Friday, April 29, 2011

Shout Out to the (Knitting) Experts: Rolling with Stockinette Stitch

OK, knitting knowers, pls. could you confirm that it's normal for the back piece of a sweater (flat knitted in stockinette) with:
  • 5 rows of stockinette selvedge* (separated from the main body of the piece by 2 rows of purl stitching) followed by
  • 20 rows above that purl selvedge line
to roll somewhat despite the use of the purl rows to forestall curling.

I'm pretty sure I'm following the pattern correctly. (This is actually my second attempt...)

I'm assuming that when one blocks the finished pieces and then sews the back to the sides the curling disappears. However, if this piece should be entirely flat right now then hmmm...

It would be so much easier if I knew what I was looking for. I guess that's why this will be much less freakish the next time.

* by selvedge I mean the edge to the purl line - what would be the hem (seam) allowance on a sewn garment. Pls. advise if there's another name for this.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stick it To Me

I have met a terrific, young (and I mean young) knitter / teacher at the boutique I've chosen to call "the best one I've ever been to". She really gets my learning style - and she's been instrumental in helping me to choose my first primer/pattern/yarn for pattern and to read and interpret said pattern.

I think she was impressed when she told me that I'd need to visit a site that would "blow my mind" (Ravelry) and I was able to respond (nonchalantly) that I'd already signed up. Really, Ravelry is an excellent knitting universe. You don't know how much so, till you start using it for pattern search and organization.

Anyhow, here are some deets about Krissie's first knitting project.*

The Pattern:

Kimono Wrap Cardigan by Hilary Smith Callis Available on
Can you believe this only cost 5 bucks?

The Yarn:

The yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca colour 6213

The Scoop:
  • The instructions are very clear (11 pages clear) and the pattern is rated easy.
  • The yarn I've chosen, I believe, will have better drape than the one in the finished sweater photo. Of course, what do I know? Well, actually, I do know quite a bit about drape.
  • I'm working with one colour and stockinette stitch. Doesn't get more basic that that in the world of sweaters.
  • My other books arrived today (yay!) so I will have extra support on this journey of personal exploration.
  • Also, I intend to harass my blog posse liberally.
I'm planning to get started this weekend tonight and then to book a couple of private lessons with my knitter friend next week. I want to make sure I've got an expert on hand (hahaha) in case it comes to that.

Crafty or insane?? You choose.

(*Remember - I have no experience and potentially little talent, so it's very possible I'm not going to be writing each day about my tremendous strides...)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


As an adolescent, I attended a feminist-leaning private school the philosophy of which is: Ladies pour tea. Women change the world. As you can imagine, they did not teach us how to type. And it's a crying shame, really, because competent touch typing is amongst the most useful life skills any person can acquire.

When I met my husband he was shocked to learn about this oversight in my education. He went out and bought me Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing for my first edition Mac Classic. To give you some understanding of the state of technology at the time: within 2 hours I was typing faster than the cursor could move and display the letters. And, at that point, I was not typing particularly fast.

Within a month, I went from pecking the keyboard like a doofus, to touch typing with agility. I worked constantly to improve. To me, it was a test. To me, all tests are games. I wanted to win at typing. And win I did. Pretty soon, I could converse (not about world philosophy, mind you) and type at the same time. It never ceases to delight me that I can feel my brain slip into another gear while I’m tapping away…

All this is a preamble to my latest epiphany (big shock, I know!): knitting and typing are not dissimilar. Both centre on hands. They’re entirely practical. And they both rely on – or at least benefit tremendously from - switching into a new mental groove. While your brain is ticking along, appreciating the scenery in Knitlandia, your mind is liberated from the regular ties that bind. Funny really, how making knots brings freedom, but there you are.

Let’s not forget, that both have been indelibly stamped on that dingy double-sided coin: enslavement / emancipation – particularly as they relate to the women who have worked in the realm (and in the day). I love how domestic arts (aka the things that make the world go around in a very real way) have been reclaimed by a new generation of men and women. We need to maintain the knowledge-base; we cannot leave these languages for dead.

I have always had a great affinity for women’s work: cooking, baking, interior design, typing, fashion, sewing, entertaining – and the list goes on.

They are elegant expressions of creativity which nurture both the artist and recipient. They make everyday things utterly gorgeous – while they actually take you where you need to go.

So, in the spirit of moving my hands to free my mind, I continue to pursue my new hobby in these ways:

  • Located a knitting shop (and instruction hub) that suits my aesthetic. I must attend one of their knitting evenings…
  • Watched and rewatched a number of incredibly instructive videos on
  • Purchased and read Stitch 'n Bitch. I don’t have patience to wait for my ordered books to arrive...
  • Purchased a few additional supplies to support my practice swatches (crochet hook, anyone??)
  • Taught my daughter how to long tail cast on
  • Created gauge swatches in stockinette, garter, moss and rib (aka practice patches to figure out tension, mostly)
  • Chatted with anyone I can find about their scarves and whether they knit them and what do they know about knitting, please and thanks
  • Sewed up a few rows “in the round” – to see how one creates a continuous cylinder

I’m having lots of fun – and I don’t even feel like I’m cheating on my sewing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Updated: Hobby Horse

Let's say you haven't purled a stitch in living memory.

Let's say you really like learning new things and making clothing.

Let's say you belong to an awesome community of crafters - many of whom seem to do all textile arts equally effortlessly.

Then you're kind of honour-bound, when you think of it, to give knitting a go. Yes?

In truth I've been considering it for quite some time. I like to think before I act, you know - unless the activity involves food (in which case the less thinking the better).

As such, I've been asking people about knitting and surreptitiously checking out knitting blogs. I've almost bought Vogue Knitting at least 10 times - putting it down each time as I feel it's wrong to buy a mag about a subject on which I'm clueless. (It's sort of wannabe.)

This post threw me over the edge. I warn you, don't click if you're on the fence.

Since reading it at 10 a.m. yesterday morning I have taken a few steps:
  • Bought this (rather expensive, esp. if you don't knit) aspirational book.
  • Bought two others recommended by Suzy: Chicks with Sticks and The Knitter's Handbook.
  • Bought a set of Denise Interchangeable Circular needles. They're the modern, yet still affordable, way apparently.
  • Bought Vogue Knitting - I think the rest of it gives me the latitude.
  • Signed up on Ravelry and Knitting Help. (Thanks Raven!)
  • Emailed and tweeted long into the night with my blog friends (now also knitting friends), Suzy and Raven.
  • Watched 100 videos on how to cast on and knit and purl and magic loop and knit in the round and use circular needles to knit flat etc. (Note: As of right now, I still haven't picked up the needles to try this for myself. Baby steps.)
  • And, most fun of all, got a practice skein of fabulously soft, brightly-coloured Cascade Farms superwash wool (i.e. it won't felt - and people, I loathe felt...)
Colour 890 i.e. blue jewel tone

However, please note the following:
  • This is my $200.00 experiment. I may not enjoy it. If I don't, I'll do a fun blog give-away of these knitting items and call it a day.
  • Sewing is my first love. I sincerely hope that knitting will be a meditative evening, lunchtime or travel activity, but it won't eat into my sewing time. I will ensure that.
  • Totally in contradiction with the above: I'm not doing this to knit scarves and pot holders. I want to make those crazy-ass sweaters in that fancy book I just bought (over time, with hard work and skill development, of course). If I don't see myself going in that direction - I will likely move on.
  • I suppose I could utterly suck at this - which would be suboptimal for my ego. If that is the case, I will likely hide it from you all. Or talk about it incessantly.
  • It's exhilarating, but scary, to start a new craft. If anyone has any words of wisdom to offer - I would love to hear them. Please tell me, also, if you make sweaters, how long it generally takes to make one i.e. 20 hours or 100 hours. If it's more than 100 hours, maybe you should break it to me gently.
Now to tie a slip knot...

Updated: Hey Knitters - I would love to follow you on Ravelry but not everyone is listed there according to their blog monikers. I'm known (for reasons of every other name on the planet being taken already!) as kristinm100 on the site. Please add me to your friend list if you'd like - and let me know who you are if your name deviates from that of your blog...

Sunday, April 24, 2011


OMG - I want to learn how to knit so badly!! If only I had another 3 hours in every day... A whole bunch of people have been trying to motivate me, tempting me with books and gorgeous photos. And have you ever notice that knitting mags are the most appealing?

Disclosure: My father did teach me to knit - what is it with the men in my life learning crafts so they can teach me?? - when I was a child. As I'm left-handed, he had to figure out how to sew, then how to turn it around, then how to make it knowable to me.

And I promptly gave it up when it became apparent to me that I was going to learn how to do some math and read a pattern. Children are such ingrates. But don't worry Dad! Next time I'll stick with it!

* You have to check out Suzy's blog for more unbelievable photos from "A Stitch in Time - Vintage Knitting and Crochet Patterns 1920-1949: Volume 1".

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stripper Zipper

Yesterday I made my pants sloper (V1166) with some great textured black denim and I have to say I love them:

Ooooh, pretty twin stitching!

Nice leg width, huh?

They are without a doubt, the best constructed pants I've made so far. I actually serged all the seams except the inner leg seams (that means the crotch seam is serged in addition to those of the outer leg). As a result, they are very clean on the inside. I also worked really hard on the waistband - which I slip stitched. Here's hoping it lasts. I have this hatred of zippers that don't go up to the top edge of the waistband. I don't like hooks and eyes. Extra fluff, IMO. Fitting zippers perfectly, of course, is practically a pipe dream. So I'm always on the fence.

Note that the waistband, where it abuts the top of the zipper, is not perfect - but it's better than I've managed so far. I am improving.

I used a cool pewter zip which I wanted to show off. I made sure that the fabric didn't overlap it. I wanted to see the teeth. It went in like a dream - one try. In truth, the fabric is uber-forgiving. And I just decided to do it - no over-thinking, no endless reading and prepping and psyching out.

All was well until I tried on the pants and observed that the zipper (apparently too long) looks like it's bifurcating my ass:


Oh well - you live, you learn.

(Note to reader: I still intend to wear them.)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Zip It Good

Word to the wise, peeps: Don't try to serge the outer zipper to your seam allowances in an effort to make things neater.

There seems to be no method to get to the top without the zipper stop getting in the way (wherever you situate it as you start to serge). So the intrepid sewist (at least this one) ends up with a reasonably tidy, if peculiar-looking, serged outer seam allowance (which includes the zipper tape) until she gets most of the way there - at which point the thread loops start falling off the edge of the fabric given that she's desperately avoiding running over the zip stop with the precious serger blade.

Upshot: Weird meets messy.

It's preferable, IMO, to bias tape the length of the entire seam allowance in question - from zipper top to garment hem. While this may be out of place with the rest of the garment (unless - while often impractical and unwieldingly time-consuming - every other seam allowance is bound the same way), at least it will be uniformly clean from top to bottom.

I suppose - and I think I'm totally making this up unless one of you has suggested it and I'm stealing your idea - one could:
  • cut extra wide seam allowances (like twice the required width),
  • sew in the zip, then fold the outer SA towards the zip and seam line (to create a turn under),
  • then fold it again over the outer edge of the zipper - and all the way down to the hem - creating a kind of binding that makes use of the fashion fabric itself.
In that case, presuming this could work, you'd have a clean edge all along the allowance, which would encase the outer zipper tape for its full length.

Why I care about this - given the numerous other glaring flaws I should probably turn my attention to - is beyond me. Just call it my public service.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Way I See It

Remember that thing I said yesterday about looking leading to spending? Well how much more meta can you get than looking for glasses. I mean, Jesus, you can't even see what you're trying on!

But don't fear, it didn't stop me from finding my next pair:

You've got to appreciate glasses called Hellcat!

They're titanium and made in Japan but designed by a Danish company, Orgreen. The brand doesn't show a high-res photo on the website (from what I can tell). This pic isn't really the best...

How did it happen? Well, I took the day off and had lunch at food empire, Terroni. BTW, if you live in TO, the magazine they recently started publishing is irritatingly delicious and available to read online. Totally Queen Street. (Seriously, what self-respecting restaurant gets into publishing??)

At any rate, I've had the same glasses for 3 years and 2 months (I checked) and, though I've never loved a pair more - they're PINK people, I have to shake it up. I can't be that girl in pink glasses for the next 10 years.

Down the block from the restaurant is Spectacle, my go-to eyewear boutique. It is a delightful place with excellent client service, but man, that bill really hits you in the ass. Let's just say I probably shouldn't have spent quite so much money on lunch. (In full disclosure: My husband bought lunch.)

Totally off topic - my drink of the week is one the name of which I can't remember, sadly, but it's a composite of prosecco, gin and Campari (finished with a wedge of orange).

But how off topic is it, really? I mean the eyewear is orange, the drink is orange. Orange seems to be the name of the game today. You know I have no issues with the colour - see my handmade body of evidence. I wear orange tights, scarves. I even used to wear a bright orange plaid coat. (I loved that coat.) And, I'm kind of in a go loud or go home phase right now.

These look rather different than the current pair. They're not plastic. They're not pink. The shape is more rectangular than cat's eye (though not excessively so). They're vaguely more architectural (but not in that way one euphemistically refers to wacky, preciously-angular, embellished glasses). They're even a bit intellectual. Having said all this. I do not look like a librarian (sexy or otherwise). I polled everyone in the freakin' store to confirm this.


File under: Furniture for the beach house that's in my future:

(Lord, I love that screen...)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


OMG, OMG - my T shirt sloper is THE SHIT! It's rare that I don't pick at every flaw until I dislike a homemade garment, but version 5 is everything I ever could have hoped for:
  • Just the right amount of scoop - not too low, nor too high
  • Perfect in bodice length and in the shoulder width
  • Nicely curved in at the waist to accentuate - not boxify
Tonight's product started out very dicey. The rayon jersey was not cooperating. I know it has a tendency to sew badly (or well) seemingly depending on the day, but I was shocked by how unwilling it was to work with the twin needle. Thank God you can't really see the navy stitches on navy background of the U neck because it's vaguely tragic.

In a panic, I decided to pull out my walking foot to pair with the twin needle. I thought everything might come to a screeching halt but the two devices worked harmoniously together - and the walking foot completely ameliorated the rayon issue.

I'm so grateful to say that was my only challenge. The top went together in an hour (it was already cut and prepped). I used the serger for everything but the top stitching (bold - or insane - I realize, but I'm actively trying to develop a feel for the machine).

The jersey drapes like a dream and the shirt fits me perfectly.

This sloper has taken 5 prototypes. Just like my pants sloper. So it seems, 5 may be a magic number when it comes to making muslins (albeit some wearable ones), adjusting the paper patterns, and starting again. Really, it's so worth the effort.

Of course I will show photos. Just have to find some time to take them - though will be off from work for the next few days, which will help.

This weekend, my sewing plan is to make 1 more T shirt out of the black rib knit and to use the new denim - or maybe an elegant wool pin stripe - to construct another pair of my sloper pants. (You can read the whole saga if you search for V1166.) I know I'm about to embark on the jeans sew along, but I can't wait any longer for a new pair of pants. I've worn the other 2 pairs I've made into the ground. I love having hand-constructed clothes that I effortlessly reach for because they work.

The good news is that this weekend's projects are tried and tested. Of course, every fabric responds to a pattern in its own fashion. I just hope the sewing goddess is with me as I hum away on my machine... Please stay tuned.

But while we're waiting, tell me about a sloper you've constructed that has blown your mind? What hard-won, much-altered pattern has changed the way you wear your clothes?

Lessons Learned

Time and again, experience has taught me that the best way to avoid shopping (buying) is to avoid shopping (looking). I'm so good at it much of the time - and then I get this little itch to look - often it's based on a totally legit need to purchase i.e. "denim for jeans sew along" or "shoes for kid"...

Next thing you know I've bought 5 patterns on BMV (link) and 5 yards of fabric like a crazy woman.

Recall the fabric cupboard:

Recall the words of wisdom about not over populating it.

If only I were as constant as the blog version of me.

So here are the new patterns, plus views of technical drawings - all recommended by fab sewing bloggers who should be blamed for their role in this relapse. (You know who you are.)





Note: This all happened as a result of my simply viewing the patterns online, in patient anticipation of the next $3.99 sale. And wouldn't you know the freakin' $3.99 sale had JUST begun. In fact, the Butterick was $1.99. I didn't even make it to the $25.00 pre tax spend which buys you free shipping to Canada. Even with tax and shipping I didn't spend 30 bucks. Y'all know some of these patterns run 30 bucks, regular price. Totally falls within my Spend to Save ideology.

Other Note: I feel compelled to convince you that these are fab basics (well, except for the ruffle shirt - arguably). And basics are where I'm at right now. May I also advise that I have practically worn out my other handmade DKNY jersey dress from wear last summer (and it cost me 15 bucks to make with fabric on sale). So I feel this is a pretty justifiable cache. Not that I need to justify myself. (Lord, this schizo routine is tough going.)

So, what can I say about the fabric? Hmmm...

I didn't buy to accommodate the new patterns. Oh no. I bought to ensure a "backup" option for the jeans sew along - different colour, different weight, different drape. Truth is, I may choose to use the new denim - it's dressier. And I've never failed to use any of the numerous yards of denim I've bought so far. Best part - I bought it at FabricLand's denim ends sale. So I got all 3 yards for $13.00. And it appears to be 60" width!

I can hear you mentally calculating how 3 yards of denim adds up to 5 yards of new fabric. Well, I also bought 2 yards of fabric for T shirts. What? I've run out! If I want to perfect my craft, I'm going to need to keep on. I mean, just yesterday I made 5 significant adjustments to the sloper. I purchased navy rayon jersey (beautiful drape) and deep black rib knit (rich looking T material). Does anyone else think it's weird that ribbing comes in a continuous loop i.e. no selvedge aka one circular piece? In some strange way that makes me nervous.

Not the most exciting colours, but basics are basics, baby.

Alas, even at 40% off they came to 14 bucks a yard. Not the cheapest practice garments. Now, if they happen to work out perfectly, they'll be cheap at the price. I'm such a risk-taker.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Get With The Plan

It's nice to feel a surge of creativity. In truth, I've been a little concerned inasmuch as I've been entirely disinterested by anything other than sleep and cupcakes for quite some time. Between work and travel, before this weekend, I'd made precisely 2 things in the last month - both of them for M, both of them the same item (different size and fabric).

One of the things I love most about myself (whatevs for sounding braggy, I'm allowed to love things about myself) is my enthusiasm. I am so thrilled - by so many things - it's like fireworks for my brain. When that quality deserts me, as I suppose is its occasional prerogative, I don't know what to do with myself. Because even as my nature exhausts me, it sustains me. (Strange place to be.)

All this is to say, the weekend was refreshing, even as it was tiring, because it was the culmination of a week-long, careful plan wherein I:
  • Developed the concept: I decided that a) I needed to make some things for myself that are b) in no way hard to fit into my wardrobe for daily wear and that c) make use of fabric already in my stash. When I looked at my pattern binder, it occurred to me that T shirts (based on a sloper provided by Built By Wendy in the Sew U: Home Stretch) would be the perfect item. Moreover, they'll go with the jeans I'm about to make in the MPB Jeans Sew Along.
  • Researched: I read the book again. On a parallel front, I found out as much about the Crew T sloper (the one I worked with) as I could, which isn't that much, actually. I also researched the few reviews of the book I did find, to learn about any hitches or pluses in advance.
  • Had Everything on Hand: There were a couple of trips to the fabric store throughout the week: I needed some stabilizing tape for shoulder seams, some underlining (see below) and some thread to match the fabrics. Of course, that led to the purchase of some more fabric, but it was on sale! :-)
  • Prepped the pattern: Initially, I traced the small - having read that the pattern fits large. I also (without over-thinking it - after all, I'm trying to be all "casual modern sewist") shortened the length at the waist and gave it a smidge of waist curve. I mean, there's never been a garment that I haven't had to shorten at the waist. I have a short waist. So I just assumed it would be necessary here too. (It was.) The thing about sewing with knits is that you can't really make a muslin. You can only make a practice garment out of the same (negative-ease) stretch fabric. Until it runs out, that is, cuz you've had to redo 3 times and who keeps more than 3 yards of the same stretch fabric around at any given time?? Wait. Don't answer that. Let's just say I couldn't have imagined how much I was going to need to curve in the side seams and fool with the neckline.
  • Prepped the fabric: Determined whether I'd wash or dry clean. Ha! Natch, I'm washing all but the open weave green and white zebra which I haven't yet tackled. I'm afraid to wash it. I did buy the underlining though. What has the world come to that I'm making T shirts with underlining?? (In truth, I'm envisioning something sleeveless so it's more shell than T.)
But enough about me. How do you prepare yourself for a creative excursion (whatever your craft might be)? Are you free-flow? Super-organized? Do tell.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Single Minded

Just call me one-track Krissie; I cannot get T shirts out of my mind!

I wore the loud patterned one today and learned (what I'd suspected) that the neck is too low. The tremendous value in wearing one's finished garments is in learning how they still must be revised. Without wearing, I never would have understood that it's still too low in the neck only partly cuz I need to raise the bust cut line, but also because the shoulder seams need to be a bit shorter (i.e. the span between my shoulders and my chest is shorter, very slightly, than that of the sloper). I also realized that I have to take in the waist still further.

Today's revisions include:
  • Narrowing the waist at its apex by another 2 inches (approx)
  • Taking the shoulder seams on front and back pieces up by 1/4 inch (effectively shortening from the top)
  • Raising the U neck lowest point by 1.5 inches (This might be too much, but I want to see where it lands)
  • Updated on Tuesday: I also lowered the back neck by 1/4 inch to maintain the span. Where it doesn't fit is on the front, not the back.
  • Oh, and narrowed the sleeve another half an inch or so. (Maintaining the armscye dimensions...)

Now don't get me started on the BBW sloper. For kicks, this afternoon I decided to compare the original small pattern sloper (crew neck T) against the latest version of the one I've modified no less than 5 times.

OMG. At the waist, my version is actually smaller than the XS. Everywhere else (but the full chest zone) it's smaller than the S by some degree. This pattern - which I'll take a photo of, when it finally lands, is hilariously curvy. The power of negative ease! Note to reader: It also runs rather large. Like the vanity sizing of T shirts.

At this point, I don't even know why I started with the BBW sloper - except that it is a 2 dimensional schematic that I wouldn't have felt confident drafting for myself. So I've learned I don't feel comfortable establishing the starting point, but I sure as hell feel fine taking liberties with the alterations. It's actually TOTALLY fun - like a mystery novel. And, in truth, the instructions are very helpful. I'm not knocking the book or the pattern.

Well, I'm kind of knocking the pattern. Because Wendy sure as hell wouldn't try to sell a straight waist T shirt in her line. I simply don't know why she's patterned one for all of us.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tired With A Capital T

Oh, it's been an exciting weekend of sewing.

I started with nothing and have finished with 5 T shirts (1 for M, 2 for the lawn surfers and 2 keepers). The wearable ones (photos below) are in a super stretchy patterned rayon jersey (scored it for a song cuz it's, um, loud). The second wearable is actually made of a cotton blend (I suspect). It's the delicious fabric S & N brought back for me from Italy. I only wish I'd done it justice. I fear my version is too big and the neck facing is wonky. Mind you, on me it's so low cut no one's going to be looking at the seam binding.

In addition to these finished items (and all of the fab learning that was accomplished in making them), I now have at my access a completed crew neck sloper. From that:
  • I somewhat successfully modified the side curves and waist length. I know I could do more. I like a really fitted T shirt.
  • I created a V neck version and a U neck version (albeit the U neck needs some tweaking). Frankly, it's slightly too low, which would be ok if it were tighter, strangely. Given that the shirt isn't super fitted anywhere, the chest is a bit too "open".
  • From the sloper sleeve, I devised 3 others - a cap sleeve, a "midway sleeve" (short but not as short as the cap) and a 3/4 sleeve. I fooled around with the 3/4 for reasons of fabric shortage, which is why the patterned T has an odd-length, but flattering, sleeve.
  • I developed a couple of binding options I can use on the necklines too.
Let me preface this by saying that my dress form has a linebacker quality when I insert the arms. Alas, when I don't insert them, the sleeves hang like rags. So I'm going with the lesser of 2 evils...

I couldn't get a good shot of the Italian fabric one (below) to save my life. The left-side wonk of the binding is much more notable here than in real life - I swear! I also must have cut an additional 2 inches off the side seams but this fabric doesn't have a lot of snap.

Here's a close up of the lovely fabric - and the faux cover stitching I did:

You should know that it looks a little tunnel-y here but, again, it's the photo. I don't know why this top defied modern photography.

Please say something nice. I worked really hard.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Updated: Shirty

Quick mid-sew check-in peeps:

After hours of prep and 3 hours of sewing, I'm still not finished a simple crew neck. It's not exactly difficult but I'm being forced to learn so many things as I go along. A sample of what I've had to figure out so far:
  • How to set up my machine with the twin needle for faux cover stitching.
  • Practice faux cover stitching (which has led me to believe that a pre-serged edge produces a more professional result).
  • Threading stay tape of the correct width (mine needed to be narrowed first) through the serger foot.
  • Easing the neck band into the neck hole (I'm going to choose a different method next time.) This is a very precarious process using a serger.
My half-finished product is a freakin' dog's breakfast - but I have hope. I am gaining experience as I go.

Here's what I'll say about making Ts so far: You need to have expert knowledge of your machinery (serger for seams, regular machine for "faux cover stich"), a really steady hand (one false move and ooops!) and nerves of steel. Nothing like cutting your fabric as you sew to give you perspective on straight stitch machines.

If anyone else here has made T shirts - please share your experience. I could use any feedback at this point.

Now, back to the factory.

End of Day 1 Update

No question, I've learned a LOT today - not only about new technique and constructing traditional Ts, but also about the pattern I'm working with (Simplicity - Built By Wendy 2092 - available only in Sew U Home Stretch, by the looks of it).

About Technique:
  • I realized that I prefer clear elastic stabilizing tape for shoulders, rather than non-stretch stay tape. I want a bit of give in the shoulders so that they hang right. The non-stretch cotton made everything very structured.
  • I realized that you really shouldn't stretch as you faux cover stitch, no matter how tempting. The less you fiddle, the less likely you are to get "tunneling" i.e. a lumpy berm between the 2 rows of stitching.
  • Something I forgot to mention before: Be sure to use a STRETCH twin needle (I prefer a 2.5m span) on your jersey. It works much better (apparently - I have no comparative experience) than a twin that's made for woven fabrics.
  • I realized that the twin stitching is an excellent alternative to a cover stitch machine - at least in this fabric.
  • I realized that I'd never want a dual-function serger-cover stitch machine. Thank goodness I didn't buy one when I was looking at sergers. I want to go from machine to machine with no stops. This really streamlines the process.
About the Pattern:
  • I've had difficulty finding many reviews about this pattern - maybe because it's not sold independent of the book in which its instructions reside.
  • I first made the crew neck sloper, more or less as is (slight narrowing at waist, slight shortening at waist) and then cut a variation - the V neck with capped sleeves.
  • I can corroborate that the crew T sloper fits large and that it is basically shapeless. I won't be making it again. No mind, making it was an exercise in fit and establishment of technique.
  • The 6 inch V depth, from instructions on the V neck crew T sloper variation, is VERY deep. I mean, obscene. But I like the shape.
  • In a way I'm glad it didn't work because, right at the end (when serging the side seam) I somehow managed to cut a inch-deep tear in the sleeve. I tell you, the serger gives and she takes. You CANNOT lose focus, even for a second.
  • Tonight I traced and cut a third paper pattern - the second v variation (on the basic crew T sloper), which I'll make tomorrow morning. Its depth is 4.5 inches. I also modified the capped sleeve to make it something midway between a cap and a short sleeve. I want something a bit longer but not quite "regular short sleeve" length.
  • In version 3, I also narrowed the waist for the third time. I've curved off about .75 inch at each waist side seam at this point - like 3 inches over all. Really, the sloper is straight.
  • For all that, I'm happy with the sloper shoulder width (esp. now that I'm using stretchier stabilizing tape rather than twill). It fits very nicely in the sleeves.
Alas, I'm out of the fabric I've used on the first 2 tries - well, I have enough for a sleeveless, but I'm not interested in making that right now. So it's onto a different fabric - a jersey with good snap-back and v. easy to work with (according to the woman at FabricLand). It was on sale for 40% off and it still cost 13.00 for a smidge over a metre (the end of the bolt). I wonder if it's going to be a whole different world or if my learning today will translate well into the next variation in the new fabric. I hope it doesn't screw with fit. Note to reader: Yes, that does mean I went out yesterday to find stretch twin needles and ended up with some new fabric. That's why I have to stay out of fabric stores.

No question - unless you live in a place like NYC (where you can find good jersey for 2 bucks a yard on sale) - making T shirts is not necessarily much cheaper than buying them. I can get a fabulous Tencel T at the Gap on sale for $10.00. Sure, some T shirts run upwards of 80 bucks. But I don't generally buy at full price and I don't get pricey ones (they don't stand the test of time, after all).

I do like the idea that I will eventually draft a perfect sloper for my body, which I'll be able to recreate at will (or when the right fabric comes along). I bet, once I do this a few times, I'll be able to cut in 30 minutes, mark and set up in 30 minutes and sew the garment in about an hour. Of course, that's 2 hours longer than it takes to pick one up at the Gap. But at least I'll know the only person I've exploited is myself.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lock and Key

I really enjoyed this tutorial on faux cover stitching - that is, using a regular machine to simulate a "professional" cover stitched knit hem (like the double row ones you find on RTW T shirts):

The instructor is a textile designer and sewist I'd never heard of before - Patty Young - who also happens to be an excellent technical instructor. I just found her blog, which (I can assure you) I will be reviewing carefully over the next few days.

My research is a propos of my weekend adventure - T shirt construction. I actually discovered her by Googling the search term "cover stitch" - my latest sewing obsession. Ms. Young has another delightful tutorial on constructing the same type of hem with the machine actually designed to undertake the task as the professionals do. I think the one she uses is a Baby Lock - my (and everybody else's) brand of choice.

Peeps, what is it about me? Why do I seem to hanker after a new fancy sewing appliance every few months? How many more are there to purchase? Y'all know the Baby Lock cover stitch - a machine that performs precisely 2 stitches - is going to set me back some serious green.

Note: I'm not buying till I can find one at a very good price. In fact, I've just decided to approach my serger vendor with a request that he hold the next discounted) floor model for me (he changes these up every 2 months so as not to wear out any one machine). I think I'm going to set a price - a very affordable one - and see if he's willing to match it. After all, it's not like I'm not ready to wait a while.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I'm not a huge fan of Steve Madden. Having said that, I found myself handing over my credit card for these:

Steve Madden Spiffyy

They're ridiculously comfortable - kind of like slippers - and I really need an alternate to my Diesel "walking shoes". Much though I love those, they're the only flat shoes I have (all my other flats are transitional or winter boots). In truth, I'm utterly bored.

Don't misunderstand. These days more than ever, I don't wear heels. I own various pairs of summer sandals - all flats or wedges (flat heels, as M calls them). Since I broke my foot, I'm that much less inclined to risk my mobility on cute footwear.

Given their neutral taupe shade and seersucker ribbon laces, I suspect these will go well with wide leg denim. They might also work with shorts (haven't tried out that look yet). I know they won't be universally flattering. With skirts and dresses, I assume they'll look like crap.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Appalling Apparel

Y'all know my ambivalence about American Apparel. I'm not into most of the clothing - I sure as hell loathe the exploitative advertising (is there anyone who doesn't??) - but I'm die hard on a few of the basics that this brand produces without flaw.

For this reason, I'm vaguely concerned about its impending bankruptcy. Though all are (technically) innocent until proven guilty, by all media accounts Dov Charney is a horror-show. Would that this company might continue without the stain of his reputation.

But this is not about that.

Today, afeared of the end, I went to stock up on some of my prized hosiery staples:

AA Opaque RSAPH Pantyhose in Poppy

AA Opaque RSAPH Pantyhose in Mustard

I really love these easy-to-wear pieces. And they're affordable.

What's your take on the situation? Do you love AA hosiery? Do you love any of its other products? Are you concerned about its going into receivership?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Shopping Your Closet...

...your fabric closet, that is.

Over the past couple of months I've had a delightful succession of experiences in the sewing room - all of which have been free! (work with me here) because I haven't had to buy a thing.

Yeah, for the better part of a year, I bought - seemingly endlessly - all kinds of fabric - never mind a gluttony of notions - to hoard in the fabric cupboard. But since then, I've made 2 shirts, an iPad case, a skirt and 2 kid dresses without buying so much as a spool of thread.

Scarily, cuz I'm not one of those fabric hoarder types by any stretch (hahaha, get it??), I still have a practically full fabric closet. What's with that??

You may know that I have a strict "if you can't fit it neatly in the fabric cupboard, you can't buy it" policy. And I am too scared to go against my own rules. So, when I hit the (wood) ceiling, that was it. I haven't purchased fabric since. And I'm not hurting.

I do feel that my wardrobe is in need of a painful, fashion-y shot in the ass. All of my recent hand made items have been a) for computers, b) for others or c) for winter. I appear to have no appropriate transitional home-sewn items. And I'm so freakin' sick to death of the 3 pairs of denim pants (2 trousers, 1 denim leggings) I made in mid-January, that I never want to see them again.

I also feel that I've made a few items which I love, but which don't get a lot of play because they're not "basic" enough. Y'all know I love vintage. I'm just not sure how I feel about stuff I've made that's meant to look vintage. I think something may be lost in the translation. And the fit on those items has been a work in progress.

All this is to say that I didn't get my ass in gear to do the Colette Patterns Spring Challenge (who has that kind of foresight in a Toronto winter), but I definitely want to produce a few new, highly-wearable pieces.

A book I haven't given a lot of thought to lately - though one I really enjoyed when first I purchased it - is Sew U Home Stretch, by Wendy Mullin. Wendy is all about empowering her sewist readers by providing "slopers" - or basic garment shapes - which can be modified in any number of ways. In this book she provides a crew neck T, a raglan sleeve knit shirt and a stretch dress sloper. I really love the dress which I've made twice, successfully. Note to sewists with sergers: She does include a reasonable, if accessible, amount of information about using this machine with knits.

I think it may be time to shop the fabric stash for the optimal knit to make a couple of variations on the T (long sleeve, short sleeve etc.) from Sew U Home Stretch.

Here are some fabrics I'm thinking of using:

Soft taupe knit - looks almost woolen but it must be cotton... Steen and Nicole bought this for me when they were in Italy over Xmas.

This is fabric I've had forever! I bought it at Spandex House and had it shipped. Talk about an expensive shipping proposition. You can't see it easily here, but it's an indigo fabric designed to mimic denim.

This is a fabric I've used twice before. I may not have enough to make a T but we'll see. It's a very stretchy rayon that drapes really nicely and stays cool.

This is another one that S & N bought in Italy. It's quite an open weave. I have no idea how it will sew and it's a small amount given that there's a tear rather centrally located. I will try to get a shirt out of it though...

The T shirt variations - and here's hoping I can adjust the sloper to fit me fantastically - will complement the jeans I'll be making shortly with the MPB Sew Along.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 10, 2011


There are lots of posts out there right now about "refashioning" - that is, taking an old, seen-better-days garment or two (sometimes vintage), and altering it/them, with nothing more than talent and finesse, into a fabulous new piece.

To wit - and these are just a couple of the many great examples:
  • Patty's upcycled cardigan (This woman is a phenomenal, intuitive sewist who really sets the bar for sewing of all sorts, but particularly for the clothing rework...)
  • Zoe's knitwear refashion. (This blogger has energized the sewist community to undertake various "all hand-made clothing" challenges such as Me Made March.)
Strangely enough (given that I've never refashioned as much as a scarf), lo those many months ago, when I first undertook sewing as my newest passion, the first book I bought was this one:

With nary a scrap of ability or experience, even then I knew this was a perfect idea. Back then, mind you, I didn't know a soul who'd approached the concept, much less achieved it. God love the internet.

What's better than taking old garments that have stood the test of time - even vintage ones whose bones are awesome but whose edges have frayed by up to a century of use - and combining them to produce something a) new b) unique and c) tailored perfectly for you?

I dare you to find something suboptimal with this!

Needless to say, I'm not there yet. I'm afraid to disassemble my beautiful vintage (even the stuff that's not that precious - or even that vintage). Maybe it's the perfectionist in me balking at the unknown. Maybe it's a lack of vision.

The perfectionist in me is a freakin' pain in the ass. She stands between me and my sparky creativity, aggressively thumbing her nose (wtf does that mean, exactly??). What's the harm in taking a chance? At worst, I throw the result in the bin (or on the lawn for pickers). At best, I make the most gorgeous thing ever.

No doubt, I'm not suggesting that one disassemble her prized Balenciaga. But that no-name thing from the 60s that has never quite fit right in the shoulders, well...

So, Lovelies, do tell: How do you feel about upcycling? Have you ever done this for yourself? Are you afraid to work in the medium of pre-existing garments? Do you feel my fears? What do you think - those of you who are comfortable with this art form - is the easiest item to start with? What should I start with?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

All That and Less

I've been tagged by the delightful Tanit-Isis with the "I'm All That" Award, the originator of which is the also delightful Beangirl, fyi. If "all that" is code for "wretched stress-mess" then I deserve this unquestionably. Otherwise, the matter is open to debate. Nonetheless, who am I to turn down a fun meme?!

Here are the questions I've been tasked to answer:

1) What size shoe do you wear? If you wear a size 7, can I borrow your shoes?

I'm a real 8.5, so (sorry), no go.

2) 30′s or 60′s?

Definitely 60's - though I've been watching the HBO remake of Mildred Pierce and it's giving me a real appreciation for the post-depression era.

3) Have you ever kissed someone you shouldn’t have?

All I'll say is, if one purports to be innocent of this offense, she is lying.

4) Have you ever been poisoned? Was it by the girlfriend of the person you kissed?? (That is awesomely Knot’s Landing).

Mildly poisoned - yes. I've had food poisoning and stomach bugs that will live on in infamy in my own mind. Also, my mother believes I was poisoned by Mercurius, a homeopathic remedy for strep that I did rather OD on in the 80s. (The jury is out on that one.) And who's to say, if the poisoning was inflicted by the significant other of the person whom I inappropriately kissed, that it wasn't a boyfriend? Just sayin'.

5) Who’s on your “Celebrity Free Pass” list (top 5)?

Alessandro Nivola
Guy Pearce
Colm Feore
Will Smith
Rob Lowe

I'm no good at passing these along but I welcome you all to answer any or all of these questions. And if your shoe size is an 8.5, I want to know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Long day here. Just got home after participating in a focus group (under the veil of secrecy, of course). While I can't tell you who or what I was focused on, I can say that it's amazing how the marketing savvy of entire corporations can be fit on the head of a pin. I did get paid a hundred bucks though.

Rather phenomenally (but unsurprisingly) I managed to spend it all before I actually arrived at the venue - like in the 20 minutes preceding it.

For starters, I surfed Gap Canada Online and got 3 pairs of pants for M. When you spend $50.00 you get shipping for free. Um, that's child's play! I spent $52.00 before tax - talk about maximizing value! - which means each pair of pants cost an average of $17.00. They were originally $39.00 each. And, mega bonus, I didn't have to shop with the whiny adolescent who preferably wears pants requiring the assistance of a coat hanger to pull on - even given the modern powers of Lycra.

I did check for a promo code (to make my crazy savings utterly absurd), but there were none to be found in 3 minutes or less. Still, by Canadian standards, this is an online steal. (Even in the shops my final bill would be amazing.)

I also bought, finally, Built by Wendy Coats & Jackets:

A Dress A Day has written an interesting post on it...

I purchased in store so I paid more - but I did convince the SA to honour my about-to-expire online coupon (which I'd forgotten to use the last time I ordered online) because said online ordered book has been online back-ordered for 5 weeks. Intriguingly, that's a book about draping and I can't wait to start learning that skill.

I recently ordered bolduc tape (French twill in black that you frequently see pinned onto dress forms being used for draping purposes - to show the pivot zones, I presume) in anticipation of this new pursuit. Of course, I know NOTHING about draping so I might be completely making that up. I know nothing about it except that it's an amazing art which, I bet, will initially frustrate the crap out of me and eventually convert me with its seductive charms.

On the topic of seduction, and expenditure, yesterday my husband (who was working from home) observed 3 courier trucks stop one after the other in front of our house to deliver parcels all for me. There were British junk foods galore, sewing notions and bras. It appears that I am having an online moment.

Is it a bad sign when you've memorized your Visa details?

In truth, parenting has been a challenge over the past couple of weeks so I might be mood altering with treats.

I wish I had any energy to sew. Alas, I'll read my new book, pin my mannequin and get ready for the MPB Jeans Sew Along. There's no way I'm going into that burned out. And besides, it's not a race to see who can make the most garments in the shortest amount of time.


Monday, April 4, 2011

In Which I Advise You About How I Haven't Lost It

And by "it" I'm referring more to "that ineffable something" than "my sanity", cuz Lord, this spring has been taxing (hahaha, get it: taxing?)...

Alas, I'm not here to completely bore you with my level of stress borne of so much stuff to consider that I no longer have time (never mind mental energy) to consider daily blogging - much less regular sewing.

All this is to say I am working on getting through the next couple of weeks - with gratitude and as few grade 5 homework assignments as I can manage. I'm doing my best to post. But how to post when all the things that lubricate my brain are but afterthoughts, languishing in a pit of exhaustion and ennui?

Apparently the purple prose part of my brain is very hearty.

OK, today I knew I hadn't lost it when, on walking home (like a veritable blob), a stopped-at-red-light school bus of tweens called out of the windows: I love your cape. I love your boots. Your hair is really cool. I would have thought they were being sassy brats but for their transparently innocent demeanor. They actually thanked me for smiling back at them and for being "a nice lady as well as pretty".

On a vaguely related note, a few weeks ago I showed my kid the You Tube video of a newish song I found called "Price Tag" by Jesse J.

She and I like dancing around and singing to it.

Anyway, last week, M came home and advised that her friends had just "discovered" the song. When they mentioned it to her, like a secret, divulged, she told them casually that she already knew all the words to it because her mum told her about it a long time ago.

Um, hello. Score one for the blond lady with the cape and the suede boots.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Resistance is Futile

When I grow up, I want to design stuff like this:

Stacy Lomman Design
Photo Courtesy of DFR Daily Fashion (E. Shmatolla)

(Or even just wear it.)

Check out this great review of Stacy's show.