Saturday, April 30, 2011

More Finished Objects

I was so pleased that I felt well enough yesterday to go for our usual weekly walk to the magazine shop and also to grab a few much-needed groceries. Not quite healed yet, I needed some encouragement to get up the steep part by City Hall on the way home so we stopped for a short break on one of the benches in front of the community garden. We even passed our squeaky-green mayor Gregor on the way! I don’t care what anybody says about his politics. A man who builds bike lanes and encourages backyard chickens and veggie gardens in spite of all the flack he gets for it is ok by me. City Farmers Rule!

So I wore my new Banana Skirt for the walk – to test it out, naturally. It acquitted itself very well although it’s going to be too warm for such heavy fabric very soon methinks. But it’ll be handy next fall again especially layered under shorter dresses or tunics. I’m considering it an unqualified success.

Yesterday I also finished the big-shirt that has been hanging around since 2005 half-done. Finally! And it only took a couple of hours to do. Not sure whether to count this shirt as one of my 2011 garments when I was really just finishing a very old UFO. The pattern is from 1986, View B but including the pocket:


I’ve already made this one twice before and I still wear both the original and the second one often. It was of course one of those loose drop-shoulder ’80’s garments and I just love the way the back hem is longer than the front. The size small still fits me so you can imagine how baggy this was meant to be 25 years ago! Here it is on Debbie Double:


The photo is a bit too light - it’s actually black with grey, white and red woven-in stripes in a lightweight poly-cotton blend. The yoke, collar, pocket and front facings were all completed already. I think what stopped me from finishing this is some anxiety about getting a smoothly turned hem on the curves. So I made good use of my serger and did a 4-thread overedge all the way around and then turned and pressed a single fold which was secured with a line of topstitching. The thin fabric gathered quite a bit even without using the serger’s differential feed which helped the curves to lie flat. It’s not perfect but it’s not too bad either. Better than having the darn thing hanging around for another 6 years! I had a little trouble with the buttonholes however – it seems that I’ve lost my skill with that technique due to not having done it for ages. By the 6th and last one they were turning out much better.

Nice to scratch off something that’s been haunting my studio for so long. Done!

BTW, the prolific and adorable Patty the Snug Bug had a great tutorial on photographing yourself wearing your handmade clothes here. You can tell I’m too lazy and impatient too inexperienced to go through all the steps. For starters there’s nowhere in my house that has a blank wall that gets enough natural light. I don’t have blank walls! I do agree about trying to get spousal assistance which just doesn’t work very well. Perhaps one day I’ll set something up that’s better than just using dear old Deb as my model though.

Anyhow, next we have the knitting:

Rosebud’s Baby Bibs


Begun: April 20, 2011
Completed: April 27, 2011

Yarn: Schachenmayr/Nomotta Punto Color, 55% cotton/45% acrylic, color 281 (creamsicle), 50g = 90m. 2 balls = 4 bibs.
Needles: Addi lace circulars, 3mm
Notions: 4 small pieces of 1” Velcro, white

Pattern: Kerchief Bib by Julia Vaconsin (free Ravelry download)

Comments: This is the only thing I felt like working on while I was sick with two nasty viruses. I got exactly 2 bibs per skein with only a few yards left over.

Mods: I made the main section 4 rows longer to make it slightly larger. Also made the straps a little shorter so it will fit a little tighter around her neck.

After all that I realised that I'd used a 3mm needle as the pattern calls for instead of the 3.5mm needle I used last time with the same pattern and same yarn. So these might actually be a little smaller rather than a little larger! Should have read my notes more carefully, huh? I blame the germs that ate my brains!

So now I’m back to slowly knitting on the Abotanicity Tunic. Just like the skirt it will be too warm to wear it once I’m done. Oh well. Onward. Actually out into the garden this afternoon. Yay!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wardrobe Makeover Garment #3

Double Rainbow

See this pretty double rainbow from Tuesday evening? I think it illustrates how happy I am to feel at least somewhat better than I have over the last month. I actually spent the afternoon yesterday sewing. Whoo-hoo! And I have a successful Finished Object to show for it:

Burda WOF, 07-2006-125, Banana Skirt


Completed:  April 27, 2011

Fabric:  Leftover double-knit (possibly rayon/lycra) from another project, 60” wide/1 M.

Pattern:  Burda World of Fashion magazine, 7/2006 #125. Unlined 6-gore skirt with elastic waist.

07_2006_125 skirtBananaSkirt125_line

Notions:  non-roll waistband elastic, 1” wide; sewing thread, black; serger thread, black; wooly nylon thread, black.

Comments:  This was a fairly heavyweight fabric to use for this pattern but I think it’s going to be a very wearable skirt. I consider it a freebee after also getting a dress cut from the same 2.5 M fabric piece. I’m now pretty sure it’s rayon and lycra because it gets stiff when wet like rayon and you can see the sparkle of the lycra on the wrong side. It also steam-presses quite flat despite its thickness. You just never know when you buy fabric at Dressew whether the labels are correct or not – if they tell you anything at all besides the price. “100% Unknown Fibres” is a common occurrence. And there’s no hint on the bill either so you’d better take notes as you get your piece cut.

It was a big nail biter when cutting out the single pattern piece 6 times on the fabric. I used my iron-erasable crayon to trace each piece and when it didn’t come out right the first time, I ironed the fabric to “erase” the lines to start again. I barely managed to squeeze it in probably due to my sizing it up enough to fit me. I nearly needed to redraw the seams narrower. Got it in the end though!

Since this double-knit doesn’t fray I just stitched 5/8” seams and pressed the seams open flat. I used card under the seam allowances to avoid show-through on the right side:


I also used the clapper to flatten things really well. The waistband on this skirt is very simple and effective. I cut the elastic 2” shorter than my waist (could maybe have been 1” smaller still), ends overlapped 1/2” and stitched in a circle. Then I tried the skirt with the elastic on top on Debbie Double so I could mark the seams with a Sharpie so I knew where to match up to when stretching the elastic to fit. I tried something a little different for this waistband and put most of the fullness at the back instead of distributing it evenly. That way it fits more smoothly over my tummy and pulls in toward my swayback. Then they have you stitch the elastic on to the inside of the waist. I used my serger (or you could zigzag):


Fold the edge down covering the elastic and stitch in the ditch at each seam to secure. Steam-press the fold carefully so as not to damage the elastic. It’s pretty much invisible from the outside as you can see on the picture of the skirt on Deb above. (It’s a bit light because I had to use the flash but at least you can see the details.)

The hem was turned under 1 cm and pressed and then I used my serger’s coverstitch with wooly nylon in the looper to finish it. Underside:


And top:


I decided that since I have a perfectly functional coverstitch on my machine I should use it – even if it is rather tedious to set up! Each time gets easier and quicker so the practice is worth it. I didn’t mess with the length at all and the skirt ends a couple of inches below my knee which for me is very practical and comfortable. Now I will have to wear it for awhile to make sure the waist stays where it’s supposed to and the hem doesn’t ride up or something. You never know until you test.

I really like how one single pattern piece can make such a cute skirt with a bit of an asymmetrical kick. It’s easy to sew and could be made in an infinite number of drapey fabrics. I’ve complained before how I would have missed this garment completely if I hadn’t accidentally noticed a positive review on PatternReview! Burda, take note: über-styling your photo shoots does you no favours. Just show us the darn clothes, dammit! Personally I’d be happy if they shot each one with the model standing against a blank wall. Probably bore the heck out of the photographers and stylists!

I also finished up the baby bibs but one FO is enough for today, doncha think?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Turning Point?

After being completely catered to all Easter long-weekend by my beloved T-Man (he cooked; he vacuumed; he even washed dishes!), I think I’m finally starting to feel some improvement. Though I probably shouldn’t say that in case the universe decides to slap me upside the head again, should I? I finished my round of antibiotics today so that’s one thing checked off. The cough is considerably improved, though my chest still hurts like I’ve been kicked in the ribs. The delightfully multicoloured snot is still quite in evidence however and I was forced to have yet another Emergency Hanky Wash session this morning. The big news is that my taste buds are slowly returning along with my appetite. It’s amazingly hard to eat when you can’t really taste anything except germs. Too bad it didn’t lead to any weight loss. Less calories + no action = 0. Sigh.

So here’s the real evidence of my slow recuperation – actual photos! Progress so far on the baby bibs for Rosebud:


I just have to finish knitting #4 and then finish up the ends and sew on the velcro. I’m quite enamoured of this yarn:


Schachenmayr/Nomotta Punto Fancy Color. It’s 55% cotton and 45% acrylic but it feels like a soft cotton. It helps that it’s only $1.99 a ball at good old Dressew. The label advises to wash cold and don’t tumble dry but the last set of these that I made plus the matching blanket have been washed in a normal laundry and machine dried a bunch of times with no problems. I did seal the joins with a tiny dab of fray-check stuff though because I thought it would escape if I didn’t. I plan to do the same with this set of bibs. I know these will be very welcome because Rosebud is such a drooler that she goes through several bib changes in a day. Reminds me of her uncle, The Ninja, when he was a baby. Her mom wasn’t quite as soggy.

I’m not giving myself any deadlines but I should finish these up perhaps by tomorrow. Then I need to go back to the Abotanicity Tunic or I’ll never finish it. I know I won’t really get to wear it until next fall now anyhow but I don’t want to totally lose the momentum. That can sometimes be the Kiss of Death! I’d rather store it over the summer in wait for cooler weather and get on to other projects without guilt.

Nothing else new or pithy to add today. I’m trying not to overdo things and cause a relapse. However actually caring that something needs doing is a big improvement right there!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Clothing Rules

According to Damselfly, thou must not:

  • wear a belt of any sort because I have no discernable waist and the darn thing won’t stay put.
  • tie a bow or knot anywhere in front; though at the neckline or back waist is ok. Just can’t be too cutesy.
  • have a diagonal wrap-front on anything. There’s no need for extra fabric across my middle and they never hang right on me anyway.
  • ditto with a double-breasted coat or jacket.
  • end a top anywhere between a few inches below where my waist should be and crotch level. Tops must be short or long, never halfway.
  • expose a wide expanse of upper chest. Not just unbecoming but uncomfortable.
  • wear a skirt or dress that is very full at the waist, aka a dirndl or ‘50’s housedress style. Too much fabric where I don’t need it.
  • have a dropped waist. The proportions are totally wrong with my short legs.
  • have a waist seam at all. A few inches above the waist looks better probably because my waist (such as it is) dips down in back and up in front. I’m also narrower just below the bust.
  • never tuck in. See waist seam problem above.
  • over-fit my clothes. Too tight brings out the sausage metaphors. And is just not comfortable to wear. The operative word is “skim”.

There’s lots more of these “rules” that I’ve learned over the last while but I’m sure that’s enough for the moment. It’s actually been kind of an epiphany to finally figure out why something I really like just doesn’t work for me. It’s also combined with my rather, ahem…uncommon taste in fashion. After all, I’ve been sewing a percentage of my own clothes since I was 13 because I couldn’t buy what I wanted in the stores. Still true. I even learned how to knit and crochet and weave for the same reason. Besides the fact that all those things are fun – and nobody else will ever have exactly the same garment! Ewe-nique. (Sorry. That slipped out.)

I’ve been reading a gazillion sewing blogs over the last few days. What else did I have to do, I ask you, when even knitting doesn’t hold my attention for long? Some really cute stuff and some good information is contained therein. I’m not sure why I would bother lining and underlining and hong-kong finishing all the seams but it’s great to see some of the couture finishing techniques in use. I also can’t see myself dolling up in ‘40’s and ‘50’s and ‘60’s styles any time soon. Are they craving those feminine, swishy, pretty, kitchy, imaginary times that they can only see in the surviving media from those eras? As a child in the 1950’s and a teenager in the ‘60’s, I was there. Life was not really better then. As a matter of fact it was harder in many ways. And you sure didn’t have even a tiny fraction of the options you have today. I blame the current nostalgia on the feminists who burned their bras and threw out all the good things about being a woman when they were demanding equal rights. You don’t have to emulate men to be an equal human being. Never mind. I’ll let others who are better at this kind of analysis write about it. The only advice I’ll give is just be true to your real self and don’t worry about what others think. They’re probably just envious of your bravery.

“We’re all individuals!” “I’m not.”

(Oops. Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Slipped out.)

So. How’s it going with me? I think there’s some detectable improvement. UTI beaten off. Less coughing; fewer headaches. Still lots of green snot in evidence and easily exhausted doing virtually nothing. I’ve been spoiled rotten over the last 4 days having T-Man at home and indulging my every whim. Tomorrow he has to go back to work and I’ll be on my own for the day. Making my own meals and fetching my own cups of tea and fresh hankies! How will I manage?

“Always look on the bright side of life!”

(More Life of Brian. Can’t help myself today it seems.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!


Please Note: Photo by the Other Grandmother! I would never do that to the poor kid. Kinda cute though, huh?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who Is That Old Lady In The Mirror?

You know things are bad when - for once – I’m not wishing for more hours in a day. I’m wanting to pass quickly to the day when I’m healthy again. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I certainly don’t do sick very well. Right now I hardly recognise myself. And no, I’m not going to show you because frankly you don’t want to see. I don’t want to look either. I’m poochy and gray and my lips are peeling. There’s big bags under my eyes too. I think the cough has eased up a lot but I’m afraid to say so unless I jinx it into returning full force. I’m waiting impatiently for it all to just go away. Waiting and waiting and waiting. And mostly missing this gorgeous sunny and even warm-ish (finally a more seasonal 14C) day. I’m headachy, a bit dizzy and totally lacking energy. I’m finding it particularly hard to concentrate so I’m mostly just reading and knitting bibs for Rosebud. (2 done, 2 to go.) Anything more exciting than that either exhausts me or is just too complex for my meagre little snot-filled brain. Everything else is just going to have to wait along with me. This too will pass. Because it has No Other Option. So there.

I had to do an emergency hanky wash yesterday because I was running out of the dozen-plus big man-sized hankies and ended up having to boil them in soap and soda ash to get them clean and disinfected. (Bleach is NOT AN OPTION in my world.) Only after that extraordinary step would I put them into the regular laundry load. They came out quite sparkly so it was worth all the trouble. I totally prefer hankies to kleenex even if you can’t just toss them when they’re gross. It fulfills all of the 3 R’s: Reduce (no trees chopped for pulp or garbage created), Reuse (over and over until they finally disintegrate), and Recycle (a number of my hankies once belonged to other family members). Yeah I know they use energy to clean but normally they don’t need such drastic measures as I put them through yesterday and a few hankies don’t take up much space in a regular load of laundry. When I think of the number of boxes of tissues I used to buy I wonder why I didn’t switch a long time ago! I plan to keep an eye out for suitable fabric to make a new bunch. Linen would be so cool! Or how about bamboo? Has to be a very lightweight weave though.

Oh look. Another post with no photos. And a lot more whining. How boring. Nothing to see here. Do come back another time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Exciting Life

Guess where I’ve been this morning? The doctor’s office! And not for the reason you might expect. I woke up with the twinges of another UTI so I thought I had better get in there before the Easter holiday weekend. Or I might end up at the ER which is so not-fun on a holiday. Gotta get to these things fast or they get you good! Can be really uncomfortable but so far not too bad so I think I got it early enough. Combined with the rest of the microscopic wildlife partying in my body, I’m really having a good time these days, aren’t I? Not. Can I take a vacation from myself somehow and leave them to it?

Of course I wasn’t able to see my usual adorable doc so I got a very nice but business-like sub. She mentioned that there was nothing to be done about my Double-Whammy Viral Infections except wait them out. I knew that. I only went because I knew they could actually do something about the new problem before it got out of hand. Now I need to get some probiotic yogurt. Or I’ll have yet another infection of a fungal kind to go with everything else. Sheesh. My life is so exciting. A 5-ring circus. Somebody stop the carousel – I want to get off now.

OK, enough of that perpetual complaint stuff. Here’s the one thing I’ve actually finished recently:

Rosebud’s Spring Hoodie


Begun: April 9, 2011
Completed: April 20, 2011

Yarn: Shepherd Aussie Baby DK, 55% nylon/45% acrylic, colour 3906, dyelot 752435, 50g = 144 yds. 2+ balls.

Needles: Addi Lace circulars, 4.5 mm, Clover Takumi bamboo dpns, 4.5 mm.

Notions: 10” separating zipper.

Pattern: Easy Baby Cardigan by Diane Soucy (free pattern). Size: 12 months.

Mods: Knit ribbed cuffs and hem instead of garter stitch to make it fit tighter. Otherwise as she wrote.

Comments: I got the yarn for this sweater way back before Rosebud was even born. Remember when she was an Alien bump in her mommy’s tummy? So it’s Alien Green! It’s almost too soft and snags easily. I knitted the 12-months size because I thought the 6-months would be too small and there is no 9-months. Probably will pill and not hold up long especially since I knit it on larger needles than suggested for the yarn so it’s a bit looser than I would like. Still didn’t get gauge though so pattern works better with a light worsted or something not so squishy soft. It being slightly narrower than planned will make it fit better anyhow. Might make it into next fall. Or not. Whatever.

The pattern was easy to follow even with Germie Brain. Unfortunately I did find one error in a sleeve ribbing that will have to stay. Too late to fix. I was so happy when I found the perfect zipper at Dressew with the cute green heart! Blocking really helped to even out the sloppy knitting and now it doesn’t look half bad. You’re supposed to wash it cold and dry flat but there’s no way a mom is going to do that. I washed it hot but dried flat to pre-shrink but no idea what will happen in the dryer. We will find out, won’t we?

Haven’t done anything else interesting except that I played with the 2 free sewing stash apps that I installed the other day. Guess what? I don’t particularly like either one except for different reasons. iSewingRoom is more decorative and has a shopping list but is somewhat limited. You have to input the shopping list from scratch instead of just designating something already entered. Lots of thumb-typing and I particularly didn’t like how the onscreen keyboard covered up what you were typing after only a a few lines. It wasn’t able to scroll to see it and so typing mistakes are stuck underneath. Not very well thought out there. And I never did hear back from the seller with answers to my questions. Disinterest can cut both ways, buddy! Sewing Kit looks more “standard app” (aka not cutesy) and is also more freely adaptable but doesn’t have a designated shopping list. (It does have a wish list for patterns but not for fabrics or notions). The complaints about crashes when using the camera to add photos are true. It did crash on me the first time I tried to take a photo within the app but I was able to get it back working again. Scared me there for a minute. Does it do this every time? Dunno but yuck is all I’m saying. Also has a similar problem to iSewingRoom in that each project’s details have to be entered from scratch. You can’t just choose your already-entered items to put together your project. That wouldn’t have been hard to program, would it? They managed the feat in KnitMinder, the one I use for knitting stash and projects! Don’t really need a People section either. I mostly only sew for me. It would pretty much have only one entry. Could have used it in KnitMinder however, so there you go.

I never tried any of the other apps I mentioned because I would have to buy them first. If they resemble these ones, then they don’t do what I really want anyhow so there’s no reason to waste my money. What seemed like the best choice comes in two parts if I want both patterns and fabric lists. Obviously then I can’t pair them together! No point. So I scrapped the idea of a specific app for sewing inventories and went straight to the regular database apps. The one I ended up with is My Stuff. $4.99 for the full app and a “lite” trial version. It seems very adaptable. Useful for lots of things such as the book lists, seed lists and such that I used to keep in my Palm T/X as well as household inventory or any other stash lists I care to bother with. The only drawback is that with such power comes great responsibility…er, I have to learn how to use it and the learning curve is a bit steep. If you’re used to using a database or spreadsheet it’s probably a piece of cake. But for me, it’s kind of 3-dimensional thinking which is hard for my tiny mind. I have to draw lots of diagrams for myself to decide what information I need and where it goes. What do they call those? A data tree? It’s also kind of fun. But it’s going to take some time for this app to be really useful to me. At least the programmer has lots of information available, including a forum where he answers questions quickly and clearly. That says something to me right there.

Oh did I not mention the best part? You can work on the desktop in Excel or other favourite spreadsheet. As long as it can write CSV files which are standard comma or tab delimited text files. And then you can upload and download them to your heart’s content. Just the ability to type on a real computer is a time-saver for sure. But first you have to get things working the way you want. You can also make a backup/restore file on laptop or desktop in case things go totally awry on the handheld. The programmer chose a kind of odd way though – the files go through your wifi briefly resting on his own server before ending up back at your other device. Interesting solution. As long as he’s happy with this arrangement and doesn’t decide to go the way of the dodo bird. A bit risky probably. But nothing in Computerland is forever! I’ve had that lesson drummed into me rather thoroughly over the years. He also promises a rather huge upgrade very soon. So I guess I’ll hang in there and see what happens.

So I’ve probably lost most of you darling non-techies by now. Perhaps there will be more anon as I try to get something going properly on My Stuff. At least I have something to amuse myself with when I’m still spending so much time resting. No sewing, a little knitting (started new bibs for babykins!), minimal everything else except coughing, snivelling and reading. Nearly ready for another emergency hanky-laundering now. They are really gross and I might need to boil them in soda ash this time! I can’t use bleach, especially anywhere near my nose. Ewww….

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sewing Programs & Apps

I’m attempting to find a reasonable way to have my patterns, fabrics and notions shopping list handy at the store. You know. On something a little more high-tech than paper – because I’m like that. I like to dazzle everyone with my hip high-techiness. Heh. So far I’ve come across PatternFile, which is not portable enough (desktop only) and the subscription version is pricey for the amount I would be likely to use it. Then I looked at iPhone/iTouch apps which seemed like a better choice for schlepping to the store. Fabric Stash ($4.99) seems pretty good though it doesn’t have an integrated pattern section. If you wanted you could add them to the non-fabric materials list, along with buttons, zippers, elastic etc. However the same developer does have a separate app for pattern organisation called Pattern Pal (also $4.99). Buying both together becomes pretty pricey as far as apps go. But it got a fairly high 4-stars from (admittedly not very many) reviews. Unfortunately they don’t have a free trial “lite” version of either app.

Coming in at just a little cheaper for a combined and extended sewing database is Sewing Kit ($8.99, also a free “lite” version). It seems good except that there are a number of unhappy users who are having crash problems. That makes me kind of nervous. Don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time inputting data (with my thumbs!) and then finding it kaput. It does apparently have a desktop backup for the data though which, as far as I can tell, none of the others do. Didn’t seem to help the crash victims much though unfortunately.

A more reasonably priced app is iSewingRoom ($2.99, also free “lite” version). Unfortunately there are no reviews and the website is very thin to non-existent with information. I’ve emailed them for more info but have not yet heard anything back 48 hours later. Perhaps they just expect me to download the trial version and then judge. Maybe I will. On this here blog. In public. Battle of the Lites here we come!

The latter developer also has a free app: Fabric Converter. This simple calculator helps you to decide how much fabric to buy in a different width than the recommended one. Of course it doesn’t take into account if you, say, had a very full skirt that won’t fit on 45” wide or if you are able to squeeze a bunch of smaller pieces more tightly into the extra space in a wider width. But it could save you a few bucks if like me, you always round up broadly when estimating. Of course I’ll probably still request cuttings in no less than half-metre increments anyway! Somehow 1.8 metres seems odd and it’s easier just to get an even 2. I’ve already downloaded this app and it has annoying ads as some free stuff does. I haven’t yet tried to use it away from wifi connection to see what happens with that.

At least I already have a converter app for those rare local shops (mostly located in the Punjabi Market area) that sell in yards instead of metres. It’s called My Brain. Just add 1/8th yard to each metre that you wanted. Close enough. In going the other way from yards to metres, I don’t change anything! Of course if you have it with you, both measurements are available on the back of the pattern envelope – at least here in Canada. The metric section is in French, bien sûr! Are the US ones the same or do they print special envelopes and patterns for our supposedly bilingual country? Good thing I studied French for 5 years in school, eh? Unfortunately I still can’t speak it (though I can understand a lot of what I read). But that doesn’t really concern me too much. Where I live Cantonese (with a large dash of Mandarin and a splash of Taiwanese and Shanghainese and likely a few more that I don’t know about) is the second-most-popular language after English and those who speak French pretty much universally speak excellent English as well anyhow. No, I don’t speak any Chinese but it would sure be cool, no? But I digress, as usual.

So as you can probably tell by the new posts and continuing lack of photos in them, I’m still feeling blechy. (Why is that word not in the spell-checker? It’s in the Urban Dictionary!) I did manage to get the pattern for the Banana Skirt that I mentioned the other day (BurdaStyle magazine 7/2006 #125) traced and adjusted for my body shape. If I was well, I would have it all cut out and sewed together and DONE by now. Geesh. This double-viral thing is cutting into my life. Good thing I don’t have a day job, huh? I’d worry that I’ve nearly missed spring already except that it’s still really cold out. OK, I’ll shut-up now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

It Breathes! Sorta

That was a seriously rough weekend. Not that I accomplished much of anything apart from staying alive. You know it’s bad when you have to wash and dry an emergency load of hankies just to have something to blow your sore red nose on. ’Nuff said. I promise you, you really don’t want the gory details. Now I think I’m finally improving. I hope.

Although I kind of missed it because I was snuggled under the covers in bed, the weather has been cloudy with some sunny periods but still colder than normal. There’s been occasional light morning frost which is about a month after our usual last frost date. Amazingly we even had some slushy snow on Friday that managed to stick lightly but only momentarily. I dragged myself out of my sick bed to rush to bring the poor plants in from the greenhouse. So far it’s not going well for them this year. Right now I’m too sick to care but I’m sure I’ll need to replant some things yet again. Sigh. I need more seedling mix.

Let us move on to more interesting topics, shall we? I managed to knit a little. Baby Rosebud’s spring green hoodie is currently blocking although I haven’t sewn in the zipper yet. I wanted to wait until I was sure the sweater and the zip were washed and stabilised before putting them together. I’m not totally happy with the knitting. The needle size was a little large for the yarn so it feels somewhat sleazy to me although I never quite got gauge. Also this yarn (Shepherd Aussie Baby DK) is nylon and acrylic and nearly too soft. Oh well. Chances are she won’t wear it more than a handful of times anyway. Looks like it will be a little large which is exactly what I was aiming for. More details when it’s actually a Finished Object.

Thanks to sewing blogger Shams, I now have a name for my preferred style of clothing: lagenlook. Popular in Germany and the Netherlands, the word means “layered look” and consists of soft flowing often natural fibre garments. They can be asymmetrical or somewhat “deconstructed” sometimes with fastenings that provide more than one way to wear them. Think Sewing Workshop or Marcy Tilton’s pattern line for Vogue. Or Studio Rundholz, Babette, or Sympli (a local-to-me company). The best thing is the pieces fit and flatter a range of body shapes and sizes and also they don’t go out of style easily. A piece can be a simple jersy t-shirt or extremely “art-to-wear”. The fun is all in how you put them together.

I know I have to work some on the asymmetry aspect. I tend to be very much the opposite. Also I want my garments to last a very long time so I’m kind of leery of “deconstructed” treatments. Love the look though. I just can’t bring myself to actually do it. Maybe it was all those lessons in grades 8 & 9 on the “proper” way to sew? Not that I always agreed with my teacher. After she kept marking me down for a sloppily-inserted zipper because I was trying to sew it her way (aka from the back – why?) I gave up and did it my way (from the front where I could actually see what I was doing). Never looked back. Interestingly, although I don’t use zippers very often they are just about the only thing I will baste before machine sewing. Not sure about the invisible zips I recently bought though. Haven’t sewn one of those in about 35 years. I can tell this because I couldn’t find my original invisible zipper foot, probably because it went with my Kenmore machine that I got rid of in the mid-1970’s when I bought my still-very-much-loved Pfaff. Still kicking myself over giving away my buttonhole attachment though. If I remember it was something like this one. Sewed fabulously neat buttonholes using templates. But I digress.

Or maybe I digress in a different direction? I was thinking about my preferred fabric types these days and what has been bugging me about the current fashions are: The Prints! Either the retro-inspired quilting fabrics or the gigantic all-over eye-searing op-art or floral knit types. Not my thing at all. (This from the person who was married in a 1970’s red psychedelic print!) I prefer my fabrics fairly plain or with muted woven-in textures, tweedy mixes, barely-there geometrics, natural nubbies, shibori or subtle variegated hand-dyes. I know it when I see it anyhow. My current favourite colours are charcoal, grey, browns, rust, greens and the ever-popular black. Bet this is all news to you, huh?

Sorry about the lack of pictures today. It’s too much trouble to get out of bed for more than another cup of tea or to use the bathroom. It’s 3 weeks and counting since the cough began and my chest still sounds like it’s full of crackling cellophane. At least I’m currently not running a temperature. I’m thankful for any small signs that these bugs are beginning to think about vacating me. I’ve played host long enough.

Friday, April 15, 2011

2011 Wardrobe Makeover #2

It took nearly a week but I finally finished the first garment from the Butterick 5244 pattern and it turned out really well! Here’s Debbie modelling for me:


It’s somewhat darker and more olive green than this in real life. I brightened it so you can see the details. Especially the cute pockets which I made up myself! I didn’t want this tunic to look too much like the second dress version, which is cut out but not sewn yet. This tunic can be worn with a t-shirt and pants underneath or on its own with leggings or tights. I really like it and nearly all the tweaking I did to the pattern worked out perfectly. The only mod that didn’t work is where I split the fullness from the FBA in half, part going to the gathers at the yoke and the other inch eased into the side-seam. The latter was a Bad Idea. It just made a poochy area under my arm so I picked out the stitching and reduced it to 1/2” of ease and chopped off the other 1/2” at the underarm seam. Looked much better so I made sure to modify the pattern to remind me for next time. I didn’t want to put all the extra fullness into the gathers or it would be too much and I was correct. There’s definitely enough fabric there already! Particularly in this heavy sweatshirt fabric with fleece backing. It was very easy to sew but definitely benefitted from extra-careful pinning, stitching and pressing.

Flushed with Successful Garment Number Two, I found a great skirt pattern from a 2006 issue of BurdaStyle magazine that I want to make next. I need a “palate cleanser” after that fairly complex project before I do it all over again with the second version. I would not have noticed this skirt at all from the photo. The model was sitting on a deck and you couldn’t see the interesting seams in her bright green skirt. The line-drawing was much more helpful but after I saw some of the finished garments on PatternReview I was convinced it was The One. They were referring to it as the Banana Skirt because of the shape of the pattern! What’s not to like about a garment with only 1 pattern piece (cut out 6 times) and an easy but invisible elastic waist? And I have the perfect fabric for it – the leftover piece from cutting out the B5244 dress (the one that I haven’t made yet). A flippy below-knee-length skirt will look great in this heavy poly/lycra double-knit in a dark go-with-everything charcoal. More on this later since the pictures are on the other computer. It should be a quick project. Barring incidents. I’m certainly on a roll now anyhow.

Because I need to trace the skirt pattern from the magazine’s pattern insert, I thought I’d discuss how I accomplish this. These photos are of another pattern for leggings that I plan to use for knickers but the technique is the same for any of them. First you have to look up the pattern instructions which are pretty abysmal! You need to find out on which sheet the pattern is located. Check out this “road map”:


Lines and numbers going every which way! In order to save printing the pieces of several different patterns are overlapped on top of each other in different colours and orientations. It’s headache-inducing! The instructions will also tell you which line style is the one to follow for your size, such as dashed, dotted or whatever. So not only do you have to figure out the correct pattern pieces but the correct size as well. Yeesh. You just might be able to see where I ran a Sharpie pen over the one I wanted so I could see it when I put the tissue over top:


It really helped me to follow the lines easily but I’d hate to think if I had to do that for several more pieces on the same sheet. Could get ugly. Any pattern alterations will be done to the traced tissue leaving the pattern sheet intact in case you want to trace a different pattern later. Some pattern pieces also might need to be extended to the correct length or two or more joined to make one piece. It helps to check the instructions carefully to see if there are any special instructions. Occasionally you’ll be directed to measure rectangular pieces with a ruler instead of tracing. The important thing to remember is that you have to add the seam and hem allowances yourself. Ask me how I know that this step is vital!

BurdaStyle magazine is really an inexpensive way to get a number of fashion-forward European-styled patterns but it takes a lot more effort than just opening up an envelope. I’ve written before about their cryptic and often confusing instructions with very little in the way of diagrams or illustrations of the sewing steps. It pays to have a good sewing book handy or lots of sewing experience. I’ve also ranted at length about the “creative” garment styling where you really can’t see anything useful from the photo. It makes the regular “Big 4” patterns look downright WYSIWYG in comparison, doesn’t it?

However, I have piles of these magazines saved up. I got tired of paging through them so I decided to simplify finding patterns of interest by scanning the pages with the line-drawings, printing a copy and putting them in a folder together. Yet another little organising task I’ve set myself. I’m quite fond of organising. Can you tell? Gotta do something to amuse myself while I’m sick. The nasty croupy cough finally (after nearly 3 weeks) turned into a full-blown cold. Fun. Not. We shall not speak of it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Still Kicking

It seems like my posts have become rather sparse lately. Sorry about that. It’s not that I don’t have anything to babble about. It’s just that instead of babbling, I’ve been doing. Although my cough has not yet abated after 2+ weeks, I have a wee smidgen more energy and enthusiasm so I’ve been taking advantage of it. There’s also been several incidents of drive-by attacks of Grandbeasties. Everything stops while I spend some quality time with them. And their parents too of course. They aren’t old enough to drive by themselves yet.

I also went on an expedition to Dressew yesterday and surprised myself by not buying much beyond the notions that I needed to finish a few of the sewing projects. I did get some green sweatshirt fabric (with a lovely soft fleecy back) to make a modified version of this tunic:


I’m making the short-sleeved version, minus the collar and welt pockets - although I reserve the option to add patch pockets of my own design later on. I thought this would work as a wearable muslin for the heavy charcoal gray poly/lycra that I’ve already cut out for the longer-sleeved dress version. BTW do you notice in the line-drawing:


that the shorter tunic and longer dress versions are the reverse of the photo? Of course you can make them short or long, short-sleeved or long-sleeved as you like but it might be a little confusing to someone!

This pattern is out of print now but you can still get it as a download from BMV here. I think it’s really cute and very wearable which makes it rather rare in my estimation! I did end up making some fairly serious adjustments to the size 12: a 3/4” FBA to the front pattern piece, extended the side seams out starting with a little at the underarm but more at the hip, moved the shoulder point forward 1/4” which of course necessitated moving the dart and seam at the top of the 2 sleeve versions over the same amount. For the dress version, I left the collar and the cute button tab detail alone but moved the welt pocket placement up 1” and 1” out toward the side-seam. I also tapered and shortened the 3/4 sleeves somewhat. Several reviews of this pattern say the sleeves are wider than they liked and I have short skinny arms anyhow. Sleeves always need to be shortened.

Since this pattern calls for moderate stretch fabrics there is no need for a zipper. But the collar and pocket details mean that it’s not a simple quick sew. Anyhow I think it always pays to take your time, sew and press carefully, and you’ll be much more likely to end up with a really nice garment. The latest term I’ve heard (which completely cracks me up) is you don’t want it to look “Becky Home-Ecky”!

Back to my finds at Dressew. Some backstory: I’ve given up my monogamous relationship with the Abotanicity Tunic and started knitting a hoodie sweater for Rosebud using this pattern (Ravelry link) and the alien…er, spring green yarn that I bought before she was born. I had already decided that instead of the ties I was going to insert a zipper but wasn’t going to buy it until I’d finished knitting the sweater. Well, I saw the most perfect 10” separating zipper at Dressew:


Isn’t it cute? Note the little green heart on the pull. Colour match is perfect too and I didn’t even have a yarn sample with me because I wasn’t planning on finding a zip right then. That match was completely from memory. So of course I bought it and now will have to make the sweater to fit the zip instead of the other way around. I’m just at the end of the yoke where I need to separate for the armholes and body. Baby things are sure fast to knit!

Which is a good thing because I also bought some yarn to knit Rosebud more of the bibs like the ones I made for her during our vacation last fall. She’s such a drooley-baby that she goes through several bib changes per day. I should have bought some fleece fabric too to make her a couple of sleep sacks but by that time I was tired and my pack was full. There’s always another day. She won’t need the sleep sacks until our Fambly Campout at the end of June.

However right now my green Muse tunic is calling me to finish sewing it, so I’d best get my plants schlepped out to the greenhouse for the day and get on with it. It would be totally cool to actually finish One Single Garment, wouldn’t it? I haven’t completely finished anything for what seems like ages!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

No-Fun City

This exasperating cough seems to not be going away any time soon. It made me miss a guild lecture from visiting weaver Ruby Leslie on Monday. I figured my hacking would not be a good background sound effect to her talk. It’s also causing me to miss out on my Spectrum Study Group’s dye day tomorrow. It was supposed to be here in my dye studio but I have no energy to clean up the house, wind skeins and mordant yarns, prepare a potluck dish or host my friends. I don’t want to share this thing with anyone! I’m currently taking it very easy and only doing the barest minimum housework. The dust buffaloes are very happily roaming the corners of my house!

One chore I could not avoid is transplanting my seedlings into bigger pots. I did the tomatoes yesterday. Today it’s going to be the marigolds and calendulas and perhaps the broccoli and cabbage if I have any energy left. T-Man had to go on an emergency run yesterday after work to buy me some more soil (ran out with half a dozen plants remaining with their roots in the air!) but I hope I don’t run out of pots next. Usually plants cycle from the grow lights to the greenhouse and then into the garden leaving their pots free for subsequent seedlings. Not much has gotten planted so far so many of my pots are still in use as the poor seedlings hold in the greenhouse hoping for slightly warmer and less rainy weather. Oh, and for me to recuperate enough to get out there, finish preparing the beds and plant them.

Meanwhile some knitting is being slowly accomplished. I’m nearly at the end of the third ball of yarn on the Abotanicity Tunic:


I think it’s looking quite good – at least on Debbie Double. Those bubbles at the waist will smooth out when the sweater is finally blocked. You are cautioned not to stretch the ribbing or pin out the lace but to pat it into shape. You don’t want to lose the elasticity. Sock yarn does loosen up and go slinkier when washed though so that will improve the skirt’s drape. It will probably lengthen some too so I need to take that into consideration when I decide where to stop knitting and bind off the hem. Not nearly there yet though I’ve already switched to the 3.75mm needles. Carrying on.

So here’s the new shoes that I bought on Sunday:


See the cute button detail?


A little more upscale than my dirty plastic holey clogs, huh? I’ve been looking for a pair of clogs or mules to replace the nice nubuck ones I used to have that self-destructed a couple of years ago. I think these ones are kind of elegant and they’re fairly comfortable though I don’t think they’d be considered walking shoes by my standards. It’s just that one can’t wear big clunky Blundstone boots all the time! Occasionally one might like to look just a smidge more feminine, especially when wearing a dress, and black will go with more things than my orange Keens. This might be some kind of record for me though – 3 pairs of boots/shoes in less than 4 months. The usual rate is perhaps one pair in 2 or 3 years! Am I stocking up before T retires? You bet. Anyhow I’m pretty sure my recent shoe-buying binge is not at all excessive when compared to the shoe-aholic tendencies of many women. I’m very fussy. And I have tender tootsies. No heels, no ballet flats, no pumps, no flip-flops, no gladiator sandals (yuck!), not even a pair of running shoes (truthfully because I think they are extremely ugly and anyway I don’t run). I’m all about the sensible footwear.

Speaking of the dresses that I’d like to wear with my new shoes, I’m stumped on the pattern fitting for one of my planned garments:

V8509 V8509_line

Vogue 8509 View A: “Fitted, mid-knee dress has princess in-seam pleats, side seam pockets, back zipper and sleeve variations.” There’s also a view with 3/4 sleeves but I wanted a summer dress that perhaps also could be worn as a jumper. I thought I had my pattern alterations all correct but in the final tracing there’s a 3/4” discrepancy in the side seams where the front and back don’t match. The problem is either at the underarm or the hem but I’m not sure which. The only way to tell is if I do the adjustments to the side bodice all over again to see if I subtracted something I shouldn’t have. That’s the part that has the most chopping and taping so if there’s something wacky that would likely be where it’s located. Sigh. And here I thought this fitting thing was getting easier the more I do it. Apparently not.

BTW on the chopping and taping issue, I tried a different brand of “magic” type tape and – no surprise – it acts the same way as the real thing: looks nice and smooth after ironing on the wrong side but curls and shrinks badly as it cools. Back to the ugly green painter’s tape. which seems to hold up very well. Needs a weighted tape dispenser though. I end up tearing off a bunch of little pieces and sticking them in a line on the edge of my table for convenience.

Complaints aside, there must be something that’s pretty exciting to me about getting a better handle on fitting issues for my current body shape. It’s a challenge and it feels empowering when I get it right. Good old Debbie has been a great help too. She’s my best and only sewing partner as well as a handy photographic model and she never complains or criticises. She even holds my pins for me. Perfect.

So while I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself (and feeding the dust buffaloes), I’ve been reading the sewing blogs. There’s a lot of vintage-style but still very wearable sewing going on out there! Here’s one that’s new to me which also includes a forum: Sew Weekly. And local girl Tasia (aka Sewaholic) has just released her second pattern, the very cute Crescent Skirt. Love her sensible sizing – the 16 would actually fit me with barely any tweaking. Novel. If you’re interested, check them out. BTW the ever-brilliant Tasia demonstrates exactly the same method that I’ve been using to adjust my shoulder-princess garments for a full-bust (FBA). No hints as to why I’m having side-seam length issues though! Off to investigate this.

But first I had to make the 3-block trip to the dollar store for more tissue paper. Apparently chopping large pieces of tissue into smaller and smaller and ever-smaller pieces uses the stash up pretty quickly. I think I wiped them out of their stock of white and made serious inroads into the spring green at 2 packs of 5 sheets for 99 cents. Pretty nice. I passed on the leopard-print tights for $6.99 however. Not my style.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

What He Said

Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.    Oscar Wilde

(I love Mr. Wilde and his pointed wit.) You know, I’m not really oblivious to fashion. But these days I’m quite immune to its more egregious effects. It’s so annoying when I just start to feel that the Designer Powers That Be have finally gotten something right that’s attractive on many different ages and shapes when…poof! It all changes again. And they bring out something, for example that winter-shorts-with-knee-boots thing, that doesn’t look good on anyone who isn’t a 15-year-old stick-figure. (No offense to 15-year-old stick-figures. I used to be one about a gazillion years ago.) I’m noticing that particular item seems to have run its course. Wonder what comes next? Maybe I don’t want to know? I’ll find out soon enough anyhow. And I’ve likely seen it before as these things cycle around again.

On the home front, we weren’t able to get much help at the clinic for Rosebud’s blister problem yesterday. The decision was to go with a thinner “skin” patch and continue to use the foam donuts over top. The blister on the side of her foot is healed pretty well but the heel is still ookie (medical term). There’s yet another appointment on Monday with more specialists available so we’ll see what happens then. Meanwhile the little darlin’ is growing and learning how to use her gooey hands to grab your face and to roll almost all the way over. She’s nearly 17 lbs now at just 4 months. Adorable little chubby cheeks!

Today I’m spending lazily in bed in my jammies trying not to cough up my insides. Thankfully we ended up not having to babysit the Grandbeasties because their mom was sprung loose early from hospital yesterday evening. I haven’t heard whether or not they were able to get the information they needed while keeping her wired for sound all week. Guess we’ll find out eventually. Bet the kids were glad to have her home though! And I’m glad that I can take some time to recuperate from this whateveritis. I do not feel great at all.

You’d think I would appreciate the “holiday” but unfortunately I’m getting somewhat bored with the lazing around. I have things to do besides knitting, reading blogs and drinking copious cups of tea. It’s nice outside, darn it! Maybe I can drag myself upstairs for awhile and play some more with my patterns. I think I’m finally getting the tricks to making garments fit me the way I like. Good old Debbie Double has been a great help with this. I don’t know how I ever got along without her! I can pin-fit on her and be reasonably sure that it will also fit me.  Unlike a regular dressmaker’s dummy she has exactly my “mature” figure including all of its faults. I can flip the half-pattern over and make sure it fits the opposite side too because of course Debbie and I are not symmetrical. Much easier than trying to do it on myself, that’s for sure. Debbie is even the same height as me so I can get an idea of correct lengths. One thing she can’t do is pants fitting since she has only one leg and no proper crotch area to speak of, poor thing. However she is very patient and will stand still as long as I need her to. And I can even stick pins in her and she doesn’t flinch at all. Mwa-ha-ha.

Thanks to all my dear readers for their sympathetic comments on my last post. If I’m not feeling considerably better on Monday, I’ll make an appointment to see my doc.