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!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I have also been machine knitting

You can look away if you're not a MK enthusiast.

I liked my fiery orange top quite a lot, and because it only took one spool, I was able to exchange the second one I had bought for another in a different colour. Behold my swimming pool blue top.

Even though it's the same yarn and the same stitch pattern, I changed things up by making it on a different machine - my Passap DM80 (the previous one was made on a Singer 360). I had to figure out all the tensions all over again, and I also made some design changes.

This one is knitted narrower and longer and it's a better fit. I ditched the short rows that shaped the shoulder area of the orange top. It's a subtle feature that isn't needed so badly with this very drapey Tencel yarn. But to compensate and make the neck area fit better, I knitted the back 4cm longer than the front so that the shoulder seam and neck opening rolls more to the front, as you can see in the flat photo. I have a low front neck and there is no neck shaping at all - the pieces are simple rectangles. So anything that lowers the front neck opening is a good thing. I think it works pretty well.

The top isn't quite as see-through as these photos make it look. I think the camera was catching a bit of shine on my bra.

More details on Ravelry.

Betcha can't find the pocket ...

No? I can barely find it myself, if I'm honest. It is there though - on the right (left side of the photo). 

Invisible details
And what about the placket? 

Nope. Not that either. You can tell it's there, but only because there are buttons. Why yes, of course the placket underneath also matches.

SO.MUCH.FUN! (Well, for sewing geeks like me.)

I had a length of wax print. The selvedge says "Guaranteed Angler Wax Made for Nigeria". I wanted to make something that wouldn't chop it up, as the scale of the print is rather large. So I turned to McCalls 6885 again. It's a simple shirtdress that is a great item to wear on a hot summer day. Not only does it have minimal seaming, it's also suitable for a beefy cotton like my wax print. 

This time I made the hi-lo shirt tail hem. It's growing on me. 

Because of fabric-matching imperatives and because I only had 2.0 metres (less than the pattern called for) I had to make a seam in the upper back. I was very focused on matching the upper and lower pieces and did not even consider trying to get the side seams to match. However, as you can see, the sewing gods were totally on my side on this project because the side seams matched *perfectly*. It was a very fun surprise.

There is not much to say about sewing this. It is a joy to sew with well-behaved fabric like this cotton. 

I wore the dress twice before making a couple of changes. First, I sewed down the bottom pointy end of the placket. As designed that tab end is not supposed to be attached to the dress. On my first version of this pattern I didn't realize this and just sewed it down. This time I made it as intended and ... nope ... it just stuck out. So I topstitched it down making sure that the little CF pleat is perfectly centred at the point of the placket. 

The other change I made was to add a little piece at the side seams to reinforce the top of the side slit. Without these, it felt like there was a lot of stress at that point. I cut squares of fabric on the straight grain, approximately 5cm square, folded them diagonally, and sewed them in place. They form little triangles. The lower edge is long enough to give movement but not long enough to allow any strain on the lower end of the seam. Plus, it adds another 2cm or so of thigh coverage at the side.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

And so the Vanessas... (also red)

I am not only on a Jalie kick but also on a red one apparently.

I went stash diving for the Vanessa pants too. First I found some rayon challis I had forgotten about and decided to try this pattern in my least favourite of the prints.

So I present (at right) my red Bird of Paradise Vanessas that are TOO SMALL. I did not finish them. I found out (Facebook Jalie group, very helpful) that there is a big difference in the rise between the size R (my waist) and bigger adult sizes. I had cut the T at the hip but graded to the R at the top edge. My mistake.

For my second try I cut some mystery sueded woven which is very drapey and also seems to be mostly rayon. This time I was cautious, perhaps overly so, about the sizing. I cut a U as my hips are between T and U, figuring I could take width out at the side seams if it was too big. I did take some out near the waist. I probably should have just cut the darned T (next time).

I didn't do the waistband cord.

I added 2cm to the length because I thought the pants as designed are on the short side.

They are comfy but not beautiful. Too hot for July, but come fall I could see these as go-to weekend pants. I could also definitely imagine more pairs of these...