Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fabric Find: Modal

While others are making resolutions to buy less fabric, it always seems like January is my month for stash building.
Did anyone else see that FabricMart now has modal knit? This is hands-down my favorite fabric for loungewear. Here's how herroom.com defines it in their very handy fabric glossary: 
Modal is made with cellulose from beech trees and is essentially a variety of rayon. It is about 50% more water-absorbent than cotton. Modal fabric has softness, good drape and is said to breath even better than cotton. Garments made in modal have anti-crease properties and are relatively easy care. 
My favorite DKNY modal pj's
I started wearing DKNY's Seven Easy Pieces modal pj bottoms a few years ago, and now they are the only pajamas that will do. I wore my original ones into holes. Modal is wonderfully soft, incredibly drapey and stretchy, outstandingly colorfast and doesn't seem to shrink. 
Before now, I've never actually seen modal sold in anything other than RTW. Trust me, I've looked for it. I've never seen it in the Garment District or online. So, naturally, I had to snatch up 5 yards for my stash.     
It's actually black. I had to lighten the photo so it could be visible.
Have you ever worked with modal? Or have you worn it? I have no immediate plans for this fabric, but I think it will become a variety of comfy lounge pants, pj's and some tee shirts over time. The kinds of patterns that come to mind are Simplicity 2603:
And BurdaStyle (then BWOF) 7-2009-127: 
I also grabbed 2 yards of this very cool double knit. I have no immediate plans for it, but I think it would make a great dress or skirt. 
Animal print double knit in black and tan.
And I've been stocking up on all kinds of basic supplies: bemberg lining, tracing paper, interfacings, etc. I guess it just feels like it is the right time of year to get myself set for all my sewing projects.
Speaking of which, the diaper bag is nearly done. I hope to finish it tonight. I'm eager to start work on my color block dress and a bit tired of making so many pockets on this bag. That said, it's been a nice break from fitting.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Purple. Puffy. Perfect for a 13-Year-Old

 Need I say more? Well, ok, just a few words...

I have no clue what's going on with the color in this pic.

My  niece, Miss J, asked me to knit her a scarf a la my very first knitting project. This is such an easy project  that I said yes. We decided it should be purple - a lilac shade.

Karabella Puffy

It took just a few nights on the couch while watching tv. Basically, all you do is cast on, knit the whole way (garter stitch) and then bind off when you run out of yarn. Voila! You have a scarf. I made Miss J's scarf a bit shorter and narrower than mine - just 2 balls of yarn.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Double Knit Double Take

So, my double knit has arrived. Specifically, it's Sophia ponte di roma, which Fayedoll blogged about. (Thanks, Faye!) I'm happy to say it feels really nice in person. I may have initially made the mistake of buying some cheaper fabric which was all scratchy and icky. It was immediately sent back.

This means that it's decision time for my color block dress project. The winner: a re-do of the BurdaStyle Cover Dress (09-2010-122). My decision is twofold. First, I can basically cut and sew this dress without much fuss since I've already gone through the fitting and altering process. Second, I'm pretty jazzed at how comfy and flattering the first version is, so I think a second version will be a win.

The plan is, from the top to bottom, white (top 2 pieces + sleeves), then green (midriff + upper waist), purple (lower waist + hip) and finally black (skirt). I may play around with that a bit. And I'm not entirely sure how I want to handle the back yet. (Thanks for sending me the line art, T Sedai! I just don't understand why Burda makes things so difficult!)

That said, I still plan to make a black sheath in the near future AND, if the color block trend continues into the spring, I may dissect Butterick 5559 and make it into a color block dress, too.  I envision that dress in a combination of sunrise colors - yellow, orange, and red. Maybe some hot pink.

At the moment, I'm still plugging away at the camo diaper bag. It's rather involved for a bag - pockets and pouches everywhere.  But I hope to finish up this weekend.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hardware: Yea or Nay?

Well, it's Monday and I did not burn down the house or burn myself. Phew! 

Me in the garage sealing the seams of the ripstop over a candle.
The ripstop needed just the slightest kiss of flame to melt. So, now it's sealed and not raveling.

Besided working with ripstop, the other thing I'm liking about this project and that's changed about my sewing over the years is how much I've come to embrace hardware.

Hardware for the diaper bag
When I first made this diaper bag pattern, I was still at a point in my sewing where I followed the directions to the letter. So, I made the strap out of fabric. It looked nice, but once sewn in, the strap length was fixed. And I used velcro for the closures, as instructed, which I was never really happy with. 

In the intervening years, I've learned that there are loads of good hardware solutions available that give a project a much more professional look and finish. So, on this bag, I'm using webbing and hardware to make a fully adjustable and incredibly strong strap. And I'm using magnetic snaps, which are probably my very favorite closure for bags.
Really, this project has excited my inner sewing nerd - the geek that ponders whether it would be better to use sew-in or fusible hair canvas to stabilize the bag (sew-in). It's the kind of project where the technical does make a big difference. What I'm pondering now is which needle to use for the webbing. I'm a bit of a stickler in this department - I'm using a microtech needle and a topstitching needle for the ripstop and have been switching between several different threads depending on the task (basting, seaming, topstitching).     

What about you? Do you like to use hardware when you sew? Or do you prefer to sew every feature of a project? How much do you think about the insides or bones of a project? 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Ripstop: Here's Hoping I Don't Burn Down the House

Spoiler Alert: Dr Kiang, if you happen to be reading this - which I highly doubt, as you are a new mom -  you should stop before you ruin the surprise of the diaper bag I'm making you. Or you could always read on if you've had too many surprises recently.  ;-)

First off, thanks everyone who commented on my 4 pattern dress battle. I'm waiting for double knit to arrive and, in the interim, will be tracing the Burda sheath dress using my new double tracing wheel. The Vogue sheath is officially dead at the muslin stage. More on all this next week.

Butterick 4560

What I've got on the sewing table right now is a diaper bag pattern that I've sewn twice before (here and here), which sounds like it could be a boring project, right? No fitting, no new techniques to learn, no mysterious instructions to sort out... But I'm really excited about it thanks to a new wild card I've added: ripstop.

See, I think that the diaper bag ought to suit the mom, not the baby. So, for my excellent friend Dr Kiang, I wanted to pick a fabric that exuded a sense of urban hipness, since her style is much more Brooklyn Industries than Vera Bradley. So, I bought some supremely cool quilted camo ripstop.

If Vera Bradley was a hipster... LOL

And the lining will be a non-quilted magenta ripstop that I found at Chic Fabrics. More than once when I've been looking for something specific that was harder to find - like magenta ripstop - Chic Fabrics has come through. 

Anyway, I consulted with Sandra Betzina about ripstop, since it is a new-to-me fabric. And she said, "Ripstop is a lightweight, wind resistant nylon... Some ripstops have a durable finish that makes them water repellant as well." And she also said, "Edges must be sealed during cutting or immediately after with a candle flame." Yikes! Apparently, the stuff ravels, which seems incredibly odd in a fabric called ripstop, don't you think?!?!

I'm not so worried about the quilted ripstop, but the non-quilted definitely seems ravel-prone. Anyway, most of the parts are cut and I asked Phineas to help me apply fire to the edges this weekend. That way, if I end up burning down the house, at least I'll have an accomplice.

The only other things really to note about sewing ripstop is that you should use a small stitch, microtex needle and hold the fabric taut in front and back as you sew.  French seams or a 4-thread overlock were also recommended for seams.

Happy weekend sewing, everyone!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What the Frock am I Doing?!?!?!

I've learned to embrace indecision as a vital part of my creative process. A nice way of saying this is: I'm "flexible" with sewing goals and plans. I just can't commit to a SWAP or coordinated wardrobe plan. I'm ok with this.

Last Saturday, I cut and basted the lining of my planned black sheath dress with leather piping (Vogue 1237 - Tom & Linda Platt). I was planning to use the lining to tweak the fit. At the moment, there are about 2 dozen pins marking everywhere it needs to be taken in (the entire top half, front and back) and everywhere it needs to be let out (the entire bottom half, front and back). Oh yeah, and it's too short (even with 2" extra that I added). And the neckline is higher than I'd like. More than just tweaking will be required. So, I decided that I should pause and do some therapeutic baking. The only place the dress actually fit was the waist. And with enough cookies, I'm sure I could remedy that.

So, here's what I'm wondering: how much alteration is too much?  I'm sure with enough work I could make this dress fit, but will it be worth all the effort? Do you tend to stick with a pattern or do you allow yourself to say "next" and move on?

On Sunday, as I avoided working on the dress, I was reminded of this pattern from BurdaStyle, also a sheath dress.

Burdastyle 07-2011-131

I've only seen one or two versions of this dress. Maybe the weird shrug thing turned people off to it, but it looks like a great dress to me. And the shoulder princess seam should, in theory, help with my narrow shoulder fitting issues. And this got me thinking about all my Burda projects - they've all fit me really well with much less altering than any Big Four pattern I've used. By Monday morning I was contemplating shifting my efforts to this dress.

Then I mentioned color blocking and, by Monday night, I found myself clicking "purchase" to a cart full of double knits. But I was still feeling on the fence about having two of the same dress, so I dug through my patterns and came up with this:

Butterick 5559 - Maggie London

I think this dress could also be a multi-hued masterpiece. But will I have similar fitting issues to the current black dress and fewer seams to help solve them? Should I go with the Burda Cover Dress, which I already know fits great (um, not to mention that I've already got the pattern traced and altered)?

So you see, I'm having a moment of creative indecision and have no idea what frock to sew next out of the four contenders. Do I go ahead with the black sheath with leather trim project  - Tom & Linda Platt Dress vs Burda 07-2011-131  OR do I pause and do the color block project - Burda Cover dress vs Maggie London.  Color blocking probably has a shelf life, while a black sheath doesn't. And then there are the fitting issues to consider.  

Anyway, I'm eager for your thoughts on fitting and on sticking with a project. Once you pick a pattern do you stick with it even if it will be an alteration struggle? And do you give yourself room, creatively, to change your mind or go in a different direction? Or am I the only one who allows myself to change course or simmer until a decision seems clear?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Burda Cover Dress Reveal!

I am totally diggin' this dress. And not just because it's orange.

First off, it was remarkably easy to sew and fit for a dress with so many seams but not any side seams. So, kudos to Burda for a complicated-looking dress that came together more easily than expected. Also, the style and fit of this dress are pretty great, IMHO. The strong shoulders help balance my figure out and all the seaming really flatters curves. Also, as a few other sewistas have noticed, this dress has mystical bum-flattering properties. At least Phin seemed to agree. LOL

I did make a few alterations to this dress. It originally was a petite pattern, so I had to lengthen it. In addition, I altered the back shoulder piece. The area between my shoulder blades must be narrower than normal.  I don't usually need to adjust the arm/shoulder joint area, but am often left with extra fabric gaping at the nape and upper back. If there is a center back seam, I can adjust there, but when there isn't, I've found that the method that I used with my seersucker dress - namely make a dart, press it well and then use the darted piece as a pattern to recut the piece in question - works shockingly well. That's what I did in this case.

There are one or two things that I'd do a little differently if I was to make a second version, but they are picky things at best. First, the collar does not seem to want to lie perfectly flat and it is slightly larger than I would like. So, I'd tinker there a bit. Next, the directions for the sleeve/arm band were not at all clear to me. So, I kinda winged it and I'm sure I got it wrong. It looks fine from the outside, but I will not be showing the messy inside to anyone else who sews. Ever.


And lastly, I'm rather displeased at how visible the hem is. I was very careful ironing just the edge to avoid any kind of crease or show-thru, and then I hand sewed it with a catchstitch. But it didn't come out invisible! So, I'm wondering if I should just go back and use my double needle to make it look deliberately more visible. It is a knit after all. (Any suggestions are welcome.)

When I wrote my review over at PatternReview, I commented that there really is only room for one of these dresses in a wardrobe. But I'm actually feeling very tempted to make another. I'm kind of kicking myself now that I didn't think to use some color blocking for this dress. Wouldn't it be fantastic done up in a few bold colors? I feel like this dress definitely would outshine any of Burda's current offerings of color block-appropriate patterns. What do you think?


Friday, January 13, 2012

Elements of Style: Favorite Colors

Do you have a favorite color? How strongly do you feel about it?

I have strong feelings about my likes and dislikes when it comes to color. I guess those of us who sew think about these things. And right now my very favorite color, orange, or what Pantone is calling Tangerine Tango - a fierce red-orange, which is my very favorite shade - has been announced as the Color of the Year for 2012.
Tangerine Tango a la Clio

I first learned this news over at the MPB blog, and - WOW - some people really hate my beloved color! And I can't help but be filled with dread about this sudden color of the year accolade, especially seeing how orange is apparently rather polarizing.

You see, back when I was looking for fabric for my Lady Grey coat, it was challenging to find coating in orange. Usually, the only time of year that you can find orange fabric is the two weeks before Halloween. And then it's usually covered in bats or black cats. So, I was thrilled when it seemed like a mini-trend for orange was happening last spring and I gleefully started to stash it away in preparation for the inevitable orange famine to come when bats and black cats would be back. 

My Orange Fabric and Yarn Stash

But now my beloved color is in the spotlight. On the one hand this means I'm very on trend for the moment.  However, I can't help but worry that by this time next year, my Lady Grey coat will look dated and passe. And what about the Burda cover dress that I've just finished and not yet blogged about or even worn yet?  (Here is a sneak peek.)

And the orange socks I'm knitting?

Isn't that a cute cuff?

In addition to what I've sewn, I also have no less than 3 orange tee shirts, a belt (seen here), orange earrings (here) and at last count two orange winter scarves. Will my wardrobe suddenly look past it's prime once this orange mania is over?

Anyway, what is your favorite color? Is it something mainstream like blue? Or is it the kind of color that only becomes fashionable every so often? What do you do when the color you love is "out"? Do you say auf wiedersehn to it or do you carry on wearing what you love despite trends?

Readers, how can I keep orange in my wardrobe and looking fresh once this trend is over?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Work Travel = Knitting

My first business trip of this year allowed me to finish my last knitting project of last year!

Although I was a little nervous to bring my nice knitting needles on the plane with me (I've heard a few horror stories of overzealous TSA agents), everything went smoothly and I knit my way to Chicago and back.

Feathers and Fans Scarf

The scarf will be a gift to my sister, Calliope. The pattern is very pretty (close-up here) and very easy, too. My version is made from an uber-luxurious cashmere and silk blend, hand-dyed yarn.

Can you tell I've been furiously knitting away trying to clear the backlog?  My last mini-project from last year was to make a sample of the lace pattern I worked on fruitlessly in my lace basics class. You remember. It's the one that I sprained my brain trying to do. 

Sample of lace pattern

No sprain this time, thankfully. But I did have to sit quietly and focus intently to knit even this much (it's only 3x5" or so). I think it's safe to say that a whole wrap/shawl is just not in the cards for me. Plus it isn't really my style, beautiful though it is. So, my needles are free for a moment, although I plan to knit another pair of socks to keep me busy on my commute home.

For the time being, it will be back to our regularly scheduled programming: SEWING! Next up, I will reveal my Burda Cover Dress, which I finished hemming last night. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Projects!

Before I dive right into the bazillion projects I've got in mind for this year, here is a brief recap of my sewing projects from 2011! I also added in the knitting projects for good measure.

It's really hard to narrow down and pick a few highlights. My Lady Grey jacket gets TONS of use and lots of unsolicited compliments, but the "Woman in Red" Dress really is the show stopper. Although I've only worn them a few times, the seersucker dress and the jumpsuit were big wins. My flowered pants and single seam skirt - both a cinch to sew - have been worn with glee on many occasions. And my most recently finished garment, the Karl Lagerfeld skirt, is in heavy rotation and probably will get worn plenty more before spring.

Really, I only had a very few projects not go my way.

The Donna Karan skirt that I scrapped before finishing (poor fabric choice), camo pants which did not fit my nephew, and this Burda top which really was just too big thru the neck were the only flops. Not too bad considering all the risk taking and new skills I tried out.

Anyway, on to 2012!  I've got so much more on my sewing list than I can reasonably expect to sew.  So this is really more of a wish list to get me started. I'll have to do some editing and prioritizing as I go.

I've got two projects going already, which should be done in short order:
  • Boxers for Phin which are cut and ready to be sewn
  • Burda dress from the cover of 9-2010 which is basically together and just needs arm/sleeve bands added and the neckline and hem finished.
Nearly Done!

A few gifts:
  • A diaper bag  - for my excellent friend, Dr Kiang, whose new little one surprised us all by arriving 2 months earlier than the stork predicted. I'm having a mental block on the fabric choice. 
  • Housewarming/newlywed apron - for my excellent friend, Magenta. (Magenta, you can blame Dr Kiang for this not being higher on the list)
  • Re-do of camo pants for my nephew - Who am I kidding? I'm in the denial phase of this project. I bought two different patterns to ponder and that's where I stalled.

For me me me!
  • A black sheath dress with leather piping - I've had this dress in my head for a while now, using Vogue 1237 (Tom & Linda Platt). It's got princess seams, which should make fitting much easier.

  • A leather jacket - I am getting an urge to sew another jacket and I've been wanting to work with leather after seeing so many other sewistas have such great results this fall. Plus, I now have a rolling foot for my SM, which should make things easier. 

Burda 07-2010-118

  • Slips and a Kimono Robe - really this has been in queue since this time last year. I have a vintage pattern in my stash and since Sherry did a fantastic sew along, I'm even more inspired. The kimono would match the slip (naturally). 
  • Corset - OK, I admit this is not one of my more practical projects, but now that I have a book, I'm eager to use it. Plus, I think this will really hone some of my skills, like working with boning, waist stays and other hardware. Plus, I do have a bit of left over to-die-for red crepe back satin from the red dress in the stash. Wouldn't that be luxurious?
And then there are the not-fully-formed plans. I have fabrics in my stash that I really want to sew for spring. I'm just waiting for a pattern to suggest itself. Like these two:

Cotton sateen and orange jaccard

And I have a list of patterns I want to sew just waiting for a fabric to suggest itself. Do you have these kinds of projects in your head just waiting to get out?

Happy sewing in 2012!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Last Project of 2011: Victory!

Last night, while Phin and I were on the train into NYC for a New Year's Eve/Anniversary night on the town, I finished knitting my Victory Socks!

Knitting on NJ Transit

Last 8 stitches
Voila! Socks!

So today I'm relaxing around the house in my new cashmere socks. They're very cosy!

Top side view
Bottom Side View
And that leaves just one unfinished knitting project from 2011, the feathers and fans scarf that I will be gifting to my sister, Calliope. It's about half done at this point, and really rather pretty. I'm not sure what I want to knit next. There are some sock patterns I've been looking at and my niece, Miss J, has asked for a scarf. We'll see. I'm in no rush to start too many knitting projects, but I do have some business trips ahead as well as my commute. So, there will be something on the needles before too long.

Happy 2012! More to come on sewing and what's ahead!