Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'm IN!

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

The latest in haute cat-tour

Ella and Felix are horrified ...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Back home again

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pattern reviews

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

Hot Patterns HP108 - Geisha Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . . . . . . . .

Burda WOF 11/06 #116 Wrap Top

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

Pattern Sizing:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. . . . . . . . . .

Burda WOF 07/07 #126 Skirt

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

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

Pattern Sizing:
Plus-sized 44-52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Just a little sweatshop sewing on Labor Day

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

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

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

Burda WOF and Jalie

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

Burda WOF 11/06 #116

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

Hot Patterns Geisha Girl Jacket

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

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

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

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

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