Friday, May 29, 2015

Project Hiatus and my Burlap Bag

I am just so frustrated right now y'all. I've got so many projects that I want to be working on. I'm a sleeve and a half away from finishing a new cardigan and I've got enough fabric for two new slips, two new tanks, three new skirts and three new button up shirts, two new nightgowns, and a really cute sundress, plus some undies (Jo-Ann's was having a great sale/coupon combo and if my boyfriend asks I saved more than I spent and that's the important part). I've also got the yarn for a third cardigan and a pair of socks, all waiting, eagerly, for me to use them. And I am getting nothing done because I've got an "acute muscle spasm" (according to my doctor) in my neck. All I know is that it hurts like heck unless I'm all doped up on muscle relaxers, and so I've been stuck laying in bed. I am not good at not getting things done.

I mean, I have almost finished reading the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, so I guess I haven't accomplished /nothing/ but I am still feeling the lack of tangible results for my time spent.

Until today, I couldn't even really catch up here because I couldn't hold my head up long enough to type this. But I am also only one project behind on this blog at the moment, so without further a due and only about a month after I made it I present my sewing bag:

Originally I made this bag because I was taking a sewing class at a local community college. I was considering trying to get into their Apparel Design programme. Unfortunately, I ended up having to drop the class due to a combination of lost paperwork on their end and then work conflicts on my end. So I ended up finishing my lovely bag custom made for holding my class supplies the same week I dropped the class. Oops. 

But it did hold everything perfectly. And I thought the lining fabric was totally darling for a sewing bag. It's still a useful burlap tote and I totally don't regret making it because it allowed me to practise several new things. For example, I got to match the patterns for the pockets on the lining of the bag. I know it's hard to tell in the photo, but there are four small pockets (for bobbins, tailors chalk, embroidery scissors and safety pins on one piece and one larger pockets for my shears and pins/sharpies on the other lining piece. 

This bag was my first time working with burlap too. Holy Moly it likes to pull itself off grain. Cutting the pieces was good practice for cutting fabric on grain and then pulling it all nice and straight. It also taught me to cut the pieces bigger than I needed than trim down once it was straightened because otherwise you might end up with less fabric than you thought you would. 

All in all, I like the bag and even though I don't need it for carrying class supplies it will still be useful for carrying projects, which I'm sure will happen again in the future. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dirndl Skirt

I've been doing tons of sewing lately, but my blog updates have been haphazard at best because of my crazy work schedule. Not that it takes a long time to write these posts, but I need light for the pictures and I live in a basement apartment so I pretty much have to take my photos between two and three o'clock in the afternoon to get the best light. 

This skirt is one that I made a while ago, but I only recently got around to taking pictures and thus writing a post about it. If asked I would adamantly deny that I like the color pink. I would also claim that I don't like synthetic fabrics. And yet when I was in JoAnn's this hot pink, fake "linen" which is actually a poly/rayon blend was just screaming for me to take it home. Much to my own surprise, I got four yards and made a dirndl (gathered) style skirt. I really like this skirt. I think it's comfortable and flattering. It also has the advantage of not needing a pattern because it's just three rectangles.

I decided to jazz it up a bit by adding pockets with a fun teal printed fabric. I should have placed the pockets about an inch higher because I have to reach down just a bit to slip my hands in, but I still love having pockets on a skirt and they are big enough for my entire hand (because I basically just traced a mitten shape around my hand to get the size).

Becuase I try to learn something new with every project, and there was nothing else very challenging with this skirt I challenged myself to do an inset lapped zipper, rather than my usual center lapped zipper. I think it's an attractive zipper, although when I use it in the future I will make sure to 1) leave more than 5/8 seam allowance so I have plenty of fabric for the lap and 2) make sure that I leave a space free of gathers because they made a challenging amount of bulk to deal with and it doesn't look as good as it should have. 

All in all I love this skirt. It's fun, it makes me feel cute and flirty, and it's easy to dress up or down. I think I'm pretty much going to live in it this summer. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

McCall's 6035 Revisited

In my last post I wrote about McCall's 6035. I was attempting to make view A: a short sleeve button up with princess seams and a mandarin collar. As I said in that post the pattern was fine, but my own need to complicate my life lead to me literally screwing up every seam and calling my shirt a muslin. Today I revisited the pattern and am proud to say that this time I am very pleased with the results.

The fabric store was out of the pretty robin's egg blue cotton that I used last time, so I went with more of a Kelly green. I also picked up a nice purple and a light blue with brown polka-dots, both of which I also intend to use for short-sleeve button-up shirts. I decided to cut the green first because 1) it was the cheapest fabric I bought ($4.99 a yd 40% off) so if I screwed it up again I wasn't out much money and 2) it was my least favorite of the three fabrics so I wouldn't be that upset if it didn't work out.

I am really happy to report that I didn't screw it up this time. Here is a picture of the flat fell seam on the sleeve cap. As you can see I did still get a little bit of puckering, but it is world's away better than my last attempt. I think it even looks better than the shirts that I made with plain seams. 

And here is a picture of the shirt turned inside out. I used the clean finish for the princess seams this time and I have to say they are not bad. They don't lie perfectly flat, but then what would? They do look better than the mock french seams and they were easier to execute. Unexpected bonus: they were also easier to deal with when hemming and attaching the sleeves because they are less bulky. Not that I was surprised by that, I just hadn't thought about that aspect. 

All in all, I am totally pleased with this shirt. It fits well and I managed to have all clean seams with minimal headache. I'm calling it a winner. I am going to make it again, although I think that next time I will add a folded down collar.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

McCall's 6035 Pattern Notes

I know this isn't what I said I would post next, but I was working on a new shirt today and managed to screw up so many things that I'm now calling this one a muslin and I wanted to jot everything down before I forgot and screwed up the next one too.

I was trying to make McCall's 6035 view A. Now I want to start off my saying there is nothing wrong with this pattern. Everything that got messed up was just me screwing up!

So, the first thing I did was decide to do a mock french seam for the princess seams. My justification was that french seams don't work well on curves, but I had read that a mock french seam would.

The mock french seam really doesn't lie well on the curve either. I thought it would at least look okay, but it just isn't as pretty as a real french seam either. Next time I make this shirt I am going to just do a clean finish on the princess seams. It will probably be easier, quicker and prettier. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the most complicated solution is not always the best one. 

I do think I'll stick with the french seams at the side seam because they seem to lie well enough and they are still my favorite seam finish. 

And speaking of seam finishes: the next thing I screwed up was the flat fell seam at the shoulders. The first shoulder went well enough, but when I was trimming the seam allowance to finish the second I managed to cut a hole in my fabric. The picture is from the inside of the shirt where the hole is still visible. 
I was lucky that I cut the hole before actually cutting any of the seam allowance so I "solved" the problem by trimming the other side and pushing the seam toward the front of the shirt instead of the back so from the right side you can't see the hole. Unfortunately, I had already done the other side of the shirt and had pushed the seam allowance towards the back on that side, so now my two seams don't match. 

I know most people wouldn't actually notice it, but I think you can see it even in this picture, and I would know it was there and it would bother me. Not enough to not wear the shirt, but enough that I might not enjoy wearing it. 

It's about at the next picture that I started thinking this shirt was not going to be wearable when I was done. 

I've done flat fell seams on the sleeve cap before, but I've never done one where there was actually extra sleeve to ease in. I had it in my head that the seam should push up onto the shoulder, rather than down onto the sleeve. Not only did that emphasize the horrible job I did easing the sleeve, it actually made the puckering worse. 

Here is the second sleeve. I pushed the seam allowance down onto the sleeve for this one, and as you can tell the finished seam looks much smoother. I don't know why I thought I needed to do it the other way. After I did this sleeve I pulled out one of my boyfriend's ready to wear flannel shirts and saw that on it the seam allowance was on the sleeve. It also pushed the shoulder seam allowance forward toward the front of the shirt, but I think it looks better facing the back. I guess the big thing on that one would just be to have them facing the same direction. 

 So, the sleeve bands managed to have three issues (which I personally think is pretty impressive for such a small section of the shirt). First, at a 5/8 seam allowance the band is too tight around my arm, so mental note add half an inch to the band when I cut it out next time. Next, normally on a sleeve band or cuff I would stitch one side than slip stitch to secure the other side, just like bias binding, because I really don't like the look of top-stitching and I can't ever seem to get a nice straight stitch 1/16" away from the seam. In the fist picture, you can see that I was way too far away. What is harder to see in the picture is that the band is also trying to twist, like it was off grain, even though I know it wasn't when I cut it out.

For the second band I managed to get that nice 1/16" edge stitch, but when I attached the sleeve I realized that I'd attached the band backwards, so the wrong side was up with the sleeve put in correctly. 

I'll admit that was when I really decided that I was calling this shirt a muslin and not doing anything more with it. I safety pinned the front to determine that the bust did fit, so at least I made the right size, but I just did too many things wrong to try and fix it all. At least it was cheap cotton bought with a coupon so I'm out less than $10. Especially if I use the buttons I bought for this on my next attempt. Still, totally frustrating headdesk moment because I can blame no one but me for everything that went wrong. If I hadn't tried to be so fancy with my seam finishes I would have a wearable shirt right now.

Focusing on the upside: now I know how not to finish the seams for this shirt, and next time I will do better. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Linen Sweater

So, on April 19th my mom finally met my boyfriend's mom. We went to see Swan Lake, which was fantastic, but we went to a matinee performance so that my boyfriend's family had time to drive home. A matinee, of course, meant I needed a new outfit because I had nothing in between too formal for day wear and too casual for the ballet. I had already started working on my wrap dress before I got the invitation to the ballet, and I had already purchased the yarn I used in the sweater too, but I had to rush a bit to get the sweater done in time for the ballet. I cast on the sweater on March 22 and the morning of the ballet I was sewing on the buttons.

I ended up running out of time before I finished a purse to go with it, but I think my outfit looks fabulous. 

The yarn is Knit Picks Lindy Chain in the colorway Linen. I've never knit with linen yarn before and I have to say it was awesome. I was sort of expecting something like cotton, soft, with a tendency to stretch. I've got to say that it was nothing like that. Yes, the finished fabric does stretch and you can see that it stays wrinkled (obviously I took these photos after wearing the sweater all day), but the yarn was amazing. Working with it, it had a kind of sensual roughness and it feels surprisingly heavy for a fingering weight yarn. The yarn is not soft, but it doesn't itch like some animal fibers, it just feels good. I'm already trying to think of other projects that will let me use it again. 

I feel like I'm going to have to wash this sweater each time I wear it in order to bounce it back to its original shape, just like a cotton sweater. I haven't washed it yet, so I don't know how much recovery it will actually have. In the future, I might avoid linen for sweaters on that basis, but I'm reserving judgment until I do actually wash it.

And speaking of the shape of the sweater: I used the pattern Peacock Eyes Cardigan. It was very enjoyable to knit. I think it might be the first top-down sweater that I've done and I really liked being able to try it on to get the length right. I have a long torso and my sweaters often end up a little shorter than I mean for them too, but this one was just right. I also liked that the pattern had an option for 3/4 sleeves. Usually, I go for long sleeves and then end up distorting the cuffs because I am forever shoving them up to my elbows. I think in the future I'm going to do more sweaters with 3/4 sleeves. 

All in all, I am very pleased with this sweater. It dressed up nicely with my dress, but I think it will also look great with a t-shirt and jeans and the color is a fantastic light neutral. Before the rush for the ballet I had intended to make this sweater with this yarn for it to function as a good versatile sweater and I think it will manage to be exactly that.