Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Frankenstein never looked so good

This blouse was a quick (ish) sew, but it was also a lesson in patience.  I always expect things like this to be doable in a night, and then get frustrated if they take a few weeks.  I'm really happy with the outcome, so it's a bit of a lesson in patience and realistic expectations.

The idea for the blouse came from the free Sorbetto pattern from Colette patterns.  I had seen a lot of great versions of this pattern, but I had a similar tank top pattern already cut out (Simplicity 8426) so I just used that.  I raised the neckline 2-3 inches and widened it for more of a boatneck look. 

This fabric came from a kimono I picked up for scraps at a thrift shop.  It turned out to be nicer fabric than I realized, and there was just enough for a tank top.  I had to get really creative with the print, though, because there wasn't enough continuous yardage to make it according to the pattern directions.

See that seam running down the middle?  I am so proud of this match job!

I wound up having to Frankenstein the back from 4 pieces.  (This is why it took weeks instead of an evening!)  There wasn't enough fabric to match the print continuously, so there the top left panel matches the top right, and same for the bottom.  I was able to line them up so that the diagonal bamboo print lines up, even if it's not a true match.

The diagonal pattern of the bamboo lines up, which makes it much easier on the eyes.

I'm particularly proud of the finish of this project - neckline and armholes are neatly finished with bias tape, side seams and Frankenstein seams are finished with French seams.  The center pleat is actually a separate piece of fabric, which left a tricky, messy seam in front.  I pressed in the seam allowance and finished it with iron-on seam tape - super easy, and very neat.


Friday, March 23, 2012

LBD time

I made a dress!  And it only took me 14 years.

Let me explain.  Some friends decided to throw a classy party for New Year's Eve, so I combed through my unfinished projects, looking for something to polish off and wear.  What I found was the this sheath dress, in a rather primal state.  It began its life when I was about 16 - I think it was my second sewing project ever.  Oddly, I wouldn't really have worn this style when I was 16, but it is something I'd wear now.

The stitching was awful (raggedy top stitching on the neckline!  eep!) but the fabric (a soft poly-cotton brocade) was in good shape and it fit surprisingly well.  I unpicked the nasty topstitching and fixed the fit on the upper back.  It was an easy fix (just pinched out the excess), but I think the rumpled shoulders was what made me stuff the whole thing in a bag 14 years ago.  It's funny how my eye has changed - I remember how frustrating it used to be when something just "didn't fit," but now it's almost second nature to pinch and scooch and make it work.

Also, dang - sewing sure is easier when you can stitch in a straight line.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mom was wrong: slouching is good for you

I made a hat!  Three times, in fact.  The first time, I made it too big, so it kept sliding back off my head.  The second time, I accidentally skipped the line in the pattern that went from 80 stitches to 120, so it was way too tight.  Time number 3, however, was indeed the charm.

I used the super-cool, super-easy Slouchy Copy Cat Hat from Ravelry.  I originally increased the number of stitches to 86, but that was too big.  80 stitches was much better, and the 76 stitches in the original would probably be fine.

I modified the ribbing so that it would be a double thickness (pretty necessary for Minnesota).  My modifications were:

CO 80 stitches*.  Work in the round in 2x2 rib for 2 inches.  Purl one round (turning row).  Work 2 more inches of 2x2 rib (I reversed the order, so that the ribs would like up nicely).  Turn up the brim at the turning row.  Carefully pick up the stitches on the cast on edge with a darning needle and thread.  Knit a round of 2x2 rib, joining in the picked up stitches, one by one.  This results in a nicely seamed doubled ribbed brim.  Then proceed with the pattern as written (and don't forget the K2 M1 round!)

*This probably would have worked even better if I'd used a provisional cast on.  If anyone knows of instructions that tell you how to do a brim like this properly, let me know!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Project Bags

I visited my friend Lucia over New Year's in New York.  In between art museums and recovering from the New Year's festivities, we went through a big stash of fabric from her late mom.  Lucia's mom could do everything - she was a quilter and seamstress and knitter and embroiderer and goodness knows what else, so there was a lot to go through.  Lucia was kind enough to give me some pieces, and one of the first things I made was these bags, to hold my knitting:

 Pretty, no?  It's hard to see, but the green one has a cool leaf pattern in gold.  It's a lot nicer than carrying my knitting around in plastic bags, which had been my habit previously, and it's really cool to have something passed down from Lucia's mom.  I also made this one, from a t-shirt I got at the Fringe Festival in Scotland that never fit:

It's one of my first knit projects, and a pretty low-stakes one (on purpose).  I just used the ribbing at the neck (which forms a tube) to hold the drawstring, which was easy and works, but looks a little odd.  I still need to figure out how best to sew knits - I used a zig-zag, but probably set too wide... or maybe the stitch length was too long.  It was sufficient for a little bag like this, but we'll have to see when I try to make a sewn garment using knits.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hey! Socks!

Enough with the radio silence!  I keep not-blogging, in hopes that I will have cooler, longer, better-photographed posts in the future.  Bah!  I'm going to try to post weekly about the stuff I'm working on, whether it's done or not, epic or humble.

I've been knitting lots of socks lately.  I finally discovered why people knit socks - they're the Everywhere Project.  They're so portable and mostly mindless, so you can knit them on the bus, while watching TV, whatever.  I've been knitting in seminar and at conferences, which gets me weird looks, but keeps me awake.  I went to a conference in Hawaii in November (yes, woe is me) and knitted about 3/4 of a sock while taking a workshop and listening to talks. 

These are made from leftover yarn from a pair I made for my mom's birthday.  The colorful yarn is hand-dyed from Happy Hands Yarns in Wisconsin and is striped with black.  I did a short-row heel for the first time on these because I wanted that commercial contrast-heel look.  It was a pain finding instructions, but I finally found them in the Nutkin sock pattern.  It also took me 4 tries to get the heel right (mystery accidental yarnovers on my SSSPs!  Ack!) but I was victorious eventually.  That said, I don't think I'll be doing many short-row heels.  They're kind of a pain, and the corners sit funny.  We'll see, once I'm wearing them.

I still have to finish the second sock (heel almost done) but with seminar back in session, it shouldn't be too long.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ever wanted to knit with recycled t-shirts?

I have such a backlog of projects to describe!  A lot of them are left from the winter, which seems odd to write about in July.  This one is perhaps least inappropriate, so here we go!
 Soon after I moved to Minnesota, I realized living here involves 6 months of bringing gritty, wet boots into the house.  For my first year here, I just left them on a rectangle of cardboard by the door, which gradually grew more grimy and water-stained.  Classy.  Not content with, say, buying a rug (horrors!), I decided to make one.
 I decided to use t-shirt "yarn" for it: turns out, if you cut apart a t-shirt in a spiral, it makes surprisingly great knitting material.  And here's how!
To begin, hit up the thrift store for some t-shirts to chop up.  It's worth it to look for extra-large sizes; you can get up to twice the material from each one.  Try to get ones without much printing: the vinyl-y lettering will interfere with the curl of the fabric.  Also stay away from t-shirts with spandex: it interferes with the yarn curling to form a pleasant tube. 

Fold the shirt almost in half, so that there's about an inch that does not overlap.
Trim off the doubled-over hem of the shirt. 
 Next, begin making vertical cuts, parallel to the hem.  Cut all the way through the top layer, but not the bottom layer.  You want to leave all the "slices" hanging onto a backbone of fabric.
Cut the whole shirt this way, up to the armpits.  You can discard everything above the armpits (they make good rags for house-cleaning).
Now for the cool part!  Lay out the strips as neatly as you can around the "backbone".
Now it's time to cut apart the strips.  You want to connect cut 1 with cut 2 to create one continuous strip (not straight across, that will result in a bunch of useless rings).

In this one-off fashion, jon all the cuts.  You should now have one long strip that looks like fettucine.
 Don't be surprised if it looks awkward for knitting, there's one step left.  It's the easiest, and completely magical.  Take the "fettucine," a foot at a time, and give it a brisk tug.  Once stretched, it will curl in on itself into a nice, smooth tube. 

 And that's it!  I used size 13 needles to make my rug, with a simple pattern of stockinette stitch with a garter stitch border.  With that pattern, I got about 65 square inches (about half a square foot) of knitting per t-shirt, depending on size.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Soft, squishy, statistically sound.

This just in!  While Googling some statistical software for work, I came upon this blog post, which revealed that there are soft, plushy stats distributions for sale on Etsy.  How cool is that?  Check out seller NausicaaDistribution to buy!

Happy, normal curve

Wouldn't you just know that Weibull would have a mustache?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

More Odds and Ends

More little projects!  I have a backlog of little things to share, but no huge projects yet.  The shirtdress is coming along, as is a bag I’m designing and making.  I have 3 dresses I need to alter, and I’m knitting a hat.  Yeesh.  Someday maybe I’ll even finish something!

I framed 2 more pictures for the apartment – this time, Bird Art.  By day I’m a wildlife biologist (I study birds) and I have a soft spot for Audubon prints.  I’ve had these reproductions for years and finally found the time to frame them up this winter.  I used 2 matching frames I found at the thrift store, plus a little stain – they cleaned up nicely, didn’t they?  I used to work with Prairie Chickens in New Mexico (I worked with Lessers and Audubon only painted Greaters, but no matter) and I have always had a soft spot for Barn Swallows.  There’s a tendency among biologists to let their homes become overwhelmed with wildlife art, so I’ve been cautious in the past.  Cross your fingers that this doesn't open the floodgates.  I do want to get the duck stamp with a mottled duck on it someday, though.  Small doses, Beth, small doses.

In other news, I’ve been making little velcro bags for toiletries and whatnot.  My sister admired one I’d made over the holidays, so I whipped up a couple for her and my sister-in-law.  They only take an hour and are dead useful.  Note the French seams – man, did life get better when I discovered French seams.  I also used up some of my multitudinous blue fabric scraps to make them – yay!  One of these days I’ll actually have to post about the blue fabric project.  One of these days…

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


See that?  It's a leaf.  A bunch of them, in fact.  And they're green.  They're even outdoors, attached to a tree, just outside my building.  Finally!

Time to finally unveil a long-term project that kept me out of trouble over our recent long, cold, snowy winter.  Along about October, I decided to finally frame some things for my walls, including some vintage sheet music I've had stored for years.  It seemed so simple - why pay for brand-new frames when I could buy a bunch of cool frames from Goodwill and paint them?  The idea was that the frames would be funky and individual, but the uniform paint color would tie it all together in crafty-arty-goodness.

Of course, it got complicated when my plan to spray paint the frames was confronted with the reality that spray paint doesn't work well when it's 10 degrees out.  Delay.  Delay.  Ponder.  Dither.  I finally sucked it up and painted them by brush, which was time consuming but effective.

I couldn't find affordable mats that I liked, so I just backed the sheet music with nice acid-free patterned paper from the craft store.  Dad clued me in to framing points, or "glaziers window points," which are a handy way to snug the paper up against the glass so it doesn't slip down.  And.... Ta-da!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New patterns from Colette

I am a big fan of Colette Patterns (well, a lurker fan, if that's a thing), so I was super-excited when they announced their new spring patterns a few weeks ago.  I have to say, though, the results were a little under-whelming.
Of the last 4 patterns Colette has released, 3 have been so basic that they're not very interesting to someone who has sewn for over a year.  Some of their recent blog posts have been super basic too, so I guess they are aiming toward the beginner market big-time. I'm sure this makes good business sense, but what drew me to the company in the first place was their simple but clever designs like the Sencha or Cinnamon; designs I felt like I'd always wanted but could never find. It's not like I was hurting for a-line skirt patterns - every other separates pattern by the big pattern companies includes an a-line.

Ah, well.  You can't win them all, and there will probably be some very happy beginners who get into sewing via the Violet, Ginger, and Crepe.  I just hope they release something with a little more pizazz next time.