Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Peplum Top, Take 2


I made a version of this top back in November. I wanted to try again, with sleeves. 

This print is a bit of a departure for me. I call it "chaos plaid," or "Prince went to Scotland and had a party plaid." I saw it at SR Harris and I just LOVED it. 

I bought a little extra to make sure I would have enough fabric to make the peplum a double layer, as written in the pattern. It's interesting - basically the peplum has what I would consider a full-size facing/lining. This means that you don't have to hem the admittedly weird and very curved peplum shape, and it also gives it a little more weight. I made no attempt to match the pattern anywhere, since it's so chaotic.

The original sleeves were nuts, so I redrew the armhole to match a knit sleeve I already like, and simply slapped in that sleeve. One of these days, I'm going to actually trace off a sloper version of my favorite dartless knit pattern, without seam allowances. As it is, now I spend a fair amount of time monkeying around with different seam allowances and it feels like a bit of a waste. 

I'm super happy with it! I finished the neckline with knit stay tape, turned and topstitched it, and the sleeve hems, with a coverstitch. This is a semi-slinky ITY-style fabric, so I wouldn't normally think of it working really well with darts, but the darts in the back look really good. Maybe that's because they're vertical? 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On Making Bras



I've raved about Beverly Johnson before. (Yes, that's a long post, but it's in there.)

I'm not sure if I would have tried sewing bras without her class on Craftsy. I have a brand/style of bra that I've worn for a long time and it didn't really occur to me to try making my own.

That is, until a random, 1970 bra pattern showed up among a box of Stretch and Sew patterns that I bought on Ebay. The pattern isn't Stretch and Sew (I don't think Ann wrote bra patterns), and I didn't talk about it on the blog because the sizing was rid.i.cu.lous, so I threw the bra away, in frustration. But, it wasn't that hard to sew, really. It was just enough to make me curious. 

I watched all three of Beverly's Craftsy classes, bought a kit at Bravo Bella Bras, a pattern from Sew Sassy and it was off to the races. 

My first bra fit pretty well. It had a few errors that I figured were from my inexperience. So, I tried again. Bra number 2 (we're not counting 1970, thank you), was AMAZING. I felt (and feel!) so good in it! 

I'm short and short-waisted and I'm starting to think that part of why I've always had a love/hate relationship with bras is that the underwire, inevitably, is just too darn long for me. That makes it dig into my side/underarm. Ouch!

For the last few years, I've worn bras that are foam cups and very stretchy. Really - now that I've worn another style, I'm realizing that I probably liked them just because the underwire didn't actually do much. The bottom band hangs so low on my body, even when I wear a somewhat smaller size, that the underwire doesn't even really touch me, if that makes sense? The shape of the bra forces the underwire to rest lower against my chest than my assets actually are. Everything just hangs, with the bra more or less sitting like a cover, not like a sling. It looks ok, but it's not as comfortable as actually having support. At certain times of the month, everything would get so sore that I would swear to never eat salt, again. But, it wasn't the salt. It was my bras. 

I've read advice about how molded foam cups aren't great for a lot of women. As in, “(your breasts are) going to settle at the bottom of the contour cup and you’ll going to have space at the top of the strap.” I've noticed this in my foam cup bras, but I just was too afraid to try a different style and get murdered by escaping underwires, again. 

As an aside, the expert above also says that you should replace a bra after 8 months. Let's do the math. She suggests not wearing the same bra 2 days in a row. Let's assume she has 2 "everyday" bras that she rotates through every single day and never wears another kind of bra. I was told, when I was growing up, that you should really have 3 bras you rotate. If her 2 bras last 8 months, that's about 120 wears each. If I use her same idea and do it with 3 bras, I would be replacing them all after about a year. Which, actually, is pretty much what I did when I was a teenager. 

A wardrobe of 5 bras should, using these numbers, last for about 20 months, or almost 2 years! Not bad for $10 to $20 per bra, once you get into the swing of it. That comes to just over $50 per year spent on bras. I don't know about you, but there have been years where I've spent a lot more than $50 on bras. Heck, there are months where I've spent more than that. Plus, if my weight changes and I need a new bra after 3 or 6 months, I'll be way less annoyed about it, if I make it myself. 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ball Band Dishcloth


I'm still teaching at St. Louis Park Community Ed. Right now, our "Adventures in Knitting" class is going on. I like to let my students choose among a few projects so that they can have fun and learn at their own pace, instead of forcing everyone into doing the same thing, all of the time. 

I love the Ball Band Dishcloth for what I call a "second step" student. They should be confident knitting and purling, but maybe they don't have a lot of experience reading a pattern or following a pattern repeat. The dishcloth is just difficult enough so that they can learn those things, but not so difficult that it's discouraging. 

Plus, they're relatively cheap to knit and make great gifts. What's not to love?

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Crafting the Resistance

Those of you who follow me on social media already know this, but just in case you missed it, I have a new (co-authored) book scheduled to come out in August. It's called Crafting the Resistance.


Like many of you, I was a little bit consumed at the end of last year. When the chance came to do something, I grabbed it with both hands. I hope that, in a small way, my work will help other people resist, insist, persist, and enlist.

This work is very personal for me for many reasons. Here's one that I hope will resonate - Heather and I wanted to use many different skill sets to make the book as open as possible to all kinds of crafters. 

Craft books that cross lines from knitting to crochet to sewing and beyond don't always hit it off with crafters. There's a risk of not pleasing anyone as you attempt to reach everyone. It's a bit of a gamble, but I hope it works! 

Crafting the Resistance includes projects that use sewing, hot-iron transfer, knitting, stenciling, needle felting, wet felting, very basic quilting, and (a very little bit of) crochet.

The book is available for pre-order now and is set to release in August. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Stretch & Sew 1550: Fitted Basic Dress


Seriously, how could I resist this beauty? 10 darts - 6 on the bodice and 4 on the skirt. I think it was first released in 1967, but this is the 1974 version. 

I changed the neckline to make it more of a scoop, and finished it with French trim. I also swapped out the sleeves. This dress only went to size 40, and I wanted size 42 sleeves at elbow length. So, I used the sleeves from a different Stretch & Sew pattern. I've noticed that some of the earliest Stretch & Sew patterns max out at size 38 or size 40. Later ones tend to go higher. It's not a problem, but just something to keep in mind as you're browsing around for these patterns if you are in the higher size range.

I did a small FBA on the bust, which moved the front waist darts over a little. So, I moved the front darts on the skirt over, too, so that they would still line up. 



I'm really pleased with how well I put in the zipper. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good. I love the 1974 instructions - which basically say, "Do whatever it says on the zipper package." I interfaced the edge with 1-inch-wide knit fusible interfacing, then basted the seam shut, used basting tape to connect the zipper to the seam allowance, and topstitched all of the way around the zipper.

Check out my awesome ponte knit! In some light, it looks purple. In some light, it looks royal blue. I love it all of the time!

I wanted to be able to fine-tune the fit, so I put the back together, the front together, and put the sleeves in, flat, before I basted the side seams and tried it on. I ended up leaving the top alone, but changing the side seams on the skirt from 5/8 of an inch to 3/8 of an inch, to get just a little more room in the hips. 

I used fusible web, for the first time, for the all of the lower hems. This is mostly because my fabric/thread match wasn't perfect, so I was afraid that even an "invisible" hem would show. I didn't think that a coverstitched hem would look right with a pattern this non-tee-shirt-ish. We'll see how it holds up, but I like it, so far. 

Looking at it on the dress form, I probably should have raised the waist a little bit. For my next version, I'll try to put it 1/2 an inch higher, and see how that goes. Otherwise, I'm very happy with the fit!

The bottom of the skirt hits me exactly at the middle of my knee. I'm only about 5'4", so a taller person might want to lengthen the skirt. 


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Darts in Knits and Stretch & Sew 1505

I had a little of that wonderful bird fabric left over, so I made a Stretch & Sew 1505.






It's a lovely pattern! I did a small FBA and lowered the bust dart a little bit, and ended up with this unholy mess of a pattern piece. I've become a bit stingy with my Swedish Tracing Paper, so I use scraps to fill in when I do pattern adjustments. 

I promised myself that, if this shirt came out well, I would retrace the pattern piece so that I would have a "clean" copy to use later. So, that's what I did before I put everything back in the package. 

I love the scoop neck on this one and the neck treatment is great. It's not just an attached knit band - it's what Ann Person calls a "French Trim." Or, rather, it looks like she had to start calling it a "French" trim after she couldn't call it Chanel Trim, anymore. 

A lot of people who sew seem to be shy about using darts in knit fabric. So far, I've had good results as long as the fabric is 100% cotton or a double knit. I've seen darts in higher-end polyester/spandex blends in ready to wear, though, too. If you snoop shop at White House, Black Market and St. John Knits, you'll see a lot of darts.

The main things that lead to successful darts in knits, it seems to me, are:

1) Use the "right" fabric. It would be asking a lot for a very slippery or thin knit to hold a dart. It's not impossible, I'm sure, but I would test, a lot, before I tried it. Right now I'm saving darted styles for more structured fabrics and dart-free styles for more floppy/stretchy fabrics.
2) Make sure the dart point isn't too close to the apex. This is always important, but looks extra-bad on knits, in my opinion. The dart is sometimes a little more stiff than the fabric around it, so instead of just crawling up the apex, it actually sticks out, away from the body! Not cute.
3) I use a stabilizer under the dart as I sew it, then tear it away after I'm done. This allows me to both  not worry about the dart stretching out as I sew and makes sure I can stitch off the end of the dart without worrying about the machine tangling up. I keep a big pile of 1-inch strips of stabilizer by the machine, to make this easier. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Stretch & Sew


I have a bunch of these patterns. So, I made a spreadsheet. As you do.