottom edge of the jacket since the tape is not cut on the bias and has no stretch. If I were to make this jacket again I would square off the bottom edge and make a mitered corner instead. I also finished off the inside edge of the zipper by hand stitching a piece of the twill tape over the zipper tape.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I would sew it again if the need came up. I think it's a cute little jacket that wasn't too difficult to make.

What's next? I just cut out the pieces for another robe using the Stretch and Sew pattern I used for my husband's robe. But this one is for me. I found some chenille-type fabric in my stash and decided it would make a nice comfy robe. Unfortunately I had less fabric than I thought. Here's how my trial lay-out looked trying to eek out as much robe length as I could:

Using all the fabric
I'll make these pieces fit!
The pattern has floor, mid-calf and mid-thigh lengths. I wanted mid-calf but it'll be 3 inches shorter than that. I managed to get all the pieces onto the fabric except for a bit of the facing. I'll piece the bottom inch or so. I even got all the pockets on! The blank space is for the other sleeve. Oh, and I realized while (spending a ridiculous amount of time) straightening the fabric that is has nap, so I rotated some pieces and everything was cut facing the same direction...just in case you are wondering.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014


Have you always wondered why Burda magazine has costumes in the January issue? They're for Fasching, the festival time prior to Lent. Here in Stuttgart the festivities began last Thursday, with Weiberfastnacht, a day when women symbolically take over city hall and snip off men's ties in the workplace (supposedly). Throughout the weekend people dress up and party - I saw a few people dressed up and there were some rides and candy and food booths set up on the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Stuttgart. Monday is called Rosenmontag in Germany, or Rose Monday, a day for carnivals and parades and dressing up. Everything then culminates with Fastnachtdienstag or Fastnacht on Tuesday. Today there was a big parade through the downtown so I went to check it out.

There were lots of people and many, many children lining the streets. School is out, so today is a day to dress up and catch the hard candy tossed to the crowd by the parade goers. New Orleans has beads - here it's candy.

Kids and adults dress up. The stores have had costumes stocked since mid January. But NO dirndls or lederhosen - those are not costumes and they're not for Fasching!

Fastnacht costumes
A little ladybug
Adorable twins dressed for Fastnacht
Adorable twins
Fastnacht costumes
Adults dress up too

The parade consisted of musical groups:

Fastnacht Parade
Loud in both costume and sound!

Dance and acrobatic troupes of girls and women. Nearly all the groups wore braids and looked alike:

Fastnacht parade
Many little, identical snow princesses

Fastnacht Parade
Christmas-y looking
Acrobatic women

Fastnacht girls
Fancy costumes

Another prominent feature of the parade were men and women dressed as royalty or politicians. Apparently this tradition comes from after the French Revolution when the Rhineland was occupied by the French. Out of protest against French oppression, Germans from Cologne and surrounding areas would mock their politicians and leaders safely behind masks during carnival season. So I think that's what was going on with these parade participants:

Fastnacht Parade
Men in fancy hats with lots of medals and buttons

Fastnacht king and queen
Princess and the guess anyway
Scary bird king
Scary raven king
Witches!! A big part (and the most fun) of these Fastnacht parades are the witches. They signify the end of winter and chasing away evil. In some parades they carry off bystanders or play tricks on them. Here in the Stuttgart parade I saw a few act a bit bawdy and one ran up and marked the hand of a little boy with green marker or paint, but mostly they handed out candy and greeted the children. Not too scary.

Fastnacht witches
These are Tuttlinger Stadthexen witches. Apparently the town of Tuttlingen had quite a lot of witch trials back in the day.
Fastnacht witches
Witch...wearing sneakers
Fastnacht witch
A male witch
Fastnacht witch or autumn tree
An "autumn" witch?
Fastnacht witches
Blond braids on these witches
An eskimo Fastnacht witch?
An Eskimo witch? That's a fish in his mouth, not a cigar.

One last picture. There were also trucks from local breweries and restaurants from which people tossed out candy. But this one was the best:

A big pig!
The balloons say "Schweine Museum." I looked it up and yes, there is a Pig Museum in Stuttgart. It's no joke that the Germans enjoy pork: schnitzel, bratwurst, schweinshaxe (ham hocks), speck...

I hope you enjoyed the parade!

I'll get back to sewing and knitting stuff with a post tomorrow (hopefully) I have one finished sewing project and some in-work knitting projects to share.