Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fun with Kumihimo

Top to bottom:

1) Round Braid with 4 blue and 4 cream strands.

2) Square Braid with 4 blue and 4 cream strands.

3) Hollow Braid with 6 blue and 2 cream strands. After approx 2", switches to Round Braid.

Maybe you've heard of Kumihimo? It's a Japanese braiding technique that is traditionally done using a wooden stand called a marudai or a takadai. Thirty years ago, I wanted to try kumihimo, but it required a fairly expensive outlay to get started, so I'd never gotten around to it.

Then, about 11 years ago, my 6 year old brought home from school an economical, portable form of kumihimo that uses a foam disk with cut slots to hold the yarn. What a brilliant invention – no need for the heavy weights required for traditional kumihimo and, did I mention, it's portable? I quickly ordered myself up a couple of these disks from Braiders Hand. (I see they now offer a square "plate" for making flat braids. They didn't have that years ago when I ordered mine.)

Even before the disks arrived, my kids' interest waned (in fact, DD2 now swears she's never even seen one of these things before) but I played with it a bit. Since I had no real use for the braids I was creating, I laid the disks aside and, eventually, they were stored in the garage.

I recently decided I would like to experiment with using these braids in clothing, and I dug my disk out of the garage. I could no longer remember the correct technique, but Youtube came to the rescue.

I first started with the standard round braid, which is what my kids had learned. My first sample used 8 strands of a fine crochet thread and the resulting braid was far too thin. I found some yarn left over from previous projects – it is roughly a DK weight. I tried the 8-thread round braid using the yarn, and I liked the result much better. This braid is more supple and definitely has potential.

Next, I decided to try a square braid. I have seen many obi cords that use a square braid, but my 8-thread braid was far too compact and stiff. Of the three patterns, I found this one the hardest to keep straight in my head and I made a couple errors in my sample. (It seems like every time I thought, "I have it now!" I would make a mistake.)

I then tried a hollow braid. The bottom sample starts with about 2" of the hollow braid and then I switched back to the round braid, which is my favorite of the three. (In the photo you can see where it changes pattern, just a bit over the hole.) This time the pattern is slightly different because it uses 2 white yarns and 6 blue yarns (positioned as shown in the Hollow Braid video), where the other samples use 4 and 4 (positioned as shown in the Basic Round Braid video). I love how changing the yarn colors yields such a different effect.

Below are the Youtube videos that I found useful. If you go to Youtube and search on kumihimo, you will find other videos, including those that use the traditional wooden stands. There is also a video showing how to create a beaded braid using the disk. The resulting braid reminds me of bracelets I saw for sale in Egypt.

Basic Round Braid

Square Braid

Hollow Braid

Eventually you will see a kumihumo braid emerge in at least one of my pieces. It won't be immediately, though, as I have a lot of other things going on too.

2006 Winter Olympics

I have been watching the Olympics the last couple of weeks and it has been making me think back to the 2006 Winter Olympics. At the time, I was "into" knitting (one of my friends calls me a serial hobbyist) and I decided to participate in the Yarn Harlot's 2006 Knitting Olympics.

The point of the Knitting Olympics is to cast on during Opening Ceremonies and cast off on or before the closing ceremonies. You are encouraged to challenge yourself in some way. I think this was the first sweater I had made, except for one I made as a teenager for my mother. And that one wouldn't go over her head. :) For me, making a sweater in that time frame was challenge enough, and this one used intarsia, a technique I am not adept at.

DD2 really wanted a Weasley sweater from the first Harry Potter movie and I managed to locate one of the original patterns released by Rowan when the first movie came out. I found an online chart to use for the letter A – the pattern supplied only the letters H (for Harry) and R (for Ron), if I recall. I used the Rowan tweed yarn that was used for the original movie sweaters.

I read somewhere that the expert knitter they hired to create the original movie sweaters worked hard to achieve the "loving hands at home" look. Not unlike an adult working hard to replicate a child's scrawl-like text. For me, I had no trouble at all achieving that look. LOL. I'm sure DD2 could still fit into the oversized sweater, but it's been sent off to storage – its services are "no longer required."

I also made her the hat that Hermione wore in the Prisoner of Azkhaban. The site that sold this pattern is no longer around, though I did find at least one free pattern when I googled. I believe I used Manos yarn for this.

And of course, she needed a Gryffindor scarf. For this I used an inexpensive Plymouth acrylic and one of the many free internet patterns.

Finally, I made her a nose warmer, which has nothing to do with Harry Potter but DD2 requested one because she hated getting a cold nose in the snow. I got this pattern from Knitty. Of course, she wore all of her knitted booty up to the Tahoe and promptly lost the nose warmer. :) Come to think of it, it's been years since I've seen the hat, too.

Oh, did I mention that DD2's favorite color, for years and years, was red?

So, that's what I was doing four years ago during the Winter Olympics. This year, it was all sewing, stenciling, and kumihimo. :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Au Bonheurs des Petites Mains - Capri Pants w/ Pocket (PL000002)

Well, it was only a matter of time. Since returning to sewing for myself last August, I had avoided making pants. I had a few pair of purchased pants that fit me pretty well and I was none to eager to join the quest for the Well-Fitting-Pants-Pattern Grail.

Nevertheless, I told myself I would make a pair of pants for the 2010 Swap on Stitcher's Guild and... It. Was. Time.

This Au Bonheurs pattern comes in sizes 36 - 46 and 48 - 60. I purchased the smaller size and traced off a size 46, removing the zipper and replacing it with an elastic waist. I made a muslin out of green bathrobe velour and tried it on. Yowza. The pant technically "fit" me. By that I mean it went around me with no problem, but it was very low waisted (yuck) and it gave me such a wedgie!!! Hello!

I decided that, before proceeding, I needed to perfect the fit on another pattern. I chose the very popular One Seam pants pattern by Louise Cutting. I chose this pattern because I have seen many sewists have success with it (and rave about it) and because it has no side seam. The Au Bonheurs pattern also has no side seam.

I traced off the One Seam tapered pants pattern in a Medium – the pattern includes both a tapered leg and a straight leg design. Once again, I made up a muslin using the green bathrobe velour I had picked up at a recent BABES meeting. I am not a pants fitting expert, but I could see there was too much fabric at the crotch, so I slashed the pattern 9" down from the waist, beginning at CF and going across to the CB, leaving a hinge. (The hinge was 5/8" from the CB, so I made a tiny slash from the CB edge.) I overlapped the pieces by 3/4", removing 1 1/2" vertically from the pattern.

Feeling rather brave (and without another muslin), I laid the One Seam pattern over the Au Bonheurs pattern and transferred the differences to the Au Bonheurs. The primary change was additional crotch length to the back crotch curve. (Good bye, extreme wedgie!) I also lengthened the Au Bonheurs pant by 2 inches. The original capri length was a bit too short for me.

I then cut directly into the fashion fabric, which is a substantial black knit with a slight rib. I am not sure where I got this fabric, because I tend to buy black fabrics in quantity and I don't recall the lineage of each one. :)

This is a quick pattern to sew up, especially if (like me) you don't have to bother with a zipper. The leg is fairly full, and there are two horizontal tucks in each leg, so a drapey fabric is a must. There is a pocket on one leg, and I put it on the left leg. The bottom of each leg is slightly gathered into a band, so no hemming is required. That was nice because this fabric would have been a pain to hem. Once I had the pants completed, except for the waistband, I tried them on with elastic tied around my waist. I ended up shortening approximately 2.5" - 3" from the top edge. I marked the new waist seam with pins while it was on my body. I removed the pants, cut the excess fabric off, and sewed on the waistband.

I was thinking of using the "Elephant Ear" pocket pattern from the One Seams pants on these, but I decided against it since I was still perfecting the fit. But if I make these pants again, I do plan to add a pocket.

Yes, these photos were taken in the rain. :)

These are a fun and funky design. The fit is not bad, but I think I could do even better. In fact, in the middle of this project, I signed up for a fit clinic next month at the Sewing Workshop. I think some additional help is in order. Before then, I plan to sew up muslins from several other pants patterns, like Loes Hinse Cruise and Oxford pants. Maybe I should try one of the Sewing Workshop pants as well. I'm open to suggestions. :)

Oh, and I now have a new pair of pajama bottoms using the One Seam pattern. The fit isn't great, because they were made from the original One Seams pattern, before I made any alterations, but they are certainly good enough for pajamas. :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dressform Ho!

For awhile I've been thinking it would be nice to have a dressform, but if you have a more mature figure, like I do, it can be very depressing to look at dressforms, like the Wolfs that were used back when I took construction and drafting classes. For example, most dress forms have a perky bustline. You can easily pad to create a bigger size, but it's almost impossible to lower a bustline. Not to mention the extreme cost involved for these forms ($700 - $1400).

I did some internet searching and discovered that there is an inexpensive form that works pretty well for folks like me, who have a lower bustline, the My Dritz Double Deluxe. It comes in small and medium sizes.

Debbie Cook did a very helpful review on Pattern Review. That review contains a link to her website where she shows how she padded it out.

I've ordered the medium from Amazon. I guess I have to donate one of my expensive bras for padding when it finally arrives. Sheesh, that's a hidden cost, cause those La Mystere bras aren't pocket change. :)

By the way, I wanted to thank Digs and Sherrill, who have both nominated me for blog awards. I don't really do the award thing, but I am very touched to be nominated. Thanks so much for the thought! :)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fun with Jumbo Hook & Eye Tape

No, I didn't make this cake for Valentines Day. I made it last week for DD2's 15th birthday. Generally, my kids request devils food cake with butter cream frosting for their birthday. But, Happy V Day, just the same. ;)

I've been suffering from a bit of sewing malaise lately. I see, from other blogs I read, that I am not alone. In this case, my solution was to make one simple project, and one fun project.

First, the fun project. I ordered some of that great jumbo hook & eye tape in black/silver from the Vogue Fabrics store. (They also carry white which you could dye.)

But what to do with this dramatic notion?

I saw a boutique top that used the same hook and eye tape, not only to close the top, but also on the pocket. I decided I liked that clever idea. I had a bit of an interesting fabric that I had used to line three of my skirts. I liked it so much, I decided to save the last bit for a top. The slightly textured fabric contains a synthetic fiber and is striped such that there are sheer stripes and solid stripes. It almost feels like an organza, but not quite. Because of the sheer stripes, I doubled the fabric for the front and back, but used a single layer for the sleeves.

For the pattern, I used my TNT t-shirt pattern that has been so altered, it no longer resembles the original New Look pattern. I extended the right front several inches and added a pocket to the right side. I cut the sleeves so that the fringed selvedge was at the wrist. I also added a strip of selvedge to the bottom of the top.

To apply the tape: I used zipper foot and used the width of the zipper foot to position the stitching line. There was no way to turn under the cut edge of the tape – there was not enough play, so I used Fray Block to prevent it from raveling. (One of my favorite notions is Fray Block.)

The pocket

The sleeve with the selvedge hem. You can see the sheerness of a single layer of the fabric.

For Christmas I made my friend a copy of a Flax top that she had loved. I made myself one of these tops. Mine used a different knit that was a bit more stable, but I did put darts in the arm holes to remove gaposis.

A geranium leaf peeks out of the pocket.

Hopefully I can get my sewing mojo back to attack some of the more ambitious projects I want to make. :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

New Au Bonheurs patterns

The Au Bonheurs site posted new patterns last week. They have some nice new patterns!

Here is their website, in its original French: Au Bonheur des Petites Mains (French).

Here is their website, translated with Google's online translator: Au Bonheur des Petites Mains (English).

For example, look at this top:

or this coat:

or this top:

Here's a note about ordering from outside of France:
If you can obtain an IBAN number (International Banking number) from your bank, send it to them and they will refund the VAT tax. My bank, which is actually a smallish credit union, does not have an IBAN, unfortunately.

Peggy R, who lives in Switzerland but is a native English speaker, has sent me some additional French/English sewing dictionaries and links, to help you when working with these patterns:

Thanks so much, Peggy!

I haven't ordered any of the new patterns yet, but it's on my todo list. ;)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Soldering Iron + Synthetic Fabric = Hot Melty Fun

The front and neck facings.

I think I mentioned that when I attended the Sewing Workshop open house earlier this month, a gentleman there teaches a class in using a "hot knife" to cut synthetic fabrics. I could not take the class (I have a conflict when the class takes place in late February) but I was inspired to dig out my soldering iron, some synthetic scraps, and play.

For this technique, if you want to use templates, they need to be metal, as plastic templates will melt from the hot iron. I went to the hardware store and bought washers in every size they carried. The total cost for the six washers was about $2.

The soldering iron is at the top of the pic.

In addition to a soldering iron (or woodburning tool, or hot knife, or whatever you want to call it), you need a piece of ceramic or glass to use as a base. And you need a fully synthetic fabric - something that will melt when burned. In my case, I liked the effect when I played with scraps left over from my recent Au Bonheurs raincoat.

I drafted up a little gathered pocket.

The cuffs

Fabric Dots, anyone?

Since this process throws up some fumes, I suggest you do this in a well ventilated area. I also took breaks, because it did make me sneeze, so it took three or four sessions for me to finish this project. The iron is VERY HOT, so be careful. If you have those flexible, heat proof gloves, this would be a good time to use them.

I don't have those. I managed to give myself a tiny burn on my index finger towards the very end, when I started rushing a bit. It created a small, but impressive blister, and hurt like heck. So don't do that. ;)

For the larger washers, I was able to hold them by the edges, but the smaller washers were too small, so I placed a larger washer on top, pushed down hard, and held to the outer washer. This worked pretty well. And, having said that, I burned myself when using the largest washer. Guess I got cocky. ;)

For the design, I used my self drafted dolman sleeved top. I just barely managed to squeeze the top out of the fabric I had left. I drafted up a little gathered pocket and modified the pattern with self fabric bands around the front/neck and sleeves. All of these details feature the circle cut outs. For the front/neck facings and the pocket, I cut three of each pattern piece. Each required the third layer for the contrast underlining. For the pockets, I cut two of each pattern piece – because they folded over, they were actually four layers thick.

Size 4 Sew-On Snaps. I intend to wear this closed.

Snapped closed

The pocket is gathered with elastic left over from the Bonheurs coat.


If you are located in the Bay Area and are interested in this technique, I'm sure there is a lot more to learn by taking the class at the Sewing Workshop.