Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

These are my Halloween cats I've been collecting. It all started with the third one from the left (click to see larger). My husband says the cat is wearing "candy corn pajamas." And no, I did not knit the Jack o' lantern sweater for cat #4.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm on a roll

I sewed this top yesterday.

Burda 8735

It's Burda 8735, which is unfortunately out of print. I used a polyester knit that I bought a long time ago at Stone Mountain and Daughter. I'm pretty sure it was a sale fabric in their upstairs room. It was perfect fabric for this top. It is snuggly without being too bulky. The top has raglan sleeves and was very easy to put together on my serger. I wrote up a full review on here.

And check it out! I'm blocking Lara in preparation for sewing up the seams.

Lara is a Debbie Bliss pattern (from her book Alpaca Silk). I used Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk yarn, which is scrumptious. The sweater is knit in one piece, from the cuff of one sleeve across to the other. So all that's left is to sew the collar to the back neck and then sew up the under arms.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Not enough hours in the day

How is it that even though I'm not spending 8+ hours a day at a job, I still don't have enough time to do all the things I want to do? Do you think my expectations are a bit high? I think so. But I'm certainly not bored!

This month we traveled to Atlanta to attend my niece's wedding. The wedding was very nice, the bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, and it was wonderful to see some of my relatives again. An added bonus was that my sister-in-law lives in Atlanta, so we stayed with them for a couple days and took the opportunity to visit the Georgia Aquarium. Here's a little bit of video I shot (not very good because it was shot from my little camera). It shows the whale sharks, which is their "main draw." My niece works at the aquarium and assisted with the transport of one of the whale sharks from Taiwan.

I liked the exhibit shown in the video and I also like a few other exhibits, but overall I have to say that I prefer the Monterey Aquarium. I suppose I'm biased since I live nearer to Monterey, but the Georgia Aquarium resembled a mall to me, and I was disappointed that except for the large tank with the whale sharks, the views to the tanks were rather small and there really weren't that many. I did like the wide range of habitats they displayed (river, cold water, etc.) but each one is heavily sponsored and it showed. I also think I like the Monterey Aquarium because it is near the water and relates more to nature than the Georgia Aquarium, which is in downtown Atlanta. I'd say if you're in Atlanta, go visit it but be prepared for the high ticket cost ($26 - ok, it's only $1 more than Monterey) and a bit of commercialism.

Here's another video to show you what we did the following weekend. I apologize for the poor videography. It's just a little video camera I use and it's not meant for high quality videos. I also tried to shorten the video but gave up - you of course don't have to watch the whole thing...or any of it for that matter!

This was the last race of the American Le Mans Series and it was held at Laguna Seca raceway, which is only an hour or so from here. It was the first time we'd been to this track but I don't think it will be the last. We had a good time and it was very easy to see the race. After going to the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans in France four years ago, we have both become fans of this type of racing. They race four types of race cars at the same time: two types of LMP, or Le Mans Prototype cars (the low, "Indy" or Formula 1 looking cars built just to race) and two types of GT, or "grand touring" (modified Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, etc). The different speeds of the two types makes it challenging in the corners and for passing. This race at Laguna was four hours long and started in daylight and ended in the evening, with darkness, fog and much cooler temperatures. Before the race they let the spectators out on the track to view the cars (and drivers) close up. We were able to sit in the grandstand for the start and finish of the race and then we could wander all over to view the race at various curves and from different vantage points. The video shows the view from our chairs on a little hillside. We did wear ear protection!

Now that I'm home, I finally finished the knit top I was working on and thus have completed the outfit from Diana Couture magazine. First, a big thanks to everyone who commented on my dress. I meant to mention that in my last post. I'm not so great at leaving comments on other people's blogs even when I think in my head what I'd like to tell them, so I do appreciate your comments. So here's a picture of the outfit, although I'm not sure I'll wear it all together - the ties on the top sort of interfere with the bolero ties.


Here are the individual pieces:

Bolero top

Tiered skirt

T-shirt top

I wrote reviews for them on patternreview: bolero, skirt, and top.

I do enjoy having the extra time to sew and already have a few patterns cut out or traced for my next projects. I want to add a few more, warmer things to my wardrobe because we're going to New York City - it's a work trip for my husband and I'm tagging along to play...look out Fashion District, HERE I COME!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dress review

Here's a review of the Burda dress. I have more to write about the wedding, Atlanta, and what we did last Saturday, but first things first.

Pattern Description:
Knit, sleeveless v-neck dress with gathered, belted overlay.

Pattern Sizing:

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, but I made a few changes.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
Yes and no. I got a bit confused and ended up sewing seams too early ( I consulted my favorite resource Vogue/Butterick Step-by-Step Guide to Sewing Techniques when I needed help sewing the facings.
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?The gathered belt across my stomach was what drew me to the pattern. I also chose it because of the many favorable reviews of it here on PR. It looked to be an easy and quick dress, that was also flattering and I think that turned out to be true on all counts. This is a great pattern!

Fabric Used:
An ITY (I think) knit obtained through a fabric swap at a BABES meeting (Bay Area Bash Expressly for Sewists - we all met through PR). The fabric came from Georgene.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
The one obvious change I made was to add a black edge to the neckline. I cut a one inch strip of black jersey, folded it in half, and sewed it in the seam like you would piping. I used 1/4 seam allowances as I usually do with knits, so this left about 1/4 inch or less of the black showing. This did add bulk to the seam, so I graded the seam allowances.

I omitted the back zipper like everyone else did and also raised the neckline one inch, lowered the hem two inches and graded up a size from the waist down. Before sewing the side seams on the serger, I basted them and tried the dress on first. I ended up taking in the upper waist quite a bit so that the overlay wouldn't sag.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would except that there are so many other dress styles I want to make, so I probably won't.

Lessons Learned:
1. When time is tight, go with what I know. I needed a dress for a wedding but time was running out. I decided against using a Butterick or New Look pattern in favor of Burda WOF. Although I hadn't made this particular dress, I've made many Burda WOF knit tops with success, so I knew I could make it with my usual alterations and not have to make a muslin first. However by adding the piping, I made the construction with the facings a bit more difficult and that cost me a lot of time.

2. I can (and should) be a designer and add my own touch. I liked the fabric but when I draped it on the dressform to approximate how the dress would look, I felt it needed something more. I decided that a thin piping of black along the neckline edge would really pop and draw attention up to my face as well as coordinate with the black buckle.

3. Small swatches may not be enough and "expensive" isn't always better. I could not find a buckle at Joann's or Hancock Fabrics (surprise, surprise) and it was too late to order one from the internet, so I drove up to San Francisco (over an hour a way) to Britex. I had a small swatch with me and one of the buckles they had looked like it would work pretty well. It was green on one side and black on the other. The green was a little shimmery and also looked a little light for the fabric but I thought if it didn't work, I could use the black backside. The buckle was fairly thick and round, but it had a 2-inch bar, as called for in the pattern. It was also $13. They also had a thinner, black plastic buckle with a 1.5 inch bar. I bought that one too just in case and because it was only $3. Guess which one I used? It turned out that the big green/black buckle was too heavy and the green was not right once viewed with the whole dress. The small one was perfect.

4. If there's a technique I'm not familiar with or well-practiced on, I should find some better instructions and read them. Thoroughly. As we all know, Burda WOF is not known for detailed instructions so I consulted another source to help me through the facing, but it was after I'd sewn the center back seam. At least removing serger stitching is not impossible, it's just time consuming.

5. Thank goodness for Spanx and Flexees. Enough said. :-)

6. I'm probably the only one with a camera bag that matches her dress. After I set up the serger I tried it out on a scrap of the dress fabric and unintentionally ended up with a little pouch. It was the perfect size for my camera, which didn't come with a case, so I figured I'd use the pouch to protect the camera when it's in my purse. I wonder if anyone noticed and wondered "how'd she get a camera bag to match?"

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Whole dress

The dress is done. I don't have time to write anything else, much less write a review of the pattern. I'm wearing the dress to my niece's wedding on Saturday and I need to go pack!

Burda dress

Friday, October 03, 2008

Rediscovering the library

I hadn't been to the library in years but today I visited one of my local branches and discovered what I'd been missing. You can rent a movie...for FREE! You can get a book on tape to listen to during a workout or while gardening or doing some other task that you need to do (thank you Janet from knitting meetup for that suggestion). You can borrow a book you'd like to look at but shouldn't buy because it will be out of date in a few years. You can also borrow a book you've been thinking about buying but now you can see if it's really worth the limited book shelf space you have for knitting books.

This branch is a brand new building so it's spacious, well-lit, beautiful, and it even has a coffee shop.

Hooray for the library!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Half a dress

First, we had a pretty visitor to the back yard:


My current sewing project is a dress to wear to my niece's wedding, which is in 9 days. Thank goodness I'm not working and I can sew! Right now I have "half-a-dress."


I'm in the middle of cutting it out, which is the part of sewing I like the least. It makes me nervous to cut into the fabric. Cheap fabric, expensive doesn't matter. I dislike cutting so much that I had to take a break from it so I thought I'd write to my blog and share the photos.

Cutting out

The dress is #104 from Burda World of Fashion magazine, 5/2008. It's been reviewed numerous times on patternreview and seemed like the perfect dress to make in the short amount of time I have. It's knit, is pretty simple in construction and it seems to be a flattering dress, so it seemed like a good choice. I also have had good experience with Burda patterns so hopefully there won't be any fit problems like there might be with a Butterick or Vogue pattern, since I have less experience with those. Tracing the pattern took a lot of time because I had to make some adjustments like raise the neckline 1 inch, lower the hem line 2 inches (can always shorten), and grade out for the waist and hips (hopefully enough!). Then because the Burda WOF patterns don't have cutting lines, I had to decide how big to make them and make sure I didn't mess up anywhere by making them too small where they need to be bigger, like hems. I usually do 1/4 inch seam allowances on knits because I use the serger and that's what I did on this one. But this has a facing for the top and I hope that the serger finish isn't too lumpy around the neck and armholes. Fortunately I have enough fabric to make two dresses if I wanted, so if it's awful or too small, I can redo it.

So I'll take a deep breath and finish cutting out the rest of the pieces. The easy part will be sewing it. I hope.