Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cross This One Off the List!

Thanks to everyone who replied about juggling multiple hobbies and multiple knitting projects last week.

On Christmas, as I sat chit chatting with family, I actually managed to finish my cowl scarf. So cross one off the list of potential knitting UFO's.

Double looped with my Lady Grey Coat!

The pattern I used was a free pattern on Ravelry called the "GAP-tastic Cowl". I guess it's a knock off of a GAP scarf. My knitting teacher, Berta, helped me convert the pattern to a smaller needle and less bulky yarn and still get the length and width I wanted. The original scarf was knit flat and then sew together, so there was a seam. The knock off is done in the round. I did mine with a twist on the first round so the whole thing made a mobius. I made it from a nice soft merino yarn. More deets on Ravelry

Single loop up

I also made a decision after last week's lace basics class, which I'm feeling good about. We began a rather complicated lace pattern that consisted of 19 rows, each one different and basically unmemorizable. I learned several new stitches during the class, which was fantastic, but failed to get to the end of the pattern even once. In the class setting, it simply was not quiet enough for me to keep track of where I was in the pattern. I think I sprained my brain trying. So, I decided not to go forward with the lace shawl that we started in the class. It's not really my style and would be a huge amount of work that I would have to do in a quiet room. I like knitting for it's portability and my ability to do it in front of the tv and while commuting. So it doesn't really fit in with my plans right now. All that said, I feel like I now have the know-how to tackle basic lace patterns - I know the stitches and how to read the pattern.

So, one down, two to go as far as potential UFO's go. Next, we'll discuss the alarming list of sewing projects I've got in queue! LOL.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Yay, Santa! I Was on the Nice List!

Apparently, I was nice this year! Santa was very generous and left some fantastic sewy gifts under the tree for me!

I received a copy of The Basics of Corset Building, a book I've been wanting for some time. It's an outstandingly practical guide to the tools, materials and process of building a corset. I like that it is practical rather than inspirational, since I have a greater thirst for skills and knowledge at this point in my sewing. Even when my sewing mojo flags, it isn't because I've run out of ideas or can't find inspiration. In fact, more often I'm paralyzed by indecision over what to sew next because there's just so much I'd like to do and such limited time. What about you?

I also received some fun art for the Craft Lounge and applique scissors. I really need more scissors for different jobs.

And Phin gave me a rolling foot for my sewing machine. He noticed that I've been drooling over admiring the leather tops that other sewists have been making recently. And I've been nattering on about making a leather jacket for myself. (Apparently, he does listen when I talk about sewing! Score one for crafty gals everywhere!) So, that is definitely on the to do list this winter!

I hope the Santas in your life were as generous with you as mine were with me!  Three cheers for Christmas!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pop's Holiday Bread

One of the foods I love most at Christmas is my dad's cheese bread. In fact, I love it so much that a year or two ago I asked him for my own personal loaf for Christmas. He did me one better by giving me his recipe.

Since I'm not going to see my parents on Christmas Day this year, and it just wouldn't be Christmas without cheese bread, I had to take matters into my own hands. The kneading and waiting for yeast risen bread to rise always seemed a bit forbidding. But as it turns out, it wasn't so bad to tackle on Monday when I had lots of other things going on in the kitchen anyway. Also, kneading the dough in my stand mixer with a dough hook made it an incredibly simple recipe. Here's the run down.

Cheese Bread from Pop's Kitchen
1/2 lb (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
1c milk
1/4c sugar plus 1/2tsp
1tsp salt
1/2c warm water (90-110 degrees)
2pkgs dry yeast (about 4 1/2 tsp)
1/4tsp dry mustard
1/8tsp cayenne
4 1/2 to 5c flour (all purpose or bread flour)

Scald the milk and add 1/4 c sugar plus salt. Let cool to 90-110 degrees. In pre-warmed bowl of your stand mixer, stir water, 1/2 tsp sugar and yeast together (with a spoon). Let proof for 5 min. Stir in milk, cheese mustard and cayenne. Mix in 2 cups flour. Now, add in 2 1/2 c of flour and get your dough hook going. The dough should not be too sticky (add the extra flour if needed). Knead in the mixer for 10 minutes.

Post-kneading in my mixer

Form into a ball and let rise in a lightly greased bowl covered with a tea towel or dish cloth for 90 minutes, until it has doubled. Punch it down to release air bubbles and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into a loaf and place in a greased loaf pan (I use the largest one I have). Let rise again, covered, for one hour.

Brushed with Butter and ready for the oven
Brush the top with melted butter or egg wash if you want it shiny and browned.  Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for 30-40 minutes - until it makes a hollow sound when tapped on top.  Remove from pan and let cool.

Straight from the oven

Now, you know that I can't ever resist tinkering with a recipe. Pop's recipe calls for regular all purpose flour, but I used bread flour, which Phin had on hand for pizza dough making. I thought it might make a softer crumb, and it did. (Score one for my tinkering!) Second, I may have been little lax with measuring my cheese. The block of cheese I had was 10oz and I threw it all in. Again, this worked out just fine. So, honestly, if you are a little off with the cheese measuring, you're probably fine.

Tempting me with it's scent
A few other variations are that you could always sprinkle some poppy or sesame seeds on top before baking. Or a bit more shredded cheese (maybe that's what I should have done with those extra 2 oz?). At any rate, I will be eating a generous slice on Christmas morning, toasted and buttered, which is my favorite way.

Do you have holiday traditions or recipes like this? Some family recipe that gets made just once or twice a year for the holidays?  The kind of thing that speaks of Christmas (or whateve holiday you happen to celebrate?)

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Juggling Act: Knitting WIPs

I'm freaking out about the number of half-knit projects I've got at the moment.

With sewing, I often trace patterns and cut fabric a few projects at a time. But then I sew them up one-by-one. That way, I focus on one project until it's done. But with knitting, this approach seems to fly out the window.

I don't want knitting to cut into my precious sewing time. So, I've limited knitting to my evening commute and while I'm on the couch in front of the tv, unless of course I'm hand sewing something instead. I don't watch all that much tv, which makes this pretty slow going.

Still a few inches short of a pair of socks

I was absolutely fine with two projects going simultaneously. The sock (above) has been commuting with me. And this cowl/infinity scarf (below) is what I've been knitting on the couch. It's very easy - a good project at the end of the day when my powers of concentration are waning.

I'm nearly 5/6ths done.

I'm nearly done with both. But then I started a "lace basics" class*, which includes knitting two projects. We started with a lace scarf. Naturally, I elected to make mine from a cashmere and silk blend. I already have an acknowledged weakness for silk, but blended with cashmere it's like cryptonite... soft, silky, luxurious cryptonite...

"Feathers & Fans" Scarf

I'm supposed to have this at least half done by the next class (tomorrow), when we will start a more elaborate lace shawl. Now, the idea of not being ready for class goes against my hard-wiring. So, I'm knitting this scarf while the other two projects are lingering in idle. And it's got me freaking out. Will my socks and scarf ever be done!?!? Not at this rate.

And somehow I accidentally started a yarn stash. I hadn't meant for this to happen. I just needed a few extra items to qualify for free shipping, and the fingering (sock weight) yarn was on sale. Gah! This is how they get me every time.

The silver lining to all of this is that I've managed to come full circle (or square) with the Hot Patterns Nomad Hobo bag that I made nearly 2 years ago. At the time, I was disappointed with it as a weekend hobo bag because of the shape - it's very square. But I commented that it would probably make a really good knitting bag. I've been using it as a grocery bag, but now it has become my knitting tote. At the moment this is my entire knitting stash - yarn, tools and current projects are inside. I plan to keep it that way at least for the time being. 

Knitting Bag!
Anyway, those of you who knit and sew (or crochet, etc), how do you balance your two hobbies? Do you juggle the two at once, like I've been doing or do you oscillate back and forth? Also, knitters, do you usually have multiple knitting projects going on at the same time or do you stick to one at a time?

* The lace basics class is at School Products Yarn where I took my beginner knitting and sock knitting class. They offer a loyalty program - a discount for return students - which is a good thing since they are very good at at talking me into additional classes. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa's Kitchen 2011: Dark Chocolate Bark Balls

So, I spent yesterday coated in molten chocolate and sugar and all things sweet. It was my annual holiday candy and sweet making day. Here's what it looked like:

Ingredients and recipes at the ready

Phin was a huge help. He chopped 7 lbs of chocolate - dark and white..

One of the many batches of molten chocolate
Phin also helped coat the Bark Balls with white chocolate

Peppermint bark, setting up

Finished white and dark chocolate bark balls

Finished peppermint bark

The final tally: 4lbs of Peppermint Bark, 2 batches of White Bark Balls, 2 batches of Absurdly Easy Fudge (which I didn't photograph somehow), and my innovation this year, 1 batch of Dark Chocolate Bark Balls. I also baked a loaf of bread, but that's another post.

White Bark Balls are basically a peanut butter rice crispy treat coated in white chocolate. They were a runaway hit last year. So, this year I thought: why not try them with nutella instead of peanut butter and dip them in dark chocolate instead of white? I played around with the recipe a bit to get them to the right consistency and, thus, the Dark Chocolate Bark Ball was born.
Dark Chocolate Bark Balls 
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup Nutella
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, at room temperature
12 ounces dark chocolate (for coating)

Mix Nutella, sugar and butter in a bowl until combined (I used a hand-held mixer). Add in Krispies and mix until combined (I used my hands). Form into balls and chill for a few hours until set.  Melt dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave until smooth. Coat balls with chocolate and put back in fridge til hard. Enjoy!
The only thing that didn't get made is 2 batches of peanut brittle, which I hope to get to on Friday. I thought it was a bad idea to start playing with molten sugar toward the end of the day when I was starting to feel wiped out. (Sugar burns are horrible!)

Do you have any Christmas baking or gift making left?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Karl Lagerfeld Skirt Reveal!

Here it is! My Karl Lagerfeld (Burda 10-2010-136) skirt in black wool.

I wore it styled like this last night for a pre-holiday dinner with some friends. 

And here it is styled for work.

While I think it looks just like the Burda version, I did make a number of changes to the pattern. Also, I used my preferred methods and order of sewing and finishing, rather than relying on Burda's instructions.  Here are a few details:
  • First, this skirt is short as drafted: a mere 13". This is not nearly enough skirt for me, Herr Lagerfeld! So I added 6-7" to the length. It's still a few inches above my knee.
  • I omitted the side seam pockets.
  • I lined the skirt with black bemberger because the wool I used was a little scratchy and has a loose (slightly transparent) weave. I used the skirt pattern pieces for the lining, sewing tucks instead of pleats.
  • I interfaced the waistband and the cuff with Pro-Sheer Elegance fusible from Fashion Sewing Supply. I considered using the Pro-Woven, but decided on the sheer interfacing because both the waist and cuff would be folded over, so there would be two layers of fabric and interfacing. I didn't want it to be too thick or bulky, and the sheer did the job just fine.  
  • Instead of making the back waistband elasticized, I shortened it to my waist length. I took most of the extra ease out of the back of the skirt by adding 2 darts. Then (because I hadn't taken quite enough out with the darts) I used basting stitches to gather the back just a scooch so it fit smoothly into the smaller waist. 
  • I finished all the seams with my serger since I think this fabric would be ravel-prone if I didn't
I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself about this skirt, despite all my self-created mishaps and discontents. It has the best looking insides of anything I've made. Usually, I'm not too picky about the insides, but I've had a lot more practice with linings and my hand sewing has come a long way in the last year. So, I think this skirt looks good inside and out.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm off from work for this year's version of "Santa's Kitchen", when Phin and I make candy and sweets for our near and dear for Christmas. And I've got a lot of backlogged posts, so stay tuned as I try to catch up by the end of 2011!

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Sequel in Which our Intrepid Heroine Carries the Day (with Some Help from Jonathan Embroidery)

It looks greenish because I had to lighten the pic so you could see the button holes.

Who am I to argue with Kenneth King and Lindsay T? So, yesterday I marched myself over to Jonathan's and had my buttonholes made while I waited.  Quite frankly, it took less time to walk there, wait for the buttonholes to be made and walk back to my office, stopping to pick up lunch on the way, then it would have taken to make the buttonholes myself. And look at how nice they are! Much better than the nicest buttonhole I could manage with either of my sewing machines. (Jonathan, you are officially on my Christmas card list.)

Thanks to all of you who suggested that this was the smart way to go and was not cheating. In the end, I agree. I'm really pleased with everything about this skirt, and these buttonholes are befitting all the work I put into it. So, score one for the good guys. Skirt reveal and review to come as soon as I sew on the buttons and take some pictures!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Episode in Which our Intrepid Heroine Is Defeated By a Buttonhole

Four awesome leather buttons from my new favorite button shop

Four buttons: that is all that is standing in the way of completing my Karl Lagerfeld skirt. (Insert angry grumbling sound here.)

Back in October when I was contemplating upgrading myself to a PR "Intermediate" sewist, I mentioned that I was not all that experienced with button holes. Little did I realize that I was foreshadowing my own demise! (Is that overly dramatic to say? Mea culpa, peeps.)

I did several test runs on scraps of the fabric, which is a thick, but loosely woven wool. But when I went to sew the actual button holes there were problems. The waistband is not too wide, so my button hole foot is hanging off the edge of the waistband or sitting unevenly because part of it is sitting on a seam. So, I'm having problems with the feed dogs moving the fabric. It keeps getting stuck and making a bobbin nest rather than smoothly feeding. Last night, after very carefully ripping out my second failed button hole, I quietly backed myself out of the Craft Lounge.

I could try using my Granny's machine. I've never tried a button hole on it and am not sure how to do it, but it's a very sturdy and reliable machine, once you figure it out. Or I could march myself over to Jonathan Embroidery where I can pay them to make the button holes for me. Although that smacks of defeat, I think. 

So, before I head back to the Craft Lounge for round 2 of button holes, please share any tips or words of wisdom. Many many thanks!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fancy Footwork: 13.1 Miles and a Sock

That's right, ladies and gentlemen! On Sunday night, I ran 13.1 miles, completing my first half marathon. Difficult? YES. I didn't set any land speed records, but with a field of 44,000 runners I was definitely not the slowest either.

Knitting at 30,000 feet!
Yesterday, on the flight home, I finished my first "victory sock". I'm telling myself that a pair of $50 hand knit cashmere socks is a reasonable and good reward to myself for the run.

One sock.

Now I just have to knit it's mate.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Lessons Learned: Nothing good happens after 9pm.

For the record: Nothing good happens in the Craft Lounge after 9pm. 

On Monday night, I headed up to the Lounge to work on my Karl Lagerfeld skirt. Here's the "before" picture:

Here's the "after" picture:

Why yes! It is the same picture. Here's what happened:

I interfaced the waistband and the cuff pieces, learning in the process that my new iron leaks. I noticed this when steam started wafting up from the under side of my ironing board. Hot water was leaking all the way through and then as I pressed, it was evaporating off the bottom of the board. Bizarre, no?

After a few choice profanities directed at Black & Decker in general and my iron specifically, I briefly considered basting but then sewed the waistband onto the skirt and tried it on. Two things: first, the waistband is too big. I have no idea how I failed to notice this since I measured it moments before applying it and (in theory) was aware that it was 3 inches wider than my waist, not counting allowances. (duh.) Second, I sewed the waistband on before I basted the cute little faux pocket flaps on. So, I spent the next 20 minutes unsewing black thread from the somewhat loosely woven black wool of the skirt. Not an easy task.

Then I realized that I had no buttons. The pattern calls for 4 of them.

Then my mom called to say that the wearable muslin camo pants I had made for my nephew didn't fit him.

So, essentially, things stand exactly where they were before I began sewing on Monday, except that I am now minus one iron, ahead by a bit of interfacing, missing 4 buttons and needing to sew new pants for my nephew.

The moral of this story is: Clio should not sew after dark. No good can come of it. None. 

That said, I'm really really pleased with how this skirt is coming. I decided that, because the wool I'm using is pretty loosely woven and potentially itchy, it ought to be lined. So I created and dropped in a lining. Honestly, I think this is the nicest, neatest trouser-style zipper and lining I've ever done. The insides are shockingly neat for me!

The back of the skirt is supposed to have elastic in the waistband. I'm trying to avoid this. I sewed two darts on the back to eat up the extra fabric and now just have to finess things a bit. Oh, also, I left out the hip pockets since others have commented that they were small (useless) and a bit confusing to sew. Plus I don't like any bulk at the hips.

So, in the next few days, I will be doing this all again, but this time with buttons, pocket flaps, a smaller waistband and a different iron. Wish me luck!

Monday, November 28, 2011

You Can't See Me, Ha ha ha...

D'oh! Apparently, camouflage does not work in an urban environment.

But my nephew, Orpheus, seemed to think that the pants that I sewed for him over the weekend were pretty cool, anyway. In fact, he made such a big deal over how cool they are that now his little brother, Linus, wants a pair too. (Sigh! Why does sewing for others always beget more sewing for others!?!?!)

There's not much to say about them. I whipped these up from KS 2276, same as the Goku Halloween costume that I made. They could not be easier or quicker. Each leg is just one piece of fabric. So, you sew up the inseams, sew the crotch/center seam, add an elastic waistband and hem. That's it.

The camo I used is a $2/yd ripstop-like fabric that I bought to use as muslin aeons ago at HM Fabrics. My sister has a difficult time getting pants that fit my nephew correctly; we grow kids abnormally tall in my family. So, these are essentially a very wearable muslin to see if this KS pattern, which is meant for sweatshirt fabric, actually works in a woven fabric, too. I told my nephew he is in charge of letting me know how they fit. For emphasis, I added that he should tell me if they give him "wedgies" or fall down to his ankles in gym class. At first he thought this was funny; then he asked if I was kidding. (Ha ha ha, I am an evil auntie).

Since I turned them over to my sister while we were out, I didn't get any pictures of the pants with my nephew actually in them. Oh well. I'm going to have to make that a demand for when I sew for others moving forward.

In between bites of pumpkin pie over the weekend, I also managed to squeeze in a bit of sewing for myself. I hope to finish my Karl Lagerfield Burda skirt in the next day or two so, stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Kitchen Mayhem and Gratitude!

First, the Mayhem: Phin and I are cooking the Thanksgiving meal for his family this year. 

I realize there are a lot of ways that sentence can be read. If you're the kind that hates cooking or gets stressed by company or family events, then it must read very ominous. But if you are like me and Phin, you'll understand that I immediately did a happy dance after writing that line. We are cooking! Woo-hoo-hoo.

Turkey a la Phineas

Phin is in charge of the bird, gravy, a ham, stuffing and brussel sprouts. I'm in charge of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, 2 veggies and pies. At this point the cranberry sauce is made (my recipe here), and my pie crusts (see my primer here) are chilling in the fridge. I'm about to head to the kitchen to start rolling out and filling pies. I plan to make apple and pecan, which I've blogged about in the past, and also pumpkin.

I'm feeling rather flattered that my SIL and niece specially requested that I make sweet potatoes. My sweet potatoes are not the traditional marshmallow covered Thanksgiving fare. In fact, I discovered this recipe in a cookbook by Mark Bittman over the summer when I was looking for a potato salad that had no mayonnaise. It was very easy and was an instant crowd pleaser. The recipe suggests serving it room temperature, but we all liked it better served warm. It calls for both white and sweet potatoes, but tomorrow I'll be using just sweet potatoes.

They are my favorite color, you know.

Grilled White-and-Sweet Potato Salad
1 lb waxy new potatoes
1 lb sweet potatoes
4 tbsp nice olive oil (extra virgin or whatever you prefer)
salt and pepper
1 tbsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp sherry or other vinegar (white wine, champagne, cider... your call)
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, chopped

Peel and cut the potatoes into half inch thick wedges. Toss with half the olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill (in the summer) or oven roast (in winter), turning a few times while they cook, until they are browned and tender. While they are cooking, mix the rest of the ingredients together to make a vinegrette. When the potatoes are done, toss with the vinegrette and serve. Or chill in fridge and serve cool. 
Unusual for Thanksgiving, no?  But it actually goes very well with my thinking that the traditional meal can get a bit monotonous, both flavor-wise and texture-wise. So adding some veggies that have a bit of texture and a little acidity really brightens the whole meal.

And now for the Gratitude: The thing that I am most grateful for today is that I am strong and healthy.

On Sunday, I completed my longest training run for the Half Marathon - 12.6 miles! Just half a mile away from the distance I'll run in 11 days. Tomorrow, Phin and I will run in our annual 5k Turkey Trot to make room for all that pie. I'm hoping for a new personal best time in that race.

Being strong and healthy enables me to have an amazing hobby like running in my life. It helps me juggle the demands of a career that involves some travel, my marriage/best-friend-ship to Phin and family life, and still have the energy for the friendships and hobbies that enrich my life. It is a blessing: one I hope to never take for granted.

So, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I hope that you have much to be grateful for this year. And, if you are celebrating, I hope your turkey is juicy and your potatoes fluffy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mood Fabric Deal Alert!

Well, tis the season for sewing deals!

There is a LivingSocial deal (exactly like a Groupon) for $30 of fabric and merch at Mood for just $15.  And you can buy up to two of them for yourself. (You know I bought two!)

The fine print: It doesn't seem to say whether or not you can use it for on-line purchases. And since I have no affiliation (NAYY) with either Mood or LivingSocial, I have no insider details.

Happy fabric shopping! Click here for the deal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Strategic Retreat: Donna Karan Skirt

On Saturday morning, I decided to take the bull by the horns and work on the dreaded Donna Karan single seam skirt of doom. After a little taking in at the waist, I think the basted together version fit as well as it ever will. However, I've decided to scrap the project.

The fabric is a dark coffee brown color, and it has a sort of shiny (embossed looking) snake skin print on it. It's a bit slinky. And, as much as I like the fabric, I think it's just not suited to this skirt... or my thighs... or my thighs in this skirt... or something. You get the point.

It's shinier in person. Trust me.

I could actually see this working out just fine in a matte fabric that wasn't so slinky. I think if I had made it in a black jersey, I'd be inclined to finish it, put on some spanx and declare it cute. I may try it again in the future, but for now I'm setting it aside.

My only issue with the pattern itself is the lack of structure in the back. There is no gathering or seam to support the gathers. So, the skirt requires careful arranging to get it to look right and the hem to hang straight, and then the gathers don't stay where they should as soon as you move, anyway.

See how it is not really gathered and kind of drooping in the back at the hem?  The only gathers on the back side are caused by my twisting around to photograph myself (my yoga teacher would applaud this twist). 

Since this pattern was all of one large piece, I can easily salvage the fabric and make it into something more suitable and more flattering on me, like a slinky top, which is probably what I should have done in the first place.

One large piece of fabric - pretty cool, I think.
Anyway, chalk this one up to lessons learned. Shiny fabric is a no-no on my lower half, at least for body-conscious styles.

Now, on to the other challenging skirt!  I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon cutting fabric, so I have 4 projects lined up and ready to be sewn over Thanksgiving weekend. Hooray!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sewing Groupon Alert!

I think most of you who visit my blog are probably too advanced for a beginner class, but I thought I'd alert you anyway! Groupon is offering a deal on a Two-Hour Beginner-Basics Sewing Class Including Materials for One or Two at The Sewing Studio (Up to 57% Off). Maybe there is a new or budding sewista or sewister in your life that would like this for Christmas?

Click here for the deets!  

Oh, and I have no affiliation with either Groupon or The Sewing Studio. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back to the Craft Lounge... Without Actually Setting Foot in the Craft Lounge

Last night was a rare weeknight when I didn't have a run or yoga planned, no baking projects and no social commitments or other things that needed doing. And I'd already finished my homework for tomorrow's sock knitting class. So, I decided to get back into the Craft Lounge for some sewing.

The only problem was that the only project that needed sewing is my dreaded Donna Karan skirt, clearly a potential UFO at this point. In fact, I was feeling an aversion to actually being alone in the Craft Lounge with the skirt staring me down from the corner where it is heaped in a pile in such an unfinished state.

So, I decided to jump to my next two planned projects for myself, both from BurdaStyle and neither requiring a trip into the Lounge, since I prefer to do pattern tracing on the dining room table. (Clever of me, no?  Although, I don't know what it says about me or the skirt that I would rather trace Burda patterns than look at my skirt.)

After evaluating the two patterns, I decided to start with the Karl Lagerfeld skirt (BurdaStyle 10-2010-136) rather than the dress from the cover of BurdaStyle 9-2010. This decision was based on the number of pieces I'd have to trace (3 vs. 11) and the amount of altering the patterns would need (the dress is a petite and I am a tall, according to Burda). 

My immediate observation is that Karl Lagerfeld really takes the "mini" part of miniskirt seriously. The entire skirt piece measures only a scant 13" in length. At 5'9" (or 69"), this is not quite enough fabric to cover my bum. Forget about sitting or bending or even coming out of the fitting room with the other 56" of my body not covered by skirt. So, I added 6" to the length (so much for avoiding petite to tall modifications!). This will still be pretty short for me.

I've got two wools in my stash and I'm trying to decide which to use - light blue or black. The black would make it look exactly like the Burda version (+6"), which would be versatile and cool and I could probably get away with wearing to work with tights. But blue is a nice color on me and would add more color to the bottom half of my wardrobe. Hmmm, decisions, decisions!

The left fabric is much more baby blue in person.
And that's where things stand for now. More later!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Again: Back to the Grind

Okey dokey.  I am back from a quick business trip to Chicago and, aside from a lingering cough, feeling mostly better. While nursing my cold and traveling, I didn't get any sewing done. The Donna Karan single seam skirt is still sitting unaltered in the Craft Lounge. To be honest, I just didn't have the emotional strength over the weekend to work on a skirt that, as I left it, was so very unflattering to my thighs and butt. And my hips, too. And legs. And.... you get the point. 

However, I was productive on the knitting front. It helped that I could knit while under a quilt sipping tea. I finished off Phin's scarf and hat. Here they are together. Cute, no?

Merino Wool Hat and Scarf Set
Phineas is pretty pleased with them, I think, and says he is looking forward to the next snow so he can use them. He's a truly warm blooded creature and only ever wears hats and scarves during extreme weather.

In addition, last week I started my sock knitting class right before leaving for Chicago. Really, I'm more convinced than ever that this hobby is not going to save me any pennies. Because I just love socks and my knitting teacher thought I was ready for a challenge, I picked out this fuzzy cashmere blend for my socks.  It is sooooooo soft and lovely. But ultimately, these are going to be $50 socks. Ridiculous.

$50 worth of yarn = two socks. Sheesh!

Then again, they are cashmere. So, I've decided that the only way to justify a $50 pair of cashmere socks (that's $25 dollars each sock, people!!!) is to call them a gift to myself for all the running that I'm doing to prepare for the Vegas half marathon, which is just 3 weeks away.  A cosy pair of socks to snuggle on the couch with is exactly what my beat up feet need after a training run.

OK, one last picture of Phin, since he was mugging for the camera. Back to sewing tomorrow...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday: Extra Monday-ish Edition

Today feels more like a Monday than usual Mondays. I don't know what happened this weekend to put me in this mood. Things started out optimistically enough. Sure, I felt a mild sore throat coming on, but I wasn't going to let it stop me from all the things I wanted to get done.

On Saturday morning, I cut and basted together my Donna Karan single seam skirt. Later, I ripped apart my Donna Karan single seam skirt and contemplated mailing the cut fabric to a friend on whom it might not be so horribly unflattering. Then I remembered that she doesn't really sew.

So, I set my sewing aside and tried to run 12 miles, before my burgeoning cold worsened (at this point it was a sore throat and a sniffle). I only made it 9 miles and was wiped out for the rest of the day. My sore throat worsened into a cough.

I proceeded to sleep for 11 hours and then flipped thru Burda Magazine for 2 more hours. I threatened to go for another planned run. My threats were in vain; I napped instead. Then I baked 4 loaves of pumpkin bread (no disasters there, thankfully), although I can't really taste anything at the moment, so you never know. I also knit a few more rows of Phineas' scarf, which is almost done. The hat is finished. Naturally, I neglected to photograph anything that I did all weekend long.

And then I couldn't sleep last night since I had slept so much during the day. And now Phin is sick, too. So, the long and short of this post is that I am mopey and whiny and I'm going to go crawl into my cave and sleep some more. I'll be back when I am fit for less whiny conversation. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Finished! One-Seam Skirt, or How to Complictate Even the Simplest Project

When I bought this fabric (on the left), it was with thoughts of a one-seam skirt. Afterall, what could be more simple and fun for this wonky knit? And, quite frankly, a horizontally striped skirt is exactly the kind of fashion risk that gets me giddy these days. And did I mention how I love Halloween and Tim Burton?

Anyway, since I really like the fabric, I decided not to wing it. I was a bit worried that a one seam skirt with no shaping might not really work on my body. Anything that needs to fit over my hips is generally going to be huge at the waist, so a simple column won't cut it for me. That's when I came across this article on CraftStylish.  A one-seam skirt with darts! Hooray!

So, armed with a plan, I flitted off to the Craft Lounge. Somewhere along the way I decided that if I was going to the effort of adding darts, I may as well add a zipper, too. I've been meaning to try an exposed zipper on something, and this seemed like a fun opportunity. (My ulterior motive was also to avoid trying to match up this wonky striped fabric at the one seam. Ha!)

At that point, it occurred to me that I really will find a way to complicate just about any sewing project. Sigh. It seems that simple is just not in my repertoire. Anyway, here's how it went...

My cut fabric, still attached to the pattern

Basically you draft a flat pattern that is a rectangle where the width is your hip width and the length is your desired skirt length, plus allowance for finishing the hem and waist.  Then you add darts equal to the difference between your hip and waist. There is a slight negative ease to this pattern, but you could always add seam allowance in if you wanted.

The darts that are cut out are where there would be side seams in a regular skirt pattern. And there are 4 more darts (not sure you can see them) which become front and back darts. The only fitting change I made from pattern to sewn skirt is that I tapered to the hem just a little bit so the skirt would have a slightly more pencil skirt fit than a straight skirt.

As I mentioned, I decided to add an exposed zipper instead of sewing the single seam down the back. This is a RiRi zipper that unzips from both top and bottom. I love the bold color contrast. I also like that I can unzip it from the top to get into the skirt and also from the bottom a few inches if I want a slit for walking. I'm really tickled with this feature. And it was easy - I basted the back seam (wrong sides together), basted on the zipper, trimmed the seam allowance so it wouldn't stick out from behind the zipper and then topstitched near the edge of the zipper tape, removing all the basting stitches.   

It only took about an hour to sew up (including trying on and pressing darts) once I had the the pattern drafted and the fabric cut. And I think it is super cute and fun. I omitted adding elastic at the waist, since I put in the zipper, but I think I'll go back and add it in so the waist is a little more snug after wearing. 

Anyway, what do you think? Have I made horizontal stripes work?

Since I had so much fun tackling - and complicting! - this one seam skirt, I've decided to go back for more. This weekend's project will be the skirt part of V1259 by Donna Karan. It's also a single seam skirt, essentially, although with it's own set of complications.

Update: OMG! Phin just pointed out that the zipper for this project ($15 at Pacific Trimmings) actually cost more than the fabric ($12/yd at Mood)! How crazy is that!?!?!?