Friday, May 29, 2015

A Swedish Weekend

While we are living in Germany, we are taking full advantage of the opportunity to travel to nearby countries and cities and have set a goal of trying to make one trip per month. We are also trying to visit as many capital cities as possible. Stockholm, Sweden was the trip for May.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon to cloudy, cool weather with a threat of rain, but that didn't keep us from exploring the old section of Stockholm, called Gamla Stan.

Terrific view of Gamla Stan from our hotel room!
I think it was surprising to us how much older Stockholm appears than Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki. Yes, those cities have old buildings as well - and old is relative, the 18th and 19th century buildings are modern compared to other places in Europe - but overall, the narrow streets and uniformly old buildings gave Gamla Stan an "old world" feel. We were also surprised by the colors of the buildings. The orange and yellow colored plaster reminded me more of Italy and Spain.

Saturday morning the sun dawned bright and early (4 am!) and it looked like it would be a sunny day. The forecast didn't call for rain so we set off unhindered by umbrellas and raincoats. We passed back through Gamla Stan on our way and enjoyed a moment in Stortorget, a popular and often photographed square.

Look at that blue sky!

Our destination that day was the outdoor Skansen open air museum and zoo. It's a bit of a walk since it's on a different island and by the time we got there the skies got dark and the rain fell. Did I mention we didn't bring our umbrellas or raincoats - oops! It was a light rain so we took shelter under a tree until it passed. Afterward we made our way to the entrance for Skansen, and oh my the lines were long! We expected Skansen to be crowded on a Saturday afternoon but it was crazy-crowded. We did not realize that it was also the 70th anniversary of Pippi Longstocking and being that she is the creation of a Swedish author, well, you can imagine the hundreds and maybe thousands of children and their parents (and many, many, many baby carriages) visiting the park for a special Pippi Långstrump day. We decided to wait a bit and grab some lunch but as we were hunting for place to eat, a second rain storm passed through. So much for the weather forecast! This time we took shelter in the ABBA Museum gift shop. It was appropriate since the Eurovision Song contest final was that evening (more about that later) and ABBA won in 1974 with Waterloo and with that win their career was launched.


Fortunately the skies cleared and we made it to Skansen, and not the actual museum part of the ABBA Museum, though I'm sure we would have toured it if the rain hadn't stopped.

Outdoor museums are popular in Scandinavia - I've been to two others in Norway and a small one in Iceland. They are a great way to see how people lived in years past and also enjoy the outdoors. Skansen is also a zoo with bears, wolverines, reindeer, wolves, lynx, and domestic animals (sheep, cows, goats, etc) and a few African animals too (lemurs , I think - we didn't see them). There are farmsteads throughout the park with buildings from different eras. Some are open for viewing and furnished with period pieces and a guide who can answer your questions.

Cabin with a grass roof.

There is also a town with demonstrations of baking, silverwork, carpentry, glass blowing, etc.

It was early in the season, so not everything was open, but we still were able to view some things and enjoyed learning about how people lived and worked in Sweden long ago. I was sad though to only be able to peer into the window of a shop that had textiles and a pair of wool combs.

Picture through the window
On our way out of the park we stopped at their gift shop. It's a really nice shop, not touristy-tacky (plenty of those stores in Gamla Stan). They sell items that are either manufactured on site, like a chair from the woodworking shop, or items that are representative of Swedish handicrafts, cooking, and gardening. My wonderful husband spied something he thought might be for weaving, and he was right! A souvenir that I can also use. :-)


It's a Scandinavian tape loom, used for weaving ribbons or bands. After some searching on the internet, I found out that this one is carved by eighty-year-old Åke Erlandsson. How cool is that? The shop also had linen yarn, which I couldn't resist. I bought the colors of the Swedish flag, with the intent of making a table runner or something. Perhaps a band using my new tape loom?

Travel yarn
I bought the yarn on the left in a shop in Gamla Stan called Anntorps Väv. There were three yarn shops in Gamla Stan - pretty amazing considering the small size of the island.

The first one I stopped in, Maker 11, is a really small shop that sells other crafty things besides yarn. The woman who runs it says she doesn't sell Swedish yarn, preferring instead to stock yarn from other far away Denmark (ha ha). But she was a really lovely person and told me about the other two yarn shops nearby that sell Swedish yarn. I was, however, tempted by the Danish yarn (the colors!!) in her store, though I think I might have some in my stash from our trip to Copenhagen.

The Anntorps Väv shop was interesting. It's a small store, as they all are, but with a nice selection of Swedish yarn as well as other brands. There were cones of fantastic looking, stranded yarns on the top shelf but they weren't marked and since there seemed to be other display items around, I wasn't sure if these yarns were for sale. It appeared that the woman there, the owner perhaps, didn't speak much English and I was too shy to ask (stupid me, since I found out afterward, reading on the internet, that she will sell any amount of these yarns you want). But I do love the yarns I picked out - the picture doesn't show the colors well enough and you can't smell the "sheep-iness" of the wool. :-)  Oh, and while I was there, a man was picking out yarn. I'm guessing from overhearing him speak to the owner that he was American. I'm also guessing that he was there on business or something and buying the yarn for his fiber-loving wife. My husband would do the same for me!

The third yarn store, Sticka, is a lovely store I popped into only for a quick look around. I immediately spied a table full of a scrumptiously soft yarn called Tweed, from Sandnesgarn, a Norwegian company. I didn't buy any because I already had my travel yarn and it wasn't Swedish, but of course now I want it. Thanks to the internet I've already found a German on-line shop I can order it from should I decide to buy some.

So back to the travel-log...Saturday night, after dinner at an Italian restaurant that also had Swedish specialties (there are quite a few Italian restaurants there for some reason), we headed back to the hotel in time to watch Eurovision. I am not surprised if you are non-European and have not heard of Eurovision, because I had not heard of it until I saw a documentary about Estonia winning the contest and what a huge win it was for them. Briefly, I'll say that the contest was started in the 50's as a way to bring European countries together after WWII. It'd take too long to describe it all, so it's best to direct you to the Wikipedia article on it. The winner this year is...Sweden!!! It's a good song too.

Sunday was another beautiful, sunny day, so we spent most of it walking around, seeing the sights.

Statue of Birger Jarl, considered the founder of Stockholm
Beautiful day for a walk or sailing
Our eventual destination was the Vasa Museum. The Vasa is a ship that sank in the Stockholm harbor on her maiden voyage in 1628. The ship was raised 333 years later in 1961, and the majority of it is on display in the museum.

The actual ship in the background with a colored model in front.
The guidebooks say to allow an hour for the museum, but that's crazy because there are a lot of interesting exhibits to see - we were there for about three hours. The woodwork on the ship is incredible, and there's an interesting visual exhibit that ties what you see on the ship to statues and carvings on other ships and also buildings. Worth a visit, I think.
In the blink of an eye, the weekend was over. We made one last stop in the Old Town Monday morning before our flight home to purchase a poster we spied earlier when the shop was closed.
Did not know "Björn" means "Bear" in Swedish!

I really like the design asthetic in Sweden. It was hard not to purchase lots of stuff just because I liked the graphics. The clothes in the store windows were also interesting.

Fun use of stripes
I liked the front detail of this sweater (hard to photograph with the window reflections)
I'd love to find this fabric!

So that was our trip to Sweden. Our June trip is to Riga, Latvia.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Just enough

Just enough fabric but one Olfa mat short

I had this crazy (or awesome, depending on your taste) animal print that I bought as a remnant and wanted to use for some pajama pants for my husband, who loves animals. The pattern pieces didn't quite fit until I thought to check the length of the last pair I made him from this pattern (Burda 12/2010 #134, without the fly). Hooray - they were at least an inch above the hem line so I feel safe in cutting these without the pattern hem allowance and hemming to fit the length he needs. I also thought about piecing the crotch (they're pajama pants, after all). I could maybe have also gotten away with cutting them a tiny bit off grain...again, pajama pants. But I got it to fit!

Now to the cutting. And yes, the fabric is prewashed. :-)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

But will I wear it?

So here are some photos. Minutes after I took these, it started to rain, so not the best lighting for this.

You can see the wrinkles on the side of the bust because there's too much fabric there.

The cat photobombed the picture and it turned out to be better than the others because my expression was relaxed. I need Felix to photobomb more often!

Looking at the birds in the trees also helps.

Some shots on the dress form:

The bust is only smooth if I pull up at the shoulders.
So the question...will I wear it? I modeled it wearing the Ottobre top I just made, and a pair of black leggings. I don't normally wear leggings but I feel that pants create too much bulk underneath. It's a bit of a different look for me, because lately my wardrobe is pretty much pants and t-shirt tops. Maybe I should make a dress to wear under it.

Here's my review of the pattern:

Pattern Description: Long cardigan with empire waist, flowing skirt and front ties.

Pattern Sizing: Sizes 36-44. I made a 44.

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

Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes and no. I chose to sew it up a little differently. I sewed the sleeves in before sewing the sleeve seam and side seam, which is how I normally sew them on knits, but the sleeve cap is a little high so it was a bit tricky to get the fabric eased in properly. I made the ties out of my fabric, which I think is much nicer than using bias tape. I used my serger for the seams and a straight stitch for the front edge and neck hems (small zig-zag for the neck edge to allow a bit of stretch). I left it un-hemmed at the bottom, which is what the pattern calls for, though I don't think they make it very clear.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I was attracted to the shape of the cardigan.

Fabric Used: Polyester knit

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Full bust adjustment, which added a side dart and I lengthened the top by an inch. But I might have added too much because the top doesn't fit as well as I hoped (despite a sample I made, though in a different fabric).

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I might make it again. I think it would make a nice over-garment for a sleeveless dress.

Conclusion: I hope I wear this, though it's a bit of a departure from my regular wardrobe.

Fear of Finishing

An analytical look at my sewing lately ('cause I'm an engineer)

Why does it take me a week to hem a garment? For the same reason I have sweater pieces that are knitted but not assembled. I have a fear of finishing because I fear that when the item is done I will perhaps see that it doesn't live up to my expectations. Yes, I'm too hard on myself. It's just sewing (or knitting) and it's not like anyone is grading me, judging me, or paying me for what I make. And yes, I know I learn from my experiences and mistakes.

Every sewer has wadders. Plenty of knitters have ripped out entire sweaters that didn't work out. I've made lots of things I wore once - mostly dresses for weddings or special occasions - but never were worn again because they didn't quite fit right or the style was all wrong for me. Even if another event comes up I chose to make (or buy) something rather than be uncomfortable wearing one of those previous dresses. Yet those dresses stay for a long time in my closet because I made them. Call me sentimental. Or a perfectionist. Or a bit of a hoarder. I'm all three. But I don't like being uncomfortable...or settling for "just ok."

The "just ok" projects may even be worse than the ones that don't work out. At least with a failure there's often a clear reason: doesn't fit, wrong choice of fabric. The tough ones are when I put on what I made, stand in front of the mirror and doubt that I'd buy the same thing off a clothing rack. I think too often the image I had of me wearing it does not fit reality. In my head I know the picture of the dress/pants/jacket/blouse on the pattern envelope or magazine page size-2 model is not really how it will look on me, but there's often not much else to go by.

So you can probably guess where I'm going with this blog post (or maybe you can't and I'm rambling). Progress on the Burda cardigan was going pretty well and after a few days it was basically done except for the hems on the sleeves and the front ties. This was my 90% point. It was finished enough for me to try on and this is where I got stuck. Although I'd made a sample to test out the fit of my FBA, the fit of the cardigan didn't quite measure up. It's actually a little too large.

Rule #1 in making a muslin (I made this up, I don't know if this is really the number one rule, but it sounds good to me) - use a similar fabric. My fabric is a polyester mystery-weave knit. I didn't have a lot of it so I couldn't use it to sample, therefore, I made a sample using a rayon jersey knit. The rayon knit is heavier feeling whereas the polyester is light and airy. The rayon is also 4-way but the poly is 2-way stretch. I don't know that using a different sample fabric was the main culprit though.

Rule #2 - don't skimp on the sample. I cut out only one front and one back for my sample, so I didn't really see how the finished piece would hang in the front or off my shoulders. Lesson learned (and learned and learned and apparently not sunk in yet) - in Burda patterns, I need to go down a size for my upper chest and shoulders.

Today I pushed past the 90% and finished the hems and made the ties. Tomorrow, weather and time permitting, I might get a picture of me wearing it. At the very least I'll snap a picture on my dressform, although my dressform is less busty than I am at the moment, further emphasizing the fitting issue.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Fitting around the curves

One reason I haven't been sewing much is my fear of fitting. I don't think I'm alone with this fear either. It's one thing to try clothes on in a store and assess if they fit or not and it's entirely another to sew something yourself to fit your body. It's very frustrating to sew something and not have it fit, and feel you've wasted your time and money (although if you can learn something, then it's not all a waste).

I'm fortunate to not have too much of a problem with fit. In the past I have gotten away with making only minor modifications to patterns - mostly cutting a larger size for the bottom than the top. Sometimes I also make an adjustment to sleeves to fit my middle-aged-flabby arms. I sew a lot with knits, which can be very forgiving, but even in a knit I'm not always happy with the resulting fit. The area of most of my woes these days is the bust, which has gotten more full over time. I have noticed a lot on the sewing boards and blogs about sewers making an FBA - full bust adjust - to their patterns. I think it's time I acknowledge that I'm not the B-cup the patterns are cut for - I'm more like a D.

I tried a small FBA on my last project, a simple long sleeve t-shirt, but it didn't really make a difference. I did a "vertical FBA", which is just a way of adding more fabric to the front so that there is more to go over your bust - the excess is eased in at the sides without adding a dart. I didn't add enough to the front, so there wasn't much excess.

My next project is this piece (#122) from Burda Style 3/2012:

I had a suspicion that the bodice would need to be lengthened and/or make an FBA and I was right. When I placed the pattern piece against me, the seam line for the skirt hit way to high under my bust. This was a wadder in the making unless I made some adjustments.

Here is the resulting pattern piece after I made the FBA and lengthened the front. I made a muslin in a  knit scrap (yay for saving knit scraps!) and confirmed that it will work.

For the FBA (in red) I used some wonderful instructions from the Petite Plus Patterns site: click here for the link. The pattern included the bottom dart, which I redrew, and I added the side dart. 

To add length, I cut along a line perpendicular to the bottom dart line and added an inch (green lines). I did the same for the back piece, which also has a dart.

So now, I am confident to proceed with cutting the fabric. Stay tuned for the results!