Monday, December 26, 2011

Living room = fiber room

Until now our "formal" living room was largely unused, except by the cats, because we hang out where the TV is located, which is in the family room (or den). But now the cats will have to share space with my new Christmas present: a 4-shaft Schacht Wolf Pup loom:

I already had a few of my fiber things in this room: the basket on the coffee table holds my handspun - there's a niddynoddy sticking out of it with some handspun on it. My Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom had been semi-folded up in the corner but I got it out and set it up so I could alternate between the new Wolf Pup and the rigid heddle to compare weaving styles. Not quite visible is my spinning wheel. It's a Louet Victoria, which is a small, portable wheel. It's folded up and in its bag in front of the bookcase. And while not a knitting, spinning or weaving tool, but still related to fiber - my grandmother's 1919 treadle sewing machine is in the back corner. So now this sunny room will be the fiber room, but since it's the first room you see when you walk in, I won't be moving my stash into it, and I do need to tidy it up. 

I've been praciticing a bit on the new loom and am really liking the pattern combinations you get with a 4-shaft.

I wasn't using my rigid heddle, I think it was because I knew the weaving patterns were limited to pretty much a plain weave, which just didn't excite me. I also made the mistake of warping the rigid heddle fairly wide and with rather thin cotton yarn. We bought the Wolf Pup from a local yarn store and it was already set up and warped, and I have a lesson next week. I've been having fun trying out patterns, and it even inspired me to do some plain weaving on the rigid heddle.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas party dress

Every year I make my "Christmas party dress." This year my husband's company party had a 1920's Prohibition theme. I thought Folkwear pattern #264, Monte Carlo Dress would be perfect because I don't think it's too costume-like to wear to other parties. I also wore it to my company holiday party.

Wearing Monte Carlo dress
Here is it without the tunic:

Wearing Monte Carlo dress

Here it is with the tunic closed.

Wearing Monte Carlo dress

Here's a closeup of the beading I did on the front:
Folkwear Monte Carlo dress

And finally, here's my pattern review:

Pattern Description:
Sleeveless, drop waist 1920's style dress with a handkerchief skirt. The dress pulls on over your head. There are two styles of over-tunics: one that is a simple pullover and one that crosses in the front that can be worn open or closed.

Pattern Sizing:
XS (30 1/2 - 31 1/2" bust) to XL (44-46" bust)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, I think it did, however I initially misunderstood how the skirt is constructed. The pattern comes with a lot of instruction and information about making the dress and mentions that layering fabrics for the skirt is a nice effect. When I saw that you cut out two large square pieces for the skirt I assumed those two pieces would be layered, but this is not the case. The two pieces are sewn together so that each square is one side of the skirt. I chose a thin skirt fabric, thinking it was going to be layered, but it was ok with one layer because the upper dress part does cover enough, and I wore black tights underneath.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The dress is simple in style - there is only a facing for the top neck and sleeve edge and no zipper. The instructions are fairly easy to follow but don't include any seam finishing instructions. My polyester fabrics unraveled easily so I used the serger to finish the seam edges of the upper dress part and French seams for the lightweight tunic fabric.

The instructions say to press the dress hem at 1/4 inch, then turn up and sew close to the fold. It's difficult to iron such a small hem on polyester and there's quite a bit of dress hem, so I first sewed a 1/4 inch hem then folded it and sewed it again.

Other reviewers mention difficulty with the shoulder straps - I also had a bit of a struggle with them. The instructions are ok, it's just that the front strap is gathered a bit and there's more fabric to get in place. It took a few tries and some hand sewing to get the straps looking ok.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I really liked the fit and because of the style there was no need to wear body-shaping undergarments.

Fabric Used:
The top of the dress is a sueded polyester, and the dress skirt is a lightweight polyester crepe. Both the tunic outside and the lining are lightweight polyester fabrics as well.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I graded the pattern for the dress from a L for the top to an XL from the waist down. I sewed ribbons with snaps attached to them to the straps so that I could keep my bra straps hidden under the dress straps. I added beading to the front after the dress was made instead of before, as the instructions say to do. I wasn't sure what beading I wanted to do and wanted to wait to see the dress completed to get some inspiration. I didn't find it difficult to bead it afterwards.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I probably won't make it again because I don't need more than one 20's style dress.
I gave this pattern a "Highly Recommend" because of the nice fit of the dress for many body types.

The most difficult part of making this dress is cutting it out. The tunic and dress skirt have large pattern pieces, and the tunic is cut on the bias. I traced off an extra tunic front so that I could ensure I had the layout correct and had enough fabric for all 3 pieces. Take note of any directional fabric. The motifs on my fabric were already on the diagonal so on the bias they either ran vertically or horizontally. I chose to have them run vertically but had I not noticed this I could easily have made a mistake and mixed them, which would have been disastrous!

Completing the tunic was also a bit more work than I figured it would be. The sewing wasn't so hard because it's just straight lines, and even doing French seams wasn't difficult, just time consuming. But once the tunic was finished, it needed to be pressed. Even though a sample showed I wouldn't melt the fabric with the iron, at least right away, I was still fearful of ruining it, so I used a presscloth. But trying to get a slippery seam to behave under a presscloth is really hard! So I first pinned the seam allowance in place around the entire perimeter of the tunic. Then I held the iron about an inch above and let it get a good dose of steam. Then I removed the pins, put down the presscloth and pressed with the iron. Then I removed the presscloth and used a clapper. Tedious, but worth it to get a nicely pressed edge.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oh happy day!

I am able to use my VIP Customizer embroidery software on our Windows 7, 64-bit machine and send designs to my Pfaff 7570! Woohoo! Happy dance!

It was a convoluted, ridiculously long process during which I had not one, but TWO blue screens on the computer. But I did it! It is sad (and frustrating) that it was such an ordeal, and crazy that I am so happy about accomplishing it that I will blog about it. But it works and I can continue to use the machine and software I've already invested in and hold off purchasing a standalone embroidery machine. Yes, there could be benefits to having a second machine to do embroidery, and it would be nice at times to have a 5x7 field, but there are drawbacks too. The biggest reason for not buying a second machine is that I don't need more stuff. Plus I don't have the room for it.

So for anyone who comes here in search of a solution, I will tell you what I did (and this will also document it for me in case I have to do it again.)

First, VIP Customizer will not run on a Windows 7 64-bit machine. I know I said I got it to work, but it's because I'm running it in XP mode. See, Microsoft realizes that although most software will run fine in Windows 7, some does not, so they have (thankfully) provided a way to run XP in a virtual mode and let you keep using your (old) software.

  1. Make sure you're running Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate. You cannot run XP Mode in Home Premium. Sorry.
  2. Go here and follow the directions to download and install XP Mode
  3. Now normally you'd be able to open VIP from your Windows 7 desktop but, there's this little purple thingy in the way. Yes, the dreaded dongle. The dongle is not recognized on 64-bit machines, so I found I have to run VIP from within XP Mode.
  4. Within XP Mode you just have to make sure you "attach" the USB token before you start the program. It's a drop down menu at the top of the XP Mode window. So that's all fine and dandy. I can run VIP and even navigate to the drives living in Windows 7 world where I stored all my embroidery designs. But the designs are no good if I can't get them to the machine.
  5. I can't remember which upgrade it was, 98-XP or XP-Vista, where the cable that came with my Pfaff quit working. Or maybe it was the hardware that excluded serial connectors. Anyway, the solution is the Keyspan USA 19H adapter. It's the only one that works to convert the Pfaff cable to USB. And you probably need another little adapter for the pin-pin connection between the Keyspan and the Pfaff cable.
  6. The next hurdle is drivers. I went here to download the drivers. I downloaded the W7 drivers just fine and W7 recognized the Keyspan cable but it didn't do me any good because the VIP software is running in XP world and it couldn't see the cable. I downloaded the XP drivers and the machine blue-screened. Not good. The cable came with a disc containing a Keyspan Serial Adapter Assistant program and drivers. However, when I plugged in the cable from within XP Mode and let the device wizards do their thing to search for drivers, it ultimately didn't work. There was a message that there was a problem and the USB cable could not be "attached" like the purple dongle could. So the solution was to download the XP drivers from the site but save them to a folder instead of just choosing run. Then, unplug the cable and from within XP Mode, go to the folder and click it and expand it and run the install.
  7. So now the cable was finally recognized (attached) and I could go embroider, right? No. Wrong COM port. The cable installs on COM3 and it needs to be either COM1 or COM2 for the VIP software. From within the Keyspan Serial Adapter Assistant program, go to Port Mapping and change it to COM1 or COM2. It said COM2 was already in use but it let me pick that one anyway. All is good now, right? No.
  8. Still couldn't communicate. Back to the Keyspan Serial Adapter Assistant program to see what I can change. I changed the Endpoints from "Compatible (Interrupt)" to "High Performance (Bulk)" and that worked. I have no idea why, I don't know what the two choices even mean, all I know is that I jumped for joy and let out a whoop when I saw this:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

More pajama-sewing

I made more pajamas. Boring? Yes, but a good way to get back into the sewing "groove." However just because they're pajamas doesn't mean that I am sewing any faster or cutting corners.

So here is my lastest creation, using Kwik Sew 2444 (out of print).

The pattern called for stretch lace, so this gave me an excuse to try and find some. The chain stores don't carry it and although I suppose I could have found some on-line, I'm fortunate to live near a discount fabric store, called "Fabrics R Us." It's one of those crowded, mish-mash fabric stores where you never know what you're going to find. Although they did have stretch lace, it was all too wide for this project. However they did had lots of fancy-edged elastic in many colors. I didn't have a swatch of my fabric with me but I think I did pretty good at guessing on the color.

And yes, I did buy more colors of elastic than I actually needed. But I was good and didn't even look at any fabrics - well, I couldn't help noticing the rolls of fake YSL vinyl. Name brand purses are not my thing, and it saddens me when women spend money they shouldn't on them...and counterfit is not a better choice. Ok, off my soapbox.

Here is my review, also posted on

Pattern Description:
Out of print pattern. Two-piece pajamas. Pullover top with crew or v-neck, long or short sleeves. Elastic-waist shorts or long pants with cuffed legs. Generous ease.

Pattern Sizing:
XS-XL. I cut a large on top and an XL for the shorts. This is why I sew...custom-sized pjs!

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes, looks like the drawing. The top is very boxy - straight sides with no curve at the waist whatsover.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were fine, but I didn't use them for applying the trim. I think the instructions would work fine for lace, but I couldn't find stretch lace that was narrow, in the right color, or that cost less than $4/yard.  I did find picot-edged elastic in a color that worked (BTW, you can find white at Joanns and Hancock Fabrics), but it's a little thicker than lace and only has one "fancy" edge.
I folded the edge of the neck, sleeves, and shorts hem under by 1/4 inch and basted them. Then I basted the picot-edged elastic to the wrong side with the picot showing. I don't know whether I used the right side or wrong side of the elastic - I chose the side I wanted. I basted rather than pinned because I find that pinning distorted things, and I was tired of getting pricked by the pins. I used a narrow zig-zag to top stitch so that it would be stretchy. Then I trimmed the excess fabric on the wrong side so it was even with the edge of the elastic.

The casing for the elastic on the shorts was sewn using the serger. I had never used this technique before and was a little apprehensive, but it worked. First you join your elastic so it's one big circle. Then you fold the waistband over 1", with the 3/4" elastic inside, then fold it back onto the rightside of the shorts/pants so the raw edge of the waistband is even with the fold. Then you serge along this edge, being careful not to catch the elastic. I put the knife down but it probably would be ok to leave it up. There should be about 1/4" of space to work with because the elastic is smaller than the casing. This technique worked great and I never caught the elastic once.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I liked the simple cut of the pattern. The style was exactly what I was looking for.

Fabric Used:
A light weight thermal knit that was cheap...amost too cheap to bother with. The grain, especially towards the edges, was very wonky. Being that it was a thermal knit, I was able to cut a new straight edge and use the lines in the fabric to try to line up the grain. For some reason I didn't swatch this fabric and record any info about it. I don't even know where I bought the fabric but I hope I didn't pay more than a dollar or two a yard for it! I will be sad if these pajamas come out of the wash a total wreck. I did pre-wash the fabric though.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I would sew this pattern again.

I don't know why Kwik Sew discontinued this pattern. I was a bit fearful for this project because no one had reviewed this pattern, it was OOP, and I had bad fabric. But the pajamas turned out just fine. Crossing my fingers they stay this way after a few washings.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ella is the queen cat

Ella prefers soft pillows...and thinks Felix is a pest and shouldn't be in her house.

Where does Felix sleep?

Anywhere he wants.

On a box. Note the nice, soft blanket on the bed (for the cats) complete with cat toys. But no, the box is more comfortable.


In the sink...with the faucet poking into his side. He was sound asleep and snoring. Oh, and he doesn't have a big white "skunk" stripe - that's light coming in from the skylight.


And finally, on the fall centerpiece I just put together a few hours ago. Who knew that pumpkins and gourds made nice pillows?


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Crappy fabric

My sewing time is too valuable to sew with crappy fabric...yet I do. It's just pajamas I reminded myself as I struggled to get the grain line of the thermal knit to behave so I could cut out the pattern. Yet I persevered because the vision of the pajamas out of that fabric is in my head. Because I bought a spool of matching serger thread. Because I bought matching elastic lace for the trim. Because I don't give up.

I should banish bad fabric from my stash but sometimes you just don't know it's bad until you work with it. The cost of the fabric is not a good measure either. Some of my "cheap" fabrics are just fine. I get a secret delight every time I wear the pretty, comfortable shirt I made with fabric that cost me $2.97.

But really, this fabric tested me last night. I don't even know where it came from. I thought I swatched all my fabrics but I can't find this among my cards. I came across it in one of my many bins when I was looking for pajama and nightgown fabrics. The way the fabric was jaggedly cut tells me that it was probably a bargain fabric from Fabrix in San Francisco or maybe even Jomar in Philadelphia during one of my visits to my parent's house. I'm still hopeful that despite the grain problems I'll be able to get a wearable pair of pajamas out of it. I'd show you the pattern I'm making - it's Kwik Sew 2444 - but it's out of print, and I couldn't even find any reviews for it on Hopefully this is not a sign that the pattern is bad too. A bad pattern + crappy fabric = wadder for sure!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Now you know what I sleep in

I like to sleep in knit night shirts and I was in dire need of some new ones. I've used  Kwik Sew 2821 to make a few in the past but was a bit bored with the plain t-shirt type. So I flipped through my notebook of Burda magazine technical drawings and thought #114 in the December 2008 issue looked comfortable (and easy). Then I shopped my stash and came up with a yellow knit that I bought from a long time ago. And here is the result:

And here's my review of the pattern that I posted on

Pattern Description:
Raglan-sleeve nightgown with pleated front neck edge, and tie-belt.

Pattern Sizing:

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

Were the instructions easy to follow?
The instructions were adequate except I didn't follow the directions for sewing the facing to the neck edge and did something different - see the design change section for details on how I applied it.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
I like that the pleated front and raglan sleeves make it different than just a plain t-shirt type nightgown, like my tried and true Kwik Sew 2821.

I like the detail of the picot-edge elastic at the sleeves and neck, but I don't really like the way it's applied - just sewn on to the hemmed sleeve and neck, leaving the raw edge of the sleeves and elastic.

Fabric Used:
Cotton interlock purchased from many years ago. It's a very nice weight, not too thin and not too thick. It's also very soft but I don't think it's a very durable fabric and expect it's going to pill terribly after a few nights of wearing it to bed and definitely after washing it a few times.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
Graded out from a 42 at the bust to a 46 at the waist and below. I checked the width of the pattern against Kwik Sew 2821 and it was the same, so I was good to go. I did not change the neckline height or the overall length of the nightgown.

I did change the way I sewed the neckline. The instructions call for attaching a strip of cross-grain cut fabric, folded lengthwise, to the raw edge of the neckline. It's supposed to be sewn right-sides together and then turned to the inside as a facing. Then the pico-edged elastic is stitched to the inside neck edge so that the pico edge shows. I thought this resulted in too much bulk - the seam allowance would contain two layers of the folded strip + the one layer of the body and then you fold the strip over on top of that (2 more layers). I was also afraid the elastic might be scratchy against my neck. So I tried something different. I first basted the elastic to the body fabric, a little outside of the seam line into the seam allowance, and then I sewed only one layer of the facing strip at the seam line, so that the pico edge elastic was sandwiched in between. I top stitched to hold it all in place. Then I trimmed the seam allowance and folded the extra fabric of the facing strip over the raw edges and stitched it down - on the seam allowance.

The other thing I changed about the neckline was that the instruction say to sew the neckline facing strip on and then fold the ends over each other. Forget that! I stitched the neckline strip together first on the short end and attached it in one circular piece, position the seam edge at the back neck and making sure the strip was evenly positioned around the neck. I did the same with the elastic trim.

I used my serger for the construction of the body, to finish inside hemmed edge of the sleeves, and I used a coverstitch for the bottom hem of the body.

I also left off the belt and belt loops. No need for a belt on my nightwear!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
I do recommend the pattern and think I will make at least one more short sleeve and maybe a long sleeve one as well.

A nice nightgown that fits well and is not too plain but not too fancy.

Friday, August 26, 2011


I need to find some time to weave on my loom.

One link led to another on the internet and I found this neat site where I can generate a tartan pattern. This free online program lets you add different colors and select the number of threads for each. It then calculates the total number of threads for a repeat and the width of that repeat based on a 16 oz or 13 oz wool yarn. I think it's for people to custom order tartans made from a commercial weaving facility, but I think I can certainly use it to create some fun plaids and tartans for weaving on my loom. Here's a simple black and red plaid pattern I whipped up. It's made with 16 threads of black, 16 threads of red and 4 threads of black:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A knitting weekend

Proud to be a sheep guardianNatural dyesSheep on a Sunday afternoonCat on a missionAmong the RedwoodsSt. Dorothy's Rest
Not spaghettiScrub Jay on the FenceBeesHere they comeSheep on the ranchGrass whiskers
Pictures from the knitting retreat I went on this weekend, called Knitting on the Coast.

No pictures of actual knitting, but some pictures of the sheep (and llama and cat) from Bodega Pastures, where we went on Sunday to dye some yarn and visit the sheep.

It was a lovely weekend.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Patrones X 5

I picked these up when I was in Buenos Aires in April. They were easy to find at just about every newstand kiosk. I paid about 24-28 Argentinean pesos each (less for older copies, more for new ones), which was about US$6-7 a copy. Not bad. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I still don't like Home Dec

I finished the window seat. Finally. Yay.


One side is striped and the other is the blue and white print.

Description: 86" x 18" x 2" box-shaped, zippered cushion cover with piping.

Pattern used: none, but I consulted Sandra Betzina Sews For Your Home for help with construction.

Fabric: heavy weight cotton from IKEA

Notions: One "endless" zipper, it's one long zipper sold with multiple pulls and meant to be cut to the length you need. I found it cheaper than the ones sold for home dec and the lighter weight zipper was prettier and opened and closed nicer than the metal upholstery zipper I had. For the piping I used cotton craft cord, which I found in the craft section of Joanns. It was the thickness I wanted and turned out to be much cheaper than the upholstery cording (which was either too thick or too thin). I soaked the cording in hot water to pre-shrink it. The inside cushion is 2" thick washable polyester cushion from Hancock Fabrics.

Construction: I don't know why it took me so long, except that I've never sewn a box-shaped, zippered cushion cover before and thought it would be difficult. It was cumbersome to deal with the long lengths of fabric, and I don't know how I can measure so carefully and still have things come out too long or too short on one side vs. the other (!!). But overall it wasn't that difficult to make. I put the zipper into the back size piece first and then sewed all the side pieces together. Then I sewed the piping to the side pieces. Next I sewed the top and bottom pieces to the side pieces along the long edges. I thought the corners would be difficult but this didn't turn out to be the case. I was able to sew along the end edges and the piping just sort of naturally curved at the corners. I finished the raw edges by serging them. Due to the bulk of the fabric I had to use my special serger piping foot so that the piping could ride in the groove of the foot and the edge could be serged.

Lessons learned:
  1. Just do it. Don't let the assumption the something will be difficult keep you from doing it.
  2. Be creative with notions. The zippers and piping sold in the home dec section were not quite what I wanted and turned out to be more expensive than what I ended up using.
  3. I should have bought more striped fabric. I had planned on making the entire cushion out of the striped fabric but had neglected to include enough yardage to make piping. I really wanted the piping so I used some of the blue and white fabric I bought for curtains (and then decided the windows didn't need them) for one side. Actually my husband likes the blue side, so it worked out.
  4. I still don't like sewing home dec, but I'm pleased with the results. I know that buying a ready-made cushion that would fit the space was impossible, and since I'm capable of sewing one I just couldn't have one custom made for me.  

The challenge now will be keeping it clean. As you see, the cat approves of his new sleeping bed, although I think he would have preferred me to make it out of the fluffy "yeti" blanket he enjoys on the guest room bed.

Monday, July 11, 2011


A problem at the launch site has delayed the launch. First it was delayed one day but now it has been delayed again. It might go Tuesday evening but we'll find out for sure tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, I have some software to write at work and some drapes to hem at home...gotta get some sewing news in there somewhere!

And I haven't forgotten to post more photos from our trip - it just takes so much time to weed through the 1839 photos we took. I've managed to write captions for all of the ones from Berlin, but it takes a lot of time to research the correct names and places. It's sad when you have a picture of a building or scenic view and you have no idea what it is. Even sadder if the photo contains people. I remember my grandmother, who was always snapping pictures on her Instamatic, urged me to identify people in photos. I'm grateful to her and other relatives who took the time to do that on the photos I've inherited. The software I use to catalog my photos (Adobe Elements) makes it very easy to add captions or tag photos with people's names, so there's no excuse not to do it - it just takes time.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011



Berlin, a set on Flickr.
Sorry I've been out of touch lately. We went on a trip to Europe (yes, another vacation) while I could get some time away before work gets busy. We went to Berlin for a few days, then a night in Paris before taking the train to Le Mans for the 24 Hours race. Then back to Paris for two nights, a train to Dunkerque to visit friends (and a day trip into Belgium). We ended the trip with a train through the Chunnel to London for two nights.

I've only managed to select some photos from the first day in Berlin. I hope you enjoy them. And I hope I can post some more (and pictures from Argentina too - some are on my Flickr page already).