Monday, May 22, 2017

Repairing the moth holes

I successfully fixed some of the moth holes on things for which I had the original yarn or something close I could use. First I fixed the hole in my brown sweater. I thought it would be the easiest of the projects because it had the largest stitch size but I spent way too much time trying to do make the repair and at times made it worse. In the end it's ok. Basically I started by duplicate stitching over good areas and then created the stitches that were missing. A picture here wouldn't really show much since the sweater color was hard to photograph. I of course know the repair is there and it bothers me but there's a lot more that bothers me about the sweater. I need to redo the sleeve openings and shoulders and then I hope to wear the darn thing.

Next I fixed a hat. The hole was near the crown and I sort of matched the stitches and made it work. The repair isn't noticeable at all but that's more because of where the hole was.

These "tiger" socks I knit for my husband had a large hole. Because I had multiple rows to replace, I tried a different approach. I pulled out some of the damaged and also undamaged yarn until I had two good rows of stitches that I could put on needles, but I didn't cut or remove any of the yarn.

I didn't have the original yarn but I found some of similar weight in my stash. The hole was next to an area where the color pooled so it worked out to fix the hole in a similar color. I cut a long length of it and anchored the free end into the sock by weaving it in. Then with the stitches on the bottom needle, I knit a row. When I got to the end of the row I used a tapestry needle and wove the working end into and around some good stitches in the sock just beyond the edge of the hole. Then I purled back and wove the working end in. I continued in this way until I was one row from the stitches on the upper needle, ending with a purl row. I then used a kitchener stitch to join the two rows.

Here's how it looks. The stitches at the far right of the mending ended up a little loose (in the middle of the picture), so it's not "perfect", but it's a sock. I minimized the lumpiness the best I could - the hole was on the top of the ankle so it shouldn't cause any discomfort.

Here's the inside of the sock. I wove in all the broken ends of yarn. There were 7 rows of stitches that had to be replaced.

I still need to fix a scarf of mine. I knit it with two different yarns, one acrylic and one a wool/acrylic mix and curiously it was the acrylic yarn that was broken and not the wool mix yarn. I wonder now if the acrylic yarn just broke. It's a fun-fur type yarn so maybe it wasn't strong, and I did wear the scarf a lot. But just because moths weren't the cause doesn't mean good news because that fluffy yarn will be ridiculous to try to figure out what goes where. And there are 3 or 4 holes. Here's the scarf in happier times:

But there is more good news. I have gone through about 85% of my stash and have not found active moths and very little evidence of old moths. Whew! And revisiting my stash was good too. I have a lot of nice yarn!

Simplicity patterns in a magazine

I picked up the latest issue of Meine Nähmode the other day - it's a German publication that reprints some Simplicity and New Look patterns. The price list on the cover of the magazine suggests that it's available in many European countries (sorry, no US distribution - but you have all the patterns available to you any way). I've seen it sold in France under the name Tendences Couture, although the issues in France are often ones published months earlier in Germany.

They are the actual Simplicity/New Look patterns, though not all the sizes or pattern views are reproduced. The styles are usually fairly recent, though not from the latest collections, and I have come across some that have been discontinued. Yes, you have to trace them, but since they generally only include 3 sizes, it's not too bad. Most of the pattern sizes they choose are in the mid-range, from about 34/36 to 42/44 with a few patterns in each issue selected for the smaller sizes and a few selected for large or plus size. Seam allowances are included, but I have found that not all the pattern markings are reproduced, and sometimes if a pattern piece is just a square or rectangle, they'll give you the dimensions to cut and not the actually pattern piece.

The instructions in my copy are in German but thankfully they also include the illustrated instructions from Simplicity. This helps me a lot, even though they're kind of tiny.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this magazine on this blog before, because since moving to Germany, when I sew a Simplicity or New Look pattern, it's probably from this magazine and not from an individual envelope pattern. I'm not even sure if they sell Simplicity or New Look envelope patterns here and if they do, they're certainly not sold at the bargain sale prices that you get at Joann's in the U.S.

I used to buy this magazine every time it came out, which is about 5-6 times a year (the 3/2017 in the upper right of the cover does not mean March, but rather the third issue this year). But due to magazine overload I've become more selective. On a side note, the last Burda I bought was February 2017 - I'm just underwhelmed by the styles since then or have many similar patterns already.

This issue has 15 patterns and although they don't tell you the pattern numbers, I've gone through and figured them out because I add these patterns to my pattern library in OneNote (links to posts about my library are here and here) and if I provide a review on, I refer to the Simplicity or New Look pattern number.

There are 8 patterns from Simplicity:

1201 - Only sizes: 38/40, 42/44, 46/48, no view A or B
8049 - Only sizes: 34/36, 38/40, 42/44, no view A
8137 - Only sizes: 38, 40, 42, no view D
1355 - Only sizes: M, L, XL, all views
1203 - Only sizes: 44/46, 48/50, 52/54, no view F
8095 - Only sizes: S, M, L, all views
8086 - Only sizes: 34, 36, 38, no view A
8134 - Only sizes: 32/34, 36/38, 40/42, all views

There are 7 patterns from New Look:

6450 - Only sizes: 34/36, 38/40, 42/44, no view C or D
6453 - Only sizes: 34/36, 38/40, 42/44, no view C or D
6428 - Only sizes: 42, 44, 46, all views
6448 - Only sizes: 34/36, 38/40, 42/44, no view A or B
6451 - Only sizes: 38/40, 42/44, 46/48, no view B
6459 - Only sizes: 40, 42, 44, all views
6461 - Only sizes: 40, 42, 44, no view D

These are the patterns I was drawn to and might actually make:

There are some patterns I definitely won't make but that's the way it is with magazine patterns. All in all, it's a pretty good deal at € 5.80 (about $6.50 with the current exchange rate).

Monday, May 08, 2017

I won!

Elliott Berman Textiles has weekly fabric giveaways on their Facebook page. Usually they pick a few winners randomly from those who "like" their post announcing the contest. But a few weeks ago they offered a creative challenge: write a poem. My poem was one of three selected!

Here is my entry, which I wrote in the style of a limerick:

Fabric to suit discerning lifestyles
cannot be found in local store aisles   
  When Dolce and Gabbana
   is pure nirvana
one shops at Elliott Berman Textiles

I received my fabric the other day and it's lovely!

The blue one is one yard of a woven viscose and the one on the right is one yard of a viscose knit. I think they'll make some nice summer tops.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

The moth situation.

Oh no! A hole!!!!
Moths. The fear of every knitter, weaver, spinner, fiber artist...or anyone who has wool in the house. I think nearly all of us have had these very unwelcome pests in our house at one time or another. It's almost impossible not to have them if you store wool (and alpaca and silk and other animal fibers) in your home, whether they're raw materials or finished goods. By the way, moths flying around your pantry are a different pest, unrelated and not interested in your wool, but still annoying and something you have to deal with as soon as you see them. Those buggers often hitch a ride in a packaged food item you brought into the house, so clean the pantry out and find the source. But I'm going to talk about wool moths here.

I recently found moths in some cheap merino fiber I got in Izmir, Turkey a couple years ago and wasn't using. So I didn't know there was a problem. It's possible the moths were there when I acquired the fiber. I bought the fiber from a bazaar vendor and it was intended for stuffing, not spinning, so it was not of high quality. I should have inspected it thoroughly when I brought it home, but instead I left it in the corner of my storage room in the plastic trash bag I brought it home in. Yeah, pretty stupid. The good thing was that it wasn't around any other fiber, except some non-wool fabric, which appears unaffected. It appeared that the moths were loving it where they were, with their seemingly unlimited food source, and probably didn't seek out other fibers. I thought of trying to save it...for about 10 seconds...and then threw the entire bag away. That could have been the extent of it, but it wasn't. I haven't been spinning hardly at all since I moved here but recently a knitting friend was interested in learning. When I went to retrieve my spindles I discovered I had tried out some of that lousy Izmir merino and it was still on the spindle...with moths. And to make matters worse, the basket that held the spindles also contained one unfinished fair isle mitten and the yarn for the second mitten from a kit I'd bought in Helsinki. Most of the yarn was a total loss but the mitten was too small anyway, so starting over with new yarn is probably what I was going to have to do anyway. Still, losing the yarn was a painful lesson. 

We knew there was a problem but just didn't want to face it. There had been a moth here and there in our apartment and some of my husband's woolen hats, scarves and sweaters were showing up with holes in them. Most of my woolen things had been fine - maybe because I was more fastidious about cleaning them. But then I started finding some holes in my things too. When I found the bag of merino moth-feast, I could no longer live in denial about moths in the apartment. It's quite possible the moths hadn't all come from the Izmir merino, but it didn't matter. Moths are moths and they eat wool. I had to do something. 

In my fiber studio I, not surprisingly, found more evidence of moths. One strange case was a hank of bamboo with some moth webbing on it and breaks in the yarn. I didn't think moths went after non-animal products, especially if animal products were around. The damage and loss of fiber was what I would consider minimal but after I rewound it I put the yarn into the freezer with a skein of wool I found with some damage. Cleaning up the bedroom revealed a felted wool hat of my husband's with some damage. Into the freezer it went.

From what I've read, the adult moths you see aren't the problem but they're indicators that you do have a problem. The larvae is what eats your fiber and the eggs are the next problem when they hatch into larvae. You can kill larvae by freezing but eggs will survive so you have to do it again. Unfortunately it's spring now so I can't just put everything outside on a cold night.

I was planning on sewing today but instead I spent the day continuing to battle the moth situation. I inspected some more of my stash and found more evidence in some spinning fiber. Again, nothing near as bad as the Izmir merino, but worrisome just the same. Our freezer is small so I decided to try another option - heat. One blog I read suggested using the oven but cautioned that you can catch fiber on fire that way so it has to be done with caution. I don't like fire so I won't try this. Another option is to put your stash in a hot car - apparently 120 degrees is the key temperature. Well, it's not hot enough here for that so this option is not possible right now. Laundering is good for finished items but not very easy to do for yarns or spinning fiber and of course there's the problem of shrinkage and felting. I decided to go a different route - steam heat. I have an excellent Laura Star steam iron that puts out very hot, continuous steam heat. So I blasted my spinning fiber with it and then stored it in zip lock bags. I also steamed the items that I'd previously put in the freezer. I then went through our winter scarves and hats - mostly things I'd knit or woven - and steamed those as well. I found some evidence of moths on them and have a few repairs to make. At least I found the damage early and it's good that I kept the left over bits of yarn!

Pile of things to fix. 
I know I am not done. I really will have to go through every bit of yarn and fiber and wool cloth in my stash as well as the wool sweaters in our closets. And I can't just do this once. I will need to inspect things regularly and steam them again if I see evidence of moths. Ugh. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

A summer scarf

I was inspired by the pattern of a sweater I saw in a knitting magazine, so I adapted the stitch pattern to make this scarf:

I'll share my pattern but I warn you that this is the first pattern I've written down, and I did it from memory. There may be errors! Also, note that I’m a lefty knitter so if you knit right handed, the stitch will come out a little different. You can use a k3tog to see if that is to your liking (that’s what was used for the sweater pattern I lifted the stitch pattern from). I tried both and the result is similar, but I found s1 k2tog psso easier and faster to do in my style of continental knitting than k3tog.

Scarf measures 8 inches x 44 inches
Yarn: Louisa Harding Jesse, 100% cotton, 2 skeins = 177.4 meters (194.0 yards), 100 grams
Color: 113 (coral)
Needles: US 8 (5 mm)

Cast on 31 st. I used a picot stitch cast on.

Row 1: s1, knit to end
Row 2: s1, purl to end

After the first two rows, start the stitch pattern rows.

Stitch pattern rows:
Row 1: s1, k4, *yo, s1 k2tog psso, yo, k3, repeat from * 4 more times, k2
Row 2: s1, purl to end
Row 3: s1, k1, *yo, s1 k2tog psso, yo, k3, repeat from * 3 more times, yo, s1 k2tog psso, yo, k2
Row 4: s1, purl to end
Repeat rows 1-4

Cast off with a picot stitch cast off

Monday, April 03, 2017

When the fabric market comes to town

I love Europe! Weekly produce markets where the demographic is everyone, not women in yoga pants buying heirloom tomatoes. Christmas markets. Easter markets. And fabric markets.

The Stoffmarkt Holland fabric market only comes to my town once a year and last year I was out of the country when it came. But this year I marked it on my calendar and clicked the Yes I will attend button on the Facebook event page. I prepared by checking out the yardage needed for a couple patterns and snipping a piece of fabric for which I needed matching serger thread.

The day had perfect weather - high clouds with occasional sunshine. I didn't need a jacket and instead of a purse to get in the way and tug on my shoulder, I wore a small backpack to carry my wallet, phone and purchases. A couple years ago I brought a portable shopping cart with me but that just gave me an excuse to fill it (which I did). My fabric stash is greater than my sewing output so the backpack was a better choice.

This market is crowded! They always schedule this to coincide with the Easter market and an auto expo also going on downtown, so occasional or non-sewers check it out and husbands accompany wives to hold their bags. Yes, I did see a few men handle and purchase fabric but it was primarily women. Older women, younger women, women with children in tow, women speaking all languages. I had difficulty in one notions booth when the clerk couldn't speak English and I didn't know what she was asking me to do and the woman next to me asked Polskie (Polish)? She would have helped me if she could.

I didn't have too much trouble at most booths with my limited German - it's not to hard to just ask for zwei meter - but I was frustrated by one notions booth. They had long tables with a hodgepodge of notions: zippers, thread, buttons, buckles, pins - everything. Just a yard or so in front of the table were those tall spinning racks with more notions hanging on the hooks. So the aisle made between the racks and the table was narrow and thus congested with people looking at the notions and people trying to pass by. And it's always super crowded. They have quite a few clerks, though it's hard to tell who works there and who's a customer. But as soon as you pick something up someone thrusts a plastic basket in your direction. So I took the basket, put my items in it and started to move down a bit to look at some more notions but the clerk started barking at me in German like I was doing something wrong and motioning for me to give her the basket. I understood a few words and think she wanted me to pay for what I had in there first, but I wasn't done shopping. I still don't understand what they wanted me to do - I guess put a few things in the basket and buy them and then get another basket a few feet down? I don't know. Frustrated and feeling claustrophobic by the crowd, I gave up and left my basket of things with her. Later I came back and bought the interfacing and thread that I wanted to purchase the first time and didn't bother buying anything else there.

My other problem with shopping was indecision. So many possibilities. So many fabrics I could envision making into things. Prices are pretty good too. Most of what I was attracted to was in the 8-14 Euro/meter range. Not a super bargain but perhaps a little cheaper than in the local stores, however the selection is what is appealing. There were a few booths with expensive fabric (24-35 Euros/meter) but it wasn't fancy-expensive fabric like beaded or embroidered, it was just really nice linen, wool or silk. One vendor in particular, TST-Stoffen, has been at previous markets I've been and the fabrics are really something special - Knipmode uses them often. I'm always tempted and this year I was prepared to buy a meter or two until I realized that their prices are no better than they have in their online store.

Picture taken to capture the name of the store and price, not for the fabric, though it's lovely.

Here's what I eventually bought:

From left to right:

  • Black with pink polka dots. Cotton with a small bit of elastane
  • Pink, beige, black, white knit with a quilted texture. Cotton and viscose I think.
  • Pink and white butterfly print. Viscose
  • Interfacing
  • 5 pieces of vinyl coated cotton - for bags or zipper pouches
  • Cotton knits in a blue/beige (it's beige on the other side) and solid beige
  • Serger thread - I buy one cone to match color and wind onto empty spools to make more "cones"
  • Bear print cotton - it's a heavier weight with one big bear on it. I plan to make either a book bag or a pillow out of it 
    Isn't he cute?
  • Pink and black variegated knit. Cotton and maybe viscose. Don't remember.
  • Black, white, gray voile large scale print. Cotton and silk according to the vendor. I found this on a bargain table - 10 Euros for the 2 meter cut of fabric.

So there you go. Fabric market! 

Monday, March 27, 2017

More socks

I quite like knitting socks - they're easy, portable, don't take a lot of yarn, and hand knit socks are comfortable to wear. I've knit 4 more pairs since my Sockapalooza round up of sock knitting about a year ago. Two pair are for me and two are for my husband. I also have 1 sock without a mate - I'm unsure if I like the way the sock fits and may not knit the second.

But here are the finished socks over the last year:

"Pairfect" Socks for husband
Stripey socks for husband

"Istanbul" socks for me

"Pairfect" socks for me
With the exception of the reddish colored Istanbul socks, all of these were knit with Regia brand sock yarn and I must say that it is hands down my favorite yarn for socks. Regia is a German sock yarn from the Schachenmayr company, which is super lucky for me because I live in Germany and I can get it for cheap at the grocery store, one aisle over from the produce. The yarn is often "last year's" selections, but we're talking 5€ (currently about $5.40) for one pair of socks (the same yarn sells for about 8-10€ elsewhere). I've tried other grocery store yarn but even though it was advertised as "super wash" and supposed to withstand machine washing, the socks I knit out of it shrank and felted when I washed them on cold (no dryer). I wash my Regia socks the same way, hang them to dry, and they're great! Now I've also knit with much more expensive sock yarns, some of which are hand-dyed and lovely to knit with and pretty to look at, but they too haven't withstood the washing machine, and they've also worn out after only a few wearings. The Regia socks are holding up much much better. I think my fancy sock yarns might become scarves and shawlettes instead.

The Istanbul socks are named because I used sock yarn I purchased in Istanbul. The yarn was actually labeled for sale in Germany because Turkey manufactures a lot of yarn for Germany, including some for Schachenmayr. The yarn I used for the Istanbul socks was a mix of wool, bamboo, and nylon. I also knit a pattern for these socks - the picture makes the socks look a bit fuzzy or even "boucle-like" but they aren't, it's just the pattern I chose. All the rest of the socks here were just knit with plain stockinette, partially because the yarn striped and I wanted the stripes to show, but mostly because plain stockinette is easy, fast, and the resulting sock is nice and smooth to wear. I like the look of socks knitted with patterns, but they're not always comfortable to wear.

The "Pairfect" socks are knit using sock yarn that Schachenmayr created to help you make matching socks. They're designed for top down knitting but you could make them toe up and get a different effect. The beginning of the ball of yarn is colored yellow and then it changes to the first color. As soon as it changes you start knitting. The first color is designed to be the ribbed top of the sock, so you just knit in rib-knit until that color runs out. Then, for this particular striping design, you knit the leg of the sock until you finish the second stripe. Then you knit the heel. The next stripe should show up after after you've finished the gusset decreases. From then on, it's just the background color and you finish the sock to the length you need it. Then you pull out the remaining yarn from the ball until the yellow leader yarn shows up. After this second yellow yarn will be the color for the cuff of your next sock, so you cast on and finish the second sock just like the first one. Perfect pairs! 

Of course you don't need special yarn to knit matching socks. I knit the stripey socks simply by looking where I started the first sock among the color changes and starting the second sock in the same place. 

So there you have it. Socks!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A sweater vest

Yippee, a finished sweater!

What do you think?

Pattern: Cable Panel Vest by Lion Brand Yarn (free!!)
Yarn: Mission Falls 1824 Wool (discontinued) - 9 skeins used
Size: M/L
Needles used: US 6 (4 mm) and US 7 (4.5 mm)

This was a really great pattern and well written for a beginner to follow.

I bought this yarn years ago from a local (to me then) yarn store that has since closed (sad). I think I bought all they had, which was 9 skeins. I knew at the time that this would only be enough for a vest, which is what I always envisioned making. Unfortunately the yarn turned out to be troublesome. There were knotted joins in every ball. Every single ball. That was annoying because that meant twice as many ends to weave in and more yarn used. On top of that I occasionally encountered breakage in one of the four plies - I don't know whether the yarn was defective or if moths got to it (though I see no dead or alive moths or moth pieces), so sometimes I had to stop and cut the yarn and start again. I was worried that I'd run out yarn but fortunately I had just enough. Whew! And now that the sweater is done I see that the yarn is pilling already. Oh well, I still like it and hope to get a lot of wear out of it.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Pajama party

I believe I have enough flannel pajamas to last me a while now.

I used Kwik Sew 2811, since I had good luck with it in the past. The first time I used it was in 2003 and those pajamas are threadbare so it was definitely time to retire them and make some new ones. I don't know about you, but I find it much harder to part with something I've made than with something I've bought.

I started out intending to make one pair, using the cat print flannel, but discovered that I didn't have enough fabric to make a long sleeved top. This was in November and I wanted them "now" so rather than order some fabric on line, which could take a few weeks to be shipped to my APO in Germany, I looked for flannel locally. It wasn't easy! Fortunately I found some coordinating turquoise and bought more than I needed for a long sleeved top, intending to use the pink cat print as an accent to coordinate with the cat print pants I'd already cut out and sewn up. As luck would have it, the flannel sold here in Germany is wide - the US-bought flannel from my stash was only 44 inches wide and the German flannel was about 54 inches - so I had enough for long pants as well. Then, since I had enough pink cat print for a short sleeved top, I figured, why not? Now I have mix and match flannel pajamas to last me a long time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Seven muslins later...

It shouldn't be this hard...and yes, I'm a perfectionist. My goal was to make a simple top to wear under a suit jacket for a job interview. After spending hours in the store trying on every pair of black pants in my size, I had no energy or patience left for tops. I was just glad that I found some pants that fit. They needed to be hemmed, but they fit.

I searched through my pattern library and decided to make View C of Simplicity 2552, or rather the version of it published in the German magazine, Meine Nähmode.

I traced the pattern using my usual "pear shape body" alteration of transitioning from a smaller size at the top to a larger one below. That type of alteration is usually all I need when working with knits. But for wovens I anticipated that I'd need to do a "full bust adjust" (FBA). I've done an FBA before, with limited success, and unfortunately I haven't worn the garment since (maybe not because of the FBA). I tried again last summer but discovered more problems to correct on the pattern and gave up before cutting out my fabric.

I was determined this time not to give up. I needed a top to wear. But just in case, I did have a top in my closet that could do. Just in case.

So here is the saga of the seven muslins:

Muslin #1 was cut from the traced pattern just to confirm that I'd need an FBA and it did. But how much to add? I measured my bust and found I was 1 inch larger than the size I cut out, so I did 1/2" FBA and cut out muslin #2. Well, only the front. The back of the muslin was fine (almost...I did one adjustment at the back upper neck). I should title this blog post "7 muslins of the front and 1 of the back." Muslin #2 was still too snug across the front and had the tell-tale drag lines above and below the bust, indicating that there wasn't enough fabric there. Back to the cutting table. I know muslin #3 had a bigger FBA but from then until about muslin #6, I don't remember what I did, just that it wasn't working. I had to retrace the pattern a couple of times because my cut up copies could only be untaped and retaped a few times. One problem I had is that as I made the FBA larger, the darts got bigger. At one point my muslin fit if I took in the center front. This was discouraging and not right. I made an FBA to add fabric and then I have to take fabric away? Yes, the muslin fit OK if I took in the center front, but the darts were huge. So I dug out muslin #2 and tried a different approach. I had originally thought my bust point was in the right location on the pattern, but I was wrong. It was lower. I resewed the darts on muslin #2 to be lower and it fit better, still too snug, but better than it had been. I retraced the pattern, guessed on the FBA and tried on muslin #6. Almost. More FBA and some tweaking to the front neckline and muslin #7 was a winner!!! Yay!!!

All told I ended up with these pattern alterations:

  1. Cut one size for shoulder/neckline/armscye, grading out to next size below
  2. Lowered dart
  3. FBA
  4. Added 3 inches to the hem
  5. Removed from front neckline (I used the slash and rotate technique described in the this youtube video)
  6. Removed from back neckline - since this had a center back seam, I took in what I needed to at the neck and blended it into the center back seam by drawing a curved line, which works for me since I have a little hump back there anyway (too much sitting at the computer!
  7. Eliminated the zipper. The pattern calls for a side zipper but I was delighted to find that I could easily put the muslin on with no zipper. I hate side zippers anyway - they don't help me put a garment on at all, so what good are they? 
Now some pictures:
Ready to cut out

Me, with matching phone and hanger coming out of my head. A bit wrinkly because I wore it to my interview and also, it's hard to photograph yourself. 
The fabric is a rayon that I purchased a long, long, long time ago. Lets just say that at the time you could bring liquids on airplanes and greet your traveling loved ones at their gate. I bought this fabric at Louise Cutting's store in Orlando, Florida (long since closed) and probably spent what I thought at the time was a lot of money for fabric. Although I had planned to use a Louise Cutting pattern to make a top out of it, the fabric instead lived for years folded up, packed in a plastic container, weighed down by other fabrics. Then it was packed into my suitcase (or a USPS flat rate box) and traveled thousands of miles to Germany where it again spent some time folded and packed into a plastic container. I washed it in cold water, hung it up to dry, ironed it, and it came out great! Nice fabric! I can only hope all the other fabric in my stash behaves as well when I finally get around to sewing it.

Sewing up the pattern was pretty straight forward, except for the facing. Since my pattern came from a German magazine, my instructions were of course in German. My German sewing vocabulary has improved, and they reprint the illustrations (but very small) from the Simplicity instructions, but I still needed help with the facings. Youtube to the rescue again.

So I like the top. It fits. I'll probably use the pattern again, but with a few more changes. The neckline is a little too square for me and tad too high. Also, despite adding 3 inches to the pattern, I'd like it a bit longer. I sewed a 1 inch hem on this - I don't know what the pattern calls for. 

And the job interview? It went well. Hopefully I'll know something in a few weeks.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A completed crochet project

I finished my first crocheted clothing item: a scarf.

A nice project for when I had a cold and couldn't go skiing.
Pattern: Wonderfluff Cowl from (free pattern!)
Yarn: Wonderfluff yarn from -  70% Baby Alpaca , 7% Merino Wool , 23% Nylon
Colorway: 1 skein of Atlantic Heather (blue) and 1 skein of Wellies Heather (black)
Crochet hook: 10 mm
My two skeins were free with Knitpicks orders last fall as a promotion for the yarn, which is new. The yarn is super soft with whisps of fiber in it, almost like a mohair. Since I had two different colors, I decided I'd just make a bold, two-tone look and crocheted with one skein until it ran out and then picked up with the other one. 
I'm a beginner at crochet. Two years ago I picked up a book to make Amigurumi (Japanese crocheted animals and toy figures) and I've made about six or seven of them since then. I recently crocheted a basket, which I haven't photographed yet, and I made a hat, but I frogged it because it came out too small. Eventually I want to learn to read charts so I can make some doilies and snowflake ornaments. This scarf was quite easy and a great beginner project.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Guest slippers

My latest knitting project are slippers for guests to wear when they visit us at our alpine place. I used a free pattern I found on non-felted-slippers by Yuko Nakamura Designs. (you may need to have a ravelry account to view it).

The slippers are knit flat and then seamed from the back of the heal and down the center of the sole. Really simple! The gauge the pattern calls for is 13 stitches per 10 cm (or 4 inches), which is a bulky type yarn on size 10-11 needles. The pattern is written for one size - ladies' medium, about a European size 38-39 which is about a US size 7-8, but  you can fiddle with the numbers to make them larger or smaller.
Here are my specifics for the slippers from left to right:
Yarn: Schachenmayr Boston (70 % acrylic and 30% wool)
Needle size: 10.5 US
Size: Ladies' medium
Amount: 1 skein (60 yards) per slipper
Navy blue/white
Yarn: Schachenmayer Boston (70% acrylic and 30% wool)
Needle size: 10.5 US
Size: Man's
Amount: 1 skein (60 yards) per slipper + a little bit of similar weight yarn for the last 2 rows +bind off
For the man's size I adjusted the pattern to make it larger. I explain the changes I made on my ravelry page
Light blue/red
Yarn: Schachenmayer Lova Fan (67% acrylic and 30% wool)
Needle size: 10.5 US
Size: Ladies' medium
Amount: about 2/3 of a skein per slipper
The slippers are really comfortable but I worried about people slipping on the wood stairs in them, so I sewed on little patches of ultra-suede at the toe and heel.

It's funny that I had this ultra suede for a long time and finally found a use for it. The ultra suede came from Nancy's Notions as a pack of 5 inch square samples of the colors they sold. I probably bought them with the thought I could use them as bits of trim or as a bound button hole or two. I never did. But one square cut into four pieces was the perfect size for these slippers and the colors matched ok as well. I do like it when stuff that I saved finally is used but it's a bad habit to save things "just in case"!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ending my obsession with Burda magazine

I've been getting Burda magazine for a long time, but I stopped subscribing to it after I moved to Germany because the magazines often arrived at my APO postal box late or damaged and one issue didn't show up at all. Instead I buy the individual issues from the news stand. Even though my German is still not very good, buying Burda in German has helped my skills, and I like getting the "real" Burda with its ads and additional articles and product reviews that are sometimes excluded from the translated editions. And the easy-pullout section with the instructions and patterns and mini-pics of the styles is a great storage-saver...if I ever get around to disposing of the magazine part.

But things change. Burda has changed over the years. I've changed. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize when you're doing something because it's routine and not because it's the best thing to do. Buying a magazine every month isn't a big thing when you can afford it, but one magazine quickly turns into 12, which turns into 200. I bought my first Burda in 1999 and was hooked. I had a subscription to it for the next 13 years and eagerly looked forward to it every month. And sometimes I made clothes from the patterns.

I've written about my Burda (and other European pattern magazine) stash on my blog more than a few times: 11/2015, 8/2016, 1/2014, 4/2008 were the notable ones. It's clear I'm obsessed with order, having spent a lot of time organizing my magazines and creating a database of the content using OneNote. I know I spend more time organizing them than I do sewing from them. And therein lies part of the problem.

Like the tenants before us who left us with a dirty apartment but a closet full of cleaning supplies, just because you buy something doesn't automatically mean you'll use it. And buying it doesn't magically make it happen! I have to trace the pattern, cut out the fabric and sew it together to create what I desire from the pages of the magazines and getting to step one is apparently as difficult as opening the top to the Mr. Clean was for the previous tenants.

The other issue is that what Burda is offering in their magazine no longer suits me or is very different than what I already have in my pattern stash. A sneak preview of the upcoming March issue on this Ukrainian is what's making me finally decide to break my 17 year streak. I don't wear off-the-shoulder or flouncy-sleeved things and the dresses, jackets and pants are repeats of many before them. There's a very low chance that I'll sew anything from this issue.

It appears I'm not alone in deciding that Burda no longer is THE sewing pattern magazine that I must get every month. Renee of Miss Celie's Pants has come to a similar conclusion after renewal of her subscription came up - and judging from the many comments on her blog, she's not in the minority. It seems that most sewers of Burda patterns would rather purchase individual PDF patterns from the Burdastyle website than pay for a yearly subscription for the magazine. And at $90/year vs. $6 per downloaded pattern, who can blame them?

I hope that the April edition of Burda is better. I can make room for it if it is, but if it isn't I will leave it on the news stand shelf. I need to make more room in my life for sewing, not collecting magazines.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Cow-themed bean bag chairs

No cows were hurt in the making of these bean bag chairs.

Our little chalet apartment needed a little more seating for our visitors to be comfortable, particularly when there are children. I thought bean bags would be a great idea and my husband agreed but added that they should be out of cow skin, in keeping with the French/Swiss alpine theme. I think he really meant cow skin too, but I knew that would be too stiff for bean bag chairs and very expensive too. I found a much better alternative - a fabric called "Udder Madness." It's upholstery weight but soft, washable (by hand), and worked perfectly for these bags.

I used Burda 8373 and made the smaller size

That's a lot of bean bag fill!
I bought the bean bag fill from Amazon Germany because I figured local delivery would fare better than having it sent to my APO, plus package delivery to APO in November-December is bogged down due to Christmas. But I know that Amazon in the US sells fill also, just from a different supplier.

We turned an empty laundry container into a funnel.
Filling the bags is definitely a 2-person job. Even with our "funnel", we still managed to spill some pellets...well a bunch of pellets. And getting the last bit out of the bag was even more fun. It's impossible to get all of the pellets out due to static electricity but we tried. I mention it in my review below, but in case you don't read that far, I used 430 liters to fill both bags, so about 215 liters in each.

The bags were a hit! The kids lounged on them to watch XBox during the day and the adults lounged in them at night to watch movies.

If I made them again, I would probably skip making bottom piece out of vinyl because in use the bags seldom ended up with the circular bottom on the floor. The kids often squooshed the bags into a teardrop shape with the side of the bag on the floor and the bottom of the bag perpendicular to the floor, so having the vinyl didn't serve any purpose.

Here's my full review, with details on sewing and filling the bags (same as my review on Patternreview):

Pattern Description:
Burda 8373
Bean bag chair with zipper opening, outer pocket and handle

Pattern Sizing:
Large: 139 cm x 92 cm and Small: 100 cm x 71 cm
I made two of the small size.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I sewed it up without really needing to read the instructions but I did use the pictures to see that I should top stitch the outer cover. I bought my pattern in Germany and despite there being English on the outer envelope and on the pattern pieces, the instructions were in German and seven other languages but not English!

Using the pattern, you cut 6 identical side pieces, a large bottom circle and a top circle as well as a rectangular pattern piece for a handle and a pattern piece for a pocket.
The pattern includes 1 cm (3/8 in) seam allowances, which is fine for the muslin or lighter weight fabric lining, but if your outer fabric frays or is very thick you might want to make slightly larger seam allowances. The 1 cm is ok for the seams but was pretty tight for putting in the zipper.
You actually make two of everything - one is the lining to contain the bean bag filler and one is the outer cover.

I sewed the lining first, which I recommend so that you get a good idea of how everything goes together before you deal with your potentially bulkier outer cover fabric.

For the lining, which was out of muslin, I used my serger for construction so the seam allowances would be contained. The pattern instructions say to leave an opening in the lining for the bean bag filler and then stitch it closed after filling it, but I chose to put in a zipper, so for that seam I used the regular sewing machine. For the outer fabric I used my regular sewing machine so that I could top stitch.

I sewed the side pieces together in pairs first and put the zipper in on one of the pairs. This made it easier to put the zipper in and also to do the top stitching on either side of the seam on the outer cover.

For the circles, I used a quilting ruler with 60 degree lines on it to mark the circles evenly into 6 pieces so that I could stitch them on evenly.

I omitted the pocket, but did sew on the handle. After attaching the handle, I worried that it would rip the outer fabric at the stitching line, so I reinforced that area by stitching with a zig-zag to a bit of extra fabric on the inside. I think that will help better distribute the stress in those areas.

Finally, a note about filler. The pattern doesn't give you any help in determining how much filler to use. It's generally sold by the liter. I bought 430 liters of filler from which to fill both bags (from a source in Germany through I was worried it wouldn't be enough but it turned out to be maybe a little too much, which is ok because over time the little pellets get squashed.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
You could make your own pattern for a bean bag, but I liked the proportions of this bag and by using this purchased pattern I didn't have to think too much or worry about my calculations being off. Some bean bags, including purchased ones, don't have a separate lining bag but I liked that this pattern suggests that you make a one.

Fabric Used:
The inner lining is muslin, purchased from IKEA.

The outer cover is a fabulous upholstery weight fabric called "Udder Madness" - it feels and looks like cow hide but is 100% polyester and can be hand washed. It was very easy to work with and took stitches well. I used a size 100 denim needle, stitch length of 3 for seams and 3.5 for top stitching. The fabric didn't fray and is soft and pliable enough for use as a bean bag, a feature which also made it easy to manipulate while sewing.

I used vinyl for the bottom round piece to make it more durable and also because I thought the nap of the cow print might interfere with moving the bean bag around.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I omitted the pocket from the outer cover and added a zipper to the inner lining.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I've already had a (non-sewing) friend ask if I'd make more. The danger of being able to sew. Considering that each large bean bag takes 5 1/2 yards of fabric (for each bag, so 11 including the lining) and the small takes 3 1/4 yards for each bag, depending on the choice of outer fabrics, these could be pricey bags. But it's a great way to make some statement bean bag chairs!

Easy pattern and the resulting bean bag has a nice sit-able shape to it. Although I intended to make these bean bags for children, the small size, with enough filling, is still suitable for an adult to sit in.