Friday, May 30, 2014

Sewing for me: Simplicity 2215

Pattern: Simplicity 2215, Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity, View A
Fabric: Nani IRO Wata, Woodblock POCHO in mustard, off-white cotton voile for bodice lining
Notions: interfacing, invisible zipper, bias tape, four 7/8" covered buttons, coordinating thread
Size: 6 

I did it! My first completed Make a Garment a Month challenge for the month of May! And posted before the end of this lovely month too.

I think the first thing to say about this dress is that I love it. The fact that my husband thinks it's stunning makes me love it even more! I love the dots and the mustard yellow...for me it just says 'cheerful' or in the case of this month's theme, 'merry'. I'm very happy with the overall fit, the covered buttons, the shape of the dress, the dot placement, the invisible zipper, and on top of all that, it's really comfortable to wear!

So, now to the actual making of this polka dot dream. If I had followed the pattern's instructions based on my bust measurement, I would have made a size 10 but when I looked at the finished garment measurements, it was clear that there was going to be far more ease than I like to have. I chose to make size 6 and made a muslin just to be sure. Everything seemed to be spot on except that I was going to have to reduce the waist a little. I also ended up deepening some pleats to match the bodice better.

I spent quite a bit of time looking at the fabric, figuring out how I wanted to cut the fabric to get a nice effect with the dots. I chose to go with the sections with fewer more randomly spaced dots for the bodice pieces. I cut the front bodice pieces flat instead of with the fabric folded to have better control over the dots. For the two skirt pieces, I chose to use the multi-size dot sections. I think the effect is pretty fun.

My 'real' bodice came together in a jiffy but then we had a rough week and a half of colds, fevers, and just lying low to that meant little sewing. But once I got back to my machine, it took about an evening and a half to finish. This was also the first time I have ever put in an invisible zipper and it is to my astonishment, invisible! Hurrah! New skill! As I had said in my MAGM May plans post, I did not put pockets in.

I bound all my exposed raw edges and used this tutorial from Paunnet's to enclose the waist seam beautifully with some bias tape. I hand sewed the top of the bias tape down so it would not show on the right side.The way the pattern is built, the bodice lining does not enclose the joined skirt and bodice seam and since this fabric starts to fray just by looking at it, I knew drastic measures were in order! Oddly enough, (my husband thought it was quite weird,) I find the inside of this dress to be almost as pretty as the right side. I almost wish it was completely reversible!

I debated for a while about the buttons and after a fruitless trip to my favorite shop for buttons, I decided to make four 7/8" covered buttons. That way, they would match the fabric perfectly and would be there without detracting from the dots. I'm pretty happy about my choice and I'm so glad that my machine was cooperative for the buttonholes. They came out really well.

Knowing that it can be a bit chilly here, I decided to knit myself a cardigan to go with the dress. I had envisioned this ensemble pretty early on and it worked beautifully into my yarn de-stashing, using up the three skeins of off-white Cascade Ultra-Pima I had. I love how the buttons bring back the color of the dress and the shape of the polka dots. You can see a dedicated blog post to the cardigan here.

I'm so thrilled with this dress and I adored working with this fabric. It was soft and almost squishy and it is so agreeable to wear. I'm hoping to make this dress again and the only change I think I might contemplate would be increasing coverage around the back shoulder area. I'm looking forward to wearing this for my baby boy's birthday party and I can't wait to make plans for the right-around-the-corner June challenge.

Knitting for me: A Casco Bay Cardi

Pattern: Casco Bay Cardi by Carrie Bostick Hoge (collection Sparrow Sans, Quince and Co.)
Yarn: Cascade Ultra Pima in Ecru colorway 3718 (3 skeins, 660 yards. I have a tiny bit left)
Needles: US 8
Notions: 7 wooden buttons
Size: 35

Important: As the pattern indicates, swatching is vital!

I'm planning to knit down my stash for the next couple months. Now, I don't have an enormous stash but it is sizeable enough and does take up a storage box of its own. Almost all of my stash was given to me by my mother around the time of my wedding several years ago. It's high time that I start to use it. All the yarns are absolutely lovely but I suppose the reason I have waited so long to knit them up is that I'm a person that will generally pick out a project, buy the yarn specifically for the project, and make it almost right away.  I need to reverse my usual process and pick projects based on the yarn and quantity, which I can tell you, has taken quite a bit of searching on Ravelry.

So, without further ado, my first stash knitdown project: A Casco Bay Cardi in Cascade Ultra Pima.

I love garter stitch and I realized that this cardi would be just the thing to go with my Make a Garment a Month May challenge dress, Simplicity 2215. You can see the dedicated blog post here. Looking through my stash, this yarn seemed like the best bet...because that's kind of what it felt like... I wasn't sure I would have enough yarn and I was going to be using a cotton dk instead of a fingering linen held double. But I swatched and blocked and I seemed to obtain a similar gauge using a US 8, although the cotton seemed to have a tendency to shrink up more than the linen.

Even though this project was a breeze to knit, it was outside of my comfort zone because of the loose gauge knitting, which is something I had never done before. I had to keep reminding myself of my gauge swatch to reassure myself that the garment would be fine. 

I loved the integrated buttonholes which streamlined the whole process. I added some extra rows and a buttonhole. I'm glad I added a bit extra to the body length because the cotton does seem to want to shrink up, although we'll see how it does after wearing and whether it starts to pull down. 

The sleeves were the only part that I didn't enjoy as much but that's also because sleeves are not my favorite part of a garment to knit. I knit them on two circulars as I don't have double pointeds. It gave for a neat result since the magic loop method was looking too messy with the loose gauge. I didn't add extra rows to the sleeves because I was not going to have enough yarn.

There are so many things I love about this cardi such as the simple construction and neckline, paired with the fluid beauty of garter stitch. The incorporated buttonholes were so satisfying because once I was done with the body, I was done! I'm very pleased with the cardi and the fit, which is loose and comfortable without being too big. I'd love to knit practically all of the patterns from the Sparrow Sans collection, but I don't think I have the right yarns in my stash, so the other patterns will have to wait till later. And finally, I'm so happy about how this goes with my Make a Garment a month dress and it's exactly what I had envisioned. I also love that the buttons somewhat bring back the idea of polka dots and the color of the dress. Success! (Even though I look very serious in this photo, inside I'm jumping for joy!)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Plans for Make a Garment a Month: May

I recently joined the Make a Garment a Month challenge and these are my May plans for my first challenge garment. I'm really looking forward to participating in this monthly challenge where one sews a garment a month for oneself, which is something I definitely find difficult to do.  
But why is it so hard? Well, first off, there are so many cute, fun little clothes to make for my little boy. Second, I suppose I focus on him so much and making things for him, that I tend to forget to do things for me too. Although, I must admit that when I make something for him, it is also a bit for me because I just enjoy the process of sewing and knitting so much. I think one other thing that holds me back is that I'm just so used to making clothing for him that I'm not used to making women's clothing. Believe it or not, I've never made a dress before!

So, for my MAGM May challenge garment, I'm going to make a dress. This is a dress that I've wanted to make for about a year now: Simplicity 2215. I have seen so many lovely versions of this dress such as Karyn's at 'Make Something' Constellation version. I'll be making view A of the dress and the only current modification that I think I will be making is to not put pockets in, as I don't tend to use them much in dresses.

I have had a particular fabric put away for this project for nearly a year (I think). It is a Nani IRO print called 'Woodblock Pocho' and the material is a cotton which I believe was referred to as 'Wata'. (A gift from my lovely husband.)

I realized that my approach to sewing for myself and sewing for the men of my life is completely different. For my son or my husband, I'll find a fabric I like based on a pattern I want to make, and I just make it. For me, well, I dilly-dally. I wait it out. I postpone. I tell myself that my skills are not up to it. Kind of like for my Confetti top that I made from a Japanese pattern. (That one was two years in the making!) I was so happy with the result and it made me want to sew more for myself...which also gave me the push to join this challenge!

I'm hoping this is going to be a good experience, making my first dress. I'm proceeding cautiously. I'm going to make a quick muslin to check the fit and then on with the real construction!

I hope to be back with a completed garment soon!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Another Sketchbook Shirt for L

 Pattern: Sketchbook Shirt by Oliver + S
Fabric: 100%  linen, natural color
Notions: coordinating thread (off-white), interfacing, 10, 4-hole buttons
Size: 2T

Modifications of note: Added tabs/straps to sleeves to easily hold rolled sleeves up

Another Sketchbook Shirt for L but what can I say? I love this pattern and the results are always so beautiful. It can either look fancy or relaxed and don't little boys look so cute in dress shirts? This is the fourth one I make, but he has outgrown the two from last year.

This time I chose to work with a 100% linen. Although I find linen to be exquisitely beautiful and its quality of softening through wear and washing fantastic, I have not had the chance to work with it very much. So, this was a great opportunity to learn about working with linen.

The linen I chose has a slightly looser weave which meant that as I would stitch it, it would sometimes stretch out a little bit, with one layer stretching out more than the other. Pinning helped but what seemed to work best for me (while still pinning heavily) was to slip a piece of tissue paper underneath my fabric, between the fabric and the needle plate. That really seemed to limit the stretching as it allowed the fabric to travel easily, especially with the edgestitching of the button band, which otherwise, wanted to distort itself. I'm very happy with the result but if you have any suggestions on some good ways to stabilize linen, I'm all ears!

Because I was working with linen (hello, fraying!) I wanted robust seams at the shoulders and side seams, which meant flat felling. All the other seams are already neatly encased and hidden away. For my flat felled seams, I increased the seam allowances on those edges to 5/8" and because the linen presses so beautifully (I used the high temperature linen setting on my iron and steam) it was easy to do and gave an incredibly smooth and crisp finish.

The pattern was a dream to work with, as always. The fiddliest bit, as usual, was the sleeve placket, but that too went well. I really took my time stitching it, taking just a few stitches at a time as I got closer to the bunches of fabric at the top of the slash line, readjusting, moving excess fabric out of the way, a few stitches, moving fabric, stitching...I'm happy to say no puckers!

I did not put a pocket this time for two reasons. The first is that I was concerned about how the linen would do as a patch pocket because it might not hold its shape as well. The second is purely aesthetic. I wanted the shirt to be very neat, refreshing, and simple.

I drafted a tab piece to help hold up the rolled sleeve, which I attached to the wrong side of the sleeve, and on the corresponding point on the right side of the sleeve, I attached a button. After all, he's a toddler and loves to have his hands and wrists free of contraints to play. I have no illusions. I know that this shirt won't remain in its pristine state and that shortly, lovely little touches of pink, blue, green, and brown (to name a few) will inevitable adorn it and liven it up!

I really enjoyed making this shirt. I took my time but it came together in a jiffy and I am thrilled with how the fabric made up. It's just what I wanted. Airy, summery, comfortable. The buttons are simple but catch the light just enough to be interesting. I think I'd like to use these buttons for something for me too. I have about 2 yards of this linen left and I was hoping I could make a lightweight summer jacket for me out of the remaining material. Any suggestions for a pattern?

Ah yes, I nearly forgot, but because the linen looks exactly the same on right sides and wrong sides and all the seam allowances are neatly hidden away, I kept having to check which side I was working on. I can tell you, I gave myself quite a few frights when it came to trimming for seams! Wait, did I just sew and trim my seam on the incorrect side?, it's ok! Carry on!

And a Me-Made-May update: I am very proud to announce that I have worn one self-made garment every single day so far! 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Knitting for L: Lucky (you)

Pattern: Lucky (you) by Solenn Couix-Loarer
Yarn: De Rerum Natura, Gilliatt (2 skeins) in colorway Poivre
Needles: US 8 for body and US 6 for ribbing
Notions: 4 buttons
Size: 2T

I had originally bought this yarn last year for a matching hat and cowl that would both go with the adult version of the same sweater, Lucky (me), that I had knit myself. (They're all in the e-book Emmitouflages) That plan fell through when I finally admitted to myself that I don't really like to wear hats and I prefer to wear cloth scarves to knit ones. So, what better than to use this yarn for my baby boy and I had just enough!

The knitting was really easy and super fast especially since I had already made the adult version of the sweater. The construction is lovely, top down, with a lovely pocket detail.

I'm not sure exactly why (probably just me), but when it came time to knit the bottom rib, the rib was off by 2 stitches and didn't line up with the knits flowing into the knits and the purls flowing into the purls on one part of the back central panel, so I decreased a bit to help fix that. No sweat.

I chose some simple 4-hole metal buttons. I wanted them to be sturdy and blend into the garment. The cardigan looks great on him and I find it kind of funny that we have versions of the same one. The sleeves are a little long so he has some growing room...although that adorable little belly of his (I can't resist tickling and kissing it), is definitely stretching the sweater when he sits down. 

During this project, L would refuse to let me try it on him while it was unfinished so I wondered if he didn't like it. However, once I had put the final button on he grabbed it and tried to put it on. So, he does like it after all! He also picked up my knitting needles when he thought I wasn't looking and tried clicking them together to knit! It was so sweet!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Spring Top Sewalong!

Pattern: Top G from the Japanese pattern book, "Inner Child - When wrapped in tenderness, you return to a child" by Etsuko Sakurai
Fabric: Nani IRO Melody Sketch (outer layers), off-white cotton voile (inner layers and facing)
Notions: coordinating off-white thread, interfacing, 7 covered buttons
Size: S

I'm so pleased to be able to add this top to Made-by-Rae's Spring Top Sewalong because I was so nervous throughout the process of making this piece! It wasn't till I had made the final stitch, sat back, and looked at my work, that I was finally able to let out a sigh of relief and think "This actually worked! And nicely too!".                                                                                               My pattern book was a lovely surprise gift from my husband, gosh, nearly two years ago, and this is the first pattern I've made from it. I spent these past two years looking at the dreamy images on a regular basis, thinking: "one day, when I get better at sewing, I'll make these!" My book, unlike the first Japanese pattern I used for my baby boy's dotty shirt, which was translated into French, is in Japanese, which meant that I had to rely on the images entirely for instructions. But they were fantastic and so easy to understand. I knew exactly what I was supposed to do. But then, every time the side panel of written instructions would catch my eye, a nagging feeling would take hold of me. 

What if somewhere in those instructions it says "Dear sewist, kindly disregard Step 2, figure 2, otherwise your project will end up as as a pair of shorts instead of desired top." But everything was perfect and made total sense, and I ended up with, as you can see, a top and not a pair of shorts!                                                                                 As with my first Japanese pattern, the seam allowances needed to be added in, but I remembered this neat trick from Cherie's Japanese Sewing book series (I think it was Meg from Elsie Marley who posted it). I tied two pencils together and the distance between them was exactly 1 centimeter! Easy for tracing and adding seam allowances!

One of the big things was selecting the right size to make. Based on my bust measurement, I had decided to make a ML and proceeded to trace the main shirt pieces (not the flounces) and quickly basted a muslin together. It was pretty clear that there was way to much ease based on what I like to wear. After estimating the extra ease, I decided to go with the S...another quick muslin. Check! Ready to move on! 

The fabric I used is a Nani IRO double gauze called "Melody Sketch". I actually bought it over a year ago specifically for this pattern and I was thrilled to be able to use it. I'm glad I waited so long to use it because I feel like my fabric handling skills have drastically improved from when I bought it. When I was getting ready to cut the pieces for the top, I decided to save on the Nani IRO print by only using it on the outer bodice pieces and the flounces and to use a slightly stiffer cotton voile for the core top and facings. I'm glad I did because I have about half of the original Nani IRO piece left over and the voile seems to be helping it keep its shape nicely. I also cut the double gauze on the cross-grain because I wanted to have fewer of the confetti dots closer to my face and the same at the bottom hem.

The sewing, which continually surprised me, was really easy. I was prepared for a very stressful project, but between the fabulous instruction images and cooperative fabrics I had a good time. Although, I was still a bit nervous! (A vision of shorts looming) The double gauze behaved itself beautifully by not get pulled into my sewing machine or coming apart, even with the miles of hemming on the flounces. The fiddliest part was attaching the armhole and corresponding part of the facing because that same piece of facing was already attached to the neck. But that too worked out just fine.

I made covered buttons (I interfaced the fabric, otherwise it would just shred apart), 7 of them but 5 of them are hidden by the flounces. There is a sufficient amount of ease for me to be able to pull the top on and off over my head without undoing the buttons, which actually makes it quite practical instead of having to reach to the back and button it all! 

I still can't believe I made this top and I adore it! I still feel giddy from seeing it finished and that all my seams match up and all the flounces match up too! I love the fit. It feels just right, light and airy. Not too tight and not too loose either. I'm particularly happy about the neckline and the armhole, which I think sits exactly where it should for the upper-arm area to look flattering. Looking back, I loved making this, even if it was most definitely an involved project. I've already picked out another pattern I'd like to make from this book. I'm also thinking I'd like to make myself some teal blue linen or chambray pants to go with this top. So happy! And thank you, Rae, for hosting the Spring top sewalong, which gave me that extra little push I needed to finally make this top!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Knitting for me: Praline

Pattern: Praline by Gudrun Johnston
Yarn: De Rerum Natura, Ulysse in colorway 'Baleine Bleue', 5 skeins
Needles: US 4, US 5
Size: 30
Notions: 5 buttons

I'm finally done! I finished the knitting last Friday and finally got some good photos Wednesday...we've been having misty/rainy weather with just a few moments of sun. Luckily, I managed to catch one of those sunny breakthroughs. From start to finish this sweater took me almost a month but I put it down for about two weeks whilst I had some sewing projects to wrap up, my husband's birthday shirt to make, and then there was a whole week devoted to KCW. 

I'm quite pleased with the result and my husband claimed that it's his favorite of my cardigans. Isn't he sweet? I like the fit very much as it's adjusted without being too tight and I am thrilled with the shoulders. This was a new shoulder construction for me and it fits my wide shoulders really well. The sleeves are knit from the bottom up, joined to the body with decreases on both sides. Once the sleeves have achieved the appropriate height, the remaining sleeve stitches are bound off to be later seamed to the shoulders. (The fronts and back of the cardigan are joined with a clean 3 needle bind off before seaming the shoulder top.) I think I might try to incorporate this construction for other cardigans.
Based on the finished garment measurements and since my gauge swatches were spot on, I decided to make the size 30. Normally, I would pick the size above but it seemed like there was going to be too much ease and I wanted it to be rather adjusted. 

The most obvious modification I made was to leave out the pockets. The pockets were absolutely adorable but I decided against them for several reasons. Firstly, I was concerned about not having enough yarn (now that it's done, I think I would have had enough). Second, I never use the pockets I knit into garments. Lastly, and most importantly, the way the pockets are constructed, one ends up with three layers of fabric and I was not sure that it would be flattering to have that many layers.
I also lengthened the body and sleeves to more closely match my Pretty (me) cardigan. I lengthened the body to about 33 cm and the sleeves to about 35 cm. I made sure to end on the appropriate row of the little bird stitch pattern for both as indicated in the pattern so I could easily continue with the next instructions. 

Other than that, I followed the pattern exactly. If I were to make this again, I would make the same modifications again, (no pockets and lengthen body and sleeves) and I would also add an extra button or two. I find the distance between the buttons a bit large, and I would like it better to have a button at the level of the fullest point of my bust to help prevent gaping. That said, I'm toying with the idea of adding gros grain ribbon to the back of the button band to stabilize it a little more. I'm looking at different ways to help stabilize bands and I'm going to be studying the useful information on TECHknitting for bands.

I'm glad I chose a navy as it's my favorite dark neutral color and goes with just about everything I have. I've worn it twice already, including MMM Day 1, and on MMM Day 2, I've chosen to wear my Pretty (me) cardigan. Can't say these cardis don't get worn! Because the De Rerum Natura wool shop is closed until early September, (congratulations, Solenn for your future bundle of joy!) I'll be trying to knit almost exclusively from my stash. I'm currently working on a sweater for L and I'm hoping to make another cardigan for me.

And here we are, out and about enjoying a few rays of sunshine in the park.