Tuesday, February 27, 2018


While sewing I generate lots of trimmed edges, cut threads and general fluff and I need a handy receptacle to keep them off the floor. I have a cloth bag that sits under my serger to catch the edges but otherwise I've been using a basket lined with a plastic bag. It sits on the floor and tends to retreat deep under my sewing table where it is inaccessible and this has been bugging me. Also, it's stationary and I move around, clipping threads and trimming seams here and there.

I saw this item at Lee Valley tools. It's a plastic bucket that slips into a neoprene sleeve which fastens to a belt with clips of some kind. It's supposed to be used in the garden.

But I balked at the price ($31.50).

Today I was at the dollar store and I spotted this cute plastic basket for a tiny bike. (Barbie!)

I threaded a thin belt through the plastic strips that are supposed to attach it to handlebars.

Saved $27.50.

It also came with streamers, but I can't quite figure out how to attach them. 

More jeans, blue this time

Another pair of the Morgan jeans pattern has tumbled off my sewing table.

These ones are blue denim, with very little stretch. The fabric  is considerably beefier than my last pair. Otherwise, they are identical, right down to the crazy print I used on the pockets and waistband facing.

Staving off the questions, I bought this fabric many years ago from an on-line shop called Wazoodle, which was originally in Canada. There is still a site with this name that may be the successor but it is now in the US and I'm not sure if it is the same business. The denim was marketed as originating with Levis and I bought a lot of it. There is only enough left for a pair of kids jeans. I'll sock it away just in case.

I used classic yellow jeans topstitching thread, so the traditional jeans details show up.

They should last the next 10 years...

Knitted lace and vote on my next project!

I finished another lace shawl this week. The pattern is called Just One of Those Things (why???) and while I quite like the finished product, I've decided I like more texture in a hand-knitted shawl. Otherwise, I'd rather haul out a machine...

This lace is kind of flat. The stitches move around but in two dimensions. Click on the photo to the right and you will see them in greater detail. There actually is a 3 stitch cable in three rows (two of them are in a line just above the points) but at least in this yarn, they don't really stand out.

The yarn is a mix - 49% wool, 34% mohair, 11% nylon (technically it's a sock yarn), 4% acrylic and 2% silk. The mohair means the shawl is very light, decidedly non-drapey and a little hairy, and maybe it wasn't the best choice for this pattern. But I do like the finished project.

The pattern was fun to knit because it consisted (once the plain base was done) of 23 completely different lace rows with plain purl rows between them. Now I'm looking at other lace shawl patterns.

Which of these do you like the best? Tell me why in a comment!

1. Echo Flower Shawl
Echo Flower

Pro - gorgeous texture, and it's free! No beads (nupps are so much nicer!).

Con - triangular, not my favourite shape. A Raveller has figured out how to make it into a sort-of crescent but her version used 800m of yarn. The pattern itself calls for 440-880m, which would require an annoyingly small amount more than 1 skein of sock yarn (100g). On the other hand I have some lace-weight in the right amount. 

2. Sweet Dreams
Sweet Dreams

Pro - wonderfully spiky, already a crescent, many variations are possible, including designer-sanctioned choice to omit all beads. Could be made out of 100g of sock yarn.

Con - a relatively expensive paid pattern since I have to buy an entire e-book to get it.

3. Dandelion on a Meadow

Dandelion on a Meadow
Pro - crisp lace, combination of textures, crescent shape. It can be made with 100g of sock weight yarn (350-400m).

Con - (maybe, maybe not) this is knitted from the bottom up rather than top down. I haven't made one this way before. Paid pattern.

4. Versailles

Pro - another spiky lace pattern from the same designer as Sweet Dreams. It's less expensive since it's available as a single pattern. It could be made from 100g of sock yarn.

Con - A paid pattern. Although you can't really tell from the photo, the lace pattern doesn't vary much as the shawl progresses, so might be less captivating to knit. And is it too baroque for The Sewing Lawyer?

Excuse me while I go diving in my yarn stash.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

New mittens!

I do love machine knitting. So fast. So satisfying (when it goes according to plan). As it did for this project in the last couple of days.

I used a pattern that is free on Ravelry - Fully Fashioned Machine Knit Mittens.

My quick assessment is that this is a pretty good pattern, but if (when) I make these again I will do it circularly. It was a royal pain to have to seam these - up the thumb and side of the mitten hand, then from the wrist edge to the lower edge of the thumb. And grafting the finger end.

Conjoined twin mitten!
And it had to be done twice because these mittens are lined with an exact copy of themselves! You knit the outer layer and then rehang the wrist edge and knit the lining down. And there were about a million ends from both the inner and outer layers and the waste yarn and it was confusing ... and very black. Very bad for night-time sewing. But they came together really well.

I used black sock yarn (only 35g) for the outer mitten and a tiny bit of the pink/red which in turn was leftover from my very first socks. The lining is Woolike, a 100% acrylic yarn from Michaels. It's nice and soft. The finished mittens are thick and feel substantial. They would not block wind but will be good for some conditions, including when I'm skiing and my hands are really warm from my serious mittens but it's too cold to simply remove all hand covering.

I wonder what I'll do next?

Monday, February 5, 2018

New jeans!

My poor neglected blog is about to get its annual boost as I'm off work starting today for five whole weeks! Time to sew, time to knit, time to blog. I call it practising for retirement.

I've started my staycation with a pair of Morgan jeans from Closet Case Patterns. This is my first time sewing a CC pattern. I'm going to do a proper review over on PatternReview but the short form is - I'm impressed. I will definitely make these again, and soon. I've been cycling through the same two pairs of blue jeans since practically forever (August, 2010) and they are almost done.

It was interesting to read that post from 2010. I still have that Levis denim from Wazoodle in stash, and I still do not like skin tight jeans. So rather than struggle with the Jalie stretch jeans pattern again with a different low-stretch denim from stash, I turned to the Morgan pattern. Boyfriend jeans. If you believe Google, the term is used to denote jeans that have all the classic bits but with a "relaxed fit", usually straight legged, and frequently torn and/or distressed. It was mostly relaxed fit I was after.

So what did I find?

First, the jeans are designed to have very little ease through the hip. I traced size 8 at the waist and 10 through the hip and leg, based on actual measurements. I got the jeans done through to the side seams which I based at 1.6cm (5/8") and tried on. Too tight for my taste. I re-sewed, tapering from the original size at the waist to a 1cm (3/8") seam, which gave me a nice extra 2.4cm (1") at the hip. Fit is now just right, by my non-fashionista standard.

These are made out of black denim which is slightly stretchy. The pattern is supposedly for non-stretch but I'd want even more ease in that case.

I like the rise on these as designed, although I sewed a slightly smaller seam allowance attaching the curved waistband to the pants body, and turned under less at the top of the waistband. As a result it's just over 4cm (1.75") wide, a bit wider than designed. I had to take a tiny dart at CB to keep it from sticking out and I'm modifying the waistband piece to be more curved for my next pair.

Can you see the hole?
I didn't make the button fly. I used the fly shield piece as designed, and inserted a zipper. It has been a while since I did that - I made a stupid mistake and my serger blade sliced into the right front of my pants just below the fly opening. That is not a mistake that can be fixed with a cute appliqué! I slapped some fusible interfacing on the wrong side and made a slightly lumpy bar tack there to hide it. If anyone is looking that closely at the crotch of my jeans, they will get slapped too...

And while I am on the subject, no one is allowed to look at the buttonhole either. My fancy machine (Pfaff) struggled mightily and after picking out as much as I could of the terrible tangle of thread that resulted, I sewed over the remains with my trusty buttonholer using my Featherweight. The Featherweight also handled all topstitching tasks using a heavy upholstery thread. What a great machine!

The Pfaff was otherwise completely brilliant. I used a Jeans needle and it chunked nicely through all construction points, including bar tacks to attach the belt loops (that would be at least 7 layers of denim).

While the outside of these is indeed sombre, the insides are not. I used a fun cotton print of African origin with a sewing theme to do the pockets and face the waistband.

Monday, January 1, 2018

A quick and useful project for winter

January 1 ski in -23C cccold.
I like to cross country ski and it has been extremely frigid here. A friend and I went out two days ago and I decided to cobble together a neck warmer of thin knit fabric, emulating these items that sell for outrageous amounts. But people swear by them. I hacked a rectangle out of a bit of leftover rayon knit. I don't know the dimensions of the original but my version is 30cm (12") in length and folded flat measures 25cm (10") wide. I pull it halfway up the back of my head under my hat, and the front covers my chin and keeps the wind out of my ears.

It took me 10 minutes to make it.

I added the odd strap after wearing it twice and freezing my nose (literally). I cannot get enough air through the fabric and when I breathe out my glasses and my visor fog up alarmingly.

The strap means my frozen nose is covered but I can breathe adequate quantities of unfiltered air.

The season of giving

Santa the Sewing Lawyer has done it again.

Felted slippers for the whole family. Here is my Ravelry link.

These are an easy machine knitting project. I made them on my bulky machine using a free pattern available on Ravelry. I made a couple of test pairs - one for me and one for my husband. I used the numbers on the pattern for my pair and after felting it, guesstimated how many stitches and rows to add for a man's size. The length was right but the stitches don't shrink much in width. So I had to do some retrofitting by taking them in through the toe.

Then I figured the numbers for my gift recipients. 75% of them fit really well...

I improved on the pattern by incorporating techniques I learned from watching Diana Sullivan's video on sew-as-you-go socks. She is such a great resource!

A better heel, pre-felting
They fit me!

The other thing I changed was to raise the back heel. I started on four stitches and increased until I reached the target number for the half sock width. My first pair felt a little low at the back heel.

This felts down quite nicely. And the blue pair fits its recipient (and me) perfectly.

These slippers are really comfy and warm. I ground some silicone caulking into the soles to keep them from being quite so slippery.

I also made my son's girlfriend a pair of Jalie Vanessa pants in a stable knit. This print is pretty fun and they were much appreciated.

I made the usual pair of colourful PJs for my husband. I did not take a picture of them when finished but here they are in progress.

And... two pairs of last minute machine made socks for my parents. The first, second and fourth socks were easy and cooperative but I had to knit the cuff for the third three times and the heel twice. The machine insists on being in charge at all times. Clearly it wants me to use it more frequently.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Dress and jacked combo

I could start by noticing how neglected this blog has become but I won't. It records my projects, and they have been few and far between since my last post. The blog is accurate.

We went on a European holiday. It was wonderful. We came back. It was busy. It still is, come to think of it. So my sewing and knitting have taken a back seat to other things. But I am still sewing and knitting. I just have a lot of WIPs.

But today I finished a dress, and last week I finished its coordinating jacket. Or at least I hope they coordinate. I will wear them together anyway.

Both are patterns I have made before. I feel like I have less time and energy for fitting new patterns. So I am turning to ones I have made before and still wear, so I know the fit is OK.

New one
Old one
The jacket is a Burda Fashion Magazine pattern from 2006 - the August issue from that year was a winner. This is pattern #108 from that issue - the zipper jacket. I made it some months later, in the spring of 2007. The version on the right is 10 years old (link to Pattern Review)! I still wear it! I have enough stash to make a million new things, but I still like, and wear, the things I made 10 years ago. This is why I have reached SABLE (stash accumulation beyond life expectancy).

But the new one - the lovely, wooly, tweedy, rosy new one. It is so different from the old one - the smooth, muted, understated old one. I love them both.

I got the fabric in one of my favourite Montreal fabric stores - Couture Elle on St. Hubert Street. I know I was shopping with sewing friends. They encouraged me. I am glad they did. The tweed is predominantly rosy but has lots of warm brown, and undertones of blue, grey and green. It is surprising.

The sewing was uneventful. So nice to make a pattern that doesn't have to be second-guessed.

Jacket innards
Inside, I used fusible interfacing on the front and facings, etc. and underlined everywhere else with silk organza.

I made shoulder pads from hair canvas (top layer), cotton quilt batting (bottom layer) and wool quilt batting (in between). I just wanted a bit of lift at the sleeve cap seam and nowhere else.
Zipper facing

To the right is the zipper facing construction. I like this method. Basically, you set the zip into a window in the facing, with the back of the zipper nicely framed by the window (as shown in the photo). The right side of the zipper is concealed at CF. I sewed the zipper in by hand because I didn't want a line of machine topstitching. I also sewed on the pockets by hand for the same reason.

To the left is the inside. I had this nice patterned Bemberg in stash that coordinated well enough.

All the materials for this jacket came from stash. I even had the thread. SABLE (sigh).

The jacket is lovely and warm. I wore it with a brown tweed sheath dress (7 years old) last week because my other project - a coordinating dress - was taking longer than expected. 

However next week I will be able to wear it with my new dress - another version of V1183, a Kay Unger dress pattern. I see I made it almost exactly four years ago. But if you read the whole story of that dress, you will see I first got the pattern in 2010! Things do move slowly chez The Sewing Lawyer. Sigh.

The fabric could have been a light coat, it's so dense. Is it weird to make a sleeveless dress from such a fabric? I decided not, especially since this piece came thanks to the second-hand shopping chops of my husband. The piece was at least 4 metres and I think he paid $4 for it all. The dress is practically free!

I won't go into the sewing process, since I wrote about it last time. I did the same again to make sure that I could fit at the side seams if needed. It wasn't, but it sure was satisfying to outwit Vogue's instruction writers, once again. I used the triple straight stitch on my machine. It is not perfect but I count on time and distance to make it seem perfect.

I had to buy two spools of thread since I was short on magenta/fuchsia thread. Otherwise, again, it was all stash. I had a good colour zip in the right length and the lining stash also came through.

Bodice lining
This dress is a party on the inside, as you can see at right. I had this amazing LOUD fuchsia flowered silk brocade (husband again) which I used to line the bodice, and a plain red Bemberg for the skirt.

Faced hem
I wanted the skirt to be as long as the cut pieces and so I made a faced hem using a cross-grain strip of the silk. I folded it lengthwise and sewed a 1cm seam at the bottom edge. The folded edge of the strip is then hand sewed to the skirt. The fabric is so thick the stitches disappear.

I will try to take modeled photos next time I am at home during daylight. That could be a week from now. November - not my favourite month!

It is now time for my annual Xmas sewing/knitting to commence. I had my bulky machine out experimenting this weekend. Talk later!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Last minute sewing

I'm about to go off on a European vacation. Packing is in progress. And I decided that I should make a new top. Jalie 2804 to the rescue.

I made it before. It is easy. I have fabric. Go!

Done in a few hours.

This is a delightful print that unfortunately is printed on crappy fabric. That soft rayon knit. You know the one. It it soft and delicious and then it stretches, and stretches, and before you know it you have to throw your top, dress or skirt out because it is a hot mess and your bra is on display. But while it is new and fresh, so soft, so stretchy!
Yeah, it will be perfect for my vacation. Afterwards? We will see.

Not much to report on the sewing. I remembered to attach the upper fronts to each other before sewing to the lower front (gap control). I continue to struggle with my coverstitch machine (sigh).

Here is me, looking FORWARD to a trip to Italy, Slovenia and Croatia!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Yet another cardigan!

Every time I mention to my mother that I'm knitting something, and she asks what it is, and I tell her it's a cardigan, there is a moment of silence. Then she asks: "How many do you have?"

The true answer is that I don't know, but that one more always seems like a great idea.

This particular one promises to be a Very Useful Garment, in the appropriate season. Which would be summer, or at least warm spring or fall. There is a possibility of more days like that in 2017, but let's be realistic. Here's another garment for later.

The technical details are that it's machine knitted, using my Singer 360 and its lace carriage. The yarn is silk (originally Loro Piano) from Colourmart. It's grippy and not shiny, but feels finer and crisper (better quality) than silk noile. The fabric is light but (as I sit here wearing it on a coolish September day) warm and comfortable.

I actually punched a card to get this nice regular eyelet fabric. Every fourth row, the lace carriage forces every 8th stitch onto its neighbouring needle and then knits all of them, leaving holes on those emptied needles. It's the machine-knitting equivalent of YO, K2Tog. But faster!

The part of Summer Move On
I really liked
I think she's got it!
I was inspired by a hand knitting pattern called Summer Move On. It has a similar eyelet fabric and a drapey waterfall front. The transition from the sleeve to front drape and collar is really lovely and that was what attracted me to the pattern, along with the fabric.

When I purchased the pattern and analyzed it, however, I realized I would not like the garment at all. It's basically a modified shrug back, with two big rectangular pieces for fronts.

I'm not a fan of shrug knitting patterns. (For non-knitters, think of a rectangle whose length is as long as you want your sleeves on your outstretched arms and across your back. Sew the long sides to each other until the seamed tube is sleeve length. Put on.) The geometry of a shrug forces the sleeve seams to the front, where they are then visible. Seams in knitting are not all that beautiful. This is why the vast majority of shrug knitting patterns feature the back or side view of the garment, and don't show you the front view.

To see how the shape of the Summer Move On pieces fit together to form the garment, I mocked up the back/sleeves piece using some nasty woven fabric.

Shape of back piece
With sleeves pinned

As you can see, while the T shape produces a nice diagonal line, this makes for some pretty horrible bagginess in back. I went looking for some more inspiration, and found a free pattern with a waterfall front called Bienvenidas. It has a closer fit with raglan sleeves. Its diagonal waterfall front is a bit neater than you would get with a big rectangle.

My made-up pattern uses a shape modeled on Bienvenidas with the collar line of Summer Move On.

Front blocking
I'm very happy with the technical aspects of this cardigan. The knitting went well. I learned how to fix the lace when it didn't knit properly (mostly it did).

I managed to do a clean knitted finish on the "lapel" area, which looks pretty good. If you click on the photo of the front blocking you will be able to see that the stitches from the front edge turn the corner and continue horizontally along the top edge of the lapel, before heading up the side of the neck.

I'm happy with the fit too, although I probably should have knitted about 3cm additional length in the sleeves. They are "bracelet length" which, to be fair, is perfectly fine for a warm weather cardigan. For fun, I made some tucks at the sleeve cuff. Maybe they will stay pushed up, maybe not.

I wonder what I should make next? It may be time for fall sewing, but first there will be yet another non-blogged interlude while the Sewing Lawyer goes on a trip!