Thursday, June 22, 2017

Let's Talk: Linings

Normally, once I blog about a finished item, you don't see it again on the blog unless it is paired with an even newer garment. But today I thought we'd do something a little different and revisit the trousers that I sewed back at Thanksgiving and finally blogged about in March. 

I loved lining them in in a poly charmeuse print from Janky Store that was in my stash. I had sewn a top with it way back in 2011. The top is still going strong, by the way.  

Anyway, I wore these trousers yesterday. They get worn almost weekly.  When I took them off, however,  I noticed that there was some damage to the lining on the inseam at the high thigh area. So, I turned them inside out and this is what I found. 

The seam was totally shredded. Now, I think of this as an area of high stress on my trousers.  It's not the first time I've seen a lining fail in that area, albeit never one that I have sewn myself.  However, my second discovery was surprising.

This is the outseam. And not at a spot that you would think places any stress on the seams. It's also not on the side where I carry my purse or anything, so it's not like there would be friction. Anyway, the long and short is that this is a complete and utter fabric fail. The poly completely shredded.  

So, while I re-line these trousers, let's talk about linings. This definitely was not a fabric designed to be a lining, but I thought in both weight and feel it would be a good choice. It certainly felt nice on, helped my trousers glide on and off, and smoothed over any lumps and bumps. It was also heavier than Bemberg, which has always been my go-to for bottoms, and therefore warmer on those cold winter days (it was a bit warm to be wearing yesterday.)

So, how do you choose linings and what to you generally use?  

After my very first lining experience, in which the poly or rayon lining I was using was so thin and slithery that - novice that I was at the time - I found it challenging to cut and impossible to sew, I used only Bemberg linings for the longest time. I still like Bemberg, but I have branched out too. 

I've used silk charmeuse for things like my leather jacket (two thumbs up)... 

My Magnum Opus Jacket with silk lining

And china silk to line chiffon, like this top...

Cotton batiste for summer linen and seersucker trousers...

And even cotton lawn to line a jacket, which was not my best idea,  to be honest. It makes it hard to pull on over a top, lovely though the print is. 

Recently, I've tried some poly linings, too, like these gold wool trousers. 

And here is where the verdict is out for me. I've never had a natural fiber disintegrate the way poly has occasionally done for me. 

So, what are your experiences with linings?  Do you have a strong preference or a range of purpose or weather-specific preferences? Do tell.  And seriously, what the heck... 


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Found! Dark Chocolate Meringue Drops

Waaaaay back in 2009, I blogged about these Dark Chocolate Meringue Cookies.  I made them several times - they were wonderful!  But as happens, I moved on to new recipes and they fell out of my regular rotation.  They were not, however, forgotten.  But when I tried to go back and make them some time in the last year, the website had undergone an upgrade and much of the old content disappeared, including my cookie recipe.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Phin was flipping through a cookbook.  Out fell a copy of the recipe that I must have printed out at some point. Anyway, so as not to lose it again, here it is: 

Dark Chocolate Meringue Cookies
5 oz dark/bittersweet chocolate (60-75% cacao) divided
2 TBSP cocoa (dutch processed, sifted after measuring)
3 TBSP cocoa nibs (optional - I don't use)
1/3 c (about 3 large) egg whites at room temp
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c sugar (minus 1 1/2 tsp if not using nibs)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 3 oz of chocolate in microwave. Set aside to cool. Chop remaining 2 oz into mini-morsel size pieces. Add tartar to egg whites in bowl of a mixer.  Beat until soft peaks start to form. Add 2 TBSP sugar and beat for 1 min. Slowly add remaining sugar one tbsp at a time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Keep beating until the meringue turns thick, smooth, opaque and glossy - about 2 minutes more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for additional 30 seconds. Turn off mixer.  Fold in chocolate (melted and chopped) and cocoa, until no streaks remain. Do not overmix. Scoop onto 2 cookie sheets lined with silpat or lightly greased parchment paper by the rounded tsp.  Bake for 8-12 minutes until just set, rotating pans and switching positions half way thru.  Cool on pans for 1-2 minutes and then lift parchment/silpat off the pans to a cooling rack and leave until completely cool - 15 min. Cookies should have a crisp crust that shatters but be soft inside. Makes apprx 40 cookies.

By the way, these cookies freeze really well.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monkey Pants!

Oh look! It's Taco in monkey pants.

Taco is a slim little dude. By the time he grows into pants at the waist, they are too short. So, I suppose it was just a matter of time before I sewed some up for him.  

Taco has one pair of knit pants that do fit very well. So I did a very quick rub off of them, added seam, waist and hem allowances and called it a pattern.  When I went to cut fabric, I realized that the side seams of the pants were straight and on grain, so I decided to overlap the two pattern pieces and cut the pants as a one seam pant.

With only one seam and my serger, the pants sewed up in no time. I used a twin needle for the hems. But when we went to try them on, the pants were really rather large.  Either I was sloppy with my tracing or I added seam allowances more than once. I'm not sure which.

So, I added what I will call a design feature for toddler-wear - a 1/2 inch fake seam (really it is a tuck) down the sides of pants where the outseams would be.  Now, when Taco grows, I can simply let out these fake seams and have a wider pant.

Taco really seemed to like these pants. Throughout the day he intermittently would point at the monkeys and laugh. The fabric is a cotton jersey that I bought online at  Of all the things that I can find in the NY Garment District, novelty, kid-friendly knits is often not one of them. 

Ipad - The only time he is ever still. 

An additional reason I'm happy to sew these for Taco is that little boy clothing is very gendered (girls' too). Sports, vehicles, sharks and dinosaurs are just about the only motifs available in mainstream childrenswear retailers for boys.  Oh, and licenced gear (Disney, superheros, etc.) It's limiting and I can do better starting from scratch.

Anyway, Taco usually likes to put on his pajamas at bedtime, but he was reluctant to take these off. So, I'll call that a win for monkey pants.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Super in my Socks!

Look! I knit Wonder Woman socks!

Don't they look like comic book superhero boots?

I think so. I had a tough time with the color - they are more of a fire engine red than these pictures suggest. But this was the best I could do with indoor photography.

The pattern is Virrat, by Tiina Kuu. I understand that virrat means stream, but from the start they looked like superhero boots to me. I'm not sure why. Maybe they just look fast.

And they were fast to knit! The pattern call for sport weight yarn, and I used Cascade 220 Sport. This is more of the yarn that I bought to knit an op art baby blanket that I ended up frogging. The red was supposed to be a pop of color in an otherwise black and white blanket. I knit Taco's Teddy Sweater and a pair of Baby Duck Booties with some of this little stash. This yarn just keeps on giving.

Since I was using a thicker gauge yarn for these socks, I decided it was time to practice cabling without a cable needle. There are a few methods, but I settled into a groove with the one described by Knitty here. I also could have, I suppose, used right and left-twist stitches.  Reader LinB reminded me of them recently, and I used them with success on this baby blanket a few years ago. But it was worth learning to cable without a needle. I think my cables will go much faster in the future.


One feature that was a little different is that the heel gusset increases are done in the center of the sole rather than at the sides, creating this neat diamond shaped gusset on the heel.

Anyway, I shall feel like Wonder Woman in her down time as I lounge in these socks.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Lovely But Not What Was Planned

Didn't my sheath dress come out beautifully? Amazing, considering the hot mess it was just a week before completion.

After being worn all day

Because I am into keeping things real, this is how it looked after wearing it for 11 hours. I think the wrinkles/creases are much more pronounced in photos than in real life.  Isn't that always the way?

Here's the story behind this dress. I'm really enjoying having trouser and skirt TNT patterns. So, I decided that I should add a basic bodice block to my TNT catalog for sewing tops and dresses, when married with my pencil skirt block. I love a good sheath dress and have far too few.

I've had McCalls M7279, a Palmer/Pletsch sheath fitting pattern, in my stash for some time. It seemed like a good place to start. The pattern has lots of alteration lines on it and the instructions guide you thru their method of tissue fitting. I started with a size 12 based on my high bust and went from there, doing an FBA, adding length to the bodice and width to the sleeve.  

A few muslins later, I felt like I had the bodice fit worked out well enough. However, the sleeve was still not great. I really think that my body's arm/armscye simply must not be normal.  I worked a bit more on the sleeve but was running out of steam. And since I planned a sleeveless sheath, I decided to go ahead and sew it, leaving further sleeve muslins for another day.

So off I went. I wanted a less conservative neckline than the pattern shows so I traced a copy of my pattern but then lined up and traced off the neckline of M6699, an OOP pattern from a few years ago. I used my TNT sheath for the skirt portion. I picked out a pretty black and white fabric that I bought at Paron fabrics (RIP) and cut away.  This is where things went off the rails.

After multiple muslins, I should have been able to pretty much sew and just tweak the fit here and there. However, the fabric, which was a cotton blend woven with some lycra, turned out to be MUCH more stretchy than anticipated. It may as well have been a knit. My machine kept complaining and making snarled up bobbin nests until I switched to a stretch needle. In the end, I used all stretch/knit fabric techniques and tools for this dress - the seams were finished with my serger and I used a stretch twin needle for the hem.

It was so perfect and then I had to rip it out and redo

My first pass at sewing the dress came out enormous; the dang thing just grew and stretched. And since I had actually sewn the darts, zipper and waist, I had some unpicking to do. The dress was huge everywhere. I even had to undo the finished zipper so I could take one inch out of the waist between the top and bottom halves, like a swayback adjustment. Many hours of fitting ensured including taking in 2 inches at the waist - 4 inches total circumference. I always find that this much post-cutting manipulating leaves its mark.  My darts are imperfect and refuse to smoothly disappear, although this could also be because of the fabric.

All that aside, when it came to doing the neckline, I had a moment of inspiration. The fabric has two pretty sides which are negatives of each other.  I decided to bind the neck and armscyes with the opposite side of the fabric for a little contrast. I really like the effect even if next time I would trim the armscyes back a little.

I should have stretched the binding a little more when I sewed it for a more snug fit. 

In the end, I do love this dress and I do like the fit, although as a test run for a TNT pattern it is incredibly useless. I learned nothing. I actually may go back and draft a bodice sloper instead of using a commercial pattern. For all the muslins and work, I think it may have been easier to start from my measurements. We shall see.

And here are a few more pictures so you can see how I actually styled and wore it to work the day we did this photo shoot. Bonus: Taco the photo-bomber.

I feel professional, yet chic in this outfit. Ann Taylor would approve, don't you think? LOL  And I did get compliments from my colleagues on the outfit.  Best of all, it is super comfy since it is basically like wearing a knit.

He really is the best accessory

Anyway, I am thinking that I will draft a bodice block instead of altering a pattern. It would at least help me start out closer to the end goal.  Have you drafted a bodice? Do you have a preferred method or set of instructions? 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Mom Says Wear Your Sweater

In a major victory for parents, Taco suddenly decided that he wanted to wear his rainbow sweater.

As you will recall, the pattern is Atlantic Coast by Gabrielle Danskknit. The yarn is Mighty Stitch from KnitPicks. It came out super cute but Taco refused to even put it on. Toddlers

My strategy was to be patient. I hung the sweater where he could see it near the front door, occasionally offering it as an option as we would head outside to play.

Yesterday as we were heading out to play, he proactively pointed to it and insisted on wearing it.

Hurrah. Patience pays off.  And it looks like it will most likely still be big enough for a second go round come Autumn.

Happy Monday, Everyone!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Big Batch Cutting: A Method to the Madness or Just Plain Madness?

I could have just as easily called this post "what I'm working on" or "Spring/Summer sewing plans" or something like that.  But I thought it would be better to share what I'm turning over in my head as far as my sewing "method" goes.

Over the winter I tried prepping and cutting patterns and fabric in a big batch rather than one at a time. It happened organically: I had several days off, and once I started prepping and cutting, it seemed logical to just leave everything on the dining room table and cut for a few days. Despite being unplanned, this method of sewing led to a number of positive outcomes - from being less distracted with what to sew next to sewing from stash to having a variety of projects to work on according to my whim and more. My mini wardrobe, my birds skirt outfit and my gold trouser outfit all owe some credit to my having a big pile of garments ready to sew.

So you can see why I would want to repeat that winning situation. However, now that I am purposefully cutting in a big batch I'm pondering where do you stop the cutting and start the sewing? Here's what I have cut so far, with no signs of stopping.

Project pile 

I've begun work on a four piece mini-wardrobe project that is quite different from my last one. All of the pieces will be in the off-white with charcoal pin stripes linen blend fabric from Theory you see above. Queue the mystery music; it's a fun little project.

I also cut a pair of white trousers for summer from my TNT Burda trouser pattern and am figuring out if I have enough yardage left for a companion piece - a jacket or shrug

Hiding underneath the white and off white fabric pile are three knit shirts. All three are from OOP patterns and fabric remnants from other projects or stashed fabrics. I cut these thinking that it would be fun to have some easy projects cut for whenever I need a little pallet cleansing sewing or want a quick and easy project.

All OOP:  the top from Simplicity 4699, and McCalls M6797 and M6326

I also cut 2 more rompers for Taco. Since the romper I made him last summer (B5625) still fits this spring - arguably even better than last summer - I decided to use up some fabric remnants with a few new versions.  The only change I made was to add a little length and width so he has room to grow. Here he is last summer and then on Easter in the madras version of the romper.

A post shared by Clio (@cliophineas) on

So, that is 10 garments cut and ready to sew.  But there's more in the wings!  I have fabric out and prepped for several more garments. And here is where the method begins to teeter on madness. How many cut and prepped garments are too many? I am desperate to sew some summer jumpsuits for myself and some casual pants in addition to a few more baby gifts and a few shirts for Phin. Plus, I am already lining up end of summer/early autumn projects in my head. I recently reorganized my fabric stash and it led to all kinds of inspiration and pulling out of fabrics.

Where does it end? When is it time to put away the cutting mat and get on with sewing?  Do you cut several projects at a time or not? What is your strategy for productive sewing?