Sunday, March 9, 2014

When Things Don't Go As Planned...

As relatively craft-successful as the previous two weekends have been, this weekend was rather unproductive. My goals were lofty: another Issy top, Claudia pants made with stretch Bengaline, knitting past the yoke of the Svalbard cardigan...

How did that go?

The Knitting:

Well, here's my latest knitting on the needles:

Most of the yoke of the Svalbard cardigan by Bristol Ivy - I know the centre panel looks odd. It's unblocked and the "V" of increases isn't showing well. I swear, in real life, it looks normal (if a bit uneven as it hasn't been blocked)...
Since Friday I have worked precisely one row and rolled 3 balls of yarn. Note to reader: That ain't gonna get me to the end. I do have a post on this project in the works. The Svalbard is something I was compelled to cast on because it's like a scarf with sleeves - an elegant one. I just want to be warm right now, not constrained - and I don't feel like mathy-fitting my ass off.

Of course, this is a dicey garment from the vantage point of my shape. But I'm living on the edge and I have a couple of work arounds.

In brief: This pattern is polarizing (just read the Ravelry projects pages). It's very simple-looking but very complex to establish, as one knits the entire sweater from the top down. It's rated 4/5 starts in difficulty (by the pattern designer) for a good reason. Everyone seems to have to rip back two or three times before establishing a groove because it's fucking complicated. Mind you the end result is refined. And once you figure out how it works, it's SO smart - like solving the problems of the universe on two needles. This sweater is much more challenging than the Blanche Too, but so much better envisioned. Some people suggest that the pattern should be more streamlined (it's 12 pages or so - standard issue for Brooklyn Tweed designs) but honestly, I don't think it's reasonable to expect that it could be. To have access to the pattern in multi-sizes, one must switch from section to section for info. What's so good about the instructions is that they explain how to do this. Sure, it's tricky, but it's not a mystery and it's beautifully thought out.

The Sewing:

Now I did end up sewing two things - but one went straight in the bin and the other is just meh (who knows if I'll ever wear it).

The thing that went in the bin: Another version of the Issy Top made in blue rayon jersey. Here's the thing - I really struggle with the construction of the neck unit on this top - so that was a nightmare. Furthermore, I over-estimated my required centre-back narrowing alteration. I believe, in this pattern, I need 2 small darts on the neckline, not one large one, and a smaller decrease in neck-width than originally I estimated, so I diminished the impact by half - one inch of narrowing vs. 2 inches. Finally, there was a flaw in my rayon fabric - right in the middle of the piece. I didn't notice it when I checked it on receipt, but it was deceptively hard to see - more like a serious run than a tear. I don't know if my washing somehow might have caused this or if it arrived this way. I worked around it but the flaw, coupled with only a yard of fabric (the Issy really does need a yard and a half of 60 for the size 10), meant I had to cut a sleeve against grain and to shorten everything. It was suboptimal.

I am bummed to have trashed a yard of fabric and a day, but I did learn a few things that should help me on my next go round.

The Meh Thing: The other garment I sewed this weekend was a second pair of the Claudia pants. I can't even be bothered to photo them - though I will soon, if only to show you Bengaline (not that you can really see how it feels in a picture).

I don't like Bengaline - and I'm working with the "good" kind - the rayon blend (not the poly blend). I can only imagine how hideous the poly stuff must feel. There's so much fucking stretch that I can pull the pants off without opening the zip. My highly modified (for me) Claudia pants pattern is suited to fabric having a max of 20 per cent stretch and probably 10 per cent stretch factor would be better.

The only things I can imagine wearing in Bengaline are panels in a dress (for stretch and contrast), a tailored jacket (that fits with the ease of a cardigan) or VERY close fitted pants. Seriously, you want at least 2 inches of true negative ease, maybe more. I'll try my other yard with the Elle's or "denim" leggings, but I don't suppose I'm going to be a convert.

The fabric feels untenably fake. It's a bit sheeny - equally on both sides, IMO, so I couldn't figure which was which. I have no idea if the lighter colours are less or more sheeny but  that would make a difference going forward. (I want matte finish.) Bengaline seems never to iron completely. I mean, it presses a nice seam, but it's almost like you iron-in the wrinkles as you go. It didn't take my fusible interfacing well so there's a bit of weird overstretch bubbliness on the underside of the facing (not a deal breaker but ugly).

It doesn't so much drape, as stretch and contract, so a garment with too-loose fit is both wasted, from a fall of fabric perspective, and bulky-seeming.

Furthermore, and I've known this for a long time, though it really hit home today: I don't like black pants. I think they're the dullest, most ubiquitous thing ever. They just don't pop (like blue denim, my favorite fabric in the world). They're designed, 9 out of 10 times, to fade into the background. Why would I sew something that is so dull-looking no one will notice? I don't like black RTW pants any more than the hand-made kind. Sure, occasionally, one may observe someone wearing a beautiful pair in a beautiful suiting fabric (generally with a matching jacket) but, for goodness sake, if you're going to make black pants, they'd better be in fabulous textile and the fit's gotta rock.

Whatevs. Live and learn. This weekend is gone. Let's move forward...

So what's next this week, craft-wise?
  • Gotta buy some more rayon jersey - yeah, I only have one-yard pieces?! - to sew my next iteration of the Claudia top. I'm making this as part of the Sew Sexy Sew Along that Clio and Sown Brooklyn are hosting. Sure, not feeling outrageously sexy right at the moment, but sexy is as sexy does - right?
  • Gotta find some pants fabric to make a second pair of the Claudia pants (also for the Sew Sexy Sew Along) - I'm doing an outfit peeps! Note: It will not be black. But man, how much more denim can I wear??
  • Gotta get past the yoke of the Svalbard and move onto whatever comes next. I think it's the front panels but honestly, I don't even know. I just know it gets less complicated as you go, which is my kind of pattern!
Today's questions: What do you think of the Svalbard cardigan? How do you feel about Bengaline, if you've tried it? Are the lighter shades shinier or matte-r? What other pants fabrics are there in the world, besides denim and Bengaline, to make stretch woven pants? I'm thinking 10-20 percent stretch. I'm open to different colours or patterns. Let's talk!


  1. I have the Svalbard cardigan in my favourites on Ravelry, absolutely love it! But I think I need a very clear head before I take it on. Can't help with bengaline - had never heard of it until recently!

    1. Be clear headed. Cuz what energy you save in not fitting this sweater, you have to make up for in working crazy rows that take 4 lines to write out.

  2. I LOVE stretch bengaline, but so far I have only used it with the pull-on pants and the closely fitted Darla dress. You have to be careful when ironing...not too high of a heat and very little steam.

    1. OK, I used a lot of steam. A lot. so maybe it wrecked the hand?

  3. Wait - I thought you loved the Bengaline after your first pair of Claudia pants? You seemed so happy with them. Mind you, I have no idea what it actually is :-) I like stretch cotton twill for pants, and it comes in a gazillion colors, and seemingly weights as well. The ones I've used or seen though tend to have more body than drape.

    1. No - that was rayon denim - from Gorgeous Fabrics. This is stretch woven Bengaline from StyleArc.

  4. Well, not a wasted weekend because of all you learned. I'm looking forward to seeing your finished sweater, mostly because I want to try it on and see if I can bring myself to knit it if it looks good (like you, I favour a more fitted look). As for bengaline, I’m not going to like to you: when I touched the swatch, it felt a bit… cheap. Let’s just say I’m not rushing out to purchase this fabric from Style Arc.

    1. You're absolutely right! It feels cheap to me too. And a bit like rain-wear in some undefinable way. But maybe I didn't use it to its best advantage. I could see how really snug pants would work well because this stuff doesn't look stretch, but it stretches all to hell.

      Seriously, I can pull off the Claudias (made with bengaline) without opening the zip - with no problem. When it's not very snug, it's really ugly.

    2. I agree. Felt cheap. Didn;t like. Maybe I will like it better in pant form?

    3. I know! It feels almost like rainwear! You won't like it better.

  5. can't say i've ever even felt bengaline, so i'm no help there! stretch twill or stretch cotton sateen are my preferred pant fabrics. in fact, i have some black stretch sateen waiting to turn into pants, as you rant about black pants... haha! i agree though, it's not an exciting pant color!

    1. I'm going to consider these. Ann from Gorgeous Fabrics recommended RPL but that stands for Rayon, Poly, Lycra - and I really fear the Poly!