Monday, May 21, 2018

Great Easy Jacket! Why do I Overlook New Look?

I have never had anything but success with New Look patterns. So you would think that I would sew more of them, and yet I often overlook New Look.

So I decided on a whim to sew the jacket from New Look 6013 with a remnant of fabric left after sewing a yet-to-be-blogged dress. The shawl collar jacket has princess seams, a "puffed" (pleated) shoulder and single button closure. Plus it is unlined. I was not particularly sold on the shoulder, but  I was open to giving it a try since the pattern and fabric was on hand and with it's princess seams and no lining seemed easy enough to fit and sew.

I cut a size 12 with very few changes; I added 2" of length to the hem and sleeve and was just able to eeek all the pieces out of my fabric. As I sewed I made a few more, albeit minor, changes. I took in the back at the princess seams and let the front out a bit at the bust. Honestly. I should have probably cut a smaller size for the back, done an FBA on the front, moving the apex down just a little (3/8" maybe), and lengthening above the waist in addition to at the hem.

What I didn't change at all was the sleeve/shoulder/armscye! It fit perfectly right out of the envelope. I'm not sure that's ever happened before. So, YAY for New Look.

Lightened so you can see detail

Since the jacket is unlined, I finishing the seams by serging the seam allowances and topstitching them down, a simple and neat finish. I finished the hem by using grosgrain ribbon from my stash as a binding and then hand stitching the hems invisibly.

The fabric is a brushed cotton suiting from Fabric Mart. It has a sueded sort of look and feel.

Since I finished sewing this jacket, I've worn it with it's matching dress as a suit, with trousers as an ensemble for work and, surprisingly often with jeans and a cami to go to the park, run errands or pick up Taco at school. Really, I'm finding it incredibly versatile. And - surprising to me - I really like the shoulders. I think it creates a lovely feminine silhouette.

I feel like I might need another one or two in my wardrobe once I refine the fit just a bit. Wouldn't it be great in a colored denim as a casual lightweight jacket? And, if you lined it, it would be perfect in a suiting. Or unlined in a cotton sateen. Really, this pattern is a hidden gem.

My school pick up uniform

Next up: the matching dress to this jacket and some new trousers and waistcoats  for work. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Raspberry Trench Coat! Lekala Review

Finally a few pictures of my trench coat!

I began this trench waaaaay back around Thanksgiving.  For some unknown reason, I always start a major project at Thanksgiving thinking that I will be finished by Christmas. It never happens. I finished the final touches around mid-February and have been wearing this coat non-stop since the weather turned warmer and rainier.

The pattern for this cute trench is Lekala #4176, descriptively named "Raincoat." It has the features of a typical trench coat, but with a fun little extra at the back.

In this fabric - raspberry colored cotton/nylon water resistant sateen that I picked up at the Paron Fabric closing sale - there would be no mistaking this for menswear. However, I love feminine details added to more traditional, staid menswear styles, like the trench coat.

This was my first time sewing a Lekala pattern. If you are not familiar with the brand, they use software to create a custom pdf pattern using your measurements and any of their hundreds of designs. At less than $3 (seam allowances $.50 extra) trying Lekala was a low risk proposition. And I was curious to know how well a pattern made to my measurements would fit vs the usual number of changes that I would expect to make to a standard coat pattern (ie.: FBA, lengthening above and below the waist, narrow back, narrow neck, grading out at the hip, changes to the armscye and sleeve, and lengthening the sleeve).

The answer: the fit was pretty darned good "out of the envelope." The only changes that I made to my muslin was that I needed to raise the waist by about 1", narrow the back slightly at the princess seams and take in the waist at the side seams by maybe 1/4".  Other than that, the fit was pretty spot on.  The shoulder, armscye and sleeve, which are normally challenging areas for me all fit well with no changes. The bust, too, fits my figure well and it was great to not have to do all my usual changes which add time onto my projects. In the past I've been guilty of over fitting coats and jackets, which I think I avoided here by getting a pretty good fit out of the gate.

Now, I don't mean to imply that everything was perfect. There were a few issues with the pattern and instructions.

First, the instructions. I would give the Lekala instructions a solid rating of "if you sew BurdaStyle patterns, then you'll be ok." Better yet, if you regard them as a suggested order of construction rather than actual instructions, you'll be just fine. I would not, for example, try to sew the welt pockets using the instructions provided, but would use the ones that I am comfortable with from other projects or tutorials. The same goes for doing the lining and lapels. There are no pictures and there were some translation issues such as referring to decorative/fixing stitches (ie: basting stitches) and references to the back "yolk" piece. That said, from what I understand, Lekala has improved the instructions on their newer patterns. So my comments pertain to the older pattern instructions.

Smart money says use your own preferred welt instructions. 

Next, the pattern. The pattern pieces went together just fine. However, the real problem that would affect a less experienced sewist is that there were missing (undrafted?) or slightly off pattern pieces.  For example, there were facing pieces for the back neck and button/buttonhole bands down the front. However, there were not lining pieces that matched up with them. The back lining was drafted as all one piece from hem to collar rather than it being drafted to join with the facing. So, I had to alter that piece. And I had to draft a center front lining piece by using the main fabric center front piece and subtracting out the button band/facing.

Silk charmeuse for the lining from Chic Fabrics

Most important, the way that the center back piece is drafted, the fashion fabric does not extend underneath the storm flap (yoke), which is not attached to the back piece except at the shoulders and armscye - either it hangs free or you are supposed to stitch the yoke facing to the back piece, which just is not the best idea, I think. If you sewed the pattern as drafted but with the yoke hanging free, there would be nothing but the wrong side of the lining beneath the storm flap. So, I used the back lining piece to extend the back piece up to the collar. Again, this was easy for an experienced sewist, but it might present obstacles for someone less familiar with linings and coat/jacket construction.

I extended the center back pieces so that they would go up to the
collar instead of stopping at the storm flap

The only other sewing related things to say are:

  • I left off the straps and buckles on the sleeves. I didn't think the coat needed that detail  
  • In the future I would add a buckle or other hardware to the belt
  • Almost all of the seams have two rows of topstiching, done with two strands of regular thread (I loathe top stitching thread) in the top and one in the bobbin set to a longer stitch length
  • I added a pleat to the center back lining and a jump pleat to the lining at the hem
  • I outsourced the buttonholes to Johnathan Embroidery. 
  • I did not add a button and button hole to the stormflap


I took my time sewing this coat little by little as I had so many colds and distractions over the winter. That said, I wasn't angling for perfection (read: please don't examine the aforementioned topstitching too closely).

My thoughts on Lekala are that I would and will sew from their patterns again. In fact, I've purchased a few more patterns to test, this time for dresses and blouses. I don't expect for the fit of any pattern - even one drafted to my measurements - to be perfect from the outset, but if I get a head start on some of my normal changes, it will be a big plus given that my sewing time is limited. So, I'm eager to see if the fit holds up with their more fitted garments. And by the way, Lekala has a large catalog of patterns for women - particularly dresses, shirts, skirts and jackets/coats, and seem to add new ones regularly with updated details that reflect current trends. I also like that you can create an account to save your custom measurements and add patterns to your wish list. I found their check out easy, the processing time very quick and the price of their patterns was rock bottom.

The shortcomings with my one experience with Lekala so far were as I mentioned above. So, my assessment is that Lekala is for those who have a good understanding of garment construction and don't solely rely on pattern instructions.

Anyway, I'm still really thrilled with my new trench and it's color, which I think suits me. I don't like tan and taupe shades on me, and a bright coat is the perfect antidote to a rainy day. This coat could be seen as emblematic of my sewing philosophy. A trench coat is a wardrobe need, but why would I sew a basic when I could truly make it fabulous. Frosting! Truly, I am not into sewing cake.

Here are some final pics.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Sheepish Little Sweater: Baaah-humbug, I Give Up

I think we are finally healthy and getting back on track.  I have tons to show you if only I could take a few pictures. So, if you are hanging in there with me, please keep on hanging.  And if you aren't following me on IG, you can find me there as cliophineas.

I suppose I have no one to blame but myself. Apparently, I didn't learn my lesson last spring when I knit Taco a beautiful rainbow sweater and he refused to wear it for weeks and weeks. To date, he has only worn it a handful of times.

I knit this uber adorable sheep sweater in the misplaced hopes that he would wear it as a holiday outfit. I reasoned that he is in a phase where he wants animals, dinos and other characters on his clothing.

But now that spring is here - even if the weather is not cooperating - I give up.  I think this sweater will just not be worn. Sigh.  So you will have to content yourself with photos not on Taco.

The pattern is Sheepish Little Sweater by Melissa Kemmerer.  It is knit up in Knit Pick's Mighty Stitch, which is a worsted weight, superwash acrylic/wool blend. It is a very soft yarn that feels lovely to the touch, and the colors are as bright and happy as could be. I have been using it for baby gifts recently.

This sweater was a good project for working on my stranded colorwork skills. You are never knitting with more than two colors at a time, which makes it pretty straight-forward. I'm still not 100% proficient, but I've made great strides. Look at these cute little sheep....

One of the nice little details is that the sheep pattern is continued on the sleeves. Super duper cute.

And here are my floats on the back.

The sweater is knit top down, in the round which makes it easy to knit. No seaming required.  The only change I made was to make it a bit longer than the size I picked suggested, since Taco is slim for his height. He tends to grow out of clothing length-wise before they fit width-wise.

Anyway, here are a few last shots.  I highly recommend

All that is left to say is Baaah!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

A Little Kitchen Cuteness

Wow, I think this is the longest gap I've ever had in blogging.  It's been a brutal winter. Thank goodness spring is here or at least here-ish.

This is a little project that I did for Christmas, when I was in between bouts of kiddie germ illness and wanting a fun and easy sewing project.

If you follow me on IG (cliophineas), you will know that Taco and I like to bake together. It's a messy hobby and I haven't been able to find an apron small enough for him that I thought was also cute available commercially. So, I sewed this apron for Taco as a Christmas gift to go with a tiny chef set.

I drafted the pattern using a tutorial on Craftsy (here), but made it shorter and narrower than the instructions called for. Also, I modeled the straps after grown up aprons that we own using D-rings rather than an elasticized strap as the tutorial instructs.

Also, I disregarded the sewing instructions so that I could make the apron reversible. The side that Taco seems to favor has animals, and the opposite side is orange with a zebra pocket.

These cotton fabrics have been in my stash for so long that I really can't tell you when or where I got them.  I know that the faux-applique look animal print was purchased long before Taco was a consideration.  So, I'm happy to finally sew something with it.

Overall, this was the perfect project right when I was wanting to sew during the plague-ridden, exhausted winter holidays but didn't feel up to fitting or complicated projects. And, I was so happy with how this came out that I immediately sewed a second one for Taco's cousin who is eight months younger.

Ok, enough me. Here is Taco, helping Phin make pizza on a Friday evening.

And here are a few from Saturday, when we dyed Easter eggs.

He seems to like his new apron and insists on wearing it whenever Phin or I put on aprons, ourselves.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Greetings from the Plague Ward: Project Potpourri

As I mentioned in my New Years Eve post, Taco has been bringing home every germ he encounters, and so we've endured wave after wave of colds, the vomiting virus, the dastardly plague and a cold yet again.  Miraculously, we had about 3 days when everyone was healthy at Christmas.

That said, I haven't been completely idle.  Knitting has continued apace and, although I pushed pause on the raspberry colored trench coat I am sewing so as not to make any major mistakes while I was not at my best - I made time here and there for a little bit of low pressure sewing.

I sewed 50 pussy hats - some pink and some purple - for my local resistance group to give to members for the Women's March. What fun it was to see people that I didn't know wearing the hats I'd sewn.

I also knit two hats which took as much time as sewing all 50.

I also knit a fun colorwork Star Wars hat for my nephew. This is The Force Awakens hat pattern by Mrs Luedeke.  

Right now, what I have in the works is a scarf from the Mattock Cowl pattern by Home Row Fiber Co. in Madeleine Tosh Vintage yarn in worsted weight. This scarf is meant to match a hat I knit last winter. The stitch definition is beautiful, and I'll be happy to finally have a scarf and hat that matches, instead of the hodgepodge of mismatched hats and scarfs I wear now.  It's been a goal for a few years.

I have one little sewing project to post from Christmas and one from before then, as well as the finished sheep sweater that I knit for Taco to post about. But I'll end here today saying that - finally - this weekend life returned to normal enough that I was able to get back to work on my trench coat. It felt really good to immerse myself in a project. 

There's still a lot to do, but it is coming along very well. Next up: setting in the sleeves, sewing on the belt carriers, deciding on buttons and buttonholes, and then lining/hemming. Also, I need to decide what I want to do with the lapels - to topstitch or not.  I've done two rows of top stitching on all the major seams. Decisions, decisions.

Now, fingers crossed and knocking on wood that no one gets sick for the immediate future.   

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Ah-choo Year!

Hi, friends.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and best wishes for a bright 2018!

This is just a quick note to say we've apparently reached that point in parenthood where Taco brings home every germ he encounters. I've just managed to pry myself out of bed this morning after a run in with the Dastardly Plague.  It seems like we all just get better for a three day window before the next cold makes it's way thru our family. 

Cinnamon Star Bread for Christmas Breakfast.

Anyway, we did manage to have a lovely Christmas, which fell on a healthy day. It was the perfect Christmas morning - Taco played with his new trains while Phin and I read our new cookbooks and nibbled at madelines and coffee.

Perfect Christmas morning.

I hope to get back to blogging soon - I do have lots to show and tell. But for now, tea, knitting and extra doses of vitamin C are on the agenda.

I hope that you ring in a happy and healthy 2018!  Best wishes from my gang to yours!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sock Knitting Ennui

Back in July I finished a pair of socks destined not to be worn until the weather turned cool again. Now that it has, I have to say that I am really pleased with these new socks, despite a few flaws.

They are knit up basically according to my Socks a la Clio recipe, which is a basic toe-up sock. However, I've made some new improvements. (Note to self: go back and update the recipe.)  The stitch pattern - a very simple knit and purl design - is borrowed from the Tennarisukka anklets I knit in 2015.  Now for the good stuff!

Since knitting the Fish Lips Kiss Heel back in March, I have entirely replaced my short row wrap and turn sitches (w&t) with the Sox Therapist's twin stitch (tsk and tsp - tutes on YouTube). I find these stitches better and easier in every way since they don't leave any little holes as short rows often do.

Next, you can see how I've shifted the position of the gusset increase stitches from their usual place where the instep and sole meet to the bottom of the foot.  I first tried this with my Wonder Woman socks and I think it will be a standard feature for me moving forward. It creates a heel that hugs the foot a bit better than the gussets running up the side of the foot. .

The yarn I used for these socks is Dream in Color's Smooshy sock yarn in the colorway "Into the Mystic." It is a 100% merino wool superwash yarn. I'm really not at all sold on 100% wool for socks. In my experience they pill and wear at a faster rate than the sock yarns I've used that incorporate nylon/polyamide into the mix. You can already see a few little puffs of yarn debris fluffing off of the soles in the pictures above. The upside is that the yarn is softer, which is nice to knit and wear. In the end, like everything, there is a tradeoff. 

So I've been enjoying my new socks now that it is cool enough for them. And I've been trying to knit more socks, but I am having this massive moment of sock knitting ennui. I've cast on and started knitting two different socks that I thought I was excited about, but soon turned listless. 

Started and stalled socks

The first is a fairly plain sock with a heart motif running up one side.

It looks cute in this view, but once I tried it on my foot, you can't see the hearts at all. They just disappear. It was very deflating. Why bother the extra work of knitting them in the first place? 

The next was meant to be a bright colored sock with contrast toe, heel and cuff. But I'm just not thoroughly sold on the color combination. So, I stalled on this sock, too.  

Socks are not large, but they are a big investment of time. If I don't love them at the toe, I'm certainly not going to feel like sticking with them to the cuff and then doing it all again. 

Neither of these sock fails are frogged yet, and so far there has not been another sock pattern that has captured my attention. So, I'm not sure what I want to do next with regard to socks. Any suggestions? 

In the interim, I'm working on this cute little sheep sweater for Taco. I'm delighted with how it is coming out, and I'm really enjoying knitting the colorwork. 

Sheepish Little Sweater by Melissa Kemmerer

With any luck, this will end up being Taco's holiday outfit. IF he wears it. (Big if. Toddlers.)

Anywaaaaay, what are you knitting?