Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I won! (Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving. :) )

Well, color me thrilled!

I follow Sandra Betzina on Facebook and recently saw that she was hosting a contest on her website, Power Sewing. Everyone who entered a jacket or coat would receive a one month subscription to her website, so I entered my recently completed Koos coat. I really did not expect to win. The winner was to be chosen at random and I don't generally have that kind of happy karma.

So, I was quite surprised when a friend emailed me on Monday to let me know I had won first prize – 3 yards of boiled wool chosen by Sandra from one of the best fabric stores around – Stone Mountain and Daughter.

My prize was shipped yesterday and arrived today. One of the advantages of shipping FROM San Francisco TO San Francisco. ;)

It's GORGEOUS! Three yards of a beautiful, supple, boiled wool. I would call the color purple, but some might call it periwinkle, or even blue. It's a bit hard to photograph the color and I've never understood how people name this color. But to me, it's gorgeous purple. :)

Thanks so much to Sandra and to Stone Mountain!!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. What am I thankful for? I mean, aside from my kids, my job, my home, my friends, and the fact I don't have to entertain tomorrow. ;) Well, I'm thankful for you guys, who cheer me on and give me lots of support and feedback. I'm thankful for my sewing community, both online and in real life.

The Christmas season officially begins on Friday. Here is some early holiday fun for you!

First, why don't you "knit" your own (virtual) Ugly Christmas Sweater? If you don't want to create your own, you can still view the gallery of ugly sweaters that others have created. It's pretty fun and here is mine.

And check out this animation!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kusha Kusha Goodness - a High Tech Scarf

Here is another little knitting project, fresh off the needles.

This scarf, called the Kusha Kusha scarf, is a free pattern from Setsuko Torii and uses threads from Habu Textiles, a Japanese fiber company. The Japanese mills are now producing very exciting new textiles, and the Japanese yarn/thread companies are producing exciting new fibers.

The Kusha Kusha scarf uses two Habu threads, both packaged on cones:

  • Habu Textiles A-177 Super Fine Merino
  • Habu Textiles A-20/21 1/20 silk stainless steel

The navy cone is 100% merino wool thread. The black cone is stainless steel/silk. You can see it has some memory retention.

At first, these threads are held together and knitted as one on size 8 needles. Eventually the merino thread is dropped, leaving the stainless steel/silk thread and you switch to size 6 needles. Then the size 6 needles are replaced with size 4 needles and, finally, with size 3 needles. The lace mesh that is created becomes finer and finer.

The final scarf is then felted. The merino thread "blooms" when felted. The stainless steel thread does not felt, theoretically, but it also shrank, so I am a bit confused. The metal in the thread creates a slight glitter and contributes to memory retention.

I could not believe how much the merino thread felted! It created a very substantial piece of felt. I hand felted in the kitchen sink with a touch of Garnier Nutrisse shampoo. Before felting, the scarf was 62" long. After felting, it was about 40" long. Unfortunately, though I did take many photos before felting the scarf, the camera had no memory card, so I don't have any pre-felting pics to show you.

Laid out to dry, after the felting process

Other ways to wear the scarf

I have quite a bit of the merino thread left. It's a nice weight for topstitching. I have a small amount of the stainless steel thread left, but I have plans for that too. ;)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Loes Hinse Oxford Pants & RTW Goodness

Well, it took me long enough, but I finally made my first Loes Hinse pattern. I had collected a few of her patterns but never made the time to try one. Then my ASG chapter issued a challenge to muslin the pattern for October's meeting and to make a final pant for November's meeting.

This pattern was chosen because it has the reputation of working on a wide variety of bodies. Now that I've seen it on at least a dozen women, I think that's a fair statement. There were only a couple people who felt it really did not work for them.

Here is a summary of our collective experience:

  • Most of the sewists did find it necessary to scoop out the crotch curve to some degree. Those with "bum puddles" (where horizontal wrinkles puddle below the butt cheeks) scooped out in the back.
  • For me, it was recommended at the muslin stage that I scoop out about 1/4" from the front crotch, and this worked well.
  • When I first took the pattern out of the envelope and measured the finished hip and waist, I decided to trace an XXS for the legs increasing to an XL from the hip to the waist. I did not want too much fabric at the thigh level and this worked pretty well, though this style is still more voluminous at the hips than I am used to.
  • Several sewists made a smaller size in back and a larger size in front. This technique works really well for some body types.

In the end, everyone tweaked for their own figure and most were pretty happy with the result.

This pant works best in a drapey fabric. Loes herself tends to use woven rayon fabrics. I used a rayon-poly crepe (woven) that I purchased from Fabrix. Even though I prewashed the fabric and wore the pants with a pant liner, they wrinkle like crazy. Also, the hem is fairly wide and it was difficult for me to hem evenly in this really unstable fabric. No one else reported this problem, so that might have been my particular fabric.

One more point. Most of the sewists found that these pants really benefit from a pant liner. A pant liner helps the pant glide over any lumps and bumps – the fabric clings to the liner, and not the body. Most of us had purchased pant liners made from tricot, but at least one sewist makes her own and it would be so easy to whip up a few pair from a china silk or a silk jersey using a one-seam pant pattern.

Only a couple folks used the pocket version of the pant, but I gather that it's a nice technique. I will have to try that on my next pair. Yes, I do plan to make these again. They are not like my usual pant, but they are fun to wear.

Ready to Wear Goodness

If you are on the Thai Silks mailing list, you might know that they are having 25% off all fabrics through November 30th (in store and online). I was in the vicinity on Friday, so I stopped by the store, planning to buy some black organza and to see what else might pique my interest.

After purchasing some organza, I walked past a store window and saw a gorgeous jacket. I headed into the boutique (I didn't think to look for the name of the store), and the jacket in the window is by a company named Covelo and I found it later on Fawbush. Check out this gorgeousness!

I don't know if Fawbush received a lighter-colored version of the jacket, or if the photo was lightened to show detail, but the one I saw had deeper, more saturated color. It was made from a very soft, loosely woven wool, that had been felted and ombre (dip) dyed. The "berries" were felted in (a la shibori) and then reinforced with poly fill stuffing. The unlined jacket closed with two large covered snaps.

This was one seriously cute jacket, and worth every penny!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vogue 1061 - Sandra Betzina Swing top

More pics

I finally finished! This top wasn't that hard to make, but it sure took me awhile to complete it. I kept getting sidetracked by life: work, kids, and knitting. ;)

The back of this Sandra Betzina top is really lovely, but I didn't care for the wrap front. Wrap fronts are generally not friendly to the uber busty, unless said uber busty person likes to emphasize the bust. It's fine if that's what you want, but it's not for me.

At first, I was planning to replace the wrap front with a seam down the center front, but a friend and fellow ASG member, Dorothy K, suggested a zipper. A zipper! Brilliant!

I also didn't like the bust dart. I really don't care for bust darts in knits - it difficult to make them look good. I prefer to ease the bust fullness in at the side seam. I find that slight gathering at the side seam (at bust level) is less objectionable than a dart in a knit. And sewing a nice-looking dart in the bamboo knit would be next to impossible.


  • Bamboo knit in slate blue from FabricMart
  • Lightweight 22" separating YKK zipper from Britex
  • 1/2" Steam-a-seam Lite 2 for the zipper and hems.

Alterations and construction notes:

  • I cut a size H, which is larger than my usual F, but, according to the finished measurements on the pattern, I needed the room at the bust. I did not muslin this top. Later, when I was sewing the final seams, I ended up removing inches from the side/underarm seam, so I probably ended up making a size F or smaller.
  • I shorted the sleeves 3 inches. I typically shorten the sleeve 1" to 1-1/2", so this sleeve is very long.
  • The ruching at the lower sleeve was problematic. The pattern instructs you to sew 3/8" elastic to the seam allowance on the inside to create the ruched effect. When I did this, it looked awful - a real mess. I ripped it out and, instead, gathered the seam and stitched it to twill tape. This gave me more control and the result looked better.
  • I eased the fullness from the dart at the side seam and eliminated the dart.
  • I measured 5/8" from the CF line and chopped the pattern off. I inserted a separating zipper at CF, but a seam would have worked as well.
  • I added pockets to the side seams. Just what is it with all these patterns that don't include pockets?? Since I make most of my clothes, I've been far too pocket-less lately. Please put pockets on the pattern and make them interesting!! We can always leave them off if we want. Vogue, are you listening? :)
  • I eliminated all facings. The hood extends all the way around the neckline. I stitched the hood to the jacket, right-side-to-right-side. I serged the seam, folded it down, and topstitched from the outside. This is how hoodies are commonly made in RTW. I checked. ;)

The back panels pinned and ready for stitching.

I've already posted my recommendations on sewing with bamboo knit, so I won't repeat that here. This pattern needs a fabric with drape, so the bamboo worked well, overall, though it was challenging to topstitch the back seams with minimal puckering. A walking foot or a teflon foot would probably have helped.

Comments and what I would do differently next time:

  • It was easy to install the separating zipper. I first turned the seam allowance under at CF and secured it with Steam A Seam 2 Lite. I then hand basted the zipper in place and stitched, with the zipper tape face up and a zipper foot on the machine.
  • This top features dolman-style sleeves with ruching below the elbow. The dolman sleeve is pieced because the lower sleeve is cut as a semi-circle – this creates a longer seam on top of the arm – this becomes the ruched seam. The shorter seam, below the arm, is not ruched. Sandra calls this an "elephant sleeve."

    While this is clever in theory, I found it fiddly in practice. The instructions have you stitch a 12" length of 3/8" elastic to the longer seam to create the ruching, the way you might sew elastic to a pantie leg. This approach did not work for me, so I ripped it out and gathered the seam using the same technique you'd use to gather a woven: basting stitches that are pulled to form gathers. I then secured the gathers to a length of twill tape.

    I found this process fairly fiddly and I was not entirely happy with the final ruching. If I make this again, I plan to replace the dolman sleeve with a set-in sleeve and would probably eliminate the ruching.

  • Let's talk about the hood for a second. This top features a hood that is really a stylized collar. Yes, you could use it as a hood, but it's much larger than a hood should be, whereas it creates a nice collar and a flattering "topper" for the back detailing. The pattern calls for the hood to be self lined, and I think this is a mistake. At first I was planning to leave the hood unlined. I had pinned the unlined hood to the top and tried it on and it was perfect.

    However, there was one tiny little problem. If the hood is not lined, the inside seam shows. Since the hood would primarily be worn down, that seam would show pretty much always. Meaning I would want it to have a nice serged finish. However, I have no blue serger thread. In fact, the only serger thread I have is black. I didn't want to buy blue serger thread for this one seam, so I went ahead and lined the hood.

    Big mistake. As a single thickness, this hood was perfect. As a lined hood, it's too heavy. It is "ok", and it won't affect my wearing of the top, but it would be perfect without that extra layer. So, I suggest that you don't line this hood and finish the seam in whatever way you want. (I considered a lapped seam finish but didn't care for it in the bamboo.)

  • This top would also be cute in a shorter length.

And now, more pics. :)

With some small additional tweaks, this could become a favorite TNT pattern. It will make a great hoodie. But maybe next time in black. ;)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sewing with Bamboo Knit

Lately there has been discussion and questions on Stitcher's Guild about sewing with bamboo knits. Particularly the bamboo knit from FabricMart. As I have sewn a few garments from this fabric, I thought I'd share my tips and experience.

First of all, this fabric is often referred to as bamboo jersey, even by me. :) But it is actually not a jersey, it is a very fine double knit. If you hoped to cut strips of this fabric and they would curl up, that won't happen as a doubleknit won't curl the way a jersey will.

The front is smoother than the back, which is very slightly fuzzy. Under good light, you can tell the difference because you will see the very fine knit stitches on the front, but it's hard to make out the knit stitches on the back. When I made my Teagarden T (pictured above) I was sewing at night and accidentally put the wrong side to the outside; it's fine either way - just be consistent.

As you will find with other bamboo knits (ever tried on a bamboo sweater?), this fabric is "heavy" and has a glorious drape. It has heft to it, even though it is very thin. This, of course, contributes to the drape, but might become an issue if you make a very long garment from it.

Bamboo is not a very elastic fiber, but this particular fabric that FabricMart sells contains 7% spandex, so it does have considerable stretch in both directions, but greater stretch in the length.

What has people most excited about this fabric, besides the drape, is that it is very soft. Like buttah. I find that it skims lumps and bumps and does not "catch" on them. Otherwise it would be banished from my sewing room. :)

This fabric needs to be handled gently, or you will become very frustrated. Here are some of my specific suggestions:

  • A hot iron can cause a shine, probably because of the spandex. So, either use a medium heat or a press cloth - but test it first.
  • If there were ever a time to press and not iron, this is it! Up and down motion is what you want. Dragging an iron across this fabric will pull and create undesirable tucks.
  • When sewing seams, they are likely to ripple a bit. Do NOT contribute to the rippling by pulling the fabric from behind the foot. (This might be a habit, but you really must avoid it here.) If you have a teflon foot for your machine, I suggest you try that. I have no idea where the teflon foot I bought 20 years ago might be hiding, so after sewing each seam, I lay the seam (closed) on the ironing board, lay it out how it should fall (with no stretching or pulling), and press up and down. The slight ripples can be almost completely removed in this way.
  • If possible avoid or eliminate facings. The Teagarden T does have a neck self-facing and I fused interfacing to this with no problems, but tread carefully.
  • For the hem, use a coverstitch machine if you have one - I gather they were created for this purpose. I don't have one, so I used Steam-A-Seam Lite 2 for hems and for inserting a zipper. I wouldn't even attempt to hem this fabric, or insert a zipper, without it.
  • Edgestitching is particularly dicey as the thicker the fabric under the presser foot (and generally there are 4 layers when edgestitching), the greater the drag. This is where I most wished I had a teflon foot for my old Bernina. ;) I did my best not to stretch the fabric by pulling on it. After it was sewn, I pressed the rippled edge, forcing it to behave as much as possible. The result was not perfect, there's only so much unrippling you can do in some seams, particularly bias seams, but it helped.
  • Use hand basting whenever basting is called for, such as when inserting a zipper. Less handling = less pulling = less rippling = happy sewist.
  • It is virtually impossible to rip a seam out of this fabric without creating holes. I wouldn't even try - I'd cut a seam off first. If in doubt, first pin the seam, or hand baste, and try on, before final stitching.

This is all I can think of for now. Do you have additional suggestions? The fabric is so soft, so swingy/drapey, so yummay, it's worth a little care when handling.

(By the way, I am not affiliated with Fabric Mart, except I loooove them. I want to marrrry them. And I do buy fabric from them. :D )

Friday, November 12, 2010

Holey Scarf and another Teagarden T

I couldn't resist a bit more knitting. This time I made a holey scarf - a free pattern on Ravelry called the Swiss Cheese Scarf. (The link only works if you have a free Ravelry account.) Three skeins of fingering weight yarn (Araucania Solid #103), a size 3 bamboo circular needle, and 48,510 stitches later (give or take) and, voila.

Before felting, approximately 66" x 17" with 27-1/2 repeats of the 16-row pattern.

Before felting

Next step, a top loading washing machine, small load, hot water, 1 Tblsp laundry detergent. Ten minutes later, nothing had happened, so I added an old "unlinty" (lint might become embedded in the felt) towel and set the timer for another 10 minutes.

Yowza, very felted. I let it go another couple minutes (not sure why, but I guess I wasn't mentally prepared for it to be done yet) for a total of 22 minutes of agitation. I removed the scarf from the machine, placing it in a bowl of hot water, and rinsed in additional hot water until clear. Squeezed out as much excess water as possible, and laid it on a towel, under a small fan, to dry.

Voila. It's probably a tad overfelted, because it is more stiff than I intended, but I love it!! As I was knitting, I suspected that the Araucania would felt well (because the yarn liked to grab itself) and I knit loosely. However, it exceeded my expectations by felting to the point that there is no longer any stitch definition. I had hoped for that, but wasn't expecting it.

After felting, approximately 63" x 13.5".

Despite the holes, it is quite warm. I would like to make this again in a charcoal gray, maybe changing the dimensions a bit and felting it a bit less. I should add that this piece uses two dye lots. I bought two skeins on ebay for half price and the third, also on ebay, from a different seller that was a bit more expensive. When the third skein arrived, there was a visible difference with the other two. I considered my various options, but decided that I didn't really care and just added the third yarn to the end of the scarf. I like how the scarf subtly changes, in fact. :)

On a different topic, I was asked to post a photo of one of my recent pieces made from the bamboo jersey from FabricMart. I didn't plan to post this Teagarden T, which I made in September during the SSS challenge, because I've already made and shown this pattern several times, but here it is in rust bamboo jersey. This is for you, andib! :)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Birthdays, Curtains, and RTW Fashion Goodness

I recently had a jump in subscribers, so welcome to the new folk! And thanks to Carolyn, who mentioned me in a recent post. If you want to skip the brief, but indulgent, parental-themed chat and pics, scroll down to the fashion-themed chat and pics. ;)

Actually, the last couple of weeks have been slow for me, sewing-wise. And the last week, in particular, was exhausting, culminating in my eldest child turning me into a parent of an adult. She just missed voting in the election by three days. She has been wanting an upgrade to her bedroom for more than a year now, so I did whip up some new curtains. That's my tiny bit of sewing I can report on.

But first, Birthday Cake!!! :)

Okaaaay. She likes both Devil's Food and Red Velvet, so I made both and stacked them. Maybe not such a great idea, but she liked it. :)

Cake, Packed To Go.

Fabric she selected at the age of 11. She is so over the yellow rosebuds. Yay, more muslin fabric for me!!!

I would have preferred longer curtains, but this was all of the yardage that Fabrix had and I wasn't in the mood to add a contrast band to this wobbly crinkled poly fabric. They aren't quite this dark in person.

I do have some fashion to mention!

Daughter also wanted some "edgy" clothing for her birthday, so I spent a lunch hour in the Haight last week. I had very little time to cover the all the clothing stores, both vintage and new, so I was moving fast, often spending just a few seconds in a store before rushing to the next.

The second I walked into one store, a very friendly sales lady started talking to me. As she approached me, she pointed in the direction of my pants and asked, "Is that skunk funk?" I immediately thought that "skunk funk" must be a euphemism for something nastier than simple lint. As I desperately scanned my pants for something awful, maybe even chunky, I wondered what the heck I brushed up against. I mean, the Haight is not that clean, so who knows? ;)

And thus I was introduced to the brand, Skunk Funk.

I was in the Skunk Funk store, in fact, but hadn't noticed the name. I was wearing these Au Bonheur pants, and the French design reminded her of the Spanish Skunk Funk styles. (Note to self, get a better picture of these pants. ;) )

As I was about to enter another Haight boutique I glanced in the window and was stopped in my tracks. On a mannequin was a gorgeous gray wool coat. Forgetting my birthday shopping for a moment, I headed straight for the coat on the racks.

Oh My Goodness.

It was gorgeous and I so wish I had a photo to show you. It cost $475, and was made from gray wool boucle, but it also featured a contrasting fabric - a brocade with circles decorating the unusual external pocket, the ruffled collar, and the sleeve. It had a shocking pink lining that didn't match the outside at all - pure whimsy. The sales girls told me that many folks come in to check out the coat and every time they carry pieces from this designer they fly out the door. The designer was unfamiliar to me, but the label said An Ren. I came home and googled, hoping (in vain) to find a pic of the coat, but I found some others. For example, this coat from Fawbush is similar (not nearly as cute, but it has a similar pocket and collar). An Ren is a master of combining fabrics.

And, how cute are these An Ren jackets?

She has a boutique in New York and if I lived there I'd rush over to check it out. :)

Finally, I was just reading Ruthie's blog, and she mentions a website I had never heard of, but what vibrant designs! This is another example of a designer that combines fabrics in interesting ways. Here are some of my favorites from the Desigual site.

Thanks for the very interesting link, Ruthie!