Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Three down, three to go...

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

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

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

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

Only about 10 days to go!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Burda WOF skirt with pocket - DONE!

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

Burda WOF 9/06 #108

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

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

Here's my review of the pattern:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 24, 2007

Jacket crisis!

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

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

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

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

Current status of PWAP:

  • Jalie 2449 crossover top - done!

  • BWOF 7/07 #126 skirt - done !

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

  • HP Geisha jacket - fabric washed

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

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

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

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fiberific weekend + shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So now onto the fiber!

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Finished top

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

New sewn top

The pattern is Butterick 4986. Here is my review:

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

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

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

Yes, but I added contrasting trim to mine.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

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

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

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

Fabric Used:

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

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:

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

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

Stitching in the ditch

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

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

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

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


A nice lightweight top that was easy to sew.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Early birthday present

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

Well, look at that!

Woohoo! A Lou√ęt Victoria spinning wheel!

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 06, 2007


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

I need a special SWAP. I need PWAP:

Paris with a Plan!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HotPatterns Geisha Girl jacket in black cotton eyelet:

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

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

These pants are made for lounging

I posted a review of my New Look 6730 pants on

Finished pants and cat

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

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