Monday, August 28, 2017

Two of two

I finished the second top today. They're getting easier.

The funny thing about this top is that although it looks very coordinated in the picture, the red in the stripe is brighter than the red in the bottom, which is more a burgundy color. I think this happens because the red stripe is next to dark gray so it reads darker. When I put the stripe fabric against the orange from the other top, the stripes looked overall redder to me and I didn't like the look, even though one of the stripes is orange and matches the solid orange fabric exactly.

And yes, I changed my mind and went with stripes on top. I went back and forth but decided that maybe I wouldn't like all the horizontal stripes across my already wide stomach and hips and perhaps the strips at the shoulders will balance out that wideness.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

One down, one to go

I finished the orange t-shirt and I'm pleased with the results.

My mock-up was pretty accurate to what the finished top looks like:

More views:

The fit is great. This is the third t-shirt I've made from this pattern (Jalie 2566) and each has come out a little different due to the fabric, but overall this pattern, with my alterations, works well for me. The fabric came from the Dutch fabric market that travels around Germany and it's a really nice, smooth knit in a good weight.

BONUS! I managed to squeeze in a pair of briefs (Jalie 2564, out of print) when cutting out the print fabric. I think if I can make it to the next fabric market, I will buy more of these 1/2 meter cuts (that's the way they sell this fabric) to make more underwear.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Decisions, decisions...

A while ago I bought some knit fabrics from the traveling fabric market. They're 1/2 meter cuts and I envisioned combining them to make a t-shirt. But except for one shirt I made from a Knipmode pattern, the rest have been sitting idle while I tried to decide how to combine them.

Here are the prints:

And here are the solids - I just put the colors here because the photograph of the fabric didn't really match the true color:

I tried to think of ways to combine them but wasn't having much luck moving the fabrics around on the cutting table, holding them up to me in the mirror or draping them on my dress form, and I didn't have extra fabric to make swatches. I decided to sketch a design on my Surface (I love that I can "draw" and "paint" on the screen with a pen or realistic brush). I plan on using either Jalie 2566, which has set-in sleeves, or the Knipmode t-shirt from 5/2016 that I used for the first t-shirt with these knit fabrics. I started with a line drawing of a basic t-shirt to represent the Jalie and used the line drawing for the Knipmode. Coloring them in with the solid colors was easy, but I really wanted a way to put the printed fabric into my drawing. I know I could probably do this with Adobe Illustrator, but I don't have that software. After some searching downloadable apps to see how to make my line drawings transparent to make use of them more, I stumbled upon an online drawing program that solved my problem wonderfully, and I am excited to use this tool in the future for planning garments! The program is Lunapic. I had to play around with the resolution of my uploaded fabric pictures, and it's not perfect, but I think it gives me a great way to visualize the top in the fabric.

After using the tool a bit, I decided that I didn't like the look of combining more than two of the prints in one garment and by using them in pairs I would be able to get two tops. Here's what I came up I just have to decide which ones to make!

The Jalie t-shirt:

The Knipmode t-shirt:

I'm leaning toward A and D using the Jalie pattern. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Here's a tip

When the drawstring gets lost inside the waistband, use your Fasturn tools to fish it out.

Insert the largest tube that will fit into the opening until you reach the end of the drawstring and then use one of the metal wire thingies to grab it. Even if the drawstring is too big to go inside the tube, the tube is still useful to prevent the wire thingie from grabbing the inside of the opening. It helps to wiggle the end of the drawstring and tube with your fingers until you can get the end of the string inside the tube or butted up against it. And patience too, because it may take a few tries.

And then I sew the buttonhole opening a little smaller so that the knotted end won't slip inside again. These are my husband's shorts and at least the second time I've fished out the drawstring!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sleeping with the fishes

More pajamas. I wanted another pair of summer-weight pajamas but I tried a different pattern this time and kind of wish I hadn't. My Kwik Sew 2811 pattern is a winner while the Burdastyle pattern I used for the top was not. I'm not happy with how they look, but my husband likes them. Of course he also saw how much time and effort I put into these.

The top is Burdastyle #133 from 12/2014 and the shorts are Burdastyle #123 from 1/2017

The pleat in the back adds more volume to the top
My primary problem with the pattern is with the sleeves. I didn't know they would be so off the shoulder, and I don't like them. The sleeve has a little bit of fullness to it and it just looks weird to me. The Kwik Sew pajama top also has dropped sleeves, but they're not as low. Also, the Kwik Sew sleeves have less ease and could be easily sewn in flat while these Burda sleeves are set in, and I had to run a line of basting to handle the ease. I didn't make a muslin of this pattern because it was "just" sleepwear, and though I did compare the flat pattern to the Kwik Sew to see that it would fit about the same, I didn't notice the wide shoulders. I was really shocked when I put it on and the sleeves sort of poofed out. Some of the poofiness went away after I pressed them, but looking at the model picture and dressform picture, you can see how much the sleeves hang down.

I also think the top is too short. I thought that might happen and would have made it longer, but I didn't have enough fabric.

My main objection with this pattern was in the construction. The collar was really difficult to put in and I think unnecessarily so. The collar piece was rather curved and I fought with it to get it to shape to the tightly curved neckline. The collar on the Kwik Sew pattern is flatter and I never had any trouble with it. The other difference is in how the collars are attached at the back neck. The Kwik Sew collar uses two different pattern pieces, one for the upper and one for the under collar and the bottom edge of the upper collar is used to hide the seam allowance at the back neck. The Burda technique used one pattern piece for both the upper and lower collar and a bias strip to cover the back neck seam allowances. It made for a lot of bulk. I ended up sewing the collar on first and clipping the seams to get it to conform, and then I sewed the seam again with the facing and bias strip in place. It was tough.

Here's a picture of the pattern pieces with my annotation on what's what. You can see (hopefully) where the collar piece matches at the shoulder and then again near the fold of the facing, but the collar has a good amount of curve that doesn't easily fit into the tight curve of the neck.

The other changes I made were to add interfacing to the front facings (the pattern only called for interfacing the collar). I also doubled the fabric for the cuff to give it more weight. I left the pockets off because I thought they'd get lost in my busy print. And I didn't want to bother with them anyway!

I used a folded over ribbon instead of piping. I had the piece of ribbon in my stash - it was purchased many years ago at my favorite ribbon shop in Paris, La Mercerie Parisienne , and I finally had a use for it. I thought the shimmery blue looked like water and go well with the fish motif. It was a little difficult to use it for this purpose though as it didn't want to go around the curve of the collar very well. And I found out that the ribbon melted immediately under the iron (I'd tried a sample fortunately!) so I used a press cloth and had to be extra careful pressing the top during construction. But the ribbon trimmed turned out exactly as I imagined it would.

I was also thrilled to find shimmery blue buttons, purchased at my favorite little fabric/button store downtown in Wiesbaden.

The fabric is cotton lawn that I bought from a long time ago. The selvage has "Tori Richard" written on it. A search on the internet shows that Tori Richard makes Hawaiian shirts and they design their own textile prints. Maybe this was a mill end or an unused fabric from their collection.

I will wear these pajamas - after all the work I put into them - but I don't recommend this pattern and won't be making this top again.

The shorts were far easier to sew and turned out well, I think. This is a plus size pattern. Here's the line drawing - just a simple elastic waist and curved bottom hem.

I didn't add any trim or lace to the bottom hem. If I'd had more of the ribbon I would have put that on the bottom, but instead I just made a narrow hem. I used a technique I learned from a Threads video by Louise Cutting. First you serge the curved edge and turn it under, pressing it down. Then you run a basting stitch close to the edge of the curved part and gather it slightly to that you can get it to turn under again. Press and stitch.

Now I can move on to another project. Yay! I have a pattern traced and ready for a Burda robe, but I'm a little tired of loungewear/sleepwear right now.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Purple paisley

This top has been on my to-do list for a long, long time. But now it's finished!

Not the best pattern placement on the back - I didn't try to match it and it shows! Oh well, now it looks like RTW, right?

The pattern is Butterick 4986, unfortunately out of print but probably available on eBay. The first time I made a top with this pattern was in 2007. At that time I wrote that I had another knit that I wanted to use with this pattern, and I'm pretty sure that this purple paisley was what I had in mind. The t-shirt underneath is from the Jalie 2566 pattern using a knit fabric I bought locally.

The most significant modification is that I turned the short sleeves into long by simply extending the side seams of the pattern for the short sleeve. Originally I thought I'd put elastic at the cuff, but decided I liked the sleeves wide to match the flow of the rest of the garment.

Another change I made was to leave off the collar. I was a bit short on fabric and would have had to sacrifice some length to cut one out. Also, my fabric is a knit mesh and I felt the collar might look too heavy since the interfacing would show through and make it appear darker. Of course, now that I see the top over a t-shirt, the way it will be worn, the collar would have looked similar.

I also cut out the back on the straight of grain. The pattern calls for cutting out the back on the bias, but I found this unnecessary and more difficult when using a knit for this pattern.

I used my serger for the construction seams but my sewing machine did not like to stitch through this fabric for the hems. I tried different needles, adjusted the needle and bobbin tensions, changed the stitch length and type, and rethreaded the machine, but nothing worked to get a nice looking stitch (after I had my sewing machine cleaned and adjusted at the shop, the stitches were much better, so it wasn't all about the fabric). So for the hems, I turned under the edges twice - about a 1/4-3/8 inch hem - and hand stitched them in place. Oh my, that was a lot of hand stitching! I also decided against using my coverstitch for the hems because the serger thread I was using was a brighter purple than I wanted. In the end I decided that I liked the look of the hand stitched hems, even with the tiny dots of stitching because it is extremely difficult to hand stitch a mesh that is also a print and not have it show!

No sewing for a bit though. The patterns for new pajamas and a robe are ready, but I'm going to have to pack away the sewing room for a couple weeks since my sister-in-law and niece are visiting and the guest room is also the sewing room. Glad I have knitting projects!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mishmash of sewing-weaving-knitting-spinning

When last I posted, I said I'd show some of my latest projects and fiber, so here goes. If you're friends with my on Facebook or follow my Instagram, you've probably already seen some of these.

In June, I went to a small fiber festival in Schwabsburg, Germany.

My purchases: fiber for spinning, yarn for knitting and weaving and a ceramic yarn bowl

Lots of fleece!

It's a tiny, old town center with timber frame buildings


The Kwik Sew 2821 nightshirt I whipped up on my serger while my sewing machine was in the shop. The pattern is my old standby for night shirts. I had problems with poor fabric recovery so instead of a separate band for the collar and sleeves, I simply turned the edges under and used a coverstitch. I'm pretty sure the fabric was on the deep sale table (my stash notes say I bought it at G Street Fabric). I originally bought it to make a shirt, but decided the print was better used for something not worn outside of the house (hah!). The graphics and words are a bit much for my style these days and if you look closely, to the lower right of the woman in the center in the blue skirt are the words "beautiful" in mirror image. Huh?? Perhaps this error and the poor recovery of the knit may be why it was on the sale table.

My sewing machine is back! It's cleaned up and sewing nicely but it got back just in time for the July heat to keep me out of my attic sewing room.

I finished weaving some trim on my inkle loom:

My current knitting project is a shawl using some interesting cotton yarn. It's made up of 4 threads, which started as all white and then after a while a blue one replaced one of the white, then another blue replaced a white, and so on. The shawl is a simple triangle, with increases done on every other row so that one side is straight and the other angled. After I've knitted 1/2 the ball and therefore, half the shawl, I switch to decreases on the angled side.

Knitting with a view of the alps!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sewing and not sewing

I've been doing some sewing over the last few months, but nothing very exciting. I haven't even written any reviews but I did take a few pictures.

I made the Jalie 2566 cardigan and t-shirt. I did a FBA for the cardigan and added a dart as well as increasing two sizes from the underarm to the hip. I have small shoulders relative to my hips, but not small arms because I also needed to do a full-bicep increase on the sleeve. This pattern has slim sleeves and many reviewers note that it's not an ideal cardigan for wearing over other clothes.

I didn't make many changes to the t-shirt other than to increase from underarm to hip.

I've also made the Jalie t-shirt in a purple fabric to go with a Butterick top that is partially constructed. I had to stop work on it because my Pfaff 7570 is in the shop. It was very overdue for a cleaning and tune up but I kept putting it off, and then I had a problem. I've been using the bobbin winder on it for winding extra spools of thread for my serger - I buy one color cone and spin off 3 more onto empty spools using the EZ Winder adapter that fits in the bobbin winder. One day I was winding a spool and even though I'd put the hand wheel into the bobbin position for winding, the needle kept moving and worse, the speed increased very high on its own. When I took it into a local Pfaff dealer, the woman there seemed to know exactly what I was talking about, so hopefully it'll be easy to fix. It was a bit tricky taking it in for servicing because my German is still not very good but I think I communicated OK. I've had my 7570 for about 18 years and it's only been in the shop for servicing once. Fortunately the computer is working fine - knock wood that it will continue that way!

I've since ordered a Sidewinder  to use for winding spools so I don't overuse my sewing machine again. I'm also considering buying a hand-crank bobbin winder meant for loading weaving bobbins (which I would use it for that purpose too) and use that to hand wind spools for the serger with a crossed pattern. The reason is that I've since learned that you should pull thread from a spool differently depending on how it is wound.

  • spools wound "stacked" (for example, Coats and Clark) should be pulled from the side
  • spools wound "crossed" (for example, most serger thread, Gutermann and Metler) should be pulled from the top
If you pull stacked spools from the top the thread comes off twisted - like when you pull ribbon off a cardboard spool from the top instead of turning it. The bobbin winders load "stacked" and the serger pulls thread from the top of the spool, so this means I'm serging with twisted thread. Is it a problem? I don't really know. The twisting would make the thread thicker and perhaps could cause some tangling. 

By the way, for a sewing machine, you should use a horizontal spool holder for the crossed-thread spools and a vertical one for the stacked spools. 

While the Pfaff is in the shop, I still have my serger, I looked around for a quick project to make with white thread, since I have four cones of that and don't need to fill any spools. I made a night shirt using my old standby pattern: Kwik Sew 2821, but sometimes quick is never simple and that was the case with this night shirt (of course!). I used a knit that ended up having pretty bad recovery and the bound neckline I did was terribly stretched. I ended up taking it off and just turning under the raw edge and coverstitching it with the differential turned to the maximum setting. It's better. Yes, it's just a nightshirt, but I don't feel good wearing bad clothing even to bed.

After finishing the nightshirt I looked to future projects and traced off some patterns. Once I finish the Butterick top these are next on my plan. 

More pajamas! I'm going to make the top out of a lightweight cotton and I'm thinking of making shorts to go with these instead of the longer pants.

BurdaStyle 12/2014 #133

Probably going to leave off the pockets though because my cotton has a busy print.

More loungewear! I have an interesting piece of fabric I bought from IKEA that is sort of Japanese, in that it has Koi fish on it, so I thought of a kimono, but not a traditional one because I didn't want the big sleeves. 

BurdaStyle 2/2012 #116

In another post I'll show you what just came off my inkle loom, the yarns I recently purchased at a local wool festival, and what's on my knitting needles. I always have projects going on!

And travel pictures! We just got back from a weekend trip to Croatia. 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

One more about Bulgaria but it's actually Italian

I always check out the news stands in the airports to see if there are any sewing pattern magazines. Not that I need anymore. I was surprised to see some La Mia Boutique magazines in the little news stand in the small Sofia airport. It was a special 2-pack of the March 2017 issue and an older issue from 2015.

And they are in Italian, not Bulgarian - yay! I don't really know Italian but at least it's closer to French, which I do understand, and not Bulgarian or Russian, which I would have expected to see. I can't make heads or tails of Cyrillic letters. They also had a copy of BurdaStyle, which was in German. Later on I passed another news stand, which also had these La Mia Boutique 2-packs and also a single issue. Maybe I should have bought that too, but I'm on a magazine diet - even though the price was incredible.

I paid 4.90 lev for both magazines. If you remember from my last post, 2 lev is about 1 euro. At the current exchange rate this works out to €1.25 or $1.40 per magazine! I do suspect that someone made a mistake because 4.90 happens to be what the price is in euros for the magazine in Italy. But the clerk scanned the bar code on the outer wrapper that enclosed the two magazines and she gave me back 15.10 lev in change from my 20 lev note, so 4.90 lev was what I paid.

Unfortunately there's not a whole lot that interests me in these issues since they mostly feature wedding and formal wear, but there there are a few things. I'll add them to my collection.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Visit to Bulgaria

Bulgaria was one of those places I'd heard about but never expected to visit. But when you live in Europe it's just a short plane trip away, so why not? We booked a cheap flight on Wizz Air to the capital, Sofia, and took a day trip via train to Plovdiv.

Sofia has roots that go back to 7000 BC and was known as Serdica during Roman times, but it has more of a modern feel today.

Roman ruins with the former Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters in the back

The bulk of the country is agricultural with mountainous areas and also has a coastline with the Black Sea where the resort town of Varna is located. Like many Balkan countries, the area comprising Bulgaria today has undergone many changes, with occupation under rules from Byzantium to Ottoman to Soviet, and the major religion changing from Christian to Islam under the Ottoman rule and back to Christian (Eastern Orthodox). Today Bulgaria is a secular state and is a member of the EU since 2007. Economically, they are one of the poorer EU countries, but that makes it a bargain for tourists from more well-off countries.

As our taxi took us from the airport to our hotel in Sofia, my first impression was somewhat sad as I saw one crumbling concrete apartment tower block after another. There was hope though when I saw a shiny new shopping mall. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. And it wasn't. Sofia has its struggles, but it's not Albania. Yes, there are issues but there are signs of growth. There are restored and new buildings, there are plenty of stores and people shopping, lots of restaurants and people dining, large parks with people out enjoying them, and a stadium full of soccer fans.

Don't know who this is, but they leave flowers

Museum of History
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 

But reminders of days past remain. The picture below is of a monument for the 1300th anniversary of Bulgaria. The monument wasn't intended to look like this. It was built in 1981 and began to fall apart four years later. By the 90s it had deteriorated so badly they had to fence it off. That structural steel was supposed to be hidden. Debates continue about whether to demolish it or restore it.

For Soviet era statues in better condition, we visited the Museum of Socialist Art.

The red star is from the former Party Headquarters

Just a couple of hard working comrades

Lenin. Of course. 

As I said before, Bulgaria is a bargain for tourists. The Bulgarian lev (or BGN) is fixed to the euro at about 2 lev to 1 euro. But since the prices in lev look reasonable to a Western European (or American), essentially everything is "half price". For example, a nice entree in a restaurant was around 12-15 lev. I had a large salad of feta, tomato, lettuce and cucumber that was only 6 lev. A large pizza with a beer might be 7-10 lev. A kilo of cherries at the outdoor market (called Ladies Market) was only 3 lev. Entrance to museums is around 5 lev per person and the taxi ride to the airport was 11.70 lev. By the way, if you should travel there, don't make the mistake of falling for one of the roaming "taxi guys" in the airport arrivals like we did and pay 30 lev for the ride into the city in a taxi that smelled of gas fumes. You will probably do better at the taxi stand. There is a metro but you have to take a shuttle over to the other terminal. If I'd had more time, I might have done some shopping. I saw a number of name brand stores, and I was curious if the prices were lower than what I see in Germany.

I did see a few fabric stores but didn't go in. I find travel fabric harder to shop for unless I know there's a good chance I'll find some really special fabric that I can't get at home. What I saw in windows of these stores looked like pretty great bargains. Just passing by, I saw tags on some bolts that said 2.99 or 4, which I assume would have been 3-4 lev per meter, so at € 1.5 - 2  that's a terrific bargain! But I don't need to buy fabric just because it's cheap.

Yarn, however, is another story. I like buying yarn that is local to the region or country and one or two skeins can easily be squished into my luggage. Knowing that my stash already overflows, I didn't set out to find any yarn shops in Sofia and didn't see any so I don't know what the offerings are there, but by chance I passed one in Plovidiv. We had some time before our return train to Sofia, so I stopped in and bought some Bulgarian yarn - 200 grams for 4 lev. Earlier, while in the old town of Plovdiv, I stopped in one of the antique shops and bought two old spindles for 10 lev - tourist prices perhaps and maybe I could have bargained, but € 5 was ok with me! Bulgaria is a country rich in handicraft culture, so finding spindles in the antique store was not so unusual I guess.

Since I like seeing examples of handicrafts, a visit to the Ethnographic Museum in Sofia was a good place to go on a rainy morning. It's quite small but cost only 5 lev for entry. (I read that the Ethnographic Museum in Plovidiv is very nice but it was closed on Monday, the day we visited). They have many examples of Bulgarian clothing - sadly some a bit moth worn, which I was keen to notice after my recent run-in with moths.

I love the use of buttons for decoration!

The highlight of the museum was meeting a weaver and watching her work on her vertical loom.

She weaves at the museum every day (except Monday when they're closed) and puts on exhibits there with her guild. She was pleased to hear that I weave and was happy to describe how her loom worked and demonstrate how she weaves. She also showed me some of her rugs/wall hangings she has woven and she talked about the meanings of the motifs on them. She had a small book of Bulgarian weaving designs, which I was so hoping they'd have for sale at the gift shop, but sadly they did not.

The gift shop had some nice things - actually some of the nicest souvenirs in Sofia - but this spinning wheel on the top shelf caught my eye. I think it actually was for sale. The tag on it says "250", lev I assume. Didn't think I could get it home on my cheap Wizz Air flight though.

We also visited the Archaeology Museum in Sofia where they had a nice exhibit of items from Neolithic through Roman times.

First some pictures of things related to spinning, sewing and weaving:

Spindle whorls!
More tools from ancient handicrafts

Belt hardware. I love the way they displayed these - you get an idea of how they were used.

There were some very lovely things in this museum:

This is an invitation for the circus games - fights between men and animals

This is a salt box - the top part of the head of Pan hinged open

Beautiful gold work!

Plovdiv was about a 3 hour train ride from Sofia. The ride was long and a bit bumpy, but the scenery of the mountains and farmland is pretty. Plovdiv has a nice old town area and some significant Roman ruins to see:

The Stadium of Phillippopolis is partly excavated underneath the main shopping street

The Theater of Philippopolis
I wish we could have also toured some museums there, but it was Monday and most were closed.

All in all, a pleasant visit. I recommend Sofia, for the history, the culture, the food and the bargains!

And Wizz Air wasn't a bad way to travel there. Pretty cheap tickets and they even had Bulgarian white wine.